Archive for the ‘sunset’ Tag

Visiting Zion National Park – Part VII: Photography   6 comments

The Kolob Terrace part of Zion National Park wakes up to a cloudy sunrise.

Kolob Terrace in Zion National Park wakes up to a cloudy dawn.

I’m finally concluding this series with tips on photography at Zion National Park.  Believe it or not I will get back to regular Friday Foto Talk posts next week, promise!

Actually, there is one extra topic for Zion that I’ve been avoiding, at least until I get back there for more shots that match the theme.   That’s life and biodiversity at Zion.  With the great variation in elevation and available water in the park, there is an amazing diversity of plants and animals.

For example it’s relatively easy to see desert bighorn sheep but much tougher to find the Zion snail, or to notice other interesting plant and animal species.  But it’s certainly a worthwhile topic to learn about, especially if you’re a nature photographer.  Here’s a good website for that.

A family of bighorn sheep survey their realm in East Zion.

A family of bighorn sheep survey their realm in East Zion.

I feel the same way about telling you what and where to shoot as I do recommending specific places to go.  I don’t want to be like that tour guide who leads you to some viewpoint where he looks expectantly at you and your camera.  Then he’s slightly annoyed if instead of taking a picture where everybody else does you stop and shoot in odd places, throwing a wrench in his agenda.  But I do want to provide some guidance.  It’s a fine line, so please consider the following as suggestions only.

The road in Zion Canyon is lined with beautiful cottonwoods.


East Zion is my favorite area to shoot at sunrise.  Hiking up the slickrock where it’s not too steep will get you the necessary elevation above the road.  Tip: you can walk very steep sandstone slickrock without slipping because it offers amazing friction, belying its name.  You’ll see most people shooting from near the road, but that follows a canyon, often putting you just a little too low.

A full waterpocket reflects the light of sunset at Zion National Park.

Waterpockets are pools of water that hang around on the sandstone bedrock well after rains.  Do some exploring during the day and try to find some of these at Zion.  You’ll have much more luck in East Zion than elsewhere, but anywhere high up, like Kolob Terrace or up on one of the rims of Zion Canyon, offers good waterpocket hunting.  Of course if you’re there off-season, by next morning you could find your pool frozen.  But so much the better!

Canyon Hiking in the early morning can offer very nice image possibilities.  Most canyons face generally west, but in the right light, shooting in canyon bottoms at Zion is perfect (and uncrowded!) at sunrise.

A walk in any wet canyon bottom can reward with simple pleasures like this swirling eddy.


Zion Canyon faces southwest, so late afternoon light tends to flood up the canyon in fall when the sun is to the south.  When the sun sets more directly west in spring and summer the sun sets behind mountains.  But you’ll still have good shooting if some clouds are around reflecting and sweetening the light.

The Virgin River at sunset is a nice low-energy thing to try.  Walk anywhere along its length from the entrance on up to the Narrows.  Even with the sun itself obscured you may get that special glow seeping down into the canyon bottom.

Hike high up on Zion Canyon’s sides, as high as energy and terrain allow.  Then you can either shoot up-canyon in front-light or down-canyon in back-light.  I have several spots like this that I’m fond of.  I gave away one in the last post (whinny!), so I’ll keep the rest to myself and let you find your own.

I found this view of the Patriarchs while stumbling around up on the sides of Zion Canyon

I found this view of the Patriarchs while stumbling around up on the sides of Zion Canyon

Kolob Terrace is great at sunset, or sunrise if clouds are kicking around.  Drive up the road from Virgin early so you can do some exploring to find unique perspectives.

The Kolob Canyons area also faces west, so going up there for sunset, then heading back down to camp at Red Cliffs Campground is a good plan.  It’s at the mouth of a lovely wet canyon that faces east for sunrise photos.

Ranch Land on the western approach to the park offers nice front-light in late afternoon.  Fall colors here linger a bit longer than higher in the canyons.  You can find peaceful pastures to shoot with Eagle Crags in the background (Eagle Crags is a good off-beat place to hike to as well).

Horses and Eagle Crags near Rockdale, not far outside Zion National Park.


Anywhere:  If you’re lucky enough to have stormy weather at Zion, or the daytime light is otherwise spectacular, try any of the above ideas, or just wander around with your eyes open.

