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Arizona

All Time Favorites

I’ve been crazy busy lately, so I’m trying to get caught up here.  In the final installment of the Daily Post Photo Challenge, they put up the topic of All-Time Favorites.  While I have posted some favorites before, these are mostly new to my blog.  I purchased my first real camera over 40 years ago, and moved into large format 5 years after that.  I have some favorites from way back then, and some that have made the ranks within the last year.  Choosing definitive favorites throughout the collection would be impossible, so here are a few from the top of my lists in various categories.

Living in the desert, flowers are a limited subject for me.  The top photo comes from the North Rainbow Trail along the Arizona-Utah border.  We had just dropped into a canyon whose entire bottom was layers of sandstone, when I spotted several Indian Paintbrush in bloom.  Who needs soil anyway?

One of the difficulties in photographing poppies is that they open up when the sun is stronger, then close by the end of the day.  Secondly, they appear in surroundings that are often not very photogenic.  Then, if those two come together, there’s the third variable of decent light.  I think I hit the trifecta when I photographed these poppies in the late afternoon, below a saguaro cactus studded hillside in the desert east of Phoenix, Arizona.  Just as I was setting up, a thin wave of clouds moved in as though someone were pulling a fine lace curtain over the desert.

Saguaro, cactus, poppies, Arizona, desert, spring flowers, Steve Bruno

Although I’m partial to the desert, my travels have not been limited to the warmer regions.  Anyone who has been to the Rocky Mountains in summer knows that you can almost set your watch by the afternoon thunderstorms.  On this mostly clear day, somewhere south of Telluride, I captured this favorite mountain scene as the sun was getting low.

Telluride, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, forest, mountains, Steve Bruno, landscape photography

While the desert does contain a few, there are better chances of finding waterfalls in the mountains.  I think I always had a special place for this one because it was the first time I was able to get behind the falls without getting a wet lens.  Oh, and the light is pretty good, too!  From Rifle Falls, Colorado.

Rifle Falls, Colorado, waterfall, Rocky Mountains, gottatakemorepix

Another place having thunderstorms with clocklike predictability is southeastern Arizona.  While spending a couple very wet afternoons on Mount Graham, I woke up very early the last morning to capture the sunrise coming up over a fog-filled Safford Valley.  I have seen hundreds of sunrises and sunsets from beautiful locations, but this one still ranks high.

sunrise, sunset, mountains, Arizona, Steve Bruno, landscape photography

Seeing mountains from an aerial perspective can be breathtaking, but often too distant to see great detail.  However, mountains and commercial airplanes in close proximity is a bad thing.  Many routes out of Seattle pass close to Mount Rainier.  I was fortunate on this almost cloud free winter Seattle day (yes that sounds like an oxymoron) to capture one of my favorites from an airplane.

Mount Rainier, Washington, National Park, aerial photography, Steve Bruno

While many tend to think of Arizona as hot and dry, there are a few riparian zone gems to be found.  One of them, West Clear Creek, is a photographer’s paradise, as well as a great place to escape the heat.  This is one of my favorites for reflections, and pretty high on the list for canyon photographs.

West Clear Creek, Mogollon Rim, Arizona, reflection, Steve Bruno

The reason it could not take top honors for canyon favorites is because of the next place.  I have hundreds of Grand Canyon photos from various trips, and have seen many different faces that it puts on, but there’s nothing like being in the bottom and really appreciating its scale.

Grand Canyon, National Park, Arizona, Colorado River, Marble Canyon, Steve Bruno

Water in the desert is special, but certainly not the norm.  The counterpart to creeks and rivers would probably have to be sand dunes.  This is truly impossible to pick a favorite, so here is one I have posted before.  From Death Valley at sunrise, I have never seen arcing ridges like these at other dunes I have visited.

sand dunes, Death Valley, National Park, California, desert, sunrise, landscape photography

Q:  When is a wave not made of water, sound or light?  (No, it’s not one of The Riddlers questions for Batman)

A:  When it’s an illusion made of sand at my feet in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.  While hiking in a remote part of the park following a flood, the higher ground had dried while the area that had a deeper pool was still damp.  Abstracts are one of my favorite subjects, and this one definitely tops the list.

