Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Glow

The red rock country is amazing. The sights, the rocks, the cliffs and arches are all fantastic features to visit, explore, and photograph
As a photographer I always hope to be there to witness a sky filled with clouds and spectacular sunsets over this rugged landscape. I saw some of that, but I also saw several days of bluebird cloudless sky (the norm here). You might think that clear sky can make photography bad. Well sometimes it can. It was tough getting an image at 2pm. But the first and last few minutes of the day had some great warm direct light that lit the rocks up.

But there was something else. Before sunrise and after sunset there was the glow.

It takes a few minutes after sunset but as the sky gets yellower in the west the warm reddish glow flows across the land. On those clear days it was by far the best light. For a few minutes early and late the rocks are bathed in color and soft light. The shadows almost do not exist and the scene just glows.

These images show some of that. An early day at Dead Horse Point. I got there in the dark and I stayed through the sunrise, but it was those very early glowing images that looked the best. It was a place and time that Velvia was made for. The 4x5 chromes I made here dripped with color from the glow.

An afternoon at Green River Overlook on a cloudless day was ok, but the glow after sunset was WOW. The colors and light were much better with the glow than the last light of day.

On another afternoon I was photographing in Arches and there must have been 20 photographers nearby. They all left right at sunset and I watched the glow alone and made the best images of the day.

The glow can be everything on a clear day.
Don't miss it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autumn in the Utah High Country

A great thing about being in the southwest is how there is a such a great diversity in climate and sights by elevation. Dry, hot, desert lowlands can be just a few miles away from lush mountain forests.

The Moab area is no different. Arches and Canyonlands are dry red rock country that seems lifted right out of a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. Yet a short drive out of town and you go up into the cooler pine and aspen forests of the La Sal Mountains.

So a rather clear day became perfect for heading into the high country in search of fall color. The color started out in the scrubby oaks on the lower hillside. It moved up into stands of aspen and even though the pines stay green some of the higher ones already had snow blanketing their bases.

The color could vary greatly in the aspen, even in the same grove. Some could be green. Others starting the yellowing process. Some were golden. Finally some were bare. All of them were photogenic. Images were everywhere-from long lens compression to staring up with a wide angle there was so much color to photograph it was hard to find where to start.

A great thing about fall color is how it seems to photograph well anytime and in any light. As a landscape photographer a clear day is usually our bane but backlit fall color can be stunning. Mid-day light is usually way too harsh for photography, but for staring up at aspens it works.

Now if it had been overcast and drizzly I would have liked that too.

The colors were so nice I made a return trip to see some of the same area mid morning. Just a few days made a big difference (as did the wind) as more trees were bare. There was snow on the higher peaks and you could feel fall was slipping away to winter.

While in the mountains, I also drove one of the high passes to look for snow and did I find it. What had been rain in the desert a few days before had been snow in the mountains. The peaks were white capped. The snow came down under 10,000' and I crunched through it in the thick pine forests that blanket the mountainside above the aspen.

It certainly seemed a long way from the dry red rock country I was camping in but it was only a few minutes by road.

The colors of autumn made the trip even better as did the touch of high country snow. It added a whole different type of photography and gave me many good images. See some of the better ones in the Utah Fall Color folder in my Galleries.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rain in the Canyonlands

The red rock country of Utah is a parched dry desert. It is known for bluebird clear skies and getting very little rain. On a trip like this my normal big fear is a week of blue sky. So when I arrived in Canyonlands National Park late one evening to thick cloud cover I was hoping for some bad weather to get me some great light. The next morning started off completely overcast-no sunrise at all. The cool overcast of morning gave way to a day of mostly thick clouds and then occasional breaking clear. As a photographer it was a perfect day as it allowed me to be out all day and make images.

As the day wore on we could see distant rain showers over the canyon country. It was a perfect way to spend a day exploring Canyonlands. Every overlook had tremendous views across miles of canyon country and toward distant mountains. The rain spilling out of a dark distant clouds on this canyon landscape was just what you would hope for to make a great image. At first it was just a light rain but as we closed in on sunset the storm clouds built up became darker and spread across the western sky.

The late afternoon sun was lost behind then rain and as it approached sunset it began to make the rain glow. I raced across the plateau at Grandview Point to get get a view west and hopefully north where I could take in the Green River canyons. I got to the western rim of the plateau with mere moments before the sun would pop underneath the distant rain. I frantically worked to set up two tripods and two cameras. The light would happen fast but it also look very spectacular, so I wanted to capture it on both 4x5 chrome and digital.

