Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Orange Swirl - Snow Canyon

This is a view from up on the petrified dunes, as seen from a distance in my last post's panorama. After the heavy rain, I had lots of nice little reflecting pools of water to work with, which was a rare treat in a normally bone dry location such as this. Challenging though to balance the sky, constantly changing from dark to very bright, with the rocky foreground.. especially shooting with film and a manual light meter. For those of you who have only ever worked with a high tech digital camera, working with a low-tech (or in this case, "no-tech") camera is a considerably slower experience, and in the situations of constantly changing light, you have to really be on your toes. Have to be aware of the smaller dynamic range too, but when you get it right.. wow. This one is a full frame scan of a glorious sheet of 4x5 Velvia. To me at least, no digital photo will ever be as satisfying as getting one of these babies back from the processor. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nothing Better...

What could be better than a location where you can spend the whole day in a limited area, easily walk around with your gear anywhere you want to go and not even begin to run out of great subject matter? 
This is a new location for me.. and I'm keepin' it secret (well, if someone asks, I'll tell). It was raining so hard on my way here, that I was sure the whole day would be a washout, but it luckily started to lighten up just after I arrived in the late morning.  For this scene, I was waiting between rain showers and sticking close to the car, so I pulled out my digital cam and tripod and shot 17 vertical frames, which were later stitched into this panorama.  It creates a good overview of the site, whereas most of my other samples are more detail oriented, so this is a good one to start with.  The mid ground area, at this distance, might be mistaken for red sand dunes... and it is in a way, but the dunes are actually petrified into solid rock. Unbelievable texture and color...really, really good for climbing around and shooting lots of different compositions, which I did for the remainder of the day after the rain finally quit.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bare Trees

I've captured this grove of aspens in full color several times in other years, but I was surprised with how interesting they still are, just standing there naked... I think it makes for a really interesting effect in this shot. Normally, to get this view, I would have been standing on a rock with cold water rushing all around, but the stream was running really low this year, so I was able to move around freely without worrying about where to step, allowing some different perspectives. My main concern was working quickly between rain showers. The black volcanic rocks, being rather dry this time with no flowing water, were not as attractive as usual, so I let the trees be the main feature. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aspens and Lava Rock

This area east of Cedar Breaks is one of the most remarkable I have seen anywhere in the Southwest... huge lava flows all around with thousands of aspens growing up right out of the piled rocks.  In the Fall, it's one of the most unique places I could imagine to enjoy the beautiful foliage. I was fighting the on-and-off rain showers for several days this year and it got frustrating at the time, but the atmosphere in the results that I did manage to get in between the sprinkles were well worth it. Couldn't have asked for a more perfect sky even if I had painted it myself. A lot of spots were already bare of leaves, but I found enough remaining here and there to make it very worthwhile.
Getting into some of my film stuff now.. this was shot on 6x7 format Fuji Velvia 100.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Head in the Clouds

A view from the top rim of Cedar Breaks, at 10,500ft. elevation.
Can't see it of course, but the wind was howling and spitting rain, trying to change over to snow, which it did later in the day, so I was only able to grab a few quick shots of it this year.  I always make a point to stop by this spot when heading down to the east side of the mountain to my favorite foliage area. I ran into a blizzard here on October 1 several years ago, so considering I arrived mid-October this year, it was not too bad I guess. You can see that the bottom of the cloud layer was at almost exactly the same level as the rim, obscuring the sky, but leaving the view of the multi-colored formations unhindered. Be sure to click on the image for the full size view of this one. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rainy Aspens

I still have more Valley of Fire stuff to go over later, but I feel like moving the subject on up to "color country" in Utah for a while, since that was the original objective of my trip.
I was a little behind the curve as far as the foliage in the higher elevations that I prefer this year, but the lower areas were still great and this area below a small lake that I really love is always beautiful, no matter what stage of the season. This image here is one of my favorites from the whole trip.. I've been trying to get that "perfect" aspen image for years and this might be as close as I ever get. I normally don't judge new work so quickly, but this one just hit me right away so I already have it framed and hanging in the Gallery.
It's just an easy quarter mile walk to get into this spot, but it was raining so I was debating to skip the location this year...ended up thinking that since I had come all this way, I had to give it a try.  I had to walk around holding both camera and umbrella together in one hand for half an hour, and kept busy constantly wiping drops off the lens, but I did catch some nice atmospheric shots, including this one... so glad I did it. You just never know where the good ones are going to come from. I normally go for maximum depth of field, but in this case the soft focus colors in the background just seem to compliment the crispness of the foreground trees really nicely. Maybe I should try some hand-held work more often:)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

