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2018—In the Mind’s Eye

One of the most interesting aspects of Arches National Park is how different the rock formations appear at various times of the day, primarily because of changes in the light. At early and late times in the day, the shadows elongate and suddenly, the mind’s eye begins to see shapes and forms in the rocks.  On Friday morning, we visited Skyline Arch, a place I’d never been and that was deserted except for us.  Because of the early morning hour, the shadows created lots of fodder for the mind.  One of the shapes that caught my eye was that of the face of a wizened old man wedged into a dark crack in the rock.   It looks a bit like one of  Ents, or tree people, in J. J. R. Tolkien’s  Lord of the Rings Triology.  It wasn’t until I looked at the photograph again that I realized his wasn’t the only face there.  Another face, a much larger face appears to react to the appearance of the wizened old man.  That face takes up the right half of the photograph, turned slightly away, with mouth agape reacting to the other face in the rock.

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2018—Under Pine Tree Arch

On Friday morning, we walked to Pine Tree Arch at the  Devil’s Garden Trailhead at the northern most part of Arches National Park.  This view is from under the arch facing east.

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2018—The Stars at Night

Delicate Arch is one of the iconic views of Arches National Park.  This was my fourth visit to the park in the past ten years but my first visit to Delicate Arch which is a stunning geological landmark.  The trail up to Delicate Arch is a three mile round trip trek from the parking lot to the arch, much of it on what is called slick-rock something especially precarious for someone like me who is afraid of heights and who lacks sure footedness. It took us most of an hour carrying our camera gear on Thursday afternoon.

By late afternoon, we arrived at the top, looking down at the arch which is located near the bottom of what is considered a bowl.  We were there to photograph heavenly bodies with the arch as a focal point for our photographs which means  we waited until dark for to take them.  When my group of four other photographers, including Moose Peterson, decided to move down into the bowl, I was at first, frozen in place.  Afterall, it was quite a trek up to the arch and for someone who is afraid of heights, getting there was a harrowing experience.  Now that I was at the Arch, seeing the bowl of slick-rock that surrounded it, I was even more concerned about whether I could venture closer.  But, as the light faded, I managed to move across the bowl to join my companions in the relative safety of some large rocks that both sheltered me from the wind and kept me from rolling off the edge of the bowl.   I couldn’t bring myself to venture out into the bowl to photograph heavenly bodies with my friends but I did manage to  capture some elegant photographs of the arch and the Milky Way behind it despite my concerns.  A little light painting added some detail and interest and this photograph ended up one of my favorites of the evening’s shoot.  The photograph shows the streaks of a few of the airplanes that flew by our lenses that evening.  Because we used long shutter speeds, they appear as streaks in the  night sky.

When the shoot ended and it was time to return, it was dark and well past 7:30 PM.   We still had an hour’s walk back down to the parking lot…and this time in almost total darkness…just starlight and out headlamps to guide us. If it weren’t for Moose, I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it either up or down.  He was careful to make sure I followef the route that best suited me, that is, the path with the fewest obstructions and least slope.  When we got to the top, he helped me maneuver over some rocks so that I had an unobstructed view of the arch.  Until darkness enveloped us, there were quite a few visitors to the arch.  Most visitors took a few selfies, then returned almost immediately to walk back down to the parking lot.  By the time we left, we were the only people left at the arch.  The walk down was, surprisingly for me, much quicker than the trek up.  I followed Moose’s trail, illuminated by his flashlight.

When I looked at the photographs, I was at once thrilled to see the Milky Way and concerned that I didn’t know how to finish the photographs to make them pop.  Moose helped me at a Digital Darkroom session Friday morning where I learned to bring up clarity and whites in Adobe Camera Raw to emphasize the Milky Way, plus a few other tweaks to make the photos really come to life.  I’m not sure why this iconic natural phenomenon is called Delicate Arch.  Perhaps it is because it stands alone, without any surrounding structure to support it.  For whatever reason it got its name, it and the surrounding area make for beautiful photograhs.

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2018—Waiting for the Sun

Thursday morning we left at 5AM to drive to the “end of the road” in Canyonlands National Park.  That’s the location of Grand View Point vista.  While we waited for the sun to peek above the horizon in the direction of the La Sal Mountains, barely visible where the sun is emerging, a few clouds put on a nice display for us with the colors and the drama in the sky changing second by second.  As the sun began to peek above the horizon, the clouds, at first dark and threatening, began to lighten with the red reflections on the clouds, making them less foreboding and adding a cheerier greeting to the day.

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2018—After Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands is a fascinating place.  It is a spectacular sight when the sun lights the red rocks beneath it and that light is reflected on the underside of the arch after sunrise.  When we arrived there Wednesday morning before sunrise, the area facing the arch was filled with people: photographers, foreign tourists, and a few runners.  The photographers, most of whom appeared to be part of an organized photography workshop were lined up shoulder to shoulder about 15 feet away from the arch itself,  a sort of Maginot Line of photographers. past which, no one would dare venture.  A few hardy souls squeezed near the corners of the arch further blocking access with their tripods and camera bags.  But, we knew they did not have the best vantage point.

We arrived without tripods carrying only a single camera and lens with a backup second lens in our pocket.  And we waited.  We stood to the side, avoiding the hordes and watched. A few minutes before 7AM, the sun came up, suddenly appearing on the far horizon and the Maginot Line came to life snapping sunrise photographs.  During this flurry, the sun appeared through the arch but the underside of the arch was not yet glowing red.  As the sun rose higher and the horde began to dissipate Moose stepped forward to the center of the arch, lay across the rocks at the edge of the bottom of the arch, aimed his fisheye lens as the underside of the arch began to glow.  I went next, then Richard.  The horde realized there might be a shot there and suddenly the Maginot Line moved en masse and blocked us out again.  The flurry of activity continued for another ten or fifteen minutes during which we did elbow our way back into the opening of the arch in turn, but we were more polite than others there.  After 30 minutes, all but one other photographers and us had disappeared.  We had the freedom to move about wherever we wanted to be.  And the photography just kept getting better.

After about 45 minutes after sunrise, the magic that is Mesa Arch appeared, as if out of nowhere.  The underside of the arch glowed even more fiery red, the front of the arch was devoid of people, a few clouds appeared in the sky behind the arch, and it was glorious.  And we were the only ones there to witness, enjoy, appreciate, and photograph it.  This photograph was well worth the short wait.

Nikon D850; 8-15mm Fisheye at 14mm; f/8; ISO 64; Exposure Compensation 0.

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2018—Morning Drama at Turret Arch

About 20 minutes after sunrise at Arches National Park on Tuesday, the light from the sun’s rays began to briefly kiss the tops and edges of the rocks and arches at Turret Arch. I wanted to emphasize the dramtic light on the rocks using my Nikon D850 and Nikkor 24-70mm VR lens so I underexposed by two stops.  In Adobe Camera Raw, I converted the photograph to black and white for more drama. I like both version so I decided to include both in this post.

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2018—Greetings from North Window Arch

North Windows Arch is an impressive opening in the red sandstone  in Arches National Park that has more the almond shape of eye rather than a square window.  A young couple visiting when we were there cooperated by posing under the arch to lend a sense of scale to the formation.  Because rock was backlit from the rising sun, I decided the photograph would be more effective in black and white.

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2018—Al the Wop’s

Our visit last week to Locke featured a lunch stop at Al’s Place, better known as Al the Wop’s.  Al the Wop’s is a regionally famous institution that is long on atmosphere, good food, and drink, and short on upscale decor.  It was my first visit there and I was pleased to find one of my favorite Zins available, Michael David’s Seven Deadly, and one of the best BLTs I’ve ever eaten.  It was long on bacon and fabulous homemade grilled bread, and I don’t even remember the lettuce or tomato.

Established in 1934, Al is long gone but his persona lives on.   Locals and boaters have visited there for years.   Since Locke is so small (fewer than 90 residents) tourists, boaters, and bikers make up its clientele.  As we headed into Al’s for lunch, a group of Boomer-aged bikers roared into town but they seemed to know about the sign out front:

Bikers
Please respect the residents of Locke and keep your RPMs down…
No burnouts, please

Don’t park on sidewalk
Thanks for your cooperation.

Al the Wops

The “bike” locked to a front post, right up on the sidewalk flaunts the sign’s plea in clear view of it.  This bike is obviously not the type of bike the sign is aimed at but I thought it was kind of funny and ironic.

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At one time, if a man entered wearing a necktie, it was cut off and attached to the ceiling.  Now, bills of various denominations are either crumpled and stuck to or dangle from the colorful wooden ceiling.

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2018—Gray Cat

On Saturday, I went with my camera club to the historic town of Locke, built and inhabited by the Chinese a little over 100 years ago in the Delta on a bend in the Sacramento River near Walnut Grove.  Fewer than 90people remain in the town.  The buildings are crumbling and in disrepair.  The floors in all of the buildings list badly. What paint remains on buildings is peeling and crackled.  When we first arrived, several cats peered out from doorways and alleys.  This gray cat strode boldly across the street in front of me, settled in the sun in a doorway, and looked at me before curling up and ignoring the photographers roaming around her.

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2018—Alder Cones

Alder and willow shrubs cover the landscape in the No-Name Valley in Chugach State Park near Anchorage, AK.  The moose spend lots of time foraging in the patches of willow.   According to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, moose eat woody shrubs, primarily willow species, but they also munch on aspen, cottonwood and birch.  UAF says some species like alder are rarely eaten.  On our last full day in Alaska, while we kept our eye on a resting moose, I noticed a stand of red alder shrubs lining the Power Line Trail.  They were not pruned back as most of the willows were.  As I paced up and down the trail to keep warm, I couldn’t resist taking a few shots of the tiny cones on the dried alder branches.

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