Posts Tagged Mountains

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

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You CAN go home, I guess

I’ve been pretty inactive with my blog and I guess I could claim that it was work that was getting in my way.

OK, so I’ll make that claim.

But now that I’ve retired from my ‘day job,’ I’ve got time on my hands and I can’t think of a better way to use that time than to revisit old images to see if I was right in hanging on to them ‘just in case’ I learned a little more in Photoshop or if Lightroom ever advanced to the point that I’d like to use it most of the time. And if my ability with the processing software has indeed improved, the resulting images would be no good if they’re not shared, so I’ll try to post at least weekly.

The best way to start is to go through old files and see what I can find. I’ll share the results with you and tell you a few stories along the way. (I’ve always thought I should put more into the blog posts, so here is my first attempt.)

The best way, I think, to go through a project like this is to go in a somewhat chronological order, so I’ve started with a file that’s appropriately labeled “Soul Search 2006.” That was really the first serious attempt I made to capture images with a digital camera and not knowing the medium and not being particularly familiar with the processing software left me with a lot of captures to finish today in ways I could not have a decade ago.

For the fotos included with this post, however, the images aren’t as important as the reason I went.

It had been at least 20years since I’d been in the desert. I missed it, but I didn’t realize quite how much. Knowing that I had to go, I made plans for a two-week trip, visiting Arches, Zion, Canyonlands, Bryce and Capitol Reef National Parks and in the interim, Hovenweep and Navajo National Monuments and a few state parks to boot.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but everything worked out just fine in the long run.

I finally realized how much I missed the desert when I dropped into my last stop, Capitol Reef National Park. As I entered from the west, I saw the cliffs and domes and burst into tears, saying to no one in particular, “I’m home.” It was that stop that made me realize that the desert, and especially Capitol Reef is my soul’s home. I had abandoned it for two decades, but it called me back and I answered that call. I’m glad I did, because that put me in a mind to move back to Utah in order to have more access to the desert and upon retirement I have done so.

What came out of that soul search? Quite a bit, actually. Most important is the knowledge that the desert is my home, of course. The images are of secondary importance to the self-knowledge  I gained, but I’ll share a couple fotos from that trip today and from subsequent visits home as I process them. For today’s post,  I’ve got a couple that rather frame the trip (first stop and last stop) and I’m ready to share, so take a look (As always, click on the images to see the whole thing):

 

First stop: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch and the Lasalle Mountains, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch and the Lasalle Mountains, Arches National Park

 

Final stop: Capitol Reef National Park (luckily in bad weather)

 

Storm, Capitol Reef National Park

Storm, Capitol Reef National Park

 

More to follow,

 

Bob

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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

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Back to Yellowstone

There’s so much to see in Yellowstone that a day trip simply isn’t enough. Along with the images I shared the other day, there’s more.

The icon of Yellowstone is probably Old Faithful geyser. It goes off on a pretty regular schedule. I got to the parking lot and walked toward the viewing area. There were a whole lot of people there, so I figured it would go off pretty soon. After about ten minutes, there it went! An earthquake several years ago extended the time between eruptions and cut down a little on the volume of water that goes out with each event, but it’s still awfully spectacular. As I photographed the event, I was thinking Black and White. I think it was the right choice. (Don’t forget to click on the thumbnails.)

 

Old Faithful showing off

Old Faithful showing off

 

On the way back down to Gardiner, I stopped at the Gibbon Falls. You might remember the image I showed you last week of the Gibbon River. That’s a few miles upstream from the falls. The sunlight was direct and harsh, so I thought doing a high-dynamic range image would be a good idea. The direct light highlights and the dark shadows were much more than the camera could capture properly, so an HDR seemed to be a good idea. I think it was. Here’s the shot:

 

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls

 

I’ll share a little wildlife with you next time.

More to follow,

Bob

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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

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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

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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

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Brought to you in Glorious Monochrome!

Well, you know me. Still trying to make a good Black & White image. I’m showing improvement and some of the images I’ve done lately I’m pretty happy with. It’s funny how I can be looking at a brilliant green scene and see monochrome written all over it. I guess that’s my preference, so I lean that way. I’ve been up in the canyons lately and have done a lot of wildflower photography. And I’ve noticed the non-floral scenery. While I still can’t understand mountains and trees as well as I can the desert, I think I’m getting there.

Here are some monochrome scenes I’ve seen lately (as always, click on the image to see them full size and with the right color. Oh, no color this time):

 

Here’s my boy Gandalf, The Gray Cat. He was sitting thinking about the birds at the feeder, so he held still for a while. Not a bad portrait.

 

Gandalf the Gray Cat

Gandalf the Gray Cat

 

This False Hellebore or California Corn Lily (I’ve been told) just called to me, saying, “Monochrome.” It was right.

False Hellebore

False Hellebore

 

And these are, to all intents and purposes, weeds. I don’t have a clue what family they belong to, so I’ll take the lazy way out on the naming.

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

Weeds, Big Timber Canyon

 

I’ll keep working in this old-timey mode, I think.

 

More to follow.

Bob

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Desert Whirlwind 3

I love aspen trees.

I love them when they’re young, when they’re old, when they’re green and, especially, when they’re decked out in Autumn colors. Generally, aspen leaves turn yellow. On rare occasions, they turn orange or red or coral pink. That’s a real treat.

As we drove over Boulder mountain on our race back to Zion NP, we came across some red aspen leaves. Of course we had to stop and photograph them. I did a kind of general landscape shot, then a closeup of some of those great red leaves. I hope you like them as much as I do. (Remember to click on the images to see them full size and with decent color.)

Aspen Forest

Aspen Forest

Aspen Leaves

Aspen Leaves

Then we made it to Zion. I haven’t been here for a long time. Passed through a couple years ago, but I was in a hurry to get somewhere, so I barely stopped to look around. On the way in, I remembered that it was about 35 years ago to the month that I took a photo workshop with my friend Duck. That workshop was with photographer John Telford, who pretty much owned the desert in those days. We came to Zion and did some amazing photography, and that’s when I got hooked. Hooked on both the desert and on photography. So I guess this is a sort of pilgrimage for me.

Stopped in the upper park and I got this photo of one of the spires Zion is so famous for.

Zion Scenic

Zion Scenic

More to follow,

Bob

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Denali Mountains

We traveled alongside the Alaska Range from Anchorage to Denali. In the park we saw some beautiful landscape. One of the first stops was at Polychrome Pass, where I did a quick HDR of the scene. I think it worked out pretty well.

Polychrome Pass, Denali NP, Alaska

Polychrome Pass, Denali NP, Alaska

Our guide said that on average, only 30% of visitors get to see Mt. McKinley (what the native Alaskans call Denali and what the European-descended folks call “The Mountain,” or just “it,” as in, “Did you see it?”

We saw it. I posted an HDR of Denali last week, here’s a non-HDR view from a different angle.

Mt. McKinley, Denali NP, Alaska

Mt. McKinley, Denali NP, Alaska

More to follow,

Bob

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