Posts made in Our Land & Sky

Apr
08
2015

Field Report – Other Faces of Yosemite

_4JS4565_HDR_v1I recently made a trip down to Yosemite with my friend from Boston, John Dubois, trying for the 3rd time to catch the famed “Firefall” from Horsetail Fall (more on that later). In years past, a winter trip to Yosemite always meant snow, great skies, color, maybe some skiing, and water from the 21 falls in and around the park. Sadly though, this time the now 4-year, unrelenting, drought in California left only small traces of snow that had lingered from what little had fallen weeks before in a very light snowfall. Unfortunately, that has become the latter-day trend which doesn’t look to change much in the near future.

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Jan
12
2014

Fall in New England – 2013

The holidays, travel and a few other distractions got in the way of posting something from this most recent trip to New England.  I’m way overdue, but here it is anyway.

Back in the summer, I was scratching around to find yet another fun place to go shoot.  I’d just finished a great ‘shop with Bill Fortney across Washington state, so was juiced to find another, completely different, landscape locale.  Thanks to Moose Peterson’s BT Journal (very worth the modest e-subscription for iPad), and the fact that the Winter-2013 issue hit just at the right time, Maine in the fall jumped right out of the pages (well, the electronic pages anyway).  Yes, I know that every place with seasons has its own version of autumn foliage.  That includes my home in Oregon and my semi-annual route south through the Eastern Sierras.  But if you haven’t seen the Fall in New England, you’ve missed real autumn.

Fall colors in New England – dazzling!

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For ease of words, I said that this trip was to New England for the colors.  But, as spectacular as autumn is during this two-week window, the real beauty and primary reason for this trip was to experience leisurely days meandering along Maine’s winding roads covered with fallen leaves, past farms, ponds, coves, harbors and just plain “Americana” at such a lovely time of the year.

Two weeks is not nearly enough time to cover much of Maine and certainly won’t even dent the rest of New England.  So, I call this a New England “sampler”.

After arriving in Boston and as quickly as possible navigating our exit from the airport and city, we headed northwest to Boxborough where we were fortunate to stay with our friends, John and Michelle Dubois, at their farm in Boxborough.  In this instance, “farm” is a relative term since John has turned his home into a veritable science lab amidst 25 acres of beautiful woods, horses, barns and serenity.  That was a great way to get tuned up for the rest of the trip.  And, if the truth be known, that would have sufficed for an entire two week’s stay.  There is plenty to see and shoot within an hour of Boston, especially if you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time and have good friends who know where and when to venture.

_1965While there, we drove out to the nearby Old Sturbridge Village for a wonderful day’s trip.  The Village is a 200-acre living museum which re-creates life in rural New England during the 1790s through 1830s.  And even though it is mostly a restoration of a 19th century town, it offers some wonderful opportunities for a number of very colorful scenes.

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Jul
10
2013

A Great Workshop with Bill Fortney & Team

The Palouse, Mt. Rainier & The Olympic National Park, WA

(1st of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Shop1I’ve just returned from a photography workshop across much of the state of Washington, led by Bill Fortney, Matt Kloskowski and their team.  It was one of the most interesting and varied workshops I’ve ever taken.

I’ve known of Bill for some years from his Great American Photography Weekend workshops and as an instructor with Kelby Training.  But I had never met him nor taken one of his workshops.  Matt is well known to most every one who follows Photoshop User magazine and Kelby Training, and I’ve been a huge fan of Matt’s years.  So when a few slots in this workshop opened up (they typically fill within days after being announced), I jumped at the opportunity.

Most typical workshops are centered on one region or locale for 3 to 5 days. But one of the most intriguing parts of this ‘shop was that it covered much of Washington’s geography (and even a tad of Idaho’s).  The principal areas were the Palouse, Mt. Rainier National Park, and the Olympic National Park, all over eight days.  I’ve attended dozens of workshops and hosted photography tours, but this is likely to be one of my all-time favorites.  It not only encompassed some truly amazing scenery, but the quality of training, degree of organization and scheduling, and the camaraderie with all of the leaders and fellow attendees was truly outstanding.

There would be no way to cover the entire workshop trip in one post so I’ll keep this one fairly general.  It already shapes up to be too long, so I’ll try to focus on individual areas in later separate posts.  Stay tuned and come back soon for those (assuming I can survive plowing through thousands of frames and still have the energy to write).

