David Bamberger has lately been altering one of the valleys on his ranch in order to slow rain water as it flows off of the plateau above it, and then down its slopes. His hope is to give rain water more time to soak into the soil and limestone. In these parts, we tend to get most of a year's rain in a few deluges, and the alterations are an additional means to the end of holding onto that precious water. I expect he'll blog about this in the near future.
Knowing that my old friend Jerry Gatlin is a private pilot, and that I can take a half-decent photograph, David asked us to get photos of the work before the spring grasses began to obscure it. So, Jerry and I went flying on Saturday. The ranch is a short hop from here by air, and soon Jerry was aggressively banking us over the valley about 500 feet above the plateau, while I rattled around in the back of the buffeting aircraft doing my best to snap the necessary photos.
(Five hundred feet was about as low as Jerry would fly under the circumstances, for a host of good reasons which I wouldn't think to criticize. Unfortunately, that means that my fantasy of rocketing down the length of the main valley of the ranch at treetop level remains a fantasy. Dang.)
Fantasies aside, there were a number of problems with the photography. One was all of the buffeting, which made it very hard to hold myself, let alone the camera, in one place (at one of the aircraft's windows, for instance). Another was the fact that somewhere over the course of the shoot, I managed to accidentally flip a switch on the long lens I was using - the switch that disables its image stabilizer. It's a low-profile switch, so I have no idea how, or when, I managed to hit it, but it was in the correct position before the flight, and in the wrong one at the end. Yet another problem was that the day was overcast while we were over the ranch (it cleared-up later, natch), so the shutter speeds weren't nearly as high as I'd've liked. And, of course, atmospheric haze is always a problem with photography at a distance.
Nonetheless, usable photos were taken. A few examples follow, but I'll leave most of them for David to debut on the ranch's blog whenever he gets around to describing this project.
Rain-catching features on the plateau and valley walls.
The valley and surrounding plateau. In the past I've shot panoramas there, specifically A Valley in High Lonesome, no. 1 and no. 2. After all of the work that's just been done there, it may be quite a while before it looks the way I found it back then.
Because Jerry doubted my ability to remove atmospheric haze, above is the same photo of the valley, prior to my haze reduction work.
The famous "chiroptorium", once known as "Bamberger's Folly", occupies the upper-right quadrant of this photo. A small valley was selected, then three progressively larger, partly overlapping, concrete domes were constructed in it, with a curving tunnel joined to the main dome acting as the entry-/exit-way. The valley was then partially filled-in to bury the structure, thereby creating a sequence of caves. The cave mouth can be seen clearly, complete with the wooden fence across it which keeps the cattle out. (Once upon a time, each evening's bat emergence was preceded by a cow emergence.) The buried mass of the domes can be inferred, somewhat, from the bulge of the earth to right of the mouth. On top of that bulge are a number of small features; the round ones are the caps on ventilation shafts, the rectangular one is a solar panel.
Jerry Gatlin and the airplane he half-owns. He loves flying, and, in his line of work, he has to do a lot of it, so at some point he decided to cut out the middle-man and do his flying personally. In his spare time, he does things like flying for the Angel Flight project.