Spending a little time…

Standard

4-10-14 websitecover Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring my portfolio of landscape photographs. Though feeling physically and mentally much better between rounds of Chemo, I still haven’t quite mustered up the energy to spend much time outside, never mind having the oomph to be out early or late capturing any new good light on the landscape with the camera. That leaves me fondly reminiscing about some of the work I’ve already done, and as I do so, I get to spend a little time perusing my web site – and you know what that means… yes, tweaking.

As you can see from the screenshot above – http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com – I’ve abandoned (for now) my attachment to a single strong black and white coastal image in favor of a more eclectic, colorful, and assorted view of what is distinctly Acadia National Park – after all, there is so much to see in Acadia, why not show her off in all her glory?

We’ve had a lot of incredibly generous local support in response to our little medical emergency, and as a way to say thank you, Lori and I have been selecting prints that we think people might appreciate, and we’ve been ordering and delivering them as thank you gifts.

I’ve learned that it’s one thing to conceptualize, experience, and actually create any one of my photographs, but I have to admit, following the process through to where it physically gets printed and held in hand – whether it is printed on canvas, paper, or better yet, on metal – it is quite exhilarating to hold a piece, especially since many of these pieces to date have merely been images on the screen.

I’ve a couple of big pieces being printed on metal on the way as “thank you’s” to our friends, and I’ll be sure to grab a pic of what they look like “in-person” as it were when they arrive. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in purchasing from what I believe is a new and improved web site, please use the discount code “chemo” when in the shopping cart area – despite it’s not-so-nice meaning, it will get you 25% off any purchase 😉

Where I’d like to return to one day…

Standard

badwater7

The depths of winter have me reminiscing about a warmer place… Death Valley National Park in California couldn’t be any more different from Acadia, and probably because of that, I am very much drawn to it. When it comes to raw beauty, it certainly gives my favorite and more intimate national park here in Maine a run for its money. Sam and I visited this vast and wonderful national park a few years ago, and when looking back at our travels, I think it’s safe to say that we had ourselves the trip of a lifetime. In rather unusual conditions – it had rained in the desert about a week before we arrived – we experienced, among other things, the depths of the desolate salt-pan area known as Badwater, the iconic beauty of Zabriskie Point, and the incredible Mesquite sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. And yes… that’s Sam silhouetted in the first photograph below.

sam_reflection

zabriskie_pm3

dunes9

The recent rains had made some of the more desirable and remote locations within Death Valley inaccessible, so to make up for our disappointment and add to the adventure, we took a two-day detour out of the desert and cruised up CA 395 in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra. We marveled at the imposing height of a snow-capped Mount Whitney, we explored the unique the surreal landscape of the Alabama Hills, and we shared the incredibly still and tranquil area of Mono Lake with a pack of yelping coyotes. I, of course, made some landscape photographs along the way… as did Sam. Like I said… this is an area rich in opportunity for any landscape photographer, and it’s another area I would one day love to return to. Enjoy the original Jack-created soundtrack to the video 🙂

mobius1

sam_ah1

mono_lake4

A Window to the World

Standard

12-8-13 Acadia11 BW(720px)

I’m celebrating the fact that I actually got off my you-know-what and made a new landscape photograph – one that I’m actually prepared to share! I hadn’t visited Acadia in several months, but all that changed this past weekend when local photographer Chad Tracy and I cruised down to MDI for a quick photo expedition. Despite the below freezing temperatures and the biting wind, standing on the rocky shoreline of my favorite national park never felt so good!

I’ll share a few more photographs from what was a beautiful sunrise over the next few days, so stay tuned. After exploring a part of the granite “ledges” along the Loop Road near Thunder Hole, our original plan was to meander back toward Sand Beach to maybe do some long exposures with the surf. We got sidetracked though when I realized how close we were to this unique location, and since the sun was already up, I was excited to visit at a time when I wouldn’t get the willies from it being too dark.

The ecosystem within this sea cave is extraordinarily delicate, so Chad and I were extremely cautious about making sure to walk only on the solid rock. Although not a huge secret, and relatively easy to find, to further protect this little gem I made Chad swear not to divulge the location to anyone else. The approach to the cave – and the floor inside – was quite slippery and tricky to navigate, and to add to the mystique, this location is only accessible at low tide. It was quite an experience to spend some time in here, and as we looked through the window out onto Frenchman Bay, we appreciated the shelter from the chilly winter air. I like this photograph, and I’m going to add it to my portfolio.

