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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!

Monochrome Madness: MM 216

Last autumn I was in Seattle, and had the chance to walk around downtown under mostly dry skies.  I found these trees to be dynamic with their color, but it wasn’t until recently that I had time to convert these to b&w.  In the original, the two trees are completely different in color, but by changing the individual color values in the conversion, they appear similar, making it a stronger image.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, having the theme of Seasons this week.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.

WPC: Story

“Get along little doggie!”

Or in this case, coyote.  At least that’s my best guess after an online search.  My first impression was bobcat tracks, but those turned out to be much different in shape.  This photo alone might be enough for a story, but yesterday turned out to be too good of a day to stop there.

SUNDAY’S HIKE

The initial weather forecast called for the storm to be out of here before noon on Sunday.  I set my alarm, but then rechecked the forecast one more time.  The official weather station on Mount Charleston was at 37 degrees, and the satellite image gave me the impression the event was moving out quicker.  With that in mind, I changed the alarm to an earlier time, thinking the sunrise might be spectacular.  Upon shutting the alarm off and falling back to sleep, I awoke closer to my original plan, and decided there might still be some something worthwhile to photograph.  This just meant I would be joining all the weekend warriors.

As we headed up the mountain, we began to drive through a low cloud cover.  Even the tailgaters eased off as visibility became very limited.  Just before approaching the ski area, we emerged with a clear view.  I pulled off to the side of the road, as the freshly coated Mummy Mountain had great light hitting it.  In the time it took for me to cross the road and open up my tripod, the light was gone.  The fog we had driven through was racing up the mountainside.  Little did I know at the time that this was the last bit of blue sky I would see for the day.  That’s Mummy Mountain’s outline in the upper left corner.

Mummy Mountain, Lee Canyon, Spring Mountains, Nevada

Although I was a little disappointed, this was the view everyone else was getting, and I came out to hike a trail I’ve been on several times before – one that would take me up into the snow and the bristlecone pines.  When I reached the parking area, there was a vehicle with three young men already returning.  I was still reasonably early, and it wasn’t long before their tracks were no longer visible, and my feet were laying down the only marks in the snow.  This desert dweller hasn’t been in the altitude much lately, and my stops were numerous.  Taking photos was a good excuse to lengthen my stops, because I know I can’t take a steady picture without a tripod when I’m breathing that hard.  Especially detail shots with a telephoto lens.

fresh snow, forest, gottatakemorepix

fresh snow, fog, mountains, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

The fog was varying in its density, and with each thinning stage, I thought that was going to be it.  The trail started around 8300 feet, and I knew I was up over 9000 feet.  The temps were too warm for the snow, and I could see clumps falling off branches all around me.  That’s when I came across the tracks.  Fortunately my lingering photographer’s pace was allowing other hikers to catch up to me on the trail, many with big dogs, and I knew my chances of becoming breakfast were diminishing.  In this area were many trees with intriguing shapes, standing eerily in the fog.  I took numerous shots in this area, then continued.  In a short time I arrived at the largest bristlecone pine on the trail, perhaps the largest I have ever seen.  Around this time the sun became visible, although the fog was still there.  I don’t think I have ever seen this tree under more perfect conditions.

giant tree, fog, bristlecone pine, Spring Mountains, Las Vegas, Steve Bruno photography

I continued along to an area I have stopped before. The fog gave this group a different light than any previous visit.

forest, Mount Charleston, Nevada, Steve Bruno

I tried continuing further, but this part of the trail, now around 9500 feet, had a little deeper snowfall.  And a steeper pitch with a slight sideways pitch.  That was becoming too much work without spikes under my shoes, so I headed back.  This turned out to be excellent timing, as the fog was making a comeback.  The trail was getting slippery and/or muddy in spots, I was starting to feel the fatigue of mountain air.  I could barely see the forest in the canyon right in front of me.

dense fog, trees

I made one final stop, and as I did the fog was now leaving many microdrops on my camera, though not my lens.  Those made for some excellent b&w images which I will post soon.  It was close to 2:00 when I finished, and the conditions were not what I was anticipating, but certainly made for an awesome day.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Leaves or Trees

For a nature photographer, trees and their leaves have to be a top subject matter.  The photo above was from the forest floor near Hilo, Hawaii.  Also from the big island, about 50 miles away was this strange looking one.  A pregnant tree?  Hmmm.

tree, rain forest, Hawaii, gottatakemorepix

In the same forest was this one which I call “reaching out”.

rain forest, Hawaii, branches, Steve Bruno photography

I think the trees most associated with Hawaii would have to be palm trees.

lone palm tree, Hawaii, Steve Bruno

Much closer to home, on the slopes of Mount Charleston are my favorite trees to photograph – the bristlecone pines.

bristlecone pine, Mount Charleston, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

I have fond memories of running through the yard kicking up fallen leaves while growing up.  That might be a little tough to do with all these boulders, but the forest floor in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona is beautiful in autumn.

autumn, fallen leaves, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona, Steve Bruno photography

Monochrome Madness: MM4-23

I love this time of year when the air gets cooler and the leaves change color.  Occasionally, cold fronts come through with a little moisture, and hopefully, not much wind.  That was the case for this photo from the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, Arizona taken a couple years ago.

