July 16, 1999

Victoria, the Alberta Portfolio XVII (Red Rock Coulee, Alberta)

After finishing up at Writing-on-Stone, Annie, Victoria and I set out for Red Rock Coulee, which lay over an hour to the northeast. I'd seen some snapshots of the place at Annie's, and was very curious about the bizarre spaces shown in the photo album. When we left Writing-on-Stone, it was mid-evening, but again, given the driving distances inherent in working in Alberta, we didn't pull up into the deserted parking lot at the coulee until about 20 minutes after sundown.
4"x5" film
I had seen some photos of Red Rock Coulee at Annie's house, but nothing had prepared me for the wasteland that presented itself when we walked up to the top of the ridge. The arid desolation of the space, combined with the bizarre geological formations which were strewn around added up to a unique landscapes. The soft windswept bedrock hill, made of Bearspaw shale, has large (1.5m to 4m) round red sandstone boulders in various stages of emergence. As the sun had already set by the time we arrived, Victoria and I hurried through the rolling field, quickly noting which formations caught our eyes.
4"x5" film
The fact that the sun had already set before our arrival presented some distinct challenges, forcing both Victoria and me to work fast to catch the last light. With little time to experiment with poses, we worked on the fly, making an image or two at each boulder, and then moving on to the next.
4"x5" film
When we started the exposures were a quarter of a second at f/16, which is more than manageable, but by the time I made the last image of Victoria under the darkening sky, the exposure had lengthened to a second at f/11 - in the half-hour we worked, the light had decreased by a factor of eight!  Because of the overcast sky, there was no problem with the over-all contrast over the time we worked, as the fading line of the sunset on the horizon was the only direct light source, but by the time we were packed up and back in the car, it was pretty much dark.\

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