I was able to get both cameras working and worked both as the sun made it's appearance under the clouds and behind the rain. The light was intense as I moved between cameras.
As the light faded into evening the rain kept falling and the reddish light of the after sunset glow kept filling the sky and the canyons. Every direction had a decent image.
Even after starting the hike back I kept finding images and would stop. Make an image. Make another. Hike some. Stop and do it again.
It was everything I could hope for in a day here.
The images in this post follow the day. From the mid-day clouds at the Green River Overlook to the rain starting to form up at Grandview, to the sunset to the rain and glow of the last light.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Utah by Night

Back from a week in the red rock country around Moab, Utah. Got a chance to visit Canyonlands NP, Arches NP, Deadhorse Point SP, the Colorado River and the LaSal Mountains. I saw rain, snow, fall color, desert canyons, petroglyphs, and a lot of arches.

One of the things we spent time doing was photographing on clear nights. The countless stars were great to view and capture as an image. Also did some light painting of various formations.

This first image was a favorite. I am standing on Mesa Arch in Canyonlands at night. The image is about a minute long so I had to stand still for a minute on top of the arch. I might also add that it is 1500' straight down about 2' on either side from where I am standing. Anyway, got lucky and picked up a shooting star during the image giving it a whole new impact. I felt like Mickey as the sorcerers apprentice.

Another image shows the same arch closer to sunrise as the crowd begins to gather. I got there about 4:45am and had it all to myself for a couple of hours. By sunrise 40 people were jockeying for position.

Finally an image from Arches. I found this crack on a trip here five years ago and have been wanting to get a great image from it with the towers beyond. I tried in the daytime but could not capture anything other than ordinary. On my last morning in the park I got there at 5:30am and went to painting it with light. Viola- the forge of Odin.
The light painting added a whole new dimension to the image making process. It was fun, different, and sometimes just luck but it made for some great photographs.
See more in the Utah section of my galleries.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Lost Mesa

The Lost Mesa is one of the finest areas I have ever visited. This is easily one of the most remote and hard to get to places I have ever been.

Where is it you ask?

It is in New Mexico. It is a wild lonely area of grasslands, open range, and a few stray mountains. The actual name is Otero Mesa. Otero meaning hill (or mesa), but I do not think that name is becoming such a grand landscape. As such I have taken to calling it the Lost Mesa as it gives it that Shangri-La mythic quality of a name that this place truly should have.

This is big open range country. Rolling grasslands extend in every direction. "Forests" of yucca can be seen. Pronghorn roam the open areas. A few lonely mountains pop out of the sea of grass. It is an area that has few signs of man. Only a few ranches that are out here and the occasional cow. But mostly it is big and empty. If John Wayne came riding across the range-you would not be surprised.
It is bounded by three mountain ranges on the north, east, and south. It 's western neighbor is the Tularosa basin and more importantly Fort Bliss. This all makes this one of the most isolated places in the lower 48. It's geography makes it a difficult location to find or get to. There are not any paved roads here. There are no towns here. A few gravel roads enter from the outside, but unless you want to get here-you never will.

It is an area I have seen from a distance and always wondered about. Wondered what it was like. Wondered how to get there. I spent hours looking at maps finding a road here or there. This is not a roadside scenic overlook, this is a destination you have to try and try and drive and drive to get to. When I finally made it there, I was amazed. This is a very special place. A wild place. A place I am glad I made it to and a place I will be going back to again and again.There is really no way to capture this landscape in an image. The distances involved, the enormous quality of the sky and the endless range-it all confounds the photographer in me. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but being here is worth a million pictures.

The images here are but a sliver of what this area is. I can only hope you can feel the empty quality of this landscape by these few pictures.

The first and third images show the open quality of the range land here. It is big and empty with a view for miles. The second image is at the southern end of the mesa where a few solitary mountains rise out of the grass. This is Alamo Mountain. A lonely mountain that marks the western end of the Horned Mountains. The Fourth image is of Wind Mountain over the ridge of Flat Top Mountain. You can just make out a few head of cattle feeding across the grassland.

Expect to see more images from and read more about this area. This is a place I have just scratched the surface on and it will be a location I will keep returning to.