If you haven’t seen my full portfolio yet – if interested – you can click on over and check out a selection of my favorite images on Acadia and Beyond (in addition to Acadia, I’ve shared images of Maine, Ireland, Death Valley, Yosemite). If you do visit the site, drop me a line… I’d love to hear your thoughts. If interested in purchasing from the site between now and the New Year, to save some cash be sure to type in the discount code “Acadia” when checking out. A bargain… Happy holidays!

And yes… I’m trying out a new blog theme. Feedback appreciated on that too 🙂

Thinking outside the box…

Standard

… that is the camera viewfinder. So many iconic views are of broad, sweeping vistas, but when trying to capture this type of landscape within the frame of a camera viewfinder, much of the impact can be lost, especially if using a wide-angle lens. One solution to this problem is to shoot in panoramic format – either using a dedicated panoramic camera – or by using the magic of digital photography to get in a little tighter and then merge (stitch) several photographs together. Stitching multiple images allows you to go as wide as – if not wider – than your lens allows, yet still maintain the relevance of important elements within the composition. The result is a larger file with greater detail, and with that, an enhanced ability to print big. Most importantly, you also get to capture that expansive view in all of its entirety without being limited by the constraints of the camera viewfinder.

11-13-14 Zabriskie wide

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean… these are both from the Zabriskie Point overlook in Death Valley National Park, California, and were made on 7/30/07 at about 4pm local time in what were admittedly far from epic lighting conditions. The first photograph is a single shot – shot at f11, 1/160 sec, iso 100 using a 17-40mm lens at 17mm (generally considered pretty wide) – the resulting tiff file is 23.4 megapixels and at 200 ppi, I can squeeze a 17 inch x 11 inch print out of this one.

11-13-14 Zabriskie Panorama

In the panoramic image above, I used a total of 12 separate images – each shot in vertical orientation at f11, 1/160 sec, iso 100 using a 17-40mm lens, this time at a focal length of 40mm – the resulting tiff file is 88.1 megapixels and at 200 ppi, I could squeeze a 46 inch x 16 inch print out of this one. I used to have to manually and tediously “stitch” panoramics like this together by manipulating Photoshop layers and masks, but luckily many post-processing software options now automate that task quite easily. Like I said, there’s a significant difference in the quality of the larger file… the detail is sharper, the view is wider in scope, and the printed file is literally much bigger in size!

Pressed nice and fresh!

Standard

Regular readers of this blog might have noticed a little spike in the number of comments posted recently. Let me explain…

On Friday I published the last in a four-part retrospective mini-series about a trip I made out west a few years back. Like many northerners this time of year, I had been suffering from an annual bout of winter-induced cabin fever, and my main goal with that little series was really just to remind myself of warmer times and help get me closer to the springtime. Besides, the 9 degree farenheit bone-chilling temperatures over the weekend here in Maine meant I didn’t have any new and original photographs to share!

I was working from home on Friday when I started noticing a slew of email notifications from the blog flying into my gmail account. Since this wasn’t the first time I had been freshly pressed, I figured out fairly quickly what had likely happened. I wandered over to the WordPress home page and sure enough, there it was… a photograph from my most recent post… Back into the Valley of Death …pressed nice and fresh!

From the WP folks about Freshly Pressed: “Each weekday, we hand-pick and promote approximately ten new blog posts to the Freshly Pressed section of the WordPress.com homepage. These posts represent how WordPress.com can be used to entertain, enlighten or inspire.”

My email box was pretty busy over the weekend, and a quick check of my stats page indicates that since last Friday alone at about 10:00 a.m. when the fresh pressing actually occurred, there have been close to 17,000 new views on this blog! And since so many people were kind enough to take the time to comment on my blog, I felt that it was only right that I reply to them… believe me, that’s a lot of replies 🙂

Anyhoo… it’s Tuesday evening now, and as my blog slides off the WordPress front page the frenzied pace of site views and email notifications has slowed somewhat, I can finally take a deep breath and relax. It has been a fun weekend though, and before resuming our normal programming here on the blog, I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for their very kind and generous words.

Thank You!

