In my backyard – Alien Worlds

(Original image courtesy of NASA.)

The week after Christmas, we had a snowstorm here…  Looking at the snow in the raking light of early morning, the landscape (snowscape?) reminded me of some of the photographs of other planets from NASA probes in the 1960’s.

So, as sometimes happens, I thought I’d share my photographs here.  Hit the jump if you’re curious.


I’d kinda been thinking “Alien Worlds”/”Planetary Photography”…  But when I posted the earliest edits to Twitter, iblessall saw the same thing in this image, and that really crystallized it for me.


This is the photo that actually caught my eye first…  The low rounded hills look weirdly familiar if you’ve spent as much time as I have staring at planetary photography.  But from the responses I’ve gotten in other places, the first one (with it’s easily recognizable “dune crests”) catches people’s eyes.

Dune crests

(Image courtesy of Shawn Allen)


(Image courtesy of Tristan Schmurr)

It’s completely understandable…  Who hasn’t seen pictures of dunes like the two above?  Our experiences profoundly color our impressions.  Neither is right or wrong.

But not seeing the same language does sometimes make communication difficult for the artist…


Part of me sees an alien landscape here…  But I can also see microscopic photography.  One of those images you occasionally see of something mundane magnified 10,000x and finding something entirely unexpected.

For what it’s worth, all of these images are essentially magnified in kind of the same manner…  They were taken from my 2nd floor balcony, zooming way in on the ground below.  Each one captures an area of the ground maybe two feet on a side.  They’re taking shortly after dawn and the raking light of early morning captures the textures in an unexpected and somewhat unfamiliar way.

Not that I got up all that early…  I live far enough North that dawn is around 7.20AM this time of year, and the sun also has to clear a building to the east of me.  So these so far were all taken at an entirely reasonable 9.30AM or so.


This image was taken under slightly different circumstances…  Though it’s the same raking light, it’s late afternoon and the sun has swung around into the West.  Now the light is running against (rather than with) the wind that shaped these tiny snow drifts.  To me, with the multiple dunes and small plateaus, it actually seems the most alien of the four.

Some notes on processing:


The originals were taken in color.  Snow isn’t always white…  it can blue, grey, or even golden depending on the quality of the light.  I deliberately chose to make them monochrome to emphasize the impression I was trying to create.


The fourth one had the most radical processing…  All four were changed from color to monochrome and had the lighting carefully altered and rebalanced.  On the fourth I also increased the texture and blurred it ever-so-slightly to reproduce the ‘look’ of a crude low resolution image from space nearly sixty years ago.  I think I’m on track with the technique, I’m not entirely certain I’m happy with the results.

Maybe we’ll get another snow day, and maybe it’ll have strong winds, and I’ll try again.  That’s the joy and pain of photography…  The world is always presenting you with new opportunities,   but they’re also often unique.


Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed these.  Please drop a comment and tell me what you think.

Now that this monkey is off my back, I’ll start working on my First Impressions post for Winter 2022.  I think everything I’m going to watch has premiered, now all I have to do is actually write them up!

4 thoughts on “In my backyard – Alien Worlds”

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