Saturday, March 28, 2009

Photo of the Day on National Geographic Adventure

Check it out!

My photo of Horsetail Falls backlit at sunset appears 11 photos earlier in their lineup!

By the way, beware of the main National Geographic reader photo contests... read the terms carefully to understand what rights you may be giving away. They seem to allow people to download the winning images, which pretty much kills any commercial value that the image might have had for you in the future. In fact, by giving National Geographic a steady stream of free photographs, user submissions contribute to the death of a viable market for nature photographers. National Geographic used to be the one everyone always used to want to work for, now their practices may help put emerging professional nature photographers out of business?

Friday, March 27, 2009

U.S. Freestyle Championships

It isn't often that you get to see the best of the best compete. Today I skied at Squaw Valley USA ski resort and was treated to the U.S. Freestyle Championships mogul competition.

Under the Red Dog lift on a steep expert slope the best U.S. freestyle skiers competed to determine a new national champion. Speed, style, and trick performed off of two large jumps would determine the winner. I parked myself near the jumps to enjoy the acrobatics.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pull a rabbit out of your...

...engine compartment!!

I was driving my son to soccer tryouts yesterday on a highly curvy section of freeway at about 60MPH when I suddenly lost my power steering. I could still turn the wheel, so I figured that the power steering unit had failed, but I decided to try wrestle the steering wheel and make it to the next exit.

Next a warning light came on, informing me that the battery was not charging. So apparently I had lost a belt running to both the alternator and the power steering unit, but I should still be able to make it to the exit.

Then another warning flashed that informed me that the car was overheating. I glanced at the temperature guage, and it was in the red rapidly rising until it was pegged on high. So the belt went to the water pump as well. Time to pull over.

I found a spot with as much room as possible to get away from the trucks flying by, and opened the hood.

I jumped back, startled, as I found a medium-sized rabbit sitting on top of the valve cover, looking back at me. Apparently he had climbed up in the engine compartment to get warm the night before, then later while I was driving, somehow knocked the belt off that ran many of the engine accessories. I started laughing hysterically, closed the hood, and ran back to the car to get my son so I could show him the cause of the engine failure.

We had a good laugh, and the rabbit ran off (having transported himself to far greener pastures than the snowy elevation where he climbed aboard).

We were able to limp the van toa Chevy dealer ship by repeating the process of allowing it to cool down and driving it until it overheated. For or five cycles like that and one new and much less furry belt later, we were back on our way to soccer.

Amazingly the rabbit seemed to be fine. Clearly he was very, very lucky. Perhaps having four rabbits feet gave him some luck after all?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bishop to Mono Lake

Mono Lake comes through yet again with a stunning sunset. It's hard to go wrong here!

I've always loved the BLM campground "The Pit" in Bishop. Well, it is a pit, literally, but it's up on a bluff with panoramic views, so the light at dawn is spectacular. For photography it sucks due to some power lines conveniently placed between the campground and the Sierras, but that doesn't stop your brain from catching a nice buzz from the dazzling alpenglow beaming off of the snowy peaks looming just to the West. (I'll post more pics shortly...)

In Transit: Amboy Crater to Owens Lake

Finding myself so disoriented that I didn't know what day it was, I had visited the Grand Canyon a day early, and was returning to California at such a pace that I was going to get back a day faster than expected... TWO days early!

So I would miss this full moon rise over the Grand Canyon, but I had the opportunity to catch it somewhere around the Southern end of the Sierra Nevada. Since the Owens Valley is 9-10,000 feet deep, I knew I'd have to drive up on the mountains to the East to get a low enough horizon to catch the Full moon with some color as the sun was setting to the West. The sparse Joshua tree forest near the entrance to Death Valley National Park seemed like a good bet.

Return to the Grand Canyon

Afternoon light on a stormy day in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tucson Area Parks

This was taken in Tucson Mountain Park, adjacent to Saguaro National Park on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona.

There was a group of people having a memorial service on the hill behind me. At this point they were engaged in an impressive rendition of "Amazing Grace".

Kitts Peak Observatory

Have you ever wanted to take a photo of a nebula? I stopped yesterday at the Kitts Peak Observatory and discovered that they allow photographers to rent their telescope for an entire night.

You can take amazing photographs of many remote features of the universe:

Rental is $525 for an entire night for two photographers plus "room and board' for $75-90 more each, although you may not sleep. You can use their Santa Barbara Instruments ST-6303E CCD camera, but it is only 3072 x 2048 resolution. These 6MP CCD cameras normally need to take exposures using red, green, and blue filters then color and combine the monochrome results later to get color images. You can use your own digital camera, but film cameras can cature images in one exposure without the filters, so that might allow more efficient use of the telescope time:

I wonder how any of those guidelines might change using the newest Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs shooting at ISO 1600, 3200, or 6400.

One disadvantage is that it takes some time to calibrate the telescope to each DSLR, so it is may be best to use one DSLR for the night (or for two photographers to each take 1/2 of the night):

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Organ Pipe National Monument

Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona experienced decent rain this year, but they had freezing temperatures followed by a week of 90+ degree days. The wildflowers don't do well with wild temperature swings, so this year the flowers are scattered or found in small pockets rather than carpeting the desert floor.

When the light gets boring... kill some time with an "I was here" shot! At least get in the shade and use fill flash...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Desert Sunflowers in Anza Borego State Park

A ton of people were enjoying field of sunflowers in the town of Borrego Springs, but apparently it wasn't as intense as last year. As one visitor described to her friend over the phone "the Chamber of Commerce must have written the wildflower report on the State Park Web site"!

The hills in the park should get a lot more colorful in a week or two when the brittlebrush gets going.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Return to Joshua Tree

The sun was rising to "boring' clear skies, so o looked for interesting rocks and shadows to focus on.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Desert Wildflower Trip 2009

I'm off on tthe road again! My first stop this time was Antelope State Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, California. There are very few blooms now, the peak is 4-6 weeks away, but it was nice to break up the drive with a photography stop.

Next stop: Joshua Tree National Park.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

National Geographic Adventure!

National Geographic selected this photo of Horsetail Falls in Yosemite to display as their Photo of the Day on their Adventure Web site:

It's also available on their front page in their "Top Stories" (#2):

Woo hoo!

2011 Calendar Selection

This photo has been selected by a prominent publisher for their 2011 weather calendar. I'll let you know when it comes out!

I currently have two photos in the California State Parks Foundation 2009 calendar: