Archive for the ‘Yellowstone’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Overcoming Obstacles – Subject   6 comments

Late afternoon light on the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas.

Late afternoon light on the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas.

Obstacles crop up as often in photography as they do life in general.  It’s tempting to think only in terms of technical problems (exposure, focus, etc.), and it’s true that techniques of photography can take up a lot of your thought and effort.

But I’m not covering these sorts of obstacles for a simple reason.  Shooting a lot (see Part I) will allow you to handle those things easily enough.  This series of posts is about the bigger obstacles, those that stand in the way of becoming a very good (or even great) photographer.

Finding Good Subjects

As Joe McNally, the famed National Geographic photographer said, “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff”.  With photography, putting yourself in front of interesting subjects is the pathway to success.

Of course what one person finds interesting others may not.  But it is true that some subjects photograph much better than others do.  For example, put a human in any picture and you automatically connect with people (funny how that works).  Do me a favor though, resist the urge to picture someone with tripod and camera in front of a sunset ;-).

Enjoying the last flat section of the Cooper Spur route, north side of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Enjoying the last flat section of the Cooper Spur route, north side of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Here’s one simple example of how to include interesting stuff in your photos.  If you’re going on safari (anywhere not just Africa), why not try to time it for just after most of the animals bear their young?  Nothing is cuter than a baby animal of course.  But more importantly, the presence of youngsters means a better chance to photograph interesting behavior.

A young zebra glances back at me as his mom  uses her tail to brush flies away, Hwange N.P., Zimbabwe

A young zebra glances back at me as his mom uses her tail to brush flies away, Hwange N.P., Zimbabwe

SUBJECTS AND YOU

While the above considerations factor into making good images, ultimately it’s really about your relationship with the subject.  In order to get great pictures, it’s best to be into your subjects, to like (or better, love) them.  If you like them enough you’ll spend more time with them and learn lots of interesting stuff about them.  As a result, your photos will come out better.

It’s true that what will make you an accomplished photographer is an ability to shoot anything well.  After all, why not be up for shooting any subject?  Approach it with respect and an open mind.  But don’t get in the habit of settling for easy-access subjects when you really want to shoot something else.  By the way, don’t think your desired subject has to be in a distant exotic locale.  It just has to be what you’re fascinated by.  And you’ll overcome any obstacle to access and photograph it.

As an example, a subject like the high forested Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, shown below, for a time became a personal quest to shoot in just the right light and weather conditions.  This particular image is of Mystery Ridge, one of the toughest off-trail scrambles in the Gorge.  After hiking it (can you call that hiking?), I wanted badly to photograph it in classic mist-shrouded conditions.

 

Mystery Ridge, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Here’s another example: I had always wanted to visit and photograph Carlsbad Caverns.  But its out of the way location had been putting me off.  Recently, after coming across some smaller caves in Arkansas, my urge to go was stoked again.  So I made the drive to New Mexico and was so glad I did.

The great thing about going somewhere out of the way is that you so often discover other places you never realized existed.  It makes the trip that much more worthwhile.  Just south of Carlsbad lies the Guadalupe Mountains (image at top).  What a nice bonus they were!

Carlsbad Caverns N.P. above-ground.

Carlsbad Caverns N.P. above-ground.

 

Carlsbad_Caverns_Dec-2014_6D_040

It’s a fantasy-land below ground.

 

No sunset this time, don’t want to be too predictable!  Thanks so much for reading.  Stay tuned for more of this series next Friday.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Life and the Universe I   8 comments

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of evening.

Sulfur Springs, a remote thermal area in Yellowstone National Park, reflects the pale light of evening.

How is that for a title?  Perhaps a bit too broad for a blog post, ya think?  I know, I’ll spread it out over 2 or 3 posts, that should do it.

Actually I have been thinking about this subject in a different way off and on for a few years now.  It can be boiled down to this: does the universe show a consciousness?