The Canyon Overlook Trail near the east tunnel entrance, while it’s best at sunrise, offers a spectacular view of Pine Creek Canyon at any time.

I got lucky with stormy weather one early morning from Canyon Overlook.

Riparian Zones are plant-filled riverside canyon bottoms.  They’re a challenge to shoot because of all the “stuff”.  But they are nonetheless worthwhile places to look for intimate landscapes.  Try walking Pine Creek either up or downstream from the bridge.

The Aeries of Angel’s Landing and Observation Point are sublime spots for overview shots of the canyon.

There are plenty of other places to shoot at Zion if you do some wandering around.  And I haven’t even spoken of all the places outside the park.  So use your imagination and don’t follow the crowd.

That’s it, we’re done!  I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and the pictures as well.  I was surprised I had so many that were worthy of posting.  But would you think me greedy if I said I wanted more?  Have a great time at Zion National Park!

Hiking up on the steep slickrock of East Zion at sunset I found this unique sunset shot with the crescent moon.

Hiking up on the steep slickrock of East Zion at sunset I found this image with the crescent moon.  Worth a dark hike back down.

Best of 2015: A Year in Three Images   17 comments

Have you noticed that pretty much every photographer publishes a “best-of” list at the end of each year?  Hmm…not sure if I want to continue to cooperate on this.  I never feel good about doing things that seem expected; just my personality.  So I’ll do my own variation on the theme.  I’ll post three of my favorites for the year.  Not 10, and certainly not 15.

But here’s the hitch:  if you have other ideas on the matter, images of mine that you’ve seen either here on the blog or on my website, by all means let me know and I’ll post them.  They will appear with your name in upcoming Single-image Sunday or Wordless Wednesday posts.  Just comment on this post with the link to the shot or describe it using its title/caption.

I love this first one for the exceedingly brief moment it represents, and the way it tells a story about the battle between storm and mountain range.  The placid pasture with grazing cattle is just the sort of contrast that a story-telling image is made stronger for.

Knocking on the Door: An April snowstorm breaks over the Sierra Nevada in California.

Knocking on the Door: An April snowstorm breaks over the Sierra Nevada in California.

I’m fond of this next one not only because I almost didn’t get up it was so windy and cold, but it’s one of my rare “planned shots”.  I have been wanting to get a well-balanced shot of this barn and homestead in nice light for quite a long time.  Also, the horse being outside on a very chilly dawn made me think it was meant to be.

The Old Gifford Place: An historic homestead lies beneath the cliffs of Capitol Reef in Utah.

The Old Gifford Place: An historic homestead lies beneath the cliffs of Capitol Reef in Utah.

I like last one a lot because while the sky is not overly colorful, it’s amazing the way sunlight can be aimed as a powerful beam when it is squeezed between cloud and landscape.  And when that light is collected on a simple hillside of quaking aspen, where I had just barely reached an opening in the forest, it can turn your whole world golden.

Happy New Year everyone!

Golden light floods into a grove of quaking aspen in Colorado's Cimarron Mountains. I love this one because while the sky is not overly colorful, simple sunlight collecting on a hillside of aspen can turn your whole world golden.

Golden light floods into a grove of quaking aspen in Colorado’s Cimarron Mountains.



Single-image Sunday – Christmas Edition   5 comments

This was a sunset I was blessed with the other night.  It’s got all my favorite Christmas colors except for green.  But you can’t have everything (if you did then Christmas wouldn’t be so special).  So for everyone out in the world, Merry Christmas and (as the pope said today): May peace be within you.  And I’ll add may peace be within and without you for 2016.

A spring south of Badwater in Death Valley,  California reflects a vibrant dusk sky.

A spring south of Badwater in Death Valley, California reflects a vibrant dusk sky.

Wordless Wednesday: Tipsoo Lake   4 comments

Single-image Sunday: Evening Light   4 comments

Evening comes on early these November days, so if I get the urge to shoot at sunset I’m usually rushing out, not leaving enough time.  That was the case the other day.  Since I was running late and thought I’d probably not shoot anything until the sun had dipped below the horizon, I automatically thought, ‘where’s the nearest water?’  When the light gets low just after sunset, light is beautiful but foregrounds can get very dark.  Water, or some other reflective surface like snow, is often the best bet.

