The N. American Nature Photographer’s Assn. (NANPA) chooses “Yellowstone Hot Spring at Sunset” as one of the top 100 nature photographs of 2016. Tom Horton’s photo from Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park‘s Midway Geyser Basin picks up orange and purple sky reflections on sinuous travertine terraces, framed by a forested horizon. “This very popular tourist spot is totally vacant by sunset,” Tom notes, “and like many Yellowstone locations, it completely changes character in the twilight. Anybody could make this photo, but nobody is there.”
Two more of Tom’s photographs were semi-finalists in NANPA’s competition, which drew 2,600 entries from 275 professional photographers. “Receding Tide, Canon Beach” frames an Oregon seascape with sunset-tinged clouds.
“Black on Red” juxtaposes a foreground of black rocks with a red sandstone plateau at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, while a jagged monolith dominates the horizon.
Like all temperate rain forests, water pours out of the northwestern US into the Pacific Ocean in dozens of surging rivers, driven by deluges of rain — and therein lies the problem for the photographer. These rivers are often choked with mists and overcast skies that greatly limit their possibilities for revelation. Sooooo, some patience is requires to sit out the frequent storms and wait for some sunlight to filter through — and then amazing things can happen with the interplay between mist and clarity, between sun and shadow. Show up when the autumn season splashes some reds and yellows around to contrast with the conifers and the moss, and it gets even better. Patience is the answer.
This scene along the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest of Oregon is exactly what I mean. It was available for perhaps 15 minutes, probably less. It required a lot of waiting around for the right conditions, followed by an immediate burst of activity to capture the background mists before the sun drove them away. Not to mention that with ample rain supply, these rivers are cold and deep, and navigating their steep banks can be downright dangerous. Whew! Survived another one. (Pricing schedule D)
Several tree species in the American West have superstar status – Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Bristlecone Pine, Monterey Cypress among them. But the mainstay, workhorse, bastion tree of the region is the Douglas Fir. Beautiful in its own right, it grows at seacoast, mountaintop and everywhere in between. Here it creates a sense of mystery on a foggy morning at Cape Arago, Oregon. (Price Schedule F)
I just love the term “Last Light” and I undoubtedly use it too much in describing certain sunset photographs. It refers to the very last stages of the sunset, when most of the scene is dark and just a few elements of the picture still have that dim, orange rapidly fading light. I like it because is a natural way of editing what was a complex scene into just a few simple elements. This is a challenge photographers encounter in nearly every photograph. In the studio, it is an easy problem to solve, but when nature is operating the lights, things often seem out of control.
A photograph such as this one, in which the last light is the best possible light, paring the scene down to a beautiful simplicity, is a huge victory. It doesn’t happen every day. (Pricing Schedule D)
Cannon Beach is an easy drive from Portland, Oregon, and is famous all over the USA as one of the finest beaches on the left side of the continent. So, where are the sunbathers? Where are the kids and their sand pails, the lifeguard stations, the hot dog stands? This is summer, after all.
Well, it’s not that kind of beach. Many first-time visitors to this part of the Pacific don’t realize the water is very cold, all year around. North of San Francisco it’s also very stormy, and shipwrecks are common. Waves, big waves, pummel rocky cliffs. The brave divers and surfers who venture out wrap themselves in rubber and still come out with frostbite. But on the other hand, all of those things are necessary to assemble a memorable scene of wave, rock, forest, cloud and sun like this one. This is not a sunbather’s beach, it is a photographer’s beach. (Pricing Schedule D)
On the misty, stormy Oregon coast, nice sunsets don’t come along every day — and often, there’s more than one good composition to be created from a given sunset. There’s the dilemma: With several good photos possible, which do you do? I’ve never liked that choice, and sometimes I madly try to capture more than one good scene per sunset. That was the case here at Cannon Beach. See the far ridge on the right horizon in this photo? I was there, taking another shot, less than 10 minutes before taking this one. How did I get from there to here, and set up, in such a short time? Let’s just say it’s one of those things you don’t need to know — another mystery that makes art attractive. (Pricing Schedule C)