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About The Photographs

A note about masking and other procedures discussed below: It is important to note that masking, localized bleaching, and various other specialized procedures are tools, like burning and dodging, that can be used by the photographer to achieve fine prints which fulfill his/her post-visualization. I almost never utilize any of these techniques to compensate for inadequately exposed or processed negatives, but rather to achieve prints which I consider to be optimum expressions. Masking and other special procedures should not be looked at as substitutes for proper exposure and development of the original negative. It should be stressed that the below procedures (and the procedures detailed in my Darkroom Masking Kit) are used to "enhance", not to "correct". Please visit www.maskingkits.com for more detailed information and interactive comparisons of various masking and bleaching techniques.

The most common mask which has received a lot of attention among photographic circles is the unsharp mask (similar to the contrast reduction mask). Some photographers use this mask extensively in the majority of their work. In my own work, I use it only occasionally, and rarely with the express purpose of enhancing the apparent sharpness of the image, although this can be a rewarding "side effect" at times. I tend to use the "SCIM" mask, Fog Mask and localized bleaching more frequently, as those procedures allow me to achieve extremely effective localized value control which I find to be of greatest value in my work.

Moon Over Zabriskie Point, 1980.  Death Valley National Park, California

This image was shot shortly after sunrise on 4x5 Tri-X film and developed in HC-110 developer to normal contrast. I waited till the sunlight almost fully bathed the Panamint Mountains. The entire foreground was in shadow. Within seconds after making the exposure, the clouds began to fully cover the moon making it nearly invisible. Fortunately, the only negative I exposed contains all the necessary information to achieve an excellent print. Because of the inherent brightness of the sky (compared to the foreground area), the entire sky area of the print received a substantial amount of burning in order to darken it to the degree necessary to obtain a well-balanced image. The burning is done just to the point of bringing out the "mood" of the scene which to me represents a relationship between the moon and the "lunar-like" landscape of the foreground mudhills. In order to enhance the liveliness of the foreground mudhills, a shadow contrast increase mask (SCIM) was used to enhance the local contrast of the foreground area. The use of this mask requires perfect pin-registration on the enlarger. In addition, the Panamint Mountains received a considerable amount of hand bleaching with my own "print brightening" ferricyanide formula in order to brighten the mountain range and increase the local highlight contrast rather severely. The difference between a straight print made from this negative and my final "expressive" print is substantial.  Back to image

Sunrise, Angel Arch, 1985. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

I first photographed Angel Arch in 1975, obtaining a similar negative to the one used to make this final print. That early negative, however, contained some major flaws, notably a few very large dust spots in the smooth sky area. It took ten years and repeated visits to the same location before I was finally able to reshoot this image successfully in 1985. The window of opportunity for this shot is about 45 seconds, after which the early morning sunlight begins to spill onto the rim at the base of the arch, detracting from the clean, hard shadow edge which is evident in this image. The newer negative is superior in many ways. I utilized a deep yellow-orange gelatin filter (#16) in order to enhance the dramatic separation between the warm-colored, sunlit arch and the deep blue sky. The negative was given normal development and prints well on a strong grade 2 paper. The foreground shadowed cliff is dodged substantially to maintain ample detail, followed by a localized SCIM (shadow contrast increase mask) to bring "life" to the shadowed cliff by enhancing the contrast in that area, emphasizing the lines in the rock. To me, this image succeeds because of the simplicity and boldness of form. It is one of my most popular photographs.  Back to image

Trailside, First Snow, 1975. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

This photograph was taken only hours after the first snowfall of the season. I came across this pristine subject about a mile along the trail to the Golden Throne. The print is rather difficult to make. I find it necessary to strike a careful balance of contrasts, maintaining a rather "soft and delicate" palette of values in the foreground snow area while at the same time allowing the snow-covered tree branches to contrast strikingly against the deep, clear sky. The most effective way to accomplish this, I have found, is to use a local shadow mask to carefully reduce the foreground contrast in the snow. In addition, the use of a variable contrast paper allows even more precise control of values. The film was 4x5 Tri-X developed normally in HC-110. I utilized a yellow filter. Were I to shoot this image again today, I would give the film a bit more exposure with slightly less development (Normal -1).  Back to image

