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Valley Of Fire State Park

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

WPC: Out Of This World

I think flying over the desert provides the best out of this world perspectives, and I wrote about that previously.  For this week’s challenge, I couldn’t help but think of my muse, Valley Of Fire State Park.  I love to explore here for all its intricate, often other-worldy details.

The wall of caves (above) would be mildly interesting, but then there’s all those smaller holes worn in behind them.  Then you have the layers of sandstone with all those colors bleeding through, all combining to make this a very strange place.  I call this one “psychedelic sandstone”.

Valley Of Fire, Nevada, cave, red rock

In some of the caves you can crawl inside, where textures and patterns all come to life when the sunlight comes bouncing in.

Valley Of Fire, Nevada, red rock, sandstone, gottatakemorepix

One of the most unique features I’ve ever seen here is this rib of sandstone, appearing as a leg with a pointed shoe.  For obvious reasons, I call this one “walking sandstone”.

WPC: Variations On A Theme

Incorporating the sun into a landscape photo can present many undesirable effects, unless you have the right conditions.  It usually comes down to having the right clouds.  If that isn’t happening, you can use a foreground element to partially block the sun.  In the case of the photo above, there was a heavy overcast sky which just allowed enough of the sun to come through over Valley Of Fire State Park, Nevada.  This is my submission to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  This is also my post for this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Variations on a theme.

Another shot from Valley Of Fire that includes the sun was this one through an arch.  There was another small opening in the rock, and I positioned myself to a spot where the sun was just catching the edge of the rock.  This was a matter of inches in either direction for getting the sunburst I wanted, or getting full blown sun flare.

sun, sunburst, desert, red rocks, valley of fire, nevada, steve bruno

With decent optics, and just a little bit of time in editing, there are times you don’t need anything to filter the sun out at all.

 

Morning Sun Black Sand Beach Hawaii

Sometimes, I’ve gotten lucky, and the perfect cloud has moved into place.  This photo from the Grand Canyon was one of those moments.  The cloud was just large enough to block the sun for about 10 seconds – all I needed.

sunset, grand canyon, national parks, arizona, gottatakemorepix, steve bruno

Of course, there was nothing like the film days, and being able to stop down to f/64 or f/90 with a large format lens.  I think there might have been a little humidity in the air to help this one, too.

sunrise, ozarks, missouri, gottatakemorepix

WPC: Favorites

Back when I shot with a large-format view camera, I would certainly agree with Mr. Adams.  Now that I use a camera that can shoot hundreds of frames in a day, oddly enough, I still agree.

I spent time in Hawaii this summer, and I’m sure I have twelve photographs that I like from just the first couple days.  When I look at all of the images I have captured this year, and try to envision those which I will still cherish years from now, the process of choosing twelve became clearer.  My time in nature was limited this year, but I made those moments count.  In some situations I had similar lighting or compositions where I couldn’t really define one shot as a clear favorite, but in the end, I think I’m very happy with these 12.

I don’t own a drone, but I love taking photos from airplanes.  This photo from over White Sands, New Mexico looks amazing at full size, with all the dunes at the edge looking like bubbling foam.

aerial photography, desert, dunes, White Sands, New Mexico, Steve Bruno

My ‘backyard’ locations of Red Rock Canyon or Valley Of Fire didn’t see me as much as in years past, yet I had plenty of images which made the A list.

sunrise, Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

rainwater pools, Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada, Steve Bruno

reflection, Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada, Steve Bruno

natural windows, sandstone, Valley Of Fire, Nevada, Steve Bruno

natural arch, desert, Valley Of Fire, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

A little further out, but still in Nevada, I captured many satisfactory images in a short time at Cathedral Gorge.  I had no trouble picking a favorite, however.

sunset, desert, Cathedral Gorge, Nevada, gottatakemorepix

Oregon was another place I spent some time last summer.  Although the trip was mainly for a family gathering, I had time afterwards to head to the trails in the Columbia River Gorge.

waterfalls, Oregon, Columbia River Gorge, Steve Bruno

As I mentioned earlier, Hawaii was part of my travels this year, and gave me many great photo opportunities.  My time on the lava fields at sunset certainly stands out as one of my favorite experiences, not just for this year, but for a lifetime.

