I made a return to the upper Midwest last week, and although I didn’t have time to explore the region, being there was enough to make me wish the trip was planned a little differently. The photo is from a previous visit, from one of Minnesota’s State Parks. Although I make my home in the desert, and love it, the area around Lake Superior still ranks very high on my list of extraordinarily beautiful places in the US. If I could only put up with the winter…..
Slot canyons are amazing places in the way water can cut so deeply and intricately without removing the materials further out and above. They are also great places to hang out when the temperatures are soaring. Fortunately, we are heading into fall, and the relief factor is yielding to the fun of just exploring the desert. This week’s photo comes from Cathedral Gorge State Park in eastern Nevada. Unlike slot canyons in sandstone, these crevices don’t run very long, and are so narrow you have to side-step in a couple places to get through.
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.
I find that many photogenic boulder locations tend to be in lower deserts here in the southwest. Joshua Tree National Park comes to mind when I see what other photographers like to cover. The boulders there may receive more attention than the tree the park is named for. There are much better Joshua Trees to see than the ones there, so I completely get this one.
The subjects of my photo come from the cooler, higher elevations of Prescott National Forest in central Arizona. The tree at the back is what caught my attention here. It provides a nice contrast and an element of scale for these massive rocks. The clouds drifting into the frame completed the scene for me.
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!
Last autumn I was in Seattle, and had the chance to walk around downtown under mostly dry skies. I found these trees to be dynamic with their color, but it wasn’t until recently that I had time to convert these to b&w. In the original, the two trees are completely different in color, but by changing the individual color values in the conversion, they appear similar, making it a stronger image.
This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, having the theme of Seasons this week. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.
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.
For this week’s Monochrome Madness, the theme is wild. I have been to several places so remote, not even the governing agencies could answer my inquiries as to trail conditions or water reliability. And although these remote places are seldom seen by people, images captured there may not necessarily reflect the feelings of isolation.
Bryce Canyon, the location of my photo, has spots that you can hike to that will give you a feeling of being in a wilderness, but most of the trails will have you hiking side-by-side with a bunch of strangers. Despite that, it is still the wildest looking place I have ever been to. This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, visit her website.
As spring storms start to lose their punch, it’s time to start venturing further northward. One place I love to photograph is Cathedral Gorge State Park. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of spot along the Great Basin Highway in eastern Nevada. Full of texture and contrast, it offers many opportunities for black and white photography, and there are places and times where color photography works too. Storm clouds added another dimension on this spring day.
This photo is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. Next week starts the fourth year for this project for Leanne. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, visit her website.
As spring transitions towards summer, cold fronts still pass through the desert, but they rarely contain significant moisture. They always bring a little breeze, and sometimes, a lot. A couple weeks ago we had wind gusts in the 70-80 mph range, and there’s never enough moisture to hold down the sand and dust when those fronts come through. Usually this is landscape photography hell, but if you happen to be in the right spot, you can turn it into opportunity.
My photo was taken in the desert of southern California during one of these spring fronts, and is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness. Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her site.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon can be miserably hot in the early parts of summer, so many people find it surprising how miserably cold it can be in winter. As with many canyons of the southwest, snow doesn’t stick to the sheer walls, so the layers are accentuated by the snow. Even in relatively flat light, this adds depth to the scene. Photos taken when winter storms are in the clearing process are some of the most dramatic I’ve ever seen of the canyon, and the temps are usually tolerable at that point. Watch out for the days following, when wind chill factors can make it feel like Canada.
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.
Last Saturday I had a chance to head out to our nearby mountains. It had rained down here in the Las Vegas area the day before, and I thought there would be a good chance for some fresh snow higher up. Even at an elevation of 8000′ there was only a dusting, yet the light up there made for photographs that didn’t disappoint. I was heading back down when I came across this location. I knew this was meant to be b&w, and this is straight out of the camera using the monochrome settings. This is my last shot from 2016, and a nice way to finish the year.
You can find this photo, along with the work of others on Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness weekly posting. There are instructions on her website on how to participate, if you’d like.