January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann


Three Rivers
Petroglyph Site

The photograph below is of interest because it utilized reflectors in a daylight landscape setting.
How this was done will be featured in a near-future issue of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal

Rock of Ages

Less than a one hour drive north of Alamogordo New Mexico is the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by petroglyphs and pictographs, and whenever I visit the American Southwest I take what opportunities I can to view and photograph them.

This site is one of the richest in the country, with more than 21,000 such stone carvings to be found on the long and steep, but not all that difficult 1 mile round-trip hike up a basaltic ridge.

Three Rivers Petroglyph
Three Rivers Petroglyph , New Mexico, 2001 Photographed with a Pentax 67II and 55~100mm f/4.5 zoom on Provia 100F


One of the most striking petroglyph settings is at the very far end of the ridge, beyond where most people venture. We did the hike mid-day and discovered it, and decided that this would make a great evening photograph. After several hours of exploration we came back about an hour before sunset and organized ourselves for the shot.

Petroglyph stone
Michael positions the larger reflector to fill-in the rear face of the Petroglyph stone

What was immediately clear was that with the sun setting to the far left of the frame the right side of the rock would end up in deep shadow. Fortunately we had a couple of folding reflectors (Litedisk) with us. We placed a large one tucked in invisibly behind the rocks on the right and we took turns holding a smaller one and using it to reflect the light of the setting sun onto the top face of the rock.

small gold-coloured reflector
Steve Kossack takes his turn filling-in the top face of the stone with a small gold-coloured reflector

In addition the shot required the use of a 2 stop split neutral density filter to bring down the hot sky and also a polarizer to tame glare and reflections on the rock face.

It was a tricky set up, but resulted in an appealing image‚ especially for anyone interested in Rock Art.  It was definitely helpful to have another photographer to work with in positioning and holding the reflectors. I only wish that the sky had been a bit more interesting.

If you’re driving between a shoot in Bosque del Apache and White Sands, as we were, I recommend that you stop for a while at Three Rivers. A fascinating part of American pre-history is to be found here. The site is located north of Alamogordo, just a few miles off Highway 54, at the Three Rivers junction.

Some of my other petroglyph photographs are found on this site’s Rock Art page. 

This location and a segment on how to use reflectors when doing landscape photography
will be featured in a near-future issue of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.

Michael Reichmann

Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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