2021–The Wistful Mermaid

There are so many surprises hidden in the Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. To me, one of the most captivating is the wistful mermaid perched for millennia atop a ledge looking out over a sea of Hoodoos, waiting for her Prince, her flippered tail draped against the rock. The light on the mermaid changed constantly during the afternoon as we watched it play over the Hoodoos from Inspiration Point. I used the Graphite picture control in my Nikon Z6II to capture the textures and shapes that fed my imagination. I was lucky when a light scrim of clouds scudded overhead and softened the afternoon light on the mermaid. The sights here are wonderful and your imagination can run wild with the sculpted Hoodoos reminiscent of so many people and things. Just around the other side of Inspiration Point, hidden from the frozen gaze of the mermaid, is a Hoodoo castle surrounded by a moat complete with turrets and a watch tower which just might contain her Prince Charming similarly frozen in time.

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2021—Starry Starry Night

What a starry, starry night! Well, I should say, what a starry, starry morning! Shortly after 5 AM yesterday morning we and our cameras were set up along the Rim Trail at Inspiration Point near where we watched the sun set the night before. Looking up into the clear Utah sky, the stars were thick above us almost as if someone had tossed glitter in the air, the Milky Way strewn across the sky above our heads. When I visit places without light pollution I am always stunned that the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye and that there are so many stars in the heavens. In metropolitan areas like where I live in California, most stars are barely visible except for the very brightest and the Milky Way can’t be seen at all with the naked eye. What a treat to watch the stars move as the Earth rotates. I used my Nikon Z6II and my Nikkor Z 14-30 mm f/4 lens set on a tripod for a 20 second exposure. An exposure much longer than 20 seconds would result in streaks from the stars as they moved. With each subsequent image, the Milky Way appeared to edge slowly across the heavens. All too soon the rising sun brightened the horizon and the stars disappeared from view.

2021—Inspired at Inspiration Point

One can’t help but be inspired by Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon Nation Park. The climb from the parking lot to Inspiration Point is steep and at more than 8100 feet in elevation, the half mile hike up can take your breath away. But once you’re there, the panting getting up there is worth the trip. This view looks east as the sun was setting behind me last evening. The clouds were an added bonus. We had spent a few hours at the point waiting for this moment. But the surrounding rock formations can inspire one’s imagination and create scenarios that make the visit there even more inspirational and fun. Our imaginations ran wild as we envisioned things in the formations that looked like Christmas tree forests and nesting Russian dolls and mermaids and hobbit houses and castles and more. They’re all somewhere in this vista waiting to be revealed through the inspiration of this magical place.

2021—Hoodoo That Voodoo

That Cole Porter lyric in You Do Something to Me that goes “Do do that voodoo that you do so well” was certainly on my mind once I had my first glimpse of the spectacular Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah yesterday morning. We spent sunrise at Sunset Point, oddly enough, and as the sky brightened to reveal the amazing red rock formations known as Hoodoos that jut abruptly from the base of the canyon, I was speechless but singing those lyrics in my head. Voodoo indeed! These rocks are so captivating that you are quickly under their spell. As the sun lifted above the horizon and played on the columns it seemed as if some of them were lit from within, glowing in a magnificent show of light. It’s the Hoodoo Voodoo spell that they do so well!

2021—Defying Gravity

Little Red-Breasted Nuthatches seem to be my favorites lately. The other day I wrote about this tiny bird’s big toe, correctly called the hallux. My illustration with that blog post did not show off the bird’s propensity to travel down a tree trunk, using those big toes to keep it securely on the trunk, seemingly defying gravity.

2021—Big Air, Coyote Style

Photographing the Coyotes in Yellowstone National Park in January has turned out to be one of the highlights of my photographic journey these past few years. The experience rivaled my visit three years ago when we photographed a pack of Gray Wolves at a Bison kill. While the experiences were quite different, the excitement was the same. And this year, we saw and photographed Coyotes each day we were in the park. This Coyote veered off the groomed roadway and up a small snowy knoll fairly close to where we stood. It sensed a vole under the snow and cocked its head to listen. The challenge for us was to anticipate the Coyote’s pounce and capture the peak of the momentum. The first pounce was unsuccessful but the Coyote emerged from the snowbank and launched a second time depicted in this photograph. Sadly for the Coyote, it came up short again. But it was marvelous to observe some “big air” Coyote style.

2021—A Bird’s Big Toe?

The hallux is a backward pointing toe on the foot of a Red-breasted Nuthatch. In humans, the hallux is our big toe. In Red-breasted Nuthatches, it is clearly their biggest toe, but it serves a unique purpose. That toe is what allows these birds to hang off the bark as they scurry down a tree trunk. In this photograph, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is not in its iconic downward facing pose because it is horizontal not vertical. However, the Nuthatch’s big toe is clearly visible especially on its left foot. Apparently, it is unique among birds but natural for this species according to Cameron Ghalambor, a professor of biology at Colorado State University who has studied Red-breasted Nuthatches. I have come to adore the Red-breasted Nuthatch, a delightful little bird, for its iconic stance that seemingly defies gravity as it clamors downhill on a tree trunk. I didn’t realize that the toe that allows it to do this is analogous to our big toe which doesn’t have nearly the flexibility that the Red-breasted Nuthatch has.

2021—The Golden Spiral

It’s both surprises and fascinates me to see how nature can be guided by mathematical principles. These principles not only shape the logical structure of mathematics, they extend to the natural and artistic worlds as well. The Golden Spiral, a concept guided by Fibonacci numbers, and their relative ratios helps define classical definitions of beauty and proportion. Walking through Antelope Community Park yesterday on the way home from my daily outing, I was struck by the beauty of some spring wildflowers scattered along the trail. These fiddleheads exhibit the proportion of the Golden Spiral and the golden flowers emerging from the spiral help to accentuate it.

2021–One Snowy Morning

One snowy morning in Yellowstone National Park last January, we encountered a small herd of Bison just as they began to wake up. As they began to stir and move around, the wind picked up and blew the snow sideways. This Bison cow was looking for dried grasses to munch to start her day.

2021—Close Encounters

My visit to Yellowstone National Park in January was all about the Coyotes and close encounters with them. We photographed them on each of our five days in the park and on several days we had multiple opportunities and prolonged encounters with them. Their winter coats were thick and beautiful. They were confident as they strode across snowy meadows and down snow covered roadways sometimes having to maneuver through rows of snow mobilers parked and gawking and the occasional photographers like us. We were always respectful of their space and kept perfectly still when circumstances forced the Coyotes to approach more closely than they would have wished which allowed us to get shots like this one, taken with my Nikon D6 and Nikkor 500mm PF lens.