Robert Atkins  


Heart of Stone by Robert Atkins

November 2021 - Heart of Stone

About the Image(s)

Another slot canyon image this month - don't worry, I am almost out of them. This one is from Peek-a-boo Gulch outside of Escalante. I almost didn't do the hike out to Peek-a-boo, as it was near the end of my trip last spring, I was tired, and the difficulty of Zebra Canyon the day before had freaked me out. But this canyon was much more tame - about 6 miles round trip (although with a bit of a climb on the way back out), and the only objective hazard was the 12 ft climb in and out of the canyon itself. That was being done very easily by the young families that showed up but was a little more challenging for my older legs and with the 4x5 kit on my back.


Peek-a-boo is unusual for its "arch" formations. You can see several of them in the image. I shot this area of the canyon both in the direction shown, and from the other end. Both are interesting, but I think this is my favorite. It was shot on 4x5 Velvia 50 (which sadly Fuji just announced they are discontinuing) with my Schneider Symmar-S 150mm lens (50mm full frame equivalent). I flatbed scanned it on an Epson V850 to 200 Mpixels and then did all the editing in Photoshop. I've done a lot of dodging / burning and some color adjustments to bring out the heart shape, and to enhance the separation between the "layers" in the canyon extending into the distance.

As much as I've stared at it, I'm sure I've probably missed some obvious things. So let me know what you like and don't like. Thanks.


This round’s discussion is now closed!
10 comments posted




Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Robert
Another really interesting image from the canyon. This is a very interesting image. I love the layers and the shapes. I am not sure there is much to improve on here. My personal taste has more contrast that yours. I have seen this in the images you submit. You have a softer more natural editing style that I would like to emulate a little in my own work. My edit of this would have a little more contrast but that is just my style and would be the only thing I would have done differently.   Posted: 11/06/2021 18:28:36
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Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Cheryl. I like your version a lot too, and agree it is a different look. I think at least some days I'd vote for it over mine. I think I have more trouble with higher contrast looks when printing, as they seem to print too dark to my eye, at least without gallery like lighting on them. But I probably should explore more contrast more often before settling where I may.   Posted: 11/07/2021 15:08:59



Haru Nagasaki   Haru Nagasaki
Hi Robert,
I like rock formation images. My camera career started at Arches National Park in Utah.
This is a very beautiful formation and a good subject for shooting. You titled it as "heart" but it looks "fox (face)" for me.
I think the key is how to present the "layers" of the arch formation and feel the viewers the depth. But to be honest, It takes a while for me to grasp the layer structure.
Though my try and error on PS, I found a couple of points;
1. The first layer rock - the darker the better.
2. The arch (form like ring) in the middle layer - it lost details in the middle so it make difficult for my eye to recognize it as independent arch. It is currently migrated in the background and does not stand out itself.
3. The tone/saturation of colors - tone/saturation of each layers looks similar. So my eyes are not guided well layer to layer. Personally I like the level of saturation in the image. It looks more natural and feel the texture. But It is personal style thing.
Having said that, This is what I did.
1. Darken down the first layer - Increased saturation a bit as well. That way my eye can focus the second+ layers easier.
2. Bring out the detail of ring arch as much as possible and keep it saturated and bright.
3. Desaturated the wall around the ring arch to make the arch standout. My eyes moves from saturated spot to desaturated spot smoothly.
Hope it helps.





  Posted: 11/08/2021 22:28:05
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Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Haru. I think my vision centered on enhancing the heart (or fox face - yes I see it as that now too) in the foreground, with the background more of a "mystery" off into the rock. So in fact I added a glow to the distant portions and reduced their clarity. On the front couple of layers I did try to separate things both with tonal changes and by subtly burning and dodging edges to highlight them. But I did not bring such separation deeper in the image.

I think you are right that more separation of layers throughout would help the viewer sort things - I think we naturally want to. Yours is also the 2nd vote for a darker front layer. So I will try that too, while hopefully maintaining realism and not getting too dark as to loose detail in print.   Posted: 11/11/2021 06:29:51



Dan Mottaz   Dan Mottaz
Hey there Robert. I very much enjoy your slot canyon photos and definitely look forward in seeing more. I would say, however, that this is not among my favorites. Your concept of viewing the heart and then deeper into the ventricles is interesting to me - sort of like an endoscopy. But, to me it feels too busy. Cheryl improves the image quality by giving it some mood with it's overall darkening.
Though not over sharpened, there is a lot of detail where my eyes feel overloaded. Can your image be simplified with deep shadows so the eye is drawn in without distraction?
I fear I have viewed your image with a strong critical eye without offering much in the form of any positive comments. If you're like me, it sometimes takes a few days for me to fully appreciate a negative critique. Then, after thinking about it, I realized I subconsciously had the same thoughts as the critiquer expressed. In other words, I hope this helps.   Posted: 11/13/2021 14:22:53
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Dan. I appreciate the honest review. I will continue to reflect on your comments, as well as those of Cheryl and Haru which seem to be getting at the same underlying issue.   Posted: 11/17/2021 07:05:32



Bob Wills   Bob Wills
Hi Bob, another good slot canyon image. I saw the fox, before I saw the heart. I also see a lizard and a human in the next to last layer (dark lizard and human face (Navajo?) in the right light area.) Quite an adventure. Colors are pretty muted (matte) so maybe that's why you like the print. If you print on Matte paper or canvas you can use more contrast. Good image.   Posted: 11/15/2021 19:19:12
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Bob. At least if nothing else the image is finding use as a Rorschach test.   Posted: 11/17/2021 07:09:09
Bob Wills   Bob Wills
Yeah, I need therapy, all right!   Posted: 11/17/2021 09:55:24



Emily Kawasaki   Emily Kawasaki
Great photo composition Robert. I love how your canyon series shows off so many of the simple yet striking canyon spaces. Much like a magic eye poster, after a bit of gazing, I see an animal (like a fox, coyote, hyena etc.) in the image, though it looks like it's turning its neck/head at an awkward angle. But, that is a cool effect. I attached the photo with the outline added as a reference.
The only small thing that caught my eye was in the 2nd layer of canyon. It's the small section of ground that is visible. The texture of the ground is different from the canyon walls, and the bottom of the canyon wall is slightly angled. As a reference, it is the top of the fox's nose in the outline
Interestingly, when I rotate the image a bit counterclockwise so that the ground is level, I then notice the heart shape more.
It made for fun rorschach test-type viewing experience, thank you.   Posted: 11/22/2021 21:49:42
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