Several cosmologists out there have written books where this idea is implied if not outright stated.  And these are scientists, so please don’t think I’m off my rocker!   Paul Davies is one scientist who has influenced my thinking.  He wrote a book in 2007 called Cosmic Jackpot where he discusses some of the theories behind modern cosmology, including the idea of the Multiverse.  He doesn’t stop, however, with yet another layman’s explanation of relativity or string theory.  He goes further and tackles quasi-religious “why” questions, such as:

  • Why is the universe so dang perfect for the emergence of life, when it could have been so easily hostile to life?
  • Why are we here, and why are we conscious?
  • Does the Universe itself have a consciousness?  If so, why?
The white mineral terraces at Mammoth in Yellowstone National Park glow under a partial moon and the summer stars.

The white mineral terraces at Mammoth in Yellowstone National Park glow under a partial moon and the summer stars.

Davies isn’t the only cosmologist who is exploring these questions, but most scientists don’t go so far into speculation about the purpose for and meaning of life in this universe. My ideas as summarized in this post aren’t exact copies of Davies’, and they don’t use these cosmological ideas to springboard into fantasy land.  I’m not saying the ideas could not be the basis of a very good, and very bizarre, science fiction novel.  But in a way I am a good little scientist who doesn’t stray too far from what can be tested and established by observation and other lines of evidence.

I think the fact that our universe is so finely tuned to the emergence of life begs to be explained.  I also think that life is too often regarded as a sort of passive feature in the universe.  You have gas clouds, dust, rocks, and other stuff…and oh yeah, you also have life.  I really think it’s possible that it is much more than that.  It is now obvious that life has influenced everything on Earth from climate to the oceans, even minerals (whose incredible diversity on this planet is very likely because of life).

The complex and beautiful symmetry in nature is suggestive of design, but obeys natural laws.

The complex and beautiful symmetry in nature is suggestive of design, but obeys natural laws.

Just one example: a little over two billion years ago the atmosphere was infused with oxygen by micro-organisms who bloomed fantastically in the ancient oceans.  Mostly the changes that life has wrought on Earth have served to make the planet much more hospitable to…you guessed it, life!  In the example above, the oxygen in the atmosphere allowed the evolution of energy-hungry complex life.   Oxygen supplies enormous energy within your body’s cells, much more than any other element could.  There are many other examples; ask any good paleontologist and they’ll tell you.  Is all of this mere coincidence?

Venus passes in front of the Sun, an event that won't be repeated for over 100 years.

Venus passes in front of the Sun, an event that won’t be repeated for over 100 years.

Now Earth is the only model we have thus far to explore the tight inter-relationships between non-living matter, energy and life.  But looking out into the galaxy, we are finding more and more planets that are looking more and more like they might also harbor life.  When you consider the numbers involved, life might actually be quite common in the galaxy, and by extension the entire universe.  If we can find some of the same types of connections between life and the history of the cosmos that we have found on Earth, then we might be looking at something very profound indeed.

You might have heard that in astronomy, time starts with the Big Bang.  Nothing existed before this but a singularity, which takes up no space.  So what happened before the Big Bang?  That question is nonsensical, or unanswerable, or blah blah blah.   This is utter nonsense of course.  We might not be able to answer these questions about our origins right now, but they are certainly legitimate (and very important) scientific questions.  Next lecture you go to where the Big Bang is discussed, make sure and raise your hand to ask the question, what came before?  If the speaker is good, while probably not being able to answer definitively, she will never brush this question off with a lame excuse.

Storm clouds gather.

Storm clouds gather.

If we live in just one of many, perhaps an infinite number, of universes, in other words a Multiverse, then it is impossible to ignore the startling consequences.  And it goes beyond the admittedly bizarre fact that there could be another person virtually identical to you in a parallel universe.  If we are part of a Multiverse and begin to understand how it works, we could discover some mind-blowing things.  We might actually find out in the not-too-distant future how we got here, how all of this got going in the first place, and crucially, WHY.  Why are we here?

