Sunset at Bisti Badlands

Bisti Badlands at Sunset (new)

Even the badlands are good. This site in New Mexico, the Bisti (pronounced bis’-tie) Bandlands, is one of those relatively blank spots on the map that turns out to contain visual and geological treasure. Even if you are an aficionado of the famous rock formation parks like Arches, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley, the Bisti Badlands will strike you with their seemingly impossible eroded rock structures. Bisti is more formally named the De-Na-Zin Wilderness and is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. It is surround by Navajo Nation land but it is not, itself, on the reservation. From the dirt road approaches, it is not obvious what geological magic lies within; you have to get out and hike a few miles through trailless, unmarked desert.

One of my favorite parts of De-Na-Zin is a small cove of unusual rocks called, variously, the Eggs, the Cracked Eggs, or the Egg Garden. Ellispoid rock shapes made of concentric sandstone layers have eroded into fantastic shapes reminiscent of cracked and broken eggs. Some of them are perched on small pillars of sandstone. Their colors are nothing to shout about — until the sun is rising or setting, when red and golden light. This photo I made at sunset in February is one of my favorite. The price one pays for this, however, is a return walk of a few miles in the cold and dark. Not a casual undertaking, even if you think you know your way around this remote place.

The Coalmine Canyon Album

Coalmine Canyon #1

Yes, there was once a coal mine here in the late 1800s. But the seam was small, the coal was poor quality, and so the pioneers moved on from Coalmine Canyon and left the land to its owners, the Navajo and Hopi tribes of Native Americans. Good thing, because this gem of the Southwest is as lonely as it is gorgeous. The coal deposits at the top levels of the canyon are a key to its unique beauty, as they add black and blue colors to the usual red, orange and yellow tones of the desert, constructing a landscape like no other.

Coalmine Canyon #2
Coalmine Canyon #2

It is a photographer’s paradise on many levels. Most obviously, it is colorful, high relief, and in a climate zone of constantly changing light and seasons. Dawn, mid-day, sunset, bright sun and passing storms all change the character and mood of Coalmine Canyon. You will never see it and photograph it the same way twice.

Coalmine Canyon #4
Coalmine Canyon #4

It is also lonely. Not only will you see few other people exploring its rim, but the Native American stewards minimally manage your explorations. The Navajo tribe requests you get a permit to visit from any Navajo Tribal Parks office, but it is managed as wilderness and you are on your own to care for the land and respect the privacy of landowners.

Coalmine Canyon #5
Coalmine Canyon #5

One of the fascinating aspects of the canyon that appeals to me is the thin but intense red sandstone layers that occur among thick layers of white mudstone. In the canyon relief they give the strong impression of elevation lines on a topographic map.

Coalmine Canyon #7
Coalmine Canyon #7

Not only do I find these features appealing in horizontal vistas, but when seen in aerials taken directly above, they achieve an abstract quality. It can take a moment to realize what you are looking at.

Coalmine Canyon #8
Coalmine Canyon #8

As with most landscape photography, it is the light that makes or breaks the picture. The warm, angled light of dawn and dusk — broken clouds streaming patches of light across the immense acreage — even bright sun penetrating into impenetrable canyon — every condition presents new possibilities of color and composition.

Coalmine Canyon #6
Coalmine Canyon #6

To get to Coalmine Canyon, go to Tuba City, Arizona, which is on the Navajo Nation an hour north of Flagstaff,an hour south of Page, and an hour southwest of Kayenta. Stop at the Tribal office in town for a visit permit, then take Highway 264 southeast for 20 minutes, and you’re there. Find a few turnoffs on short dirt roads that will take you to overlooks. Most passenger cars can get to the closer vistas; a high-clearance vehicle takes you to some of the more remote spots.

Coalmine Canyon Arizona Map
Coalmine Canyon Arizona Map

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.

Under an Orange Sky

Hayden Peak Sunset (new)

The orange cast to this photo is completely natural, and appropriate; it was captured on Halloween Day, 2017, at the very moment mountains of candy were changing hands in cities and towns across the USA. Believe it or not, that was on my mind as I stood freezing at the edge of a wilderness pond over 10,000 feet in elevation, night closing in. My brand of photographic art can be a lonely endeavor, and I often observe to myself that I stand at an improbable time and place doing solitary things while most people, I imagine, are doing more normal and social activities. When my images are occasionally successful, compliments overflow but people seldom realize the strange circumstances in which they came to be. I wonder if I should perhaps go easier in my obsessive pursuit of beautiful visual moments. But then, I wouldn’t have the enjoyment of telling these exotic stories.

