"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." -John Muir. Happy Birthday John Muir. And thank you. So so much. Your legacy may very well be the grandest of them all.Read More
So this is a little uncharacteristic of me, but this time, I’m going to try to go easy on the words and let the images tell the story. Yosemite is just one of those places…the type that no matter who or what you are, will be affected by it. It’s simply impossible to turn that final curve on Highway 41 and exit that 1/4 mile tunnel 30 miles past Yosemite National Park’s South Entrance, without feeling like time slows down, at least for a split-second, to work out whether or not your eyes and senses have failed you as you try to come to grips with the sheer scale and beauty of the surreal valley that lies before you.Read More
As I was standing in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows a few weeks ago, awaiting the sunset, I was on a sandbar off to the north side of the Tuolumne River east of bridge leading towards Soda Springs. As I stood there framing the shot, I got the elements I liked, and the light was just about to be perfect. The focus of this one was the light dancing upon the top of Cathedral Peak and Unicorn Peak and the trees on the ridgline below it. As the light started to bounce off those treetops and the peaks, I began to snap a few frames. I was delighted.Read More
This is just one of those places. You hear about it, you see pictures of it, you read about it, and if you’re a nature-lover or photographer, or better yet, both, you’d be hot damned if you that’s the one you didn’t get to cross off your bucket-list.
The mystique around this place runs high. It’s been called a ‘photographers paradise,’ as well as one of ‘the most difficult places to photograph.’ The thing about it is, it’s closed off most of the year.Read More
In honor of Apple’s latest operating system announcement, OS X Yosemite (which, if you know me, that word alone gets me excited) I figured I’d rehash some of my images from my Yosemite adventures last year. In case you don’t want to (or can’t) wait until the fall for the official release, after the 'read more' break below, you'll find a few of my favorites optimized for your desktop backgrounds, and below those are the iPhone-optimized versions. To save them, just right click and choose ‘Save Link As...’Read More
Oh yes…it was incredibly striking how the landscape changes immediately…literally immediately once you cross the border from Utah into Colorado. The golden red sand and tan desert hues that were the prominent feature for the past 5 days begin to melt away within mere miles of crossing over that invisible line, and they're replaced with a green, lush, and seemingly more oxygen friendly palate. It was striking how quick and abrupt the transition was. After about an hour of climbing up a mild grade along increasingly green roadside fields and streams and rolling hills filled with meadows and rivers that could compete with the Palouse, it started to get steeper and steeper. After shaking off the plains of the desert behind us, it was hard not to embrace the fact that we were headed into arguably the most magnificent mountain range in the country…the Colorado Rockies. Not a bad introduction to the second half of this trip.
Being a huge mountain and running water and tree and forest guy, this is the point when my intuition coerced me sit back and just marinated in the environment that we were floating through. I immediately felt at home.
Our first proper stop in Colorado was about 3 hours in. My friend that joined me on this trip was itching to go fishing from the moment we left Los Angeles, and as we rode alongside a grand rushing river, it was killing him not to stop. Granted, I had no complaints, so we found a small town called Hot Sulphur Springs that ran right along the Colorado River. While he pulled out the tackle box and the rods and set up shop along the banks, and I decided to wander the town a bit - get a feel for this seemingly mythical landscape.
What I found in Hot Sulphur Springs was the kind of place where the local children tube down the river that connects their backyards, where the remains of an old 'mercantile' store sit beside the ancient whitewashed brick building that still serves as a post office, where children's bikes are left strewn about in front of the 'Town Hall,' where the trout run rampant and the sheriff stops in just to say hello. The sort of place where a stranger sees you walking in the streets, asks where you're headed, and then offers you a ride (yes…that happened…not once, but twice. Coming from L.A., I had no idea what to do with that).
This sort of place. Is Colorado.
After a little more than an hour of hanging out in this charming town, it was time to get back on the road. We still had to make it through Rocky Mountain National Park, over the 'hills' that divide the East and West of our great country, down through Estes Park, and finally into Loveland, Colorado, along the front range of the Rockies, where a mutual friend that was putting us up for a few days lives and was waiting for us with a fresh home cooked 'supper.'
Now, if the day ended at this moment, it would have been a perfect day, but it didn't, and what it still had in store for us blew my hot damn mind into stratospheres I have only thus far read about and admired from calendars and picture books and vague recollections of out of print geography class text books. The next leg of our trip was taking us directly through Rocky Mountain National Park, and as soon as we entered that gate, it was like Mama Nature's magic wand went ballistic.
