A Mountain Autumn

Fall on the Wasatch Back (new)

The particular charm of a mountain autumn, for me, is the way winter sneaks in around the margins. For virtually every autumn in the mountains that I can remember, the riotous foliage colors are perking along nicely when along comes the first cold storm of winter. Well, not exactly cold, but coolish enough to put a bit of snow on the highest elevations, and drape the reds and oranges with white for a couple days, at least. It is such a great reminder that every season is a moving target, on the way in and on the way out at the same time.

This photograph captures that transition nicely. On the back side of the Wasatch Range in northern Utah, the oaks and maples are saturated with their reds and oranges, the aspens are in a slow transition from green to gold, while the high country gets a white blanket and scudding dark clouds. The contrast is perfect. This scene is at Cascade Springs in Wasatch Mountain State Park. The departing storm clouds let in a moving patchwork of sunlight, allowing the photographer to just wait and cherry-pick as highlights shift from this hill to that valley to the other ridge, and back again. This composition, with highlights on the foreground and distant horizon, with shadow in the middle, seemed the best to me. (pricing schedule C)

Wheel in the Sky

Wheel in the Sky (new)

The Medicine Wheel is a native American astronomical structure at 10,000 ft. in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. It is at least 1,000 years old, probably more, and is a National Historic Landmark. It charts and predicts seasonal astronomical events such as solstice, equinox and rising stars, and is still in use by tribes of the region, including Crow, Shoshone, Arapaho, Kiowa and more. This is my interpretation of it.

As I researched the site it became clear to me that a connection between the wheel and the sky had to be made, and a nighttime starscape would be the only meaningful way to do it. Night a 10,000 ft. in the Bighorn mountains is cold and windy, even in summer, and the walk from the trailhead is 1-1/2 miles. The optimum window for the Milky Way being in the right spot was midnight or later. And then there was the problem of shooting into the sky while including an object flat on the ground and lighting it with minimal resources. Clearly I would be spending a cold, lonely night on the mountain and doing some creative problem solving. It worked out well enough, I suppose, but someday I may try to do better.

Professional Panorama – Second Place

After the Storm, West Yellowstone

Great News! My panoramic landscape photograph, “After the Storm, West Yellowstone” has been awarded second place in the Professional Panorama category at the Utah State Fair, 2016.

I am the kind of photographer who meticulously plans and stalks my shots, as if I actually have control of anything. It’s a comforting illusion, easily punctured by chance. This shot comes from a ecology outing with fifteen students in which I had no photo plans at all. Hunkered down in camp near West Yellowstone, Montana, during a crashing thunderstorm, it broke up at sunset and I walked over the hill and captured this spread. That simple. How excellent to be reminded so beautifully that my fastidious planning should not be taken so seriously.

I shot this scene several different ways, but opted for this panorama constructed of nine separate frames: three horizontal frames digitally stitched with Panorama Maker 6.0 software; each of the three itself composed of three HDR exposures at 1 EV intervals, assembled with Photomatix Pro 4.2.

Cathedral Group Moon

Cathedral Group Moon

We are not used to seeing a full moon in a daytime sky and so, on first seeing this photograph, some people believe it is a composite image and couldn’t really exist. “Nice job with Photoshop.” is what I’m accustomed to hearing. It is real, however, and not all that uncommon. The morning after a full moon, it is still above the horizon for about an hour after sunrise, depending on the season. To create this picture of the “Cathedral Group” of peaks in Grand Teton National Park, I positioned myself to catch the setting full moon as it edged into the gold alpenglow of the Grand Teton summit at sunrise. Scattered cloud on the eastern horizon behind me provided a mottled effect to the lighting.

A nice stroke of luck to be in the right place at the right time, yes? Not exactly. I have a phone app which will show the time and direction of the setting and rising moon and sun from any point on earth, any day, past or future. Sure, you will suffer for your art — but I don’t want to get out of bed any earlier than I have to. (Pricing Schedule B)

Storm Off St. Petersburg

Storm Off St. Petersburg

On a June evening in St. Petersburg, Florida, a nasty black thunderstorm was moving in from the east as the sun was setting in the west behind a tropical horizon, setting up this truly dynamic interplay of calm and storm. Moments before, two fishermen in a small boat near the jetty scampered for safety. Minutes later, the skies became darker than dark, and the rain storm was so violent that the undersides of patio tables were as wet as the tops.

