Ice Out on Lost Lake

Ice Out on Lost Lake (new)

“Ice out” is a phrase full of meaning to those who live in cold-winter country. It means that warm weather has arrived and progressed to the point where oceans, lakes, rivers and streams are usable again. The ice that locked them out for months is gone. If you made a living on the water, you can now resume your work. If water was the source of your sport and recreation, the fun returns. Ice out is preceded by a time of frustration, because the weather in general may be warm and sunny, but the ice melts with agonizing delay, and life seems unjust for a while.

To the artist, “ice out” is often a thing of beauty. Patches of water in the ice, or ice in the water, are a yin and yang juxtapostion of pattern and color, past and future, anticipation and change. It is exactly the stuff of expression and wonder that artists are made of. It is often inspirational. I encountered this scene at sunset in a small Uinta Mountain lake — still early summer because the winter had been unusually cold and stormy. In a normal year it would be lush and lively with singing birds and lily pads — but often, normal is not particularly beautiful, not the stuff of art. (Pricing schedule A)

Sunset at Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone Hot Spring at Sunset

The N. American Nature Photographer’s Assn. (NANPA) chose Sunset at Grand Prismatic Spring 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, and like many Yellowstone locations, it completely changes character in the twilight. Anybody could make this photo, but nobody is there. This location is also a great lesson in observation. Surround by immense beauty on a grand scale, don’t forget to look down at your feet. About the time when the spring itself is too dark to see, the terraces at the margins come alive.

Grand Prismatic Spring is huge, gloriously colorful, and very hard to see from ground level. Rising steam often obscures it when you are very close. Realizing this, many visitors have improvised a solution by using a nearby hiking trail head to scramble up short and tall hills on the south to look down on the spring from above. Great idea, except that the accumulated passage of thousand of boots has scarred and eroded the hills far beyond the preservation idea behind national parks. I am told that the National Park Service intends to build permanent trails and rehabilitate the terrain, and I hope this is true — it is badly needed. (pricing schedule A)

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

Further to Fly Awarded NANPA Top 100

Yellowstone Hot Spring at Sunset

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.

Receding Tide, Canon Beach
Receding Tide, Canon Beach

“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.

Black on Red, Valley of Fire
Black on Red, Valley of Fire

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.

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)

Sunset at the Fire Wave

Fire Wave Sunset

Striped rocks are so cool! Everywhere they stick their heads up, people come to see and photograph them. What’s more, we like to name them after waves, apparently seeing something in their undulations that resembles waves in the water. Perhaps the most famous such formation is The Wave, a couple hundred miles from this location in Arizona. It’s so spectacular that it overshadows this some what smaller spectacle at the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada, named the Fire Wave.

Both of these natural wonders are managed by governments without photographers in mind. Both require hikes — although the Fire Wave hike is quite a bit shorter than The Wave’s hike – and both require that you leave at sunset and not stay overnight.

These regulations overlook the fact that desert rock formations are always at their visual best at sunrise and sunset. Visiting them in the middle of the day is, for the photographer, underwhelming. To see them at their stunning best requires you to break the rules — so I do. This particular day at the Fire Wave, a spectacular sunset was brewing, and I had no intention of being out of the park by sunset. You have to suffer for your art, they say, and so this day I suffered the irritation of park rangers as I didn’t get back to my car and out of the park until after dark. They could have gotten strict with my lawbreaking, but they didn’t and I like to think they understand the artist’s need to push the envelope for the sake of beauty.

Black on Red, Valley of Fire

Black on Red, Valley of Fire

Look down to your feet! It is incredible what you will see. This scene is one of those that I would have missed if I had not been in the habit of looking at my feet — a practice that comes from years of hiking and backpacking.

It is a rather ordinary scene without the small black stones that have weathered away and come to rest on the red and white striped sandstone. I first noticed it in the afternoon, when the overhead sun made the rock brownish and the sky gray, but it was a good enough photo that I did a bunch of exposures, then went on my way. Returning this way later, after sunset, the low-angle red light transformed it entirely, and I made more shots. This is my favorite — the heightened drama from the low, red light sets it on fire.

Valley of Fire is a smallish and dramatic redrock state park near Las Vegas, Nevada, that is under-appreciated. With the exotic lure of Vegas so close, millions pass by this desert masterpiece on their way to buy a piece of the glitter. I’m not a huge fan of the Las Vegas resort scene, however, and so you’re more likely to find me nearby, at the Valley of Fire, eyes down at my feet.

Silk Road Sunset

Silk Road Sunset

An ancient stone fortress dominates the ethnic Tajik town of Tashkurgan, and to the north the imposing hulk of 7,000-meter Muztagh Ata sends it glacial fingers down steep clefts to the dry valleys below. This is Silk Road country, and traders have plied these routes for centuries as they shuttled costly goods between China and Europe. Things have changed, however. Silk and gunpowder are not longer the treasured commodities — now it is minerals and water. And, thanks to climate change, less water every year.