We rode into the official park entrance along the 34 highway, otherwise known as Trail Ridge Road, just as the sun began it's decent over the western range of the valley, and we couldn't have been in a more perfect position. The centerpiece of this part of the park is an insanely stunning elk and deer-laden meadow that stretches a solid couple of miles through the center of a valley flanked by aspens and Douglas firs and purple ponderosa pines. When the sun is setting in a flawless meadow, and everything starts to glow pink and purple and gold, there's only one thing you're required to do - hit the bloody brakes and get out of the car.
We parked alongside the road, I grabbed my camera, and ran directly out into the middle of the meadow. By now, my buddy knew the drill…I was gonna be a while. So he gave in and gladly grabbed his fishing pole, and jumped into the stream. He did his thing and I did mine. I felt like a frickin' child running around and ducking and hiding and frolicking in the 3-foot tall blades of grass, grabbing every angle and light beam and cloud formation I can in my viewfinder before the sun disappeared behind the range. This went on for a good 45 minutes where nothing. Else. Mattered. And this was the sight where I made some of my favorite images of the trip.
However, there was still a good drive ahead of us to get through the park and over onto the front range and we knew that. What we didn't know was the surprise that awaited us just a few miles up the road…I don't know why it didn't even occur to us until we were in the midst of it, but all of a sudden, we're driving, the trees begin to disappear, we realize we're way above the tree-line and that's when we saw it…the sign: Continental Divide - 11,000 feet. We were literally at the top of the Rocky Mountains, the dividing line where the East meets the West, the top of the fence from which the waters flow east into the Atlantic and west into the Pacific. We were driving along a ridge line where we were simultaneously watching the sun set on one side and the moon rising on the other. The timing was psychotically impeccable. And in this situation, when you're literally on top of the world, there's only one thing you're required to do - yup…you guessed it, hit the bloody brakes and get out of the car!
This is where I'll let the pictures in the gallery at the end of this post try to do the talking/typing…they won't nearly do it justice, but, well, it might just be one of those things you have to experience for yourself. It's like that.
Now the sun was down, the moon was up, and we hunkered back down in the car for the 2 hours that lie ahead of us through Estes Park and into Loveland, Colorado. We rolled in to our friend's casa, exchanged hugs and pleasantries, and did what any group of long-separated friends do when they get together…ate and drank. We popped open a bottle of wine, settled down on the table outside with our plates of fresh salmon, asparagus, and grilled vegetables and laughed and drank and merried til' we passed out, one by one, in the warm summer air - the sounds of Coloradoan crickets and distant rush of the Big Thompson river lulling us to sleep.
Til next time...
So we made it out of the Narrows, and with that, our days in Zion National Park come to a close. Under normal circumstances I'd say this was a shame, but these aren't normal circumstances. We still have two National Parks to go on the way to a week in Colorado to celebrate a good friend's wedding, so if we're going to leave Zion, might as well do it on a high note, and if you've been following along the last several posts, we're definitely coming out on top. Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park, so after our Narrows and rodeo adventure and a late night arrival and camp setup, there was no doubt that sleep was going to be no problem at all.Read More
I suppose the silver lining in this whole thing is, Yosemite can take the day off on her birthday, for the first time ever! Enjoy this one because, no offense, but I hope you never get that day off again!
Thank you SOOO much for the years of incredible experiences and adventures. I can't wait to celebrate with you, as well as the rest of the national parks, again...
Looks like I took that "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag" trip at just the right time...
We woke up the next morning to warm golden sunlight bathing the 2000-foot sandstone walls that surrounded us. If you don't get up, stand up, and stare in absolute awe, you're simply not human. We made ourselves a quick breakfast of oatmeal, powdered eggs (yummy…) and instant coffee (double yummy…), packed up our packs for the second half of this puppy, and hi-ho, hi-ho, back to the Narrows we go.Read More
Earlier in the week, I passed along a few iPhone wallpapers with that parallax dynamic madness in celebration of the iOS7 release, and now that the new iPhone itself has been released today, figured why not...I've gone to Society6 and done some fancy shmancy cases using some of my photographs you've seen on these pages and on my Google Plus page to protect them buggers!
Oh, and if you use this link to order before September 22, you'll get free shipping...
Ok, that's about as much shameless self-promotion as I feel even mildly comfortable with, so I'll back off...for now...
...and the next part of the 3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 weeks, 1 Crap Bag story coming early next week...
