Monday, January 26, 2015

West Fork, Oak Creek Winter

Fresh snow in Oak Creek
We visited West Fork, Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ on the first weekend of this month because of the snow that hit the area on New Years and thought it might provide a few different if not beautiful photographs. The parking lot was closed, even so I tried to drive the 4 Runner down to park and nearly got stuck in the snow. It took me a while to get the car back out of the parking lot driveway, I hadn't made it very far, the snow was piled high from clearing the main road. So we did what photographers do at times, we chanced being towed away and left the car out in the tow away zone on the street and hiked in. The snow was pristine and we saw evidence of only a couple of other people had visited according to the footprints in the snow.

West Fork, Oak Creek
I loved the way the upper tree branch of the tree on the right appears to follow the lines in the rock. Speaking of following look at the way the small pine tree just to the left of center follows the curve of the rock wall. Do you notice things like this when you're in nature? To me being in nature is calming and so meditative.

Cold? You bet, but so worth it. We spent a good three hours hiking and photographing. When the light got too harsh we decided to get back to the car. Crossing the bridge over Oak Creek I heard what I thought was a tow truck surely loading up our car. I took off running with a twenty pound backpack full of camera gear and tripod. I ran like a crazy guy all the way back to the little building where they take your money at the parking lot entrance before I realized it was a small tractor clearing the snow away from the parking lot driveway and not a tow truck. Funny what we'll do sometimes for a photograph. I hope you enjoyed. I'll try and be a bit better at posting.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Timing is Everything!

Frozen Grand Falls (Muddy Falls), Arizona
Well it's been awhile since my last post, three months to be exact. The year 2014 was not very kind to us and I for one am glad to see it gone. I normally try to keep as positive an outlook on things as possible but sometimes you keep getting kicked in the rear and after a while the only thing you can do is hold on for the ride and hope things turn around.

I cancelled several photography trips in 2014 but in October our dog was attacked by a coyote in our back yard just before we were going to shoot in the Eastern Sierra's for fall colors. Other trips were cancelled as well as that one to include a birthday trip for me to White Pockets, something I'd been looking forward to for a year. Since October our dog has lost her right eye and we continue to struggle for her to keep her vision in her left eye. I don't take a family pet lightly. She is like a daughter to us. Others might give her away, bring her to a pound or worse yet put her down but I have a heart. When I take an animal in as my pet it is for their life or mine whichever ends first. Something called responsibility which seems to be lacking in today's society.

So here it is 2015! Our dog is finally well enough to be boarded although we are still working on saving the sight in her left eye. So we have gone on a couple of trips. Sedona, Arizona and Death Valley, California. It's not easy being a photographer for a lot of it is being a weatherman, navigator and a person with unlimited patience. I'm still working on all three and getting better at it but not all things are controllable in life.

On our way back home from Sedona on the fourth of January we had some nice clouds forming and the afternoon was rapidly coming to an end. We had the choice of heading North to Page, Arizona and the nearby Horseshoe Bend for a great sunset shot or I could head off the beaten path down an extremely muddy dirt road for miles, hmmm. Yes you guessed it the explorer in me decided to find the Grand Falls on the Navajo Reservation. First of all you don't follow the navigation in a Toyota 4 Runner. It once had me turning off of a bridge, in the middle of a bridge in San Diego and yes I have the latest nav update. Hey Toyota, how about partnering with Garmin! So after several failed attempts to use the navigation to find it I stopped at the only gas station in Leupp, Arizona and asked for directions to the Muddy Falls. The Navajo's running the store had a great laugh. I told them every place the navigation tells me to turn, the dirt road is closed. After giving me proper directions they informed me it was Grand Falls and not Muddy Falls. I guess that was pretty funny, I was just about laughed out of the off we went.

So after traveling down a very muddy road we came to the Little Colorado River. I saw tire tracks going into the river and tracks coming out on the other side. The river was quite deep. After careful inspection I noticed what looked like either a cement road or some sort of cement dam large enough to hold a car. With water, ice and mud flowing over said road I decided to proceed over it. When we arrived at the Grand Falls it wasn't too grand. Most of what would have been flowing water was frozen. There was a small trickle of water in the far corner. Most of the photographs you'll see of this place are from where the small viewing huts are on the other side. We had a beautiful sunset that afternoon that went on for quite a while. We decided to leave to cross the water before it was dark. I didn't think it was worth sticking around and chance driving off the road into the river. It would have been one heck of a long cold walk back to the main road. That's how it goes sometimes. As for the car, I'm still cleaning red mud off of the bottom and in the wheel-wells. Toyota made this great 4 Runner and then put a billion crevices in the wheel-wells so your truck could keep all that mud with it which I imagine eventually turns the metal to rust.

This year is going to be better, I know it is. I'll keep telling myself that. Smile and keep going...guess I should have gone instead to Horseshoe Bend but then there's that timing thing again.

Got mud?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Narrows

Zion Narrows
 I told you about our adventures hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park in my "Lots of things happening" post. I thought I would share a few of the photos from our two day hike.  

