Photojournalist Wade Byars to retire, tells story behind one of his best desert photos

July 25th, 2013 | by MyDesert | Comments
Photojournalist Wade Byars retires Saturday after 21 years at The Desert Sun.

Photojournalist Wade Byars retires Saturday after 21 years at The Desert Sun.

Photojournalist Wade Byars will retire Saturday after 21 years with The Desert Sun.

He has been a professional photographer for 32 years.

In a farewell blog post here, Wade recalls one of his favorite photos he ever took — on Oct. 2, 2006, in Palm Desert  and the science behind what makes photographing in the Coachella Valley so special.

Congratulations on your retirement, Wade.

 

 

 

How science makes my photo work

A woman ties her hair  on a sand dune north of Palm Desert in 2006. (Wade Byars/The Desert Sun)

A woman ties her hair on a sand dune north of Palm Desert in 2006. (Wade Byars/The Desert Sun)

There are two experiences on which our visual world is based.

Gravity is vertical and the horizon stands at a right angle to it. It is that conjunction of those cross-wires in the visual field which fixes the nature of the right angle.

In my picture, Lady of the Dune, she is the vertical element.

From the top of her hands draw a line straight down. Draw a second line down to either the left or right bottom corner. These two lines form 2 sides of the triangle. The third line is the baseline at the bottom of the sand dune. The ribbon in her hair repeats the motif of the triangle. I didn’t set up the tying of the ribbon, but I was looking for a triangle composition.

The Lady on the Dune picture was taken at twilight. At the far left it is still daylight with bright sunlight.  At the right the sky is dark blue, turning into night. Thus it is both daylight and evening in the same picture, and the magical light of the desert radiates up off of the sand dune.

A sky over the lady that is night and day.

 

 

Why desert light and air make for amazing visuals

A montage of Coachella Valley elements (Wade Byars/The Desert Sun)

A montage of Coachella Valley elements (Wade Byars/The Desert Sun)

The Coachella Valley desert has unique light conditions. When light from the sky encounters very hot air on the surface of sand it is bent or refracted upwards. This effect is similar as if a mirror were laid on the surface.

It can cause a mirage. Hot air is less dense then cool air. As hot air rises the light passing through it may be refracted causing mirages or distant objects to shimmer.

For 21 years, I have photographed the Coachella Valley. One of the amazing visuals is at sunset in Palm Springs.

When the sun sets behind Mount San Jacinto, if one is on Indian Canyon Drive north of Vista Chino and south of I-10 at the right time, the shadow of Mount San Jacinto covers most of the desert on the west side of Indian Canyon Drive.

But on the east side of Indian Canyon Drive there is brilliant sunlight — a division of twilight and sunlight to one’s left and right.

If it is summer and the desert sand is super heated, that ephemeral desert light’s atoms are dancing and shimmering in this magical landscape — a landscape that gave me pictures like the Lady on the Dune for 21 years.

 

A deeper look at the geometry of Coachella Valley desert light and photography

In 550 B.C. the Greek mathematician Pythagoras provided mathematical proof of an important theorem in mathematics. It is a fundamental characteristic of the space in which we move. It is translated into numbers. The exact fit of the numbers describe the exact laws that bind the universe.

There are two experiences on which our visual world is based.

Gravity is vertical and the horizon stands at a right angle to it. It is that conjunction of those cross-wires in the visual field which fixes the nature of the right angle.  If this right angle, a triangle, is rotated down and sideways four times it returns to the cross-wire of gravity and the horizon. No other arbitrary angle does this.

In the world of vision, in the vertical picture plane that our eyes present to us, a right angle is defined by its fourfold rotation back onto itself. This is not only the natural world as we experience it, but also the world we construct built on this relation. Pythagoras raised this knowledge out of empirical fact into the world of mathematical proof.

The sum of the square of the lengths of the two other sides of any right triangle will equal the square of the length of the hypotenuse. Pythagoras proved this with numbers. The ancient Greeks applied the triangle as compositional element in their art work and so did Renaissance artists.

Sources:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Ascent of Man by J. Bronowski

Share your thoughts

Copyright © 2014 archive.desertsun.com. All rights reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice, and Ad Choices