2018 —A Brief Clearing

The weather in Yosemite National Park is not what was predicted last week. We were anticipating fresh snow and lots of it. What we have is fresh rain and lots of it. So much rain, in fact, that several of the access roads into Yosemite are closed, including one major closure due to rock and mud slides. We’ve received numerous emergency flash flood warnings on our iPhones but the inclement weather is not keeping us from photographing the gorgeous Yosemite Valley.

Wednesday afternoon between storms, the clouds were so low they surrounded the mountains and at times almost obscured the thundering flows of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, dry only last week. This photograph of the low clouds surrounding the falls with the sky finally turning blue after two days of total gray, is one of the last photographs I took late Wednesday afternoon. Soon after, the gorgeous light disappeared and intermittent raindrops became constant.

2018–Bridal Veil Falls at 500mm

Using Nikon’s new Nikkor 500mm PF lens is a dream. But, I never dreamed I’d be using it for landscape photographs. It is proving to be a vital addition to my camera bag for landscape, and here in Yosemite National Park, it’s getting lots of landscape practice before I use it for its intended purpose, bird photography. While I await my next bird trip in a couple of weeks, I’m discovering that this long lens can be a creative way to showcase many of the iconic views here from a different perspective. While we were at Tunnel View Tuesday morning, Bridal Veil Falls was dwarfed by the massive granite features around it. It appears as a small white line on the rock face. In my photograph, taken with the 500mm lens, I was able to isolate the falls from the peaks surrounding it and get the entire falls in the frame.

Finishing the photograph in black and white with assistance from Moose Peterson during our Digital Darkroom session, in a few steps this photograph changed from ordinary to wow!

2018–Clouds over Half Dome

Before the rain started Tuesday afternoon, we visited a meadow that stretches out toward Half Dome. We were just a few feet away from the Yosemite Half Dome WebCam that is situated on the eaves of a park employee’s home. The clouds were scudding by quickly so we took the opportunity to take long exposures using the Breakthrough 6 stop filter to blur the clouds.

ISO 31; 34 seconds; f/20 at 24mm.

2018–Sunrise at Tunnel View

One of Yosemite’s iconic views is from Tunnel View, looking out over the Yosemite Valley at El Capitan, Cloud’s Rest, and Half Dome. We arrived before sunrise to see the saddle and Half Dome powdered with fresh snow. It took a bit of prodding from Moose but I finally attached my new Nikkor 500 mm lens and captured this shot as the rising sun colored the clouds.

2018—A Drink at the Creek

We had such good fortune at Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska when we were there last month.  The bull moose were close enough to capture spectacular images and they were active,  sparring and eating and even drinking from Campbell Creek.  This thirsty bull drank and drank and drank while we stood directly across the creek.


2018—It’s in the Details

Imagination can run wild in Arches National Park.  The red rock turrets and arches and walls have so much texture and character that detail shots can be as magnificent as the iconic views of the windows and arches.  The sheer wall of red rock that lined the trail to Pine Tree Arch had so much interest on its face that it took us quite some time to walk the short distance from the trailhead to the arch.  This is one example.

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2018—The Spa

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the birds in my neighborhood from using my garden “spa.”   It is a rare day, indeed, that I don’t see either a hummingbird or a hermit thrush or a scrub jay or a mockingbird or a lesser goldfinch or a bushtit splashing in it.  Lately, the bubble in the middle doesn’t spew as high as it should but that doesn’t seem to bother the birds, especially the bushtits that congregate en masse atop the “spa.”  I was outside testing my new Nikon 500mm PF lens when the bushtits noisily descended.  Only a couple were left by the time I moved close enough to capture this shot of a female bushtit sitting atop the bubble while a companion waits her turn.

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2018—The Orchid Under the Arch

Light and shadows can be dramatic at Arches National Park.  Much of our time was spent watching how the light and shadows changed minute by minute and created new scenes and stories as the sun moved across the sky.  At Double Arch, late in the afternoon, the light reflected through the double arches made what looked to me like a giant orchid on the rock face.

The structure of Double Arches is massive.  If you look closely, you’ll see at least seven people, most at the bottom left of center.

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2018—Utah Rocks Stars

I have a knit cap that I bought several years ago in Arches National Park with the slogan:  Utah Rocks! on it.  That is quite appropriate as the rocks in Utah do rock.  But, as I discovered when I was there a couple of weeks ago, the stars rock, too.  And here are some of Utah’s stars with some of Utah’s rocks, in particular Sheep Rock, as a setting for the stars.  The Courthouse Towers formation was behind us and pollution from the city of Moab’s lights is clearly visible at the horizon.  The Milky Way looks almost like smoke spewing out of Sheep Rock and the long exposure creates the straight lines from air traffic in the sky.

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2018—Otherworldly Vista

The Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota have some of the most unique  geological features I’ve ever seen in a landscape.  The park itself is described as where the Great Plains meets the Badlands.  In fact, on one side of the highway, bison will be grazing on vast grasslands and on the other side, the vista is kind of otherworldly.  When I took this photograph a couple of months ago at the park, there were bison grazing behind me but looking over the precipice into the canyon, the odd features of the landscape stretched into infinity.

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2018—Circular Views of an Arch

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park lends itself beautifully to using the Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye lens.  At 8mm, it creates a perfect circle.  By pinching the sun against the edge of the arch, I created a starburst in the first shot.  For the second shot, I had to drape my body over the rocks and look out over the canyon with the arch over my head. The lens’s 180° angle of view if perfect for this kind of photograph.

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2018—The Milky Way at Double Arch

During my trip to Arches National Park last week, I had the opportunity to photograph heavenly bodies each night.  The first night at Double Arch was a shake down exercise, to figure out what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and white balance worked best.  I alternated between ISO 1600 and 3200; shutter speeds between 20 and 30 seconds; and apertures between f/2.8 and f/5.6 with my 14-24mm lens.  I also experimented with cloudy white balance but generally preferred Auto Natural Auto on my Nikon D850.  The shutter speeds were actually too long because the stars were not pin points but rather tiny streaks because of the Earth’s rotation in those seconds.  Nevertheless, it’s quite a thrill to see the Milky Way dimly in the sky, then, bring out its glory in post processing.

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2018—Strolling Through the Arch

Friday morning we visited Skyline Arch.  Near the northern most part of Arches National Park where the paved road ends and the last hiking trails begin, this arch seemed neglected by visitors.  There were no other people there as we watched the sun come up and enjoyed the serenity of the place.  As we wandered around, seeking different kinds of photographs, we noticed a lone hiker in the midst of the arch.  His presence in the middle of the opening gives a sense of scale to the immense structure but he looks like he’s out for a morning stroll.  We later discovered that there is access to the arch from the opposite side.

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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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