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Monochrome Madness: MM4-31

On my first full day on the big island of Hawaii this summer, I set out to return to some locations that I had visited my previous time there.  I hadn’t checked the weather before I set out, so I was unaware that a tropical storm was a couple hundred miles offshore.  The first place I stopped at was too wet to get out for pictures, and I thought the day might be a bust.  I was pleasantly surprised to drive a little further, and see drier conditions for another spot with fond memories.

I chose my first location cautiously because the waves were more robust than my last visit.  The area I picked didn’t have a single drop of water anywhere under my feet.  Nonetheless, I waited about 10 minutes and watched wave activity before unpacking the camera and tripod.  That first spot was on a ledge about 15 feet above ocean level, and the bigger waves splashed close to that height, but all towards the left.  I spent over half an hour there, getting some great stills and video.  Afterwards, I moved to some other areas along this point where the water was calm by comparison.

I thought I was almost done, but returned to the first spot, just slightly further back.  The contrast between the close rock formations and the ones slightly further, with occasional light splashes of water, gave me a different perspective.  I had my shutter release cable attached and my drive on high speed, because you never know what you might get with water splashing.  You can always delete the boring ones.

All I will say is that I heard this one coming.  Instinct told me to keep holding the shutter.  This is not a telephoto shot, but actually a bit of a wide angle lens.  Somewhere under all that airborne water is the spot I had been standing earlier.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  In the first week of the month, there is a theme, with this theme being up in the air.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.

WPC: Glow

When I saw the title for this week’s photo challenge, I immediately thought of some of the canyons I’ve visited.  The canyons of the southwestern US are great places to hike because there is often shade.  Because of the shade, light reaching the bottom is often reflected off higher sunlit walls, resulting in a warm glow.  In those canyons where water is present, the effect is magnified.

My photo comes from Zion National Park, Utah.  As sunrise lit up the high cliffs on a morning with clear blue skies, the North Fork of the Virgin River glowed from the light being cast onto it.

WPC: Scale

On my first trip to the big island of Hawaii, we had lucky timing with the volcanic activity.  The day before I took this photo, a lava tube broke, and all the lava was now running over the hillside instead of underneath it.  I wanted badly to get closer to this spectacle, but the viewing area was roped off, and there was a security patrol to make sure nobody went where they weren’t supposed to go.  Or so I thought.  The viewing area closed at 10 pm, and at 9:55, three men came walking from the other side of the rope and in plain sight of the guards.  None were wearing ranger uniforms, or showing anything indicating authority.  I remember thinking “Who are they, and how the hell were they allowed out there?”  I couldn’t make it back on this trip, so my thoughts of trying to figure out how to get past the rope were not going to make a difference anyway.

What you are looking at is not the source of the eruption.  There was so much lava coming down, that this was where it met the ocean, causing it to shoot up in the air 300-400 feet.  It was really hard to fathom the size of this event, and it wasn’t until I looked at the images blown up on the computer screen, that I saw that those men were in a couple of the frames providing a sense of scale.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-19

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.

WPC: Elemental

My recent trip to Hawaii provided me with the perfect shot for this weeks Daily Post Challenge of Elemental.  Earth, air, fire, and water are all there, but you can’t tell that the air is not exactly the best for you from this shot.  I probably could have gotten a little closer if this hadn’t been the downwind side.  I was fortunate to grab a couple shots before retreating to cooler non-toxic air.  In full size images enlarged on my screen, I can see the distortion from the heat.

Summer Daze

Nice to have some time to post again.  It’s my own fault – I told everyone that I wasn’t going to be available in July, so I’ve pretty much done 3 months work in the last 6 weeks.  I haven’t been hiking or touched my camera for non-assignment work in 2 months.  Thank God it’s July!

Summer usually doesn’t take its time getting to the desert.  This was one of the most comfortable springs on record, but late June doesn’t hold its punches.  Record and near record highs occurred for several consecutive days.  During this time I happened to be listening to local news when they were talking about people coming to visit here and specifically, Death Valley, to experience the intense heat.

To those of you thinking of visiting for that reason – don’t!  There’s a much simpler solution.  Instead, turn your oven on to about 200 degrees.  (Disclaimer: I don’t know who might be reading this, and don’t want to be contacting my attorney, so electric ovens only, not gas).  Next, kneel in front of the oven with your face towards it, ensuring that your head recoils in reaction to the blast of heat.  This is what all of us desert dwellers feel every time we step out of our air-conditioned cars and homes in late afternoon this time of year.

If that’s not enough discouragement, don’t visit here for the sake of the earth and our children.  Jets fly on less fuel when they’re not carrying as much weight, and the car you’re not renting won’t be putting emissions into the air.  Furthermore, you can take some of the money you’ll be saving and donate it to an environmental program that will prevent temperatures from reaching 125 degrees in the future.