SkyWatch: Twilight Panorama

More from the Valley of Fire in Nevada: I spent the late afternoon shooting out in the area of the formations that you can see in the center of this view.. This was well after sunset and I was actually heading out to find a place to stay when I saw this gorgeous twilight sky out of the corner of my eye and just had to pull over and try to shoot a quick panorama.  Luckily I left my digital camera on it's tripod across the back seat of the car, rather than put it all away in the pack (I've learned NOT to do that:), so I was able to run out and make 5 vertical shots at 15 seconds each, which I have stitched together here.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Different Perspective

I headed out to this very popular formation known as "The Wave" about an hour before sunset, only to find a dozen or more people already there (many of them from Europe.. there are no secrets anymore!), all looking for the same shot, so it was hard to set up without getting in someone's way, or someone getting in mine.  As often happens, I ended up waiting for everyone else to head home as it got close to sundown and then started looking around for a non-standard view that might capture it in an equally interesting, but fresh perspective.  I find this one much preferable to the views I shot from the "standard" spot anyway.. and, as a bonus, I later got some very nice golden hour scenes along the one mile trail back up to the road.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nature's Hidden Artwork

Digging around in the nooks, crannies and caves at Valley of Fire on this day revealed a lot of remarkable images carved into the sandstone by eons of wind and rain. It's kind of the best option, given the bright mid-day sun, to stay in the shaded areas and try to find the bright light reflecting into the shade, as opposed to shining in directly, which creates burned out hot-spots and looks like crap. The reflected light however, creates these subtle and beautiful shades that bring out the hidden forms. Almost endless abstract possibilities here. This one in particular seems very pictorial.. I see it as a group of trees formed forever into the red rock walls of the cave. The favorite so far of my shots in this spot.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Valley of Fire: Beautiful Erosion

In one particular area of the VOF, there are these several square miles of eroded red sandstone, with literally tens of thousands, maybe millions, of small caves and hollows to explore. I spent one whole day rooting around in here, shooting the beautiful abstract forms formed by wind and water gradually eating away at the sandstone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Expedition: Nevada and Utah

Fall is always my favorite time of year for photography, followed closely by Winter. A lot of the places I like to photograph are just too dang hot in the Summer and somehow I can't get too excited about the plain blue skies and bright light that we have here in the southwest during the hot season.
On that note, I just got back from my (almost) annual "Fall Color Tour", so time to fire up the blog with some new work. This year, besides my usual, favorite foliage area, I scouted up a couple of new locations that I have never worked before and they turned out to be the real highlights of the trip.
The aspens in the higher elevations of the Cedar Breaks area where I always go had pretty much dropped all their leaves, since I was about a week behind the schedule I originally intended, but that's o.k... Fall is not just about foliage; it's the light and atmosphere of the season and there are lots of possible subjects if you think about it that way.

My first stop was at Valley of Fire in Nevada.  I can't count the times I have passed this place on my way up north.. partly because it is so hot much of the year and I had no idea it could be such a beautiful place, judging from the dry, flat, gray desert that you drive through most of the way to get here. I liked it so much that I spent an extra day and will definitely be going back often.
I've got a lot of raw material to go through and much of it is on film, which I haven't even sent out for processing yet, so it'll take a few weeks to work on everything and get it presentable... in the meantime I'll start with a few digital images that came out pretty good as-is.
This first shot is a general scenic view at Valley of Fire, shot in the late afternoon sun and I actually had to DE-saturate the colors a bit to make it believable:)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Warm Light on Big Sur

