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Earth Day 2020

“There are more important things than living”

That quote comes from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick yesterday.  Judging by the protests to reopen the country, and the crap I’ve seen on social media, I’m sure there are thousands (or more) in the US who share this opinion.  If only we could communicate with the dead, I’m sure we would change some minds.

What this really boils down to is selfishness.  Thoughts of “this isn’t my problem” and “let someone else clean up after me” are prevalent in all aspects of these people’s lives.  This goes beyond any virus, and extends to how they treat our planet.  They don’t believe science as it pertains to the virus, and certainly not when it comes to global warming.  We’ve had other virus scares in recent years, but since none of those had the transmission rates of Covid-19, these people just pass this off as a hoax.  Similarly, the earth has had periods of global warming before, none of which had the acceleration that our carbon footprint promotes, so the disbelievers write this off as natural occurrence.

During this time of social distancing, our state has closed the popular outdoor recreation areas, but left some parts open.  One such area has access on a road closed to vehicles, making it a much longer hike than usual.  The photo above comes from there during yesterday’s hike.  You would think that people who come out to breathe some fresh air and make the effort to connect with nature would be respectful of nature.  I was so disappointed to be coming across freshly deposited trash along the way.  I make an effort to clean up when I find this trash, but people like me can’t be everywhere.

Instead of using this quarantine time to get upset and wish for a return to a normal life, maybe we should examine what brought us here.  The earth has shown that it is capable of keeping us in check.  Our normal life needs to change to be in tune with the planet while listening to science.  In the long run, there really is no one coming to clean up after us.

The Path To Recovery

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.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, reflection, hiking, fine art, landscape photography

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.

waterfall, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunowaterfall, nevada, desert, creekdesert, nevada, hiking, red rock canyon, Steve Bruno

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.

water, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, hiking, fine art

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.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art

Midweek Monochrome 10-2-19

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.

Midweek Monochrome 9-18-19

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.

Midweek Monochrome 9-11-19

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.

Springtime In The (Red) Rockies

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.

spring flowers, red rock canyon, nevada, hiking

red rock canyon, nevada, spring flowers

tree, spring, flowers, nevada

flowers, tree, desert, Stevew Bruno

redbud, trees, flowers, red rock canyon, Nevada

desert, Nevada, flowers

red rock, Nevada, bloom, Steve Bruno

Steve Bruno, red rock canyon, nevada, redbud, flowers

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

 

 

 

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

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