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05.14.2012

Eye Scene: Photographer, Ryuichi Oshimoto Travels with Sigma Camera & Lenses

A couple stands on a rock and overlooks the desert. Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1967, the Trona Pinnacles, consisting of more than 500 tufa spires, is situated 10 miles south of Trona, a small town in California. Camera: SD1 Lens: APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 413mm

Proceeding on State Highway 178 from Ridgecrest, I roughly parked the car by a T-shaped road formed by Trona Road. A few pickup trucks passed by and a highway police car zoomed by. Moments later, a pickup truck coming from the east stopped in front of me. The driver started talking about his bad luck this morning and said, “After an interview at Trona, I lost my wallet and my gas tank is almost on empty! The highway cops won’t help me either!” He spoke very quickly and turned his ignition key to try to convince me that the engine wouldn’t start. When I said, “I’m in the middle of a job right now, so I can’t help you.” He lightly replied, “Sorry to bother you!” and stepped on the gas and disappeared in the western direction. In that man’s eyes, he probably thought that I was a tourist heading toward Death Valley National Park.

Oil dripping out of the cars was affixed on the asphalt road. Camera: SD1 Lens: 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 12mm

Continuing further east, I see thick rusted pipes on the side of the road. I walk toward the pipes while wondering if it came from Trona. On the other side of the road, a different atmosphere draws my attention. A carefully placed iron frame stands on a stone base. It seems like a memorial dedicated to ones who lost their lives on the highway.

Against the heavily contrasting landscape in the background, the rusted pipe shines in the morning sun. I could feel the remnant of human living with the land. Camera: SD1 Lens: MACRO 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/320 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 105mm

At the base of the stone, potted flowers bloomed and last year’s Christmas decoration hung soil-free. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 16.6mm

From Highway 178 I entered Pinnacle Road, a dirt road that lead to the strange rock formation, Trona Pinnacles. I start to see pointy group of rocks in the hazy distance.

It is difficult to grasp perception of distance in this vast landscape. If the five-mile marker wasn’t here, I would’ve thought Trona Pinnacles were closer.

Growing from the bottom of the lake 10,000 to 100,000 years ago, the bigger ones can be 140 feet tall. I slowly walk in between them and saw a minivan parked in front of a large rock mountain. Covered in white beard, the man wearing a black hat was wiping dust off his van with a paper towel. I felt the effort he was putting in wasn’t effective. I drove over to him to say hi. His name was Charlie. He has been camping for a week and says that he had no worries or fear here after I asked him if he was afraid of being along at night. He took out his guitar and sang a song written by him. “When you feel it’s time to travel alone, but you are not so sure where you are going…well, it’s just might be the time to listen to your heart,” he sang. The melody from the guitar resonated well in the dry air. After he was done, he took out his laptop and showed me beautiful photographs of the full moon from a few days ago. Also he said, “Until you learn to love yourself, you cannot love others,” and he handed me his favorite book.

The tufa protruding from the desert creates a unique landscape at Tufa Pinnacles. A van was parked in front of the large rock formation. Standing on the land where it was once a lake bottom a few thousand years ago, I used the fisheye lens to captured the sky and land. Camera: SD1 Lens: 10mm F2.8 EX DC FISHEYE HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 10mm

He tuned his guitar under the glaring sunlight in the sweeping landscape. Using the compact high magnification zoom, I zoomed in quickly and snapped the unexpected moment. Camera: SD1 Lens: 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 18mm

Leaving the area where I had unexpectedly stayed, the bumpy road split into a fork and choosing the smoother looking route, my car quickly sunk in the sand. My called AAA through a bad connection on my cell phone and since they could not reach my destination, hey called a local shop. The desert in the winter was neither hot nor cold and I sat on a rock and waited an hour and a half before an elderly man and a young fellow in his twenties drove in a 4WD SUV. My car was easily rescued from the sand. The elderly man laughed and said, “It happens often. Good thing it’s winter!’

While waiting to get rescued, I pointed the lens at the strange landscape and pressed the shutter without thinking. Lowering the X3 Fill Light, it created a softer effect and the photograph created my amazement at the time. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 50mm

I passed by Charlie, who I just said good-bye to and headed toward the entrance of Trona Pinnacles. It was tempting to stay there for a while. On this day changing my plans to head east, I decide to prepare for lunch and spend time here until sundown.

The desert is colorless during the winter. The plants, that looked withered, were bright white under the sun. The large aperture macro lens focused sharply on the plants and blurred the background.

A restroom was built at Trona Pinnacles. The view from the opening of the restroom looked like a painting. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 16.6mm

It was before 4pm, but the day was ending at Trona Pinnacles. Searles Lake in the distance was also immersed in the sunset. Camera: SD1 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 12mm

The angled lighting dramatically lights the calcium carbonate formations. Trona Pinnacles in monochrome emphasized a world of light and shadow. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 50mm

The shadows of Tufa tower stretches on the ground. Camera: SD1 Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 86mm

Sunset tinted Trona Pinnacles. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 50mm

Having changed my plans around, I stayed at the same motel in Ridgecrest and the next morning, I left while it was still dark out. I anxiously drove on the same pitch-black dirt road as the day before. I arrived at Trona Pinnacles and I didn’t see Charlie’s minivan anywhere.

The western sky was a bit cloudy and the moon slowly sank. Camera: SD1 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/8 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 16mm

On this morning, the eastern sky was covered in clouds and the sunrise was not as brilliant. Camera: SD1 Lens: 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/400 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 85mm

When the sun rose, I left the empty Trona Pinnacles. When I returned to Pinnacle Road that led to the highway, the soft lit sunlight began to show through the clouds in the eastern sky.

Soft sunlight streams onto the Dry Wash, caused by flash floods. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f7.1, Focal length: 50mm

The Trona Railway was laid between 1913 and 1914. A worker inspects the railroad. Camera: SD1 Lens: 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 85mm

A thirty-mile railroad connects the mineral factories in Trona to the south of Searles. From Searles, the Union Pacific railroad connects. Camera: SD1 Lens: APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f5.0, Focal length: 200mm

Returning to State Highway 178, I drive around the dry lake bed, Searles Lake, where it was once filled with melted glacial waters coming from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I finally arrive in Trona. The town was named after the evaporate mineral, trona, found in the lakebed. The company town of Trona was officially established in 1913 as a unique self-contained town operated on a cost basis by the mining company for the benefit of its employees. The company created its own currency, and built a library, grocery store, school, housing and recreation facilities for its residents.

Was it a carwash? The background is Searles Lake. This half of the town felt like a ghost town. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 50mm

I went to the only restaurant on the highway I saw from Trona. Looking at the number of tables, the interior space was larger than needed. When I ordered coffee, the owner started to brew a pot. It was almost 9am, but it seems like I was their first customer that morning.

It seems like hot springs could be dug up anywhere here, but I didn’t ask whether there were any. The pink bathtub stood out against the plain landscape and I pointed the large aperture lens toward the scene. Camera: SD1 Lens: 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/800 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 50mm

While drinking the takeout coffee, I left the town and saw a broken bench by the side of the highway. A small tree grew behind the bench and planks of wood surrounded the tree on three sides.

It seemed like this used to be a bus stop. I see the “T” for Trona in the mountains in the background. Camera: DP2x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

While I had the car parked on the shoulder, a pickup truck stopped by. “Are you all right?” asked a 70ish looking woman with a cigarette in her mouth. Since there are no gas stations in Trona, many get stranded here and she was worried.

I thanked her and let her know that I had plenty of gas. She was relieved and wished me a nice trip. I drove further northeast on the desert which was once a large lake.

*All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.

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