Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fruitful Exploration

We've been having unseasonably warm and clear weather here in Southern California the last few weeks... clear blue skies every day, no recent snow and therefore nothing much of interest to shoot up here in the mountains. My work comes to a complete stop between Christmas and New Year's anyway, so I opened the gallery for a few days during the week, but that got really slow also around mid week and I decided to take Thursday off and go exploring for some new shooting locations.
Using Google Earth (my favorite scouting tool), I noticed this area about 50 miles from where I live that I have never heard of before and it looked like a decent possibility to be the kind of place that I enjoy to shoot, so I decided to take little drive down to the flatlands and check it out. It was the one day of the whole week that I thought I saw a hint of some clouds in the sky, or honestly, I probably wouldn't have bothered to even take a camera with me.
I didn't really expect to do any serious work.. I would have been happy just to look around, take some reference shots and come back at a better time, but the light and sky actually came together nicely in the late afternoon, the place was almost totally deserted (of people, but LOTS of birds), the weather was a pleasant 80°(!) and being winter, there were no bugs, which I suspect are unbearable during the warmer season, seeing as this is a partly natural, partly man-made wetland area...
I ended up staying and working until well after sunset and to my surprise managed to produce some pretty  good stuff.  Definitely a worthwhile find.. if I was just passing by the area and didn't know about it beforehand, there is no way I would ever spot it from the main roads. Nice that there was a still a Fall-ish feel to the place this late in the season, I found quite a bit of color still in the trees as you can see. And, it's definitely a bird watcher's paradise. For those of you in the SoCal area, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area is just NW of Hemet, next to Lake Perris in the town of Lakeview.
BTW, Happy New Year to all the great people who stop by here throughout the year and especially those regulars who always take time to comment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Texture Riot in the Rainforest

I made quite a few nice additions to my waterfall collection while up in the Olympic Peninsula. Without checking my notes (there were so many), I recall that this one is called Merryman Falls... one of quite a few found around the Lake Quinault area. My point of interest here was not so much about the falls itself, but the crazy lushness and detail of the rainforest in the surrounding scene.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sol Duc Falls

Getting back to the Olympic Peninsula for a few more:
This is one of the best known falls in the area.  I was kind of disappointed with the light after hiking up here... even though the forest cover was quite heavy, the blue sky and bright sun were enough to spoil the colors for me at the time we were here.. ideally, it would be a more typical rainy, wet and foggy day which would create the proper atmosphere and color.. but you have to deal with it when you only have one chance.  So, in this case, a monochrome approach to the scene still shows off the falls and the textures of the forest while eliminating the harsh mid-day colors. If you check the expanded view carefully, you can just make out a guy standing on the bridge, for a sense of scale. The water splits into 3 streams as you can see, then flows down through the gorge under the bridge. Amazing that they are flowing this fast, even in the "dry" season.
Although you hardly see it anymore, scenery like this in beautiful, rich black and white (by Paul Caponigro) were exactly what got me interested in photography in the first place, more than 35 years ago....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sky Watch: Sea of Clouds, II

Today's Sky Watch is another interpretation of the scene in my previous post.  A good example, I think, of how extremely different the same thing can look from different points of view (not just in photography, I might add:)  This one was shot from exactly the same spot and at the same time, but this time directly into the sun and with a short telephoto lens to bring the clouds and ridge closer together. Shooting at the sun (with my hand extended as a shade) caught these beautiful, fiery highlights on the fast moving wisps of cloud rushing across the scene just below the ridge.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Sea of Clouds

An interesting part of living at 6000' elevation is that the weather sometimes approaches from BELOW, rather than above, as you might normally expect. San Jacinto is a nearly 11,000' mountain island, surrounded by desert on the east and rolling, semi-arid hill country to the west.  Especially as we get into winter, that can create some spectacular effects.  Driving home from town the other day, I noticed this perfect sea of clouds extending as far as the eye could see, from just below where we live... all the way out to the ocean, 100 miles to the west. As soon as I got home, I grabbed a camera and ran up the street to my favorite sunset lookout spot... an outcropping of granite boulders on the side of a ridge just near our house.
I'll have a completely different, and I think more dramatic, interpretation of the scene next.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

