One of my favorite lakes in the Sierra Nevada is Townsley Lake, located a bit above and not far from the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park. Every time I stay at Vogelsang I make sure to spend at least one sunrise at Townsley, where I have always had quiet solitude and wonderful morning light. Vogelsang means “bird song” in German, and while I made this photograph that was indeed all I could hear: the chirping of small birds and nothing else. Two other beautiful, typical, granite-basin Sierra Nevada lakes are very close to Townsley; Hanging Basket Lake (you can actually see a bit of light bouncing around the hanging valley containing Hanging Basket at the far right of this image, below the sunlit Cathedral Range), and a lake I like to call “Nameless Lake” about 1/2 mile above and to the left of this image. All three can be easily bagged in a half-day hike from Vogelsang High Sierra camp. Cheers, and thanks for looking!
Nice pastel light hits the clouds and lights up Lembert Dome rising above Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, California. An easy hike takes one to the top of Lembert Dome for expansive views of Tuolumne Meadows and the high Sierra Nevada around the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Lembert Dome and late afternoon clouds rise above Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra, catching the fading light of sunset.
Image ID: 09938
Location: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California, USA
For the eclipse of April 14/15, 2014, I wanted to depict the course of the eclipse across the sky with some recognizable landscape features in the foreground to anchor the composition. As the day of the eclipse went by, I watched the weather reports and decided Joshua Tree National Park would be a good place to shoot, since it was forecast to have clear skies. I have been shooting various spots in JTNP at night in an effort to produce a collection of nice landscape astrophotography images. I knew two locations in particular had orientations that would work well for the eclipse, which was going to occur almost due south. In 2011, Garry McCarthy and I shot original compositions at Arch Rock and the Juniper and Standing Rock incorporating the milky way, at the time something relatively new. Similar images have since become common, and the arch will now often have a crowd of photographers at night around the new moon. But because the next time a full lunar eclipse will occur centered due south is decades away, I knew this eclipse offered an opportunity to produce an astrophotography image at each of these well-known spots that was not likely to be appear in any other photographer’s portfolio anytime soon.
This is the third of the three images I made that night (#1 and #2), with the lunar eclipse depicted from the point in time when the moon entered the shadow of the Earth to when it emerged again, above the small juniper tree and curious standing rock not far from one of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park.
Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Juniper and Standing Rock, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29204
If you are curious, the other two images I photographed during the eclipse are Lunar Eclipse Sequence over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 2014 and Lunar Eclipse Blood Red Moon Sequence over Joshua Tree National Park. The second link explains the planning involved and how I executed the eclipse sequence — I used largely the same camera technique at all three locations but the artificial lighting was different in each, exploiting both hand held light and remote triggered flash depending on what was needed. (The arch rock composition differs from the other two in that not only is it a composite but it is a very wide panorama as well.)
This image is centered due south, which was the point during the eclipse when the moon would be both fully eclipsed and highest in the sky. I lit the juniper and rock with a small handheld light from the right. This image is a composite and the moon is a larger than it appeared to the eye. The moon was exposed separately from the stars in order to control for the fact it was much brighter than the stars and to better present the detail and color of the moon itself. The stars themselves were photographed earlier in the evening, when the full moon was just rising, so that it could illuminate the surrounding landscape not reached by my flashlight. My camera remained fixed on a tripod throughout to ensure the images were aligned perfectly and the moon tracked through the sky in the proper way.
Cheers, and thanks for looking!
Icon alert: this post is about Mesa Arch, a major icon which many now scorn and avoid as a subject of landscape photography, and which is known to have the crowd these days.
I’ve photographed a few icons over the past 30 years, although many of them are underwater and so the landscape buyers probably don’t even think of them as icons, or even think of them at all. Mesa Arch is one of the landscape icons. It’s hard to break new “visionary ground” at a place like Mesa Arch, of which hundreds or thousands of photographs are made each day, almost all of them within a short of period of +/- 20 minutes of sunrise. I first visited Mesa Arch in the 90s, and first made a meaningful photograph of Mesa Arch in 2007. Standing on the arch with arms spread, enjoying the cold winter sunrise in solitude while hovering over a yawning canyon, I made an image that ended up taking a first in a national competition and has since been licensed a number of times, paying for the trip several times over. It has a serious flaw in it that I somehow overlooked at the time I shot it — no, its not the model in the shot — but nobody has really mentioned it when they have looked at the high res. I’m glad I was using the Canon 1DsII for all my photography at the time, since the resolution of that mainly studio and fashion camera has held up well over the years, and the sharpness of the Canon fisheye with which I took the shot will cut fingers if one is not careful.
