Posts Tagged Autumn

Home for the Holidays

I’ve mentioned before that several years ago, after having lost my muse because I stayed away from the desert far too long, I had to take a trip back to this beautiful country. As I dropped into Capitol Reef from the west, I burst into tears and said to no-one in particular, “Mother, I’m home.” To no-one? No, to the desert itself.

The mother desert? Yes, why not? It’s part of Mother Nature (or, as I often refer to her when the weather is bad, Ma Nature), and it’s the best part, I’ll warrant. There’s something about the desert that attracts me and nurtures me.

That’s hard to believe when one gives a cursory look around. There’s really not much there to offer physical sustenance (while I haven’t tried it, I’d guess it’s hard to eat cactus spines or juniper bark). If it’s not physical sustenance the desert offers it must be something else. Sustenance for the soul, perhaps. A deeper look confirms that.

I decided on that trip so long ago that this desert is my soul’s home. And home is where I need to be.

So I went down to the desert this past Thanksgiving. That means a couple things:

  • First, no turkey for thanksgiving dinner. In fact, if I didn’t stash some food in my motel room, no dinner at all. Everything closes for the holiday in the small towns that border the area I love. And that’s a good thing. I hate turkey anyway
  • Second, it reminds me to be truly thankful for this incredible landscape, my family and friends. You know, all the good things

But what is it that is so attractive in this land of harsh, dry rock and clay? Clearly there’s something. Perhaps it’s just the glee one feels when yet another stunning piece of land presents itself. And in that presentation challenges the photographer to record it with sensitivity and love.

Along with the discovery and recording comes the opportunity to share this experience with others. That’s key: the opportunity to share my experiences. When I stumble across natural beauty, I want to share it. And the best way for me to share is through my photography. So here are a couple looks at what I was thankful for last week.

 

As you know, I’m fascinated by Factory Butte. I walked in closer to the landform to see what it looked like up close.

 

Factory Butte

Factory Butte

 

The ‘badlands’ around the Butte are equally worth taking a look at.

 

Clay Hills, Caineville, Utah

Clay Hills, Caineville, Utah

 

And, of course, what’s a photography trip without a sunset?

 

Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park

Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park

 

Or a sunrise, for that matter?

 

Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park

Sunset, Capitol Reef National Park

 

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everything looks better in Black-and-White

Digital photography brings a wide range of advantages over film photography. (It took me a long time to accept that, but now I’m firmly in the digital camp, even with the apparent increase in interest in film that’s flickering in the world today.)

With film photography, depending on the camera system you were using, you could find yourself ‘locked out’ of a good photograph. With a 35mm camera, the film that was loaded was pretty much what you had to use. Sure, there were ways of rewinding film, taking it out and replacing it, then reinserting it and hoping you advanced the film far enough to avoid double exposures on already-photographed spaces on the film. It became more convenient to carry two bodies, each loaded with a different kind of film (usually color and Black-and-White), just to be able to capture the image in the way your vision dictated.

Cameras larger than 35mm usually offered the opportunity for the photographer to change film backs or film holders loaded with the ‘right’ kind of film for the image. That’s why I carried a 5×7 Deardorff view camera into the field: The camera used film holders, and a large assortment of color transparency and B&W negative film could be carried. At a cost. The view camera, a sufficient tripod to mount it on, 20 or so film holders and a wide assortment of lenses and filters made for a heavy backpack. Being a landscape photographer required a lot of labor, but it was a labor of love.

Then came digital. With increasingly capable processing programs, digital imaging has become a photographer’s dream.

We don’t have to send our color film off for processing and wait for its return. We don’t have to carefully mix batches of potentially toxic chemicals to process black-and-white film in order to make negatives we can print. We don’t have to make prints (color or black-and-white), which also require a batches of potentially toxic chemicals to develop.

No, we just upload the digital images to the computer, open the processing program of our choice and process the image to match our visualization. And we have a significant advantage over the film days when we do that. Would an image look better in Black-and-White? (They all do.) No problem we convert them to monochrome using a plug-in or any of a number of different methods and we have a beautiful black-and-white image. Is the color a little drab? No problem, we simply bump the saturation or ‘fiddle’ with the color balance and there you have it: a finished image that represents our vision with no processing delays, no wrinkled fingers from soaking them in developer, no toxic chemicals. Digital photography is a great move forward.

Of course, there’s one thing we really can’t do and that’s take infrared photographs with our standard digital cameras. Manufacturers place filters over camera sensors to block infrared light because allowing IR to come through onto the sensors would make images difficult to process.

The problem is that it was fun to occasionally load a roll of IR film into a 35mm camera and see what we could come up with. Some of us like to do that to this day.

Luckily there are a couple of companies that will take your camera apart, remove the IR blocking filter and add filters that pass certain bandwidths of light in the IR spectrum. I got an old camera converted to IR a couple years back and I really like the results I get from it.

Here are a couple of examples: We were at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for sunrise. The colors didn’t seem to be what I expect for sunrise images, so I took out my IR camera and fired away. IR gives a nice, strong contrast to an image and catches sunlight reflecting off rocks and things very nicely.