Being a mountain person, I am entranced by tropical skies and weather. I tend to see it as beautiful while the locals deem it scary. My friends from tropical places say the same thing about a good mountain snowstorm. That’s one of the things that energizes photography, and all art as well — the collision of old eyes and new vistas. (Pricing Schedule C)

Burning Land, Burning Sky

Burning Land, Burning Sky

This photograph embodies a common problem with southwestern USA sunsets: The red colors are beyond belief. Literally.

The effect of brilliant scarlet sunset on rock that is striped psychedelically with red, orange and yellow creates scenes right out of the crimson heaven or perhaps the fiery furnace of hell. Either way, the person who has not seen such a scene with his or her own eyes will not believe it really exists. I, and many other photographers, have sometimes been accused of pushing the saturation or emphasizing the reds past nature’s capability into some gaudy realm of poor taste. I plead not guilty, and I find myself sometimes moderating the colors to stay within the realm of limited human perception. In this scene from the Valley of Fire state park near Las Vegas, Nevada, I have toned down the red rock stripes, and emphasized the blue and indigo sky tones with credibility in mind.

The ultimate solution to this problem, and what I urge upon you if you haven’t done this — is to get out in the redrock desert and see it for yourself. Camp among the rocks, eat dinner early, and wander about at sunset to see fire on rock for yourself. (Pricing Schedule B)

Zion Moon

Zion Moon

In landscape photos lit by the sun, we seldom photograph the sun. It is too bright for most photography and actually a boring subject. It is the effect of the sun, not the sun itself, that makes the magic.

The moon is a bit different because it is much less bright, has some visual detail, and can be an interesting subject in itself. So when we shoot the moon, we often want the moon itself to be a main subject of the shot. This photograph, “Zion Moon,” takes a different direction. The silhouette of cliffs in Zion National Park, and the movement of the moonlit clouds during the long exposure provide the visual drama. It is much more like a daytime landscape than a night shot. (Pricing schedule D)

 

Photo Series: Antelope Island in Winter

Afternoon, White Rock Bay

A large, salty lake in the desert might seem the most monotonous of subjects, but in fact the opposite is true. The Great Salt Lake in the western USA has a way with light that produces myriad colors and shapes — it becomes a palette from which to paint endless scenes, both real and abstract. In winter, the effect is exaggerated, as if the observer has stepped off of Earth and onto another planet.

Panorama, White Rock Bay
Panorama, White Rock Bay
Bridger Bay, Antelope Island
Bridger Bay, Antelope Island
Promontory Point from Antelope Island
Promontory Point from Antelope Island
Moody Clouds, Great Salt Lake
Moody Clouds, Great Salt Lake
Beach at White Rock Bay, Antelope Island
Beach at White Rock Bay, Antelope Island
Afternoon, White Rock Bay
Afternoon, White Rock Bay
Winter Afternoon, Great Salt Lake (mono)
Winter Afternoon, Great Salt Lake (mono)

Antelope Island Sunset

Panorama, White Rock Bay

The Great Salt Lake, Utah,  is in an ideal geographic position to play host to spectacular sunsets all year around. It backs up to the tall Wasatch Mountains, where clouds driven by prevailing winds stack up. But in the direction of the setting sun is  the vast salt pan known as the Salt Flats with its clear skies and long vistas, giving the red rays a direct shot at the mountain clouds. The result is the brilliant orange and red clouds and alpenglow for which western US sunsets are famous.

This setting is Antelope Island on the eastern side of the Great Salt Lake, specifically White Rock Bay. I especially like winter sunsets, because the snow picks up the red light so well and contrasts it with dark rocks. Here recent storms have left pools of water on the sand, nicely reflecting the glowing orange clouds. A perfect evening in an unusual place.