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 her website.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-15

A large part of the land in the southwestern US is by definition, a desert.  A couple times during the year, weather patterns shift, and much needed rain covers the desert, often in volumes too excessive to benefit the land.  One of those times is happening now.  The summer rainy season, or monsoon season, can make travel tricky or unsafe at times, but can also make for tremendous lighting conditions.  In the case of the rainwater pools, above, all the smaller ones usually evaporate within a day.  The larger ones can remain for weeks, providing water for the wildlife through drier times.

This spot is in the western Grand Canyon.  The Esplanade Sandstone layer is riddled with these water collecting depressions and can be seen through lengthy, though not necessarily difficult hikes.  This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness with the theme of Season.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit her website.

Summer Daze

Nice to have some time to post again.  It’s my own fault – I told everyone that I wasn’t going to be available in July, so I’ve pretty much done 3 months work in the last 6 weeks.  I haven’t been hiking or touched my camera for non-assignment work in 2 months.  Thank God it’s July!

Summer usually doesn’t take its time getting to the desert.  This was one of the most comfortable springs on record, but late June doesn’t hold its punches.  Record and near record highs occurred for several consecutive days.  During this time I happened to be listening to local news when they were talking about people coming to visit here and specifically, Death Valley, to experience the intense heat.

To those of you thinking of visiting for that reason – don’t!  There’s a much simpler solution.  Instead, turn your oven on to about 200 degrees.  (Disclaimer: I don’t know who might be reading this, and don’t want to be contacting my attorney, so electric ovens only, not gas).  Next, kneel in front of the oven with your face towards it, ensuring that your head recoils in reaction to the blast of heat.  This is what all of us desert dwellers feel every time we step out of our air-conditioned cars and homes in late afternoon this time of year.

If that’s not enough discouragement, don’t visit here for the sake of the earth and our children.  Jets fly on less fuel when they’re not carrying as much weight, and the car you’re not renting won’t be putting emissions into the air.  Furthermore, you can take some of the money you’ll be saving and donate it to an environmental program that will prevent temperatures from reaching 125 degrees in the future.

For those of you wishing to visit for sane reasons, come on down!  The heat wave is gone for now, and it’s almost pleasant again (in the mornings).  It will be 103 to 108 every day for the foreseeable future, but most of those days won’t be hot (that’s according to the National Weather Service, see below).

 

Summer Temps

Monochrome Madness: MM3-51

As spring transitions towards summer, cold fronts still pass through the desert, but they rarely contain significant moisture.  They always bring a little breeze, and sometimes, a lot.  A couple weeks ago we had wind gusts in the 70-80 mph range, and there’s never enough moisture to hold down the sand and dust when those fronts come through.  Usually this is landscape photography hell, but if you happen to be in the right spot, you can turn it into opportunity.

My photo was taken in the desert of southern California during one of these spring fronts, and is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her site.

WPC: Seasons

When I first moved away from the midwestern US to the state of Arizona, it rained so much, I was wondering where they hid the desert.  Spring flowers emerged profusely from the rocky, yet green desert.  Every year.  I remember on several occasions seeing hillsides that were bright orange or yellow from a couple miles away.  Knowing there were thousands of flowers covering the hills, yet no access roads or trails, used to be mildly frustrating.  There were more than enough flowers in parts that I could get to, easing any of that frustration.

Those rainy years have moved on.  It’s been over ten years since the last spectacular spring display in the desert southwest, and it seems as though it will be at least another ten years.  Last week in Las Vegas, we had a day with a few raindrops, but mostly a lot of wind.  That one day kept us from immortalizing February 2016 into the weather books with its string of 70-degree-plus days.  One thing we can count on in springtime here is the wind.  There have been a couple spring days when they have had to temporarily shut down the airport, and many times I’ve felt sorry for anyone landing in a plane.  A friend of mine was on the last flight before one of those temporary closures a couple years ago.  He told me everyone was on their cell phone in the last minute of the flight, passing on what they thought were final words to loved ones.  Yes, it can be that bad.

My image for this week’s challenge is a video, taken in Valley Of Fire State Park.  The video was taken with an old point-and-shoot camera, but I want to try to recreate this with my current camera someday.  The foxtails had already started to brown, but as the wind kept shifting directions, I loved the way the field appeared to sway with the mixture of still green plants.  And yes, I managed to find a couple flowers.  The video is at half-speed to emphasize the details of the motion.

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