mountain refractions

June 25, 2023  •  5 Comments

From certain points in the city of Santa Fe, one can look up and see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  In that first glance, the season becomes evident.  Gold and red in autumn, snow in winter, bare stone in early spring, and then shades of green begin to creep up the slopes as the aspen come into leaf.  The draw of the mountains is clear, and we must get to the rarified air to see what is on nature's menu in June.  Walking from roughly 9,900 feet to 10,600 feet in elevation on the Aspen Vista Trail changes everything.  There is something about it that is difficult to explain. You can feel the whole of nature in your bones and senses.  There were surprises, in the forms of brisk waterfalls and growth on the conifers that only happens when there is a good snow pack.  And many different wildflowers, some of which I had not seen in quite some time.  A future blog will hold some images of those, but today, water - that wonderful resource holding our bodies together - is the subject.

Mountain streams and waterfalls in New Mexico are petite compared to those in other locations around the world.  Nonetheless, they are gems. Using roughly 1/30 of a second shutter speed gave a most interesting photographic effect.  At first blush, the shutter speed slows down the water just enough to give a nice blur, as shown below.

Aspen Vista refractions 2Aspen Vista refractions 2  

But focusing in, the water appeared, at times, to be one sheet of shrink wrap flowing over the rocks.

Aspen Vista refractions 3Aspen Vista refractions 3

I hope your screen is big enough to see a couple of things in the shot below.  The lens captures the water, making it appear that it was frozen in time.  Also, in the bottom third of the shot, toward the center, there is a diagonal line of five dots that appear to have been applied by a white pen.  There are a couple of other places in the bottom half of the photograph where this happens as well.  It is water literally stopped in frame.

Aspen Vista refractions 1Aspen Vista refractions 1


Pulling back offers an image of the sequence of three drops of the falls.

Aspen Vista refractions 4Aspen Vista refractions 4

Not only did the waterfalls fascinate me, but the resulting slower water as it crossed the trail/road captured my attention.  Water gently moving over rocks and sand.  The sequence of photographs below were captured at 1/170 of a second at f8, allowing refraction to be caught in the most interesting ways. According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, a ray of light can be refracted by water, air, or glass which causes the light ray to change direction when it enters at an angle.  There was so much happening in several places that I spent a good amount of time watching and photographing the light and water dance.  Viewing the results was the equivalent of finding jewels in the water.  

Aspen Vista refractions 8Aspen Vista refractions 8

Aspen Vista refractions 5Aspen Vista refractions 5

Aspen Vista refractions 7Aspen Vista refractions 7

Aspen Vista refractions 6Aspen Vista refractions 6

Knowing full well that there are many of you reading who are in the throes of very uncomfortable heat, my hope is that it won't last long and allow you to enjoy summer.  Thanks to Lucia, Barbara F. R., Jean & Sam, Peggy, Steve, Claudia, TTT, Marilyn G., Catherine, Karla P., Charlie K. C., M. Fred, Veronica, Lena D., and Bill & Sue for kind comments this week.  

until next Monday,


a passion for the image©


Dianne James(non-registered)
Once again, you've shown a wonderful perspective of what a gifted photographer can do with a subject such as water, with mastery of the camera. My favorite is the vertical with the three tiers, but all are great. I found myself looking at the reflections of the crags in the rock, in the water on the sand. That hike at that altitude must have been SOMEthing, too! It's a great thing to be a photographer, as much as you are an adventurer. Wonderful work.
Marvelous images of water, all of them. Really enjoyed the photos
Steve Immel(non-registered)
This is a fine examination of stopped motion and motion blur. It's amazing what a difference sharp focus and soft focus make when depicting a rushing mountain stream. I think the top blurred images show the speed of the water best, but the faster shutter speed has the yields the more distinctive results that really do look like jewels, cut glass or ice cubes in a drink. The final three are wonderfully abstract. Images six and seven could be of a mosaic tabletop. What would happen with an even faster shutter?

Thanks for your unique take on a mountain stream.
Paule Marx(non-registered)
Love these photos Daryl
thanks for that refreshing visual drink of cool water!!!
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