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Earth Day 2018

I remember the first Earth Day in 1970.  At our school, each of the students was given a small tree to plant.  We planted ours in the front yard, and it remained a small tree for what seemed an eternity.  Although I have not lived in that house for many years now, I can go on Google Earth for a peek and see how much it has grown.  Although that is just one simple act, I cannot get a visual progress reminder how my daily efforts to be as green as possible are working.

When I planted that tree, I was still young, and didn’t realize that an environmental movement was needed.  I do remember public service ads against littering, and that it wasn’t uncommon to see a bag or a can flying out of the window of the car in front while driving down the highway.  I don’t think I began to comprehend the magnitude of mankind’s waste until the first time I heard the expression acid rain.  As our numbers grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy planet, especially with consumer products becoming cheaper, and in the minds of many, more disposable.

Somewhere near the top of our environmental problems list would have to be our use of plastics.  Once they find their way to major rivers and oceans, they mostly end up in one of 5 garbage patches currently circulating our planet’s oceans.  Fortunately, there is an effort underway called The Ocean Cleanup, whose goal is to eliminate these vast floating debris piles.  You can go to their website to read more about it, or possibly donate to their cause.  This is, of course, just a large band-aid to a large problem.  The real solution is to curb our use of plastics and make sure they end up being recycled.

Pacific Ocean, sunset, CaliforniaHere in the US, one of the more prominent issues in recent times was the reduction of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  If ever there was a case to show that politicians work for special interests, and not the people, this would be it.  In the public input phase of this reduction, 99% of the respondents favored keeping the monument as it was.  In the redistricting map of the GSENM, they have created three separate national monuments.  Inside the former GSENM lies the highest concentration of well-preserved fossils ever discovered.  It also contains the richest and most accessible coal deposit in the state of Utah, which is no longer under protected status on the new map.  Coal consumption is on the decline in this country, so any coal mined here would most likely be sold to China.

Several lawsuits were filed to block the reduction of the national monuments, and Utah politicians immediately introduced a bill to manage the new property and see to it no further changes could ever be made.  Proposed management of the new national monuments would consist of a seven member panel, of which, a majority would be local county officials.  One of the members would also be appointed by the President, so a real public voice would be lost there as well.  These are still federal lands, not designated as Utah state parks.  Yes, our public lands in the hands of local politicians.  This is a precedence we cannot establish.  You can blame Trump all you want, but this ordeal was promoted and encouraged by Utah politicians.  We can all follow suit from the Outdoor Retailers Association, and some of its vendors, who have boycotted the state of Utah for its policies about the environment and how it should be overseen.  Although unlikely, a boycott by all potential visitors would send a message to the cronies in Salt Lake City that people coming to see the special lands in the southern part of the state provide a viable and profitable tourism economy.  Once this land is tarnished it will remain that way.

On a more positive note, a project I wrote about previously has been killed off.  The Grand Canyon Escalade, was voted down by Navajo Nation Council late last year.  Efforts by the tribe are underway to designate this area as a sacred site, and prevent any future blemishes on this special region from rearing their ugly heads again.  Perhaps a long legacy of Native Americans being offered roses, only to discover that they were just getting the fertilizer, has provided Navajos and other tribes a better insight to what is truly best for them and their land.  A special thank you goes out to the Navajo Nation Council and their wisdom for a long-term vision.

confluence, Grand Canyon, Arizona, Little Colorado River

Monochrome Madness: MM4-19

After having spent most of July in Oregon and Hawaii, I have to admit I’ve been a bit uninspired to head out into the desert.  Last week we had a beautiful day that started out with clouds and rain, and I made a relatively unplanned tour through the desert.  One of my stops was at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge along the Great Basin Highway.  I probably would have seen more wildlife if this hadn’t been towards the middle of the afternoon, but tall shade-providing trees, roads lined with sunflowers and small lakes were enough to soothe the senses.  The breezes would occasionally find a lull, and the clouds were just enough to provide a little contrast for my photo here.

You can see this photo on Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit her website.

Mid-week Mixings: Roosevelt Lake

In the desert east of Phoenix, Arizona lies the Salt River.  Along the Salt, there are four man-made lakes:  Saguaro, Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt.  Saguaro Lake is the only one that requires a different road to gain access, and the other three are along the famed Apache Trail route.  The oldest and largest, Roosevelt, is in a more open setting, and can also be reached by a longer, yet entirely paved highway.  The mountains surrounding the lake contain some very rugged wilderness, yet their distance away from the water suggests they might be on the tame side.