Valley Of Fire, wave, sand, abstract, Steve Bruno

I’m always looking for detail shots of nature that just show how delicate and beautiful the world can be.  This photo didn’t have any runner-ups to compete with on my list.  Also from Valley of Fire, I simply call this one “Layers”

Valley Of Fire, State Park, Nevada, sandstone, red rock, gottatakemorepix

Despite all the time I’ve spent photographing nature, with many great days, I have one that I still refer to as best day ever.  I left Las Vegas around 3 in the morning to head to Zion National Park.  I arrived just in time to get a glimpse of sunrise hitting the freshly snow covered mountains.  Once I started photographing, there was something to capture my attention around every corner.  Despite great light in the middle of the day, I had to force myself to go down to Springdale for some lunch before returning to keep clicking all the way until the sun went down.  I don’t think there were more than 20 people in the park all day long, and the rangers said they had never seen that much snow before.  Somehow, with the lack of people, I came across one scene that was up about two miles along a trail that someone had walked in the middle of for no apparent reason.  It was the most surreal image I had seen that day, and I was cringing because someone walked through it.  This was slightly pre-Photoshop, and if I had any idea of the changes that were about to happen, I would have captured that image and waited for technology to catch up.  I have no “outtakes” from that day.  If I had a digital camera, I can only imagine the volume of images I would have taken.  Perhaps it was the time-consumption of each setting with a large format camera that placed me in the right moment as I approached the next location at the perfect time.  One of my early morning shots made a cover of a national magazine, but the truth is they’re all favorites, so here’s one the world hasn’t necessarily seen yet.

Zion, National Park, Utah, winter, landscape photography, Steve Bruno

Lines

I am always intrigued by desert plants and how they grow and bloom.  The agave (above) grows from a tightly packed center.  As the leaves peel outward, they retain the lines of the leaves they grew adjacent to.  The plants provides great lines and textures and photograph well from many angles, but I always liked this one showing the core.

Bolts of lightning always leave fascinating lines, whether a single strike, or a multitude.  This was probably the most potent and tightly concentrated thunderstorm I ever photographed.

lightning, Arizona, monsoon, desert, Steve Bruno

Another weather situation that can provide great lines to photograph are icicles.

icicles, Oregon, waterfall, Steve Bruno

I’m always looking for trees to photograph, mostly based on their lines and the shapes they create.

tree, patterns, Steve Bruno, Oregon

Sometimes, I don’t even have to look upward to see the photograph I want from a tree.  Ponderosa pines are one of many types of trees with great bark patterns.

tree bark, ponderosa pine, forest

I find that landscape photographs are often best when there are lines that take you through the frame.  The southwestern US has many locations with powerful lines.

Escalante, Utah, canyon, desert varnish, gottatakemorepix

The canyons near Escalante, Utah streaked with desert varnish, or the twisted sandstone of the Vermillion Cliffs are just two examples of that.

Vermillion Cliffs, National Parks, Arizona, desert, sandstone, Steve Bruno

Monochrome Madness: MM 203

Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed spots in the southwestern US.  As you wander through this tight canyon, you can’t help but eventually look towards the sky which is no longer visible.  Light tries to find its way to the bottom, and as it does, highlights the textures of the smooth, twisted, sculpted walls.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  Being the first one of the month, there was a theme of From Under.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.

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.

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

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sunset To Sunrise

Just because the sun has gone down for the night doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the camera.  For some of us, it’s the opposite.  This is when the best photos can happen, starting with the blue hour (above).  Once the blue hour has passed, you might be lucky enough to catch some stars.

Hawaii, stars, Mauna Kea, Steve Bruno

While some don’t venture into the great outdoors after dark, city streets can always provide subjects for your camera.  Perhaps you will even encounter some ghosts.

Seattle, ghosts, pedestrians

It wouldn’t be much fun watching fireworks in daylight, whether manmade or natural.

fireworks, Las Vegas, Steve Bruno

lightning, desert, Arizona

If you ever have a chance to witness lava flows up close, you will want to do this after sunset.  It’s quite difficult to see the lava underneath the surface, and you might be on top of it before you realize where it’s at.

Hawaii, sunset, lava, Steve Bruno

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sunset To Sunrise

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: MM 198

Life in the desert moves at a slow pace.  Without much water, growth is slow, and subsequently, so is death.  This dying cholla cactus appears to have marked its own grave, but will eventually succumb to the elements and gravity.  The younger, healthier ones (right portion of frame) are bright yellow or green and are easy to notice and avoid.  During their life, they eventually drop several sections.  In the course of time those begin to camouflage themselves, browning to match the stones beneath, and still just as painful.  Walking through a dense cholla forest is like navigating a minefield.  If you manage to get too close to one, you will swear you have been bitten by something.

For Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness: MM 198

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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