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Groundhog Day

Yes, we’re starting to feel like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Mother Nature has succeeded in issuing a stay at home order more potent than any Governor’s. The only time to be comfortable outdoors is first thing in the morning, but the smoke throughout the west has reached unhealthful conditions in many places, defeating the purpose of going out.

In case you missed this week’s news, record setting heat in Death Valley reached 130 degrees, a mark not seen there in over 100 years, or over one pandemic ago. The photo below is from the National Park Service Instagram page. Think of it like a bank thermometer, but the official reading is the third highest ever recorded on Earth. Phoenix has had a record number of 110+ days, as well as a record number of 115+ days. It could snow there this week, and it would still be the hottest summer on record. Las Vegas snapped an 89 day rainless streak with a whopping trace of rain. The people who study these things say we have been in a long term drought which historically last 30 years, and we are about 25 years into it. I hope in 5 years from now Californians are back to complaining about all the rain. It beats the hell out of all these fires.

Perhaps the most important news of the week comes from Greenland. Scientists now say that the ice cap there has reached the point of no return. People weren’t paying attention to Al Gore twenty years ago, so perhaps news like this will get people listening to scientists now. If you want to see how we’ve destroyed the polar ice cap, you can click on the link below.

Polar Ice Caps Melting

Midweek Monochrome 5-13-20

Hard to believe this was just three weeks ago.  Snow flurries were on the mountain, thunderstorms were rolling through town.  Now the spring/summer temperature yo-yo has begun.  Not for long, I’m sure, as summer is inevitable.

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 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.

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

Monochrome Madness: MM 209

No matter what the temperature, I will rarely head out to take photographs if there are cloudless skies.  Sometimes clouds just add an element to the skies that reduce the sterility of the scene.  They always reflect light, and usually soften the light to some degree.  When the clouds are thick enough, they can provide a natural light painting to a landscape that cannot be duplicated in post-processing.  In the photograph above, a little bit of direct sunlight was hitting the cliffs in the middle-ground, while some filtered light was reaching a little further back to highlight the ridgelines.  Heavy clouds were lingering beyond, making for a dark mood in the back of the canyon.  I also had a brief cloud darken the foreground, helping to bring the attention to the cliffs.  I never would have pressed the shutter had this been a sunny day.

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM 208

Last week we had a late season winter storm which brought snow to the mountains and a decent amount of rain to lower elevations.  I went out to hike around the rainwater pools before they evaporated, and was fortunate to have plenty of fast-moving clouds for long-exposure photos.  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.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Rain or Rainbows

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.

flight

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.

desert rain

Rainbow panorama

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.

moonbow

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Rain or Rainbows

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.

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM 197

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.

WPC: Variations On A Theme

Incorporating the sun into a landscape photo can present many undesirable effects, unless you have the right conditions.  It usually comes down to having the right clouds.  If that isn’t happening, you can use a foreground element to partially block the sun.  In the case of the photo above, there was a heavy overcast sky which just allowed enough of the sun to come through over Valley Of Fire State Park, Nevada.  This is my submission to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  This is also my post for this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Variations on a theme.

Another shot from Valley Of Fire that includes the sun was this one through an arch.  There was another small opening in the rock, and I positioned myself to a spot where the sun was just catching the edge of the rock.  This was a matter of inches in either direction for getting the sunburst I wanted, or getting full blown sun flare.

sun, sunburst, desert, red rocks, valley of fire, nevada, steve bruno

With decent optics, and just a little bit of time in editing, there are times you don’t need anything to filter the sun out at all.

 

Morning Sun Black Sand Beach Hawaii

Sometimes, I’ve gotten lucky, and the perfect cloud has moved into place.  This photo from the Grand Canyon was one of those moments.  The cloud was just large enough to block the sun for about 10 seconds – all I needed.

sunset, grand canyon, national parks, arizona, gottatakemorepix, steve bruno

Of course, there was nothing like the film days, and being able to stop down to f/64 or f/90 with a large format lens.  I think there might have been a little humidity in the air to help this one, too.

sunrise, ozarks, missouri, gottatakemorepix

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