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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

 

 

 

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: 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’ location of Red Rock Canyon 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

 

 

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: 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.

Mid-week Mixings: Valentine’s Day Hearts & Kisses

As we approach Valentine’s Day, just a reminder to show those you love your appreciation.  We should be doing that everyday, anyway.

The heart shaped falls are from Hawaii, near Hilo.

The kissing rocks are from Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

Kissing Rocks - Steve Bruno

WPC: Beneath Your Feet

For this week’s challenge, I thought it would be easy to come across many photos fitting the category.  Emphasizing the foreground in landscape photography is one of the standard rules.  Moving in close doesn’t necessarily equate to showing what’s beneath your feet, however.
The featured image, taken in Yosemite National Park, is a location where everything was below my feet.  I had a great vantage point where three creeks came together, providing a different perspective on tumbling water.
At Bryce Canyon National Park, I usually prefer to hike down amongst the formations, but this has been a favorite from the rims.  I have often been asked where I was standing to get this one.  Since then, I think erosion has made this spot off limits.

Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno
Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno

Not far from Bryce, in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, I encountered these sandstone discs embedded in the ground, on edge.  This repetitive pattern was under my feet for some distance.

Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno
Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno

The Painted Desert was a well chosen name, which becomes more obvious when you see it after a rain.  These patterns were in a wash where the water was still standing in limited pockets.  A polarizer was used to remove the glare and allowed the color come through.

Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno
Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno

Getting down close to the ground was the best way to get photos of these little goslings, seen on one of my trips to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno
young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno

Most people are in disbelief when you tell them there is a great hiking trail right next to Interstate 10, which is arguably the most boring drive in the US.  Picacho Peak rises about 1500 feet above the surrounding desert, and on the back side there’s a stretch with very little earth beneath your feet.  Posts, cables and planks assist hikers in this steep section.  Thrillseekers expecting something along the lines of Spain’s El Caminito del Rey will be disappointed.

Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno
Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno

I know some people are big on taking foot-selfie’s wherever they go, but this is the only one I have.  From under one of Valley of Fire State Park’s largest arches, where I brought my friend and accomplished hiker, Dave.

Valley Of Fire Overlook-Steve Bruno
After the arch, Dave and I explored the large sandstone mass in the middle of the park, which I refer to as the park’s summit.  Along the way, we came across some interesting potholes and pools.  This one went down a short distance, then ejected from the small side canyon in the shaded area, upper left.  Nothing under his feet there, and as we walked this area, we could hear some areas that had a hollow sound underneath.

Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Another great place to check out what’s beneath your feet is Mount Charleston, just west of Las Vegas.  The red flowers are called Indian Paintbrush, and this is a squirrel’s perspective on them.

Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Also on the mountain you will come across both of Nevada’s state trees.  This one, the bristlecone pine, is characterized by distinct coloring and patterns, and can live to be 5000 years old.

The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.
The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.

At the base of Mount Charleston, there are thousands of joshua trees.  I wasn’t quite sure what was lurking under all that snow, however.  Rocks?  Bushes?  Frozen bunnies?

Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

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