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David J Grenier Fine Art Photography
An Epic Journey into Death Valley! ~ January 2018

I was fortunate to visit Death Valley in January 2018, for what turned out to be an epic journey with three photg compadres of mine, Eric Emerson, Michael Heathman and Joe Naccache. I say epic due to the unique weather conditions given to us by Mother Nature. These conditions provided us with photo opportunities that were indeed rarely seen in these parts of California. First, some interesting background information from an earlier blog post of mine, some two years ago, 'My Favorite Places in Death Valley National Park ~ January 2016. 

 https://www.davidjgrenier.com/blog/2016/02/my-favorite-places-in-death-valley-national-park-january-2016

The valley received its English name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields. Even though, only one of the group died here, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave. They were rescued, and as the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said "goodbye, Death Valley." During the 1850s, gold and silver were extracted in the valley. In the 1880s, borax was discovered and extracted by mule-drawn wagons. 

The depth and shape of Death Valley influences its summer temperatures.  The clear, dry air and sparse plant cover allow sunlight to heat the desert surface. Summer nights provide little relief as overnight lows may only dip into the 82 to 98 °F (28 to 37 °C) range. Moving masses of superheated air blow through the valley creating extremely high temperatures. On the afternoon of July 10, 1913, the United States Weather Bureau recorded a high temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Greenland Ranch (now Furnace Creek) in Death Valley. This temperature stands as the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth. 

We put this photo shoot on our calendars in early November 2017. Of course at that time it is nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy what weather conditions we may experience in early January 2018. I have been a photographer long enough to know, when it comes to weather on a photo shoot, 'You get what you get'. However, when I checked for the weather predictions a few days before our journey began the forecasts predicted rain.

I have never experienced rain in Death Valley. Not surprising considering the area receives, on average, less than 2 inches of rain annually. However, my audacity of hope was that I would be happy to experience any forms of weather that provided us with clouds, again a somewhat rarity, but always welcome by landscape photographers! What we were given by Mother Nature was a lot more than any of us expected!

We drove into Death Valley on January 8th, and with heavy grey skies, it essentially rained all day. The following morning we headed out for a sunrise shoot in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, with sunrise set for 7:00pm. What we discovered in the dunes area, located close to Stovepipe Wells, was heavy grey skies and no sunlight to provide the highlights.

We had breakfast at Stovepipe Wells and drove home with no photography possible due to the dull conditions. Sometime late that afternoon sections of the skies bagan to open up, and we headed out to Zabriskie Point to find beautiful light and clouds making for good photographic conditions.

Here are two images from that afternoons shoot:

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The above is the classic view from Zabriskie Point,  named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century. The most prominent feature is the arrowhead shaped Manly Beacon to the right, and the textures and color contrasts of the eroded rock common in this area. Manly Beacon was named in honor of William Lewis Manly, who co-guided the ill-fated Forty-Niners out of Death Valley during the gold rush of 1849.

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The above is the beautiful rock formation, looking south at Zabriskie Point, with this image showing the setting sun light, along with a layer of low lying fog that completely covered the area just after this was shot. We left this area happy to be out shooting for the first time since we drove in, and headed out to scout the conditions of Badwater Basin, and the possibility of standing water in the area due to the recent rains that provide an opportunity for reflections at sunset.

The next morning we awoke early and headed out to photograph the sand dunes located close to Stovepipe Wells, the other major location with accommodations and restaurants in Death Valley. From the time we first stepped out of our hotel rooms in Furnace Creek we could not see a clear sky - no visible stars. Not a good sign for a sunrise shoot on the dunes. The farther we drove the more we realized that there would be no sunrise shoot this morning.

The reason for the no shoot - heavy fog! I had never seen fog in this area in the many time I have visited Death Valley. Here is an iPhone shot of the General Store in Stovepipe Wells, just after the sun had risen for the day.

