Posts Tagged Utah

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

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Ma Nature Comes Through

I’m the kind of guy who thinks that if I get up in the morning, especially early, the whole world owes me something. I just hate getting up. Add that to the fact that I sleep a lot lighter as I ripen and you’ll understand that I have a lot of mornings where I’m kind of growly.

This was one of those days when I set the alarm for 4:30 in order to be awake, coherent and pleasant (at least as pleasant as I can get) by the time the group left for a sunrise photo shoot.

Well, the group was small: five of us. We set our for the Lonely Dell Ranch by Lee’s Ferry to see what the sunrise would bring.

There was a lot of promise. Photographers love to see some clouds in the sky at sunrise, as long as those clouds aren’t low on the East horizon. A few clouds promise a little warm color to offset the otherwise bald blue of a clear sky. Another plus: the color in the sky will often match the color of the earthly features as they get lit by the early sun’s warm light as the rays get refracted by the atmosphere.

But early in the day on this trip the clouds were not only overhead but also along the Eastern horizon, so we were kind of skunked. Not to worry, Brian serenaded us with his ukulele while we watched the sunrise do not too much.

I made the first image during the concert. Not much color but some interesting light on the mesa to the North and a spectacular sky.

We packed up and headed out only to find that a few miles up the road, conditions were more conducive to sunrise color. To our right, the cliffs were lighting up like crazy with early morning light. We stopped, grabbed our gear and started photographing. The scene was just too wide for one image, so I captured about a nine-image panorama. Then, when I stitched the frames together and did a little cropping, I ended up with this rather nice sunrise view.

 

Here’s a look at sunrise when the colors just aren’t there (You know, click on the images):

 

Sunrise #1, Lonely Dell

Sunrise #1, Lonely Dell

 

And here’s that panorama:

 

Sunrise Pano, Lonely Dell

Sunrise Pano, Lonely Dell

 

Yes, the world owes me something if I get up in the morning, and Ma Nature certainly came through on this day. Thanks, Ma!

More to follow

Bob

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A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

I’ve hinted that I love the mystery and lack of mystery of the desert. Perhaps no place in Southern Utah looks quite as mysterious as Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce is a visual treat, a photographer’s dream. A high erosion rate has left hoodoos standing watch, dressed in colors ranging from deep red to near white. It’s these spires that have resisted erosion that capture the eye of the viewer. It is reputed that one of the early settlers in the area said the canyon is a hell of a place to lose a cow (I’ve heard that about other places in Southern Utah, too). I’ll go along with that, but I’ll also say it’s a hell of a place to find a photograph.

You’ll see many images of the grand landscape at Bryce. To try to include the whole vista is a true challenge, but the myriad hoodoos and wide range of color seem to demand that we share the whole place. And, of course, with stunning colors in the canyon, the ‘serious’ photographer will be sure to get there at sunrise to catch the amazing light show.

But as with so much in the desert, it’s the details that count for me: the Intimate Landscape, it’s been called. It’s these details that add up to a strange and wonderful desert landscape that draws me back time and again. At Bryce, the temptation to capture the grand landscape is nearly overwhelming. But then, as I look and marvel, I realize it’s the details that make the scene and I start homing in on less and less, and in that way show you more and more.

Yes, the grand landscape is spectacular, but it’s the details that make the grand grand. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

Here are a couple grand shots of Bryce Canyon: The first one is the obligatory sunrise shot, the second taken shortly thereafter with the lighting a little bit better controlled. (I probably don’t have to remind you to click on the images, but I will anyway: Click on the images for a full view.)

 

Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

But it’s the details that add up to the spectacular. Here are a couple images that show it’s the component parts that make Bryce (and pretty much every other desert scene) so spectacular in the aggregate:

 

Bryce Canyon Detail #1, Utah

Bryce Canyon Detail #1, Utah

 

Bryce Canyon Detail #2 Utah

Bryce Canyon Detail #2 Utah

 

More to follow

Bob

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A mysterious lack of mystery

Last post I talked about the desert and how I came to believe it is my soul’s home. There are several reasons for that feeling, I suppose, and I’ll list a couple here.

First the desert has no mystery. It’s nothing more than rocks and sand and scrubby plants that can barely survive the harsh climate. Juniper trees that are hundreds of years old form beautiful shapes that testify to their struggle for life. Cactus protect their internally-held water with spines that will make you wish you’d never touched them. There are poisonous critters throughout the area: scorpions, rattlesnakes and all-terrain vehicles. The desert will kill you as readily as it will tolerate you, so you’d better come prepared for the worst if you visit the desert.

Second, the desert has great mysteries. I’ll share a few examples today.

Long ago—estimates suggest 1,000+ years—there were thriving civilizations in the desert. I say civilizations, plural, because archaeological evidence suggests that there were actually several different periods of occupation over the centuries.

