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Midweek Monochrome 6-3-20

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.

Midweek Monochrome 5-27-20

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.

Brothers, not twins

 

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.

 

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, cliffs, Steve Bruno

 

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.

 

 

creek, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Stay healthy everyone!

 

The Path To Recovery

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.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, reflection, hiking, fine art, landscape photography

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.

waterfall, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunowaterfall, nevada, desert, creekdesert, nevada, hiking, red rock canyon, Steve Bruno

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.

water, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, hiking, fine art

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.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art

Midweek Monochrome 10-2-19

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.

Midweek Monochrome 9-18-19

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.

Midweek Monochrome 9-11-19

September 23rd marks the first day of autumn this year, but that is normally an irrelevant day in this part of the US.  This morning I had the air-conditioning turned off and the doors open for the first time in a while, so perhaps this season will be different.  I read a few months ago that the El Nino currents were still in place, which would account for a lack of a summer monsoon season.  Another wet winter and spring would certainly be welcome, especially if followed by another spectacular wildflower season.

The cooler air also means we’ve made it through the worst of forest fire season.  Our forests have been spared from significant sized fires.  Surprisingly, of all places, the worst one this season was in southern Arizona.  The Woodbury Fire lasted for about a month and consumed over 120,000 acres.  Rugged terrain, inaccessibility, and summer heat were the contributing factors keeping that one from being extinguished quickly.

My closest mountain retreat, pictured above, did not have to deal with closures or fires this summer.  Every autumn, I keep feeling like we just made it through another round of Russian Roulette.  So many dry years, and just enough careless people visiting the forests push the odds in favor of the fires.  Let’s hope for a few more El Nino winters.

Midweek Monochrome 8-28-19

I find that many photogenic boulder locations tend to be in lower deserts here in the southwest.  Joshua Tree National Park comes to mind when I see what other photographers like to cover.  The boulders there may receive more attention than the tree the park is named for.  There are much better Joshua Trees to see than the ones there, so I completely get this one.

The subjects of my photo come from the cooler, higher elevations of Prescott National Forest in central Arizona.  The tree at the back is what caught my attention here.  It provides a nice contrast and an element of scale for these massive rocks.  The clouds drifting into the frame completed the scene for me.

Finally…A Little Fresh Air

Recently, I had a chance to get out to our closest high elevation hiking spot.  A friend had wanted to get away from the heat, and as with most people I know, didn’t want to to a hike on ‘photographer’s hours’.  With that in mind, I wasn’t going to bring a camera, just my phone.  Then I remembered the last time I did that, and we encountered butterflies and tiny flowers, so I packed my older smaller sensor camera and macro lens.  That’s my idea of keeping it light.

The trail started around 8000 feet, and some of the trees down there had something I had never noticed before.  Coming off the leaves was a thread-like material, covered with fine hairs.  Most of these had a pigtail kind of curve to them, and their lighter color glowed in the backlight.  My first shot of the day is actually one of my favorites.

fine art, tree, sunshine, abstract, steve bruno

Even though these trees were present further up, the threads were not as abundant on those trees.  I think I need to spend more time in this forest to notice the details of seasonal changes.

nature, tree, detail, forest, steve bruno

The photo at the top of this post was taken near the top of the trail.  With my smaller sensor camera I don’t have an extreme wide angle lens, so this was a composite of 10 frames.  We had started out with clear skies, but these timely clouds came passing through, looking more like fall than summer.

We arrived at the end point of one trail, then continued partway on another.  I was wanting to see if the springs were still there after so many dry years.  Just before the springs we found ourselves in the midst of the forest affected by the Carpenter 1 fire which happened in 2013.  Although signs of recovery were evident, these trees will not be coming back, and the eerie feeling remains.

forest fire, trees, nevada

If there’s a positive side to not being in great shape anymore, it’s that the hike took long enough so that we finished with late afternoon light.  Often this is the time of day i would start a hike with photos in mind.  The young aspens were a stark contrast to the trees consumed by fire higher up.

aspen trees, summer, mountains, nevada, landscape photography

The cliffs in the lower part of the trail were beginning to get the glow of reflected light.  The trees here are generally tall, but I couldn’t help but notice there was a giant amongst them.

Mount Charleston, nevada, forest, hiking, fine art, landscape photography,

In addition to better quality of light, late afternoon usually brings out the wildlife.  This young deer showed up trailside in the last half mile, but really wanted nothing to do with me.  There was a significant barrier of shrubs between us, and the one moment I had a clear view, it moved out quickly, so I only got a parting shot.

deer, wildlife, forest, nevada

It’s been a busy summer, and when work has slowed down, I’ve been catching up on lots of backlogged projects.  We’ve had some of the worst looking skies I can ever remember here in southern Nevada, and we haven’t had any fires to speak of.  We’ve had dust blowing in from storms in Arizona, but mostly the smoke from California’s fires.  Most of the big fires throughout the west in the last few years have been human caused.  I’d like to believe that Nevadans are smarter and more respectful of the environment, but the law of averages tells me that stupid people show up everywhere.  I think because we are not a glamorous outdoor destination like our surrounding states, we luck out by getting less people overall.  That’s OK…..more for us to enjoy!

Liquid

At the beginning of this month, we had our last winter storm.  After it cleared out, I went to nearby Red Rock Canyon to catch the rainwater pools before they evaporated, and I posted the first of those shots already.  After that first location, I hiked a little further to another great pool location.  Although now starting to clear out completely, the remaining clouds were just right for the occasion.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, rainwater pool, desert, Steve Bruno, landscape photography

rainwater pool, desert, Nevada, Red Rock Canyon, landscape photography

As I took the drive out, the creek crossings had running water, and i knew i had to return the next day to see the waterfalls.  I had aspirations to get to another location, but it’s been years since I’ve seen this one running.  By the time I finished taking photos and videos, it was too late to make it to my originally intended destination.  The water was no longer visible on the drive, and the volume flowing in the falls would probably be gone by the next day.

waterfall, desert, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge:  Liquid

WPC: Rise/Set

I’ve seen many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, with most of those happening in Arizona and New Mexico.  Many times I have been in exquisite surroundings, only to have a faint hint of color, or to have the color burst through in a different part of the sky than I was hoping for.  There have only been a couple occasions where the entire sky has lit up and I’ve been in an excellent spot to capture it.  This was one of those moments from Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona.

Monochrome Madness: MM 200

As the fog became thicker last Sunday, I knew these images were meant to be in b&w.  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.

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