Here are a few views of a sunrise with IR. See what you think.

 

Wotans Throne is the most commanding geologic formation at Cape Royal, so it becomes the most-photographed scene:

 

 

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunris, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise #2, Wotans Throne, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

But we’re always told to look around and sure enough we find other images that work, too.

 

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

Sunrise Shadows, Caper Royal, Grand Canyon NP

 

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

Sunrise, Cape Royal #1

 

 

Yes, indeed, sunrise in Black-and-White certainly works.

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Delicately Tough Tree

I’ve committed to trying to post at least once a week now that I’m retired and have set a project of going through the 32,000 plus images on my hard drive. That’s a noble objective, to be sure, but things do get in the way.

Things like going out in the field and getting more images and practicing photography techniques that I need to work on.

Last week at the Grand Canyon I was reminded how much I love Aspens. There’s something very attractive about these trees. Sure, the white bark and quaking leaves are attractive, but there’s something more. Something that I’m still trying to figure out.

Much of it comes from the aspen forest being not individual trees, but a living organism, with many trees connected through a series of underground runners. The saying in the nursery business that I’ve heard is that you don’t buy an aspen, you buy an aspen grove. I’ve seen this with captive aspens in my yards. There are always shoots coming up in the least convenient places. Yes, a grove of aspens is the way Ma Nature intended it, so we should let them grow that way where they’re most comfortable, I guess.

Aspens do some cool things.

In the fall they turn a sparkling, brilliant yellow. Mostly. Some of them for some reason turn to a lovely orange. This orange interspersed with the yellow adds visual interest and makes you think about what could cause that.

In the spring, the electric green of freshly-sprouted aspen leaves is a thrill to observe. In the right light it looks like the forest is alive with green flame.

Aspens are tough, too. They can take a lot of punishment and survive. I’ve seen aspens with trunks twisted in a circle by snow and wind, then continuing to grow toward the sky. Some show the lifelong marks of thoughtless people, people who see the aspens as perfect candidates for scratch pads, carving their names or initials in the bark. Years later, those scars remain and show who passed before (and who didn’t treat these stately trees with respect). Once in a while you’ll find a real artist has attacked an aspen. I found a carving of someone’s horse in a tree a while back. Interesting.

Even when they die and fall to the ground, aspens are interesting. Some host lichens, some host critters, but they decay in stately and interesting ways that draw one’s attention.

Aspens are the first trees to recover after a wildfire. As we traveled through areas at the North Rim where a wildfire had destroyed thousands of acres, we saw thickets of six-foot-tall aspens, already starting the process of reforestation.

I’m toying with the idea of doing an aspen portfolio, a series of photographs of one of my favorite trees. If I do so, I’ll make it into a downloadable e-book you can grab if you want it. It will take me a while to get this done because I’d like to use all new images. I’ll get it done, but it will take a while. So stand by and keep reading. Here are some aspens I saw last week:

 

There are a surprising number of multiple trees growing from the same or near the same root system. These twins were framing a pinyon pine and I thought I’d capture that view. (As always, click to see the full size image.)

Twins Stack

Twin Aspens

 

 

This is the orange we see far too rarely with aspens in the fall.

Orange Aspens

Orange Aspens

 

Fallen aspens offer life support for lichen, critters, etc.

Lichen Stack

Lichen Stack

 

Those who came before left their marks.

Who has passed before?

Who has passed before?

 

 

Aspen Horse

Aspen Horse

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Frameup

It’s been a busy week. Lots of time in the field making photographs, not much time to process and post before doing a nose plant into the pillow to be ready for the next day’s adventure. On a very auspicious day we hooked up with a guide. He asked us what we wanted to see and we told him.

That started a long day of traveling the back roads of Monument Valley Tribal Park. Harry, our guide, often made suggestions about where to find good photos and he was seldom wrong. Harry suggested the framing below and it turns out it was a good idea. We all stood in line to get the right position and framing for the West Mitten.

Here’s what I found:

West mitten framed

West mitten framed

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunrise Silhouette

It’s easy to get up before sunrise as the year wears on. I was up and fiddling around yesterday so decided I should take advantage of our great room at the View and set up the camera on the balcony.

Here’s what I saw:

Monument Valley Sunrise Silhouette

Monument Valley Sunrise Silhouette

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

That’s a lot of slot

Those of you who know me know that I love slot canyons. We found this one and spent several hours oohing, aaahing and making photographs. The canyon ranged from a couple feet wide to a wide open canyon and the colors were spectacular.

Of course, if you know me at all, you know I prefer black-and-white as an image. Henri Cartier-Breson once said that our first 10,000 photographs are our worst. In pursuit of a black-and-white I can be happy with, I may have to go to 15,000. But, luckily, the canyon provided some excellent opportunities and I’ll share them with you today.

First, the color image. After all, this is color country (click for full size and color).

Slot canyon Overhead

Slot canyon Overhead

 

But then I just had to make some monochrome images. Remember that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel sang words that I will always agree with in their Central Park concert. They correctly updated the words to Kodachrome to say, “Everything looks better in black-and-white.” No truer words have been spoken.

