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Brothers, not twins

 

Red Rock Canyon has a bit of a deceiving name.  Unlike Zion or Grand Canyon, there is not one distinct canyon running through the middle of the park.  Instead, it is a long linear steep cliff with canyons that disect the cliff in several places.  From the road, the geology gives the impression that these canyons would be much the same.  Venture in, however, and all the differences become apparent.  Some have water beyond the mouth of the canyon, but can be dry well into the canyon.  Year round water in some, but dry creek bottoms are more common.  Waterfalls can be found in most canyons, seasonally, but there are no real similarities between them.  Brothers, not twins.

 

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, cliffs, Steve Bruno

 

The trails into the canyons are similar – hike about a mile or so in open desert until you reach the mouth of the canyon, then follow the path of least resistance.  The official trails don’t really go into the canyons, so following the wash bottoms is the route further in.  Eventually, there is a bunch of rock hopping, tree branch ducking, and sliding between boulders.  Just the kind of workout someone on the mend needs.  Like me!  Even with restrictions in place, getting out for exercise has been allowed here.  The road to many of these canyons has been closed to vehicles, making it more work for people to access, thus keeping the crowds down.  A demanding workout with fresh air, beautiful scenery, and almost no people has been a win-win-win scenario.  For me, healthy legs means healthy heart and lungs, and less chance of getting sick.

 

 

creek, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

 

All the images here are from my two recent hikes into neighboring canyons.  On one, I had cloudy conditions most of the day, and the soft light was essential for getting the photos I did.  On the other, clouds were predicted for most of the day, but soon vanished.  Temperatures down in the desert were pushing triple digits, but a breeze was coming through and it was very comfortable here.

 

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One of the things I’ve noticed through the years is the change in the water into springtime.  After the snow has melted, and the creek flows decrease, algae forms in the pools, and as these pools dry up, green tinted rocks remain.  I even found algae forming on a waterfall.

 

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On the second hike, I started getting photos of something I don’t normally come across – tiny critters.  I was sitting in the shade of a large tree cooling my feet in the water when I observed a brightly colored dragonfly.  It had chosen a tiny exposed root as its perch, and after ten minutes, it was still there.  It would fly away occasionally, but always return within three seconds.  After clearing away some larger rocks so I could lay on my stomach somewhat comfortably, I inched closer with my favorite macro lens.  By the time I finished, I was about 3 inches away and could now observe that the dragonfly was in the middle of lunch.  Every time it jumped away and returned, it had some tiny insect in its mouth.  He could have cared less about me.  Shortly after leaving that area, I came across a lizard on a rock.  I knew it wasn’t going to have the same tolerance for me as the dragonfly, but I managed a few close-ups without it moving a millimeter.  It has also been frog hatching season, and I managed to capture this tiniest of frogs.  I could have picked up any one of these rocks with one hand, but the pine needle in the back really gives it a frame of reference.

 

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For now, the creeks still have water but the levels have been diminishing with each passing week.  My favorite part of spring has to be the redbud trees in bloom.  I wanted to capture them with partly cloudy skies, but the full sunshine actually worked well.

 

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Stay healthy everyone!

 

Earth Day 2020

“There are more important things than living”

That quote comes from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick yesterday.  Judging by the protests to reopen the country, and the crap I’ve seen on social media, I’m sure there are thousands (or more) in the US who share this opinion.  If only we could communicate with the dead, I’m sure we would change some minds.

What this really boils down to is selfishness.  Thoughts of “this isn’t my problem” and “let someone else clean up after me” are prevalent in all aspects of these people’s lives.  This goes beyond any virus, and extends to how they treat our planet.  They don’t believe science as it pertains to the virus, and certainly not when it comes to global warming.  We’ve had other virus scares in recent years, but since none of those had the transmission rates of Covid-19, these people just pass this off as a hoax.  Similarly, the earth has had periods of global warming before, none of which had the acceleration that our carbon footprint promotes, so the disbelievers write this off as natural occurrence.

During this time of social distancing, our state has closed the popular outdoor recreation areas, but left some parts open.  One such area has access on a road closed to vehicles, making it a much longer hike than usual.  The photo above comes from there during yesterday’s hike.  You would think that people who come out to breathe some fresh air and make the effort to connect with nature would be respectful of nature.  I was so disappointed to be coming across freshly deposited trash along the way.  I make an effort to clean up when I find this trash, but people like me can’t be everywhere.

Instead of using this quarantine time to get upset and wish for a return to a normal life, maybe we should examine what brought us here.  The earth has shown that it is capable of keeping us in check.  Our normal life needs to change to be in tune with the planet while listening to science.  In the long run, there really is no one coming to clean up after us.

Midweek Monochrome 8-21-19

As summer drags into its last month (in theory), we here in the desert are looking forward to a change.  Normally the seasonal monsoon rains have their rhythm going by now, and lowered the fire danger and temperatures (ever so minimally).  Even if the rains are few and far between, the clouds offer some relief as well as photogenic backdrops.  On the occasions we have had clouds and rain, the storms started early, and were finished early.

This time of year, it’s nice to get away to the mountains for some relief.  A lot of other people have the same idea, so when I go, I usually find some rough, isolated road to get further from the crowds.  Because the fire danger throughout the west remains high, and most fires are human caused, I no longer feel comfortable doing this.  I never make campfires wherever I go for environmental reasons, and I don’t understand why anyone would need a fire when it doesn’t get below 50 degrees.  I think this was a tradition started by people in old western movies that needs to go away.

For now, my photo trips have been limited in number and almost exclusively on paved roads.  These photos are from late spring in the desert of western Arizona.  The yuccas are the last thing to flower in the desert, with the blooms taking place over an extended period, depending on the right conditions for each plant.  As I approached the plants below, there was a definite buzz in the air.  The bottom photo is a crop of the one above it, so you should be able to see the bees more clearly.  Ive photographed these plants in spring before, and never remember encountering a single bee.  About 100 feet away was a similar plant with fresher blooms, but no bees.  I guess this is what happy hour looks like if you’re a bee!

desert, yucca, Arizona, flowers

bees, flowers, desert

Springtime In The (Red) Rockies

A wetter than usual winter has been a welcome sight for the southwestern US.  Although many flocked to California to trample the flowers there, the bouquet has been continuing through the higher elevations.  Red Rock Canyon has seen some small plants flowering, but I was amazed at all the redbud trees in bloom, and consider that the main attraction around here.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve had a backlog of projects that needed to be taken care of, and additional time sitting at a computer has been counterproductive to that.  I’ll have a little more time for this now.

spring flowers, red rock canyon, nevada, hiking

red rock canyon, nevada, spring flowers

tree, spring, flowers, nevada

flowers, tree, desert, Stevew Bruno

redbud, trees, flowers, red rock canyon, Nevada

desert, Nevada, flowers

red rock, Nevada, bloom, Steve Bruno

Steve Bruno, red rock canyon, nevada, redbud, flowers

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

 

 

 

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.

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.

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