Where I’d like to return to one day…

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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.

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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 🙂

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A Window to the World

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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 🙂

Pressed nice and fresh!

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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

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*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

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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.

Patience is a Virtue

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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

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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!

Book Publishing Made Easy

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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.

Sand and Water

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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

Dunes redux

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Back in Death Valley for the evening, I asked Sam if he could choose go to one location in the valley (that was open), where would it be? He responded quite emphatically that he wanted to return to the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

We were staying at Stovepipe Wells that same evening, so that worked out well as we parked the car a ways past the new parking lot and started hiking in to the smaller dunes to the east. In addition to exploring a part of the dunes we hadn’t seen previously, we were also trying to avoid the many footprints that marred what is a pretty landscape.

Sam headed off to do his own thing and before long he was merely a speck, appearing and disappearing as he navigated the ups and downs of the dunes. I felt quite proud of him for being willing to leave me behind and do this by himself. Maybe he just wanted some peace and quiet away from his dad!

The warm light soon started to get lower in the sky, and before long we were treated to shadows stretching down into the hollows between the dunes. Our decision to head to this part of the dunes paid off in that we saw fewer footprints, and for most of the evening we were probably the only two people in what was a very large area.

I didn’t see Sam until the sun had actually set, that’s when I saw him climbing one of the higher dunes before making his way along a ridge to where I had settled in to enjoy the dusk. I think he really enjoyed the solitude of being out on the dunes totally by himself for the evening, and I have a feeling he will remember this time for the rest of his life.


Wet Sand Dunes and Grey Skies

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Another image from our evening spent on the Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. When we first ventured out onto the sand dunes we were disappointed in the weather, the number of footprints visible, and how wet the sand was – little did we know what was in store for us.

There was very little texture in the sand, and the light was mostly both grey and flat. In this image I was drawn to the contrast between the rare dune ripples in the foreground and the ominous and fast moving grey clouds overhead.

Sunset of a Lifetime

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I just turned 46 years old in January. I have always had an appreciation of nature, and over the past ten years or so since I became semi-serious about landscape photography I have seen more sunrises and sunsets than the average person. So when I say that the sunset we witnessed tonight was the best I have ever seen, I hope you can fully understand how spectacular our evening on the dunes near Stovepipe Wells was.

It started out pretty grey and blah, the dunes were wet from the rains last week, and there were footprints all over the place – all making me less than enthusiastic about our chances for some good shooting. Despite this, we were more than happy to enjoy the exercise as we hiked up and down all of the major dunes, all the while searching for a pleasing composition. Even in these conditions, the dunes here are truly amazing, stretching for what seems like miles and miles within the valley.

We had pretty much given up on getting any real “keepers” when we noticed some nice light way off in the distance. We hoped that maybe the sun would get under the layer of clouds and provide us with a last minute show, and boy did it ever. I have never seen a sunset like this in my life. Both Sam and I marveled at the show that was going on in the sky, and I was especially pleased that he was here to share it with me. Perched high on top of the highest dune, we didn’t really have time to go look for an interesting foreground to include in a composition. We mostly just sat in awe, admiring what was going on around us, but here is a taste of what we saw…

Death Valley (and Eastern Sierra)

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Taking a break from the Superbowl hype…

OK… am officially a little worried about the impact the recent weather in Death Valley might have on being able to access some of the more remote parts of the park. After the last round of winter storms washed through DV, there apparently is still a lot of mud and debris around, especially on the dirt and washboard roads to places like the Racetrack, the Devil’s Golf Course, and Titus Canyon. With more showers possible in the next few days, things aren’t looking good for being able to get to some of the more isolated locations in the park. On the plus side though, atypical weather conditions might make for some interesting photographic opportunities in the desert.

Even though the road to the Racetrack is open, the playa is still wet, and NO-ONE SHOULD EVER WALK ON THE PLAYA WHEN IT IS WET – footprints left there can last for years, so with that in mind it unfortunately looks like we will not make it there on this trip. Over the next few days we will be examining our options… maybe we see the iconic sights of DV and then wander on over to CA 395 and explore that region for a couple of days? Last year I had a chance to briefly visit the Alabama Hills behind Lone Pine, and found it to be an incredibly beautiful landscape. At 14,505 ft, Mount Whitney and the Eastern Sierra tower over a desert-type landscape that flows over huge rounded rocks and down into the Owen’s Valley – a landscape that definitely lends itself to photography. I have always wanted to explore from Lone Pine up through Bishop and on to Mono Lake, and this might be a great time to do that.

