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Nevada

Finally…A Little Fresh Air

Recently, I had a chance to get out to our closest high elevation hiking spot.  A friend had wanted to get away from the heat, and as with most people I know, didn’t want to to a hike on ‘photographer’s hours’.  With that in mind, I wasn’t going to bring a camera, just my phone.  Then I remembered the last time I did that, and we encountered butterflies and tiny flowers, so I packed my older smaller sensor camera and macro lens.  That’s my idea of keeping it light.

The trail started around 8000 feet, and some of the trees down there had something I had never noticed before.  Coming off the leaves was a thread-like material, covered with fine hairs.  Most of these had a pigtail kind of curve to them, and their lighter color glowed in the backlight.  My first shot of the day is actually one of my favorites.

fine art, tree, sunshine, abstract, steve bruno

Even though these trees were present further up, the threads were not as abundant on those trees.  I think I need to spend more time in this forest to notice the details of seasonal changes.

nature, tree, detail, forest, steve bruno

The photo at the top of this post was taken near the top of the trail.  With my smaller sensor camera I don’t have an extreme wide angle lens, so this was a composite of 10 frames.  We had started out with clear skies, but these timely clouds came passing through, looking more like fall than summer.

We arrived at the end point of one trail, then continued partway on another.  I was wanting to see if the springs were still there after so many dry years.  Just before the springs we found ourselves in the midst of the forest affected by the Carpenter 1 fire which happened in 2013.  Although signs of recovery were evident, these trees will not be coming back, and the eerie feeling remains.

forest fire, trees, nevada

If there’s a positive side to not being in great shape anymore, it’s that the hike took long enough so that we finished with late afternoon light.  Often this is the time of day i would start a hike with photos in mind.  The young aspens were a stark contrast to the trees consumed by fire higher up.

aspen trees, summer, mountains, nevada, landscape photography

The cliffs in the lower part of the trail were beginning to get the glow of reflected light.  The trees here are generally tall, but I couldn’t help but notice there was a giant amongst them.

Mount Charleston, nevada, forest, hiking, fine art, landscape photography,

In addition to better quality of light, late afternoon usually brings out the wildlife.  This young deer showed up trailside in the last half mile, but really wanted nothing to do with me.  There was a significant barrier of shrubs between us, and the one moment I had a clear view, it moved out quickly, so I only got a parting shot.

deer, wildlife, forest, nevada

It’s been a busy summer, and when work has slowed down, I’ve been catching up on lots of backlogged projects.  We’ve had some of the worst looking skies I can ever remember here in southern Nevada, and we haven’t had any fires to speak of.  We’ve had dust blowing in from storms in Arizona, but mostly the smoke from California’s fires.  Most of the big fires throughout the west in the last few years have been human caused.  I’d like to believe that Nevadans are smarter and more respectful of the environment, but the law of averages tells me that stupid people show up everywhere.  I think because we are not a glamorous outdoor destination like our surrounding states, we luck out by getting less people overall.  That’s OK…..more for us to enjoy!

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

Liquid

At the beginning of this month, we had our last winter storm.  After it cleared out, I went to nearby Red Rock Canyon to catch the rainwater pools before they evaporated, and I posted the first of those shots already.  After that first location, I hiked a little further to another great pool location.  Although now starting to clear out completely, the remaining clouds were just right for the occasion.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, rainwater pool, desert, Steve Bruno, landscape photography

rainwater pool, desert, Nevada, Red Rock Canyon, landscape photography

As I took the drive out, the creek crossings had running water, and i knew i had to return the next day to see the waterfalls.  I had aspirations to get to another location, but it’s been years since I’ve seen this one running.  By the time I finished taking photos and videos, it was too late to make it to my originally intended destination.  The water was no longer visible on the drive, and the volume flowing in the falls would probably be gone by the next day.

waterfall, desert, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge:  Liquid

Monochrome Madness: MM 209

No matter what the temperature, I will rarely head out to take photographs if there are cloudless skies.  Sometimes clouds just add an element to the skies that reduce the sterility of the scene.  They always reflect light, and usually soften the light to some degree.  When the clouds are thick enough, they can provide a natural light painting to a landscape that cannot be duplicated in post-processing.  In the photograph above, a little bit of direct sunlight was hitting the cliffs in the middle-ground, while some filtered light was reaching a little further back to highlight the ridgelines.  Heavy clouds were lingering beyond, making for a dark mood in the back of the canyon.  I also had a brief cloud darken the foreground, helping to bring the attention to the cliffs.  I never would have pressed the shutter had this been a sunny day.

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 Leanne’s website.

Monochrome Madness: MM 208

Last week we had a late season winter storm which brought snow to the mountains and a decent amount of rain to lower elevations.  I went out to hike around the rainwater pools before they evaporated, and was fortunate to have plenty of fast-moving clouds for long-exposure photos.  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 Leanne’s website.

Awakening

About a week ago, I was hiking in nearby Red Rock Canyon.  The hike itself was more like scrambling amongst the sandstone outcrops, and it wasn’t until we started driving that we noticed a few bushes that seemed to have spider webs.  Finally coming closer to one, it was clear they were cocoons.  The plants that did have them, did not contain singular cocoons, but held clusters.  I finally had to pull over to investigate, and grabbed my iPhone for some videos.  It was rather breezy and I knew that would wreak havoc for focus on my DSLR videos.  At first, I thought it might be too early to see anything of interest happening inside the cocoons, but then there were subtle signs of life.  As I approached this cocoon, I noticed there were two escapees, as well as the cluster with activity.

