The slot canyons in Antelope Valley are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They are accessible only by steep ladders and stairwells that lead down into the narrow canyon floor. But oh, the colors, the textures, the patterns; they are spectacular. The pathways twist and turn for a couple of miles until suddenly you’re back outside. The sky is visible in narrow slits far above. I came across this step midway in our travels. It really struck my fancy. Not only is the lettering welded crudely onto the metal step and who knows how long ago it was done? It says simply, ‘Watch Out,” an ominous warning. It doesn’t say “watch your step” or “Be careful” or “take care.” The step leads suddenly around a blind corner so I guess, “watch out!” is appropriate.
This female Anna’s Hummingbird was hovering in front of the California Fuchsia just outside my kitchen door. Her target blossom is almost completely out of view, and just the end of long pistil, protruding into the left side of the frame, is visible. The hummer’s beak is dotted with pollen from her previous visits to the blossoms. The sticky end of the pistil is designed to grab the pollen to fertilize the flower.
Smoke from the seemingly countless wildfires raging throughout Northern California right now has permeated every cubic inch of air around my home. But the smoke creates a filter of sorts and softens the light and keeps the direct sun from striking the flowers in my garden. I have taken to setting my Nikon D6 with the Nikkor 500mmPF lens on my kitchen table with the patio door ajar. So yesterday morning, with smoke in the air and with coffee in one hand and my digital newspaper (something I am not yet used to reading) on my iPad, I enjoy my morning and still got the shot! I can shoot from the doorway without intruding on the birds outside. My most popular flower is the native California Fuchsia which is attractive to the Anna’s Hummingbirds and just plain attractive. This female Anna’s sampled almost every blossom so I had lots of time to capture her feeding.
It was such a luxury to be able to step out onto the balcony at The View Hotel in Monument Valley and just drink in the beauty of the moment each morning. Because the sun rose directly behind East Mitten Butte, that was always my focus. I changed lenses to get different focal lengths and to include other elements like West Mitten and Merrick Butte. Some mornings there were clouds, other mornings just intense red sky. On our third morning when I took this photograph, we had clouds as the sun rose behind East Mitten casting off godbeams so I wanted to isolate it. I used my Nikon Z6II with the Nikkor Z70-200mm lens at 93mm.
Monument Valley, a region of the Colorado Plateau, is distinguished by vast sandstone buttes. These buttes are called mittens or spires or mesas depending on their state of erosion. On our last day in Monument Valley, we were permitted to drive in without a Navajo Guide but were allowed to stay only two hours. Whatever they’re called, they are very impressive and photogenic.
Monument Valley is a dry, dusty place. Monsoon season changes everything. The night before I took this shot, rain had inundated the region and there were extensive flash flood warnings. The day after the storms, we went into Monument Valley with our Navajo guide Amory. At one point, the road was completely flooded. Maneuvering around the giant puddle was quite a challenge and so unexpected because it is normally so dry and dusty there. When we came across the flooded road again as we were driving out, Amory stopped. got out, walked forward and took a few shots with his iPhone. When he showed us what he took, we all scrambled out of the back of the open pick up truck and took the same shot. It was absolutely necessary to crouch down low so that the reflection of Merrick Butte was in the shot; otherwise it was just ripples. I had to hand it to Amory because his photography skills with an iPhone far surpassed mine. He told us that he spends a lot of time waiting for people as he guides them and while he is waiting he discovers interesting ways to photograph the gorgeous scenery. And just so we’re clear, I did not use my iPhone to take this shot but I used my Nikon Z6II and Nikkor 14-24mm lens.
Forrest Gump was right. Life IS “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna to get.” Last week in Monument Valley we were expecting crowds and bald skies. We had clouds every day and there were no crowds. We came across the view that Forrest Gump saw when he decided to end his epic run and go home. Forrest Gump Highway (Hwy 163 Scenic Drive) is just outside of Monument Valley and the iconic view of the valley is visible from the highway. Like almost every one else who drives down that road, we pulled over to take the shot from the middle of the road. What fun. We were lucky because the without the normal summer crowds, we could spend more time in the road.
