Before sunset, with the landscape bathed in flat light, the colors of Badwater Basin are muted. The presence of clouds gave me a great excuse to process this image in black and white. I love the deep contrast of the salt-brine patterns, the mountain cliffs, and the sky.
From intimate patterns to glorious sunsets, mother nature puts on her finest displays
During our "cirque de southwest" in 2018 we swung by Coral Dunes State Park in southern Utah. At sunset, the dunes glow with an unworldly pink color, and I was hoping for some classic "dune-scape" images. Unfortunately, the area is open to OHVs, and by the time we arrived, the sand had been pretty well tracked up. So, rather than fight the conditions, I looked for other opportunities for interesting images. The dunes happen to be home to the tiger beetle, one of the rarest insects on the planet, given that its entire range on earth is limited to only a small portion of the seven-mile long set of dunes. I don't know if these tracks are from a tiger beetle, but I suppose a trained entomologist would be able to identify the species, simply from the little footprints. As my own beetle-track reading skills are admittedly weak, the mystery remains. Either way, it was fun to find this little trail through what must be, for the beetle, an immense wilderness of sand. And, for whatever reason, this little guy decided to suspend his journey momentarily to execute a perfect pirouette! Had he lost his bearing for just a second and needed to reset his guidance system? Or was he just turning around to take in the view? Only the beetle knows.
My camera is not the best for Milky Way photos, as the exposure time seems limited to 8 seconds, and when cranking up the ISO, (also limited compared to newer cameras), the sensor brings in a fair bit of noise. It takes a pretty dark sky and bright stars to make a good exposure, so I was pretty happy when things worked in my favor: camping at high altitude in Colorado in a location far from any light pollution, on a moonless night. That's about as perfect set of conditions I could hope for, and I'm pretty satisfied with the results.
I began pilgrimages to Canyonlands National Park way back in the early 70s, when friends and I would disappear into the wilderness on week-long backpacking adventures. At that time, the park was relatively unknown, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There would be times when we wouldn't see another party for days on end. Fast forward 50 years, and the changes are dramatic. The Needles District trails are overcrowded, the parking lots fill quickly, and you have to apply a year in advance for a backcountry camping permit. There's no denying the beauty that attracts so many visitors, but it also means we risk loving it to death.
During our stay at La Sudrie, our hosts Guy and Francoise asked if we could spend a few days getting their vacation home in Basville up to snuff so they could put it up for sale. They were getting on in years, and while the home had brought them many wonderful memories when their love was still young, they recognized it was becoming difficult to visit, much less keep up. We gladly obliged, as this would be a good excuse us to explore unfamiliar areas of France. One day, we went to the market in nearby Felletin, and on the way "home" ran across this amazing oak tree in the woodlands. We measured the circumference at head-height to be over 30 feet--nearly 10 feet in diameter. Surely this magnificent specimen was at least 500 years old. We wondered what history had passed by during the centuries since it had sprouted from a little acorn.
While we were housesitting near Uvita, Costa Rica, we made a day trip up to Manuel Antonio National Park. I had been resisting going there, as it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country, and, having camped on the beach for two weeks back in 1977 when the place was nearly completely wild, was not looking forward to seeing the massive tourist infrastructure that been built up in the last 40 years. Still, there is a reason everyone goes there, as we were soon to find out. Not only are the beaches beautiful, but there are troops of monkeys! Lotsa monkeys! Seemed like everywhere we went we saw tribes and tribes of capuchins, and even a shy squirrel monkey or two. Sadly, some tourists had smuggled in some bags of potato chips, and the monkeys, being master thieves, had raided their picnic basket. Now there was a big monkey sitting in a tree with a bag of chips, looking around as if to say, "Where's the dip?" Later, we saw another monkey nearly attack a couple on a beach. They had been peeling a banana, and as it turns out, monkeys do like bananas! It's not a myth! When the tourist pulled the banana out of her bag, the monkey made a beeline for her, and in the face of an aggressive banana-seeking monkey, the tourist did what anyone would do in that situation: she screamed an ran, dropping the banana--and her bag--for the monkey to claim. Wish we'd caught that on video!