Rock Forms, Red Canyon, 1985. San Rafael Swell, Utah

Driving through Utah's San Rafael Swell, my assistant and I came across this alkali-crusted boulder. My original visualization was that of a rather high-key print. In the darkroom, however, I re-explored the potential interpretations of this negative and decided that a much deeper, higher contrast print revealed the interesting "flame-like" structure of the luminous forms. Substantial burning of the dark values on the upper and lower portions of the print further accentuates the central forms. Local "bleaching" is also done in order to balance out some of the brighter rock values. Fortunately, this negative was exposed well and contains all the information necessary for a variety of interpretations.  Back to image

Ponderosa Pine, Angels Landing, 1994. Zion National Park, Utah

At the end of the grueling, steep hike to the top of Zion National Park's Angels Landing, this lone Ponderosa Pine overlooks the steep and twisting Zion Canyon below. This image is actually a study of values and textures. The intensely textured bark of the tree was of prime concern to me. The tree was placed close to center instead of off to one side (which would have resulted in a more "sentimental and scenic" image) in order to emphasize the contrasts of textures and the revelation of space. My assistant held a low-hanging branch out of the way of the camera lens. The atmosphere was actually quite hazy, but intense printing with a sandwiched shadow mask, followed by a rather strong SCIM exposure to emphasize shadow contrast yielded a print which exhibits clarity and richness of values. I also locally applied my own formulation of a print bleach to balance out some values and brighten some of the distant, sunlit ridges.  Back to image

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Land Of Standing Rocks, 1986. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Along the rough, sixty-mile jeep road which enters the dramatic and remote Maze District of Utah's Canyonlands National Park, I noticed that an interesting curved cloud mass was slowly moving to the east, stretching high above an area that is called the "Land Of Standing Rocks" on topographic maps. Seeing that the coarsely textured buttes presented an interesting grand landscape image, accentuated by the interesting cloud formations which were moving into place, I quickly stopped the vehicle, set up my 4x5, applied a deep yellow-orange filter and took this shot only seconds before a jet trail appeared right through the sky of this image. The negative was, however, considerably over-exposed. I later reduced the negative slightly in Farmer's Reducer which brought the values to very printable densities. This print is one of my more difficult prints to make, requiring a number of masks including shadow, SCIM, and my own mask technique which I call a Fog Mask. This mask allows me to control the values in the sky areas of this print, smoothing out uneven values while at the same time reducing the appearance of grain in the sky. To me this image is symbolic of our Great American West with it's grand vistas, exciting skies and remote wilderness. Back to image

Dunes and Clouds, 1994. Death Valley National Park, California

This image was shot in the early morning amidst Death Valley's photogenic sand dunes. I was struck by the symmetry of the forms and the contrary patterns of the sand ripples versus the horizontal clouds. Even the upswept peaks of the dunes echo the graceful pointed clouds. The film was Kodak T-Max 100 developed Normal + 1 in T-Max RS developer. A yellow filter was used to help preserve the separation between the clouds and the sky. The top half of the print is burned substantially. Immediately after exposure of the negative, a rather intense sandstorm evolved, making it quite a chore to pack the camera  into my backpack and return to the car.  The sandstorm grew in severity and lasted for an entire day.  Back to image

Oak Forest Trail, 1978. Zion National Park, Utah

This photograph was taken along the trail to Zion National Park's lower emerald pools. Unfortunately, this subject no longer exists. Within about two years after I shot this image, a landslide destroyed the trail. Eventually, a trail crew replaced the dirt trail with a paved one, removing almost all of the curved oak trees in the process. The film was Tri-X developed in HC-110. This image prints well on a grade 2 paper.  Back to image

Great Gallery Pictographs, 1985. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

I was visually struck by the looming wall surrounding this set of renowned pictographs in Utah's Horseshoe Canyon. In order to isolate these pictographs and maximize the wall, I situated the camera quite close to the subject and utilized a wide-angle Schneider 121 super-angulon lens (I understand that this would be impossible today as a protective fence has been placed around the pictograph area). The pictographs themselves are somewhat reddish in color. In an effort to obtain maximum separation of the rock and the pictographs, I applied a deep green gelatin filter and gave the Tri-X film Normal +1 development in HC-110. The negative requires at least a strong grade 3 or grade 4 paper in order to achieve my intended print. The black cracks in the rock, being of utmost importance in this image, are intensified by a carefully planned SCIM mask. The image is intentionally printed high-key, allowing the black, ghost-like figures and the accompanying lightening-like cracks to have maximum impact.  Back to image