When I decided to return to Arches and Canyonlands a few years ago, I wanted to make a different image of Mesa Arch, one that I had thought about for a while: the Milky Way arcing over Mesa Arch. So I did it. Getting the lighting the way I wanted it was a challenge, and stitching the resulting very-wide image without distortion affecting it took some time, but in the end I was very happy with the result. I used a mix of equipment brands in order to produce the highest quality image I could: a Canon 5D Mark III which was new at the time and exhibited great image quality at high ISO settings, combined with the Nikon 14-24 lens, then and still the best all-purpose wide landscape and astrophotography lens available. I believe this image was the first of its kind at Mesa Arch at the time it was made, and the composition has since been repeated a number of times, especially in the last year with its burgeoning interest in astrophotography and the popularity of the online image duplication factories 500px and Flickr.
During those years I had never seen another person at Mesa Arch. Not at night, not at sunrise, not during the middle of the day. I had heard rumors about the crowd from other photographers, and as pros changed from providing images to providing travel services and workshops in the early 2000’s, I heard the comments more and more: the testy workshop groups and solo photogs with crossed-up tripod legs all hoping to get one for the bucket list, the rock climbing hipsters wanting to walk the span of the arch just when the light was good, and the busloads of foreigners making a 10 day whirlwind tour of the entire southwest while allotting just 30 minutes to see Mesa Arch at the moment of sunrise before running off to Arches for the rest of the morning. I knew someday I would encounter the crowd and kind of wondered about how it would be. My expectation was that the crowd would be a bummer but given these are our public lands — shared lands to which we are all equally entitled — and that we all are tourists (including photogs) at a place like this, I figured it was just something to be endured and hopefully would be fun.
Last month a buddy and I spend 5 days in the Moab area running around with our cameras, shooting some night images, making a few hikes, and seeing the icons. It was great! We did make a few new night images to be proud of, and photographed a couple icons along with everyone else … including Mesa Arch, the classic morning shot which I had never really made before. I do get requests for a sunrise image of Mesa Arch. I’m not sure why I get such requests, since there are many photographers who have this in their stock files and can provide a beautiful print. But I wanted to make sure I could fulfill such requests, so I photographed the arch with two cameras (Nikon 14-24 and Nikon fisheye) in order to provide a couple alternatives.
Garry McCarthy and I arrived at the arch first that morning, but my record of having solitude at Mesa Arch was soon broken: about 30 other people eventually arrived to enjoy the spectacular view. So now I’ve experienced the crowd the Mesa Arch, and it was not a bad thing. Everyone wanted to see the same magic light illuminate the underside of the arch, glimpse Washer Woman Arch in the distance, and feel the dizzying vertiginous pull of the cliffs just a few feet in front of us. I heard a number of accents and languages all expressing excitement when the sunlight hit the rocks, and joy when they realized their camera had captured the scene nicely. It was a great morning.
I unapologetically photograph a lot of icons and Delicate Arch is one of my favorites. There are few places in the United States that are more iconic than Delicate Arch in Arches National Park — it is depicted on a license plate for crying out loud. Places like this are iconic for good reason: they are beloved by Americans and foreigners alike and in many ways symbolize the spirit and beauty of the outdoors in the United States, the country that gave the idea of the “National Park” to the world. It is tough to break new photographic ground at icons and more than a few contemporary photographers scorn the idea of shooting at such places. I get it, and won’t argue. But I shoot everything and try to value the experience of being on site more than the result (which is usually flawed and falls short of the real thing). And I love National Park icons like Delicate Arch. I love the hike up to the arch (its quick with just enough incline to work up a sweat) and relaxing with the crowd that lingers to catch the end of the day around the arch. Most especially I love the stillness that surrounds Delicate Arch after daylight and the crowd has departed.
On the evening I shot this image of Delicate Arch, we were on site primarily to shoot the arch after dark. The sunset looked uninspiring and I had my iphone in my hand. Then a wisp of color began to form in the high clouds, catching color from the far western horizon, and I realized I needed a better camera. As dusk matured and the sky took on deeper shades of blue, more color lit the clouds with pastel pinks and purples. It lasted for a few minutes and then, as with the best of sunsets, it was gone quickly. It was a great prelude to the shooting we would do in the hours hence as night took over and myriad stars wheeled overhead, but that is the subject of another blog. If you like this, check out other photos of what I consider iconic photo subjects. Cheers and thanks for looking!