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That day I asked every local person that we met if they had ever seen fog in Death Valley in all the time that they had lived in the area. Not one person that I spoke to  had ever seen fog before in the area. The weather continued to be overcast with dense cloud cover, again not conducive to photography on the dunes, because without sunlight there are no highlights and the sand look very monochromatic and dull.

However, in the afternoon the clouds began to thin and disperse so we headed back to dunes hoping for a little more light to make a sunset shoot possible. We have found through experience that the highest and most dramatic dunes are the ones located nearest to the visitor parking lot near Stovepipe Wells. However, these dunes are also the most traversed by visitors, and consequentially, the dunes are marred with hundreds, if not thousands of footsteps, not exactly attractive in any composition for a photographer.

Nevertheless, we all wanted to go out on the dunes for sunset and picked a place to enter the area someways farther down from the visitor parking lot, hoping that the area would be less marked by footprints. I am including an image of the largest dunes in the area, just to give someone who has never beenthere an idea of what the big dunes look like, as well as the ever present footprints.

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If you can enlarge this image enough, you will see people standing on the top ridges of the dunes that will give you some perspective of the enormity of these magnificent structures. On this day, a first time for me, we walked out into these dunes after a little less that half an inch had fallen over two days. A relatively unusual amount of rain considering that Death valley has an annual rainfall of less than 2 inches per year. 

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When we first began walking on the dunes, the sand, wet from the recent rainfall, had a completely different look and feel to it than I had ever seen previously. It was easier to walk on, as the dampness made it more stable. The image above shows what the sand looked like, and nevertheless, we were all happy to be out photographing the dunes finally!

Here is another image below, similar to the first, but with no people and the footprints removed.

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And finally, I will leave you with an image that I really liked, albeit abstract, that shows the sheer beauty of these dunes when direct sunlight is available, the beautiful shadows and light that are created and are simply a delight to photograph.

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I left this evening hoping that we would have an opportunity to shoot a sunrise on the dunes the next day. This is my favorite time to photograph the dunes. You walk out in the dark to find a position that you can shoot from when the sun rises and the first low light hits the sand. The transformation that occurs of the dunes is simply magical, something that I have experienced previously on many occasions, and one that I wanted to experience again.

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Before I show you the images from our sunrise shoot on January 11, I thought I would show you a couple of images that we shot in Badwater Basin, the other significant photographic location in Death Valley. Badwater Basin is an endorheic basin in Death Valley National Park, noted as the lowest point in North America, with a depth of 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. My iPhone compass screen grab shows the -280 ft Elevation, missing the lowest point by 2 feet! Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States, is only 84.6 miles (136 km) to the northwest.

Badwater contains rusty salt formations, that we were hoping would contain water from the recent rains, and that water can then form a reflective surface, that is ideal to reflect the colors of a setting sun over the Panimont Range. Having scouted out the area previously, we knew where the water was, and how to get to the best location. It consisted of walking out from the main designated parking area for approximately 30 minutes. We tried a location that would have been a shorter trek out, but discovered that we had to walk through heavy mud. Shorter, but damn near impossible to get through.

Here are a couple of images of a sunset that was captured on our last evening in Death Valley.

I was getting set up prior to sunset when this young lady walked through, normally a 'you're in my shot moment' but I embraced the moment and took this shot anyway. One that gives a perspective and adds a sense of motion to an otherwise stagnet image. 

I was getting set up prior to sunset when this young lady walked through, normally a 'you're in my shot moment' but I embraced the moment and took this shot anyway. One that gives a perspective and adds a sense of motion to an otherwise stagnet image. 

The sunset shot that I was happy with, pointing in the same northerly direction as the previous image.

The sunset shot that I was happy with, pointing in the same northerly direction as the previous image.

And now, on to what I consider the highlight of our trip - the sunrise shoot on January 11, 2018 at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

“Sometimes in this life, only one or two opportunities are put before us and we must seize them no matter the risk.” 
― Andre Dubus IIIHouse of Sand and Fog

Again, we awoke up at 5:15am and headed out to the dunes, feeling encouraged that when we walked out of our hotel rooms we were greeted by the sight of stars in the sky. This meant we had clear skies, we would then have the soft, low, morning light on the dunes, and we would finally have a good photoshoot - sunrise on the dunes. Little did we know how good!

