Two FTF Photos in Top 250

Iceout, Lost Lake

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.

Iceout, Lost Lake
Iceout, Lost Lake

“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.

First Light at Fall Creek
First Light at Fall Creek

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.

The Beauty of Bears’ Ears

Tree of Life, Valley of the Gods

Bears’ Ears National Monument is the poster child for the many national monuments and other wild public lands that the Trump administration would like to turn over to state and private development — this despite every poll showing overwhelming popular support for their protection. Bears’ Ears has the added impetus of being co-created by various southwest native American tribes to protect, both literally and symbolically, thousands of years of heritage and antiquities. To a pitiable few, this is all the more reason to oppose it.

Beauty is but one of many reasons that public lands are a refuge in modern times. Being an artist, my inclination is to seek out and record the natural beauty of these lands, which they possess in abundance. Like many others, I have found a great deal — some of it well-documented and some of it unique to my vision. Presenting it here may or may not make and difference in the outcome of the struggle for preservation, but it is what I can do:

Arroyo at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Arroyo at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Cactus Bloom and Ruins
Cactus Bloom and Ruins
Sentinels at Sunset, Valley of the Gods
Sentinels at Sunset, Valley of the Gods
House on Fire Ruin
House on Fire Ruin
Sentinels at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Sentinels at Dawn, Valley of the Gods
Goosenecks of the San Juan River
Goosenecks of the San Juan River
Orion Rising, Valley of the Gods
Sunset From the Moqui Dugway
Sunset From the Moqui Dugway

Dawn on the Rim, Colorado National Monument

Dawn on the Rim (new)

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)

First Light, Fall Creek

First Light at Fall Creek

I’m always eager to visit Fall Creek and it always makes me smile, whatever the season and whatever the light. It begins like many streams born in the Caribou Range east of Idaho Falls, but it ends as does no other. Fall Creeks falls dramatically down a series of self-built terraces directly into the Snake River at Swan Valley. Fed by snowpack, it crashes noisily in the Springs and dwindles to a graceful plume by Autumn.  Because it carries a lot of dissolved limestone, it has built these graceful terraces over the eons, and they are covered alternately by ice in the Winter and moss in the summer — always changing, always interesting.

As sublime as they are, the falls are difficult to photograph. Brush and willows choke the few good terrestrial viewpoints, and the only alternative is to approach by boat on the wide, swift and not terribly friendly Snake River. This day in late winter with the stream in full flood, I chose to fight my way through the brush before dawn, and perched on an exposed cliff face, I waited for the first light of dawn to creep over the mountain and hit the falls full on. Good choice. The warm light and deep shadows brought out the dimension and texture of the spectacle in a way I had never imagined. (Pricing Schedule B)

Grand Teton After the Storm

Grand Teton After the Storm

It took two nights sleeping in the back of the car in the parking lot on top of Signal Mountain to get this shot. I hope you like it. Two nights, because the first morning the dawn was still socked in by rain and the Grand Teton peaks couldn’t even be seen. By the second night the storm had faded out and dawn that morning was perfect. Morning mists were rising from the valley floor just as the sun caught the high peaks. It takes perfect timing and a healthy measure of luck to get this kind of shot, and if you spend the night too far away from the perfect spot, the probability of success can be discouraging.

Of course, this is a national park and camping outside of a campground is against the rules. Technically, I could get in trouble, but in many, many nights sleeping in the car that has never happened. I’m pretty sure that the park rangers have better things to do at midnight than roust out persistent photographers — like getting some sleep of their own. Believe me, I would much rather be nestled in a nice campground on a soft mattress in a comfy tent. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and never fun sleeping in the car. “You call this camping? No way.” And that’s how I rationalize this wanton, rebellious act. (Price Schedule B)

Misty Monument Valley

This isn’t my photograph. It was taken by my mother just a few months before she passed away in 2015, at age 88. I’ve included it here for two reasons: First, it is to pay tribute to her vitality and determination, that she was up at dawn in the Arizona desert having another adventure at advanced age and in ill health. I would never presume to achieve that, or even come close. Second, it is a glorious and unusual photograph in its own right. “The Mittens” formation at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is perhaps the most photographed and recognizable scene in Arizona, even beyond the Grand Canyon. I have seen it many times, but never in such dramatic light, with sinister clouds twisting around the silhouetted pillars. It is a scene that happens once in a lifetime — and it was a great lifetime. (Price Schedule D)

Oak in Fog, Sierra Foothills

One of the prettiest landscapes in California is also one of the most overlooked. You might call it “in-between country,” the undulating hills, grassy fields and giant oaks of the Sierra Nevada foothills. People race through it, escaping the cities to get to the vistas, recreation and resorts of the high country. It’s quiet, timelessness and graceful simplicity are seductive, however, and a slow drive along a rural road is always rewarding. On an early winter morning in El Dorado County, fog often drifts around the hills and valleys, making glorious scenes of light and shadow such as this silhouetted oak tree. (Price Schedule D)

Red Gate at Dawn, El Dorado

Red Gate at Dawn, El Dorado, California

One of the prettiest landscapes in California is also one of the most overlooked. You might call it “in-between country,” the undulating hills, grassy fields and giant oaks of the Sierra Nevada foothills. People race through it, escaping the cities to get to the vistas, recreation and resorts of the high country. It’s quiet, timelessness and graceful simplicity are seductive, however, and a slow drive along a rural road is always rewarding. Here, the fog of a cold February morning El Dorado County slowly winds through a small ranch, creating mystery and depth. (Price Schedule C)

Mt. Moran From Schwabacher Landing

You have probably seen dozens of swooning landscapes from Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park. Heaven knows I’ve taken my share, but this is the one you have never seen before.