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Awakening

Monochrome Madness: MM 201

My last shot from my hike in the fog last week.  As I was taking this, my camera was being covered with tiny droplets of water.  This is not a telephoto shot – these trees were right in front of me.  On a sunny day you would be seeing hundreds of trees from this spot.  Glad to be near the end of the trail, I didn’t think it could get any darker or thicker than this.  On the drive down, it did manage to get even worse before finally breaking through at lower elevations.

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 Leanne’s website.

WPC: Story

“Get along little doggie!”

Or in this case, coyote.  At least that’s my best guess after an online search.  My first impression was bobcat tracks, but those turned out to be much different in shape.  This photo alone might be enough for a story, but yesterday turned out to be too good of a day to stop there.

SUNDAY’S HIKE

The initial weather forecast called for the storm to be out of here before noon on Sunday.  I set my alarm, but then rechecked the forecast one more time.  The official weather station on Mount Charleston was at 37 degrees, and the satellite image gave me the impression the event was moving out quicker.  With that in mind, I changed the alarm to an earlier time, thinking the sunrise might be spectacular.  Upon shutting the alarm off and falling back to sleep, I awoke closer to my original plan, and decided there might still be some something worthwhile to photograph.  This just meant I would be joining all the weekend warriors.

As we headed up the mountain, we began to drive through a low cloud cover.  Even the tailgaters eased off as visibility became very limited.  Just before approaching the ski area, we emerged with a clear view.  I pulled off to the side of the road, as the freshly coated Mummy Mountain had great light hitting it.  In the time it took for me to cross the road and open up my tripod, the light was gone.  The fog we had driven through was racing up the mountainside.  Little did I know at the time that this was the last bit of blue sky I would see for the day.  That’s Mummy Mountain’s outline in the upper left corner.

Mummy Mountain, Lee Canyon, Spring Mountains, Nevada

Although I was a little disappointed, this was the view everyone else was getting, and I came out to hike a trail I’ve been on several times before – one that would take me up into the snow and the bristlecone pines.  When I reached the parking area, there was a vehicle with three young men already returning.  I was still reasonably early, and it wasn’t long before their tracks were no longer visible, and my feet were laying down the only marks in the snow.  This desert dweller hasn’t been in the altitude much lately, and my stops were numerous.  Taking photos was a good excuse to lengthen my stops, because I know I can’t take a steady picture without a tripod when I’m breathing that hard.  Especially detail shots with a telephoto lens.

fresh snow, forest, gottatakemorepix

fresh snow, fog, mountains, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

The fog was varying in its density, and with each thinning stage, I thought that was going to be it.  The trail started around 8300 feet, and I knew I was up over 9000 feet.  The temps were too warm for the snow, and I could see clumps falling off branches all around me.  That’s when I came across the tracks.  Fortunately my lingering photographer’s pace was allowing other hikers to catch up to me on the trail, many with big dogs, and I knew my chances of becoming breakfast were diminishing.  In this area were many trees with intriguing shapes, standing eerily in the fog.  I took numerous shots in this area, then continued.  In a short time I arrived at the largest bristlecone pine on the trail, perhaps the largest I have ever seen.  Around this time the sun became visible, although the fog was still there.  I don’t think I have ever seen this tree under more perfect conditions.

giant tree, fog, bristlecone pine, Spring Mountains, Las Vegas, Steve Bruno photography

I continued along to an area I have stopped before. The fog gave this group a different light than any previous visit.

forest, Mount Charleston, Nevada, Steve Bruno

I tried continuing further, but this part of the trail, now around 9500 feet, had a little deeper snowfall.  And a steeper pitch with a slight sideways pitch.  That was becoming too much work without spikes under my shoes, so I headed back.  This turned out to be excellent timing, as the fog was making a comeback.  The trail was getting slippery and/or muddy in spots, I was starting to feel the fatigue of mountain air.  I could barely see the forest in the canyon right in front of me.

dense fog, trees

I made one final stop, and as I did the fog was now leaving many microdrops on my camera, though not my lens.  Those made for some excellent b&w images which I will post soon.  It was close to 2:00 when I finished, and the conditions were not what I was anticipating, but certainly made for an awesome day.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Leaves or Trees

For a nature photographer, trees and their leaves have to be a top subject matter.  The photo above was from the forest floor near Hilo, Hawaii.  Also from the big island, about 50 miles away was this strange looking one.  A pregnant tree?  Hmmm.

tree, rain forest, Hawaii, gottatakemorepix

In the same forest was this one which I call “reaching out”.

rain forest, Hawaii, branches, Steve Bruno photography

I think the trees most associated with Hawaii would have to be palm trees.

lone palm tree, Hawaii, Steve Bruno

Much closer to home, on the slopes of Mount Charleston are my favorite trees to photograph – the bristlecone pines.

bristlecone pine, Mount Charleston, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

I have fond memories of running through the yard kicking up fallen leaves while growing up.  That might be a little tough to do with all these boulders, but the forest floor in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona is beautiful in autumn.

autumn, fallen leaves, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona, Steve Bruno photography

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