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.
“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.
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.
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)
“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)
Their technical name is “crepuscular rays” but you and I know them as sunbeams. Their appearance generally requires clouds, the right sun angle, and some haze or mist in the atmosphere. But never mind the explanation — the effect is always celestial. We see these beams of light radiating from a mysterious, hidden source and it seems to depict gods, aliens, wisdom, salvation, whatever. Even though we all know darn well how they come to be, I find the urge to stop and marvel and photograph them irresistible.
This day I was on a completely non-photographic mission at Strawberry Reservoir along U.S. Highway 40 in Utah when the magic happened. I took a few quick shots braced against the car, then it melted away and I forgot about it for five years or so, before stumbling upon it recently and polishing it up. If only my memory was a good as my camera.
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.
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.
Further To Fly Photography announced a new series of striking landscapes from Swan Valley, Idaho, USA, where Fall Creek plunges over travertine terraces into the Snake River. “Early Winter on Fall Creek” shows the falls in an unusual dark mood, with saturated colors struggling to be seen on a misty, gloomy afternoon.
To hear it described, you would think the waterfall on Fall Creek, Swan Valley, Idaho, is a photographer’s dream. Multiple streams of mountain water cascade down travertine terraces, dropping from level to level until plunging directly into the Snake River. Just set up, spin your dials and shoot, it should be a slam dunk.
Ah, not so fast. The shot is not just a vertical plane, there is a lot of horizontal relief that hides some elements and distorts others. There is a lot of marching through the underbrush trying to find a workable perspective. There is mud to deal with. And that sky, intruding into every framing possibility and causing exposure problems, while adding no interest of its own. There are several small compositions of portions of the falls that are attractive, but the beauty of the whole falls is nowhere to be found.
After stomping around the mud and snow longer than anticipated, becoming ever more frustrated, I realized that if composition wasn’t going to rescue this photo, perhaps the light would do it. There were, in fact, some dim sunbeams popping out of the overcast sky on occasion, so I took some time to let some highlights move in and out of the scene, but I was not optimistic. Later, on the computer, things were not looking any better — until I took a chance with some dark shadows, high contrast and soft focus, and suddenly something came together. It was nothing like I had in mind, but it lent a character to the falls that is unusual and interesting — a dark and elusive character that reminds me of my mindset as I stood, discouraged, in the mud. (Pricing Schedule D)
Zhujiajiao is said to be the best “water town” in the Shanghai environs. The name means “Zhu family estate” and it is at least 1,000 years old. In the Yangtze River delta, canals are ubiquitous and every village is split by at least one, spanned by bridges and boats. Such old towns are now meccas for day trippers from the city, and are overrun with visitors and vendors. In Zhujiajiao, I wandered up the canal, getting away from town, and found a man on a skiff casting a wonderful fine mesh net on long poles, moving like some orchestra conductor stuck in adagio.
The grace of the image belies the difficulty of its capture. As he floated downstream, I had to follow on the opposite shore, climbing fences, jumping ditches and avoiding mayhem. At some point I may have stepped on a chicken. And of course I had to anticipate the right background. Eventually it all became perfect. (Price Schedule B)
Large-format landscape photography, as defined by Ansel Adams, enthralls me because of the exquisite detail in even in the most obscure parts of the photo. I could stand in front of such a print and look at it all day, examining every twig and grain of sand.
This photo, from a the White Pine trail in a mountain canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, is in that spirit. I took this photo in 1970 on 4″ x 5″ color negative film, and recently had it scanned and converted to a digital file that came in at a huge 440 Mb. As much as I love digital photography, I still admire the incredible image quality those old view cameras and negative films can produce. (Pricing Schedule D)
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)
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)
Summer days are hot in Tunxi, Anhui Province, the gateway town to China’s Huangshan National Park. Under the bridge over the Xin’an River is not only a great place to tie up your boat, but to find some shade and fish a bit. Really, it’s too hot to do anything else. (Pricing Schedule D)
This photo of sandpipers at the California shore is probably the oldest digital image on my site, going back to my first tentative steps with the earliest digital cameras. The images were awful compared to film cameras — noisy, vignetted, low resolution — and we thought they were wonderful even though they were usually unusable.
