Badlands, Utah, USA by Chip Carroon

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Picture Story

When I think of abstract, I think of many lines in an image that describe some shapes but that do not necessarily explain everything about the subject. That is certainly the case with my aerial imagery of certain landforms. The anonymity of the subject is more likely if you are shooting straight down, but you can see the effect on descriptive landscapes even if you have an oblique shot. In this case, the delineations that make the subject interesting are the edges of contrasting layers in sedimentary rocks in the desert. Of course, not just any rocks or any sedimentary rocks will perform the trick that we need.

The primary requirement for us is the absence of vegetation that would obscure the linear details. Thus, you need a really arid environment for this effect. However, even if you have a very dry environment, there often is some vegetation. The additional factor in this case that enables the picture is the fact that the composition of the rock layers prevents almost all vegetation from growing. The solid clay content makes it difficult for most vegetation to get started and furthermore, the low erosional resistance of the material means that the surfaces will wash or blow away before the vegetation gets started. The other factor that makes these rocks attractive for our purposes is that the bedding is horizontal. It is unusual that 100 million-year-old beds are still very close to horizontal, but that is the case in some places in central Utah. If the beds are horizontal, the lines that we are following in the images are going to curve around irregular features like topographic lines on a map.


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