Not being completely familiar with the area, I have been using Internet social networking tools like Flickr and photography forums to reach out to others with experience from these regions for advice on shooting locations and weather conditions. It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are with sharing information and ideas. Photographers like Ben HorneDan Mitchell, Kevin McNeal, Phil Kuglin, Jim Fox have all been incredibly generous with their knowledge and expertise, so thank you to everyone who has helped.

The image in this post was made on a previous visit to Death Valley, and is from the dunes near Stovepipe Wells. This is a morning shot, and I loved the patterns and textures that were accentuated by the early light. I was lucky on this occasion that there weren’t too many footprints to deal with – a sandstorm had come whipping through the previous afternoon erasing all evidence of human presence. Am very much looking forward to getting back here, this time with Sam.

Four days and counting until we leave…

Death Valley, Plan B and Plan C

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OK… when I check the road conditions at the NPS web site that are updated every other day or so it would appear that the winter storms that reached into Death Valley in recent weeks have had a more serious impact on the landscape than I initially thought. Many of the backcountry roads are still closed due to either snow and ice, or debris and mud from flood damage – bummer.

What if the situation isn’t more stabilized by the time we are scheduled to arrive? A big part of why we chose to visit Death Valley was to experience the power and vastness of the largest national park in the US… that and the possibility of some weather that is warmer than we are getting these days in Maine!

If we are restricted to major roads and cannot get to some of the more remote locations we had planned on visiting we will be disappointed, but I realize that we will still be able to see amazing sights, and am sure that we would thoroughly enjoy visiting many of the iconic and more frequented locations in the park that would be available to us.

The image above is from one of those icons – Zabriskie Point. The early morning light had climbed over my left shoulder to warm the distant Panamint Range. After I made this image, the light quickly stretched across the valley floor, chasing the shadows toward me and lighting up the weathered and crumpled folds in the foreground. I intentionally composed this photograph with the dominant expanse of sky to try to accentuate the scale and immense size of this place. Though it looks like I might be in a place devoid of other humans, there were about 50 other people enjoying this beautiful scene with me… some of them photographers, and many of them conveniently deposited here from a luxury tour bus. Despite the crowds… a spectacular place that everyone should witness at some point in their life.

We will be keeping a close eye on the conditions and hoping that no more moisture makes it to Death Valley in the next week or so, and as we get closer to our departure date we will be considering three possible scenarios.

Plan A is to stick to the plan hoping that everything gets back to normal in time for our arrival.

Plan B is to forge ahead even if some of the more remote places are still inaccessible. If we can’t get to places like The Racetrack, or some of the higher elevations, we can still experience the park in most of its glory through the more often visited iconic locations. Who knows, the rains might even offer a fresh perspective on the desert. We might also make a side trip over to 395 and the Owens Valley to see some of the sights there.

Plan C is if things don’t look so good in Death Valley to make a right turn out of Vegas and instead of going toward California, head over toward northern Arizona and southeastern Utah where will be able to find some different, but nonetheless spectacular scenery and landscapes.

Stay tuned…

Favorite Photographs

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I like taking photographs.

I have recently been reading some blog posts by photographers about the task of paring down all of the images you might have taken in the past year, and presenting your favorites for others to see. These photographers are very active shooters, who have enough images to actually make this a more worthwhile activity. I haven’t really been shooting all that much in 2009, so rather than limiting myself to just the past 12 months, I decided to take on the challenge of creating a collection of favorites from all of my images.

New to the blog are several pages that can be accessed from the menu above under the heading “Gallery” –  from there you can access several categories that I thought best suited the path that my photography has taken.

These are my favorites… not just based on how the final image is presented, but also because of the story behind how each of them was obtained, and the places and experiences I have been able to enjoy along the way. Many of these images were created either early in the morning or later in the day, usually outside of the general population’s tolerance for hanging around. Quite often I am alone in very pretty and peaceful settings when these images were made, and that often means more to me than the making of the actual photographs – though it is nice to empty the memory card and see what I was able to capture.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites to get things started:

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Wrapping up from Death Valley

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Thanks to everyone who followed me on this trip. I appreciate your support, and have enjoyed interacting and sharing the preparations, experiences and photographs from what was an awesome trip. I had a wonderful time both in person in California, and virtually here in the blogosphere.