The centerpiece of this photograph is Hayden Peak, a landmark in the High Uinta Wilderness Area that residents of the region know very well. It is essentially a pilgrimage site for thousands who drive for hours to see its crags rising from the forest. No crowds today, however, due to both the holiday and the pre-winter chill. I had been stalking this shot for three days, under a bit of time pressure because the roads could be closed any day by winter storms. With the last shot in the can, I hiked back to the car and startled the last group of elk coming down from the high peaks and headed for the winter lowlands. They, at least, completely understood what I was doing.

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.

Ice Out on Lost Lake

Ice Out on Lost Lake

“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

Dawn on the Rim, Colorado National Monument

Dawn on the Rim

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)

“Wave” at 93rd Spring Salon Exhibit

Wave Monochrome 1 Spring Salon

Our image “Wave Monochrome #1” is in the catalog of the 93rd Spring Salon exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art, staring April 26 and running through July 8, 2017. The image is one of nine monochrome studies of “The Wave,” a geologic site in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA. A few other images from the series are shown below. More detail about the image is available here.

The Springville Museum of Art is Utah’s first museum for the visual fine arts. Dedicated as a “Sanctuary of Beauty and a Temple of Contemplation” by David O. McKay, the Museum houses over 2,500 works. Utah art, twentieth-century Soviet Realist art and American art, comprise the Museum’s permanent collection.

With over 15 exhibitions annually, the Museum is a key promoter and contributor to the arts in Utah. Artwork is displayed throughout 29 galleries in this 45,000 square foot facility and a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden.

Wave Monochrome #8
Wave Monochrome #8

Black and white derivations of the Wave images were begun in 2015 and completed in 2016. They are unusual visions because virtually all expressions of southwestern desert “redrock” scene are done in color, reflecting the dramatic hues of the terrain. Further To Fly’s monochrome impressions show them in a new light that emphasizes line and shape.

Wave Monochrome #4
Wave Monochrome #4

The Spring Salon was first held in 1922, and has been held annually since that time, except during World War II when fuel and other goods were rationed nationwide.  The exhibition is a juried competition that showcases the diversity and quality of contemporary Utah art. Over 900 works were proposed for the exhibition in 2017 and less than 10% were selected.

Wave Monochrome #5
Wave Monochrome #5

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 Staircase at “Red, White and Snow”

Grand Staircase

“The Grand Staircase”, a large canvas print in high-end framing, is available at a major fundraising auction in Park City. The National Ability Center’s “Red, White and Snow” gala is offering this compelling print in its Premium category at a value of $5,001. The work measures 40″ x 57″ and is print #2 in an edition of 10 in the Further to Fly Photography catalog.

Interested collectors can preview this art and bid online at this link. The gala is part of many events on the Red, White and Snow weekend and is Saturday, March 4 at the Montage Deer Valley resort, 5:30 pm. 

“The Grand Staircase” is an excellent example of having to get away from the trees to see the forest. The Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is the largest national monument in the lower 48 US states and features endless terraced mesas, redrock formations, shady slot canyons, lonely streams, and an immense stratigraphic and paleontologic record book. It is impossible to comprehend the whole of it when you are inside it.

I was at nearby Bryce Canyon National park on a winter afternoon, and the combination of elevation, snow, and the warm, low-angle light of sunset was a sudden, almost accidental revelation. The literal Grand Staircase was in right in front of me, compressed between a bluff in Bryce Canyon and the shoulder of Navajo Mountain, 160 kilometers away — and the lines, shapes and colors made it whole in a way few had noticed before. This rendition is one of my favorites, not only for its beauty, but for the way it simplified its complexity for me. I love it when a shot comes together.

Zion National Park Photo Tips

Zion National Park Photo Tips is a presentation requested by the Park City Photography Club, made in November, 2016. This is a video version.

Fire and Rain: the Forest in Ashes

Forest in Ashes #1

We are trying very hard to understand and appreciate fire in the forest. Nature’s life cycles are wise beyond human intellect, according to human intellect. Emotion rules, however, and the burned forest always seems a mistake, a loss, an epic tragedy. After the smoke clears, the embers die, and the rain settles the dust, there is nothing but black and gray. We fear that as the forest succumbs, so our lives will play out into ash, and of course that is our unavoidable destination.