The Cimarron River was nearby so I drove fast in that direction.  I parked near the bridge and scrambled down to the water.  In my hurry I strode confidently right up to the water’s edge, without checking the footing.  My front foot hit firm mud that was as slick as ice, and I did a split, with my front leg shin-deep in the river.  Even when I was a young guy, splits weren’t really part of my repertoire.  Now, they’re darn awkward!

I was muddy and one foot was already soaked.  So I just took off both shoes and, after checking the depth, waded out into the river.  I stuck the tripod legs into the mud of the river bottom and got this shot.  The light had a beautiful purplish hue to it.  Have a great week everyone!

The sun has just set along the Cimarron River, OK

The sun has just set along the Cimarron River, OK

I’m Alive!   15 comments

Grass waves in the breeze of dusk in the prairie of western Oklahoma.

I’m not one to apologize for not posting in a long time, but I have to admit to feeling a little guilty just the same.  I took a break that was supposed to be just August and maybe part of September.  It has stretched for longer than I expected.  Guess I just needed to recharge my batteries.

I’m on my second photo trip during that time, and I’ve also been working a lot.  I spent the first couple weeks of September in Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Rocky Mtn. National Parks.  Now I’m in SW Colorado and very excited about the upcoming lunar eclipse.

The night before I left on this trip, just after we finished up with the project, I went out to shoot at sunset.  I lucked out and found a pretty stretch of tall-grass prairie.  Very tall grass, the kind that reaches up to my chin, is something I’ve always loved.  With the light very nice, and the only sound some distant coyotes calling, it was a peaceful way to get ready for my trip to the southern Rockies.  I know sunsets are a bit cliche, but I’ll never believe they are overdone.

So I just wanted to let everyone know I haven’t dropped out.  I’m hitting the blogging trail again!  Hope everything is going well with all of you.  I can’t wait to get time and check out what you’ve been up to.  Have a great week!

Sunset in the tallgrass prairie.

Happy Summer Solstice!   10 comments

Sunrise over Klamath Marsh, south-central Oregon.

Sunrise over Klamath Marsh, south-central Oregon.  Click on image for purchase options.

It is that special day today, Summer Solstice!  It’s the longest day of the year and the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere.  For all you Southerners it’s Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and start of winter.  For today I’m posting one sunrise, from Klamath Marsh in southern Oregon, and one sunset, from the Pacific Coast just south of the Oregon-California border.

Please let me know if you’re interested in fine-art prints of the images here, or want to buy rights to the high-resolution files.  They’re not available for free download except with my permission.  Please contact me, thanks!

You may already know this but the Earth is tilted on its axis about 23.5 degrees.  This tilt gives us our seasons, and means as we go around the Sun there are four moments (not whole days) when things line up.  In March and again in September there’s a moment when the North Pole is tilted precisely along our path of travel, our orbit, at a perfect right angle to the Sun’s direction.  These are the equinoxes, when day and night are equal the world over.


In December there’s a moment when the North Pole points directly away from the Sun.  In June, usually on the 21st but sometimes on the 20th, a moment comes when the North Pole points directly toward the Sun.  This puts the Sun as far north in our skies as it can get.  In the Southern Hemisphere it’s low in the sky, leading to short days.  In the Northern Hemisphere it’s high in the sky, leading to long days.

In the far north above the Arctic Circle, where I spent a couple summers a long time ago in Alaska, the Sun never sets at this time of year.  It skims along nicely above the northern horizon throughout the wee hours.  I went on several long hikes in the Brooks Range when I was up there working.  I’m a person who needs darkness to sleep, and I was having trouble staying asleep.  So I used the time to see the midnight sun trace its path across the sky above the Arctic Plain.

Our encampment was down in a valley with a fairly high ridge to the north, so you couldn’t see the midnight sun for about 8 full hours.  It took about an hour and a half to climb the ridge, and I”m sure it would take twice that long for me now!  In good weather there was a clear view out to the Chukchi Sea to the west, the Noatak River Valley to the north.  The glowing sun glided not far above the horizon.

I recall seeing a few grizzlies on their rounds down below.  I never ran into one close, but being alone I was cautious.  I avoided obvious passes and other places a bear might use to cross from one valley to another.

So enjoy our long days all you fellow Northerners.  If you live relatively close to the equator, I’m sorry but all this talk of seasons and change is a bit lost on you.  But heck, go ahead and celebrate with the rest of us!