Shop-2We started in the Palouse which is a loosely bounded region situated roughly between Spokane and Walla Walla, WA, and stretching eastward into western Idaho.  It is home to the second largest wheat growing region in the world (Ukraine is tops).  Its rolling hillsides and valleys set it apart from so many other agricultural regions, and the earliest growing season in June has become a favorite photography setting.  In many ways it reminds me of Tuscany.

Later in the year at harvest time, all of the green has disappeared, and the entire area truly is one of “Amber Waves of Grain.”  But at this time of year, the rich greens and characteristic farms, silos and barns make this a photographer’s dream.  Early morning and evening sun strikes the rolling hills and valleys to create ever-changing and amazing patterns, shadows and forms.  Each morning and evening, we perched atop Steptoe Butte for what can only be described as a fantastic vantage of an amazing place.  Between those times, we meandered around hundreds of miles of quiet highways and farm roads, shooting barns and the countryside for as much of each day as the reasonable light would allow.

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Jul
10
2013

The Palouse Tapestry

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop, in the Palouse, WA

(2nd of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Palouse1The first part of Bill Fortney’s His Light Workshop was for 4 days in the Palouse, in eastern Washington State.  The Palouse is one of the most fertile wheat-growing regions in the world. So you ask why is that important?  Palouse8Because the newly sprouted wheat fields stretch over the rolling hills and valleys for a hundred miles in each direction and present some of the most graphic landscapes I’ve ever seen.  And as such, the Palouse has become one of the most popular photography venues in the northwest.

1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shimSteptoe Butte is the first-stop for the full impact of the Palouse.  Steptoe is one of the only spots from which the vastness of this farmland can be seen.  This was our spot for two (early!) morning shoots and two (fairly late) evening shoots.  The sun rises at this latitude at about 4:45 a.m. and sets around 9:45 p.m. this time of year.  So there was precious little time to sleep, but being there during the pre-dawn and twilight times was a treat.

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Jul
10
2013

Palouse Falls State Park, WA

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop, in the Palouse, WA

(3rd of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Falls2About a two-hour’s drive west of Colfax in Washington’s Palouse region is the Palouse Falls State Park.  We headed out in the afternoon to catch the falls late in the day and at sunset.  Our original plan had been to go out the next morning, but thankfully, we changed that plan.  I’m fairly sure the morning sun angle wouldn’t be as good, and maybe even problematic.

The 186-foot fall is at the back end of a horseshoe canyon on the Palouse River.  Access to shoot the falls is about as easy as any I’ve seen with several vantages that offer good angles on the falls adjacent to the parking lot.  However, after seeing some of the shots taken by others from the more northern edge, I wish I’d taken the short hike around to that side.  That spot gives a much wider angle on not only the falls, but also the entire downstream canyon.  But as usual, I learned a lesson for next time.

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Jul
10
2013

Waterfall Learning

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop In Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

(4th of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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1x570-LtGreyRainier2On my recent Washington State workshop trip with Bill Fortney, Matt Kloskowski and the His Light team,  we made a one-night stop at Mt. Rainier to break up the long east-west drive across the entire state.

Rainier8Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate very much with drizzle and cloud-cover obscuring Rainier (the mountain) all but a few minutes on the morning we departed the Paradise Inn (our lodging for the night).

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Rainier4But, the drive up and down did give us an opportunity to capture some streams and some wonderful waterfalls.  I haven’t done much in the way of waterfall and flowing water photography other than in abstracts, so this was a great opportunity to use some of the tips that Bill and Matt had given the group on capturing moving water.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

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Jul
10
2013

Olympic National Park & 2nd Beach

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop, Olympic Peninsula, WA

(6th of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Before visiting the Olympic NP on Bill Fortney’s His Light Workshop, I had an impression that the entire peninsula would most likely be shrouded in mist or drizzle much of the time.  That wasn’t the case, and in fact, the sunshine made shooting other than at the day’s extremes a bit challenging.

The one exception was Hurricane Ridge, about 20 miles above Port Angeles.  We made three trips (two sunset, one sunrise) and clouds covered much of the ridges and even the ridge itself during the first evening’s shoot.  So we were forced to alter the plan and instead to try out a few macro and close-ups.

Olympic5The most popular subject of the group that evening was of the misty, young lupine leaves along the trail from the parking lot.  It was really funny to be in a big setting like the Hurricane Ridge overlook and see two dozen photographers all huddled near the ground with cameras only inches off the plants – like scientists over microscopes.  Hilarious!