The atmosphere is a dynamic place, where interactions between air and energy often create the impression that it's alive.

The atmosphere is a dynamic place, where interactions between air and energy often create the impression that it’s alive.

Never let anybody tell you this isn’t a legitimate scientific question, that it’s outside the purview of science.  But I’ll excuse you for being selective regarding whom you get into a discussion of these matters with.  After all, religion tackles the same sorts of questions, and things can get emotional and personal real quick!  Science and religion mix much like water and oil do, and sometimes they mix more like pure sodium and water!

Next up: let’s dive into some real arm-waving speculation on these questions.  I welcome any and all comments and contributions, no matter how wacky you might think they are.

The moon sets behind the Tetons as the Milky Way soars over Jackson Lake, Wyoming.

The moon sets behind the Tetons as the Milky Way soars over Jackson Lake, Wyoming.

Favorite Photos of the Big Western Loop   3 comments

A bison grazes the late autumn grasses on a cold sunny Yellowstone morning.

A bison grazes the late autumn grasses on a cold sunny Yellowstone morning.

I thought I’d put together a best of post featuring my idea of my best photographs of this recently completed mega-roadtrip.  In 14 weeks I visited Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California and Baja California, Mexico.  What a trip!  There are some star-scape shots that I’ll save for another post, but these are essentially my favorites.  Hope you enjoy them.  Please don’t try to copy or download them from here.  They are copyrighted.  Click on an image to be taken to my website, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thanks a bunch!

A beaver-dammed channel of the Snake River in Grand Tetons National Park is the perfect mirror for sunrise.

A beaver-dammed channel of the Snake River in Grand Tetons National Park is the perfect mirror for sunrise.

The moon creates a surreal scene in Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

The moon creates a surreal scene in Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

On a cold autumn morning on the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, the fog spills ogg the plateau and into the canyon.

On a cold autumn morning on the rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, fog spills off the plateau & into the canyon.

A frozen meadow at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, slowly thaws as the sun appears.

A frozen meadow at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming thaws as the sun appears.

An older alpha male wolf in Yellowstone National Park is unsure how he happened to get so close to the human.

An alpha male wolf in Yellowstone National Park is unsure how he happened to get so close to the human.

The Animas River in northern New Mexico flows peacefully past cottonwoods and aspens in their autumn glory.

The Animas River in northern New Mexico flows peacefully past cottonwoods and aspens in their autumn glory.

Penyasco Blanco and the sky, at sunset in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Penyasco Blanco and the sky, at sunset in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

A full moon shines on the Goosenecks, a series of incised meanders on the San Juan River in SE Utah.

A full moon shines on the Goosenecks, a series of incised meanders on the San Juan River in SE Utah.

Ship Rock stands under a glowing moon in the northeastern New Mexico desert.

Ship Rock stands under a glowing moon in the northeastern New Mexico desert.

A Monument Valley Sunset from the Mittens looking west.

A Monument Valley Sunset from the Mittens looking west.

The moon clears the horizon at Monument Valley, Arizona.

The moon clears the horizon at Monument Valley, Arizona.

The sun peeks into the narrow confines of Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

The sun peeks into the narrow confines of Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

Lake Powell along the Utah/Arizona border glories in sunrise.

Lake Powell along the Utah/Arizona border glories in sunrise.

The Page Balloon Regatta culminates in a panoply of glowing balloons.

The Page Balloon Regatta culminates in a panoply of glowing balloons.

This outcrop of sandstone at Spencer Flat in the Escalante country of southern Utah shows a complex pattern of merging dunes in ancient times.

This outcrop of sandstone at Spencer Flat in the Escalante country of southern Utah shows a complex pattern of merging dunes in ancient times.

The road in Zion Canyon, Utah is lined in places with cottonwood trees.

The road in Zion Canyon, Utah is lined in places with cottonwood trees.

In the Kolob Canyons of Zion National Park stands an old log cabin.

In the Kolob Canyons of Zion National Park stands an old log cabin.

