Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All of us sheep

We stopped on some random road pushing through the curved asphalt byways outside of Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah.  Dust flew and thousands of animals called through the forest of Aspen and Firs.  All together, pushing, bleating, rubbing, eating, forcing past but really following.  A lone rider tended to all these animals, along with a pair of earth colored unnamed breed of herding dogs.  

In another time and place, we would have passed by completely, on another day or hour, the moment not as sweet.  Bottlenecked along this red clay road, I was circled and surrounded by these cloven locusts.  I learned later that men come up from South America, in this case Peru, and tend to rancher's animals.  There is a long history of these hired hands traveling here on short visas and will alone for a life that is both modern in the sense of living a partially "American" life, while also living a way of life that is dead to most in our country.  

Most boots aren't in stirrups or on ground anymore.  They are behind desks or in memories of the times past.  Part of me longs to experience this way of life, part of me knows it is on its deathbed.  Some of the cowboy way won't last this generation.  Only time will tell the story of the west and how many men on horseback followed heads of cattle or sheep across plains, wood, and desert.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Down, down, down to the great river

The hike began late, because of mishaps, forgotten equipment, whiskey, mystics, and men. Deep orange sediments passed underfoot, long strides down, until darkness fell over our heads and left us wandering down into the inferno, down deeper into the circle of the bolgia. We knew at some eventuality that we would reach the river, but when and how was our question. Doubt, and a little fear mixed until we could hear the roaring Colorado, The River, down in the Tipoff.

Very little lived on the pathway, down in these depths. Crushing pressure and trillions of years brought on layer upon layer of fossilized materials, striations lateral and vertical, flickering and dancing crystal colors in the glow of our lamps. Finally, on last approach with the sweet sound of running water, we entered a tunnel and a black bridge spanning the gorge. Barely visible in the pitch black of night, the water passed beneath, cool, black reflection and little light of the moon. The water was empty, the water was full. It told all the tales of former passersby, visitors, and of the American Indians who lived in the deep down, one day leaving it all behind without rhyme or reason why.

And there is more, of the sleep, the fine sand shore of the The River, the thick stars in the sky. The climb in the heat of canyon and sun. The burning ball of light hung over us, searing neck and eyes alike, the trees, the sand, indiscriminate to all. The pure white disk, Paradiso, ascent into white light of midday. Each step in a grueling slow motion, we learn to respect the disk, the heat, and the incline of the Angel trail. Muscles and sinews ached and burned down to the bones, frequent breaks for rest in the sun. Passing souls along the way, some diving in, others climbing out, none of us belonged here in this kind of dry. It was an experience, once in a life perhaps, a circular journey that should be taken for the hell of taking it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

No justice to the small

It is unfortunate that these images are so small.  Perhaps when the summer is over, I will be able to spend more time with a template that allows for larger images.  Most of the time, I wish there was no way to see the image other than live in person.  The image leaps out at you and grabs you in person, the image is tangible, real, carbon.  The 0's and 1's don't always cut it for me, but in the digital age, what choice do I have?  The masses demand satisfaction, and otherwise who do I blog for?  I am hoping in some way that throwing my words out there brings what I am doing closer to someone, especially my friends and family.  

I am stuck with what to do next with this blog, or if it is already time to squelch it, cut it off, shut it down, but until I decide, I guess I will stick with it.  Everything is worth a few good months of practice.

Just below here, I will show you one more, perhaps my favorite image that I have taken this year, but all alone, small, down here at the bottom of the page, there is little justice to the 600 pixel drama that unfolded the night of the 21st.  And thus ended a long day of photographing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Footprints in the sand

Like my experience this year photographing the moonbow, Antelope Canyon outside of page was a clamor of touristas trying to push through and past each other for the photograph. Way too many people are let into the canyon each day, and half of my two hour tour was spent waiting for other photographers and visitors to pass through. Most of the other people were polite enough when asked or if they noticed you were trying to take an image, but overall, it is a miracle anything came out while here in the canyon.