For those of you wishing to visit for sane reasons, come on down!  The heat wave is gone for now, and it’s almost pleasant again (in the mornings).  It will be 103 to 108 every day for the foreseeable future, but most of those days won’t be hot (that’s according to the National Weather Service, see below).

 

Summer Temps

Day Trip Through Hill Country

While in Texas recently, I had a chance to get away for a day to see if that state had anything to offer this nature photographer.  I have been to the Guadalupe Mountains in the far western portion of the state, but much of what I’ve seen has been flat and unphotogenic.  My previous most favorable impression of Texas has been the best night sky viewing I’ve seen anywhere.

I had heard about the hill country near Austin and San Antonio, so that’s where I was determined to explore.  A cold front blew through the day before, with tornadic activity in the northern part of the state, but I was left with blue skies for the day.  Although I prefer clouds and softer light for my photos, I wasn’t going to complain with temperatures that barely hit 70, and almost no humidity.

I tried to research places to check out, but really didn’t see any photos that made stop and say, “Wow, I have to visit there”!  I was really disappointed that many of these places didn’t open until 8am.  With a sunrise at 6:30, that meant I was going to miss the best light of the morning.  My first stop was Guadalupe River State Park.  It really wasn’t a planned stop, but the sign said 3 miles, so it seemed a waste not to visit.  The river is wider than I expected in this mostly arid environment, with a beautiful green hue to the water.  Mostly I was charmed with the older trees along the banks and their beautiful exposed root system.  The tiniest of clouds passed briefly in front of the sun, showing me a glimpse of how this place would photograph under softer conditions.  That was just a tease, and I did manage a couple photos before realizing it was time to move on.

River 02

My next stop was Cave Without A Name.  This was a planned stop.  There are other caves in the region, but the remoteness made me think I would have a little quieter visit.  There were just 5 of us in our little tour, and the staff was very friendly.  I expected the usual stalagmites and stalactites that are common to caves, but there were features called “bacon strips” that seemed pretty unusual, and my favorite “the alien”.

Cave 05

Cave 04

Cave 01

Cave 03

I spent more time there than I had anticipated, but given the fact that above ground was midday lighting conditions, that didn’t seem to matter.  I was definitely glad with this choice for a visit.  Upon my drive out I saw a sign for a local county park.  Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area is on the Guadalupe River, and seemed like a nice place for a picnic, but given the fact that I had stopped previously along this river, and the sun was now too high, I kept my visit brief.  I was planning to stop next at Enchanted Rock, but the people at the cave told me it was a popular area and might be closed due to crowd size already.  The fact that they didn’t stay open until sunset just reinforced my feeling that this would have to wait for another trip.

After a late lunch stop, I was headed off to my last scouted location, Pedernales Falls State Park.  Although none of the photos I had seen had a wow factor, the staff at Cave Without A Name said I would enjoy this place.  They were absolutely correct.  As I was driving through hill country, I realized I was at the tail end of the spring flower season, but there were still a few left, including these within the park.

Pollination

Flowers

My biggest surprise was the overall size of the place and volume of water.  These are not tremendous falls, but a series of cascades all distinct from each other.

Falls 01

Falls 02

As I said, the volume of water was not what I expected after the photos I had seen online, and this river has perhaps the best infinity pools I have ever seen.  This is the moment I was really wishing for clouds.

Infinity Pools

There were still a few people around at this point, but not too many.  I think this allowed the wildlife to feel at ease returning to the water.  The park’s website lists heron and vultures as part of the permanent inhabitants.  Even with the telephoto lens, the vultures I saw were too far away to really recognize, but this heron put itself in the most perfect spot to be photographed.  The bird was aware of my presence, so I kept my distance until I had many shots that I liked.  When I took a couple steps closer, I was able to capture its takeoff.

Crane

Falls 03

With that, I was just waiting for the sun to get to the horizon for the soft light I needed for my favorite part of the falls.

Falls 08

Falls 05

Monochrome Madness: MM3-50

Mesa Verde National Park is one of the best preserved examples of the Ancestral Puebloan culture that once thrived in the American Southwest.  More commonly referred to as Anasazi, which is a Navajo term meaning “enemy ancestor”, these people created structures which were the largest in North America until Europeans settled here and industrialization began.  This civilization vanished around 700 years ago, and experts have various opinions as to how this happened.  A major climate shift started in the mid 1100’s with multiple periods of drought, and would have severely impacted the food supply.  There is also evidence of warfare which may have occurred with nomadic groups.

My photo is of Cliff Palace, the largest of the ruins at Mesa Verde, and is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, which had the theme this week of culture.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.

WPC: It’s Not This Time Of Year Without…

…some travelling.  For many people, getting together with family involves a trip through the air, and airports can be ridiculously crowded from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.  For me, I always seem to be on the move for work this time of year, and a TSA pre-check was an early Christmas gift to myself recently.

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