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” 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)
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)
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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
(Photography near Lizard Point, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, September 2016.)
“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.”
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.
“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)
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.
“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.
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)
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Further To Fly’s panoramic photograph, “Earth, Air, Wind, Fire,” an image of the Great Salt Lake in winter, is a finalist for the Alfred Lambourne Prize in visual arts, which will be awarded by the Friends of the Great Salt Lake on September 16. The public is welcome to attend this annual celebration of the lake and the arts — see attached invitation.
This long-abandoned farm wagon sits in a most unlikely place — along a creek bottom in the once-remote desert wilderness of what is now Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. This oasis is in a forbidding landscape that was one of the last districts of the American west to be explored and settled. Pioneer Farmers in this valley date from 1908, a good 40 years after the last of its wagon cousins carried pioneer all the way across the continent. It sounds sentimental, but standing in this spot, photographing this relic, does carry you back in time for a moment.
Many US national parks are based on pristine wilderness….but not all. Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a good example of the latter. Pioneer farms dotted the habitable places long before anyone ever thought of setting the area aside as a national park. Here, visitors can be surprised a bit as the park incorporates an entire small community — the village of Fruita, where canyon-bottom orchards are still harvested for sweet fruit, and the summer hay is taken in to feed livestock. In virtually all national parks with pre-existing habitations, they have been incorporated into the park history, and operated consistent with the national parks’ historical mission. (Pricing Schedule E)
Many US national parks are based on pristine wilderness….but not all. Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a good example of the latter. Pioneer farms dotted the habitable places long before anyone ever thought of setting aside the area as a national park. Here, visitors can be surprised a bit as the park incorporates an entire small community — the village of Fruita, where canyon-bottom orchards are still harvested for sweet fruit, and the summer hay is taken in to feed livestock. In virtually all national parks with pre-existing habitations, they have been incorporated into the park history, and operated consistent with the national parks’ historical mission.
The Gifford Barn and the nearby homestead at Capitol Reef fits like a charm. Its third occupant family since it’s construction in 1908 sold it to the park in 1969, but it continues to host visitors and livestock. It is easy to imagine what must have been an idyllic existence working the land in the shadow of isolated, spectacular cliffs and skies. Photographing the Gifford Barn has the same effect — kind of slow, relaxing, and homey. My intention is that the photograph conveys the same feeling. (Pricing Schedule E)