So to continue in what I hope to be an ongoing tradition (all depends on how my memory decides to treat me week by week...), here's another one optimized for an iPhone background so you can play with all that new iOS 7 dynamic parallax 3D wallpaper psychotica in style. This one's from Utah, just on the outskirts of Zion National Park on the way to Bryce Canyon National Park. Looked in our rearview mirror as we were driving and I hit the brakes immediately. If you missed the latest blog post from yesterday which tells the story of this adventure "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag - Entering The Narrows," click HERE. It's the 3rd part in an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, click HERE.
Anyhow, have fun with iOS 7. All you gotta do with the images below is just simply drag n' drop or right click and 'Download Image as...' or 'Save As...' You'll notice the parallax versions are a bit larger, so if you've got a 4s or newer, I recommend downloading those ones - you'll see why when you start to play... I've also added parallax versions of last week's wallpaper on that post as well. Click the 'Continue Reading' button below the image to access all available versions for your device.
And again, if I get enough interest for other devices, I'll gladly begin to format for those as well. Feel free to drop me a line...
Yes! Here it was! The morning of not only one of the most anticipated parts of this trip, but one of the most anticipated hikes of the past decade and a half…the Narrows! While Angel's Landing was a test in the fear of heights, this one proved to be the complete opposite, hiking Zion National Park's Narrows was a test in our threshold for claustrophobia…and this one, I found myself MUCH more comfortable with. I don't know what that says about me, but the only thing I was afraid of here was getting my camera gear wet as, over the next 48 hours, we'd be hiking through Utah's Virgin River for 18 miles.Read More
We were quite exhausted as the sleep the night before was less than optimal, and to top it off, we were forced to rise around 6am to get in line to ensure securing one of the limited number of backcountry permits they issue each day for the overnight option of hiking the Narrows, so after a quick oatmeal breakfast and a cleansing and refreshing dip in the river, decided we'd take a midday nap before using our first day in Zion National park to climb Angels Landing.
Now if you don't know Angels Landing, I implore of you to look it up…read a bit about it…and hot dammit people, don't look down! I'd try to explain a bit about it here, but I'd likely get vertigo just typing the description.
It was about 4pm when we hopped on a park shuttle that dropped us off at the trailhead and we began making our way up the steep climb with the goal of reaching the summit for sunset. Now, I'm all for a fairly strenuous 2 hour, 1700-foot climb along some of the most spectacular ridge side switchbacks you'll ever find yourself conquering. The views of the canyon in its entirety are incredulously awe-inspiring to say the very least. The color palate alone - everything from deep browns to bright oranges to ruby reds, forest greens, neon greens, and turquoise blues - was enough to make an Andy Warhol piece envious.
What I'm not all for is flirting with death.
And that's where I hit a crossroads.
Call me what you will, but you don't really realize what you're in for until your wobbling knees are looking ahead at 2600 feet of 3 foot wide ridge line flanked by a 2000-foot drop on either side…and your cajones depending on nothing but chains and rebar drilled into the side of the ridge. If we didn't leave them in the car, those crap bags might have come in handy right about now. Sure there was some consolation in seeing the groups of people that did it and were on their way back, but that consolation proved only half effective once you saw the ridiculously concentrated look of horror mixed with anxiety-ridden focus on everyone's dilated pupils as their white-knuckled hands finally let go of the chain at the base upon their return.
Nope. Sorry. Screw that crap.
So while my buddy decided to brave it, I did what I felt was the smart thing for my no sleep, tired, made-the-mistake-of-looking-down-first self - waited. And that led me to a realization - this was another situation that reminded me why travel is so vital to personal growth - for putting yourself in situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable help you learn more about yourself than when you're isolated to your comfort zone. Those situations are necessary in teaching you things about yourself that you can't otherwise learn…and in this case, I learned that I'm much more afraid of heights than I ever thought before. I sat there and asked myself a question "Would you rather risk your own safety for the reward of a sunset from atop the heights of Zion National Park, or swallow your pride and enjoy the same sunset from a slightly different perspective on more solid ground?"
One day I will conquer that fear. Today was not that day.
We got back to camp around 10pm, just in time to get our packs ready for the overnight backpacking trip through the Narrows that we'd begin the next morning, cook dinner, enjoy a couple swigs from the dedicated scotch bota, and finally get ourselves some real, restful shuteye.
The Narrows…been trying to get this checked off the list for over a decade. I'm hyped!
To read the next part of the journey, “3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag - Entering the Narrows,” click here.
Below are a few images from the climb up to Angel's Landing, and if you missed Part 1 of this saga, CLICK HERE.
