Saturday, April 13, 2013

Accretionary Wedge #56: Landscapes as seen by a Geologist

Accretionary Wedge #56 is all about geologists and photographs, as explained by Andrew Alden, our host:
Once upon a time, you took a picture of something that lots of people photograph. However, because you are a geologist, it didn’t turn out the way it does for most people. Show us that picture, tell us what you see in it, and tell us about the way you take pictures.
I take a lot of photos. I can't begin to tell you how many rolls of film I used to carry with me for simple 3-day field trips back in the day of Kodachrome, but I can easily shoot a hundred or more digital frames in a day, the number being limited only by the number of gigs on my SD card and the percent charge on the two proprietary rechargeable batteries I carry with me: one in the camera, one in my pocket (except for yesterday, when I forgot the extra).

So, I take a lot of photos. I think about how I'm framing them when I'm shooting, about what will look good as a photograph. I think about what I'm seeing, about what the photographs might show myself and others. Mostly I just shoot, as many photos as possible.

I see a lot of landscapes and roadcuts when driving here and there (which is something I do a lot of). Sometimes the landscapes are like nice, wide, almost blank spaces to me, allowing my mind to roam or think non-stressful thoughts not generally related to life or work; other times I really contemplate the landscape and notice the shape of the hills, pediments, basins, and mountains, and I perceive or try to imagine or understand the way the landforms formed and evolved, how the rock formations are guiding the shapes in the land. I see contacts and faults, real and hypothetical, wherever I go.

Consequently, when I take a photograph — almost anywhere unless it is indoors or of people (and sometimes even then) — I am seeing something that isn't necessarily visible to non-geologists, and I see that something in the photo, even when it isn't obvious. The photographs I shoot often already have contacts and fault lines drawn and visible in my mind, and the erosional or depositional remnants of geologic time are jumping out of the scenery and into the frame. The landscapes and rocks are telling me their stories, even from a distance — sometimes they nearly shout their stories, sometimes they almost whisper. Either way, their stories are embedded into my photographs.
A fairly bland landscape photo looking across Rye Patch Reservoir.
In this photo, taken partly for the nice clouds and the inscrutable but interesting shapes of the hills in the lowlands across the reservoir, Majuba Mountain (AKA Majuba Hill) clearly stands out as a resistant, rather roundish knob.

I took no less than 12 photos of this hill as we drove by on our way to catch a plane. The place fascinates me, partly because I've never been there, and in large part because I know it's supposed to be a great mineral collecting site, with ores of copper, tin, uranium, gold, and silver and various minerals including torbernite, cassiterite, and tourmaline (read more here). There is also supposed to be at least five varieties of breccia. The knob is resistant and in the shape it's in because its a complex rhyolitic or granitic plug, and because of the attendant alteration that includes silicification. I see all that when I drive by, and all that shows up in my photo, at least when I look at it. But really, I've never been there, though I've had it on my list of places to visit for a very long time.

My last post shows an example of the contacts I see when I take a photo, and how the contacts can be drawn in at a later time for others to see.

Also, while walking or driving around, I notice landscapes and outcrops, roadcuts and exposures that tell stories of days gone by, days populated with geologists, pickup trucks, drill rigs, beer, dozers and backhoes, ice chests, map cases, and packs full of this and that, including hand samples, white bags filled with rocks or soils for assay, a water bottle or two, a small lunch, waterproof matches in a ziplock bag, an extra jacket or flannel shirt, a small 1st aid kit, and nowadays a SPOT. These things or places and their stories are harder to photograph, but I nevertheless see them almost everywhere I go.

Examples could be endless.


Cujo359 said...

Actually, I think even a non-geologist might have attempted to take that photo. I like the way the color of the mountains form a kind of transition between the sky and the ground.

Nice photo, IOW.

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, Cujo. I think the hill is eminently photogenic, though all the pictures I took of it were because I knew what it was. Also, it always reminds me of an old prof of mine.

Anonymous said...

That is a fantastic picture... Most people do not realize, Nevada is the most beautiful state in our nation...

Hollis said...

I agree -- a wonderful photo. and I like the fences and reservoir in the foreground, against the wildness of mountains and sky behind.

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, Anon, and I agree Nevada has a lot of beauty that many people don't recognize or haven't seen.

Silver Fox said...

@Hollis, thanks! Another example of photog at 75 mph, along with persistence.