1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shimBut the star of this location is clearly the distant snow-tipped mountains in setting sun.  This isn’t a great example, but was as good as it got for me on those shoots.Hurricane1

Olympic8About halfway down on the drive back down to town, I dropped below the ceiling of clouds that had covered the ridgeline.  An amazing sky, clouds and even a rainbow popped out.  By the time I found a pull-out, most of the rainbow had dissipated, but he scenes from there were worth shooting nevertheless.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

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Jul
10
2013

Lighthouses, a Cool Harbor, and a Shipwreck

Down the Washington and Oregon Coast, After the Bill Fortney Workshop

(7th, and Last of 7 Posts from this Trip – Whew!)

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After finishing with my recent eight-day workshop will Bill Fortney and the His Light Workshops team across much of Washington, I decided to take several days and make the drive back home a more leisurely one down the Washington and Oregon coast.  I didn’t have any particular photography targets in mind, with the exception that I hoped to make stops at several lighthouses.

One of the most recognizable of those is the North Head Light (above) in Ecola State Park, just north of the Columbia River in Washington.

Coast2I spent two overnights in Astoria, Oregon, near the mouth of the Columbia River.  It is a quaint riverfront town, unfortunately best known by many as the filming location for the two movies, “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Goonies”.  On a more serious note, I was surprised to learn that it is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.  It has the feel of a seaside town, but is actually on the river.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

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Jun
14
2013

Weekend Workshop in Oregon’s Desert

The Malhuer Wildlife Refuge & Alvord Desert

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When most people from outside the area think of Oregon, I imagine that the image that comes to mind is either of a rocky, windswept coast, lighthouses, the seemingly ever-present drizzle of Portland, or the waterfalls and greenery of the Columbia and Willamette river valleys.  But, I suspect to the surprise of all but a few who’ve never travelled Oregon’s back roads and byways, the southeastern corner of the state has a desert that rivals some in the southwest.

Alvord-OverlookAbout a 4-hour drive from my home in Bend, the Steens Mountain Wilderness, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Alvord Desert stretch for over a hundred miles toward the state line with Nevada.  This area is also home to Oregon’s (and some of the west’s) largest cattle ranches, like the Roaring Springs Ranch at 425,000 acres!

But I’m already digressing.

A few weeks ago, I took a weekend workshop down to the Alvord Desert, my first trip into that area.  The ‘shop was led by Oregon photographer and teacher, Robert Agli.  I didn’t actually know exactly what to expect, but what I found was fantastic mix of ranchland, Oregon’s highest mountain (Steens) and the Alvord Desert.  It was a short workshop, but a great, first-time exploration of this unusual part of Oregon.

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Mar
22
2013

Another Great Visit to the Northern Lats!

The Northern Lights, Ice Carvings & The Iditarod in Alaska, 20131x570-LtGrey

AK2013_denali1I’ve just gotten back from my 5th Winter shooting trip to Alaska having had, as always, a great time.  The Aurora Borealis, the International Ice Carving Championship, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and the usual collection of potpourri and other things Alaskan.

I organized this trip for 6 of my photography friends, not as a true workshop, but more as a guided tour to some of the venues and events that might be a good basis for a workshop next year.   Fairbanks was the main base of ops this time, with a few days in and around Anchorage and along the Iditarod Trail.

Of course, the winter months are best for viewing the Northern Lights.  This is not because of any “season” as some mistakenly think, but primarily due to the far north’s long, dark nights and cold, clear skies.  The aurora phenomenon can and does occur year-round at both earth poles (Aurora Australis at the Southern Pole), but the lack of total darkness at these far-north (or south) latitudes during other times of the year make viewing them essentially impossible (unless, of course, you are on the Space Station).AK2013_aurora1

I’ve been completely addicted to the aurora since I first saw and photographed them in 2001.  They are mezmerizing and one of the most beautiful, yet mystifying, experiences I’ve ever photographed.  AK2013_aurora2

Scientists say that the sunspot activity (at least as related to the earth’s positioning), generally runs in 11-year cycles.  2013 is at, or near, the peak of this cycle (called “SolarMax”).  Sorry for being a little nerdy here, but all of that is just background for my observation that so far, this has been a relatively weak (and  underwhelming) peak.  In any case, the timeframe while we were there, we had pretty sketchy light shows. But, I did manage to capture a few that are maybe worth seeing.  (See blue button at the end of the post for more aurora images.)

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