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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

Monochrome Madness: MM4-24

Last winter/spring was one of the wettest that California has ever seen, and was declared a drought-buster by several accounts.  Now, about a half year later, we have seen the most devastating fires to ever hit that state.  What happened to all that water?  Did the drought really go away?

Intense, out-of-control fires have occurred in places that you would not normally expect these to take place.  Oregon, Montana, western Canada, and now Portugal have all been in the news for their fires this year.  A reasonable person would have to look at this situation and wonder if there is something we can do for long-term fire prevention.  The White House says global warming and climate change is a hoax.  More FAKE NEWS!

My photo is from several years ago, and is one of my favorites from a springtime trip in what used to be a normal weather year.  I know fires have threatened Yosemite National Park in recent years, and I can’t help but wonder if the next one is the one that leaves the park in ashes.

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 her website.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-15

A large part of the land in the southwestern US is by definition, a desert.  A couple times during the year, weather patterns shift, and much needed rain covers the desert, often in volumes too excessive to benefit the land.  One of those times is happening now.  The summer rainy season, or monsoon season, can make travel tricky or unsafe at times, but can also make for tremendous lighting conditions.  In the case of the rainwater pools, above, all the smaller ones usually evaporate within a day.  The larger ones can remain for weeks, providing water for the wildlife through drier times.

This spot is in the western Grand Canyon.  The Esplanade Sandstone layer is riddled with these water collecting depressions and can be seen through lengthy, though not necessarily difficult hikes.  This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness with the theme of Season.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit her website.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-50

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the best preserved examples of the Ancestral Puebloan culture that once thrived in the American Southwest.  More commonly referred to as Anasazi, which is a Navajo term meaning “enemy ancestor”, these people created structures which were the largest in North America until Europeans settled here and industrialization began.  This civilization vanished around 700 years ago, and experts have various opinions as to how this happened.  A major climate shift started in the mid 1100’s with multiple periods of drought, and would have severely impacted the food supply.  There is also evidence of warfare which may have occurred with nomadic groups.

My photo is of Cliff Palace, the largest of the ruins at Mesa Verde, and is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, which had the theme this week of culture.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.

Historical Photographs, Part IV

Quite a few years ago, my brother and I went on a weekend trip through northeastern Arizona.  One afternoon, we went hiking in at Petrified Forest National Park.  The trail was difficult to follow, so we gave up trying, and just started heading off into the backcountry.  Petrified Forest NP, which lies in the middle of the Painted Desert, has hills that can look the same very quickly, and is not the place for an inexperienced hiker.  After about a couple miles of this, we knew it was almost time to turn around, when something caught our attention.  As we got closer, we couldn’t believe our eyes.  There were two standing petrified trees!  Although one was more like a tree fragment, the larger was about 9-10 feet tall.

Standing Trees - Petrified Forest NP - Steve Bruno

As you take the driving tour through the park, you will see the petrified logs laying on the ground, with some I’ve seen 40-50 feet in length.  I haven’t covered every square mile of Petrified Forest National Park, but I’m pretty sure these trees were the last ones standing.  That day was a complete adrenaline rush, but both my brother and I knew we had to come back and see this again with different skies.

It was almost a year later when our schedules coincided and we had dramatic skies to photograph this rare find.  It had been a wet winter, and the washes still had water as we headed into the backcountry.  Like I said earlier, the hills can look alike, and we were having trouble locating the trees.  We were joking that we were losing our tracking abilities, but then we discovered why we were having difficulty.  The taller of the trees was no longer standing.

As I mentioned, it had been a wet winter, and the soft soil of the Painted Desert captures impressions very well.  When we arrived at the fallen tree, there was a lone set of footprints that wandered towards the tree in an almost drunken fashion, stopped at the tree (easily in arms reach), then continued onward.  When this tree eventually fell, I figured it was going to be towards the right (top photo), but it had fallen to the left.  More importantly, it fell away from the footprints.

I find it highly improbable that this tree stayed upright for so many centuries, then fell on its own within the next year.  The footprints and the direction of the fall lead me to believe it had assistance.  This seems like the senseless destruction that only a young male would do, but then the story about boy scout leaders toppling a boulder in Goblin Valley, Utah a couple years ago makes me wonder.  They were both in their 40’s, and supposed role models, but look like immature teenagers in the video.  Their excuse was “we didn’t want the rock to fall on someone and hurt them”.  Sounds like the bullshit their lawyer fed them.

In the case of the petrified tree, the footprints wandered further into the backcountry.  I honestly hope that the asshole who did this was drunk and couldn’t find their way back, and ended up being a good meal for the coyotes and buzzards.  At least there would be some purpose for this waste of life.

Even with the photos I did manage to get on the first trip, it took a couple tries before I had one published.  Ironically, on the day after the magazine came out, I received a phone call from a photographer who gave me a long winded story when I inquired about one of his locations.  For a brief moment, I felt like sending him on a wild goose chase, but I was still disgusted over this, and just told him how there was nothing left to go back to.

WPC: Opposites

This week’s Daily Post Challenge is Opposites, which presents many possibilities.  The above shot was taken on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and doesn’t need an explanation.

Not far from there, I spent a day at the Grand Canyon where it was fogged in.  At one point its opposite, complete sunshine, made an appearance on the distant cliffs.

Foggy Grand Canyon

When you have a positive and negative charge, you get a spark.  Opposing charges created in the magnitude of a thunderstorm produce lightning.

lightning 03

 

In northern Michigan, land and water come together in a serene setting.

Lake Superior

Monochrome Madness: MM3-10

One more from the National Parks – this one from Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  We’ve reached the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and (thankfully) heading towards shorter amounts of daylight.  Just because the sun has set, however, doesn’t mean the day is done for photography.  After I thought I was done for the day, I passed this location in the twilight. The eroded hills were still picking up the remaining light in subdued color, but I knew this had to be in b&w.

This is my addition to the collection of b&w images for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. You can check out other photographers work on her site.

WPC: Curve

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge, I’ve found a few shots where the emphasis came from the curve in the photo.  The top shot comes from Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Rainbows made me think of curves, whether in the skies over southern Arizona, or frozen in sandstone at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah.

Rainbow in the desert of southern Arizona by Steve BrunoRainbow Bridge from underneath, Steve Bruno

Curves in the road also came to mind, and this one has plenty.  It’s called the Swift Trail, and it heads up the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona.  As you can tell, there’s nothing swift about this drive, but it can be a lot of fun, and takes you into a beautiful mountain range.

Pinaleno Mountain highway, Steve Bruno

Also in Arizona, you will come across many of these Saguaro cacti.  Although the younger ones are a single column, the older ones develop arms that often curve gracefully.

Curvy Saguaro Cactus Arms, Arizona, Steve Bruno

Monochrome Madness: MM3-9

This has been a strange winter and spring, but it looks like summer’s going to be true here in the desert southwest.  I think we had more snow in April than the previous four months, but a glance out the window towards our nearby mountains reveals none of the white stuff anymore.

In keeping with the previous MM post, more National Parks.  This was taken outside the park boundary, but those mountains are definitely inside.  This is Great Basin National Park, in eastern Nevada.  I’m not sure what he visitation numbers are, but I have a feeling it’s low.  One reason is that this park has no buddy.  You know – Yosemite has Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Bryce has Zion, Arches has Canyonlands – all great places to visit and expect a crowd.  If you go to Great Basin NP, better make sure you’re well stocked on gas and food, because this region is about as remote as it gets in the lower 48.

You’ll find this image along with others’ in Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness challenge.

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