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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

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

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-11

For this week’s Monochrome Madness, the theme is wild.  I have been to several places so remote, not even the governing agencies could answer my inquiries as to trail conditions or water reliability.  And although these remote places are seldom seen by people, images captured there may not necessarily reflect the feelings of isolation.

Bryce Canyon, the location of my photo, has spots that you can hike to that will give you a feeling of being in a wilderness, but most of the trails will have you hiking side-by-side with a bunch of strangers.  Despite that, it is still the wildest looking place I have ever been to.  This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, visit her website.

WPC: Solitude

When I first started venturing out on photographic journeys, I felt solitude almost immediately upon leaving the city.  Unless it was a holiday weekend.  Nowadays, finding a quiet space seems a little more difficult, but not impossible.  There are still places where I can hear the pulsing of a hawk’s wings, or a lizard moving upon the sands, or just plain silence.

WPC: Ambience

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge of Ambience, I tried to think of one place that captures the mood of the southwestern deserts.  Monument Valley, in the heart of the Navajo Indian Reservation, tops my list.  As with any location that is highly visited, there is the tackiness that comes with tourism.  But spend a day in this valley, and seek out moments of solitude.  If you happen to be here when the rains come through, you might be rewarded with sunsets like this.

WPC: Resilient

This is a very resilient world we live in, and the desert has many examples of that.  When I saw this week’s challenge, one of the first places I thought of was the White Rim in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.  It’s hard to fathom the resiliency in this pillar of sandstone which remains standing while everything around it has eroded away.  This formation was once part of a long isolated wall similar to those in the background, yet still standing after many thousands (or perhaps millions) of years.

WPC: Chaos

I try to avoid chaos in my photos, so this week’s Daily Post Challenge had me searching in vain, until I thought about it from a different angle.  Nowadays, millions of visitors flock to this place, but the first people to come here must have thought this was pure chaos.  Even though I had seen pictures before visiting, that was pretty much my first impression of Bryce Canyon NP in southern Utah.  Beautiful, intriguing chaos!

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