SkyWatch: Ruby Beach Twilight

I don't know how it works for everyone else, but for myself, out of every session, trip, or grouping of shots, there is always THE ONE that stands out and seems to have a life of it's own. This is the winner from my Olympic trip in September. Of course I got quite a few perfectly decent, printable images, but they all seem a little second-tier compared to this one, which is already framed and hanging in the prime spot in my gallery. I very rarely get stuff up that quickly; I'm still printing stuff from several years ago that I have never finished and hung.
I arrived here at Ruby Beach an hour or so before sunset, pleased to see that the cold, heavy fog from earlier in the day had disappeared.  Wandering around and exploring different angles as the sun went down, I eventually worked my way behind and slightly above this glassy pool of water reflecting the sky and the sea stacks. Suddenly, the wonderful abstract design of the scene became apparent to me... and it only got better and better until well after sunset, when the soft glow of twilight brought out the best colors and the perfectly silent mood.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sky Watch: Driftwood Sunset

Another view of some huge driftwood on the beach, this time on a rare clear evening at sunset.  For most of the time I spent in this area, the beaches were totally fogged in, so this was a pleasant break.  This spot is known as Second Beach and is just near the little native american fishing town of La Push.  I have a pretty funny shot of about 30 or so photographers all shooting on this beach at the same time.. I think there was some workshop or something going on this particular day. You have to walk almost a mile through the forest to get here, so I was a bit surprised, but on second thought it IS known as probably the most photogenic beach in Washington and it seems like quite a few people choose to stay and camp out overnight when the weather is good.  It lived up to it's reputation for beauty on this evening.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More from the Fungi Dept.

Again in the Hoh Rainforest: Don't know what kind of mushrooms these are, but I would guess maybe not the edible kind! I thought the decaying log and moss would be an attractive subject in themselves, but the little grouping of mushrooms in the foreground definitely adds an area of contrast and that specific, attention grabbing point of interest that is so important.
I probably shot more of the color green in one week here, than I have in the last ten years combined:)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Colorful Contrast

Driving on the main road into Hoh Rain Forest, this colorful fungus stood out so much from the background of the dark woods, that it caught my eye even from the car.  I made a mental note (as I often do) but didn't stop at the time.  Some days later I had kind of forgotten it, when we passed the same spot again with the same result, so on our way back out the second time, I finally stopped and and took a few exposures. Bright sunlight filtered through the thick growth of forest provided the natural highlights, which I think gives this scene that little extra bit of interest. Although I was fighting the "hot" sun spots a lot in other locations because of the clear weather, totally flat lighting on this one wouldn't have been as good.
In a week's worth of driving and hiking through lots of forest, I never saw another one anything like this.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Whole Lotta Wood

I suppose everyone has been to the beach somewhere and seen some pieces of driftwood here and there. I had never seen anything even close to this before. Seems like anywhere there is an outlet to the sea from one of the many rivers flowing out of the Olympic mountains, the surrounding beaches are littered with great fields of dead wood washed down from the forests inland... and I am talking thousands and thousands of *huge* chunks as well as nearly whole trees. Sometimes it takes some minutes to get through it just to reach what's left of the beach. I'm afraid none of my pictures really does justice to the scale of it; I was more concerned at the time with climbing over it.
Click the image for an enlarged view and you'll get a better sense of size.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SkyWatch: Kalaloch Sunset

