When I was in New Mexico as part of the National Geographic Workshop in Santa Fe we were able to visit to the Georgia O’Keefe’s Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. I was among the group which chose to photograph in the Box Canyon on the ranch. We set off on our hike with the sun high in the sky and we happily photographed until the sun dropped behind the mountains. At that point we knew we needed to head back before darkness made the hike impossible. Hiking back I was struck by a scene with a curving dirt path and the purple mountains in the distance. I used a wide-angle lens with a focal length of 22mm to get a wide landscape, a standard ISO of 400, an aperture of f/18 for a good sharp depth of field all the way back to the mountain and shutter speed of 1/320s (I let the aperture dictate the shutter speed with Aperture Priority).
When I got home I read in “Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe” by Laurie Lisle, and I learned that she fell in love with the ranch in New Mexico and the distinguishing features of the mountains she saw everyday there. I looked through my photos and found a photograph I had taken with the “Pedernal” in the background. The Pedernal is actually Cerro Pedernal, one of the most recognized landmarks in north-central New Mexico. It is one of the mountains Georgia O’Keeffe included in her images of the landscape at Ghost Ranch. The mountain has an unusual shape with a flat top and in the late afternoon and evening, it becomes deep purple.
I thought of it recently when photographing up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A mountain with an unusual shape in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Looking Glass Rock of North Carolina. The rock dominates the scene in that part of the landscape. Beyond the rock are some mountains that look purple in the morning and in the evening. When I took this photograph it was just past sunrise so the sun was up and lighting the rock from the side. The lighting was very contrasty. I used a lens with 80mm for a medium wide shot because I wanted to get some of the colorful leaves in the foreground. I used the Aperture Priority setting and set the aperture at f/22 to get good depth of field. The camera came up with 1/6s for shutter speed, probably because there was low light that early in the morning. This mountain has a strong impace and just goes to show that: Landscapes can have a powerful effect on us viewers.