A few years back, I went to Colorado over Memorial Day Weekend. I awoke to fresh snowfall one morning near Wolf Creek Pass. I spent the entire morning wandering through the deep snow and taking lots of photos. I finished the day north of Durango with more of the same conditions, and it was a truly awesome day. I’m going to be thinking cool, wet thoughts to get me through the rest of this summer, as I’ve given up trying to go out in this heat.
On my last springtime hike into Red Rock Canyon, things had changed dramatically in just two to three weeks from the previous journey into the same canyon. The plants had taken over, making the trip more obstacle course-like than before, and water levels in the creek had dropped with even some pools completely gone. There was plenty of life around, including these butterflies feeling spring in the air. This shot was somewhat challenging, as I had to use my body and hat to shade sun hotspots that were dotting the frame otherwise, while autofocus was not seeing things as I did.
All this hot weather has me reminiscing about a couple months ago. This photo was from behind one of the waterfalls in Red Rock Canyon. It was late into springtime, and the flow was diminished from earlier in the year, but refreshing nonetheless.
The desert seems so magical in springtime because in most years, there is an abundance of water flowing through the creek beds. The normal lack of rain through late spring and the inevitable rise in temperatures deliver a one-two punch that just makes it tough to want to get back out there. I couldn’t choose one photo from this hike in April, so this week I have two.
Back in springtime, we had some days that were absolutely beautiful for hiking. No, not the sunny ones. The ones with clouds and rain threatening, even if hardly producing. Those were also great days for photographs, especially in b&w.
There have been a number of times in the last couple years – most notably during my recent injury recovery – where I didn’t pack a camera for a hike. Using only my iPhone for pictures, even with an app that allowed for manual control and RAW capture, ultimately left me disappointed. A friend suggested I look into a newer phone, but after much research I realized that even the latest and greatest still have the same root of the problem. A tiny sensor.
When I have an image that I really like, I want to print it, and want to see it large. I had not looked at point-and-shoot cameras for many years, and thought I should check out that market. A larger sensor and a real lens was what I was interested in, and eventually found what I was looking for in a Panasonic Lumix LX10 with a Leica lens. I was looking to replace using a phone, but the results of this camera could almost make me stop using my real camera. Almost.
In comparison to an iPhone, there really is no comparing, so I’m looking at results next to a full frame DSLR. There is a slight amount of noise that I don’t get with full frame, but that can be easily fixed in processing. The lens is somewhat wide angle, but doesn’t have the coverage of the extreme wide angle lens I use most of the time. And the macro capabilities of this lens don’t get as close as my favorite macro lens. That’s about all I can think about on the cons of this camera, unless it’s possible to be too small or too light.
I have already posted some photos taken with this camera, including some of the nighttime shots on a recent post. Those, and all on this page are hand-held. It also takes some excellent quality 4k video. Now when I go on a hike where I wasn’t expecting to see something photo-worthy, I won’t be disappointed because I packed light. My friends have never been too vocal about it, but every time I’ve stopped and pulled out a tripod, they were probably thinking, “Go small or go home”
About a month ago, when things were still cool, I returned to a hike I had done three weeks prior. In a spot close to where I encountered a dragonfly on that previous visit, I saw this hummingbird. He had little tolerance for me being close, so this was through a decent telephoto lens. The tree he was favoring was swaying in the breeze, so he was moving in and out of the shadows while he perched on this branch. I just kept clicking until I was sure I had some variations I liked.
As with most people, I’ve had some time to catch up on a few things lately. I came across this photo in my files and thought it was perfect for a b&w conversion. This is a glimpse of some of the many pinnacles that decorate the summit of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona.
Around this time last year, I managed to get away to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I was in the vicinity of the Blue River, and trying to locate a section I had visited about 20 years before. Nothing looked familiar, so I just went exploring to see what else was out there. A small side canyon had some intriguing shapes and kept me hiking and photographing until the sun moved higher in the sky and shade was no longer an option. Here is one photo from that morning.
Red Rock Canyon has a bit of a deceiving name. Unlike Zion or Grand Canyon, there is not one distinct canyon running through the middle of the park. Instead, it is a long linear steep cliff with canyons that disect the cliff in several places. From the road, the geology gives the impression that these canyons would be much the same. Venture in, however, and all the differences become apparent. Some have water beyond the mouth of the canyon, but can be dry well into the canyon. Year round water in some, but dry creek bottoms are more common. Waterfalls can be found in most canyons, seasonally, but there are no real similarities between them. Brothers, not twins.
