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Toroweap Overlook --  Chris Carvalho/Lensjoy.com

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On my trip to the southwest with David Trumper, a major goal was to see the Toroweap Overlook of the Grand Canyon and photograph it at sunrise.  The name comes from a Paiute Indian word meaning "dry" or "barren valley."  The viewpoint lies at the end of a 60-mile dirt road.  We heard it would be rough, but it started out in good condition.  Miles from the end though, it lived up to its reputation and the drive slowed to a crawl as we picked our way around rocks and ruts.   We camped overnight at the edge of the north rim and scouted where to put our cameras at sunrise.  The scenery was stunning.  The south rim is a mile away, and the Colorado river flowed lazily 3,000 feet below us, reflecting the sky in the canyon's dark depths.  The stories of eons of time were written into the sculpted walls of red sandstone.  Except for the rocks a few feet from us, a person standing anywhere in the vista before me would be too distant to be seen, yet the vast complexity and patterns of the landscape overwhelmed my senses.   

A scene can be a spectacle to behold, but not a promising candidate for photography.   Because of air pollution at the Grand Canyon the views we've seen in older books are now a distant memory except in the wake of storms that clear the air temporarily.  At sunrise there was haze and smoke in the air, typical conditions for modern times.  We were sadly disappointed, but took a few shots anyway since we had come so far.  David and I were not very optimistic on the return trip, but were still glad to see the majestic beauty of the place.  When I got the film processed, it confirmed my pessimism.  I let the images sit in a discard pile.  One that I considered a total loss ended up as one of my scanner test films and accumulated some dust and a few scratches.  Even though I know success can't ever be guaranteed in photography, thoughts of what could have been remained in my mind's eye.  

My mind has a habit of working on puzzles and problems subconsciously, and as my editing skills improved I returned to a test scan of the image that I had saved.  Toroweap is very challenging to photograph because of the wide range of exposure from the bottom of the canyon to the sunrise sky.  It's possible to correct for this problem with a neutral density filter, but the arrangement of foreground rocks makes it a difficult task.  My discarded test slide was overexposed, or so I thought.  The overexposure turned out to be a benefit as it brought out the shadow detail in the bottom of the canyon.  I made some adjustments and refined techniques to reduce the haze in the scene, and ended up with a pleasing image.  I learned that one should never throw out film.  Digital editing continues to improve, and what is impossible today may not be tomorrow.   Oh, and you won't see any of the dust or scratches as they were minor and easily removed from the scan.  

While I now can reduce haze in many photos digitally, being able to is no excuse for not improving air quality in our recreation areas.  I have been active in lobbying government officials to reduce pollution from sources near our parks.  It's not an easy job, but sometimes people listen.  In fact, in nearly every case where a polluter has cleaned up emissions it was because of public pressure.  So at times we must temper our pessimism that change can't happen with the realization that raising one's voice in protest is the only way it ever does.  

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Info:  Chromira digital print of Provia 100F 4x5 chrome, Fuji Crystal Archive CD paper
 

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