An off-hand shot from our Olympic Peninsula trip, taken on my iPhone:-o. Yes, further proof that being in the right place at the right time (and realizing it) is always step #1, before concerns about equipment.  That said, shame on me for not appreciating a potentially great shot and being too lazy to walk a few feet back to our car and haul out my regular gear. Thing is, it was cold and windy and I was kind of tired after a long day:( Because of that, I'm afraid this one will never make it to the gallery wall, except as a framed mini-print or maybe as a greeting card. Other than the horizontal crop, image is straight out of my camera/phone as-shot, with the handy "HDR" feature turned on.
Taken literally 50 ft. from the exact location in my previous post, at Kalaloch beach (pronounced "clay-lock"), in far western Washington. Different day, different time of day... during a rest stop on the way back to our lodge near La Push, after spending a day around Lake Quinault to the south. You'll notice on closer look, that the sun in the moment captured here is actually setting behind an off-shore fog bank (which most nights was not so "off-shore"). Click for a larger view, and I'll talk later about the amazing fields of giant driftwood that you get a taste of in this scene.
"Kalaloch", in the native Quinault language, means something along the lines of "sheltered landing" or "canoe launch place"..I guess you can see why.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back From the Wild Northwest

I just returned from a long-planned trip up to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, with it's rain forests, waterfalls and gorgeous beaches. So I should, at last, have a flurry of new work to show over the next few weeks.
We had been to the area only once before briefly on the way to Canada, so it was a little familiar, but my wife and I have wanted for years to spend some real time exploring up there.  We made sure to stay in a central location that would allow access to the whole peninsula each day without having to change lodgings all the time, and I think that worked out pretty well.  The weather was not quite as cooperative as I would have hoped.. we had clear blue skies inland most days (who would have thought, in this most rainy part of the country) until the last two days, and that made shooting in the rainforest a little difficult.. lots of hot spots from the sun in the otherwise deep shade; then the opposite with heavy fog at the ocean, some nights so thick that you couldn't even see the water from a few feet away.  But, hey, that's nature for you.  All in all we had a great time and I did manage to catch some good new material... and very different subject matter for me. The whole area has such a different vibe to it, compared to the desert and mountain scenery that I usually work with here in the southwest corner.
The above shot is right near the ocean at Kalaloch...(can you tell where the ocean is, based on the shape of the trees?).. it was a very foggy shot as exposed, and that was my intention, but with a little contrast boost while playing around, most of the fog disappeared and I kind of prefer the detail in the main tree now with just a hint of fog around the edges. Experimenting with different interpretations is always the most fun part for me.. also, this one may well end up with in monochrome.. after a quick look I like it that way too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Long Time, No See...

Yep, I'm still here. And wow, it sure gets easy to put off posting once you get out of the habit of doing it on a regular basis.. before you know it, one or two months have gone by.
My regular commercial work and now,  running the new gallery, are conspiring to keep me from getting outdoors to shoot, but that should change in September, since my wife and I have booked a week-long trip to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington right after Labor Day... I hope to spend a lot of time photographing the lush, green rain forest and uniquely beautiful beaches up there.  That should certainly generate some interesting new work and will be kind of a fresh subject matter for me, which is always nice.

A couple of weeks ago, my old friend (from art school days, back in the '70's.. a long time!) stopped by here for a few days with his family, while on a north-south tour of California, visiting various family and friends along the way. He teaches art now at a private school in western Massachusetts, where we both grew up, and is a really fine plein-air painter... he works at that a lot during the summers while he is off from teaching. He of course wanted me to show off some of my favorite local scenes so he could take a stab at painting them and on the one session that I hung around while he was working, I couldn't resist to wander up the stream and do some studies with my trusty iPhone while killing time. Of course the quality is not there for any kind of printing, but it's sometimes fun to just shoot carefree with no tripod and no worries about quality... and see what you can see.