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Horseshoe Canyon, 1985. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This image was shot along the hike to the Great Gallery Pictographs. In this scene, I was impressed with a sense of visual irony. The print displays a number of "opposites" - a contradiction of size (small tree versus towering cliff), textures (delicacy versus boldness and harshness), shapes (roundish-quality of the tree versus the straight monolith quality of the cliff face) and values (the brightness of the tree versus the deep, emptiness of the background shadow). The negative was given ample exposure and Normal -1 development with the intention of printing on a higher grade paper. This allowed for an increased depth and separation in the shadow values while maintaining well-textured highlights. I find that this image is particularly effective if toned rather completely in Selenium in order to obtain a "warm selenium brown" image color with certain papers. To me, the ideal printing paper (if one exists!) would allow for a substantial (but controllable) color shift to a reddish-brown when toned in dilute selenium toner and have a very neutral or slightly warm white base. Most cold tone papers today which exhibit this quality unfortunately have whites which are excessively cold whether toned slightly or severely.     Back to image

Black Cross, 1978. Las Trampas, New Mexico

This is one of the many photogenic churches in the state of New Mexico. The negative was cropped rather severely when making this print in an effort to maximize the shapes and forms. A special, localized SCIM mask was used to enhance the intensity of the cross (which is in shadow) in order to provide a stark contrast with the other forms and shapes. The adobe wall in the foreground required careful printing in order to soften it's values and enhance the "tactile" feel of the adobe. The negative was 4x5 Tri-X developed normally in HC-110.        Back to image

Fence and Kiva, 1996. Lincoln, New Mexico

On a return trip to the historic town of Lincoln, New Mexico, I noticed this very clean organization of shapes along the roadway. This is one of my newer prints and the reproduction shown here represents a rather straight interpretation of the subject. The entire subject was in full shade, without the presence of distracting shadows. I think the roundish forms of the kiln in the recessed area mysteriously counter the sharp, vibrant shapes of the white fence, creating a sense of "visual irony". The negative was 4x5 Tri-X developed normally in HC-110. As a result of my book projects of 1989 through 1991, I have developed a real appreciation for the historic areas of our American West and find myself returning to these places time and time again in an effort to "see" the hidden images that lie beneath the obvious surface.  Back to image

Abandoned Building, 1978. New Harmony, Utah

Traveling through the small farming community of New Harmony, Utah, I noticed this very symmetrical old building. As the grass was blowing rather severely in the wind, I saw this as an opportunity to express the flowing motion of the grass against the stationary fence and building facade. Since a long exposure was necessary in order to maximize the motion of the blowing grass, I employed a deep blue gelatin filter which allowed me to lengthen the exposure to several seconds. The blue filter also helped brighten the grass values as there was a high amount of blue inherent in the grass. I have printed this image utilizing different techniques throughout the years. My latest prints employ the use of a highlight mask (to help brighten the door) followed by a SCIM (to enhance the black windows and the contrast within the fence posts). I find that my recent prints effectively reveal the "face-like" structure of the building set amidst the sea of blowing grass.   Back to image

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Storm Over Chesler Park, 1977. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This is another one of my more difficult prints to make. A very delicate balance of contrasts must be maintained. I utilize a rather heavy shadow mask which serves to even-out the densities, enhance the sharpness, and allow for an increase in highlight contrast. That initial exposure is followed by a SCIM mask exposure to bring "life" to the image in general (especially the mid-distance bushes). A third exposure is made to the print utilizing a specially designed FM (fog mask) which allows me to darken and smooth-out the sky area substantially, while leaving the distant rocks ("needles") untouched. The same mask allows me to locally and accurately burn and flatten small areas in the lower area of the image which otherwise would be too distracting. When the above masks are coupled with a variable-contrast paper, an infinite variety of controls is possible.  Back to image

Fence and Pier, 1976. Port Townsend, Washington

I spotted this classic "S-Curve" study from atop a bluff in the historic town of Port Townsend, Washington. Utilizing a 210mm Schneider lens on my 4x5, it was necessary to stop the lens down to at least f/45 in order to achieve the necessary depth of field in conjunction with a moderate degree of swings and tilts. Still, the image is not perfectly sharp. The use of a fairly heavy shadow mask, however, enhances the sharpness to an acceptable degree while at the same time mandating the use of a strong grade 3 paper to counter the "flattening" effect of the mask. This scene no longer exists. The distant pier has been replaced by a large ferry dock and newer signs along the storefronts below intrude into the image. I enjoy the sense of visual irony which this image displays - white fence against dark grass, dark pier against light water.  Back to image

