Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Other Arches
Tenuous and dynamic, natural arch structures on the Cumberland Plateau stretching across Kentucky and Tennessee provide a chance to photograph a different kind of arched landscape
Twin Arches is one of the world’s largest arch complexes and, along with Natural Arch, is situated among America’s highest density of arches outside of Utah. Located in the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky and Tennessee, this arch-lover’s paradise provides excellent opportunities to explore and photograph natural arches, as well as majestic forests, angel-hair waterfalls, grand vistas and a wild river. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is at the heart of this area, with Daniel Boone National Forest and Picket CCC Memorial State Park adding more areas to explore.
The experience here is unique in that all of the arches I explored exist in forested areas, providing both challenges and opportunities. A couple of the arches I hiked to were so well hidden among the trees that I couldn’t find a pleasing composition. In most instances, however, the presence of an arch as an element of the surrounding forest is visually exciting and the trees help to add scale and interest, although I looked for compositions in which straight tree trunks didn’t bisect the arch, especially near the middle. I also experimented with including only parts of the arch in the composition. One of my favorite photos of this type was looking up at North Arch with the arch rising out of and then beyond the surrounding trees.
Lighting was another challenge in this environment. While South Arch of the Twin Arches is lit beautifully by early-morning light, most of the arches don’t receive the glowing light of early morning or late evening. Early and late are still prime times to be photographing, but photographing under overcast skies is also a good option. One continual consideration is the contrast in these heavily wooded areas: between the darkest and lightest parts of the arches, between the arch and the trees, and between visible sky and everything else in the scene. Early and late light and overcast skies all help to reduce the contrast, which can be overwhelming in the middle of the day, but the difference in tonal values plays an important role in the final photo regardless of existing conditions.
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