Further To Fly Photography has placed two landscape photographs in the top 250 nature shots of 2017, judged by the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA). The group’s annual “Showcase” competition attracts three to four thousand photo submissions annually from hundreds of the world’s top nature and wildlife photographers. Both photographs will be publish in NANPA’s “Expressions” presenting the competition winners.
“Iceout on Lost Lake” is a sentimental take on the passing of Winter into Spring in the high peaks of the Uinta Mountains, Utah. Intricate detail of a submerged, snow-covered log contrasts with a snowy sunset reflected in the patch lake waters. Finding this photo required a cold, snowy exploration of muddy lakeshores, trusting that the perfect composition would eventually reveal itself.
“First Light on Fall Creek” is a scene from the beautiful Swan Valley region of eastern Idaho. Fall Creek flows east out of the Caribou Mountain and cascades fifty feet directly into the Snake River. This photograph, taken in February at the first light of dawn, highlights the veil-like waterfall in the yellow morning sun while the surrounding river remains cold and blue.
Fall Creek sees its share of visitor in summer warmth, but virtually no one comes by in the winter to crash through the brushy, snowy riverbank in search of the perfect shot. In Winter, the rising sun catches the falls perfectly, the creek is full and the waters crash, creating a completely different picture. An exposure of about five seconds expresses the multiple water channels best.
Grand Junction, Colorado, must be the luckiest city in the western USA. On it’s very doorstep — close enough to walk there with coffee before it gets cold — are soaring redrock canyons that others less fortunate drive hours to see. The sandstone towers and cliffs of Colorado National Monument give nothing away to more famous places on the Colorado Plateau such as Zion, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Park. It even has a beautiful stretch of the Colorado River at its feet. But more like Grand Canyon National Park, its main vistas are from the rim, looking down, where one feels expansive — rather than from the bottom, looking up, where diminutive is the word of the day.
The monument’s proximity to Grand Junction — a small city of 60,000 — may work to its disadvantage, too. It is very easy to sleep late in a cozy home or comfortable hotel, have a leisurely breakfast, and visit the park in midday and thus never see it at dawn. That is not my way, however. Few things are more revealing about a landscape than to see it unfold from darkness as the sun comes up and shows an infinite variety of moods. This sunrise photograph, despite the proximity of 60,000 people, is a work of lonely isolation, with virtually nobody around to witness the beauty. At dawn, it might as well be hours away in the wilderness. (Pricing schedule D)
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)
China possesses hundreds of man-made wonders that stagger the Western visitor…and a few wonders that fall a bit short. The Shanghai Tourism Tunnel is one of the latter. Connecting two popular visitor sights in Shanghai — the Bund and the Pearl Tower — with a tunnel under the Huangpu River, the light show along the mini-railway is a little underwhelming…until you see it through long exposures in a camera, that is. There, the lights and lines jump out at you in a psychedelic riot. It takes some experimenting to get the technique just right, and at 50 RMB a trip you want to catch on quickly. I gave it my best shot, and the results remind me of tie-dyed fabric.
Further To Fly Photography announced a new series of striking landscapes from Swan Valley, Idaho, USA, where Fall Creek plunges over travertine terraces into the Snake River. “Early Winter on Fall Creek” shows the falls in an unusual dark mood, with saturated colors struggling to be seen on a misty, gloomy afternoon.
To hear it described, you would think the waterfall on Fall Creek, Swan Valley, Idaho, is a photographer’s dream. Multiple streams of mountain water cascade down travertine terraces, dropping from level to level until plunging directly into the Snake River. Just set up, spin your dials and shoot, it should be a slam dunk.
Ah, not so fast. The shot is not just a vertical plane, there is a lot of horizontal relief that hides some elements and distorts others. There is a lot of marching through the underbrush trying to find a workable perspective. There is mud to deal with. And that sky, intruding into every framing possibility and causing exposure problems, while adding no interest of its own. There are several small compositions of portions of the falls that are attractive, but the beauty of the whole falls is nowhere to be found.
After stomping around the mud and snow longer than anticipated, becoming ever more frustrated, I realized that if composition wasn’t going to rescue this photo, perhaps the light would do it. There were, in fact, some dim sunbeams popping out of the overcast sky on occasion, so I took some time to let some highlights move in and out of the scene, but I was not optimistic. Later, on the computer, things were not looking any better — until I took a chance with some dark shadows, high contrast and soft focus, and suddenly something came together. It was nothing like I had in mind, but it lent a character to the falls that is unusual and interesting — a dark and elusive character that reminds me of my mindset as I stood, discouraged, in the mud. (Pricing Schedule D)
At Shanghai’s riverfront, the Bund, magnetic forces seem to compel all cameras to point east to the giant, gleaming towers of Pudong across the Huangpu River. Reversing the direction – shooting west from Pudong towards the Bund – never seems to work. The Bund falls flat, and Shanghai’s old colonial buildings are lost in the glass and glitter and the dark waters of the Huangpu.