Zion Narrows

If you ever get a chance to hike the Narrows it is an amazing look at mother nature in all of her glory. The light in the Narrows at various times of the year and day are simply breathtaking! Warning! Before you hike the Narrows check the local weather and with the "Outfitters" in the town of Springdale for flash flood warnings, flow rate, water temps and level. Unfortunately fatalities occur in flash floods, such as the one in late September of this year. Please be safe! Also wear some decent hiking boots or even tennis shoes. I see so many people hiking the Narrows in flip flops. The rocks are extremely slippery and the water current can be quite quick. It's pretty easy to loose your footing. Use a hiking stick! It really hurts to hit the rocks and water face first. Ask me, I did it, ouch!!!
"Floating Rock" Zion Narrows

I have hiked the Narrows several times and this shot has eluded me every time until last month. I guess patience and persistence pays off! 
Chuck & Serena at Zion Narrows September 2014

I hope you enjoyed these photographs of one of our favorite places to visit and photograph. Thanks for your visit!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Intercloud lightning using Nikon D-800 1/20sec f/2.8 70mm with 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens RRS tripod/ballhead

I purchased the Lightning Trigger LT-IV from Stepping Stone Products, LLC , Dolores, CO, USA. This lightning detector is a bit more expensive than others on the market at $369 USD. In my humble opinion you get what you pay for and this unit works and works very well! Before I get started you cannot be too safe around lightning. Read and heed the safety instructions that comes with this unit. There have been 24 known fatalities caused by lightning in the United States as of this date 2014. Please be safe!!!

My only complaint with my unit is Stepping Stone Products took one month from my order date before I received my detector. To be fair to them I probably ordered it at the height of the monsoon season, I'm sure they were plenty busy building & shipping units. Make sure you give them plenty of time for your order.

I tested my unit at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon the first week of September, 2014. At one point I was shooting next to another photographer shooting with a Nikon D-700 and a Stepping Stone Products, model LT3 lightning detector. I have to say that my Nikon D-800 was being fired off almost continuously compared to his. Much of the reason was intercloud lightning that is pretty much impossible to see in the daylight hours which is when I was making the comparison. My first photo shows what intercloud looks like at night. No lightning bolts visible, just a flash between clouds.  Their new detector LT-IV is extremely sensitive and according to their website will detect lightning up to 40 miles at night and 20 miles in daylight hours. Here's a link to their website, When ordering make sure you include what model/make camera you will be using with their product in order to receive the correct triggering cable with your unit.
Zap! Nikon D-800 1/20sec f/2.8 70mm with 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens RRS tripod/ballhead

 I basically received my unit the day before I left for the canyon and had no time to read their booklet so I just winged it on my settings.The book tells you for nighttime lightning shots to set your aperture from f/5.6 to f/4. Shutter speed from 1/4 sec up to 2 seconds. The unit runs on a single 9 volt battery and comes with a nice small case that can slip onto your pants belt. The case measures 6.5" X 3.5" by approximately 2.5" wide with the unit in the case. Not a large unit, my photo bag is stuffed full now, any more gear and I will have to look for another bag.

One of the biggest problems of course is once the sun goes down it is quite difficult to focus on the lightning strikes. You will have to switch to manual focus, as with my Nikon it refuses to take the shot with auto focus once it's too dark out. Hopefully there will be a landmark or some type of light near where the lightning is striking so that you can manually focus on it. You may have to experiment a bit with a few shots to get the lightning in focus. I know on my Nikkor lenses infinity is not in sharp focus when set to infinity. It is usually backed off just a tad from where the lens is marked infinity.

Just experiment and have some fun with it. When I was shooting with this other photographer many people came by and asked what we were doing and what was that gadget on our cameras? They were surprised to find out we were shooting lightning.

 It's a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to my next lightning storm! Thanks for visiting!

Nice one! Nikon D-800 1/20sec f/2.8 70mm with 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens RRS tripod/ballhead

Ball lightning! Nikon D-800 1/30sec f/2.8 70mm with 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens RRS tripod/ballhead

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lots of things happening

Sunset at the south rim of the Grand Canyon

Hello everyone!

I'm sorry for my absence. I have been extremely busy. In the last month my computer crashed. I lost my Samsung SSD, it took me awhile to send it in and get a replacement. Then I had to reload my computer. Not much fun but it's up and running again finally. We hiked the Narrows in Zion National Park for two days. At one point I tripped and fell face first in the water and rocks. Ouch, that didn't feel too good. In the process I lost a compact flash card with all 416 photographs from those two days or so I thought. Luckily I had my camera set to duplicate the photos onto my SD card. It took me a week before I realized this, I would have been heart broken had they been lost.

I have some great photographs coming up for you as soon as I process them all. I also received my lightning detector which I used at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I'll have a report on that and what I think of it.

Please be patient. I am off later this week to photograph the fall colors in the Eastern Sierras, then off to Southern Utah for hopefully the same. The leaves are changing color very quickly this year, hopefully we'll be able to catch them in a couple of good places. 

In late November we will be visiting White Pockets in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. A little prayer for some good light and weather would be appreciated for these trips.

I have been trying in my spare time to learn Photoshop and the luminosity masks that so many photographers are using these days. It will happen!

Thanks for looking!