Roosevelt Lake Reflections - Steve Bruno
Reflections on a spring day at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona. Photo by Steve Bruno.

WPC: Weight(less)

Lower North Falls - Steve Bruno
Lower North Falls flows over massive slab of rock in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon. Photo by Steve Bruno

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge, I have another shot from my trip to Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.  I chose this shot for two reasons.  The water falls, obviously, due to gravity, but that slab of rock that the water flows across is cut very deeply underneath.  There is a tremendous amount of weight that is defying gravity by not collapsing here.

WPC: Oops!

In my first year of shooting with a 4×5 camera, there were two occasions where I ended up double exposing a sheet of film because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the dark slides as I placed them back into the film holders them post-exposure.  Oddly enough, both mistakes turned out really well, and encouraged me to practice this deliberately from time to time.

This shot was taken overlooking the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona.  I took one exposure with the closest thing I had to a ‘standard’ lens, then switched to a more telephoto lens, thinking I was exposing a different sheet of film.  The enhanced layering effect made this one my favorite mistake.

In response to the Daily Post Challenge: Oops!

WPC: Monochromatic

After using Photoshop for a length of time, one begins to quickly learn which images have a narrow color range.  My muse, Valley Of Fire, with its abundance of orange sandstone, is the first place I thought of when seeing this week’s challenge title.  Many of my images taken there, especially the detail shots, have one or two color values that can be altered with post-processing, and doing so only renders strange results.

The image above was taken in Valley Of Fire, in a wash that had been flooded, and now left to bake under the sun.  In comparison, the wash below had been under a recent heavy flood.  There’s quicksand under there, and fortunately, I didn’t have to find out where, as there was a way to get around this.

Patterns in a wash after heavy rains came through. Quicksand lies underneath, but under which part? Valley of Fire, Nevada photo by Steve Bruno.
Patterns in a wash after heavy rains came through. Quicksand lies underneath, but under which part? Valley of Fire, Nevada photo by Steve Bruno.

Another spot in Valley Of Fire, where water was working over a much longer period of time, was this skylight worn into the upper part of a small cave.

Eroded sandstone in a small cave acts as a skylight in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno
Eroded sandstone in a small cave acts as a skylight in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno

About a hundred miles away, in another of Nevada’s State Parks, Cathedral Gorge, there is a monochromatic setting of a different kind.  It looks like mud, but is mostly bentonite clay, a by-product of once being under a lake.

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

We don’t receive much of a winter here in the desert, but places where winter lingers can become monochromatic and sometimes dreary.  Montana is no stranger to a long winter, and there’s a subtle beauty to a land covered in white under overcast skies.

Winter day in western Montana, photo by Steve Bruno
Winter day in western Montana, photo by Steve Bruno

Michigan is also accustomed to winter, yet exchanges that coat of white for a vibrant green in the middle of summer.

Summer in the forests of upper Michigan, photo by Steve Bruno
Summer in the forests of upper Michigan, photo by Steve Bruno

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Monochromatic.”

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Trees

***As always, click to enlarge***
***As always, click to enlarge***

I thought I’d try something a little different for Cee’s Black & White Challenge.

This is one of my favorite shots from Hawaii, but it didn’t come from some spectacular wilderness setting.  In the property next to a gas station, there was an interesting group of trees.  This was taken looking up from underneath two of them, but closer to the one on the left.  I love the patterns of the branches reaching skyward, and in color the contrast of the branches against the lush green with red flowers makes this work.  When I converted it to grayscale, it just fell flat.  And then I thought, what’ll happen if I click on Inverse?  The network of branches came back to life!

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: Going Buggy

grasshopper clings to agave plant, photo by Steve Bruno
grasshopper clings to agave plant, photo by Steve Bruno

Grasshopper clinging to an agave plant, my entry for Ed’s Challenge.

WPC: Inspiration

Like many others on WordPress, I find inspiration in nature.  It’s the reason I venture out for hikes and the chance to take photographs.  But whether I’m in the city or the great outdoors, it’s the light that inspires me to press the shutter.  Light is the key element to make or break a photograph.  Take this photo, for example.  Had I been there 15 minutes earlier or later, would I have seen similar lighting?  If there was no fog to enhance the sunlight streaming through the trees, would I have stopped?  I look for lighting, as well the subject, often nature, to inspire me to take photographs.

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