So I'm sitting here writing the entries and processing photos for the next few blog posts for my recent series "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag," and ran across a few images that I couldn't help but think to myself, these would be pretty sweet iPhone backgrounds. So to break up that series of posts, I figured I'd throw these out to everyone if you want 'em both as teasers for the blog posts and just because I've had a glass of scotch, the new iPhones just got announced, and I'm in a sharing mood. I'll try to post one every other week (if I remember). These are sized for iPhone 5 and iPhone 4, and if I get enough interest and comments, I'll resize for other mobile devices as well. If you wanna, just simply drag n' drop or right click and 'Download Image as...' or 'Save As...' Click the "Read More" button below the image for all the download options...
And make sure to watch out for Part 2 of "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag" tomorrow...
So we got the call…our friends were getting married…and they were doing it where? In Colorado?
ROAD (read: PHOTO!) TRIPPP!
It had been quite some time since I've taken a trip really worth calling a 'trip,' so needless to say, I was hyped! Not only do we get to knock a few things off the proverbial 'bucket list,' but it would all culminate in a super celebration with all of our friends in one place…away from everything they knew. It was hard enough to get them together in the same town, but a different state?! I didn't know what would happen, but what I did know that this was gonna be good.
So a couple of buddies that were able to take the time off before the wedding got together three weeks before and over a 12-pack, decided we'd drive in through Utah where we'd hit up Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and then head into Colorado where we'd hit Rocky Mountain National Park before heading into the Loveland / Fort Collins area to visit a friend, then down to Denver to visit another friend, and finally back over the Rockies into Durango, Colorado for the wedding.
And that was the only time we met.
And that was the only plan we had.
And there were no beers left at the end of that meeting.
Next thing you know, it's 3 days before the trip, one of the trio had to unexpectedly drop out due to pressing family matters, and we're suddenly scrambling around to put together any logistics, but, if there's one thing I can count on with my friends, logistics just don't matter. We knew where we wanted to go, we've all done enough camping and backpacking to have an idea of what we'd generally need, so bought a bunch of non-perishables, threw our GSI Dualists and MSR Pocket Rocket into our Osprey packs, chucked it all into the back of the Explorer, and off we went. The 101 to the 134 to the 210 to the 15 through Vegas (can't tell you how good it felt to go right through Vegas and not stop…) where there's a whole lotta nada before finally getting into Utah with just enough time and light to secure one of the last 4 campsites, set up, cook up, and rest up just a 1/4 mile from the entrance to Zion National Park.
The next morning, we got up early to hit the Visitor Center to get backcountry permits to hike the Narrows (where a park ranger treated me to my inaugural introduction to my first back country crap bag - yes…a bag for your crap for the overnight trip through the Narrows) and to find a campsite within the park right along the Virgin River, which we'd become MUCH more acquainted with over the next several days. That's when I got my first daylight peek of what we were in for…insanely ridiculously grand orange and red sandstone peaks and valleys as far as the eye can see in either direction.
There's a moment when you're traveling when everything you're so used to thinking about day in and day out, your monotonous and cyclical comfort zone, just washes away within milliseconds, and you realize that, whether you like it or not, you just have to let go…
This was that moment - the 'ohhhh damn…here we go…' moment.
For Part 2 of this adventure, CLICK HERE.
I made my first proper art print from one of my digital images.
When I attended Scott Kelby's "Shoot Like A Pro" seminar here in Los Angeles a few months back, one of the perks was that we got a coupon code for a free 16x20 print from one of the sponsors, Mpix, on some madness they call Fuji Pearl photo paper. Regardless, I couldn't bring myself to do it.
Despite the fact that I took photography in high school, my father taught it, we had a darkroom at the school that we'd use on the weekends, he had a darkroom at home that I wasn't allowed to touch, and hell, my first science fair entry was a shoebox pinhole camera, and from all of this, I spent a good chunk of time developing film and photos, all in black in white, none of which I still have before taking off to college where my time got eaten up by…ahem…studying, I held off for a while because I was nervous about how it would come out - perhaps dealing me a blow if it came back and thought to myself 'this is shite!' I had made 8x10s at Costco and they actually turned out fairly well (especially considering the price at $2 per), but twice the size? Never. Will the pixels and my processing hold up?
But I finally suppressed the nerves to a level low enough and for long enough to upload the image and hit 'checkout.' And boy am I glad I did! I got the thing delivered to my door in a few days, opened it and just stared. Smiling. Immediately hit up target and grabbed me a frame for the sucker. I've been so caught up in devices and screens and i this's and i thats strewn about from our pockets to our coffee tables to our desks, I forgot what it's like to hold up a tangible physical print. It felt great. And hanging it up on the wall felt good. Real good. Was actually a nice little confidence boost.
