Cooler weather has made its way to the desert, and soon it will be time to start climbing around these sandstone hills again. This unique perspective of Red Rock Canyon is a panorama stitched from four frames. I was always pleased with the way it came together, but just recently tried converting it to b&w, and I think I like this outcome better.
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.
A wetter than usual winter has been a welcome sight for the southwestern US. Although many flocked to California to trample the flowers there, the bouquet has been continuing through the higher elevations. Red Rock Canyon has seen some small plants flowering, but I was amazed at all the redbud trees in bloom, and consider that the main attraction around here.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve had a backlog of projects that needed to be taken care of, and additional time sitting at a computer has been counterproductive to that. I’ll have a little more time for this now.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Liquid
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.
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.