Since I don't have any new stuff right now and haven't had the inspiration to dig up and talk about anything already in the can, I thought I'd post a few of these just for a hoot.  All here shot with my phone. Notice the detail in the shadow area of the first one below. The iPhone has a pretty nifty HDR capability built right in; it takes two exposures, then blends them right in-camera and it works quite well... I actually had to tone it down some to make it look natural. I expect most digital cameras will have this feature in the near future.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Making Progress

As suspected, no chance at all to go out and shoot new stuff recently, but our gallery here in Idyllwild is really taking shape, though still some final setup work to do.  Then, we can turn our attention to marketing and promotion... the most important stuff.  We did manage to get the doors open this past holiday weekend and will have an official opening reception in 2 weeks, after we take care of all the details. Meanwhile, some "Before" and "After" pics so that you can see that I've not been just goofing off recently:)
So far, we have gone from this:

To this:

After installing all-new lighting, painting the walls, refinishing the wood and cleaning the tile, we've got a nice little space going, I think. The walls are all mine, (love it!), and then sculptor Norman Deesing has the floor (yes, he is almost an exact double of a certain well known actor:).. We also found a fine collection of classic native-american silver and turquoise jewelry to provide some smaller choices and it complements the larger works beautifully. Join us on Facebook at "Earthlight Gallery", for news and updates.
Probably my next update here will be regarding the grand opening and then I'll hopefully get back to generating some new work...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

One More From the Foggy Forest... and Some News.

The third, and probably the last one from this series, at least for now.  Somehow I'm picturing this set of images as large, contemporary stretched-canvas prints, probably soon to be seen on the walls of my new gallery.  Which bring us to the "some news" part...
Ever since we moved here from the city a year ago, it has been a goal to have my own permanent space to show and sell in. (Setting up outdoors at art shows is fun, but LOTS of work and hard to do consistently, while showing in a large gallery among dozens of other artists is less than ideal for sales.)  I didn't want to do this right away last year, because I knew we needed some time to get resettled and there was lots of other work to do on the house, etc., but this spring, the right space, at the right price just kind of popped up. Also, I was lucky enough to find a motivated and talented partner (a sculptor-who only needs floor space, as opposed to my needing only wall space, so that's perfect) to help out and share the expense. It's a fairly small space for now until we see how it goes, but there are neighboring spaces that will be available in the future for expansion if we can make it work. Selling artwork even in the best of times is tricky and with the economy still shaky, there are no guarantees of success, but I am excited to give it a try anyway. Idyllwild is known as a destination for it's galleries and art... and with the busy summer tourist season coming, we should be able to do o.k.
I'll be tied up with planning and setup for the next few weeks, (we want to open for the July 4 weekend), so I may not be posting any new work for a while (probably not SHOOTING any new work for a while either:), but I'll try to keep the blog updated with our progress on this new project.  Stay tuned:) 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And It Gets Thicker...

The second in my "Foggy Forest" grouping.  The soft transition from detailed foreground to the misty background gives it an especially watercolor-like style that I always like to see.  It's really nice to compose under these conditions because the background is so easily abstracted and free of distracting details. Walking past this spot yesterday evening, I noticed that there are quite a few wildflowers blooming now that would have been a nice accent.. too bad I was a few days early.. not likely to get this opportunity again before they are gone, at least for this year.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Foggy Forest Evening

This scene - and a few more similar ones upcoming - have been in my head for literally months now, but obviously it required some very specific conditions: late afternoon light, thick fog, and preferably little or no rain (which makes it very difficult or impossible to shoot, unless you have someone there to hold an umbrella for you).  So, I finally got my opportunity this week and spent a busy hour shooting like crazy out in the foggy, wet forest one early evening after several previous days of rain.  Shooting fog is tricky, because the contrast that you see with your eyes is sometimes so different than what the camera sees; some shots that feel fantastic at the moment don't do anything when you look at them later, but others that didn't seem so dynamic in the field look great when you get to processing them. When you hit it just right, the sense of depth and deep, saturated colors can really work well.  I got a dozen or so pretty good frames in about an hour of work; probably two or three will make it as prints at some point... not a bad day's work.  I have a few more of these in the pipeline.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Granite Swirl