It was another cloudless morning in Monument Valley yesterday with just a bit of haze to color the sky as the sun rose. I wanted to photograph the sun positioned directly atop East Mitten’s thumb again as I did two days ago. I used a wider angle lens than my prior shot to show more of the landscape around the rock formation. But, I couldn’t get the effect. I watched as the sun passed behind the thumb and through the opening between thumb and the rest of the mitten then disappeared completely behind in its morning ecliptic. It didn’t even come close to resting atop the thumb as it had two days ago. I had moved the tripod three feet over on my balcony but I don’t think that had any effect. What I suspect is the rotation of the Earth came into play. It is pretty amazing that the Earth’s path can change that much in two days and that there is that much of a difference in the position of the sun in relation to East Mitten. You’d think we’d feel the Earth move under our feet. Or was that just Carole King?
We’ve been really lucky to have clouds so far this week in Monument Valley. We weren’t supposed to have any after our first day here and we’ve had them at various times each day. The presence of moving clouds gave me the opportunity to make an interesting time lapse video. I have used my tiny Nikon Z50 with its 16-50mm lens to make two time lapse videos so far this trip. The first video had more dramatic clouds so that’s what you’re seeing above. I set the camera on the tripod on my balcony which I strapped to the railing in case wind came up. I started the camera taking pictures mid afternoon and left it there for a few hours. When I returned to my room that evening, the battery had exhausted in the camera. I don’t know how long the camera ran or how many photographs it took to create the video but the Z50 created this 5 second video from all of the images taken at 30 second intervals. It’s kind of fun to see the shadows and clouds appear to race across the landscape.
The misty morning haze turned the sky red as the sun rose behind East Mitten Butte and created quite a spectacular view from my balcony on the third floor of The View Hotel in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. As the sun got closer to East Mitten I realized it would “rest” for a brief moment atop the mitten’s thumb. The most streamed Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun” was “streaming” through my head as I watched the sun’s morning ecliptic through the sky. Only the words in my head were, “Here Thumbs the Sun.”
Until yesterday, it has been my experience that any place that uses the word “view” in its name is usually stretching the truth a bit. I can no longer say that. The View Hotel in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park lives up to its name…and then some. The rooms here all face some of the most spectacular and iconic views in this park, made familiar to us without even visiting in person because so many movies have been filmed here over the years. This view, taken as the sun was sinking behind us, is just off the parking lot of the hotel. The views from our third floor rooms are every bit as spectacular. This image shows West and East Mitten, the two buttes in the middle, so named because they look like mittens.
The yellow Cone Flowers add a mellow touch to the patio garden. Quite rightly. It’s probably obvious I’ve recently heard Donovan on The Underground Garage so those words came to mind as I photographed the blossoms. This is a single image, not stacked as so many of my recent macro images have been.
What’s not to love? Last month in Madera Canyon, my friend Richard took an iPhone video of me holding a tiny hummingbird feeder while a male Broad-billed Hummingbird drank from it, buzzing around, and even checking out my eyes. It was such an incredible experience. It’s no wonder I love hummingbirds.
In the heat of the day yesterday, I was outside planting several new additions to my patio garden including some Cone Flowers. Earlier yesterday morning, when I went out to refill bird feeders, I realized that some of my drip system tubing had disconnected. Because of the heat, I lost several plants including some of my hummingbirds’ favorites. This is not the first time that has happened and I am paying for the Rube Goldberg drip system I installed but, it’s what I have. The good news is that I discovered 1/4 inch pressure clamps that attach to the tubing to prevent them from blowing off. I replaced a Cigar Plant and a Hummingbird Mint, both of which the hummers love and both of which had shriveled away. I bought the cone flowers on a whim. I don’t think the hummers will be interested but the bees and the butterflies should enjoy them. I decided to try focus shift shooting with the flowers on the plant, and using only the ambient light. The overcast skies coupled with the smoky haze in the air made the afternoon light soft. I took 50 images to create this final stacked image. What I found interesting is that the camera didn’t attempt to focus in on the leaves and stems beneath these blossoms. They appear to be floating on air.