The rugged Pacific Coast of far northern California witnesses many a fine sunset.

The rugged Pacific Coast of far northern California witnesses many a fine sunset.  Click on image for purchase options.

The Campaign   18 comments

A skiff of snow overnight and a very frosty autumn morning near Dallas Divide in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

A skiff of snow overnight and a very frosty autumn morning near Dallas Divide in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

This is an image from my last road trip through the American West.  I had hoped to just catch the fall’s last colors in the Rockies, after most of the other photographers had gone, believing the peak had passed.

I spent a freezing night and next morning the sun didn’t show.  Instead the light was a sort of overcast glow, great for details and colors in either macro or intimate landscapes, but with a sky very unfriendly to larger landscape images.

Besides very high contrasts, the relatively featureless sky was a problem.  As I drove down out of the Mt Sneffels Range trying to avoid being stuck in the snow, it turned to rain.  So I just stopped and admired the beautiful tones and detail in the landscape, and the great fencing in that country, decorated with frost.

I decided to throw on a parka, protect my camera from the cold rain and make an attempt at capturing some images.  I was sure none would end up to be award-winners, but that wasn’t stopping me with this fairly unique color palette in front of me.

Now I know that just broke my promise of avoiding giving you a boring blow-by-blow account of image capture in this blog.  But I just wrote that because this is one of those images I could never have made with this point and shoot camera I’ve been using ever since my DSLR died a painful death.

Too much detail and depth would have been lost, and the colors would not have been rendered quite as faithfully by the little zoom lens.  And besides, you really need a decent DSLR, one with good dynamic range, to handle these contrasts.  Even using a graduated ND filter is virtually impossible with a point and shoot camera.

And there are countless other images that I’ve made that would never have been possible without a certain minimum  in quality of camera and lens.  Starscapes, for example, are impossible.

In other words, this little snapshot camera can only go so far before it stymies me.  It won’t work.  I simply cannot remain a serious photographer this way.  I can’t pursue my short and long-term goals, can’t chase the dream.

This long exposure starscape from the Grand Canyon would of course had been impossible without my full-size camera.

This long exposure starscape from the Grand Canyon would of course had been impossible without my full-size camera.

Last week I started a crowdfunding campaign in order to replace the lost camera gear.  Although I’ve gotten some contributions, for which I am so grateful, it needs to ramp up in speed.  I’m working on some other (local non-tech-based) ways to advertise the campaign, but I definitely need more online help as well.  There is no problem with the campaign.  The goals I have are both realistic and designed to make a difference.  And in exchange for contributions I am giving away high-resolution, high-quality images, plus my knowledge.  But more eyes need to see it.

I can be persistent, almost to an extreme.  I will keep at this until I succeed.  I have real faith that my vision and the way I see this beautiful world will garner enough genuine appreciation among people to be worth continuing and doing something useful with.

And so, please, when you have a few minutes, check out the write-up and sample gallery.  It is on a crowdfunding site called Indiegogo, and here is the link:  My Campaign.  If you decide you can afford a contribution, you will not only have my heartfelt thanks, you’ll have some of my images for your wall too!

But I have another request.  Equally important to contributions is getting the word out to a wider audience.  You all are a pretty darn loyal and sincere bunch.  In fact, you’re what has kept me blogging!  So I have faith you can help me to spread the word.  Share that link, talk to your friends, have them take a look at my website (though there is a good sampling of images also on the campaign’s page).

I hope you don’t mind if I remind you by including a simple blurb and link in succeeding blog posts.  It’s very important to me.  Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend!

One of my favorite sunset  images, classic Oregon Coast.  The metaphor is too tempting: I don't want the sun to set on my photography.

One of my favorite sunset images, classic Oregon Coast. The metaphor is too tempting: I don’t want the sun to set on my photography.

Single-image Sunday: Sunset from Munra Pt.   12 comments

I finally broke the photo drought and went up to the Gorge for a hike with my old point and shoot.  The goal was to make it up to the summit of Munra Point by sunset.  I rode my moto out there on a gorgeous afternoon.  One of the only benefits to having no DSLR these days is I can go very light!  So I made good time on the extremely steep route.  The point and shoot isn’t bad.  It’s a Canon S95.  Though the lens is not the quality I’m used to, it does a pretty good job for a P&S.   The best thing is it shoots RAW, so high contrast shots like this, where the camera itself doesn’t do a great job with the intense light contrast, can be dealt with in Lightroom.

