Friday, December 11, 2015

Tent Rocks Slot Canyon

In the precious article we are back in 1998 and are visiting Tent Rocks National Monument in north-central New Mexico, equipped with the 8" x 8" falling plate pinhole camera and large wooden tripod.

Carrying the camera atop tripod over one's shoulder, the path starts out from the parking area fairly gentle and wide, but as we progress into the canyon it gets steeper and narrower, with frequent stops to consider a potential composition.

The great thing about Tent Rocks is that the further inward and upward one hikes the more spectacular the scenery. But the limitation this day will be the massiveness of the box camera and the length of the tripod, because there is a narrow slot canyon one has to thread in order to get a view of the higher terrain and the spectacular conical formations up ahead that give the site its name. Parts of the canyon are so narrow that one can't progress further without leaning against the canyon's walls and struggling to get the box and tripod through without damage.

And get through I did, but not before first stopping to make this image of the rock striations and the dark fissure-like opening to the slot canyon itself, through whose passage we will find even greater vistas up ahead.

It is sites like this that challenge the whole concept of large format photography, where just being able to gain access to a particular vantage point represents a significant logistical challenge, given the weight and bulk of the gear, especially these box cameras that don't collapse down into a package small enough to fit into one's backpack.

In the next article we will examine my favorite image made with a pinhole camera at Tent Rocks, but couldn't have been made had we not been able to progress through this slot canyon.

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