Forest in Ash #2
Forest in Ash #2
Forest in Ash #3
Forest in Ash #3
Forest in Ash #4
Forest in Ash #4
Forest in Ash #5
Forest in Ash #5

Like nature’s version of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” fire ends with rain. Water from the sky calms the conflagration and lays the destruction bare, and we see the forest for the first time. So much better, with the logs down and the vegetation missing, to finally know what has gone missing. Even with new shoots ready to begin the cycle again, the forest will not rise to its former majesty in our lifetime. A new generation will know the forest again, love it again, and lose it again.

Forest in Ash #6
Forest in Ash #6
Forest in Ash #7
Forest in Ash #7

(Photography near Lizard Point,  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, September 2016.)

Further To Fly at Art Elevated Holiday Market

Swaner Preserve Holiday Market
Put nature photography on your holiday gift list this year!

Park City’s Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter will feature Further To Fly Photography’s work at the 2016 Art Elevated Holiday Market starting December 2nd.

The event marks the first public offering of a photograph named among the “Top 100” nature photographs of 2016 by the North American Nature Photographer’s Association — “Grand Prismatic Spring at Sunset” from Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Prismatic Spring at Sunset
Grand Prismatic Spring at Sunset

“The autumn foliage colors were great in Park city this year,” notes FTF photographer Tom Horton, “and I will have several new local autumn color photos available.”

Lost Prospector Trail in Autumn
Lost Prospector Trail in Autumn

The Art Elevated Holiday Market runs December 2nd through 4th, at preserves visitor center at Kimball Junction, Park City. Several local artists will display and sell their work, and local entertainers will provide a fun holiday experience. The preserve is an ecology education center operated by Utah State University.

The Subway, Zion National Park

Zion Subway

“Slot” canyons — of which the Subway is one — are the darlings of southwestern US geography. They are narrow defiles carved in layers of sandstone hundreds of feet deep — so narrow that it is difficult to walk through them in places, and so deep that sunlight may reach to the bottom only a few minutes a day when the sun is directly overhead. They are often in remote wilderness locations, and require heroic hiking, climbing and/or swimming skills to navigate. Slot canyons attain their unusually tall and narrow forms due to flash floods that carry tons of fine sand that can grind though the soft sandstone relatively quickly.

One of the finest of these is “The Subway” in Zion National Park, so named because the flume at the bottom has an oval shape reminiscent of a train tunnel. True to its kind, it is very hard to get to, a long distance from trailheads on very rough, sometimes dangerous trails. The photographer is awarded an extra penalty, not only having to pack in heavy gear, but to do part of it in the dark so that the light on scene is just right. Attacking The Subway in the fall is a great choice, not only because the midsummer heat is absent, but because colorful fall leaves adorn the stream and canyon bottom. (Pricing Schedule B)

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

Fall on the Wilson River

Fall on the Wilson River

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)

“Ghosts of the Great Basin” Exhibit Opens Oct. 21

Ghosts of the Great Basin #6

“They seem to be arriving and leaving at the same time, halfway in and halfway out of the world.” That’s my impression of the wild horses I photographed for the exhibition “Ghosts of the Great Basin,” opening October 21st at the Utah Art Festival Gallery in Salt Lake City.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #4
Ghosts of the Great Basin #4

American wild horses (more accurately termed feral horses or mustangs) endure a tenuous existence and uncertain future. People brought these horses to the country’s wilds, yet we saddle them with a love/hate relationship. There are far too many for the land, as we manage it, to support, yet our will to make decisions about them wavers. They are truly in limbo, as pointed out recently in a New York Times story.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #1
Ghosts of the Great Basin #1

Mustangs overpopulate their American ranges by up to 10,000 horses today, and we provide extra water and food for their survival. They are efficient competitors for resources with livestock and wild game, which generates some criticism. But to many, they are simply beautiful, inspirational free spirits.

Ghosts of the Great Basin #3
Ghosts of the Great Basin #3

In addition to the wild herds, there are 40,000 more in captive holding pens in the Midwest. Some are adopted, but that is not a solution because it is much easier to raise a domestic horse.  They depend on humans to exist, yet we don’t know what to do with them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ghosts of the Great Basin #4

The reality is that of about 70,000 feral Mustangs, we are warehousing about 1/3 of them on the range, and 2/3 in captivity, and none of them are truly wild. Another story of  hurting the ones we love.

Gallery stroll and artists’ reception — 6:00-9:00 pm, October 21st, 230 S. 500 W., Salt Lake City. Details at the Utah Art Festival Gallery website.