Another from a recently processed batch.. I probably shot this back in early December, I don't recall exactly. This is on film, so no EXIF data.. guess I should get back in the habit of taking notes:)
There are quite a few small waterfalls on the numerous streams in my area, but I've never seen one like this, carved right into solid granite.  I'm especially pleased because I found this one completely on my own.. no one told me about it and I've never seen a picture of it, which is kind of surprising.  I had no idea there was even a stream here, let alone this nice fall, until I pulled over and parked one day to explore some rock formations and noticed sound of the stream. Following the water down a ways, I came across this.  I shot a few variations because the shape is so unique, but this is my favorite so far.. maybe I will post a couple more, to see if one gets more reaction than the others.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Some Old New Stuff

I'm just now getting around to processing a bunch of work that has been sitting (literally) in my fridge since December/January, on several rolls of film that I shot back then. So, no, we didn't just get a sudden spring snow up here, although we're not necessarily "out of the woods" for the possibility of more snow just yet:)  Unlike the instant gratification you get with digital, film is a much slower process (at least for me).. I honestly kept forgetting to get these rolls processed for the past several months.
Our property is less than 100 yds. from the edge of the national forest, so I can walk right out the font door and into the deep woods anytime I want, where there is always lots of great photographic subject matter if you know where to look.  This particular spot is just a five minute walk from my house and I pass by here all the time on my evening walks, but it's normally nothing spectacular... just a little stream trickling down through the pines and cedars. On this particular day, after a foot and a half of fresh snow, it was pretty spectacular. I had some very cold hands and wet feet after a day of stomping around out here , but it was worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sky Watch: Arizona Evening

I've pretty much finished going through and editing down my catalog, selecting and annotating images, to get it all organized and presentable for my rebuilt website.  It's finally up and running here at:  The nice thing about it (and the main reason for the rebuild) is the integrated shopping cart and ordering system, which works really smoothly and easily on the front end (what visitors see) AND the back end, where I can manage and update everything so easily behind the scenes.
I looked around for quite a long time to find a hosting service that met my needs for professional quality design; easy to manage, self-fulfilled e-commerce (I do all my own printing); and slick, Flash-free presentation. PhotoShelter was the only one I found that has it all... short of a prohibitively expensive scratch-built site. I think it has a really clean, organized and interactive presentation that invites exploration and that's what I wanted.  Looking ahead, I will continue to add, subtract and reorganize, I'm sure... but I think it's pretty presentable from this point. Please check it out if you get a few minutes.
Since I've been spending so much time going through my archives and adjusting past work, this week's Sky Watch was actually done a couple of years back, at Monument Valley in NE Arizona. Only at sunrise and sunset do you get these beautiful deep desert colors of blue, purple and salmon. This is one of the iconic "Mitten" formations, seen in the setting sun's low angle light. Check out the Sky Watch page every weekend for interesting skies from all around the world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SkyWatch: "Winter's Swell"

I guess I tend to have a one-track mind... I'm still working at sorting and editing my entire catalog and therefore just haven't had much energy for writing on the blog or visiting around. It's good though that I am reworking a lot of old stuff with a fresh eye and eliminating a bunch of images that never were quite right.  I haven't been out to shoot at all for several weeks, partly because of this and partly because we've been getting a lot of snow on the mountain and it's been a chore just to stay mobile.
This one was made last winter while we were still living at the coast.  I spent an afternoon pretty much just sitting on some rocks and shooting the huge waves of a winter swell. The light got really strange and interesting reflecting off the water towards the end of the day, producing this nicely abstract effect of the water and sky blending together. I've caught this blue and gold effect several times and I really like it. The power and dynamics of the ocean are fascinating to watch when it's this active, but hard to capture just at the right moment... really just have to shoot a lot and hope for the best:)
Visit the Sky Watch home page every week for great skies and nature images from all over the world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Autumn Eye Candy