 

Slot canyon 1

Slot canyon 1

 

Still life in a slot canyon

Still life in a slot canyon

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , ,

Western Wildlife

As I entered Yellowstone and went through Mammoth Village, I encountered a lot of traffic. Of course, I knew right away what was happening. The elk herd was on the move. I found a parking place and grabbed the camera with a 300 mm lens. There was a young woman in a ranger uniform nearby and between her shouted exhortations for drivers to move on and not stop in the middle of the road and to stay away from the elk, I struck up a conversation with her. It wasn’t very in-depth, but I think she appreciated the fact that I agreed to get back in the car if he moved our way, so she answered couple questions. Like, why was he wearing the laurel crown? He looked kind of like an elven prince from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and seemed to think he was quite handsome. She said she’d never seen anything like that, but that he’d been scratching the antlers in a tree and the leaves just kind of came along. He didn’t seem to mind. He was more concerned about the cars, charging one every once in a while to show he was ready to defend his harem. Here’s what he looked like:

 

Bull elk, Mammoth Village

Bull elk, Mammoth Village

 

Another kind of wildlife presents itself at Beartooth Pass. There’s a rest area about 2/3 of the way up the pass and along with a bevy of pit toilets, there’s a spectacular view for the adults and entertainment for the kids. I can’t guess how many people feed these gophers (or chipmunks or pot guts or whatever they’re called), but it must be a lot. Including yours truly. A girl, about ten or so seemed to feel sorry for me that all I had was a camera, so she came up and gave me some sunflower seeds to feed the critters with. I thanked her kindly and then, of course, fed the beasts because I didn’t want to disappoint the young lady. This one held still long enough to get a good portrait.

 

Gopher, Beartooth Pass

Gopher, Beartooth Pass

 

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

It Was a Dark, But Not Stormy, Night

When I got to Yellowstone last week, there were predictions that we just might get to see some Northern Lights way down south because of a big Class X flare on the sun. I went out to a dark location in the park to see if I could spot some.

Well, it got good and dark and cool after the summer heat, but I didn’t see any aurora. First, I was out too early, then the moon came up and even at half phase it lit up the sky pretty good. That’s always a challenge for getting a good look at aurorae, so I headed back to my warm motel room.

Next day I drove into the park and gawked around for a while. The road goes along the Gibbon River, so I thought that might make for a nice scenic shot. It did. What you see is the result of the high-dynamic range (HDR) process. HDR has been pretty controversial, although it’s now getting recognized as a valid way to fiddle with photos. Early HDRs were very contrasty and the colors were over saturated, so I didn’t do many in the ‘early days.’ Lately, the process has become more predictable and useful, so I decided to try it with this scene. Worked out just fine.

Here’s a look at the Milky Way from Yellowstone. Looks pretty much the same anywhere in North America, I guess, but the high altitude might have made for clearer skies. They definitely were darker! (As always, click the thumbnails to see the images at the right size and with proper color.)

 

Milky Way, Yellowstone, NP

Milky Way, Yellowstone, NP

 

And here’s a look at the Gibbon River.

 

Gibbon River, Yellowstone NP

Gibbon River, Yellowstone NP

 

I’ll share a few more from Yellowstone in the next few days.

 

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Well, That’s Crazy

I went to Yellowstone this weekend. On the way back, I stopped to look at the Crazy Mountains just in case there was some autumn color starting up. I didn’t see any of that, but did see a nice panorama that I thought I’d share with you.

This is actually seven images stitched together in Photoshop then minority tweaked after the stitching. I think it came out pretty well and thought I’d share it with you.

Don’t forget to click on the thumbnail to see the image full frame (it may not fit entirely on smaller monitors, but you can scan back and forth to see the full image).

 

Crazy Mountains Panorama

Crazy Mountains Panorama

 

I”ll share some of my images of Yellowstone as the week goes on, so be sure to check back.

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , ,

Where I live Redux

I’ve been kind of behind the times with my posts and I apologize for that. I thought today I should share with you a little more about where I live.

I went up to Beartooth Pass on the Montana-Wyoming border this morning. I used to live in Wyoming and love the state and live in Montana now, so it makes sense to shoot along the border.

A bonus was I got to walk in some fresh snow. Those of you who know me well know I hate summer, love autumn and winter, and really enjoy spring. Today made me feel like Autumn couldn’t be far off.

Here are a couple images from today. They’re actually the same image, just processed differently. They’re seven-shot panoramas, which means I took seven photos and then let Photoshop merge them into one huge file. I quite like the color one, but can’t pass up an opportunity to convert them to black-and-white whenever I think the image will work that way. You can look and decide (click on the thumbnails to see them in their full glory).

 

Beartooth Pass Panorama (The files are really big, so it might take a while to download when you click on them).

 

Beartooth pano in color

Beartooth pano in color

 

Beartooth pano B&W

Beartooth pano B&W

 

Shot some more that I’ll try to get uploaded this week.

More to follow,

Bob

Tags: , , , , , , , ,