The monsoon season has been a good one this year, but for the most part, appears to be over. Sunny and hot dominates the upcoming forecast once again. We had almost a month straight with cloud cover, many small rains, and some downpours. Sadly, from a photographer’s standpoint, most of the big rains happened at night. There are a couple spots with normally dry waterfalls that have safe access no matter what the weather, and I’ve been wanting to capture those in full force. Two weeks ago, we had a daytime thunderstorm in the right part of town, and I headed out to see some waterfalls. As I got closer, I realized the rain had missed the area I hoped to see, so I kept driving. When I came upon this canyon, I could see a waterfall going. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get closer before the flow ceased, so I had a moderate telephoto lens along for that reason. Errant raindrops were still coming down as well as thunder rumbling from somewhere overhead, without seeing any lightning. Despite that, I could see blue skies about to take over. I took a photo from this same spot five minutes earlier that shows all the waterfalls because of the soft light. When I saw the sunlight coming through, I knew this was going to be a b&w. All those cliffs were still very wet, and in this shot you can still see one waterfall clearly. If you’re seeing this on a larger screen, you might see a couple of the other ones.
A couple weeks ago, I was driving through the desert of western Arizona. The clouds were quickly changing and various degrees of light and shade were trading places upon the landscape. I wish I could have set up a tripod for time-lapse video, but by the time I walked to this spot, all the good stuff was gone in about a minute.
I always liked this photo in color, and never really thought of it in black and white until I was playing around with some files last week. Some effects can be achieved in Photoshop, and sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to press the shutter. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before. I call it Mother Nature’s dodge and burn. A storm was clearing over the Superstition Mountains just as it was getting late in the day. Shafts of light were sliding around here and there, then a large opening in the clouds allowed for the Saguaro cactus forest to be illuminated while the cliffs above were waiting their turn.
As we approach springtime, it’s becoming clear that we really haven’t had a winter here in the southwest. One big storm came through, but in a week’s time, that was already in the rearview mirror. There have been some years where spring has produced several good storms, and salvaged what was otherwise a dismal water season. I’m hoping this is one of those years, because we really need the water.
Apparently, our week of winter is over in the desert. Several days ago, it rained overnight, and as I was taking the dog for its morning walk, I passed by a neighbor’s rain-patterned hood. They must have recently waxed their car, because mine never looks like this after it rains. I was fascinated by the patterns and textures, so I returned with my camera.
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 tried to end rainless streak of 89 days, but could only squeeze out a 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Liquid
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.
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.
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