Tashkurgan — a surprising comfortable town for being so deep in the wilderness — and its regions find themselves torn between the interests of three billion people and their governments. The headwaters of eight important rivers are the new silk and gunpowder, and the diverse peoples of the region find themselves, as before, bystanders in a new struggle for resources.

The Old Schoolhouse, Yellowstone

The Old Schoolhouse at Targhee Pass

Special places are just so because we don’t see them often enough to take them for granted. We are visitors who had to endure the inconvenience and planning and expense of traveling to that special place. Yellowstone is one of those special places for millions of people. And yet scenes like this — an ordinary schoolhouse in an extraordinary place — remind us that our special places likely are, or were, familiar and routine and not particularly special to those that live there. The students who attended this old schoolhouse, just like students anywhere, probably struggled to be on time to class, hated homework, and couldn’t wait to get out of there at the end of the day. And when they wanted to be someplace special, they went somewhere else.

I am one who finds Yellowstone very special, of course. This evening at the old schoolhouse near Targhee Pass, with a glorious sunset setting the remnants of a thunderstorm on fire, was extra special, and I didn’t mind at all staying late at school. (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)

Bryce Winter Sunset

Bryce Winter Sunset 1

Winter in the wildlands is transformative — but that’s hard to fathom unless you turn off the TV and get out in it. That doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. Well, maybe just a little. Take Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s quite accessible all but the deepest snows — just dress warm and wear winter boots, and it is easy to see everything that summer affords, but in a whole different light.

Even so, when the afternoon sun hits the horizon it gets very cold very fast, and most people will dash for their supper and their shelter. I have been the fortunate recipient of many good photographs, however, just by lingering a little longer to see what happens to the colors and the shapes. This is one of those scenes, when the last rays break through the only gap in the ridge to throw a dying beam of red light on red rock, and set it on fire. Must have been fire, for sure, because I could feel the heat. (Price Schedule B)

Hong Kong Afternoon

I would call Hong Kong’s skyline one of the top five in the world for beauty and drama. I never get tired of its combination of hills, water, steel and optimism. Every year there is more to see, but it is more difficult to see because of increasing pollution. This trail on Victoria peak behind the Central district winds through dense forest, but provides an occasional view of this unique metropolis. But civilization has its downside in the brown haze that increasingly blocks the dramatic views. This evening I was lucky.

All is not well in Hong Kong, however. For both political and cultural reasons, Hong Kong residents are largely resisting assimilation into mainland China after its governance passed from Britain to China in 1997, leading to periods of civil disobedience and protest. For all its beauty and vitality, major changes for the small enclave of Hong Kong are inevitable. (Price Schedule F)

Sunset, Yakushima Island

Sunset Yakushima Island

There are reasons you have never heard of the Japanese island jewel, Yakushima. It is very unlike the stereotyped image of Japan, and it requires patience to get there. Yakushima is a steep granite monolith jutting out of the Pacific, covered with rain forest, not a volcano in sight, more like a small piece of Brazil. Its humble villages are a universe away from the Japanese metropolis.

Yakushima is directly in the path of several typhoons every year, and gets scoured again and again by wild winds and a turbulent ocean. Between these episodes of natural chaos, however, the water and the air is clear and inviting. On the west side of the island, sunsets are tinged red and gold with pollution from mainland China, 1000 km away. (Pricing Schedule F)

Paradise at Sunset

Where are we? Someplace small and lonely, certainly; You can see forever, to a far distant horizon with tropical clouds. Islands small and large dot the sea. Palm trees, small boats at anchor. On the beach, small shacks and houses, few lights. Two small ships, lighted, just arrived or just departing? From where? To where? A fishing boat has an strange, exotic profile. And that sunset, unearthly in its beauty, the day rapidly ending and the night bringing who knows what?

Where are we? What happens now? Perhaps it is better not to know. Perhaps it is enough just to know that Paradise exists, and that you can get there from where you are now, if you really want to. (Pricing Schedule C)

Tanah Lot at Sunset

Let me tell you about Indonesian sunsets. For one thing, they are insanely, surreally, colored. And not just the same color repeated, but unpredictable shades of scarlet, magenta, purple, red, indigo, orange, ochre, umber, cerise, colors you can only imagine. I have a hypothesis explaining it: Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any comparable area on earth, even Japan. They continually pump ash and dust into the sky, usually in small amounts but sometimes in large amounts. These extremely fine suspended particles are what colors the sunsets (and sunrises as well) so intensely. That’s my story.

Tanah Lot temple on Bali occupies a small headland just off the rocky coast. At low tide you can walk out to it, and many do because it is close to Bali’s overrun tourist centers. This particular evening, I had taken a long drive to get here and was resigned to disappointment as a big thunderstorm hit. But in the best Indonesian tradition, the clouds parted at the perfect moment and the whole world, waves included, became red. Or maybe it was cerise. (Pricing Schedule F)

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)