“Storm” Donated to Teton Science School Auction

Further to Fly Photography has donated a 52″ x 25″ framed canvas print, “After the Storm, West Yellowstone,” to the annual fundraising event for Teton Science School, Jackson, Wyoming. The work will be auctioned December 12 at the school’s Jackson campus. The art photo has a connection to Teton Science School, notes photographer Tom Horton. “I made this photograph in 2013 while on a TSS ecology research trip with my Shanghai biology students. We camped near West Yellowstone during a big thunderstorm, and this was the scene when it lifted.”

After the Storm, West Yellowstone

After the Storm, West Yellowstone

I am the kind of photographer who meticulously plans and stalks my shots, as if I actually have control of anything. It’s a comforting illusion, easily punctured by chance. This shot comes from a ecology outing with fifteen students in which I had no photo plans at all. Hunkered down in camp near West Yellowstone, Montana, during a crashing thunderstorm, it broke up at sunset and I walked over the hill and captured this spread. That simple. How excellent to be reminded so beautifully that my fastidious planning should not be taken so seriously.

I shot this scene several different ways, but opted for this panorama constructed of nine separate frames: three horizontal frames digitally stitched with Panorama Maker 6.0 software; each of the three itself composed of three HDR exposures at 1 EV intervals, assembled with Photomatix Pro 4.2. (Price Schedule C)

Bagan, Before Sunrise

Bagan Before Sunrise

There are over 3,000 temples and shrines within a 10 km by 10 km area in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar. All are between 900 and 1300 years old, and yet none are in ruins. They have been scrupulously maintained as active Buddhist worship sites over the centuries by both locals and distant benefactors. But Bagan is flat and sprinkled with trees, and it is hard to appreciate the enormity of this undertaking from ground level. Going airborne in a hot-air balloon and seeing Bagan in the pre-dawn pastel mist provides a view that incorporates reality and fantasy in the same frame.

This photo came so close to not happening that the memory still gives me chills. In a foolish moment I had packed my spare batteries in a bag that was later lost by the airline. And in this part of the world, airlines don’t feel any particular obligation to unite you with your missing stuff. So I found some friendly people and bought their loyalty and hoped for the best. Despite trying to conserve electrons, my only battery began failing the moment of liftoff. I had to plan my shots extremely carefully, knowing that any shot could be my last. I went so far as to keep it in my pocket between shots, trying to keep it warm and get the maximum juice out of it. In the end, I got about 10 shots. This was the best of them. And my lost luggage, with batteries, caught up with me within an hour of touchdown. Lesson learned. (Price Schedule A)

Vermillion Cliffs

Vermilliion Cliffs

The sublime Vermillion Cliffs are at a nexus of the classic Old West, witness to Spanish explorers, Navajo and Hopi tribes, and immigrant settlers, not to mention a geologic wonderland carved by the Colorado River. They also have the misfortune of being surrounded by some of the most famous national parks in the western US — Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon. This is explains why their great beauty is unknown to many – everyone is driving past as fast as they can to other places. I have been coming back for years, however, entranced by their unpredictable light and changing moods.

This time I found them at exactly the right moment, backlit by the warm light of late afternoon, and crowned with beautiful cumulus clouds, and I had enough composure and adequate skill to not make a hash of it. A few more flips of the coin, and now you are part of this amazing sequence of chance events. What luck! (Price Schedule B)

Clouds, Komodo Sea

Komodo Sea Clouds 1

Like most, I like the tropics. But you can have your blinding white beaches, breezy palms, iridescent coral reefs and smooth rum drinks. I’ll take the drama of the clouds over all of it.

The tropical wind, heat and humidity guarantee a cloud show every day. It starts innocently enough on the horizon, soaring but distant towers that remind you how big the world is and how vulnerable you are on your shallow sand spit or your puny boat. Then they come at you, their streaming white tops leading the way and their malevolent black bottoms churning the sea itself.

Tropical clouds are the ideal black and white photo subjects. This cloud family was one of several that captivated me while crossing the Komodo Sea near Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. I photographed them all afternoon, and spent days afterward teasing out every shade of gray. (Price Schedule C)

Gathering Storm at Guardsman Pass

The subject was colors — the yellows, reds, and oranges of autumn in the mountains — but how was I to know that one of the most striking shots of the day would be strictly black, white, and shades of gray?

