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"What constitutes background and foreground, figure and field? It is more than mere proximity ... Gestalt theorists offer an explanation. They say we simplify the perceptual process by distinguishing "figure," which is central to our awareness, from "ground," that area that surrounds the figure. Ground is the remainder of our perceptual field, which we perceive vaguely if we perceive it at all."

From FIELD OF VISION by Lisa Knopp

The challenge when trying to isolate something to photograph in such a visually rich setting as the Colorado Plateau is in selecting subjects that are interesting but not overwhelming. We were walking around in Casto Canyon, a hidden but easily accessible area behind Red Canyon on Rt. 12 near Bryce Canyon National Park, and I was struck by both the variety and colors of the small rocks under my feet and the red towers behind them in the background. Rather than choosing one or the other, I decided to try to include both to show how the landscape is full of contrasts and contradictions.

"Arguably, [Lake Powell] is one of the most beautiful in the world, and it has grown into a recreationalists' mecca. But it is highly unlikely that in today's environmental arena, the Glen Canyon Dam would have ever gotten off the drawing board ... Construction of the Glen Canyon Dam was met with little resistance from the puny and still wet-behind-the-ears 1950s environmental forces. Geologically speaking, Glen Canyon's significance rivaled that of Canyonlands National Park to the north and Grand Canyon National Park to the south."


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This is another of many images I have of Lake Powell. It is a site that energizes and aggravates me in equal parts. The lake that exists now is a photographer's dream, and there are endless possibilities for sunset scenes like this one from Romana Mesa. But I always have to remember that the rock formations showing above the water are just the very top of the towering cliffs that existed the Glen Canyon before it was dammed and flooded in 1956. You can get a feel for the arguments pro and con about the lake from Friends of Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Institute. The former wants to preserve the lake - and the latter wants to drain it...

If you are interested in excellent landscape photography, take a look at NATURE'S AMERICA which captures images from around the US, or Muench's book PLATEAU LIGHT which contains images from the Arizona-Utah redrock canyon country. Both are reasonably priced for photography books of this type, and you'll find them endlessly enjoyable. And if you want to see what a truly professional landscape photographer can do with the same Gunsight Butte image, look at Michael Fatali's photograph in the "Indian Country" section of ARIZONA: THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL. I have been fortunate to be able to take a couple of photography workshops with Michael, and his work is outstanding.

If You'd Like To Explore Some More...

There are several nature writers whose work I really enjoy reading, including Edward Abbey, Barry Lopez, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Henry David Thoreau and Everett Ruess. To see a list of their writings, please visit the Natural Escape Writer's page, and spend some time browsing through the titles.
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