A small stream flows through a small gorge in remote southeastern Colombia. The stream cuts through an outlying section of the 1.7 billion year old, pre-cambrian, Guiana Shield--one of the earth's oldest landscapes.
During our stay in Pijao, Colombia, we heard about a hike we could take up a small river in search of the guácharo, a nocturnal, cave-dwelling bird. Following our trusty guide, we slipped our way upstream through a narrow gorge, at times scaling the small cascades that spanned the canyon. At the back end of the gorge, a double waterfall spilled into the cave, adding drama to the scene. In order to get this shot, I had to stand in waist-deep water, holding the tripod down while dodging small logs rotating in the eddy. We did see some guácharos, but for me, this waterfall was the highlight of the adventure.
After nearly three months of shooting seascapes at sunset, I finally got around to getting some graduated filters. I'd spent a few days photographing a "surge" hole at the end of this little ramp, and never thought about stepping back to this view, nor about shooting just as the sky went dark. This was a 16 second long exposure, and I'm pretty happy with the results. Now if only I could have gotten a crescent moon into the mix!
Shortly after arriving in Hawaii we visited one of the Kona coast's many historic parks. This particular location features broad expanses of solidified lava which form occasional tidepools. When a glorious sunset coincides with low tide, the reflections are magic. I came back to this spot numerous times over the next several weeks, but never saw anything nearly quite as spectacular. This image was a rare gift of Hawaiian "mana."
I captured this image on my iPhone during a morning hike in the hills near Uvita, Costa Rica. Of course, I prefer my "real" camera for exploring the details of nature, but in fact, modern smartphones are capable of creating impressive images--as long as they're not enlarged too much. I liked the texture of the black and white version of this photo, and decided to keep it in my collection. Maybe one day I'll have an opportunity to take a similar image with my 4x5 view camera. Now that would be impressive!
A spring storm had just chased us off Axololt lake near Ennis, Montana, where my son and I had been float tube fly fishing. On our way out, the sun broke through the clouds in the midst of yet another squall. With my back to the wind, I was able to shield my camera from the rain and capture this image of a double rainbow over the Madison river valley. This was one of those truly fleeting moments--thirty seconds later the sun disappeared and the magic was gone.
On Hawaii's Big Island, lava flows dominate the coastline, creating interesting surge holes which seem to swallow up the sea. After searching up and down the Kona coast for seascape opportunities, I found this little spot just steps from our condominium. At sunset, snorkeling tours regularly depart at sunset, so I only had to wait -- and hope that the boat would come by at just the right moment.
During a recent trip down the west coast of the US we stopped at a few of Oregon's redwood groves--part of the Redwoods National Park. This particular grove was near our campsite on the Duzen river. The trees formed a tight circle around a hollow in the ground, where once there must have stood a mighty tree. The mother tree had long since dissolved into the forest floor, leaving behind its encircled offspring--a new generation of forest giants to carry on the legacy. Old growth groves like this are but small, scattered remnants of what used to be a vast forest. If those ancient forests were cathedrals, these remaining tracts would be no more than a few shards of broken stained glass.
In 2021 we spent the summer touring the Rocky Mountain west, including a swing through the Beartooth Mountains in northwestern Wyoming. The summer tourist season was still raging, and we felt lucky to grab the last campsite before the weekend crowds arrived. That night a storm came in, and just before dawn the rain turned to snow. We woke up to a clearing sky, and I quickly grabbed my camera to see what surprises were in store. A misty lake, fresh snow on the ground, and a few remaining clouds were all it took to send me into a shutter-whirring frenzy. These gifts come so rarely. And to think I almost rolled over and went back to sleep!
Springs storms seem to favor southwestern Montana, offering plenty of opportunities for photographers to capture some dramatic skies. We had been fishing at the Axolotl Lakes near Ennis, and stopped at this overlook on our way home just as another squall was passing. This image was taken looking east over the Madison valley, Gallatin Range in the background.