I've been really involved with the reconstruction of my main web site and probably will be for a few more weeks, but at last I'm making some good progress after finally deciding on the design and functions that I want. Designing stuff for myself is always way harder than doing it for someone else, and if things remain a little slow here at the blog, now you know why... getting out to shoot is kind of on hold until I get this project to a certain point.
It's also a useful process in another way, because it's forcing me to go back through each and every image (a huge task) and re-evaluate all of them, edit out some of the less than ideal ones from my "official" collection, and create comments and keywords for the rest, to make everything search-engine friendly. Self-editing is difficult, but I think very important.. no one at any level creates a perfect gem every time and knowing when to say "nope... not quite good enough" is tough.  Anyway, when it's far enough along that I'm comfortable for people to see it, I will switch my domain over and let every one know to go and take a look.
This one here is from last fall... and might look familiar because it is a variation of one that I posted previously in my article about  film a few months back, but this is a more polished version. I had many others from this trip that I was going to post, but kind of got sidetracked as I often do.  If the rocks look volcanic in nature, they indeed are.. there are many large, amazing lava fields of black volcanic rock in this area, most thickly covered with aspens and SO beautifully colorful in the fall.  This stream is the outflow below a small lake and was a great location to shoot in the early morning... the trees and rocks are nice in themselves, but having moving water in the scene always adds something extra.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

SkyWatch: Desert Light

I've been struggling to clear out from last weekend's huge snow storm all week, so today I felt like a little break from the winter stuff....
This one goes back to January and is the result of one of those "holy crap!" moments when some magic light just happens and the whole situation changes instantly.  After working all afternoon on a rather cloudy and overcast day, I made the mistake of packing up my gear for the ride home and was actually heading out of the park (yes, this is Joshua Tree N.P.), when the sun broke through a small crack in the clouds just at the horizon, casting a spell over the whole area. I could tell it was only going to last a matter of minutes, if that, and I wasn't really in an ideal spot subject-wise, but I decided that something was better than nothing so I pulled over, set up as fast as I could and managed to frame a few quick shots before it went dull for good. If I had a digital camera on the seat beside me as I might normally, it would have been easy.. but as I was shooting film, I had to unpack, set up the tripod, compose something, spot meter the scene and shoot, all in probably less than 2 minutes... pretty happy that I got something decent out of that situation:) It was definitely my pleasant surprise of the day.
Check out the SkyWatch homepage every weekend for more great sky images from all around the world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pure and Simple

It's back... Winter that is.  Being February, most of you will say: "What do you mean back?.. it never left where we are!"  Well, we like our variety of climate here in southern California.  After a few weeks of warm and dry weather, we got hammered with over a foot of snow at our house and much more a bit higher up... and out in the forest, where I spent the whole day on Sunday stomping around in pristine white powder with my cameras. In fact, after the last shot of the day and towards dusk, I still had to hike quite a bit uphill to get back to the road and was really struggling the last bit. Walking around in the snow loaded with gear starts to take it toll.. it sure felt a lot harder going up late than it did going down earlier:)
I was working for a while early with my digital camera and then switched later to film, so we'll have to wait a week or two to see what I got there.  I'm pretty pleased with 4-5 of these digital shots, though... especially this one.  I think it does pretty well what I am always aiming for (with mixed success, of course).. pure design, texture and tone.  Looks like a watercolor painting, doesn't it? (And quite a contrast to the subject of my last few posts.)
I shot this vertically too; it seems to work in any format.. horizontal, vertical or square and I can see this one on the wall printed *large*.
I'm still digging out day by day from this storm.. just got the driveway shoveled and the car back into the garage tonight!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Palm Canyons: from the Inside Out

