Smooth Boulder

On my hike to Red Hill (hiking entry in my personal blog) in March I came upon a large boulder, about 5 or 6 feet long and 3 or 4 feet in diameter, dark grey and blue, somewhat egg-shaped, with marks on it that almost made it look like chiseled – and most of all, as I ran my hand over it, with an astonishingly smooth surface.

It seemed like a super-sized pebble on the beach, washed smooth and round by millennia of tidal movements. I am no geologist so what and how might have shaped it like this and put it there seemed like a mystery to me. It looked out of place, and I liked the idea of that. The unknown piques our curiosity and fires up our imagination.

It was early afternoon and while the temperatures were rather pleasant in the canyon where the boulder sat in the sand, I couldn’t find an angle and approach to photograph it in its entirety in a compelling way. Since the most astonishing and memorable thing about the boulder was its smooth surface with the marks on it anyway, I concentrated on that aspect.

This also led me to the decision to not include any photos with a full view of the boulder – I found it mysterious, and such “documentary” photos do not help with preserving that mystery, of course. Looking at the photos now on the other hand makes me wish to return to the boulder, and run my hand over its surface again – and if you’d feel like coming along, then I guess I accomplished something. ;)

To photograph the surface, I tried to shade it with my diffuser, thinking that the harsh light would work against me, but when I compared the photos that I made with and without diffuser at home, I found the opposite to be true: the photos made with the direct sunlight captured more of the texture, the surface and the overall quality that I found most appealing about the boulder.

A few days later I returned, with Shuwen, primarily because I wanted her to see all the flowers that I had seen in the wash and canyon (many Ghost Flowers, Rock Daisies, Bigelow’s Monkeyflowers, and Desert Five-Spots). We made this rock our turnaround point. It wasn’t windy, and also quite a bit warmer that day. While the temperatures were pleasant enough to hike in the canyon, the boulder itself was almost too hot to touch already.

It made me wonder how hot it would be in the summer, and before my inner eye, I see a thermal camera image of it, at night, radiating the day’s heat in a glowing, alien, yet fitting representation.

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3 thoughts on “Smooth Boulder”

  1. I think you captured the mystery and the beauty of this so well! Rocks aren’t easy to photograph at all – especially in daylight.

  2. You did convey that mystery, almost a sense of floating. the first may be my favorite – it begins to take on a Milky Way look. I’m glad you explained your reason for not including a “context” photo. It’s so interesting when you come across objects like this, especially rocks. There’s one in a park near here, a big boulder sitting patiently in the middle of the woods. It has drawn other people too – there’s a faint trail around it. We’re drawn to these rocks. A pleasant diversion, Alex!


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