Moon Over Mount Shuksan, 1994. North Cascades National Park, Washington

This is one of my favorite areas to visit and photograph, simply because of the astounding beauty and wilderness here. I rate the area a "Zone 10"! A thin layer of clouds slightly shrouded the moon, making the sky rather bright in relation to the rest of the subject and reducing the intensity of the moon itself. The sky area of this print requires substantial burning, and the use of a moderate shadow mask helps to control the values in general, allowing detail to be preserved in the dark areas of the image while increasing the effectiveness of burning the sky without affecting the nearby values of Mount Shuksan to a serious degree. Some minor bleaching with my print-brightener formula enhances the contrast within the snow on the mountain.  Back to image

Stream Through Forest, 1982. North Cascades National Park, Washington

This is a conceptual photograph resulting from my desire to produce a somewhat "dreamlike" image of a soft, cottony stream meandering through a dense pattern of trees. I fortunately came across this subject within a year or two after conceiving the image in my mind. This subject didn't allow for the high key interpretation that I had hoped for, but it does approach my concept fairly closely. Since the light level in this dense forest was quite low, it was necessary to use an exposure of several minutes. I utilized a 121mm Schneider Super-Angulon lens. I originally shot this image back in the late 1970's. Unfortunately, wind was blowing through the forest during the exposure causing the trees to sway and appear a bit "unsharp". In addition, I did not account for quite enough reciprocity failure and the negative was a bit underexposed. I was able to re-shoot this image in 1982, learning from my mistakes on the previous attempt. This negative is far superior to the first. I utilized 4x5 Tri-X film developed Normal -1 in dilute HC-110 developer. For the print, I use a soft developer such as Ansco 120, coupled with a grade 3 paper and careful masking techniques. Since about 1994 I abandoned the use of  highly diluted developers for contraction development of the negative. I now utilize "SLIMT" (selective latent image manipulation technique) development  which employs the use of a pre-bath of highly dilute potassium ferricyanide prior to transferring the negative to the normal strength developer (such as HC-110).  Back to image

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Clouds Over Murphy Point, 1995. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The old dirt road leading to Murphy Point in Canyonland's Island-In-The-Sky district has been closed to vehicular traffic for a number of years now. It's about a two mile hike to this spectacular viewpoint overlooking the "white rim" far below. I fortunately noticed some interesting cloud shapes which were rapidly moving over this pristine landscape and quickly set up my 4x5 view camera in anticipation of a potential photograph. As the clouds moved into position above Candlestick Tower and the bright cliff-edges of the deep-cut canyons below, I exposed a single negative on Tri-X film utilizing an orange filter. With only seconds to spare, I exposed a second negative using a vertical composition. After looking at the proof prints, I decided that the horizontal image better displayed the vastness of this wondrous landscape. Recent prints of this image are made on a neutral tone, variable contrast paper. I apply a substantial amount of localized print bleaching in order to enhance the intensity of the "white rim" edges. This helps to maximize the effect of the reflecting forms of the white rim with the sweeping clouds.  Back to image

Water Forms, Sulfur Creek, 1978. Mt. Baker National Forest, Washington

This composition was realized while actually looking through the ground glass of my 4x5 view camera. The confines of the rectangular shape and the two-dimensional aspect of the ground glass image made it actually easier to "discover" this flowing composition. This technique, as well as the similar use of  the popular "4x5 cut-out card" for examining compositions, helps to eliminate distractions caused by surrounding elements and often allows the photographer to more accurately define a successful composition. When printing this image, I have used a shadow-contrast-increase mask (SCIM) designed to locally affect the black volcanic boulders. When combined with a slight bleaching of the highlights on the boulders, I can successfully alter the contrast to maximize the "wetness and intensity" of these stark "accents".  Back to image

Rock Forms, 1986. Joshua Tree National Park, California

I first shot this image in or around 1970 with a 35mm camera. Realizing that the image was quite good, I reshot it in 1986 with my 4x5 camera in order to obtain a larger and more printable negative. The print requires a moderate amount of burning and dodging as well as some localized bleaching in order to maximize the separation between the foreground forms and the shadowed background rocks. The smooth and graceful forms contribute to the obvious sensual connotations of this image. I find that this image works best as a small print.  Back to image