Munra Point has a great view of the Columbia River flowing west through the Gorge far below.  This time of year there are spring flowers: glacier lilies & grass widows, among others.  At one point you need to climb hand over hand for a short stretch, but there is a rope to aid you.  It comes in very handy on the way down, when darkness is rapidly closing in.  I forgot a light.  My headlamp was still in my regular camera pack, which is no longer in use.  So I needed to go down fast in order to make it through the forest part before it got totally dark.  All in all a fine return to shooting.  Though I can’t help feeling a bit frustrated using a camera with much less control than I’m used to, I can certainly deal with it for now, at least to scratch the itch.  Thanks for reading!

Sunset over the Columbia River Gorge from Munra Point.

Sunset over the Columbia River Gorge from Munra Point.

Single-image Sunday: Island Sunset – Thailand   6 comments

Traditional fishing boats are secured in a placid little bay on the island of Koh Lipe in the Andamon Sea off the coast of Thailand.

Traditional fishing boats are secured in a placid little bay on the island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand.  Click on picture for the high-res. version & purchase options.

I wanted to do a follow-up to Friday’s post on giving your photos a sense of place.  This is a travel image from my month-long trip to Thailand several years ago.  If you’ve been there or to any neighboring countries, or seen photos, perhaps you guessed the location.  That was the idea!  I composed the image so that the traditional Thai long-tail fishing boats were silhouetted against a wonderful sunset on the little paradise called Koh Lipe off the coast of southern Thailand.

I wanted to include the little boy fishing off the boat (at right), but in this shot he’s a bit too small.  Right afterward I got a few where he was more prominent, but by then it had gotten pretty dark.  This image turned out to have the best balance between the overall scene and the slow-paced, sea-focused life going on here.  That really is the core idea behind including a sense of place into your photos.  The goal is to include elements that will help to add some key details, and yet capture enough of the scene to both take advantage of the light and put the viewer into the scene – all in a well-composed, attractive image.  The small things you do to give your images a sense of place will breathe life into them.  And that can definitely be a challenge!

Koh Lipe was, when I visited, undergoing a transformation.  It had been ‘discovered’ by tourists recently and so the vanguard of (mostly) backpackers had arrived.  A small-scale building boom was going on.  No resorts..yet, but there may be now.  Next to the largest harbor and beach lies the island’s only real village.  It’s a busy warren of rustic little lodges, eateries and a few gift shops.  Definitely a buzz about the place.  Outside of that it was still pretty quiet.

The beach in the above picture is on the other, quieter side of the island, accessible via a walking trail through dense jungle.  I arrived just in time for sunset after a full day encircling the island on foot.  I stayed in a sort of shack perched above a rocky section of coast not far from the backpacker village:  a half-hour walk or 10-minute boat ride.  My simple wood bungalow was open-air, had no electricity, and was much quieter and more peaceful than the village.  Great snorkeling was steps away.  And best of all, it cost $7/night.  I suspect Koh Lipe is not the same now, but it has a ways to go before it becomes Koh Samui or (gasp!) Phuket.  

A great option near Koh Lipe if you really want to get away from it all is Koh Tarutao.  It’s a National Marine Park, so is nearly undeveloped and very pristine compared to many of the Thai islands.  The best way to visit is to simply bring along a tent and food, walk down the road from the ferry terminal and set up camp at one of the beachside sites.  There is one restaurant near the dock.  I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much, being inside a park.  It’s a rather large island with dense, mountainous jungle and a seemingly endless rugged coastline dotted with empty beaches. 

This morphed into a travel post I guess.  I’m going to cheat and include a second image (from Koh Tarutao).  There are many islands in southern Thailand, but unless you want a resort experience or the (full-moon) party scene, you would do well to research the natural areas, then when you arrive look further for relatively undeveloped places that may not even show up on the web.  They are out there.  Thanks for reading!

A beachwalk on Koh Tarutao, southern Thailand.

Walking the beach on Koh Tarutao under yet another glorious Andaman Sea sunset in southern Thailand.  Click on image for purchase options.

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