Cooler weather has made its way to the desert, and soon it will be time to start climbing around these sandstone hills again. This unique perspective of Red Rock Canyon is a panorama stitched from four frames. I was always pleased with the way it came together, but just recently tried converting it to b&w, and I think I like this outcome better.
Slot canyons are amazing places in the way water can cut so deeply and intricately without removing the materials further out and above. They are also great places to hang out when the temperatures are soaring. Fortunately, we are heading into fall, and the relief factor is yielding to the fun of just exploring the desert. This week’s photo comes from Cathedral Gorge State Park in eastern Nevada. Unlike slot canyons in sandstone, these crevices don’t run very long, and are so narrow you have to side-step in a couple places to get through.
As summer drags into its last month (in theory), we here in the desert are looking forward to a change. Normally the seasonal monsoon rains have their rhythm going by now, and lowered the fire danger and temperatures (ever so minimally). Even if the rains are few and far between, the clouds offer some relief as well as photogenic backdrops. On the occasions we have had clouds and rain, the storms started early, and were finished early.
This time of year, it’s nice to get away to the mountains for some relief. A lot of other people have the same idea, so when I go, I usually find some rough, isolated road to get further from the crowds. Because the fire danger throughout the west remains high, and most fires are human caused, I no longer feel comfortable doing this. I never make campfires wherever I go for environmental reasons, and I don’t understand why anyone would need a fire when it doesn’t get below 50 degrees. I think this was a tradition started by people in old western movies that needs to go away.
For now, my photo trips have been limited in number and almost exclusively on paved roads. These photos are from late spring in the desert of western Arizona. The yuccas are the last thing to flower in the desert, with the blooms taking place over an extended period, depending on the right conditions for each plant. As I approached the plants below, there was a definite buzz in the air. The bottom photo is a crop of the one above it, so you should be able to see the bees more clearly. Ive photographed these plants in spring before, and never remember encountering a single bee. About 100 feet away was a similar plant with fresher blooms, but no bees. I guess this is what happy hour looks like if you’re a bee!
I am always intrigued by desert plants and how they grow and bloom. The agave (above) grows from a tightly packed center. As the leaves peel outward, they retain the lines of the leaves they grew adjacent to. The plants provides great lines and textures and photograph well from many angles, but I always liked this one showing the core.
Bolts of lightning always leave fascinating lines, whether a single strike, or a multitude. This was probably the most potent and tightly concentrated thunderstorm I ever photographed.
Another weather situation that can provide great lines to photograph are icicles.
I’m always looking for trees to photograph, mostly based on their lines and the shapes they create.
Sometimes, I don’t even have to look upward to see the photograph I want from a tree. Ponderosa pines are one of many types of trees with great bark patterns.
I find that landscape photographs are often best when there are lines that take you through the frame. The southwestern US has many locations with powerful lines.
The canyons near Escalante, Utah streaked with desert varnish, or the twisted sandstone of the Vermillion Cliffs are just two examples of that.
I find cacti to be amazing plants in their ability to grow in the harsh conditions of the deserts of the world. The defense system of these cacti, their needles, come in a variety of lengths and clusters. Although it’s often just a painful nuisance for man, the needles are designed to keep out birds and animals that would take interest in one of these plants. Generally speaking, large cacti have large needles and smaller cacti have smaller needles. I have seen smaller cacti with large needles, but never large cacti with small needles. Most often, they are spread across in a bit of a random pattern, but occasionally can be symmetrical as though computer designed. If a cactus looks as though it might be soft and fuzzy, it’s probably the worst kind to get near. Take for example, the one below whose pads look like potato chips. It’s called a Funny Bunny, and might rank as one of the worst names ever for a plant. One graze against this plant will leave dozens, or possibly hundreds of microscopic needles in your skin. I know of one person who transported one on a breezy day and ended up in the hospital that evening having needles removed from his eyes. Nothing funny about this one.
The top photo is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.
About a week ago, I was hiking in nearby Red Rock Canyon. The hike itself was more like scrambling amongst the sandstone outcrops, and it wasn’t until we started driving that we noticed a few bushes that seemed to have spider webs. Finally coming closer to one, it was clear they were cocoons. The plants that did have them, did not contain singular cocoons, but held clusters. I finally had to pull over to investigate, and grabbed my iPhone for some videos. It was rather breezy and I knew that would wreak havoc for focus on my DSLR videos. At first, I thought it might be too early to see anything of interest happening inside the cocoons, but then there were subtle signs of life. As I approached this cocoon, I noticed there were two escapees, as well as the cluster with activity.
For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Awakening
There’s no better place to capture photographs of rain than a rain forest. I certainly would be hesitant to bring out my DSLR under these conditions, so this is where I have learned to appreciate my phone’s camera. I’m not sure how well it shows up, but there were plenty of large drops coming down when I took this shot near Hilo last summer.
Takeoffs and landings near thunderstorms can be on the turbulent side, but occasionally there’s a visual reward for being this close. I’m sure I was the only person hoping we would sit on the runway longer because I knew the delay would give this view. We were just a couple minutes off from seeing this one full circle.
As you know by now, I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the desert, and I still have a sense of fascination when the rain showers move through. There’s a unique scent that permeates the air, and a sense of freshness with the rain settling the dust. Summer storms frequently arrive just in time for sunset, providing memorable light shows.
While in Hawaii last summer, I made two nighttime crossings on the road near Mauna Kea. On the first one, the skies were clear and the moon had set for the night. The stars were incredible to witness, and I posted that shot about a week ago. On my second trip, I was driving through fog as I made the ascent. Somewhere near the summit, I pulled over. There was still a still a light haze present, but I could see stars, despite the fact that the moon was still visible. As I looked away from the moon, I saw this….I call it a moonbow.
Life in the desert moves at a slow pace. Without much water, growth is slow, and subsequently, so is death. This dying cholla cactus appears to have marked its own grave, but will eventually succumb to the elements and gravity. The younger, healthier ones (right portion of frame) are bright yellow or green and are easy to notice and avoid. During their life, they eventually drop several sections. In the course of time those begin to camouflage themselves, browning to match the stones beneath, and still just as painful. Walking through a dense cholla forest is like navigating a minefield. If you manage to get too close to one, you will swear you have been bitten by something.
Water is the planet’s most precious resource, especially here in the desert. Last month we finally had a day of rain that put an end to a string of 116 days without measurable rain at the official weather gauge in Las Vegas. The previous rainfall was a trace…..enough to wet the pavement, but not enough for the insects or birds to get a drink. Go back another five days to when there were numbers on the rain gauge. That’s 121 days. One third of a year. At a time of year that is supposed to be the wettest. Similar stats have taken place throughout the southwest.
As each month draws to a close, it seems the news people tell us how it was the hottest (January, February, March, etc.) on record, or at least a top five. In 2017, the temperature never dropped below freezing, which has never happened here before. The doubters of global warming will tell you it’s because we are adding more concrete, thus raising temperatures where the official readings are taken. I assure you, no one is building near our airport. Even more remote places are showing elevated average readings.
The photo above is from a previous winter, and is from a lesser-known part of Red Rock Canyon, west of Las Vegas. It’s probably a good thing that there is not a marked trail to get here. This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.