2014, #9 … “Fallen Roof”

140619_FallenRoof-HF2_getdpi “Fallen Roof”
Arca Swiss rm3di with PhaseOne IQ180 back and Rodenstock 40m HR lens, ½ second at f/8, iso 35 (focus stack)

Scattered throughout the southwest are remnants of early native american inhabitants of the region, including  hieroglyphs, petroglyphs and structures or ruins as they are commonly called. Two of the more notable ones are unique enough they have their own “names”, “House on Fire” and “Fallen Roof”.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to photograph “House on Fire”, but even though “Fallen Roof” is only a few physical miles away, doing both on the same day is difficult because they are both morning shots, and require time to hike into and shoot … meaning I didn’t get a chance to shoot “Fallen Roof” on that trip.

So this year I set out on a short trip with my good friend Randy Collier with the specific goal of photographing Fallen Roof. We quickly discovered the hike was more of a challenge than the directions indicated.  Where House on Fire is an easy walk down a lovely little canyon and a non challenging hike up to the ruin when you arrive, the directions for reaching Fallen Roof proved to be a little inaccurate, as after about 20 minutes hiking down the “trail” through a large wash that was to meet up with the larger canyon below, we found ourselves standing at a 20 foot drop with no marked trail or path around.  We searched for other side canyons to find a way down for over an hour without much luck, and were working our way back to where we had found the drop from another direction (the GPS on the iPhone can come in handy).  We were about to give up for the day, assuming we had missed any chance of good light when we realized we were back in the original wash but now below the drop.  Another 20 minutes and we could see the ruin up in the canyon wall, and despite the late hour it was still completely in the shade with some nice soft light coming in from the open sky. As it turns out, there is a trail which goes up and around the drop, but it starts about 200 yards before the drop in the wash and is only marked by a very small cairn.  Coming out was much simpler and if I were to do it again, it would be much easier.

I took several compositions, but like this one the best.  Depth of field was challenging, but focus stacking techniques are amazing.  Because I used focus stacking rather than a small aperture, I was able to use f/8, and the resulting detail is extremely fine.  In a large print the texture of the rock is clean and sharp, and the handprints at the back of the ruin are clearly visible. Using a smaller depth of field introduces blurring of detail from diffraction (most lenses lose sharpness past f/11, and many see image degradation at f/8 or even 5.6).

FallenRoof HandprintsHand prints at Fallen Roof

Like the other ancient Native American locations I have photographed, there is something about the atmosphere.  It is impossible to be at a place like this and not feel a quiet reverence as you think about how those who resided here long ago lived.  It appears the unique “roof” is the result of many years of fires which weakened layers in the rocks, causing it to fall.

On the way back we decided to stay with theme and made a side trip to photograph “Head of Sinbad”, one of the many native american hieroglyphs scattered throughout Utah.  Also interesting, I found a composition I like with it as well.

  “Head of Sinbad”
Arca Swiss rm3di with PhaseOne IQ180 back and Rodenstock 150m lens, ½ second at f/11, iso 35 (9 shot focus stack)

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