Since we had been out on the dunes the previous evening and had run into lots of footprints, we decided to try an area further away, albeit one that none of us had explored, let alone photographed previously. Not the smartest thing to do, one could argue down right risky, going into an area that you have never shot previously in the dark! On the way there, it became obvious that while we may have had clear skies when we left, the dunes area was covered in a low lying fog, caused by evaporation of the previous days rains.

Here are a couple of images below of us walking out in the fog headed to the dunes, as well as setting up our tripods at the dunes when we first arrived and the visibility was very limited.

Joe Naccache, David Grenier and Eric Emerson - photograph courtesy of Michael Heathman

Joe Naccache, David Grenier and Eric Emerson - photograph courtesy of Michael Heathman

Eric Emerson, Joe Naccache and Michael Heathman - iPhone photo by David Grenier

Eric Emerson, Joe Naccache and Michael Heathman - iPhone photo by David Grenier

This morning we were given a show by Mother Nature that was simply epic, and one that not many people have seen before - fog in the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley. There was a brief time when I did not think that the sun would burn off the fog enough for us to capture anything meaningful. This is a time when you are glad to be completely wrong! The following are a handful of images from that morning that I consider to be my favorites.

One of the first images shot before the sun burnt through, the beautiful flowing lines of pristine dunes in the fog.

One of the first images shot before the sun burnt through, the beautiful flowing lines of pristine dunes in the fog.

When the sun first began to burn through the fog.........

When the sun first began to burn through the fog.........

Fog, shadows and light on the dunes........

Fog, shadows and light on the dunes........

Lines - in the shape of the dunes, and in the sand as well........

Lines - in the shape of the dunes, and in the sand as well........

The patters in the dunes, the low light and the distant fog..............

The patters in the dunes, the low light and the distant fog..............

I could go on, adding one more, and then one more, but have chosen to give you some highlights of this magnificent morning that we were thrilled to have experienced. I decided to develop these images to reflect the soft moody light that we experienced that morning. It was a gentle, low filtered light, and highlighted the markings in the sand, that was beautiful to exoerience, see and photograph.

A special morning in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, January 11, 2018 - photo courtesy Joe Naccache.

A special morning in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, January 11, 2018 - photo courtesy Joe Naccache.

You can see all of the images from this photoshoot and the epic conditions that we were given my Mother Nature at my New Works Gallery! https://www.davidjgrenier.com/new-works/

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2017 Top Twelve Photographs

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” Ansel Adams

It is that time of the year again for me to share with you my 2017 Top Twelve Photographs of the Year. This is the 5th edition of this tradition that began in 2013, which was inspired by Ansel Adam’s quote shown above. Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984), is one of the most recognizable names in American landscape photography. His black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have been widely reproduced on calendars, posters, books and prints. He is revered by landscape photographers all over the world, and to this day continues to have and operate The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park.  http://anseladams.com/

When you shoot a few thousand images, as I do on an annual basis, it is difficult to cull it all down to ‘twelve significant photographs’ so, as in previous years, I determine my Top Twelve, and the order of the selections, by looking back at my Facebook page and noting how many ‘Likes’ I received when they were originally posted on my wall. I am fully aware that this is far from scientific, and could be argued that it is downright arbitrary, but that is the method I have used and arbitrarily choose to continue to do that again this year:)

Before I begin to run down the Top Twelve images for this year, I must say that this one of my most fun, productive, and satisfying years as a photographer. My creative muse is indeed happy for all of the incredible journeys I was fortunate to experience this year. Here is a rundown of locations I photographed in 2017: Yosemite National Park (7 times), Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Tetons, The Palouse, Bishop, Alabama Hills, North Lake, June Lake, Silver Lake, Lundy Lake, Lake Tahoe, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Monument Valley, Hunts Mesa, San Francisco, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill, VA, Big Sur, and some of my local favorites. First time locations for me were ~ The Palouse, Monument Valley, Hunts Mesa, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill, VA, and the island of Molokai, HI.

