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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

Day Trip Through Hill Country

While in Texas recently, I had a chance to get away for a day to see if that state had anything to offer this nature photographer.  I have been to the Guadalupe Mountains in the far western portion of the state, but much of what I’ve seen has been flat and unphotogenic.  My previous most favorable impression of Texas has been the best night sky viewing I’ve seen anywhere.

I had heard about the hill country near Austin and San Antonio, so that’s where I was determined to explore.  A cold front blew through the day before, with tornadic activity in the northern part of the state, but I was left with blue skies for the day.  Although I prefer clouds and softer light for my photos, I wasn’t going to complain with temperatures that barely hit 70, and almost no humidity.

I tried to research places to check out, but really didn’t see any photos that made stop and say, “Wow, I have to visit there”!  I was really disappointed that many of these places didn’t open until 8am.  With a sunrise at 6:30, that meant I was going to miss the best light of the morning.  My first stop was Guadalupe River State Park.  It really wasn’t a planned stop, but the sign said 3 miles, so it seemed a waste not to visit.  The river is wider than I expected in this mostly arid environment, with a beautiful green hue to the water.  Mostly I was charmed with the older trees along the banks and their beautiful exposed root system.  The tiniest of clouds passed briefly in front of the sun, showing me a glimpse of how this place would photograph under softer conditions.  That was just a tease, and I did manage a couple photos before realizing it was time to move on.

River 02

My next stop was Cave Without A Name.  This was a planned stop.  There are other caves in the region, but the remoteness made me think I would have a little quieter visit.  There were just 5 of us in our little tour, and the staff was very friendly.  I expected the usual stalagmites and stalactites that are common to caves, but there were features called “bacon strips” that seemed pretty unusual, and my favorite “the alien”.

Cave 05

Cave 04

Cave 01

Cave 03

I spent more time there than I had anticipated, but given the fact that above ground was midday lighting conditions, that didn’t seem to matter.  I was definitely glad with this choice for a visit.  Upon my drive out I saw a sign for a local county park.  Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area is on the Guadalupe River, and seemed like a nice place for a picnic, but given the fact that I had stopped previously along this river, and the sun was now too high, I kept my visit brief.  I was planning to stop next at Enchanted Rock, but the people at the cave told me it was a popular area and might be closed due to crowd size already.  The fact that they didn’t stay open until sunset just reinforced my feeling that this would have to wait for another trip.

After a late lunch stop, I was headed off to my last scouted location, Pedernales Falls State Park.  Although none of the photos I had seen had a wow factor, the staff at Cave Without A Name said I would enjoy this place.  They were absolutely correct.  As I was driving through hill country, I realized I was at the tail end of the spring flower season, but there were still a few left, including these within the park.

Pollination

Flowers

My biggest surprise was the overall size of the place and volume of water.  These are not tremendous falls, but a series of cascades all distinct from each other.

Falls 01

Falls 02

As I said, the volume of water was not what I expected after the photos I had seen online, and this river has perhaps the best infinity pools I have ever seen.  This is the moment I was really wishing for clouds.

Infinity Pools

There were still a few people around at this point, but not too many.  I think this allowed the wildlife to feel at ease returning to the water.  The park’s website lists heron and vultures as part of the permanent inhabitants.  Even with the telephoto lens, the vultures I saw were too far away to really recognize, but this heron put itself in the most perfect spot to be photographed.  The bird was aware of my presence, so I kept my distance until I had many shots that I liked.  When I took a couple steps closer, I was able to capture its takeoff.

Crane

Falls 03

With that, I was just waiting for the sun to get to the horizon for the soft light I needed for my favorite part of the falls.

Falls 08

Falls 05

Monochrome Madness: MM3-48

Spring has made it here, and it almost felt like we were going to jump right to summer.  Fortunately, temperatures have returned to normal, and we can go out and enjoy the flowers which have made their presence as a result of decent winter rains.  The cacti are usually the last to bloom, and it doesn’t matter to them if there was rain or not.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-42

Winter made a much better effort in the southwest this year than it has in several years.  A record high yesterday and several other warm days, however, tell me that I should be expecting spring soon.  Places in the desert have green beginning to emerge, but for a wildflower bonanza, we need the rains to continue.  No matter what the conditions, the trees always bloom, such as this redbud tree in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.

WPC: Tiny

Sounds like it’s time to get out the macro lens for this week’s Daily Post Challenge of Tiny.

A couple weeks ago I was on a hike when I came across a spot where small pools of water remained in the canyon bottom.  It had rained two nights before, and as the water flowed through, it congregated the tiny pine needles at the edge of the waterline (above).

Some other interpretations of tiny:

Small Lizard - Steve Bruno

tiny-flowersmosquitotiny-iciclesbaby-geesepine-tree-bark-detail

 

 

 

Monochrome Madness: MM3-28

A couple days ago, I was visiting my mom, and couldn’t help notice she had a couple cacti in bloom in her yard.  Seemed out of place for late October, but it has been warm, and I’m sure she waters them from time to time.  One flower was within reach and photogenic, but I wanted a different approach.  There was no way for me to get behind this one, so I shot it like a selfie.  In a couple frames it was a selfie.  I was composing by just looking at the shadow of the flower across the lens, then realized I had to duck while maintaining the composition.  I suppose I could have set up a wireless card and a tablet, but that seemed like too much effort.  I got this shot without having to delete a bunch.

This is the photo that Leanne Cole has placed on this week’s Monochrome Madness.  You can check out her website to see other’s contributions and instructions to join in.

WPC: Details

Since I primarily take photographs of nature, my detail shots are mostly in the form of plant life.  Even if I lived somewhere besides the desert, I think I would still be fascinated with cacti.  Sometimes they’re shaped bizarrely, sometimes perfectly symmetrical.  And when you move in close (but not too close) they provide elaborate details.  Most would be vulnerable to damage from insects, birds, and animals if it weren’t for the defense mechanisms – all those thorns.

While many of you live in climates where flowers thrive, we are provided with only a limited showing of those.  Even in the driest of years, when the rest of the desert is stingy with blossoms, the cactus bloom.

Cactus Flower Closeup - Steve Bruno

Trees are the other guaranteed bloomers around here, such as this redbud from nearby Red Rock Canyon.

Redbud Tree in spring, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

In bloom or not, trees can be fascinating subjects, such as this one from Hawaii with a very entangled root system, or this detail of a bristlecone pine tree.

 

In the southwest, details of canyon walls can make for good photos, such as this one of cross-bedded sandstone in Valley of Fire State Park, or this etched detail in Fletcher Canyon.

 

When I think of detailed shots, the first thing that comes to mind are close-up or macro images.  But sometimes, there are landscapes that have so much going on, that it’s hard to not just look for all the details.  This one is from Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada.

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Textures in eroded clay and sand in Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.

WPC: Spare

From the wide open spaces near Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, where there’s plenty of room to spare, comes this elegantly simple summertime meadow.

For the Daily Post Challenge Spare

Monochrome Madness: Close-up

Flower closeup by Steve Bruno at gottatakemorepix

Sometimes I don’t travel very far to take photographs.  That would be the case for this close-up of flowers in a friends’ backyard.  I like this one in color, and when I converted it to b&w, I left a hint of the flower saturation in.  This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness for this week’s theme of Close-up.  More monochrome images from other bloggers can be viewed on her site.

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