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Steve Bruno

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!

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.

Lines

I am always intrigued by desert plants and how they grow and bloom.  The agave (above) grows from a tightly packed center.  As the leaves peel outward, they retain the lines of the leaves they grew adjacent to.  The plants provides great lines and textures and photograph well from many angles, but I always liked this one showing the core.

Bolts of lightning always leave fascinating lines, whether a single strike, or a multitude.  This was probably the most potent and tightly concentrated thunderstorm I ever photographed.

lightning, Arizona, monsoon, desert, Steve Bruno

Another weather situation that can provide great lines to photograph are icicles.

icicles, Oregon, waterfall, Steve Bruno

I’m always looking for trees to photograph, mostly based on their lines and the shapes they create.

tree, patterns, Steve Bruno, Oregon

Sometimes, I don’t even have to look upward to see the photograph I want from a tree.  Ponderosa pines are one of many types of trees with great bark patterns.

tree bark, ponderosa pine, forest

I find that landscape photographs are often best when there are lines that take you through the frame.  The southwestern US has many locations with powerful lines.

Escalante, Utah, canyon, desert varnish, gottatakemorepix

The canyons near Escalante, Utah streaked with desert varnish, or the twisted sandstone of the Vermillion Cliffs are just two examples of that.

Vermillion Cliffs, National Parks, Arizona, desert, sandstone, Steve Bruno

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: MM 204

I find cacti to be amazing plants in their ability to grow in the harsh conditions of the deserts of the world.  The defense system of these cacti, their needles, come in a variety of lengths and clusters.  Although it’s often just a painful nuisance for man, the needles are designed to keep out birds and animals that would take interest in one of these plants.  Generally speaking, large cacti have large needles and smaller cacti have smaller needles.  I have seen smaller cacti with large needles, but never large cacti with small needles.  Most often, they are spread across in a bit of a random pattern, but occasionally can be symmetrical as though computer designed.  If a cactus looks as though it might be soft and fuzzy, it’s probably the worst kind to get near.  Take for example, the one below whose pads look like potato chips.  It’s called a Funny Bunny, and might rank as one of the worst names ever for a plant.  One graze against this plant will leave dozens, or possibly hundreds of microscopic needles in your skin.  I know of one person who transported one on a breezy day and ended up in the hospital that evening having needles removed from his eyes.  Nothing funny about this one.

The top photo 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.

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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

WPC: Rise/Set

I’ve seen many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, with most of those happening in Arizona and New Mexico.  Many times I have been in exquisite surroundings, only to have a faint hint of color, or to have the color burst through in a different part of the sky than I was hoping for.  There have only been a couple occasions where the entire sky has lit up and I’ve been in an excellent spot to capture it.  This was one of those moments from Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona.

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM 192

Most visitors to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon see the forests of the Kaibab Plateau upon entering and exiting the park.  The plateau drops off sharply on either side, and much of the land north of the Grand Canyon is vast, wide open desert.  On one of my trips to the west side of the plateau, I set out across the desert, mostly following one wash.  Above one side of the wash, I found this lonely boulder with an opening beneath it, and the late afternoon sun perfectly highlighting the grasses and other textures beneath it.

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.

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