One evening, in a lucky glance out a window from the Peace Hotel, I found this perspective. The warm tones of the old stones present a richness and sentiment the monumental glass towers will never have, while the gentle curve of the river brings the eyes back down to Earth. Shanghai locals really responded to this view — it seemed to capture the genuine spirit of the waterfront. Old Shanghai clearly has few things left to teach the New Shanghai. (Price Schedule D)
China possesses hundreds of man-made wonders that stagger the Western observer…and a few wonders that fall a bit short. The Shanghai Tourism Tunnel is one of the latter. Connecting two popular visitor sights in Shanghai — the Bund and the Pearl Tower — with a tunnel under the Huangpo River, the light show along the mini-railway is a little underwhelming…until you see it through long exposures in a camera, that is. There, the lights and lines assault you in a psychedelic riot. It takes some experimenting to get the technique just right, and at 50 RMB a trip you want to catch on quickly. I gave it my best shot, and the results remind me of tie-dyed fabric. (Price Schedule E)
Summer days are hot in Tunxi, Anhui Province, the gateway town to China’s Huangshan National Park. Under the bridge over the Xin’an River is not only a great place to tie up your boat, but to find some shade and fish a bit. Really, it’s too hot to do anything else. (Pricing Schedule D)
Here we are in one of the most extraordinary setting in the natural world — Artist Point at Yellowstone National Park — and…where is everybody? Well, two hours ago, people were stacked three deep admiring the usual view of the Yellowstone River Lower Falls, but I didn’t even have my camera out of the bag. However, I knew what was coming, so while everyone retired to their dinner and other distractions, I could photograph – absolutely alone – a pretty okay sunset in an immensely okay setting.
This was not an easy photograph to make – the brightness of the sky and the darkness of the canyon are very hard to reconcile. I’m still not sure I have it right. I’ll probably try this shot a few more times over coming years. But one thing will remain true – I will never have to fight the crowds. (Pricing Schedule D)
More beautiful photographs have been overlooked than have ever been taken. One of the main ways this happens is by becoming too focused on where you are going, and ignoring where you came from. You have arrived at your subject and taken the obvious photograph. You are walking away with a satisfied feeling and suddenly, shockingly — they place you just came from is revealed in a wonderful new light that you have never seen before. This has happened to me so many times that I have made it a habit, on the way to somewhere, to stop every now and then and look back to where I came from.
That’s the way this shot happened. I was driving back to Yellowstone National Park in late evening after a good day shooting in the Tetons. At the Lewis River Falls I happened to check my rear view mirror and see this glorious scene. Lucky, I’m tempted to say, but it wasn’t — it was habit. (Pricing Schedule E)
Afternoon light filtered through clouds brings out the arresting colors and textures of America’s “second Grand Canyon,” the cleft in Yellowstone National Park left by the Yellowstone River. Not nearly as deep as the first Grand Canyon, it is nevertheless magnificent for its red and yellow volcanic slopes dropping directly to the raging green river below. It is the yellow sulfurous rock of this canyon that inspired the name of America’s first national park.
Nearly four million people visit Yellowstone in a typical year, and virtually all of them stand at this spot, Artist Point. They are looking in a different direction, however, and often miss this view. A 180-degree pivot away is the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, so mesmerizing that everyone forgets to turn around. (Pricing Schedule D)
“Capture” is a verb many photographers use to describe what they do to get the shots, but “stalk” describes my style better. I go where I expect the good photos will be, rather than waiting for them to come to me. This involves research, planning, logistics, resources, and yes, some measure of luck. But I try to leave little to chance. Still, the image I envision sometimes eludes me, while unimagined ones take their place.
This shot is a prime example of “stalking.” I witnessed a similarly striking scene at the identical spot on the Madison River in Yellowstone two years previous, but was unable to “capture” it because I was with a large group on a rigid agenda. But I remembered it, and after two years of “stalking” — waiting on my travel schedule, companions, and the right weather conditions — I returned and got it. Not exactly the same image, of course, but close enough.