The first European-descended settlers in the area named them “Anasazi,” a term they picked up from Navajos. The disappearance of the Anasazi became a great mystery and was ballyhooed around the region in an attempt to lure tourists in to spend their dollars. Problem is, Anasazi is an insult to the people who lived here way back then. According to interpretations of the term that I’ve seen it means “Enemies of Our Ancestors.” Not a very nice name for the ancient ones.

Craig Childs, in his book House of Rain, explores several sites and reports conversations with archaeologists who, he says, reports that the “Anasazi” were actually Pueblo people who were nomadic and ranged from the Cedar Mesa areas of Utah all the way into Mexico, finally staying in New Mexico after the European invasion. A guide at Navajo National Monument, a place with great examples of Ancestral Pueblo dwellings told the story of Monument staff bringing some Pueblo elders to the site of the Betatakin ruin in the Monument. The elders read some of the rock art and pointed out where the springs were, where the kivas were and accurately described some of the features of the ruin without having ever been there. A pretty good indication that they know who the inhabitants were.

Another sign the mysterious inhabitants of the area left behind was rock art. I just love petroglyphs and pictographs that are found in the area. They are truly mysterious. Sure, there are representations of desert bighorn sheep and elk or deer, clearly an indication of the source of food in the area, but there are other far more indecipherable figures. What looks like people, or maybe space aliens, footprints that may indicate a clan association or what to look out for, plants and possible crops and wondrous birds. Maybe. It’s impossible to tell. Few today really know what they’re all about and they aren’t telling because it’s none of our business. So we look at the art and speculate and wonder and enjoy the mystery.

Here are a few examples of some fine rock art (As usual, click on the images to see them full-size).

 

 

There are several panels in Capitol Reef National Park. One is labeled and easily accessed. The art seems to come from the ancients named the Fremont People.

 

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

Fremont Petroglyphs, Capitol Reef National Park

 

As you approach the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, you go by a fascinating Utah State Historical Monument, Newspaper Rock. The site was so named because of the incredible display of rock art. Here is a look at the whole panel:

 

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

Newspaper Rock State Hitorical Monument, Utah

 

And here are some detail shots:

 

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

Newsapaper Rock State Historical Monument, Utah, Detail 1

 

 

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, Utah, Detail 2

 

I’ll share more rock art captures as time goes on. There are so many examples, all so mysterious. It’s a great treat to stumble across an ancient drawing, especially one that hasn’t been trashed by some more recent arrival. Some of the finest panels have bullet holes from high-powered rifles marring the art. But the art has outlasted the defilers. Good.

 

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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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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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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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

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Back in Paradise

I arrived back in my soul’s home the other day. The red rock country is my true home and it is so good to be back. A group of photographers from a workshop I took recently has been planning this trip for months and we’re all converging on the desert to share some good times and fellowship.

I was waiting for Phil to arrive at Moab international airport, so took a little drive. I spotted some white blossoms and knew I had to record one of my favorite flowers, the sacred datura, or, as it’s known in other regions, jimson weed.

If you’ve read the Carlos Castañeda series of books, you know datura is the plant they used to induce visions. It’s a pretty significant hallucinogen, but must be handled carefully or it can kill the person who ingests it. Being a coward, I tread pretty lightly around the jimson weed, but because it has the most spectacular flowers, it’s always an attractive target for my camera. Here are a couple images I made from a respectful distance (as always, click on the images to see the full size and correct color):

 

Sacred Datura 1

Sacred Datura 1

 

Sacred Datura 2

Sacred Datura 2

 

The adventure is beginning and I’ll share some images of the most beautiful country in the world and the week progresses. Check back often.

More to follow,

Bob

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More from the Past

A while back I started to browse through all my foto files. I was looking for images I passed up because I couldn’t figure out how to process them. My aim was to see if I could do something with them now.

I found some from a January trip to Comb Ridge. Nick and I stopped at a spot where there was a variety of ice crystals formed in a little depression. I shot quite a few, but let the scene and my camera outsmart me by underexposing a whole bunch. I kind of gave up on those images because I couldn’t get them right.

Now a few years later and with an improved version of Photoshop and a lot more experience, I decided to try my luck. Both of these images were fiddled with quite a bit through the process, from opening up the exposure to converting to Black-and-white. As a bonus, they match the season.

See what you think.

Ice crystals #1

Ice Crystals 1

Ice Crystals 1

Ice crystals #2

Ice Crystals 2

Ice Crystals 2

 

Oh, by the way. I signed up with a company that will clean out the malware that was infesting my RSS feed. By today you shouldn’t have to see any more viagra ads in the teaser. Finally!

 

More to follow,

Bob

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