This shot is different, however, because of it’s tonal simplicity of bright reflections and dark silhouettes and not much in between. And beyond that, it does seem to evoke the mood of the moment — busy little birds, flitting along the waterline in unison, a coordinated feeding machine. Definitely, this experiment worked. (Price Schedule F)
Grand is one thing, but Glorious is another. The ordinary visitor sees Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park and from ground level is only marginally impressed. Yes, it’s big, and there are some nifty colors in the water, but it’s also steamy and gigantic you can’t comprehend it very well. It’s just too much to take in. So, many people come and go from Grand Prismatic Spring not having really seen it.
The only way to grasp the glory of Grand Prismatic Spring is from overhead. But remember, this is a US national park and aviation of every kind, including helicopters and drones, is prohibited.
That is where the services of your photographic professional make all the difference. A very few have taken the “brute force” approach and waded through the months — nay, years — of paperwork, permits and expense to actually hire a helicopter, hover, and shoot. They got very nice photos. But being a creative professional, I summoned some creativity and hiked up the small, steep mountain to the south. I not only got some exercise, but the photograph as well. And here you have it. You’re welcome. (Pricing Schedule D)
Where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean in northern California’s Redwood country, a small lagoon reflects the story of these great trees. This little assemblage of grass and lilies is just yards from the shore.
The fog lifting from the far hills is vital to the redwood forest, cooling their great hulks and bringing water to their upper stories. We think of Redwoods as growing right down to the water’s edge, but that is rare; they prefer hills and streambeds a bit inland. The foreground trees are not redwoods but Douglas Fir, which doesn’t mind the salt spray, and, with half a chance, will grow just about anywhere. (Pricing Schedule D)
I just love the term “Last Light” and I undoubtedly use it too much in describing certain sunset photographs. It refers to the very last stages of the sunset, when most of the scene is dark and just a few elements of the picture still have that dim, orange rapidly fading light. I like it because is a natural way of editing what was a complex scene into just a few simple elements. This is a challenge photographers encounter in nearly every photograph. In the studio, it is an easy problem to solve, but when nature is operating the lights, things often seem out of control.
A photograph such as this one, in which the last light is the best possible light, paring the scene down to a beautiful simplicity, is a huge victory. It doesn’t happen every day. (Pricing Schedule D)
Karst terrains are some of the most atmospheric and beautiful on Earth. The Ha Long area of northern Vietnam, where limestone towers and cliffs rise suddenly out of the sea, is one of the most remarkable of these. Dozens of major movies that needed the drama and mystery of these forest-encrusted towers have been filmed here.
Capturing Ha Long’s majesty in photographs depends a lot of the weather of the moment. This day, with a heavy haze obscuring detail, pointed the way to long telephoto shots and monotones, working with the ever-receding layers of ridges to distant horizons. (Price Schedule D)
More beautiful photographs have been overlooked than have ever been taken. One of the main ways this happens is by becoming too focused on where you are going, and ignoring where you came from. You have arrived at your subject and taken the obvious photograph. You are walking away with a satisfied feeling and suddenly, shockingly — they place you just came from is revealed in a wonderful new light that you have never seen before. This has happened to me so many times that I have made it a habit, on the way to somewhere, to stop every now and then and look back to where I came from.
That’s the way this shot happened. I was driving back to Yellowstone National Park in late evening after a good day shooting in the Tetons. At the Lewis River Falls I happened to check my rear view mirror and see this glorious scene. Lucky, I’m tempted to say, but it wasn’t — it was habit. (Pricing Schedule E)
Cannon Beach is an easy drive from Portland, Oregon, and is famous all over the USA as one of the finest beaches on the left side of the continent. So, where are the sunbathers? Where are the kids and their sand pails, the lifeguard stations, the hot dog stands? This is summer, after all.
Well, it’s not that kind of beach. Many first-time visitors to this part of the Pacific don’t realize the water is very cold, all year around. North of San Francisco it’s also very stormy, and shipwrecks are common. Waves, big waves, pummel rocky cliffs. The brave divers and surfers who venture out wrap themselves in rubber and still come out with frostbite. But on the other hand, all of those things are necessary to assemble a memorable scene of wave, rock, forest, cloud and sun like this one. This is not a sunbather’s beach, it is a photographer’s beach. (Pricing Schedule D)