A female Anna’s Hummingbird sips nectar from a California Fuchsia blossom on my patio early one morning last month. The position of her wings makes it appear that she is shielding the blossom from any other takers. I used two Nikon SB5000 Speed Lights with soft boxes for this image.
The summer I turned thirteen, my mother taught me how to sew. One of my upcoming eighth grade classes was Sewing and she wanted to make sure I knew the basics before anyone else taught me so that I didn’t develop bad habits. Mom was an incredibly talented seamstress and one of the things she taught me was to finish putting in a zipper by hand using silk buttonhole twist. It gave a couturier finish to a dress, a skirt, or a pair of slacks and I was always proud when my finished garments looked like hers. I gave up sewing for myself years ago. The time spent perfecting a garment just wasn’t worth the effort anymore, good fabric stores had become hard to find, and, perhaps most significantly, I discovered the clearance racks at Macy’s.
My continuing quest to find macro subjects drew me to my sewing cabinet. I still have a bowl filled with wooden spools of silk thread and silk buttonhole twist I used on garments I made years ago. Ironically to me, the reverse side of the wooden spool pictured above is stamped Belding Corticelli, a silk thread manufacturer that at one time produced its threads in the building in Petaluma that my father’s fishing line business took over in the 1940’s. I am pleased to report that I was able to thread the needle without use of a needle threader but my arms were just barely long enough to see the eye. I shot this image using Nikon’s Focus Shift feature, taking 150 images stacked into a single image so that the entire image is in focus.
The perch I put in a pot of California Fuchsias near one of the hummingbird feeders has turned out to be a welcome resting place for the hummingbirds that visit my garden in summer and it’s very close to the flowers and the feeder. I didn’t recognize this bird and when I saw it resting on the perfectly placed perch early the other evening, so I grabbed my Nikon D6 with the Nikkor 500mmPF lens already attached for just this scenario and opened the patio door. It didn’t move so I stepped into the opening and the little hummer stayed put. I was about ten feet away when I took the first few shots shots. Then, because I had an extension tube on the lens, I knew I could get a couple of feet closer so I stepped outside and she sat still but looked straight into my lens. She’s a female Black-chinned Hummingbird. Identifying a female Black-chinned always stumps me. (Thank you, Moose 😊). I knew I had some because a few weeks ago I thought I saw a male at one of the feeders but the male Anna’s Hummingbird is very effective at keeping other hummers away from “his” feeders so I haven’t seen the male Black-chinned since.
On June 10, 2021, an annular eclipse was visible in parts of the world, but not in the US. We were in Badlands National Park in South Dakota and we watched with a few other photographers as the sun lifted above the horizon well after the eclipse was visible elsewhere in the world. The hazy skies and a -2 exposure compensation created a sort of trigonometric view of this Badlands sunrise.
A Bald Eagle soars over the Kenai Mountains near Homer, Alaska.
By scrounging around in boxes and drawers for macro subjects, I have rediscovered lots of treasures long forgotten. This, for example, was one of my exciting discoveries on the beach at Port Aransas, Texas many years ago. It is a Sundial Shell. My dear friend Susan and I walked the beach every morning and searched for shells which were few and far between on the Port A beach. Serious shell hunters had already scoured the beach before we arrived and gleaned any good shells. We lucked out every once in a while. Each year, the types and numbers of shells were different. One year I collected only black scallop shells. Sometimes the beach was covered with tiny, colorful butterfly shells, none of which ever made it home intact. Sand dollars were always an exciting discovery but finding an undamaged one was close to impossible. And finding the coveted Lightning Whelk was reason for celebration. I found quite a few sundial shells and I love how they look almost like a spiral staircase. Most of the shells I returned with were filled with sand, usually imperfect, and unfortunately, occasionally still housing their original owners something that became quite apparent a few days after my return. Once again, I used my Nikkor Z MC 105mm lens but only two SB 5000 speed lights and took 150 images, stacking them into one using HeliconFocus software.