Memorial Day

Last year I visited The Wall in Washington, DC. I go every year to visit old friends and lost shipmates. This is my usual Memorial Day post, in which I recognize that the day is to honor those who gave everything for our country, not to buy new furniture or celebrate spring. The sales are flying thick and fast, the misunderstanding of what Memorial Day really is runs rampant. So many people treat this day like Veterans Day, and that’s not quite right. Yes, I appreciate the well wishes for having served, but the right day for formal observance is November 11, not today.

 

Anyway, raving about some misunderstandings and crass commercialism isn’t what this day is about either. It’s about remembering and saying thank you to our lost comrades and their families.

 

My personal remembrance commemorates five individuals I knew who gave everything for the United States:

Corporal Irwin J. Harder, U. S. Army, Vietnam

Lt. Joseph G. Greenleaf, VF-114, Vietnam

Lt. Clemie McKinney, VF-114, Vietnam

LCDR. Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, Vietnam

Capt. John R. Pitzen, VF-114, Vietnam

Irwin was a high school friend and football teammate. He was sent to Vietnam in February and died in April. Short tour of duty.

Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Pender were aircrew members in my squadron. Captain Pitzen was named as our squadron Skipper just as I was leaving to come home.

Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. McKinney were shot down over North Vietnam, and reports were that they weren’t able to escape the aircraft. Other reports, however, indicate that Mr. McKinney was held as a POW and died in captivity.

Captain Pitzen and Mr. Pender were reported missing in action because they never called out “Feet Wet,” that is, clear of North Vietnam and returning to the ship. They were presumed down, but listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Their remains were identified in the late 1990s. I wore an MIA bracelet to remind me of them for years.

 

Here are some images I took last time I was at the wall: Click on the images to see them full size and in proper color.

 

The Wall

The Wall

 

The Soldiers looking for them are below.

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Gentlemen

 

 

More to follow.

Bob

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More from Capitol Reef

If you follow my blog, you know that Capitol Reef and Factory Butte are my favorite places on the planet. We were there a couple weeks ago and I’m slowly poring through the several hundred exposures I made.

A few of them are worth sharing, so I’ll drop them in as time moves on.

Factory Butte is a real attraction for me. I’ve tried and tried to get a good image of it, and while I’ve got some that I’m glad to share, the perfect image is still out there. I’ll get it someday, but while I wait, here’s one that’s not too bad. A nice dramatic sky after a very disappointing sunrise (click to see the image full size):

Factory Butte, Sunrise April, 2015

Factory Butte, Sunrise April, 2015

 

And the skies were dramatic all around. This one was taken in Capitol Grand Gorge Wash (I can never remember if it’s Capitol Gorge or Grand Wash). Ma Nature really put on a show that weekend. As an added attraction, the moon appears in the only open piece of sky. See if you can spot it.

Canyon, Clouds and Moon

Canyon, Clouds and Moon

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Springtime in the Desert

A flash of red caught my eye and I asked Mike to pull over (I seemed to be yelling at him to stop all weekend. Thanks, Mike). There was a clump of claret cup cactus in bloom along a bend in the road. I think it was a little early for cactus blooms, but was glad to have the opportunity to see my favorite cactus flowers. One look at the shape and color of the blossoms makes it clear why these plants are named after a glass of wine.

A lot of people see the desert as barren and consider cactus proof of that. I believe that there’s not much more beautiful than a cactus blossom and always get a thrill when I see some. The desert isn’t barren. Edward Abbey pointed out an important fact. Like all land on the planet, the desert produces at its full capacity. It might be that the capacity is diminished or that the plants have had to adapt to extremes in temperature and dryness, but the desert still produces and produces beauty.

Here’s the claret cup (click for full size and proper color):

 

Claret Cup Cactus

Claret Cup Cactus

 

And here’s a little pine tree doing its best to succeed in a challenging place. Trees in the desert really struggle to survive and the junipers and pines that grow in this region really work hard to be there. I like that in a tree.

 

Lone Pine, Capitol Reef NP

Lone Pine, Capitol Reef NP

 

More to follow,

Bob

Ma Nature struts her stuff

I went back to Capitol Reef National Park last weekend. My two main photography mentors were holding their 30th annual workshop down there and I just couldn’t miss it. It was a great time to reminisce, take some photographs and share lies stories about each other.