I am probably going to self-publish a book from this blog to help remind me of the experiences I had. A print run of one – aren’t Web 2.0 tools amazing! Not entirely sure what online publisher to use, so if anyone has any recommendations, they’d be appreciated.

Thanks again to everyone who viewed and commented on this blog. I had a great time and am looking forward to the next big trip… the 17-day family vacation this summer to California to see the Owens Valley, Yosemite National Park, San Fancisco, and Big Sur… should be a blast, and of course I will be bringing my camera gear.

In the meantime, most of my images can be found over on Flickr. I will be adding to the collection there as I make new ones. Here’s one last image from the trip to California. This is Mobius Arch, or Galen’s Arch – from the Alabama Hills area. This version is composed at a little wider angle than the one I already posted, and it was made earlier that same morning, this time before the sun had risen. Later…

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Sandbox

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A photographer’s giant sandbox, the Mesquite Dunes near Stovepipe Wells have quite rightly taken up a considerable number of blog posts for me. I was absolutely fascinated by the light and patterns that appeared that morning, and the 40 mph winds of the evening before did me a huge favor by erasing all trace of footprints from past travelers.

The dunes were absolutely pristine, and I am truly grateful to have been able to experience the morning that I did there. A self-portrait to begin with, this series of images pretty much wraps up the collection of images that I made at this location. 

To view a gallery of images from the trip, go here

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Dunes, Dunes, and more Dunes…

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Here are more images from the Mesquite Sand Dunes. As I have mentioned several times before, this is a special place, and a place that I will definitely return to some day.

The trouble with shooting the dunes in the morning is that when you first walk out there it is still dark! Without any city lights to pollute the darkness, without a full moon it is VERY dark and it takes a little while to get your bearings and “see” compositions that you are interested in, but when the sun comes up, the light moves pretty fast. Ideally you will have either scouted out some compositions the day before, or shooting here in the evening would allow plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the area prior to the arrival of the evening light.

Hopefully this series of images illustrates how fast the light changes, and how wonderful it was? It started out with a cool pretty pink hue, before bathing the dunes with a warm glow. The shadows soon receded, and I was left with a bright, hot sun that truly completed the feeling of being in a desert.

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Back to the Grind

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The reason I made this trip was to present at the College Board AP Colloqium on equity. That presentation was earlier today, and things seemed as though they went well.

My co-presenter and I – Brendan Murphy from John Bapst HS in Bangor – shared how the AP4ALL program provides Advanced Placement opportunities for Maine students regardless of where they live. I laid the foundation about AP4ALL in general, and Brendan did a really nice job relaying his experiences as an online teacher of AP Calculus BC. We had about 12-15 attendees, and they seemed to enjoy the session.

Is always good to mingle with other educators from around the country. It is motivating to hear how others do what they do, and it is invigorating to engage with professional educators who obviously care very much about what they do.

I will be leaving Los Angeles on Sunday morning and will be traveling all day. I am due back in Bangor by 11pm.

Seems like weeks ago since I was in Death Valley… here’s another image from that glorious morning I spent on the dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

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Critter in the Sand

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There isn’t much wildlife visible to the eye out on the Mesquite Dunes, though I think at night there is all sorts of activity. The winds that blew through the valley the day before did a really nice job of erasing any footprints that might have been left by intrepid explorers like myself. That meant that on this gorgeous morning the ridges of the dunes were sharp, and any little imperfections in the sand became highly noticeable.

As I was doing my photographer thing looking for interesting compositions, this scene grabbed my attention. My eye was immediately drawn to the tiny tracks left behind by some kind of critter that had crawled up a huge sand dune. I like to believe that the tracks belong to a highly poisonous scorpion, and that I was in mortal danger on my trek through the dunes. More likely though these are the tiny footprints of some kind of harmless beetle… but the possibility of a deadly scorpion makes for a more exciting story!

I placed my camera and tripod very low to the ground in an attempt to accentuate the tracks of the insect and the lines in the sand. This side of the dune was still in shadow, and I liked the contrast with the sunlit dunes and mountains in the background. Hopefully you can see the tracks in this small web-version of the image?

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