The desert seems so magical in springtime because in most years, there is an abundance of water flowing through the creek beds. The normal lack of rain through late spring and the inevitable rise in temperatures deliver a one-two punch that just makes it tough to want to get back out there. I couldn’t choose one photo from this hike in April, so this week I have two.
There have been a number of times in the last couple years – most notably during my recent injury recovery – where I didn’t pack a camera for a hike. Using only my iPhone for pictures, even with an app that allowed for manual control and RAW capture, ultimately left me disappointed. A friend suggested I look into a newer phone, but after much research I realized that even the latest and greatest still have the same root of the problem. A tiny sensor.
When I have an image that I really like, I want to print it, and want to see it large. I had not looked at point-and-shoot cameras for many years, and thought I should check out that market. A larger sensor and a real lens was what I was interested in, and eventually found what I was looking for in a Panasonic Lumix LX10 with a Leica lens. I was looking to replace using a phone, but the results of this camera could almost make me stop using my real camera. Almost.
In comparison to an iPhone, there really is no comparing, so I’m looking at results next to a full frame DSLR. There is a slight amount of noise that I don’t get with full frame, but that can be easily fixed in processing. The lens is somewhat wide angle, but doesn’t have the coverage of the extreme wide angle lens I use most of the time. And the macro capabilities of this lens don’t get as close as my favorite macro lens. That’s about all I can think about on the cons of this camera, unless it’s possible to be too small or too light.
I have already posted some photos taken with this camera, including some of the nighttime shots on a recent post. Those, and all on this page are hand-held. It also takes some excellent quality 4k video. Now when I go on a hike where I wasn’t expecting to see something photo-worthy, I won’t be disappointed because I packed light. My friends have never been too vocal about it, but every time I’ve stopped and pulled out a tripod, they were probably thinking, “Go small or go home”
About a half year ago, I suffered a severe leg injury which kept me from being outdoors with my camera. A couple weeks of being mostly bedridden and using crutches to get around eventually gave way to being able to do some work and the start of physical therapy. My physical therapist was hesitant about me hiking at first, so my first couple trails were relatively flat. No backpack filled with tripods or cameras either, just a phone. Earlier this year, I finally made a hike with all the gear on a trail that had more difficulty involved. I could feel the difference of the terrain versus just being in therapy. I can’t imagine how long I would have been out if I wasn’t taking care of myself before this accident, and now that we’re all being asked to stay home, I realize I need to keep moving more than ever.
While many National Parks and other recreational areas have closed, there are some which remain open. These may not be the desired locations which attract social media throngs, but those who’ve seen my work know I don’t really go there anyway. The first location (above) was after some areas had shut down, making this a more crowded parking lot than usual. Despite that, I had very few people on the trail I was on, and getting here requires a scramble, so I enjoyed the place to myself.
That area has since become off limits, as has the next spot, on a hike taken in March. While this area starts on a popular trail, it soon takes off to an old trail, which quickly fades and becomes a scrambling route. Again, social distancing didn’t apply here because there were no other groups.
One of the remaining open trails has plenty of open space to absorb a higher number of hikers keeping distance between them. Leaving the trail and boulder hopping the creek also provides more privacy and the best views.
Higher up, this canyon becomes more rugged and takes on different characteristics. While most would have a different opinion on what constitutes a waterfall, I’m going to state that this is southern Nevada’s largest waterfall. It had been raining earlier, but only a light amount, and had been snowing above. This probably won’t be noticeable at this size, but there are small streams of water coming down on almost all the canyon walls in this scene. While the wall to the left is the most obvious, the water can be seen in many spots when standing here (and on my computer screen in full size). Waterfall or not, I like how this one came out.
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.
Here 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Grasshopper clinging to an agave plant, my entry for Ed’s Challenge.
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.
I was driving down to Phoenix Monday afternoon, and as the sun was about to set I noticed an area where the yucca blooms were still holding on. There was no fantastic lighting, but I got out to see if there were some photo opportunities nonetheless. The yuccas, which start to bloom around early June, produce stalks of white flowers, which eventually dry out to a golden color before finally blowing off when the summer storms come through. The ones that were left were in the golden stage, and stood out from the rest of the surroundings.
As I was meandering around, I stood next to this ocotillo plant with the moon hanging amidst its branches. I loved the way its textures stood out against the simple sky, with just a sliver of a moon for perspective. After this shot I was about to wrap it up, but the skies were becoming a luminescent backdrop for the yucca plants. I spotted a photogenic grouping of the plants, but then thought to myself this is stupid. I hadn’t brought along a flashlight or even my phone, and had ventured at least 10 minutes from my car. The route had some rocky terrain and potential snake habitat. I looked up at my ocotillo moon and its angle in the sky and knew it would be sufficient to get me back, so I waited patiently for those moments when the subtle breeze faltered, allowing the yucca flowers to become still.
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