Schwabacher Landing is at the end of a dirt road where the Snake River sends little side channels through the woods and creates terrific reflections of the centerpiece peaks of the Tetons, the Cathedral Group. Photographers can position themselves for the classic reflection shot and not even have to unplug their heated coffee mugs from the SUV. But if you don’t like to follow the crowd, and I don’t, you start walking upstream, alone, looking out for bears (if you’ve forgotten your bear spray, don’t even think about it), until you come across this secret little pond. There, you point your camera north, to a different mountain. This is my reward. And now it’s yours. (Price Schedule A)

Xidi Gate, Monochrome

One of China’s most rural provinces, Anhui, is an absolute treasury of old China culture and history. Huangshan National Park, Tunxi old town, Hongcun ancient village, and this priceless spot — Xidi ancient town — are worth many days spent in discovery on the Anhui back roads. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Xidi is my favorite old town in China, and a large part of that is wonder at this ancient town gate. There is nothing else like it from old China. Its official name is “Memorial Archway of the Governor,” and it dates from the Ming Dynasty, about 1300 years ago. Just steps away is a row of old habitations from the same date that have been converted to accommodations for travelers. Not hard to guess where I stayed in Xidi. (Price Schedule G)

Welcome to Xidi

One of China’s most rural provinces, Anhui, is an absolute treasury of old China culture and history. Huangshan National Park, Tunxi old town, Hongcun ancient village, and this priceless spot — Xidi ancient town — are worth many days spent in discovery on the Anhui back roads. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Xidi is my favorite old town in China, and a large part of that is wonder at this ancient town gate. There is nothing else like it from old China. Its official name is “Memorial Archway of the Governor,” and it dates from the Ming Dynasty, about 1300 years ago. Just steps away is a row of old habitations from the same date that have been converted to accommodations for travelers. Not hard to guess where I stayed in Xidi. (Price Schedule G)

Hanging Out in Zhangmu

The sudden elevation loss from the Tibetan plateau to the Nepali forest takes the overland traveler by surprise. The barely-passable roads through twisted terrain of the Koshi River gorge ensure a slow trip, meaning that one will certainly have to spend the night at a cliffside village such as Zhangmu or Kodari. The drama of arriving on a black, muddy, rain-soaked night, then waking in the morning to a scene such as this is beyond description.

The village is in China, the terrain in Nepal. The prominent sign in the picture advertises KTV, a Chinese term for Karaoke bar, beloved of Asian businessmen. (Pricing Schedule F)

North Rim Panorama

Most people would tell you there is only one Grand Canyon. In reality, there are two; the South Rim, which everybody visits, and the North Rim, which sees much less attention. And the two places are quite different. The north is a completely different environment – high, colder, wetter, and more forested. The photography is different, too. In the north, morning light brings out the amazing textures structure, while evening light works best in the south. “Wotan’s Throne” is the striking feature highlighted here by the sunrise. (Price Schedule F)

Monument Valley Panorama

To a careless visitor, unwilling to venture off the main roads, Monument Valley can seem small and repetitive. One sandstone pinnacle seems just like the next. But if you are willing to kick up some dust and risk disorientation in the maze of canyons, cliffs, buttresses and towers, Monument Valley rewards you. And if you are willing to do that in the pre-dawn darkness, finding yourself deep inside its labyrinth when the sun rises, amazing things happen. Shadows and sandstone mingle in a sublime interplay of depth and distance.

This image is constructed of six separate frames digitally stitched with Panorama Maker 4.0 software by ArcSoft. Barely noticeable in the left middle foreground is a hogan, the traditional round dwelling of the Navajo tribe of native Americans. (Price Schedule C)

Madison River Dawn

“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.

I may try again in year or two. The life of the photo stalker. (Pricing Schedule F)

North Face, Grand Teton

It is useless to try and out-do all the endless superlatives that have been written about the Teton Range, the centerpiece of Grand Teton National Park. For me, their attraction is their yin-yang balance between abrupt, in-your-face brashness and gentle harmony with land and sky. You can watch them a lifetime and they are never the same twice.

Here, I was trying for a nice sunrise alpenglow kind of shot, but the clouds and wind washed it out. But, knowing that patience is a virtue with this subject, I waited for the clouds to break up and allow beams of sun to wash over the snow and rocks. Magic! (Pricing Schedule E)