Wide-open spaces of the West in black and white, chapter two

I live not far from the Suisun Marsh in Fairfield, and I must confess that, lately, I have gone there more often than I used to. The Rush Ranch, one of my photography destinations with access to the Marsh, is only 40 min from my home. Nobody else goes there for photography, so I have all the wide-open spaces and rolling hills to myself. And as a bonus, I am guaranteed some unique photos of places nobody else cares about. 

Two things, however, affect my photographic enjoyment of the rolling hills and pastures surrounding the Suisun Marsh: first, the grass is only green in the Winter. In mid-spring, it turns brown, making it difficult to obtain contrast in black and white. Second, the sky in California’s Central Valley tends to be very boring from late spring to mid-Autumn.

It is only in the winter, and early spring, that wondering about the pastures surrounding the Suisun Marsh will pay off for the photographer: the light is variable and spotty, clouds can be plenty and interesting, and the wind is bearable.

February 5th was a cold, windy Sunday afternoon. The air was crisp, cold and clean, due to recent rains. I wanted to be out in nature to recharge for the coming week. And since I know that days of good light are few and far in-between, I took my camera with me.

The forecast predicted a partly cloudy day with 20% chance of rain. Despite that, it rained on and off. At the ranch, I walked a few miles on cow trails, in the pasture, among cattle, looking for compositions. As I had written before, it is difficult to add a tri-dimensional feel to the open spaces of the West. Many were the gates, barbwire fences, ground squirrels and crows. Few were the hills. The light was variable and spotty, and I tried to juggle all those elements in and out of my frame.  

The FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH (f/16, 1/250s, ISO 320) is another open invitation through the pasture, winding along the nearly dry marsh, into the ­mountains and towards the light. I took it with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 52 mm. It was converted to black and white using Photoshop.

Last year I took a similar photo of another gate at the same ranch, and I wrote a blog post about it. Both photos are now displayed in my gallery “Light Matters“.

Question for my readers: my two photographs, Rush Ranch, 2022 and Rush Ranch, 2023, the FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH, are very similar. They are based on the same concept, and employ similar elements. Are they the same, and should I chose one to present in my collections, or are they different photographs that deserve their own spot? (I know that there is no right answer, I just want to read what people think).


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Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

19 thoughts on “Wide-open spaces of the West in black and white, chapter two

  1. I like how both images communicate a sort of invitation to explore the vast spaces using the fencing. So in that sense, I think they both work in a series/folio set of images vs. picking one over the other. I consider the one in this post a stronger, more balanced image, and the Mammatus clouds create a great mood and visual framing element.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The mammatus clouds and rainstreaks are a wonderful capture. Perhaps because of them, I much prefer this photo. The open gate and the path leading toward the trees at the horizon increase the sense of invitation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For me, more drama comes through in this photograph than the previous one, thanks in large part to the mammatus clouds. Also, in the earlier version the left edge of the frame cuts into the gate post, which I find distracting. In today’s take, the two gates stand well apart from the edges of the frame.

    I’m surprised you’ve encountered no other photographers at this site. On the other hand, I also go places where I get good pictures and yet I don’t find other photographers there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really surprising to me that this place is neglected by the local photographers. Right now, for example, everyone is photographing almond blossoms. Before it was mustard fields. Next it will be dogwoods, then poppy fields, and Table Mountain. In the summer, the lotus pond followed by sunflower fields. And lots of photographers go to Tahoe and the ocean. A lot of really lol places get little attention. Thanks for the comparison, I need to go back to the first photo and see why I cropped it the way I did.


      1. Each area seems to have its “standard” cycle of nature in the popular mind. In Texas now people are starting to go berserk about bluebonnets. They’re nice, especially en masse, but so many other native species get less or little or no attention at all.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I see why some folks say they like the 2023 version. It has so much depth and life, but I actually like both of them. I kind of look at it as one is opening the collection and the other closes it. I’m not sure this is what you were looking for, but I find that in the 2023 version, I’m focusing initially on the fence and then move to the clouds, where it’s the exact opposite in last years. Love the starkness. The black and white draws you in and doesn’t let you go. I just think they’re both amazing shots. Hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not sure why nobody else finds this location shoot worthy but you certainly knew a good thing when you saw it. I really like the invitation it sends and those clouds are so dramatic. A fine image.


  6. I think I prefer your 2022 version as the partly open gate takes you into the space far more clearly. This one is partly blocked off, even though the gate is open and I find that the complex clouds fight a bit with the gate as to what you were photographing. However, they are both fine images and as your other comments explain, each one will find a defender!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your input, Steve. I agree that opinions vary and it’s often hard to choose, and it becomes even harder when we ask for the opinion of others, because each person sees something different!


  7. Both photos have strengths, but I like the featured 2023 image a little more. For me, it ties into an emotional response of constraint (the fence), broken (open gate), and a clear path beyond (the track/trail.) Those wonderful Mammatus clouds add to the emotional reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

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