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winter

Monochrome Madness: MM4-32

As we approach winter in the northern hemisphere, scenes like this should be common.  Instead, the nightly news talks about fires in California, and how the firefighters will be on the job until Christmas, and now perhaps until New Year’s Day.  Here’s hoping for rain and snow soon for our neighbors in California.

This image is from the Mammoth region of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and 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: MM3-38

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon can be miserably hot in the early parts of summer, so many people find it surprising how miserably cold it can be in winter.  As with many canyons of the southwest, snow doesn’t stick to the sheer walls, so the layers are accentuated by the snow.  Even in relatively flat light, this adds depth to the scene.  Photos taken when winter storms are in the clearing process are some of the most dramatic I’ve ever seen of the canyon, and the temps are usually tolerable at that point.  Watch out for the days following, when wind chill factors can make it feel like Canada.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-37

Last Saturday I had a chance to head out to our nearby mountains.  It had rained down here in the Las Vegas area the day before, and I thought there would be a good chance for some fresh snow higher up.  Even at an elevation of 8000′ there was only a dusting, yet the light up there made for photographs that didn’t disappoint.  I was heading back down when I came across this location.  I knew this was meant to be b&w, and this is straight out of the camera using the monochrome settings.  This is my last shot from 2016, and a nice way to finish the year.

You can find this photo, along with the work of others on Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness weekly posting. There are instructions on her website on how to participate, if you’d like.

WPC: State of Mind

On my first visit to Yellowstone National Park, I entered the park via the Beartooth Highway, on the northeast side.  When I started in the morning, it had been relatively sunny and warm, but by the time I reached the road’s summit, winter conditions prevailed.  This was in the 2nd week of July.

The snow had started to accumulate to at least a couple inches, and the clouds made visibility very poor.  This mountain road turns and climbs to an elevation well above treeline.  What I remember most was the lack of a guardrail, and the eerie bamboo poles stuck into the ground at the road’s edge – a guide for the plows to find the road when their time came.

I had been in 4wd, and I’m sure my top speed was no more than 25mph.  At one point I came across a fairly long section of straightaway and decided to test the braking ability ever so lightly.  As I did, I could feel there was no traction underneath and I started to slide a little towards the downhill side.  That was the last time I made any attempts at braking, and slowed my pace even further.  Although not a sheer cliff, the mountainside sloped downward at least 1000 feet, and if I rolled off, it would have been at least a day before anyone would have found me.  I found out later that the road was closed minutes after I started my ascent, which explained why I was the only one out there that day.

Upon descending back to the forested regions, I came across this small lake and pulled over.  By now, I was just glad to have something flat on the side of the road, and having that crazy drive over the mountain pass behind me.  I remember feeling so much more relaxed when I got out.  This scene, with the calm lake, and the storm clouds moving out, echoed my state of mind at the time.

Earth Day 2015

April 22nd is Earth Day, an idea originally started in 1970. It also marks the day that Ansel Adams passed away in 1984.  Adams was one of the greatest advocates for the environment and our role as stewards, so this post is a tribute to him.  The town of Kanab, Utah uses the slogan “Greatest Earth On Show”, which is hard to refute given its proximity to Zion, Bryce, and many other unique locations.  In keeping with Adams’ style my black and white photo comes from Zion National Park, Utah.

On the 45th anniversary of this day, I can’t help but think that we haven’t made very good progress as stewards of the earth.  Our rapidly growing population can only place more stress on resources that are already being pushed to their limits.  News stories abound about overfishing, forests being cleared or rapidly dying, greenhouse gas emissions, water shortages, etc.  I’m not sure if there is a more blatant example of our mismanagement of natural resources than China’s current water situation.  In their rush to industrialization, they have depleted thousands of rivers, and are now in an effort to channel water from the southern part of the country northward to the civilization centers.  Having lived in a desert for the better part of my life, the message has always been out there for water conservation.  I hope this crisis instills the same message to the Chinese.

It has taken many years for the problems facing us and our planet to build, and they won’t be going away overnight.  Perhaps a reminder like Earth Day will make us think about our daily decisions and any long-term ramifications.

Happy Earth Day!

More winter, please (winter can be beautiful)

Winter 2013

Those of you in the midwest and eastern U.S. would probably be glad to send winter our way. Here in the southwest, we’re struggling though another pitiful winter. The Chamber of Commerce probably loves it, and the news people deliver forecasts with cheerful expressions, but the reality is snowfall is our future water supply and our best hope against another disastrous summer wildfire season.

Last week I was flying to New Orleans and as our flight path took us over the Grand Canyon and northern New Mexico, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of snowfall on the ground. It’s late February, and these are places that should be under a couple feet of snow. Since my return, there has been one saving grace of a storm, and I can see snowfall on more than just the highest peaks around Las Vegas for perhaps the second time all winter.

As a photographer, I love the changing of the landscape as the winter storms pass through. In the lower elevations, we know it doesn’t last long, and timing can be critical to capture the event before it melts. When snow falls in the sandstone canyons, the contrast is usually spectacular. Last winter started out looking promising. A three day rain finally moved on and left the mountains dumped with snow.

The photo above, taken that next morning, is one of my favorites. I have never seen a snowfall here that left everything unrecognizable. I wasn’t sure if those were plants or rocks under all those bumps. I had periods of sunlight breaking through that morning, but the softer light under cloud cover was the best for this situation. I can only hope it’s not another year before I can capture winter’s transformation.

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