I don't need to say it, but it's pretty apparent photography has come quite a long way since them there high school daze. As has the paper. This stuff was slick, shiny, and elegant. I purposely chose an image (that you've all seen here before) that i thought would best do that sort of feel justice - my 'Slice of Yosemite Layer Cake', an image that has 3 starkly contrasting layers and textures; a background of slick snowy mountainside, a foreground comprised of a set of silhouetted pine trees, and a layer of rolling clouds that just hovered right in between them. Proved the perfect centerpiece for a few other 8x10s from that infamous winter Yosemite trip…
Onward and upwards!! Next stop...canvas?
I'll keep this one short and sweet...so all that madness I've been blabbering on about the past few posts about this Far Meadow business? Well, the whole purpose of that trip was to photograph a new A-Frame cabin as well as their 'Glamping' facilities. Well, those pics have finally been published! Below is a gallery of those images.
Enjoy. Book. Go. Trust me.Read More
"Our backyard is the National Forest," she says. Their back-yard…IS THE NATIONAL FOREST!
That part of this whole thing didn't really hit me until I walked across the gate into the meadow and saw the sign that said, "Property Line - Entering National Forest."
Literally…I grabbed an iced tea, walked across a mini field of wildflowers that took all of 16 seconds, and there it is - the property border, and the beginning of...the National Forest.Read More
In a word: frickin' brilliant!
Ok, that was two words. Well, one real word and one, eh…you get the point.
It was a common frustration for DSLR shooters such as myself that the only means of checking for focus and composition is on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, at least until you get home and look at them on your computer and then want to shoot your computer in the face because that critical point was actually in soft focus!
Sure, that's a huge step up from no screens at all and having to wait to get the prints back from a lab hours, or even days, after, but still, this is 2013, and we're demanding madness, so Eye-Fi has delivered, well, madness (optimized for mobile of course).
So I was recently sent to photograph some rental cabins on property in the National Forest bordering Yosemite, and I've been reading and hearing so much about this bugger that I figured it was finally time to make an upgrade to my camera bag that I can afford. Their new Mobi card was right within that budget. 50 smackeroos.
Best thing ever. Well, that and tacos.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the basics of what it is and what it does, the Eye-Fi is an SD memory card for you camera. The magic in it rests in what else it contains - wi-fi, effectively turning it into an adhoc wifi network between your camera and your mobile device, be it a smartphone or a tablet.
Why? Well, when you snap a photo, it automatically send the jpg version to your mobile device. GONE are the days of the 2 inch LCD monitor and RUE THE DAYS of excitedly uploading your recent batch of photos only to realize the BOOM one wasn't in focus. Now, you can immediately, no matter where you are, use your mobile device as the viewer screen for your shot as soon as you take it. Not only that, but if you feel so inclined, you can now immediately Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/smoke signal your DSLR images from your device as if you shot them on your phone...
For my process, I set the Nikon D7000's LCD screen to show just the histogram, and then used my iPhone as the viewer screen to check for critical focus and composition. It took me 5 minutes to set up in a taqueria parking lot, and now it never leaves slot 2 in my camera. While the Mobi is designed for mobile use, if you'd like a version where the RAW images can be sent directly to your computer as well, they have the ProX2 version that covers that base!!
The one thing that took me a minute to figure out was that I shoot in RAW in order to post-process later in Lightroom and/or Photoshop, so wasn't sure how that would work, but a quick Google search gave me the 'duh!' answer to shoot RAW+JPG. Then it beams the jpgs to your device, and you have your RAWs for later. The Nikon D7000 conveniently has two slots, so I set it to shoot RAW to slot 1, and JPG to slot 2, and that was that.
And the slideshow below is a selection of what happened.
For the full blog posts on my escapades in the Sierras (less fan-boy, more gushy), start here with part 1:
Now go and get your Eye-Fi card by clicking here.
And tonight…I write by candlelight…
So yeah, the power on the trailer went out so I'm left with a few candles and just enough charge to offload today's photos and jot down today's haps, so, again, I'll try to keep it as short and sweet as I can and hopefully let some of the images do the talking…
I must say, waking up to a symphony of birds singing, mist evaporating, and the soft golden sunlight beaming through decades old redwoods, bouncing poetically across wildflowers outside your window…does. not. suck.Read More