Back into the Valley of Death

Standard

*Update: I have been overwhelmed with the kind words from everyone about this post. Being freshly pressed has certainly brought a new audience to my blog, and I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for stopping by. If interested, here’s a more complete gallery of some of my favorite images from Death Valley.

Death Valley is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. It is a vast and diverse landscape, one that ranges in altitude from the heights of Telescope Peak (11,043 ft) in the Panamint Range, to the desolate and unique salt water flats at Badwater (282 feet below sea level). If you ever want to see a landscape that is like nothing you have ever seen, then DVNP is the place to go. This is the last in my mini-series of reflective posts from when my buddy Steve and I visited the american southwest a few years ago – Steve has a cool video and narrative of our trip posted on his blog, The Rabid Outdoorsman. Ignore his descriptions of my driving and the near-death experiences… all are highly exaggerated. We covered a crazy amount of ground on our trip, spending several days in Death Valley before driving north to escape the heat toward Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Deadhorse State Park.

One of the things I like most about blogging is how chronologically recorded stories allow for a retrospective glimpse at a timeline. When examining site stats, I often find myself checking out an older blog post that someone has searched for and visited, and from there I start to wander along the timeline, reminiscing as I begin a mini-journey of moments from the past. Building this little four part series from the southwest transported me back to 2009 when Steve and I had a blast exploring what was some seriously big country.

We wrapped up our conference where the stifling sidewalk heat of the Vegas strip hadn’t even come close to preparing us for the fieriness of Death Valley. Only fools, crazy europeans, and two idiots from Maine would venture out into the vast expanses of Death Valley in the summer where the temperatures were 120+ degrees, but we figured what the hey… we might never get a chance to do this again. Risking heatstroke, we wrapped water-drenched towels around our heads and plowed on as we explored some of the amazing and surreal sights of the valley. The photographs in this post are from several of the more iconic locations in Death Valley… the Mesquite Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, the Badwater Salt Flats, the Racetrack, Zabriskie Point, and then back to the dunes… truly awe-inspiring.

Thanks for indulging me with my past four posts and mini-review of this memorable trip to the southwest from a few years back. Now, back to the present day… regardless of the weather, I am determined to get out with the camera again this weekend, so your regular programming from a cold and wintry Maine should resume soon 🙂

Trip of a lifetime remembered

Standard

In the early spring of 2010, Sam and I had a chance to make the trip of a lifetime to California, and more specifically, Death Valley National Park and the incredibly scenic Highway 395 which runs from south to north at the foot of the majestic and snow-capped Eastern Sierra mountains.

We were fortunate to see Death Valley at a time when Mother Nature was doing her transitional thing, flooding the lower elevations of the park to create rare and spectacular conditions. We enjoyed the contrast of warm, desert temperatures and then the sub-freezing landscape in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra. From the Owens Valley we watched the sun rise and illuminate Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, we heard coyotes yelping along the shores of Mono Lake, and we were genuinely awed as we gazed up from the salt pans at Badwater (242 feet below sea level) toward Telescope Peak towering 11,049 feet above.

Lots of great memories made, and here’s a little slideshow I put together when we got back. As you will notice, the soundtrack is definitely original.

2011 in review

Standard

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Patience is a Virtue

Standard

I remember the not too distant days of visiting a pretty place with a film camera in hand and trying to make a nice photograph. I loved shooting 35mm Velvia slide film… the colors were rich and saturated, and the detail when viewed through a loupe on the light table was absolutely stunning. I can still remember waiting a couple of days for the film to return from the lab, anxious to see if I had actually managed anything worthwhile.

I would always bracket for exposure, so a roll of Velvia with 36 exposures actually meant only twelve distinct compositions. Quite often I would shoot just one roll of film in an entire morning, and even today when shooting digitally and relatively free from the capacity limits of slide film, I consider myself somewhat discerning about how often I press the shutter. Rather than click just because I can, I prefer to take my time in any given locale, really exploring the landscape in an attempt to come away with maybe one good photograph that I feel good about.