The trails into the canyons are similar – hike about a mile or so in open desert until you reach the mouth of the canyon, then follow the path of least resistance. The official trails don’t really go into the canyons, so following the wash bottoms is the route further in. Eventually, there is a bunch of rock hopping, tree branch ducking, and sliding between boulders. Just the kind of workout someone on the mend needs. Like me! Even with restrictions in place, getting out for exercise has been allowed here. The road to many of these canyons has been closed to vehicles, making it more work for people to access, thus keeping the crowds down. A demanding workout with fresh air, beautiful scenery, and almost no people has been a win-win-win scenario. For me, healthy legs means healthy heart and lungs, and less chance of getting sick.
All the images here are from my two recent hikes into neighboring canyons. On one, I had cloudy conditions most of the day, and the soft light was essential for getting the photos I did. On the other, clouds were predicted for most of the day, but soon vanished. Temperatures down in the desert were pushing triple digits, but a breeze was coming through and it was very comfortable here.
One of the things I’ve noticed through the years is the change in the water into springtime. After the snow has melted, and the creek flows decrease, algae forms in the pools, and as these pools dry up, green tinted rocks remain. I even found algae forming on a waterfall.
On the second hike, I started getting photos of something I don’t normally come across – tiny critters. I was sitting in the shade of a large tree cooling my feet in the water when I observed a brightly colored dragonfly. It had chosen a tiny exposed root as its perch, and after ten minutes, it was still there. It would fly away occasionally, but always return within three seconds. After clearing away some larger rocks so I could lay on my stomach somewhat comfortably, I inched closer with my favorite macro lens. By the time I finished, I was about 3 inches away and could now observe that the dragonfly was in the middle of lunch. Every time it jumped away and returned, it had some tiny insect in its mouth. He could have cared less about me. Shortly after leaving that area, I came across a lizard on a rock. I knew it wasn’t going to have the same tolerance for me as the dragonfly, but I managed a few close-ups without it moving a millimeter. It has also been frog hatching season, and I managed to capture this tiniest of frogs. I could have picked up any one of these rocks with one hand, but the pine needle in the back really gives it a frame of reference.
For now, the creeks still have water but the levels have been diminishing with each passing week. My favorite part of spring has to be the redbud trees in bloom. I wanted to capture them with partly cloudy skies, but the full sunshine actually worked well.
Stay healthy everyone!
About a half year ago, I suffered a severe leg injury which kept me from being outdoors with my camera. A couple weeks of being mostly bedridden and using crutches to get around eventually gave way to being able to do some work and the start of physical therapy. My physical therapist was hesitant about me hiking at first, so my first couple trails were relatively flat. No backpack filled with tripods or cameras either, just a phone. Earlier this year, I finally made a hike with all the gear on a trail that had more difficulty involved. I could feel the difference of the terrain versus just being in therapy. I can’t imagine how long I would have been out if I wasn’t taking care of myself before this accident, and now that we’re all being asked to stay home, I realize I need to keep moving more than ever.
While many National Parks and other recreational areas have closed, there are some which remain open. These may not be the desired locations which attract social media throngs, but those who’ve seen my work know I don’t really go there anyway. The first location (above) was after some areas had shut down, making this a more crowded parking lot than usual. Despite that, I had very few people on the trail I was on, and getting here requires a scramble, so I enjoyed the place to myself.
That area has since become off limits, as has the next spot, on a hike taken in March. While this area starts on a popular trail, it soon takes off to an old trail, which quickly fades and becomes a scrambling route. Again, social distancing didn’t apply here because there were no other groups.
One of the remaining open trails has plenty of open space to absorb a higher number of hikers keeping distance between them. Leaving the trail and boulder hopping the creek also provides more privacy and the best views.
Higher up, this canyon becomes more rugged and takes on different characteristics. While most would have a different opinion on what constitutes a waterfall, I’m going to state that this is southern Nevada’s largest waterfall. It had been raining earlier, but only a light amount, and had been snowing above. This probably won’t be noticeable at this size, but there are small streams of water coming down on almost all the canyon walls in this scene. While the wall to the left is the most obvious, the water can be seen in many spots when standing here (and on my computer screen in full size). Waterfall or not, I like how this one came out.
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.