Monument Basin and Storm, 1982. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The remote wilderness area known as Monument Basin is located on the White Rim, a rugged area accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicle or hiking trail. This image was exposed on 4x5 tri-x film and given normal minus one development  in Kodak HC-110 developer. I believe I used a yellow filter. A stronger filter might have reduced the three-dimensional effect of the extreme distances by overly cutting through the distant haze. I feel the storm clouds enhanced the mood of this image. On another trip to the same area, I made a nearly identical exposure of this same subject, but without the storm clouds. Comparing the two, the image without the storm appears bland and sterile, while the image shown here is full of  "character".  Back to image

Black Cloud Over Shiprock, 1995. Near Shiprock, New Mexico

After several hours of photographing Shiprock, I began leaving the area on the road going east towards the main highway. Seeing that the clouds were beginning to look more interesting, I pulled over and exposed this negative. I attempted to make a somewhat high key image with the intention of printing the cloud to a darker value than normal. This I accomplished with a rather complex series of pin-registered masks, allowing me to enhance the depth of only the dark cloud without affecting any nearby values. Ironically, this was the shot I considered least likely to make a fine print of Shiprock at the time I exposed it.  Back to image

Bisti Badlands, 1998. Near Farmington, New Mexico

This image is an excellent example of the improvements that effective masking can make on certain images. The original negative was exposed with a yellow filter, in order to keep the sky from going too light. Development of the negative was normal in HC-110 developer. The film was Tri-X. In retrospect, I should have given the negative normal minus one development accompanied by more exposure, but even then I would have probably utilized masks to achieve the desired result. After considerable printing effort, the prints I attempted (without any masks) displayed much too harsh of a value progression from the middle values to the shadow values. All the broad shadows were very, very dark and essentially "lifeless". A flatter print did not help much, as the overall effect then looked very drab with dark, empty shadows. I then proceeded to use a rather heavy shadow mask (sandwiched with the original negative) to make the initial exposure on the paper, followed by an exposure with a SCIM mask (pin-registered). The resulting effect is vastly improved! The shadow mask raised the broad dark shadows substantially (probably two values!) allowing detail to show. The second exposure, with the SCIM mask, enhanced the deep black and near-black accents within the broad shadows allowing the shadows to achieve an open, luminous and lively tactile quality. The difference between the unmasked print and the masked fine print is very substantial.  Back to image

Six-Shooter Peak and Cloud, 1978. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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Marble Canyon Petroglyphs, 1987. Death Valley National Park, California

A short hike from the end of the jeep road leads to these unusual Indian petroglyphs. I felt the striped wall above the figures lent a sort of "theatrical" setting, like actors on a stage. I shot two negatives on 4x5, one with a green filter, and one with an orange filter. The two negatives yield different densities in the "curtain-like" stripes (which were a bit orange in color). I applied a highlight mask pin-registered with the original negative when printing in order to slightly enhance the brilliance of the stripes and the petroglyphs. A fog mask is used to make a second exposure on the paper, serving to locally "dim down" small competing highlights in the dark marble rock.  Back to image

Pool At Sunset, 1973. Death Valley National Park, California

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Pool and Mt. Shuksan, 1979. North Cascades National Park, Washington

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Trees, Lakeside, 1991. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

I responded to the feeling of soft, luminous light in this composition of rocks and dead tree stumps at the edge of Crater Lake. In order to preserve full shadow detail and avoid blocking of the highlights, I gave the negative (4x5 Tri-X film) substantial exposure and developed it Normal minus one (to soften the contrast). I applied a shadow mask when making the print, followed by a SCIM mask to "liven up" the deep shadow areas. Some local "graying" of the highlights on the rocks is done in order to diminish any distracting bright areas. Back to image

Weeds and Frost, 1987. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

This is one of the few negatives I shot on 4x5 T-Max 400 film. The fairly contrasty highlights of this film helped accentuate the "crispness" of the icy highlights on the frozen weeds. The negative is printed with above average contrast and the print is toned to a very neutral color, emphasizing the coldness of the image. Recently I have been using a SCIM mask in order to deepen the fine black accents to maximum black, without affecting any adjacent lighter values. Back to image

Fort Casey Lighthouse, 1997. Fort Casey St. Park, Washington

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Open Road, 1997. Near Valentine, Texas

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Storm Over Shoshone Pt., 1995. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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The Racetrack, Sunrise, 1976. Death Valley National Park, California

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