When shooting digitally today though, I can pretty much tell right away if I am on the right track, and if not, I can make adjustments to both composition and exposure on the fly. The LCD on my digital camera allows me to review an image instantly, allowing for tweaks to be made to compositions, and the histogram gives me all the information I need to know about whether or not I have made an accurate exposure. This is all good, and it is one of the biggest reasons why we can improve our photography skills much faster than if we were still shooting film and waiting several days for feedback. You would think that the days of needing to be thrifty with exposures are gone, since the capacity of an 8GB compact flash card far outweighs the limits of a roll of film – but – there is a lot to be said for being frugal with the the number of clicks we make, taking the time to really “see” a composition… waiting for the right conditions… visioning a particular moment… before pressing that shutter button. Digital makes it easy to take a lot of photographs, but it doesn’t mean they are going to be good photographs.

Here was me thinking I was quite discerning, making fewer exposures than the average digital photographer… but then I ran into Ben Horne, the prince of patience. When I say I ran into Ben, I mean that in a virtual sense. I first “met” Ben on the landscape board of the Fred Miranda web site where he always contributes great information and offers insightful and helpful critiques. Based in San Diego, Ben documents his travels to places like Zion National Park and the Colorado Plateau through his excellent blog, and like many photographers, he is generous in his willingness to share details of his vision, ideas and techniques. Ben is a different kind of cat though… he doesn’t shoot digitally, he shoots on film… big film. While I like to reminisce how nice a 35mm slide looked, I cannot imagine how impressive a medium format – or an 8×10 – transparency looks!

Ben’s work is spectacular, and I always get inspiration from the process he employs on his extended trips for photography. Usually traveling solo, he details his experiences of searching for what is often a pre-conceived vision, and his behind the scenes videos of his adventures are especially interesting. The more restrained methodology and approach of a large-format landscape photographer – especially one as good as Ben – is quite something to behold, and I highly recommend checking out his work. Ben will spend days (and many return trips) familiarizing himself with a location, trying to understand the intricacies of the landscape and how the light interacts with it at different times of the day and in different conditions. If everything lines up the way he wants it to, he will press the shutter perhaps once that day… that’s right, once!  He just returned from a 10 day trip to one of my favorite places – Death Valley National Park – and from Day One I thoroughly enjoyed vicariously coming along for the ride with him as he shared his stories of what seems like an awesome trip.

The photographs in this post are from my visit to Death Valley in February 2010 when the salt flats at Badwater were just starting to become flooded. The conditions on my trip were similar to what Ben experienced this year too, and it is always cool to see an iconic location like this in unusual circumstances. While Ben’s remarkable photographs certainly inspire me to get out with my own camera, I think what I admire most about his work is the patient and demanding approach he takes toward attempting to capture the beauty of nature. He is extremely passionate about his photography and he is constantly learning his craft… good lessons for us all.

My Favorite Photographs from 2010

Standard

I tried my best to resist the urge to follow along with the trend of posting favorite photographs of the year, but in the end I couldn’t stop myself. On a positive note, I do believe that reflection is one of the strongest learning tools one could ever employ – so I do this little exercise in the name of improving my photography skills.

Looking back over the year and picking favorites is not an easy task, and as you can see below I wasn’t exactly able to whittle it down to a top 10! Also, I know that just because I like a photograph it doesn’t mean others will like it, so though these aren’t necessarily my best photographs… they are my favorite photographs!

For me, there is usually a story to accompany each image, and it is more about the experience of having been there… hearing the early morning sounds that no-one else does, being amazed by the beauty of nature in a new place, or simply seeing something in a familiar place that I hadn’t previously noticed… these are why my photography expeditions are so personal.

Anyhoo… some from far away and some from close to home here in Maine… here they are, not in any particular order… my favorite photographs from 2010… enjoy!

It’s Like Finding a Dollar

Standard

You know that feeling when you reach into your pocket and pull out a dollar bill you didn’t know you had? That’s what it felt like the other day when I made a discovery as I was downloading some photographs from my camera.

I had grabbed my camera to shoot some tulips in the garden when I realized that I didn’t have a compact flash card inserted. I quickly rummaged through my backpack and located a card I hadn’t used in a while. After shooting in the garden, I started to download the tulip images to my computer when I was pleasantly surprised to find a folder of images I hadn’t seen before.