With the exception of one image, all of my new work in May comes from Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, both in southern Utah. I’ve photographed in these parks a number of times and love them, and will return again and again I’m sure. Both parks lend themselves to iconic compositions and most of the features of Arches National Park are easily accessible (not necessarily true of Canyonlands), so much of these new images will be recognizable. The last time I shot in Arches, four years ago, I was working on landscape astrophotography which, at that time, was still somewhat novel. In other words, there weren’t too many high quality images of, say, Delicate Arch with the Milky Way over it. Shortly after I returned from that shoot, one of my images went sort of viral, accumulating over 16 million views in a very short time. Another one was soon picked up for use by the US Congress. Fast forward to today and the situation is very different: many photographers are picking up the latest dSLRs and trying their hands in night and time-lapse, and it would be a rare night indeed to be alone at Delicate Arch around the new moon. I was accompanying my pal Garry McCarthy who had not been to this part of the Southwest, and so we planned to hit the name arches as well as a few that are less visited by photographers. I got in touch with Brad Goldpaint, one of the top astrophotographers in the world who had been in Arches for some weeks, to ask him how things were looking as far as crowds go. He kindly gave me a quick rundown of what he had seen lately but it was mostly disappointing news — crowds at night and in a few cases, rude and/or drunk photographers were out and about. Dismaying! We resigned ourselves to encountering lots of people in our efforts and just hoped to make the best of it and not have to break out the nunchuks. Well, as luck would have it, Garry and I did have Delicate Arch to ourselves for an entire night, so my streak of being alone at Delicate after dark continues but probably not for much longer. We also had solitude at nearly all the other arches we shot on the trip, with one notable exception. Click here, or on any of the images below, to see a selection of my new May 2014 images. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Our one notable exception to being alone on our shooting excursions around Arches and Canyonlands? Mesa Arch of course. Every time I have been to Mesa Arch in the past I was alone. I have heard stories of crowds at Mesa Arch for years. But honestly I had never encountered another person at Mesa Arch — until this trip. Rumors of tour buses taking people to Mesa Arch had reached my ears and indeed it is true. Strangely, most of the visitors, photographers included, left before the sun actually broke through and cast its light upon the cliff and underside of the arch. Mesa Arch is a spectacular spot but I doubt I will return for sunrise again there except perhaps in winter, during a snow storm, when the road is closed.
The Eyes of Utah? I think these two images look like “eyes”, at least to my eyes they do. The first one sort of looks like an evil serpent’s eye, while the second resembles a whale’s eye. (If you have never seen a whale up close, you’ll just have to trust me on that one.) Both of these arches are in Utah and are depicted here framing the Milky Way galaxy (“our” galaxy). My buddy Garry and I spent a long weekend photographing the night sky around Moab, Utah recently and these were two of my favorite images from the effort. We had to time our photography for when the Milky Way would be in the best position, since it rotates through the sky during the course of the night and can be anywhere from SE early in the evening to SW toward dawn. In each case I lit the surrounding arch with a bit of light to give some relief to the rocks. If you like these, check out my updated gallery of Arches National Park images, or my collection of Landscape Astrophotography. Cheers and thanks for looking!
The first few times I photographed Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park, most of my compositions were close to the arch. After editing the results of my last visit to the park I resolved to make more distant compositions, for variety’s sake and to put the arch into its surroundings. I got the chance earlier this month. We spent an entire night at Delicate Arch, trying different compositions and light painting techniques, and this was one of my favorites from that effort. Cheers, and thanks for looking!
I have shot Arches National Park a number of times, including a very fruitful trip some years ago to shoot astrophotography landscapes. I returned earlier this month for more, and found that I have reached a point where I need to find alternatives to the usual compositions. This one was forced upon my buddy Garry and me. The clouds obscured some of the sky and blocked the obvious composition of the Milky Way over Delicate Arch, so I wandered about a little looking for different ways to portray the arch before dawn crept in and stole the stars away. The sky to the northeast was clear enough to show the northern, lesser arm of the Milky Way and with a little light painting I was able to juxtapose the arch and the galaxy. I got lucky when the Iridium flare, seen to the left of the arch, arrived in the right spot in the composition during the short, 15 second exposure. Cheers, and thanks for looking!
The lunar eclipse of April 14 and 15, 2014 was a wonderful event to see. I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to photograph it for two reasons. First, the weather forecast in the high desert was for clear skies and, for the most part, the skies were indeed cloudless and very dark throughout the night. Second, I was fairly sure I could find several locations around the park to setup my cameras (leaving them unattended) and let them record the entire lunar eclipse, from the moment the moon entered the penumbra and began to be shadowed by the Earth until it was full lit again, including the dramatic blood red coloration when the moon is fully eclipsed. The moon was going to be due south of my position at the peak of the eclipse — I knew this thanks to The Photographer’s Ephemeris — so I selected a few locations that offered a nice composition facing due south and shot away. This image depicts the eclipse occuring in stages to the south of the White Tank campground area, with Joshua Tree’s interesting Arch Rock on the east side of the composition. (It follows the first full eclipse sequence I presented a week ago.)
Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29201
Note: this image is both a panorama and a composite. The panorama spans over 180 degrees left to right, and is centered roughly SSE. I lit the arch with a remote-triggered tripod mounted flash to the right, hidden behind a rock. The panorama, depicting stars after astronomical twilight but before the full eclipse peaked, is composed of 8 frames. Planet Mars is the brightest “star” above the arc of moon stages and the blue star Spica can be seen just below and to the right of the eight moon image from the left. This image is a composite and the moon is a little larger than it appeared to the eye. The moon was exposed separately from the stars in order to control for the fact it was much brighter than the stars and to better present the detail and color of the moon itself.
Cheers, and thanks for looking!