Canyon Flow II

The sky and walls of LaVerkin Creek Canyon in Zion National Park reflect vibrant colors in the small stream that the trail follows.

The desert sun sets over the ubiquitous sandstone outcrops that surround Page, Arizona.

The desert sun sets over the ubiquitous sandstone outcrops surrounding Page, Arizona.

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A bull moose walks along the Snake River in front of the brightly lit peaks of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

The tilted layers of sandstone at  Snow Canyon State Park are moonlit and stand out against the starry sky.

The tilted layers of sandstone at Snow Canyon State Park are moonlit and stand out against the starry sky.

Water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

Water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

The tilted layers of sandstone at  Snow Canyon State Park are moonlit and stand out against the starry sky.

The tilted layers of sandstone at Snow Canyon State Park are moonlit and stand out against the starry sky.

A colorful dawn breaks over Death Valley National Park in California.

A colorful dawn breaks over Death Valley National Park in California.

A common animal for visitors to spot in Death Valley, California, is the resourceful coyote.

A common animal for visitors to spot in Death Valley, California, is the resourceful coyote.

The sand dunes of Death Valley National Park can turn golden in the first light of morning.

The sand dunes of Death Valley National Park can turn golden in the first light of morning.

The massive bulk of Tucki Peak looms behind the dunes at Mesquite Flat in Death Valley, California.

The massive bulk of Tucki Peak looms behind the dunes at Mesquite Flat in Death Valley, California.

The full moon sets just as morning light hits the cracked salt flats near Badwater, North America's lowest point, in Death Valley, California.

The full moon sets just as morning light hits the cracked salt flats near Badwater, North America’s lowest point, in Death Valley, California.

There are numerous sculpted caves in the granite of Baja California's desert.

There are numerous sculpted caves in the granite of Baja California’s desert.

Saguaro cactus are reflected in a pool of water left by a precious desert rainstorm in the northern Baja Peninsula, Mexico.

Saguaro cactus are reflected in a pool of water left by a rare desert rainstorm in the north Baja Peninsula, Mexico.

The crescent moon shines behind a towering cirios on Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

The crescent moon shines behind a towering cirios on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

The sun rises over the desert of Baja California Norte, Mexico.

The sun rises over the desert of Baja California Norte, Mexico.

A big saguaro cactus soars into the Baja skies.

A big saguaro cactus soars into the Baja skies.

A rare rainbow graces the desert during sunrise in Baja California, Mexico.

A rare rainbow graces the desert during sunrise in Baja California, Mexico.

A type of gall growing on a desert plant in Mexico's Baja Peninsula resembles a Chrismtas ornament.

A type of gall growing on a desert plant in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula resembles a Christmas ornament.

A young Mexican couple in love.

A young Mexican couple in love.

A cave on a northern California beach looks out on a sunny Pacific day.

A cave on a northern California beach looks out on a sunny Pacific day.

The Pacific Ocean and the day's last light stretch west from the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse in Shelter Cove, California.

The Pacific Ocean and the day’s last light stretch west from the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse in Shelter Cove, California.

The Lost Coast of northern California is the scene of a peaceful winter's sunset.

The Lost Coast of northern California is the scene of a peaceful winter’s sunset.

The fishing harbor at Monterey, California is illuminated with winter's late afternoon light.

The fishing harbor at Monterey, California is illuminated with winter’s late afternoon light.

 

 

Winter on the California Coast and a storm approaches at dusk near Cambria.

Winter on the California Coast and a storm approaches at dusk near Cambria.

The rocky coastline of the northern Baja Peninsula in Mexico is a peaceful place to be at dusk.

The rocky coastline of the northern Baja Peninsula in Mexico is a peaceful place to be at dusk.

Near Point Lobos on the central California Coast, the sunset illuminates the beautiful groundcover that characterizes this part of the coastline.

Near Point Lobos on the central California Coast, the sunset illuminates the beautiful ground-covering succulents that characterize this part of the Pacific Coast.

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