The book contains glossy reproductions of Mr.Barnbaum's black and white photographs. Each picture is about 8X10 inches. The quality of the reproductions is high. You could cut the pages out and have them framed, though you wouldn't want to.
The book is divided into four sections, called, FIRST MOVEMENT(forests, ice crystals, Goosenecks State Park in Utah, and deserts), SECOND MOVEMENT(ancient cathedrals in Europe), THIRD MOVEMENT (modern skyscrapers in the USA), and FOURTH MOVEMENT(slot canyons in southern Utah and northern Arizona). The very first photograph, which is from the FIRST MOVEMENT, starts the book on a dramatic note. It shows a fallen tree, white because it is stripped of its bark, wedged between two standing redwood trees. The trees in background are somewhat removed from the scene because of the thick fog. The stiff, light-colored fallen tree, wedged between two adjacent redwoods has certain overtones.
Moving on to the SECOND MOVEMENT, where the subject matter is ancient cathedrals, one appreciates the difficulty in taking some of these pictures. Difficulty arises because of the low levels of light, requiring exposures of up to 21 minutes (plate 38). Another difficulty resulted from the magnitude of contrast between areas within cathedral illuminated by sunlight, and areas plunged in deep shadows.
The photographs in the THIRD MOVEMENT, disclose modern skyscrapers. In particular, the photographs entitled CHICAGO (1986), CALGARY (1985), NEW YORK (1986), and LOS ANGELES (1985), resemble paintings by Piet Mondrian. DALLAS (1986) resembles the paintings of Richard Estes.
The great accomplishment of this book is the slot canyons, or slit canyons, of the FOURTH MOVEMENT. This is not just a great accomplishment for the book, but a great accomplishment in the history of American photography.
Plate 65 is like an optical illusion, and shows a column-like formation. The optical illusion is that it is uncertain if the columns are concave or convex. Plate 66 shows two window-like formations, one above like a skylight, while the other below revealing a garden. Plate 68 shows mud, but what mud!!! What we see is mud having a metallic shimmer, like the kind that Elliot Porter has photographed. Plate 72 shows two parallel logs, both wedged into the width of a slot canyon. Plates 74, 81, 83, 84, 85, and 86, show swirling abstract designs in stone. Plate 89 shows a pyramidal striped rock having stripes residing in the center of the picture, while a snake sits in the sand at the bottom left. While Mr. Barnbaum did not discover the slot canyons, it is likely that he popularized them, and stimulated the boom in color photography of these mysterious and hard-to-reach underground alcoves.
After the plates, we find fifteen pages of intelligent narrative, relating to technical details, goals, and problems that needed to be overcome in taking the pictures.