As is often the case in the desert, Ma Nature decided to have a little input into the festivities. We had sun, rain, snow and hail, all in less than one hour. Then things kind of stabilized to excitingly-designed skies. The desert is one place where it’s never boring, and when Ma Nature decides to put on a show, it’s really a show.

Here are some images featuring those fascinating skies:

 

As we usually do, we went to Factory Butte to photograph sunrise. Ma Nature didn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about letting the sun light things up, but when I looked south and saw the Henry Mountains starting to catch a little light, I just had to make this panorama (click on the images for full size and proper color):

 

Henry Mt. Pano

Henry Mt. Pano

 

On the way back to the park, I saw this scene. I shouted to Mike to pull over as soon as he could and jumped out of the truck to fire away. I never pass up a chance to show off my favorite place on earth, Capitol Reef.

 

Storm over Capitol Reef

Storm over Capitol Reef

 

 

It was a great weekend. The only downside was that it was too short.

 

More to follow,

Bob

Birds at the Zoo

There are interesting birds at Zoo Montana, too. The first one we encounter is a bald eagle (actually two of them). When I first came in, neither felt like posing. One hid behind a rock and the other was nowhere to be seen. As I was leaving the park, I decided to check one last time, just in case. That was a good decision. I found an eagle perched in a very good location. He seemed to be giving me the skunk eye in one of the images below, but I don’t blame him. If anyone tried to take a picture of me, I’d probably do the same.

Here’s the stern look from the eagle (click on the images to see them full size and with proper color):

 

Bald Eagle portrait 1

Bald Eagle portrait 1

 

I guess he decided it was OK for me to take photos, because he started to strike a few poses. This profile is one I particularly like:

 

Bald Eagle profile

Bald Eagle profile

 

Well, the bald eagle is a beautiful bird (even thought Ben Franklin didn’t like them too much), but there are others that aren’t native to the Americas that are awfully pretty, too. I caught this guy looking something like a teenage boy strutting his stuff:

 

Peacock

Peacock

 

I think I really like my new Sigma lens. All the zoo photos were taken with it and it seems to work just fine.

 

More to follow,

Bob

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Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

I got a new lens last week. I had read quite a while back about the Sigma Contemporary 150 – 600 mm lens. 600 mm is a good length for taking pictures of critters and birds that don’t necessarily want their pictures taken. And the lens looked like it would be a good choice, so I ordered one. It finally came last week. I got the first one shipped west of the Mississippi, according to the dealer. I was going to wait until the weekend to test the lens, but once I got home and read through the instructions, I thought I’d better make sure it worked. It did.

My first image was a portrait of Sparky, my furry, fat cat. I used flash on this one, and it worked out just fine, I think (click to see full size and proper color).

 

Sparky

Sparky

 

Sparky is a handsome fellow, but a rather small subject. I bought the lens in hopes of catching a little bigger wildlife. With that in mind, I went to Zoo Montana, Billings’ own small zoo. They’ve got a few cats there, too. This one seemed to be pretty photogenic and willing to give me a nice profile as well as an environmental portrait.

 

Tiger profile

Tiger profile

 

A little while later he seemed to be looking for something. I thought this got a rather nice view of his environment:

 

Tiger portrait

Tiger portrait

 

Lots of pretty kitties in town.

More to follow

Bob

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Test

Today I got a note from go doggy, er Go Daddy, the company that hosts my site. They told me that the credit card I had listed for automatic renewal had expired and I needed to update it. So I did. Then I went in and paid my bill.

 

In the mean time, go doggy killed my account. Imagine: I’m being punished because I didn’t sit in the admin section of go doggy and watch my credit card expiration dates. And when I immediately correct the issue, my website has disappeared.

Fail, go doggy, fail!

Valley of Fire 2

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has a lot of great geology. The Earth was particularly tortured long ago in this area and the combination of multiple levels of sedimentation and twisting have made this a place of stunning geology. But geology isn’t the only attraction. There’s anthropology, too. There are petroglyphs in several places in the park. I visited some of them and will share them here.

 

First, a little more geology. The forces of nature must have been tremendous to cause this sort of fracturing and twisting:

Click the images to see them full size and in proper color (at least the ones that have color):

 

Fun with Geology

Fun with Geology

 

Yes, it’s interesting in color, but I think this monochrome view shows a lot more.