Wanting to print some new greeting cards for the gallery; I am going through some old folders and getting kind of nostalgic for the ocean, since I haven't done much down there recently.  This evening scene is from Big Sur, just south of Carmel, a few years ago. Found a nice outcropping here where I could get some cool views back towards the cliffs. Right down behind where I was standing, is a tiny beach where you can get an iconic shot of a pair of off-shore sea stacks that I have seen done many, many times. Kind of hairy to get down there though and someone was already there, so I had to try something different.
This is one of those spots where you don't want to forget where your feet are while shooting, or you might have an unpleasant surprise:)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Strawberry Creek Gorge

A.K.A. locally as "The Grotto".
This is one of those "right in my back yard, but missed it" locations.  Strawberry Creek emerges out of the ground high up on Mt. San Jacinto and then winds its way down gently all through the village of Idyllwild. I know the area pretty well by now, but there is one section of town that I haven't explored, because it is occupied by the large campus of Idyllwild Arts prep school ( a well known private high school that teaches performing arts, music and visual art at a very high level to talented kids from all over the world).
As it turns out, right behind the school property is where the creek exits town on its way down to the flatlands far below, and also where it enters a large, deep and steep gorge.  Quite impressive... and the perfect place to spend hours enjoying the stream and the granite formations that have been carved into smooth, sweeping shapes over thousands of years by the flowing water.  
Right now, in the midst of the dry season, the stream is barely trickling through here, but there are still some small pools of cool water to be seen and the lack of flow makes it easier and safer to wander around, I'm sure.  Don't know how I just now found about this.. apparently it's well known by the long-time locals and, of course, the students at the school. It's supposed to be off-limits to them because of the danger, but what kid could resist, when it's right there, right?
I recently took one exploratory hike just to find it, and then the other day, went back to spend an hour or two doing some quick abstract studies.  What a great location... hundreds of potential subjects all in a contained area... and if you go at the right time, you won't be bothered by anybody.  This image and a few to come, were done in the mid-day summer sun, so not really ideal conditions... but by thinking in monochrome, which adds to the abstraction, I can usually make a few shots work.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gnarls Barkley

A closeup view showing the gnarly, abstract growth pattern of the Engelmann Oaks growing all over thousands of acres at Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. This species is now found only in far southwest California; this area near Murrieta and one other east of San Diego are the only two remaining large stands.
The colors around here are rather bland in the summer but can be really nice in the fall, especially in the right weather.  In this particular view, I wanted to concentrate on the complicated texture of the limbs, so I felt that monochrome would be the best approach.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Layer Cake

Next up in my series from Santa Rosa Plateau: this scene caught caught my attention because of the many different horizontal layers of textures and colors that seem to stack up when shot through a mild telephoto lens. Even the sky contributed. Most of this area is rolling hills, interspersed with thick groves of oak trees, so this shot of a single tree on a flat plain is kind of atypical for the area. This is looking out to the west, past the vernal pools that I mentioned couple of posts back.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Santa Rosa Plateau 3 - California Poppies

This is probably the only flower shot that I have ever posted here.. but it happens to fit in with the subject of this series about the Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Reserve.  In the spring, these California poppies appear in abundance in the fields between the oak groves, along with some other various wildflowers, making for a real pretty nature walk through the thousands of acres of trees and grass.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Santa Rosa Plateau 2 - Vernal Pool

Vernal pools are small ponds that form, not from natural springs or a stream/river flow, but the collection of winter rains or snow melt and are usually at their highest point in the spring ("vernal" meaning spring).  There are some fairly large ones in this ecological reserve area, but if you go anytime other than late winter/early spring, they are likely to be dry, as was the case last time I was here. Then, it becomes a big, dry bed of cracked mud and no life.  This image is from a couple of years ago, when it was pretty full and teeming with life. No fish here, but amphibians and some other creatures have adapted to the temporary but protected nature of the environment, like this little guy that I caught swimming in the reeds. (Sorry, I don't know the species).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Santa Rosa Plateau

I just realized that out of all the locations I have written about, I've so far passed over this one, which is pretty much right in my back yard (well, 60 miles from home, but this is California).. and I have a number of interesting images that I have made here over the past few years.
The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a 9000 acre area about half way between Mt. San Jacinto where I live and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Many thousands of people pass by here every day on the major north-south freeway, I-15, just a few miles to the east and probably don't even know about this place... I didn't myself until a couple of years ago.
As you can see, it's a beautiful, wide open area of rolling hills, grass and oak groves; in the spring when it's green, as in this shot, it reminds you more of the English countryside than southern California. The Englemann Oaks that grow here are unique to southern California and northern Baja Mexico... and are great subject matter for photography, both in color and monochrome. I thought I'd start a series with this wide-open shot as a scene setter.

