We've been to Death Valley numerous times, but it wasn't until this year that we took a hike at Mesquite Flat Dunes. The problem with sand dune photography is excluding from the frame the footprints from the hundreds of people who traipse all over the landscape. Either you have to be the first to show up right after a windy day has erased the marks, or you have to forge deep into the dunes, far beyond where others bother to go. A third option is the tight crop, as in this image. We had just climbed to the top of the big dune, and as the sun was setting I saw this glint of light hitting the curve of a neighboring dune. Because the back side of the dune had a wind-rippled texture, the low angled sun generated tiny beads of light along the edge of the rim. I had just a moment or two before the sun dropped and the scene disappeared. How lucky was that?
Across the river from Batopilas' historical center, the walls of the old Shepherd mansion stretch for a half mile along the river. Over time, the mansion has decayed, and now only weathered remains whisper of the rich silver mining legend that once made Batopilas one of the most prolific ore-producing communities in all of Mexico. Along the old wall, trees have grown up and spread their intermingled roots down to the cobbled river bed. I could have spent a couple days exploring the twisted designs--nearly a landscape unto itself.
Just north of Livingston, Montana, the Crazy Mountains (the "Crazies", as local call them) rise above the vast Montana plains. Where mountains meet sky, the unrelenting winds sculpt lenticular clouds, adding to the drama of the scene. This wintery view was taken on the west side of the range, where legacy farms huddle for protection in the swales and hollows. I can't imagine the tenacity and resilience of those who homesteaded the area nearly two hundred years earlier, nor what hope (or desperation?) might have driven their determination to reside full-time where the natives knew better.
During our autumn 2019 tour of the Rocky Mountain west, we swung up into Sunlight Basin on Yellowstone's western border. The area is thick with grizzlies, and sure enough, we met a forest ranger who was putting up signs warning of a recent sighting. Apparently some hunters had gutted their kill and thoughtlessly left the refuse near a popular dispersed camping area just down the road. A sow grizzly had picked up the scent, and was now sitting on the kill site. We were happy to remain camped a couple miles away.
On our way back from Baja in 2016, we swung through southeastern Oregon--one of the more remote and desolate areas in the northwest--passing by the edge of the Alvord desert. It's a wild place, with a beautiful playa that covers about 140 square miles. There's a little hot springs that folks like to visit, and to the west, the Steens Mountains rise nearly 6000 feet, creating a dramatic backdrop to the ballroom-smooth surface of the playa. I love the wide open expanses like this, and of course, they make for nice panoramas. If you arrive from the south, you come around a bend in the road and the whole playa suddenly opens up before you. I took two images with my Lumix micro 4/3 camera then stitched them together to get this result.
Not far from Tikal, Guatemala's premier archeological site, Lago Peten Itza welcomes travelers for a sunset swim. We camped here for a couple days, escaping the heat of the sun with an occasional dip in the cooling water of the lake. Who could resist?
During our overland journey through Colombia, we explored the area around San Jose del Guaviare, a region rich in archeological, ecological, and geological wonders. During the decades of civil war, Guaviare, like much of rural Colombia, had been off limits not just to travelers, but to those who would exploit its vast terrain for commercial gain. With the 2016 FARC peace agreement, the country has been largely demilitarized, but because the government's presence in much of rural Colombia is still limited, tourists aren't the only ones taking advantage of Guaviare's new-found accessibility. Illegal land clearing for mining and cattle ranching is accelerating at a rapid pace. During our backroad drive from San Jose to La Macarena, we happened onto this newly cleared section of forest which had been lit on fire. As peace comes to rural Colombia, it bears with it a significant cost.
This image was a finalist in the 2021 Travel Photographer of the Year contest, "Green Planet" category.
We flew back from Panama to attend our oldest son's wedding in August 2018, borrowed my folks' Vanagon camper, and spent some time exploring the Rocky Mountain west. We had heard about Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana's Centennial Valley, and stopped in on our way through. In spring and autumn, the valley's lakes attract hundreds of thousands of migrating and resident waterfowl, and the rare trumpeter swan. Although we didn't spot any of the glorious birds, our visit did coincide with a few days of wild weather--right after we pulled into the lakeshore campground, a nasty thunderstorm shook our little camper. The next day dawned bright, and as we left the valley we pulled over on a bend to look back to the southern reaches of the Gravelly Range. The low-hanging clouds were a departing gift.