Captured on the last morning of the trip that Sam and I made to Death Valley in February, these images show the classic view from the often photographed Zabriskie Point overlook. This is always a great place to watch the sunrise from, but on this morning the conditions for photography didn’t start out especially exceptional, with a large bank of clouds moving fast from right to left threatening to skunk the good light. However, as the sun made its official entrance on this morning, the early light lit the top of the snow-capped Panamint Range and the possibilities for landscape photography definitely started looking up. We hung around for probably a couple of hours after sunrise to enjoy the light that raced across the valley floor toward us, and these images are from sometime during that morning – it was a nice surprise to find them after all this time.

Book Publishing Made Easy

Standard

You gotta love technology!

I wanted to create a lasting memory of the trip Sam and I took out to California, something that would be accessible to us and anyone else we wanted to share our trip with. Of course the blog is a nice mechanism for doing this, as are online hosting sites like Flickr and Vimeo, but not everyone is as excited about logging on and surfing the net as we are.

Searching for a more accessible alternative, one that could be enjoyed the old-fashioned way by holding it, I settled on using the “book” option within iPhoto to assemble and publish a hardcover, dust-jacketed, 10 x 13 book. I did some research on other online self-publishing options such as Lulu and Blurb, but settled on iPhoto largely due to the ease of use. Regardless of the tool you use, there are many options regarding size and shape, with beautifully designed templates making the compilation process very smooth. Choosing and arranging photographs was as simple as drag and drop, and the process of adding and editing text was easy.

I have been checking the FedEx tracking site almost every day since ordering, anxious to know when the finished product was going to arrive. The anticipation of seeing a printed journal of the adventures that Sam and I shared together has been very real for me, and much more intense than I had expected.

On order for about a week, the book – “Californiadventure” – arrived today, and I can happily report that I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. The quality of paper and printing is OK, but the overall production of the book – especially the dust-jacket – gives it a very nice feel. If you were to visit your local bookstore and find a copy of this book on a shelf there, the quality is such that you would probably never know it had been self-published.

As much as I enjoy the benefits of working and displaying images digitally online, there is something permanent and “real” about our book, so when we close the lid on the laptop and rejoin the analog world, this book will always remind us of the wonderful Californian adventure we shared together.

Inspiration and Creativity

Standard

Passing through Bishop on the way to Mono Lake on our recent trip, we were behind some traffic at a stop light in the center of town when I happened to glance to the right. That was when I saw the Mountain Light Gallery, home to the work of, among others, the late Galen Rowell. I had known the gallery was in Bishop, and in our original plans we had included a stop here, but in our haste to get where we were going we almost missed stopping. I immediately pulled over on the side of the street and informed Sam that he was in for a treat.

We spent about an hour marveling at the exquisite prints on display. We couldn’t help but be impressed by the range of light and subjects available for viewing, and our visit was enhanced by the tangible feeling of being very welcome there. Viewing image after image, our jaws often literally dropped as we could be heard exclaiming “Wow!” as we explored the collection. It was incredibly inspiring to see Galen Rowell’s work in person, and if you haven’t already done so, I would strongly recommend a visit.

The intimate feel of the Mountain Light Gallery nestled in the small Californian town of Bishop could not have been further from the gallery setting we visited in Las Vegas. We were wandering the strip, ducking in and out of various casinos to get a taste of what Vegas was all about, with one of our primary targets being to visit the Peter Lik Gallery in Caesar’s Palace.

The images on display there were magnificent, bold and colorful. Artist Peter Lik’s images were often huge renditions of iconic scenes, but despite my familiarity with many of the locations, they were presented in a way that was absolutely mesmerizing and attention-grabbing. The staff in the gallery were very friendly, taking the time to talk with us in detail about the artist’s latest work. Printed large in dimensions measured in feet rather than inches, we were thoroughly impressed with the quality of imagery on display.

While it is obviously important to always strive to create and execute your own vision when behind the camera, I believe that seeing quality work created by others can be a very positive and engaging experience. There is much room for creativity when photographing any scene – even those picture-postcard scenes that we see images of all the time. The season, the time of day, the weather conditions, the quality and direction of the light, where you make your tripod holes, the camera, the lens, the focal length, the aperture, the shutter speed, the iso – and, most importantly, the personal choice of what to include in the viewfinder and what to exclude –  all contribute a myriad of opportunities for making an image your own. Part of the fun of photography for me is certainly in making sense of the technical and creative choices available to create an image that I like, but what draws me more is actually being there… using all of your senses to truly take in the beauty of your surroundings is why I photograph landscapes. This connection to the surroundings is something that came through loud and clear in the images of both Galen Rowell and Peter Lik, and is obvious when looking at other landscape photographers who have executed their vision.