Monday, May 28, 2012


A few posts back, I wrote about this incredible old manzanita that I came across while hiking several months ago; at the time, I just took a few quick, hand held shots of it in the existing harsh light and then noted the location so that I could go back and do it properly under better conditions.  So, here is the result of my recent return.. I think everyone would agree that it is quite an improvement when done under the softer light of a partly cloudy day and with more thought given to how to handle the subject..
Nature can be notoriously uncooperative, often it seems especially so when you take time to travel hundreds of miles just to photograph a spot and don't have the luxury of simply going back anytime… that's when you really have to be flexible and try to adapt to the existing conditions, whatever they may be.  In that situation, I've been lucky at times and frustrated at others.. but always try to consider it part of the fun and the challenge. Since this one was local, I was able to go back at an opportune time and work as long as I wanted, so I now have several print-worthy shots in the can, and I think I will cross this one off my "to do" list:)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Exploring the Angles

A free afternoon a couple of weekends ago gave me the chance to head out to the desert and scout up some new scenes. I spent probably close to an hour trying different angles all around this really interesting formation.. just hand-held snapping, since it was mid afternoon and the sky was totally uninteresting.. but this little puff of cloud did finally show up to add a touch of contrast among the solid blue. Evening light and an interesting sky would make for a pretty worthy scene. I moved on to another location later to shoot some film in the better light, but haven't even processed it yet so I'll have to wait to see if anything else interesting shows up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dark Meets Light

Same day, same storm as seen in my previous post. Summer-like weather ever since. This was the best spot I could find to capture these great heavy clouds against the fresh white snow.
The last couple of years, we've had one last bit of snow around Mother's Day, so we'll see what happens this year.  All I know for sure is that we will NOT be planting the vegetable garden before June.. we made the mistake of putting the veggies in in May last year, and ended up starting all over again in June, because of a week of below-freezing nights that killed almost everything.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Snow

It's been a really unusual winter here in the San Jacinto Mountains.. the real winter months were mostly warm and dry; now that it's spring, we've had several pretty good snow storms.  I usually don't expect to shoot scenes like this in mid-April, but here you go, this one is from last Saturday.  Now, it's back into the 70° range and the snow is already gone... go figure. This, and a couple more from the same day, will probably be my last opportunity for snow scenes this year, but that's o.k., because I am actually quite happy with a few from this day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ancient and Twisted

My wife and I were out for a casual hike last Saturday, near home on a little nature loop trail I've never explored. Just up a bit beside the trail, I spotted this amazing and obviously really old manzanita skeleton.  I've never come across one with this huge of a trunk; more like the size of a tree.  With or without bark and leaves, I always love the shapes and texture of these bushes, especially the large ones.  I definitely want to go back and reshoot this properly, when the light is less harsh, either late in the day or when there are some thin clouds in the sky to take the edge off. Monochrome tends to be more forgiving of less-than-ideal light than color, but even so, it never feels quite right unless the light is interesting to begin with.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wave Watchin'

Been "off the grid", at least blog-wise, for a few weeks...
Last Sunday was one of those once or twice a year "big wave" days down at the coast, so we decided to make a trip down there to see what was going on. The waves were pretty spectacular, but also very rough and broken up due to the strong winds, so we couldn't really see those big, glassy smooth breakers that are really photogenic.  Not too good for surfing either, apparently... we didn't see anyone even attempting that.
All in all though, a beautiful day for a walk on the beach and enjoying the salt spray. (Had to clean the residue off my lens and my sunglasses when I got home.) I admit I didn't notice the pelican casually cruising above the action when I was shooting this one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nothing But Blue Skies