And finally, a view into the lush, shaded world found underneath these thick palm tree groves. A very surprising sight if you have only seen the more typical views of this extremely hot and dry desert region in southern California. No wonder the native people settled in this area, with it's shade and reliable water supply.
Seems like the almost spring-like weather we have enjoyed up in the mountains for the past few weeks is about to end, with rain and snow moving in for the remainder of the week.  It's been nice, but on the other hand I've been missing the chance to work on some more wintery-type images. Hope I'm not too busy digging out to get out and about for some good shooting.
Even if I get stuck in the house for a few days, that's o.k. too because I am busy doing a complete, from-the-ground-up redesign of my main web site... something I've been putting off for quite a while.  It's going to be REALLY nice, with a full, user friendly shopping cart integrated right into the galleries for print purchasing/licensing, a keyword search function and clean new interface.  I am reviewing, titling and captioning every image.  I've known since we moved away from the city (and my main outlet to sell work), that I need to do this, but it's a big project so it's been easier to procrastinate. I am still debating whether or not to open a physical gallery this year.. depends on available local space and the economic outlook, but at least I will have a state of the art website in the near future.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Palm Canyons: from the Outside In

Before I post a few better ones that were shot along the cool shady stream flowing under these palms at Andreas Canyon, I thought this might be an interesting view to set up the general feel of the area. It can be an extremely hot and rugged place in the summer, but very pleasant right now, through the winter and into early Spring.
Some of you who read regularly have seen my recent posts of green forest and snow around where I live... this may seem like a very distant world in comparison, but in reality it is only a 50 mile drive, and only that far because I have to drive down and then part way around the mountain to get here.  Just out of curiosity, I fired up Google Earth and used the measuring tool to check the distance from where I live to this spot in a direct line: just 12 miles!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Desert Oasis

Winter seems to have taken a serious break up here on the mountain, so I decided to drive down to the desert on Saturday for some exploring and shooting, while moderate winter temperatures are still in effect.
Right in Palm Springs, but tucked up against the foot of San Jacinto, is a large network of beautiful canyons that still belong to the Cahuilla Indians, who used to live in these oases... and you can easily see why. Crystal clear streams flow down from the mountain, nourishing huge palm groves that in turn provide a habitat for many other plants and critters, and formerly the native people that used to live here. It's a truly beautiful and unique environment, surrounded by harsh, arid desert.  Underneath these shady palm groves and along the streams is a cool, lush world that you wouldn't expect to find in this otherwise hard and desolate looking area.
This is a view of Palm Canyon, the longest of the several canyons... there are interconnected hiking trails all over the area and I only had time to explore one of the smaller side canyons, so I will have to get back here soon. I shot this in the early evening light from a parking area at the top of the trail just before leaving for the day.
I'll have a few more from this spot as well as some other older stuff coming up, at least until we get some photo-worthy conditions up here in the mountains.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Oaks with Mistletoe

This is a reference shot (done on my iPhone!) from 2 weekends ago.  Locating new subjects is a never ending job, so when I have a free afternoon and I don't have a specific location in mind to work, I like to drive around checking out new roads, or hike a bit at spots that I normally pass by, just to see what I can see.  Usually it's mid-day and the light is not interesting, or the weather is not right... but I'm not concerned about all that, because I know I can come back at a better time.  If a new spot seems to have potential, I just take some quick reference shots as a kind of visual notebook, or "photographic sketch", if you will.
I was strolling around this clearing and thinking that there was not much of interest here, until the sweet light just before sunset lit up these bare oak trees and the background, making it suddenly magical.  For some reason, the clumps of mistletoe in the trees really make the scene for me... makes them look like they were somehow deliberately decorated.  Kind of wish I had been prepared to shoot it properly, because the combination of clouds and light was so perfect, but I can get to this spot in a few minutes next time the conditions and my time permit... and I'll know what time to be there and exactly where to set up to get what I want.
If you click on the image to look at the expanded version, you'll see that the sky is a little noisy and the detail in the grassy area is not the best, but I have to say the the new iPhone 4's 5mp camera is pretty impressive for what it is, with built-in HDR processing and geo-tagging... and on top of that, it shoots HD video!  I think the detail in the branches of the tree is quite nice, at least for a device that fits easily into your pocket and does about a hundred other useful things besides taking pictures:) 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sky Watch: Shocking Yellow

