I call this one “My Monsterpiece” – and even considering some of the digital artwork I’ve done, this is probably one of the most bizarre images I’ve ever produced. It’s also the one that has garnered the most feedback and generated the most discussion online. Surprisingly enough to me, almost all of this feedback has been positive and people actually seem to like this beast!
First off – it’s a tone-mapped HDR (High Dynamic Range) image made from about five combined exposures … that’s enough to make it weird to begin with. And second – it’s “The Grotto” on the Seven Hollows Trail in Petit Jean State Park … and that’s also enough to make it weird to begin with. This place stands out as unusual even in the middle of all the other unusual features at Petit Jean. I’ve tried to describe it as “half subway tunnel & half giant crack-in-the-earth”, and that’s about as close as I can get. (Yes, that’s a little waterfall near the center.)
This was one of my first experiments with HDR, and I chose The Grotto as a likely subject because of the extreme range of bright-to-dark presented in the scene… The bright sun shines off light-colored sandstones at the same time you can see up into cave-like areas where very little light reaches at all. (For you photographers: on an average day there’s about 15-stops of difference between the two … at least!)
I honestly tried to keep the “psychedelic” look that HDR is prone to toned-down (no pun) in this one … but there it is. (I sometimes sub-title it “…or as seen by Jerry Garcia“.) However, this time I think that must be what gives this one it’s charm. The most common response I’ve received by-far is to the effect that “… it looks like something from a Fairy Tale …“
Personally, I winced (and almost gagged) when I first saw this outcome … but I had to admit there was something terribly compelling about it. (Perhaps with the accent on terribly.) And now I’m actually shocked at how popular and well-received this crazy image has been! My logs show it’s one of my most-viewed…
Look at it full-size for a while … see if it doesn’t grow on you. (Or maybe it just starts to feel like it’s growing!)
Please keep in mind that if you visit this area, it doesn’t quite look like this in normal human vision (unless you’ve been snacking with Jerry). It’s also a side-trip on the Seven Hollows Trail that can be a little difficult to navigate – so please wear good hiking boots, be prepared to do a little climbing-over-boulders, and be careful!
It’s worth it though … even without HDR-Vision! (This Post has a GPX file you can download with The Grotto and other features of the Seven Hollows Trail marked.)