A Photographer's Notes on DStretch®

One of the reasons that many of the pictographs in this website and in our book have not been previously published is that they are too faint to visualize with the unaided eye or even with available software enhancement, such as Adobe ® Photoshop®. Sun exposure, wind, moisture, sand, habitation use such as fires, and the breakdown of substrate rock, which is nearly always granitic for the Kumeyaay desert area. While the mineral component of the pigment such as red ochre for red, manganese for black and calcium carbonate for white is durable, the fixative or other paint components may not be. Many of the pictographs have significantly faded since the photographs of Malcolm Rogers in the 1930s to the early studies of Ken Hedges in the 1970s and then, again, since our photography in the past few years. Realistically, if we were to present the pictographs in this book as they actually appeared on-site, most of them would be barely visible or defined. As we have mentioned, all of this changed with the advent of DStretch (DS) by Jon Harman. 

The details on DS can be found on Jon Harman’s website, with tutorials and other information (http://www.dstretch.com/) and is really the only source of knowledge at this time. Currently, as listed on the website, there are four means to use DS: a computer or tablet, on certain Canon cameras with installed DS programming on memory cards, an iPhone or an Android phone. The particulars are listed on the website. In the past few years Daren and I have evolved from computer use only, then we added a Canon camera that would run the DS program and show results on an LCD screen. I used a Canon G12 model that I bought new for $300 with a swivel LCD screen and a ten megapixel sensor. In my hands, the Canon produced DS images in the 3–4 megapixel range when shooting in rock shelters. Since I had a much larger sensor in my Nikon, I just used the Canon as a “screening device,” not for making final images. The next step, which for me was huge, was the advent of a DS application that can be used in an iPhone or an Android cellular phone. While the iPhone 6 or 6s has an eight megapixel sensor, the LCD screen is larger and much sharper than the Canon Camera I had. I can enlarge most images to actual size. While I still use the phone as a screening device, I believe it captures much more detail than with the available cameras that can accept DS. The photo cards with DS, you buy from Jon Harman for $100 for three cards loaded with the DS program. To buy the app for your cellular phone is currently $20.

Since others have written on DS itself, there is no need to repeat that here except for one point I wish to make. DS makes use of many different colorspaces. Each one can be individually applied to nearly any strength. There are other controls that in combination give you a nearly infinite number of manipulations. Fortunately, DS performs well with red and black, the two most common colors in La Rumorosa pictographs. The response of other colors to DS colorspaces is more variable, such as white, yellow, green, and blue. Of these four colors, white and yellow are the two most often seen.

“The pictures command your attention. These photographs of ancient American rock art bleed off the pages and into that place in our minds where
the shamans once lived.”

Douglas Peacock
author of In the Shadow of the Sabertooth
and The Best of Edward Abbey

Normal Photo

Same location D-Stretched

Deep into a cave of the McCain Wilderness east of San Diego with help from Tom and Daren, I was so fortunate to catch the morning sun bouncing around onto this pictograph. Prayer sticks abound and around on the floor. The colors are DS enhanced without which the pictograph is much more faded. While at the cave, it took me about an hour to find the painting while at the cave. We are busy at work on what will be our second and final book on La Rumorosa rock art. Above the Sunburst and Geometric figure are some other less defined elements that are more apparent in other photographs.
Don Liponi

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Because of the work involved in promoting our first book, it has been at least a year since I actually did any field work which is the passion that drew me into doing the book in the first place. In terms of promoting and presenting, it has been so great to meet others who support the ideas behind our work. Still, nothing can duplicate the serenity and stillness of that moment of discovery of a new pictograph. Cramped into a dusty and dark rock shelter, squinting with a flashlight at a wall that was painted on hundreds of years ago and seeing a message across time that the spiritual essence of the Shaman lives on. In the first photograph, an anthropomorph with its companion figure is a common portraiture of this style and sets above the track of the freeway - a modern intrusion. What would the Shaman think or could he even imagine such a thing?

Back from the freeway and in an area heavily used for illegal traffic today sets a large granitic boulder cracked open by some cataclysmic event in prehistoric times, the artist rendered this geometric mystery of some sort. Today, this pictograph is completely invisible and can only be seen with DStretch. The space in the crack is so short that even with a wide angle lens, it has to be shot obliquely which decreases the capabilities of DS. While I cannot even imagine what its meaning is, the excitement of bringing back this painting from oblivion seems so important. I hope one day that someone will add to our knowledge about what it could mean.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to walk in the desert with these "old friends" who understood the land and its harmonies to their people far better than we do.

Our group has been busy at work during the promotion making many new discoveries. We have well over 100 sites we have not published in Volume #1 that will go into Volume #2. All purchases of Volume #1 help us to be able to create the second and final volume of La Rumorosa Rock Art. Help us by buying Volume #1 which has sold over 600 copies!
Don Liponi ...

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Another very heartwarming "book tour" trip to Palm Desert, Joshua Tree and Camp Verde, near Sedona, AZ. There are so many dedicated people in every community that are doing parallel projects - trying to record and digitally save the rock art of their region. While there are some advocates out there making use of D Stretch, the tool is still largely unknown, which means we are missing lots of art that will probably disappear into oblivion before it is ever recorded. Perhaps, the people who are in charge of D Stretch would be better off educating the public on how to use this tool to record what is left rather than worry about whether or not fingers are present? I am sure that won't happen and your lack of interest in teaching the public will mean the loss of countless panels that might be recorded if your eye were on the prize. Despite so little D Stretch documentation, many people are doing their best to struggle along with a program hardly anyone understands to its potential. Archaeology is its own worst enemy. In many cases, it is the avocationalists who are taking the higher road to save while the professionals bicker over minutiae.

In any case, the Native Americans are guardedly hopeful that we can continue to record in the event that circumstances will improve in the future.

Book sales were good on this trip and I think I actually paid my way! I believe we are in the area of 600 copies sold which is just amazing. I want to thank you all. More to follow with specific details. More book dates coming up!
Don Liponi ...

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