An especially vivid horizon on this evening back in mid-December.  I've been trying to explore the numerous forest service roads that wander for miles through the back country around town, most of which I have never been on at all, looking for new and photogenic locations. They are mostly pretty rough even in the dry season, but now after the snow and rain I will have to give it up until spring. I was mainly admiring the granite boulder formations in this particular spot, but as it got late and the sun lit up the clouds on the western horizon, I was fortunate to catch several minutes of spectacular color.
The little speck of reflection in the distance that looks like a puddle, is actually a large reservoir (4.5 miles long by 2 miles wide), 50 miles distant. I'm also nearly 5000' above it here, so we can see a LONG way from any open view point.
Check out the SkyWatch homepage every weekend for more great sky images from all around the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

High Desert Drifter

Now that I live only a little over an hour from Joshua Tree National Park, it's much easier to keep an eye on the weather and head out there only when I have a good chance of hitting the kind of conditions that I prefer.  I did hit it just right on this day last October and was was quite happy with my afternoon of shooting... the sky was absolutely perfect. (Click the image for a detailed view).  I went back a couple of weeks ago on Jan. 2 hoping for something similar, but it turned out a little too overcast and windy, so I'm not sure if anything good will come out of that session (still waiting to process a batch of film), but hoping for the best.  I like to check the Joshua Tree web cam to get an idea of the situation before deciding to make the drive, but things can change a lot in in two hours out there when weather is happening, so it's never 100% guaranteed to be perfect, even after my best efforts.
This was shot with what is probably my favorite tool recently, a panoramic 6x12 (60x120mm) roll film back on my view camera.. great because it allows me to get the benefit of the full width and detail of the camera's large format frame on roll film instead of sheets, which is much cheaper to buy and to process... and faster to use in the field than sheet film in individual holders. I'm only loosing a little bit of the frame at the top and the bottom, which is o.k. because I'm really liking the wide format these days... it seems to make almost any composition more dynamic and interesting than standard full-frame proportions.
One thing I am hoping for this year is to photograph a rare high desert snow dusting, but that will have to wait a while, because we are in a really warm pattern right now and even up here on the mountain at 6000 ft., almost all the snow is melted and gone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

SkyWatch: Winter Wonderland and Clearing Storm

I very nearly made the mistake of going out for a walk the other day without any photo gear.. the weather had just barely let up after snowing all day and it was still gray and dark when I left the house. Luckily I relented and grabbed my SLR, because 10 minutes later, the local fog had lifted and I had a few minutes to capture some spectacular light on the dissipating clouds far below.
This was shot from a forestry road that runs around the town just below our house. Someone had amazingly driven their truck up the road earlier, providing me a couple of nice tracks through the deep snow to walk on, otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered to hike to this spot.. one of the few nearby that offers a view out through the dense trees to the lower elevations. That's the luck element, I guess.. I have gone out many days looking specifically for light and clouds that look like this, and come up empty, then this day unexpectedly, it's right there and I just had to be ready.
That is actually not the sun you see shining THROUGH the cloud, but a bright reflection ON the cloud, as the sun in this scene was way off to the left and just a few minutes from setting... the resulting touch of orange/yellow against the soft blues is really important to the scene, don't you think? A painter would know that and simply add it in; for a photographer it's a more elusive thing, but that's the fun and the challenge of landscape photography.
Check out the SkyWatch homepage every weekend for more great sky images from all around the world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thorn Bush and Fresh Snow

Six inches of fresh snow on Sunday night/Monday morning produced some beautiful winter scenery here on Mt. San Jacinto... at least for a short time.  Around here, it usually doesn't take too long for the snow on the trees to start melting and falling off, so optimal shooting time can be kind of brief after the actual storm clears out...  Huge clumps of snow falling from the trees onto your head, down your neck and all over your camera makes for messy working conditions:)
While walking in the national forest just below our house, the abstraction and contrast of this sharp, thorny bush against the soft fresh-fallen powder caught my eye.