Witnessing in-person the amazing images of such talented photographers definitely left the both of us impressed, inspired, and very appreciative of the work we saw in print. Though not on par with some of the masters, this image of the salt flats in Death Valley as they transition after winter rains is all mine 😉

Sand and Water

Standard

I am experimenting with adding a black border on the top and bottom of this image… I was wondering if it helps in the presentation of the details?

Late one afternoon while wandering throughout the Mesquite dunes in Death Valley I came across these patterns in the sand on the edge of a temporary pond. Recent rains had impacted the dunes in many ways, and I was intrigued by the textures, shapes and lines created by the past subtle (and not so subtle) movement of water. They reminded me of the awesome power of nature at work, and even though they were the result of very recent changes, it was easy for me to imagine that they were from a more ancient time.

Maybe not a typical grand landscape that we are used to seeing from Death Valley, but this image serves as a more intimate reminder to me of the experiences I had with Sam exploring what is a wonderful national park. He was immediately impressed and drawn to discovering everything he could about these dunes, and I think genuinely appreciated the uniqueness and scale of his surroundings. Knowing that this was his kind of place, time spent exploring what was an almost surreal landscape together, is time that I will always treasure.

Although you see the world different than me
Sometimes I can touch upon the wonders that you see
All the new colors and pictures you’ve designed
Oh yes, sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine

–  Child of Mine by Carole King

Mother Nature at work…

Standard

When we first arrived in Death Valley we were somewhat disappointed by the impact of the previous week’s rains on the landscape. Many of the roads were closed, and access to most of the more remote locations was limited. Even the famous icons were impacted, with the Mesquite sand dunes actually flooded in places, and the salt flats at Badwater under maybe an inch of water. Our disappointment soon gave way to recognition of the fact that we were witnessing Mother Nature at work, right before our very eyes.

We spent our first evening in Death Valley at Badwater, where there was about an inch or so of water pooling in the salt polygons. The shapes and textures were not exactly pristine, but nonetheless the place was still recognizable as the Badtwater salt flats. The following morning we returned to the same location, only to find that considerably more water had seeped down through the earth onto the valley floor, and the salt flats were showing serious signs of upheaval and chaos. While this made for some interesting reflections of the Panamint Range, it also made composing a pleasing image quite challenging. As you can see in the video that Sam shot from that morning, much of the landscape was broken and uplifted, probably due to the impact of the water level rising underneath. A couple of days later and the ridges and shapes were completely gone, totally submerged under a shallow but widespread lake that stretched across most of the entire valley floor.

It was very interesting to see the changes in the landscape occur so abruptly, and although we would like to have been able to see the park in all its traditional splendor, our visit during this time allowed for an intriguing and impressive glimpse of the raw power of nature as huge swaths of land were literally transformed overnight.

A Death Valley Icon – Zabriskie Point

Standard

OK… I know that this is probably the most photographed scene in Death Valley National Park, but there is a reason for that. Well there are actually two reasons… first of all it is relatively easy to get to, as the hordes of tourists swarming all over the overlook will confirm. Standing as a gateway to the park for many, anyone willing to walk a quarter of a mile slightly uphill on a paved path will be rewarded for their efforts. Secondly, and most importantly, it truly is a sight to behold, especially if the elements all come together for the photographer willing to get there early or stay there late.

There is a “social” trail off to the right of the parking lot that leads up onto a ridge that skirts the right hand side of this scene. This trail will offer the intrepid photographer some exceptional and less traditional views of the valley, Telescope Peak, and Manly Beacon. In the interest of being more original than most of the photographers who would set their tripods up along the ridge in front of the overlook as I did in the photograph above, Sam and I debated hiking this trail on our morning visit to this location. However, we decided since we would need to navigate the steep and narrow path up onto Red Cathedral considerably before dawn, that it would not be a great choice.

As we hung around the evening before, we saw every other person leave pretty much as soon as the sun dipped below the mountains across the valley. Apparently they weren’t aware that it was then that the light starts to get interesting.

Badwater Underwater

Standard

I wonder how long it will take for the shallow lake that recently formed on the Badwater salt flats to retreat and once again reveal the classic salt polygon shapes?

