Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2009

I wanted to wish you all a happy holiday, whatever it is you may celebrate. Personally, I simply celebrate the fact that we get time off during this wonderful part of the year. I’ll be spending several days with my parents in the cold North of California looking for Bald Eagles, followed by a week of exploring in Oregon, hopefully with some fresh snow somewhere in the mix.

I’ll leave you with two new images, the first being from my previous trip to Owens Valley. I have a soft spot for those swaying grasses, and when they catch the low angle light from behind, they really come to life. Meanwhile the fall colors contrasted nicely with the turquoise Rabbitbrush.

“Dancing in the Sun” ~ Owens Valley, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2 mkII, 70-200mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/18, 1/6th sec

I recently revisited this older image to get back into the mood for bird photography, as it’s been quite some time. I took this image of a Short-eared Owl a few years ago in Ithaca… I hope I can still handle the cold as I could back then! Two years in Southern California tends to make you go ‘soft’.

“Short-eared Owl” ~ Ithaca, NY
The Tech: Canon 20D, 500mm + 1.4x tc, monopod
Exposure: iso 800, f/5.6, 1/1250th

Lastly, here’s one of the more beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever found – from a snowy adventure last year! Be sure and save some time this holiday season for a peaceful wintery walk in the outdoors, I don’t know about you, but the holiday traffic is driving me crazy, and I can’t wait to be out in the boonies. See you next year!

“Winter Sequoias” ~ King’s Canyon NP, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D, 24-105mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 0.4 sec


Too Cold for Color

December 9, 2009

This past weekend friend and photographer Eric Good and I headed out to the Eastern Sierra with high hopes of photographing Mt. Whitney in its early winter glory. The weather, however, was not terribly kind to us. While the temperatures were only supposed to drop to 8 degrees F, the blowing winds were going to reach 65mph where we planned to camp. We ran into another adventurous fellow who was on the way out – his tent had been flattened by the winds. As we made it out of the gully to lower boy scout lake, we saw the menacing winds for ourselves, furiously whipping snow into the air. As much as it pained us, we decided this really wasn’t the time to camp up there… I’ll have to return some day for another go. It’s always better to admit defeat and live to see, adventure, and photograph another day, than to throw in all your chips for one reckless gamble. As hard as it is for a driven nature photographer…

Winter winds on Mt. Whitney (right most peak).

Fortunately, Mt. Whitney isn’t far from some other incredible places, so we still managed to get some photography in, in addition to our chilly adventures. The incoming storm, predicted to arrive on Sunday afternoon, didn’t quite show up on time, but it did provide some inspiring lenticular clouds – the famous Sierra Wave, which often forms over Owens Valley.

“Alien Signals” ~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/16, 30 sec
Processing: two exposures blended, the foreground was shot earlier in the evening under more light at iso 100 to maximize detail and minimize noise.

“Sleeping Stones”~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/16, 10 sec

We also made a stop in Death Valley to explore a remote, and pleasantly lush canyon. Green rushes, brilliant fall colors, and gushing waterfalls – it was hard to believe this was Death Valley! On the way in we ran into a group of Wild Burros, no doubt frequent visitors of this desert paradise. Burros were introduced in the 1500’s by the Spaniards, originally coming from Africa where they were known as Wild Asses. I’ve seen Burros in Death Valley several times, but never this close and cooperative, even the light couldn’t have been better! It must be a rough life out there for them.. not much in the way of food or water, and plenty of hot sun.

“Wild Burros” ~ Death Valley, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/13, 1/125th

The canyon wasn’t all pristine and paradisaical, no… there was a burned down ore processing area with singed and bulging batteries. Plans had been made for one of them, but the rest of the mess, I’m not sure about.

“Removal Planned” – An abandoned battery awaits the clean up crew… 10 miles from the nearest hard road.

It’s been quite a while since I posted a black and white, no reason really, it just hasn’t happened. Ironically this trip my three keepers were all best suited to monochrome – I hope you enjoy the change. If you must get a color fix you can see another Burro here. I’m sure more colors will be on the way, though with winter approaching and fall just about behind us (yes, in California fall lasts well into December!), it might not be until spring (which of course starts in late February, here at least) that I’ll find some truly colorful scenes again.

If you would like to get either prints or calendars in time for the holidays, don’t delay!

Desert Wanderings

December 4, 2009

Well, I left you with a cliff hanger last time, so I figured I should share my post-thanksgiving view with you before I depart for the icy Mt. Whitney this weekend. I have had a fascination with using long telephoto lenses for providing a unique viewpoint since taking my Bristlecone image titled “The Graveyard“, though haven’t found many opportunities to use the technique. So when I figured out where and how I could get such an image of the Death Valley dunes I knew I had to try. I suspected this image would work best at dawn, but I had a practice run at sunset, which already got me fired up. The following morning I awoke to find one of the most promising sunrise skies I’ve seen in quite a while. With such a sky I thought I shouldn’t let it go to “waste”, and headed down to the dunes proper to find a wide angle composition. After five minutes hike into the sand I realized my mistake: not only would I not find a pristine expanse of sand to photograph (there were footsteps everywhere, as usual), but that fantastic sky would provide the best light on the dunes themselves that I could hope for by reflecting the orange and pink light. I hustled back to my distant perch, and took in the sandbox from afar as the clouds began to glow under the sunrise light.

“The Sandbox” ~ Death Valley NP
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 500mm + 1.4xtc, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/14, 5 sec

I spent the rest of the morning exploring remote slot canyons, and came across this marble sculpture of a dry fall that caught my eye. Rock hopping up the canyons and slipping down the falls brought back good memories of the annual trips I used to make here with my parents. They were supposed to be here, but car troubles kept them at home, along with my thanksgiving dinner.. oh well, the sand, I mean light, made up for it!

“Marble Sculpture” ~ Death Valley NP
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/18, 8 sec

Being restless, I decided to head to the Alabama Hills in the hopes of photographing some beautiful round boulders I had discovered earlier in the year. As I drove into the hills I was struck by an astounding display of unsuspected fall color. I had never been to this area at this time of year – and hadn’t seen pictures or reports of the fall color there either. I suppose most photographers abandon the concept of fall once the aspens have passed their prime halfway through October. And then don’t return to the East side until the winter magic sets in. As the sun set behind the Sierra Crest, the last backlight it cast on the rabbitbrush and other desert plants brought them to life like I’ve never seen before. What a marvelous and colorful plant community! Be sure to view the larger version on my website!

“Flames of Fall” ~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/30th sec
Processing: 3 image (vertical) stitch. I had to clone out two small powerline poles. Maybe I should have cut them down instead.. perhaps if there was just a bit more Edward Abbey in me.

Thanks for all the kind words on my Zion trip, it was a most incredible place.. one I hope to return to more frequently. Fortunately it’s not all that far from California!