One of our favorite photography locations in the Big Bend National Park is Santa Elena Canyon. We usually photograph the canyon at sunrise and many of us were curious what a sunset photograph might look like. So this year we decided to try. Great photographs begin with great timing. We arrived just a few minutes too late. Our goal was to get the sun illuminating the wall on the left and, ideally, get a starburst right in the middle of the end of the canyon. Maybe next time. Normally, we photograph the canyon from further back. This time I decided to up to the Rio Grande and put my camera as close to the water as possible. This would not only maximize the reflection but provide some nice leading lines. In this case, all the lines point to the end of the canyon. Some clouds would have been beneficial as well.
Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most popular stops in the park but few people know how it was formed. Beginning about 26 million years ago, stresses generated in the western united states created tensional forces which, over time, allowed large bodies of rock to slide downward along active faults. One of these slides occurred in the Santa Elena Canyon area. The parking area sits about 1,500 feet below the top of the canyon. Geologists don’t believe this happened overnight but as a result of multiple slippages over long periods of time. The Big Bend area is still seismically active. The last large earthquake was in 1995. A magnitude 5.6 centered near Marathon, TX.
This image was taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III using my Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 Lens set on 16 mm. The camera was set on Aperture priority mode with the aperture set at f/22, shutter speed at 1/20th of a second and the ISO set at 100. I was trying to get smoother water so I set my aperture to f/22 to slow down the shutter as much as possible. I should have used my neutral density filters to achieve even further smoothness. This is a single image processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.
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