The rock art is as good as any I’ve seen. Atlatl Rock has some petroglyphs high up. So high that the park management built a steel staircase to bring visitors close enough to see the glyphs well. Here’s what they look like:

 

Atlatl Rock Petroglyphs

Atlatl Rock Petroglyphs

 

Some of the themes are familiar, being pretty common among many rock art sites in the Southwest Desert, but some are a little different, bringing a lot of interest and speculation to the scene.

As I left the rock, I noticed the sun was in a position to play hide-and-seek as I walked in and out of the rock’s shadow. That rang a bell in my head that said, “Starburst.” When the sun just peeks over a rock or tree and with the right lens and f/stop, you can catch a starburst in an image. Here’s one I saw at Atlatl Rock:

 

Atlatl rock starburst

Atlatl rock starburst

 

As a bonus, you can follow the stairs and see where the petroglyph panel was.

 

I was impressed with Valley of Fire and will go back!

More to follow,

Bob

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Valley of Fire

I’ve heard about Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada for decades. I’ve always wanted to go there, but never seemed to find the time to head that way.

A couple weeks ago, I had to go to two conferences in Las Vegas (yes, had to go is the right term. I really don’t like Vegas for more than about two hours). I decided to go out a day early and visit Valley of Fire. I made the right choice.

I was only able to spend a few hours there, but what I saw confirms for me that I’ll be going back and spending some time there. It’s a beautiful place with so much to see that one day simply isn’t enough. I’ve got some images I’ll share with you over two posts, so check back next Wednesday for more.

There’s an area in Valley of Fire called The Wave. It’s photographed often and for good reason. I hiked into The Wave to check it out and came back with some images I rather like.

 

Here they are:

 

The first is a sort of establishing view. A desert garden with some very interesting geology. (Don’t forget to click on the images to see them full size and with proper color.)

It’s a beautiful area, I think you’ll agree.

The Wave #1

The Wave #1

 

But if you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know that I love Black-and-White photos, probably more than I like color, so I converted the above scene:

The Wave Monochrome

The Wave Monochrome

 

I really like this view. For some reason, the lack of color accents the scene far better; to my eye, at least. As long as I was doing B&W, I decided to move up a little and capture the heart of the scene with a little desert garden:

 

The Hear to the Wave

The Heart of the Wave

 

Check back Wednesday to see what else I found at Valley of Fire!

 

More to follow,

Bob

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More from the Desert

Our recent expedition into the desert was only a week long, but, man did we take pictures. The total for the five of us was a little over 8,000 images and I actually did more than 1,000. Back in the day, I would have likely done twenty or thirty, but digital photography offers a lot of options that require a lot of exposures. You might remember a couple weeks back I posted a panorama from the Totem Pole. That was made of about seven separate images. I’ve posted some High Dynamic Range images that take somewhere between four and seven exposures to blend into the final product. So it’s not all promiscuous shooting, sometimes the multiples are there for a reason.

Sometimes it’s necessary to do a lot of images just to get the one right shot. That’s the situation at Horseshoe Bend. The light is constantly changing, the framing always seems to be a challenge, so the photographer has the choice of either figuring out the exact right shot and being in the exact right position at the time the light is exactly right or finding a good frame and waiting, taking several images until the right one is there. (click on the images to see them full size and in the right color space.)

 

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

 

Or one might be driving up the road to Monument Valley and see a stunning sky outlining El Capitan. If you’ve watched the John Ford/John Wayne movies filmed in Monument Valley, you’ve seen El Capitan off in the distance. If you’ve driven by it, you’ve undoubtedly been impressed. I had to stop in two different places to make images. Again, if it had been in the old view camera days, I’d have carefully composed, metered the scene and waited for the clouds to be perfect and the light on El Capitan to be just right. With digital, we have the option of shifting our composition, our exposure and our zoom to capture the right image. It’s tempting to just blast away, but I hope that I’m thoughtful enough only to capture good scenes and only blast away when the light is constantly changing as it was in this situation.

 

El Capitan Navajo Nation

El Capitan Navajo Nation

 

I kind of like what I found in both circumstances.

More to follow,

Bob

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