Transiting Guardsman Pass in the Wasatch Range, I always take my photo equipment because you are sure to see some worthwhile mountain scene — especially in fall when the colors run riot. That’s exactly what absorbed me when a sideways glance revealed this compelling composition of clouds closing in on the pass. Life in the mountains — drama with silver linings. (Price Schedule F)

Panorama at North Window Arch

Panorama at North Window Arch

Scene: camped along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, gateway to Arches National Park. A faulty alarm clock got me out of my sleeping bag an hour too late to catch dawn at a different location I had planned. But I also had this location in mind, and it was closer, so I scurried around and found a spot for my tripod just in time, scrambling up a few boulders to a narrow spot on the side of a cliff. And what a surprise! The view of Turret Arch through North Window Arch was an obvious “go to” shot – but the continuous panorama to the southeast was truly mind-expanding. My compliments to the cloud arranger, they were absolutely perfect.

Funny how those things work out. (Price Schedule B)

Huangshan West Sea, China

Huangshan West Sea, China

We all see them, the old Chinese scroll paintings depicting soaring, foggy, peaks with ancient pines, waterfalls dropping into mountain lakes, and we know it is the exaggerated fantasy allowed in art. But it’s not — it is real, and China’s Yellow Mountain, Huangshan, is the source of much of it. It is China’s most popular national park, and to visit is to know the country’s culture in a new way. For one thing, China’s engineers know how to build scary-but-safe trails on the faces of huge cliffs, and dare you to walk on them.

The overnight visitor learns that every pinnacle, crevice, cliff and promontory has its own weather. The wind and cloud that careens through the mountains interacts with every feature differently. Thus, when I went out early one morning into the storm covering the dramatic Huangshan gorge known as the West Sea, I knew not to give up. As I hiked along a narrow ledge, conditions got lighter but not better, and I began to think about turning back to a warm cup of tea. But Huangshan had other plans. I rounded a bend at a canyon overlook and the clouds swirled in the wind, allowing brief glimpses of one of China’s most fantastic landscapes. (Price Schedule B)

Clouds #2, Komodo Sea

Like most, I like the tropics. But you can have your blinding white beaches, breezy palms, iridescent coral reefs and smooth rum drinks. I’ll take the drama of the clouds over all of it.

The tropical wind, heat and humidity guarantee a cloud show every day. It starts innocently enough on the horizon, soaring but distant towers that remind you how big the world is and how vulnerable you are on your shallow sand spit or your puny boat. Then they come at you, their streaming white tops leading the way and their malevolent black bottoms churning the sea itself.

Tropical clouds are the ideal black and white photo subjects. This cloud family was one of several that captivated me while crossing the Komodo Sea near Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. I photographed them all afternoon, and spent days afterward teasing out every shade of gray. (Price Schedule C)

 

Sunset, Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Sunset

Salt Lake City loves its slogans. They relate to the world class skiing, the rich cultural life, the cooperative climate, the diversity of experiences, the friendly business environment. And like slogans everywhere, they avoid they negatives.

I have a new one: “America’s Best Sunsets.” Because it just may be true; summer or winter, yellow, orange and red skies regularly stretch horizon to horizon. Alpenglow kisses the mountain peaks, turning them into cherry snow-cones. The city has a perfect sunset situation, with tall peaks to the east, flat desert to the west, elevated foothills for good views, and some of the clearest skies in the USA. Don’t plan much around sunset time in Salt Lake City; you’ll probably be looking at the sky. (Pricing Schedule F)

Sunset on Špik, Julian Alps

Sunset on Spik, Julian Alps

It’s no surprise they’re called the Julian Alps — Julius Caesar had a summer estate here. And what a place to unwind after a smashing the Huns or dominating debate in the forum! The dramatic natural beauty blending into serene countryside is certainly a place this 21st century photographer could linger forever. Even the Slovenian people are friendly and accessible in a utopian kind of way.

Špik is not the highest peak in the range, but it is easily one of the most dramatic, especially when sunset and a lifting storm wrap it in mystic clouds and light. It looks over a valley used since ancient times as easy route between Italy, Austria and the Balkans. Not only has it witnessed the passage of endless figures of history before and after Caesar — but they have, in turn, witnessed Špik. (Pricing Schedule D)