Still working through a few stragglers from my Olympic Peninsula trip last Fall...  I just haven't had the time since then to get away for much new shooting and the winter around here locally has been a total dud (photographically speaking.. but we are saving a lot on firewood and propane:)
Normally I look for more going on in the sky than there is happening here, but when you're traveling, the weather just has a mind of it's own and after all, I think the clean blue sky kind of adds to an overall simple, graphic effect on this one.
This is Second Beach, just south of La Push, WA.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fun With Moving Pictures

Down at the coast again last weekend.  The day was not really that good for photography... pretty windy and gray, but I decided to shoot some video footage just for the fun of it and try to capture this location that I have photographed many times in a different way. 
This was all done hand-held with a DSLR, so forgive me if there are a few shakes here and there or the horizon is not so straight:) I had to clip a bit off the end of the opening scene.. that last wave came in a whole lot further that I expected and I ended up getting my feet wet... the original segment turns to a crazy panic as I rushed to back up and keep from getting totally soaked...
This was kind of fun to put together.. hope you enjoy a change of pace.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Serene Twilight

I've got just one or two more to share from this current set.  This one was done well after sunset.. in fact, it was getting so dark that I couldn't really compose all that well, but seems like I can never resist milking those last few shots on the way back to my car.  This is where the camera and the human eye really diverge.. as I said, it was hard for me to see much at all, but the remaining little bit of ambient light, combined with a long exposure, reveals a very pleasant, slightly surreal scene.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Break at the Ocean

It seems like a very long time since I have done any seascapes.  We were down in the city doing some shopping and errands last week and my wife wanted to spend a few hours catching up with a friend, so I had the opportunity to spend the last part of the day over at my favorite seaside spot catching the sunset.  Yes, I had some gear with me because I had anticipated the opportunity:)
I never get tired of the reflecting pools in these rocks and the light on the winter waves. You can find a couple of surfers out there if you look closely.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

And the Winner Is?

Just before sunset, a particular lone tree standing in the glassy water caught my attention... and I decided to stay put in this one spot and work with it as many ways as possible in the perfect part of the twilight. This quality of light only lasts for a very short short period, so you don't really have precious minutes to be wandering around looking for subjects.. better to be already committed to it and set up.
I usually stick with one pic per post, but thought I would show two side-by-side here today, because this is a very good example of how the same subject can be interpreted in such different ways by changing lenses, composition, subject emphasis and timing.
I don't really have to choose between these of course; they would both make nice prints (and I actually have two or three other variations too), but if I did, I'm really not sure yet which I would select. I would love to hear your opinions about which one works better to your eye... and even a little bit about why you think so, if someone feels like taking the time to give it some thought. An opinion poll for me and a bit of a creative exercise for you, as it were:)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sky Watch: Looking Homeward

Number 3 in this current series:  The clouds lit up in a remarkable way for just a few minutes after sunset, as you can see here (and lucky that I was in a spot with the glassy water to mirror it). One of those situations that you can't always anticipate, but when you see a lot of high, thin clouds late in the afternoon, it's more than likely that something good is going to happen.. just have to be ready:)
The large mountain in the distance (45 miles southeast from this spot) is where I live. The smaller, pointy peak far to the right of the whole mount, towards the foreground hills, is Tahquiz Peak and our house would be directly below there on the ridge that crosses in front of it. (A friend from town was hiking up to that peak at exactly the same time I was shooting this, but even with the recent warm weather, there was too much snow and ice to make it all the way to the top, meanwhile, I was quite comfortable here working in a tee shirt.. a true land of contrasts).
I framed this shot specifically to get the view of the mountain prominently into the scene. I have another one from a couple of minutes earlier where the mountain is lit up beautifully by the setting sun, but the sky was more unique at this moment.
Visit the SkyWatch home page each weekend for more great skies from all over the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

San Jacinto Wildlife Area (#2)

I guess I'll go through a sequence of frames from this location more or less in order, from early to late.. so this one would be next, time-wise, after my previous post. Plein-air painters and watercolorists should have a real field day here.. If I still had the inclination to paint, I could find many days of subject matter in this spot. Very tranquil and almost no people... just a few contented ducks cruising lazily through the water in this scene, if you look carefully.