Again I ask myself if it is fair to even show images of the carved stone that don't include people. All that I leave as trace are the footprints in the sand. My friends and I who went here together all have large, noticeable footprints in all of our photographs that include the canyon floor, but I will not photoshop those shapes out. They are going to be left as what little indication I can show the crowded wonder that is Antelope Canyon. In stark contrast, I wonder what it would have been like to see this place fifty or a hundred years ago.

Monday, July 12, 2010

There ain't no easy way

When you can't see a thing, you take the photograph and hope for the best. In this case, I was ecstatic at the result. After a few framing adjustments, I was able to make a panorama. Sometimes there isn't an easy day, and photographing can almost be a chore, especially when the results are less than satisfying. In this case, this was all in one day, and although the light was challenging, all of these images worked out very well.

The West has an interesting relationship with fire. The fire crews spend time deep in the woods managing the understory and thinning out forests to prevent bad spreading of fire. We are learning to control the natural elements to be able to allow for healthy burning in the National Forests.

All day the clouds were rolling through, dripping rain, covering the sky and opening up periodically. It was a fight for the light, but in the end we were able to make some spectacular photographs. The light came out twice for a few larger scale images, and the Coconino Forest has always given me the greatest of all gifts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A solo sport.

These small versions do not compare well to the full size version, so please bear with me until I can have a show to print them. Above I have used a very long shutter, of approximately 15 minutes to create the movement you see in these nighttime clouds.

With a different camera, this is a much more detailed version of almost exactly the same scene. This time with series of shorter exposures of 30 seconds. This is a composite image of 14 photographs to create the final image.

Mono Lake, just outside the gates of Yosemite, is an incredible place. Silica bubbled out of the bottom of the lake bed creating stalagmite towers. A receding water level have revealed these beautiful Tufa formations, some almost 20 feet tall. The lake is one of the saltiest in the world, and a mecca for bird watchers. I have another image of an osprey nested along the shore. The night here was quiet and serene, with almost no artificial lights, and snow capped Sierras in the background. This was one of the most prolific nights of photography in recent memory.

The night images produce a softer quality than that of your typical image. You have greater challenges at times, for example where the entire road below Yosemite Falls is full of cars. This was the night of the full moon during the heaviest flows of water during the year, creating the Moonbow. It was a photography circus out there in Cook's Meadow, where a line of 50 or more tripods with operators waited for their version of the famous shot. This was taken prior to the actual full rainbow effect, but you can see a faint band of color up high on Upper Yosemite Falls.

Down here at lower Yosemite Falls, it was even more difficult to get an image of the Moonbow without human element. People were shining their flashlights all over, and sometimes I wonder why I try to create an image of the parks depicting cool serenity, when in fact rude, pretentious, and unimaginative photographers were climbing all over each other for space below the falls. It was this night that we remember that photography is a solo sport.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I will eat you

Wildlife in the parks are becoming more and more important for me to photograph with each year. I want to capture an image of the bear, the condor, the spiders, everything. Throughout my stay in Yosemite, I was always talking with my co-workers and friends about the traffic jams that occur when a bear has breached the woods to brave the shoulders along Tioga Road and the Yosemite Valley.

Unlike this Western Rattlesnake, the bear are mostly harmless, and a curiosity to most anyone who has never seen a bear living in something similar to its natural element. Being a seasoned park visitor, I try to take pictures from far away, without obstructing traffic or the bear's normal habits. Everyone else park will see an animal, and park on or only halfway off the roads, leaving doors open as they scramble to turn on their cameras with flash out.

It was pointed out to me that this is still better than a zoo, and that is likely true. If all park visitors followed the rules, perhaps we could both coexist in these places in a more natural way. Now our bear are wary of us, watching carefully and keeping distance when being photographed, and then picking through our trash and cars at night. Perhaps I was too close, since Betty here caught sight of me even at 50 yards away...