The image above is from our second morning in Death Valley, and as you can see the unique conditions that existed with water pooling in the flatter areas and the ridges heaving up made for much more chaotic shapes than normal. Within days this whole area was covered in water, completely submerging not only the salt polygons, but most of the entire valley floor.

I have been here several times in more traditional conditions, so to see the salt flats distressed and changing right before our eyes was quite impressive. The shallow pools of water made for some incredible opportunities to catch the Panamint Range reflected in the foreground, though being there in person was much more impressive than any photograph can possibly convey.

We were very fortunate on this morning to see nature at work right before our eyes, and when combined with a very dramatic start to the day, Sam and I marveled at the fact we were the only people around within miles to share this scene.

Lesson learned…

Standard

You had to be there to appreciate the grandeur of the landscape before us. The sun had risen about fifteen minutes earlier, first kissing the 11,049 feet tall Telescope Peak before bathing the rest of the Panamint Range in warm light. Looking across the five miles of valley floor, the recent rains had ensured that we would be treated to an incredible reflection – it makes me feel as though we actually got double the beauty.

Sam and I had made this drive the previous day after spending a glorious morning on the salt flats of Badwater. After finishing our morning shoot there, we decided to follow the Badwater Road further south, just to see what we would find. As we rounded another one of the curves where the road was forced to bend to fit the landscape of huge alluvial fans, we came across this scene. We jumped out of the car and soaked in the atmosphere, but by then the sun was a little higher in the sky and though still awesome to view in person, the scene was not as dramatic as it might have been if we had arrived there at daybreak.

It was Sam who suggested that this should be a place we prioritize as a prime shooting location, and the very next morning we returned in search of better light. There was some serious mud in places, and to be honest I was balking a bit about wandering too close to the water’s edge. Sam, however, pushed on… and it was he who encouraged me to persevere and take advantage of the magnificent scene before us. As the sun slowly chased away the cooler morning temperatures, Sam wandered off with his camera down along the edge of the water, and when I looked around for him I couldn’t help but admire his adventurous spirit and willingness to explore. Lesson learned for me, and as I made this image I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of my son.

Amargosa Cafe

Standard

Death Valley Junction is a quirky little place located between Pahrump, NV and Death Valley National Park in California. It is like a ghost town, except for the Amargosa Hotel and Opera House, where the renowned Marta Beckett performed for years.

On a previous morning when we had driven through here we noticed a tiny little cafe attached to the hotel. We resolved to return here on our way out from the valley, and today was the day. Classic Americana, the decor inside was straight from the 1950’s, and the breakfast we were served was hearty and cheap. Highly recommended if you ever find yourself passing through this part of the world in need of some sustenance.

Zabriskie forwards

Standard

When I checked the NPS road conditions page on Sunday night it said that the way to Dante’s View was now open! I have been up to Dante’s view before, and though it is a very impressive sight, the real reason we were so happy was that we would finally be able to see somewhere new!

We set the alarm for 5:00am, planning on making the 40 minute drive to high above the park. We packed all of our belongings and left the valley floor for the last time, excited to be able to check out a place that had previously been inaccessible during our stay. We passed by the dark and deserted Zabriskie Point parking lot, and accelerated on up Route 190 toward the Dante’s View turnoff. Imagine our disappointment when we got there to find that the road was still closed higher up where the snow and ice was.

We had discussed this possibility, and immediately switched to Plan B – to re-visit Zabriskie Point and spend some time among the tourists. At least this time we might get some nice light, since the skies overhead were filled with fast-moving and dappled clouds.

Before dawn the light was really cool, though our concern was that the clouds were actually moving too fast. As they raced across the sky from right to left, it soon became obvious that they were not going to sync with the sunrise as we had hoped. As always, being in a place as beautiful as this was reason enough to celebrate, so we chilled with the other 13 tripods and 50+ tourists and enjoyed the muted but pleasant show. I tried a couple of longer exposures using a 6-stop ND filter, trying to deepen the colors and capture some of the feeling of movement in the sky.

When we thought the best of the light had come and gone, we packed up our gear and made the short climb out of the valley. It was with mixed emotions that we said goodbye to Death Valley, a place that gave us so much in the short time we were there. Definitely a place to return to someday, we were also anxious to start our journey back home to be with Lori and Jack.