2017 Year in Review

Zion Narrows
2017 is almost behind us.  It has been another year of being in the field with the camera trying to find the perfect landscape and nightscape images.  an interesting year with some good trips and conditions where I made a few images I had really been hoping to get.

As always, my photographing year starts on January 1 where I go out for sunrise.  It was a cold dawn wandering around a local park photographing trees.  This is my favorite new years tradition and goes back to 2000.  What had started as just me has grown to several photographer friends joining me for First Day images.
Nolan River February Milky Way

The short Texas winter followed and I stayed local for most of January and February photographing some of the local rivers in winter.  This is a short season here in Texas as I sit here typing this on December 23rd, we still have some fall color!  Spring leaves will begin to bud on the trees by the last week of February so just about six weeks to see winter.  I spent mine on the Brazos and Nolan Rivers.  The February new moon usually marks when the galactic core of the Milky Way returns to the night sky so I always try to make an early morning trip down to them and get in a few images as it rises about 15 minutes before the stars fade.  This year I got a new view of it from the Nolan River.

March took me west and I flew to Las Vegas for a trip to Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce.  I

was hoping to still have snow on the ground but found it melted and gone at Grand Canyon.  It was cold but I managed to get both a great sunrise as well as Milky Way images at the park.  After a couple of nights it was over to Page.  I had hopes of going to Lower Antelope Canyon but when I saw they no longer allowed tripods from Mar-Nov, I decided to skip the canyon.  We explored state Line Canyon instead.  Free and empty.  You miss the reflected light but you have a better experience than a guided tour.

Then it was over to Bryce for a night.  Still a little snow and very cold.  It was also severe clear so there were no good landscapes to be had, but I did get some nice Nightscape images.

I rounded out the trip with three nights in Zion.  The park was already crowded, it seems the visitation is starting to overwhelm the small area.  I was able to get some nice Milky Way images and I also got snowed on!  Waking up to snow in Zion is magical and I spent a long day chasing the fleeting moment.

May took me to Florida for a week.  This is never a photography trip but I always bring my camera just in case...... I got a few nice sunrises on the trip and spent some time relaxing.

My early summer was spent locally and I did more night photography for the Milky Way.  Standing in the Nolan River in the dark, watching fire flies blink as I stare at the stars is always fun!  

In August I planned a trip to see the eclipse.  I had been thinking about the eclipse since 2012 and have been thinking of watching it in Wyoming since it was going over the Tetons.  As it got closer and eclipse mania swept the country I began to worry.  As reports of possible traffic jams and gas shortages made me concerned I might fly to SLC and never make it to the park.  Luckily it was all good.
Excelsior Geyser

I spent two nights in Yellowstone photographing the Milky Way over the park.  Yellowstone in summer is very crowded.  At night it is pretty empty so I was able to have a few of the geothermal features to myself to photograph the Milky Way.  However, when I went to Grand Prismatic Spring I ran into 4 other people also on the boardwalk photographing it at night.  In 2016 I had it to myself....... social media and modern cameras are bringing more people out at night.

After two nights in Yellowstone, I made my way to the Tetons for the eclipse.  The shot I had been picturing was the eclipse over the Tetons.  Now the sun was going to be more east and south but I was hoping a very wide  lens might do it.  I even rented a 10mm lens that turned out to not be wide enough and I went to the fisheye.  I got the shot!
Eclipse over the Tetons

A lot of effort and planning for two minutes of the total eclipse.  

It was my photograph of the year.  Something I will NEVER get a chance to see or photograph again.  It was also something I think as unique as I was the only person who got the shot from Schwabacher's Landing like this.

A total eclipse is utter magic.  When you go to totality is truly humbling.  I was so impressed I have been looking at what other eclipses I might get to photograph.  One comes over Texas in a few years and I am already working on my spot for it.

In September it was a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion.  It was a week of clear skies but I timed it for the new moon so I was able to get a few nights out in the park photographing the Milky Way. 

Zion Night Sky
In Zion I also waded the amazing Zion Narrows, spending the day in the river chasing reflected light in the canyon.  This is undoubtedly one of the top ten hikes in any national park.  A must see for any photographer.

A few nights in the canyon with my camera photographing the Milky Way over the canyon was fantastic.  Despite the daytime crowds, it is pretty empty at night and I was able to get some nice images of the night sky.

October came and I still had a trip I wanted to do but had not made any plans.  I had been giving thoughts to returning to Scotland or something else like that, but decided to save some days for 2018 and I took a week to explore something new here in the US.  I spent a week alone in the Great Basin.  Nevada is just Las Vegas for most people, but it is a big, empty state to explore.  I spent a week exploring the Ruby Mountains and Great Basin National Park in northern Nevada.  This is basin and range country.  A cold desert of flat deserty basins and tall forested mountains.

A land few people visit.
Great Basin

I spent a few days camped in the Ruby Mountains in a glacial carved valley with snow on the ground, fall color in the trees and only 4 other campers in the campground.  I then went over to Great Basin National Park.  Again finding just a few campers there and I all but had the park to myself.  I was just a bit to late for the fall color.  I saw dark sky, hiked to a glacier (yes there is a glacier in Nevada!), and took in the solitude.

On my way back to Salt Lake City, I spent a night in Wendover and visited the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Best known for land speed records, the salt flats are amazing.  Sadly too many knuckleheads have driven on the salt when it was wet and rutted it up.  I had a hard time finding sections of salt without tire tracks.  I had better luck at night when I was able to photograph the Milky Way over pools of water and stark landscape of the salt.

I have spent the remainder of the year chasing fall colors in Texas.  Our fall color season is long here.  Rather than the two week flash most places get, ours starts in early
Big Falls of the West Fork
November and runs to the third week of December.  It is long and slow with different trees peaking at different times.  From local rivers to parks to our Japanese Garden autumn has made slow visit.  I have been out every chance I get chasing the colors.

Now I find the year is almost over.  I look back at the year in images and am glad I took some chances seeing the eclipse and exploring new areas like the Great Basin.  I always feel there is never enough time to travel, explore and see the places I want to see.

I have been thinking of 2018 and where I might go.  I think of what options await me.

Here is to another year of adventure and photography!


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