 

Pacific Ocean, cliffs, Hawaiiold growth forest, Hawaii, trees, gottatakemorepixwaves, lava, Hawaii, Pacific Ocean, Steve Brunolava flow, Hawaii, sunset, gottatakemorepix

 

WPC: Cheeky

I thought this week’s Daily Post Challenge of Cheeky would be one I would have to pass on, but yesterday I was going through some folders and came across this shot.  From a couple months ago during my last trip to Valley Of Fire, I encountered a few of the bighorn sheep.  At first glance, it looks as though it is sticking its tongue out at me, as though taunting and saying, “You want to take my picture….I don’t think so!”

WPC: Textures

I always try to find elements of texture for my photo subjects, so searching through photos with that theme in mind wasn’t so difficult.  One photo stood out for me because of its combination of textures.  From my muse, Valley Of Fire, is a photo that includes two distinct layers of sandstone, a sandy wash, and one of the most textured skies I’ve ever seen.

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Textures

WPC: Unusual

A solar eclipse will occur across much of the United States next month, but I will not be there to witness it.  I was in Oregon last week, where the eclipse will be cutting a path across the middle of the state.  While the occurrence of a total eclipse is very unusual, I’m not expecting this to look any different in photographs from previous ones.

Not very long ago, there were four Blood Moon eclipses in a relatively short period of time.  I photographed the first one within the city boundaries, but was most excited about the last one because it was happening shortly after the moon rose for the night, thus making it close to the horizon.  I had some locations in mind at the nearby Valley Of Fire State Park, as did several other photographers.  Sporadic cloud cover looked as though it might ruin our viewing out there, but as the eclipse was nearing totality, I think they actually helped my first photo as it was passing through an arch (above).  I had to find a different arch for the totality of the eclipse, and the clouds cooperated in the desert night.

For the Daily Post Challenge: Unusual

Blood Moon inside arch at VOF by Steve Bruno

Monochrome Madness: MM3-26

Last week I had a chance to return to my muse, Valley of Fire State Park.  I had planned to be there for the first light of sunrise, but an accident on the highway had everybody crawling along for a while…before 6am.  When I arrived at the park, the clouds had incredible depth and the first wave of color was ablaze.  The fact that I arrived late turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  My plan was to capture the sunrise further into the park, but I explored in this area instead.  I had been near this small arch before, but never stepped into this spot.  It’s rare when I can’t decide if I prefer a photograph in color or b&w, but I love this shot both ways.  Image captured with in-camera hdr, then simple conversion to b&w.

The color original:

small arch in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno at gottatakemorepix

This is my addition to Monochrome Madness this week on Leanne Cole’s site.  See what others have posted here.

WPC: Details

Since I primarily take photographs of nature, my detail shots are mostly in the form of plant life.  Even if I lived somewhere besides the desert, I think I would still be fascinated with cacti.  Sometimes they’re shaped bizarrely, sometimes perfectly symmetrical.  And when you move in close (but not too close) they provide elaborate details.  Most would be vulnerable to damage from insects, birds, and animals if it weren’t for the defense mechanisms – all those thorns.

While many of you live in climates where flowers thrive, we are provided with only a limited showing of those.  Even in the driest of years, when the rest of the desert is stingy with blossoms, the cactus bloom.

Cactus Flower Closeup - Steve Bruno

Trees are the other guaranteed bloomers around here, such as this redbud from nearby Red Rock Canyon.

Redbud Tree in spring, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

In bloom or not, trees can be fascinating subjects, such as this one from Hawaii with a very entangled root system, or this detail of a bristlecone pine tree.

 

In the southwest, details of canyon walls can make for good photos, such as this one of cross-bedded sandstone in Valley of Fire State Park, or this etched detail in Fletcher Canyon.

 

When I think of detailed shots, the first thing that comes to mind are close-up or macro images.  But sometimes, there are landscapes that have so much going on, that it’s hard to not just look for all the details.  This one is from Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada.

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Textures in eroded clay and sand in Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.

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