Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roadside Attractions

Glacial Erratic, Columbia Plateau
I have often said that I find some of my most interesting pictures on the way to somewhere else. Case in point: a few days ago I was rushing to get to the Grand Coulee Dam in time to scout out locations for sunset, and was barreling across the Columbia Plateau, deep into a book-on-tape. It was all wheat fields and dirt for as far as the eye could see. Fine, no distractions...
Then I saw this thing. A quick look in the rear view mirror, and I slammed on the brakes, pulling onto a narrow, sloping shoulder. So what is this big rock in the middle of a farmer's wheatfield?  It stands about 25 feet tall, so it's obviously a little hard to move; Instead the farmer just drives his harvester around it when the time comes.
This chunk of basalt is a glacial erratic, a piece of rock carried to this spot and then dumped by a retreating glacier some 10-15,000 years ago. I studied Northwest geology in college and had read about these, and have seen them elsewhere, but this was a monster. It can literally be seen for miles in the middle of this endless, undulating landscape.
It was the middle of the day, so the light was nothing special. (A polarizer helped cut the haze) Happily, there were a few clouds in the sky so I was able to balance rock and clouds to create just the slightest bit of visual interest. But in the end, this simple picture is less about technique than about story: a vivid reminder of the effect glaciers hand on the Northwest landscape.  Works for me.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm lens, Polarizing Filter

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