Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall Trip 2: Death Valley

I arrived in Death Valley National Park after sunset, and met award-winning photographer Kenny Chu at Stovepipe Wells. The nearly-full moon was scheduled to rise soon, so we decided to go out into the nearby sand dunes to capture some night shots. The moonlight was filtered by scattered clouds, so we decided to use flashlights and a spotlight and use the sky as a backdrop.

For this single exposure I triggered a "bulb" exposure, ran to the top of the dune, rotated a red-tipped flashlight around in a circle, then had Kenny spotlight me briefly. We quickly learned that his 5 million candlepower light was a little bright, so to balance the light we had to use brief flashes or have the person with the spotlight go another 75 feet behind the cameras.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Photo of the Day" on!

On my recent Fall 2007 Western States trip I didn't have a lot of time to edit or upload photos, but one shot that I did upload to did win "Photo of the Day"!

Since MyParkPhotos features high quality photos from national and state parks, it is one of my favorite resources that enables me to preview places that I'm going to visit. I can see what kinds of views I'll have, and it can help me decide which ones to visit during the critical hours of best morning and evening light. In addition to photos that can be viewed by property, there are often site tips posted by other photographers, and their sharing of their experiences can make me more productive when I arrive.

Here are some other shots of mine that have been honored on MyParkPhotos in recent months:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Alabama Hills to Mono Lake, California

As I headed north along the Eastern Sierra, I looked for reaming Fall colors to shoot with members of the Northern California Photography group, who I would be meeting later that day. The only place that seemed to still have decent brightness to the color and a fair number of trees with leaves still intact was the June Lake loop.

By the time we met in the town of Lee Vining, the sun had passed behind the mountains, so I took them to a nearby spot alongside Mono Lake where we could still catch some color on the horizon over the lake at dusk.

The next morning we met at the South Tufa access point, and I directed them to various vantage points as the sun lit the sky, the Sierras, and eventually peeked over the horizon to light the limestone tufa towers surounding us.

After I took them to some of the June Lake aspen groves that I had scouted the day before, we decided to head back towards the Sacramento area with a small detour to the ghost town of Bodie. In the end we had spent less than 24 hours together, but we managed to cover a wide variety of landscapes and lighting conditions. I'll be looking forward to shooting with them again.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Death Valley, California

I had been delayed several times in the past few days by my accident with the deer, by a rough 4WD road, and by my flat tire, so now I had to make up time by making the several hundred mile drive from Southeastern Utah to the Death Valley area. Having left Devil's Garden the day before, I entered the park featuring sites such as "The Devil's golf Course" and noticed that AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" was playing on the radio:

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Dont need reason, dont need rhyme
Aint nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too

I arrived at Death Valley's sand dunes just as the sun was clearing the horizon. I hiked out into the dunes and found a lot of good dune and sand pattern shots.
I also found a lot of other photographers! At times it seemed as if there was a photographer standing on every third dune.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Hole In The Rock Road - Devil's Garden

Near Escalante, Utah:

Fall Trip '07: Hole In The Rock Road - Harris Wash

I made the error of assuming that the access to Zebra Slot Canyon via Harris Wash was from the Harris Wash road and trailhead. Wrong! Six hours of continuous hiking in the sand and streambed later, my wet, cold and well-sanded feet returned me to where I started and I determined that the two best access routes were actually miles upstream.

I rushed to reach Coyote Wash to get to two other slot canyons, but after 30 miles of washboard surface I had a tire blowout as I was arriving, so I my explorations were over for the day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Little Egypt to Capitol Reef National Park

I decided to do the long drive from Cedar Mesa to Capitol Reef National Park Sunday night, but after hitting a deer I was too exhausted to make it the whole way. I stayed in a rest area near the Hite Crossing Marina on the upper reaches of Lake Powell, or where Lake Powell would be if we weren't in a drought (or if the Colorado River's water wasn't overallocated).

That gave me the opportunity to drive through the gorgeous White Canyon as the sun rose. I was also able to stop at Little Egypt just after sunrise, sort of a mini Goblin Valley on BLM land.

This was my second visit to Capitol Reef National Park, and I headed immediately to the Fremont River crossing that would take me to the 4WD road that leads to the Bentonite Hills. For the 100 foot journey down the river to the road on the other side, the river's water was not up to the bottom of my doors like it was last year, and a grader was actively working the ramp on the other side. The driver was too busy grading to see me, so after several minutes I waited until he drove all the way out into the streambed, then I darted out and behind him, waving as I charged up his carefully groomed ramp. The road on the other side was missing most of the loose, axle-deep sand that almost stopped me last year. It doesn't get any easier than this.

At the end of the day I did the tourist drive into the main canyon by the visitor center. At the end of the road I decided to take a "shortcut" on the map, marked like the well-graded roads that I had been driving all day. The "road" turned out to be South Draw Road, a serious 4WD trail, so it took me 4.5 hours to go the next 25-30 miles. At one point I was getting out about every 30-40 feet to scout the obstacles ahead. I was lucky to get through without a backup vehicle to pull me out of gullies or off of rocks. Fortunately I hadn't expected the condition of the road, so I was short on water and that encouraged me to press on through rather than drag it out into the next morning.

I pulled it off, so the memory is of a great challenge successfully overcome, rather than a poor decision that turned into a survival story. A couple of times I was a few tire slips away from having it turn out differently. Lesson learned: next time I'll carry more water, hopefully be driving something better equipped for off-road trails then a stock Ford Explorer with aging tires, and I'll do the trip in daylight so I can capture photos of the most exciting parts!

Again I had some adventures that slowed my progress, but that's the charm of adventurous travel! I rolled into a viewpoint at around 9000 feet in elevation a little bit after midnight, and looked forward to a sunrise view the next day.

Update: I looked up South Draw Road on the Internet, and the one review of it that I found says, "Best advice: TURN AROUND at the park boundary"!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Monument Valley to Cedar Mesa, Utah

On this trip I arrived at Monument Valley in time for sunrise. Some of the best shots I've seen of Monument Valley were taken at sunset, or with interesting weather such as lightning.

This ruin is in Road Canyon in the Cedar Mesa area adminstered by the BLM in Southern Utah. Commonly referred to as Fallen Roof Ruin, it is popular among photographers for its picturesque pattern on the ceiling. Many artifacts such as pottery shards seem to have been looted by prior visitors, but there are still 700 year old pieces of corn in the granary to the right. Corn at that time was about 4" long!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Towards Monument Valley

Sometimes when you see a big rain cloud in the distance near sunset, it pays to take the chance on driving towards it, hoping there's something to shoot a picture of once you get there. It was desolate and bone dry in this part of New Mexico; the horse was a lucky break.

I have a number of shots from this sunset. I can't wait to sort through them and edit the best ones.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fall Trip '07: Durango, Colorado

It's tough to drive, shoot pictures, edit them, upload, write, and drive, so please bear with me as I provide mainly photo updates while I'm on my trip!