So, again this year I will count them down starting with Number 12, say something about each image, and provide some basic EXIF data.

#12     ‘Napali Kona Sunset’ ~ this is the magnificent Kalalau Valley at sunset, from the Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve along the Pihea Trail, our first day out shooting in the Waimea Canyon region of Kauai. I had been here many times in previous years but had never seen this canyon lit up like this before. I am happy that this image made the Top Twelve this year as this was my first professional photo shoot! I was hired by a well know San Francisco marketing agency, and the Creative Director of this 9-day shoot in Kauai was a person that I have known for thirty eight plus years, my daughter Michelle. One of the best father-daughter experiences of my life, we were fortunate to have great weather all the way. This location is truly, one of the most beautiful sites in the world!

July 16, 2017, Kalalau Valley, Kauai, HI; exp. 1/6 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 29mm; ISO 160

July 16, 2017, Kalalau Valley, Kauai, HI; exp. 1/6 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 29mm; ISO 160

#11.    'Waves of Wheat' ~ an image from a sunrise shoot at the summit of Steptoe Butte, the Palouse, a region east of the Cascade Mountains, where SE Washington meets Idaho. This was my first visit to this area, described by one of the local farmers as 'earth dunes', which struck me as being an interesting take of this region. The rich farmlands of rolling hills are blanketed with a patchwork of colors, that are lit up beautifully by the low morning light. I have never seen anything like this before, and the beauty and compositions were endless!

May 22, 2017, Steptoe Butte, Colfax, WA; exp. 1/10 sec @ f/11; 28-300mm lens @ 160mm; ISO 100

May 22, 2017, Steptoe Butte, Colfax, WA; exp. 1/10 sec @ f/11; 28-300mm lens @ 160mm; ISO 100

#10.    'Blowing in the Wind' ~ one of the last images from a fabulous Arizona Highways Photo Workshop in Monument Valley, led by one of the most knowledgeable, talented Navahoe, and award-winning photographers, LeRoy DeJolie. This was our last morning's sunrise, and I added interest to the sky with a 121 second exposure utilizing a 10 stop neutral density filter. This was one of the most enjoyable and spiritual workshops I have had the privilege of attending, especially the time we spent at Hunts Mesa.

May 1, 2017, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 121.0 secs (10 stop filter) @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 18mm; ISO 160

May 1, 2017, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 121.0 secs (10 stop filter) @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 18mm; ISO 160

#9.    'As the Wheel Turns' ~ When Edwin Boston Mabry (1867-1936) built his water powered mill in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, he had no way of knowing it would become one of the most photographed places in the United States. The mill, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 176.1, draws several hundred thousand visitors each year. The gristmill and sawmill have been restored by park naturalists so visitors might see live exhibits, a real mill, and a working miller to demonstrate the milling process. This was another one of my first-time-visit locations this year, and hope to return again to enjoy the fall colors and tranquility of this unique area again!

October 18, 2017, Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA; exp. 1/60 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 24mm; ISO 1000

October 18, 2017, Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA; exp. 1/60 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 24mm; ISO 1000

#8.    'Hunts Mesa Morning Light' - one final image from my Monument Valley, AZ, photoshoot. This is the view of Monument Valley from Hunts Mesa, the morning after we camped out that night. The spirituality and beauty of this place is palpable and special. It was made especially so by the spiritual ceremony performed by LeRoy DeJolie when we first arrived. I will always remember this place, for the views, the way I felt, and the bitter cold winds on the night that we camped out. Also, it will be difficult to forget the journey out here, in huge four-wheel vehicles that were driven on a barely visible trail, that in places was driving on and through massive sandstone rocks!

April 29, 2017, Hunts Mesa, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 1/80 sec @ f/16; 24-105mm lens @ 35mm; ISO 400

April 29, 2017, Hunts Mesa, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 1/80 sec @ f/16; 24-105mm lens @ 35mm; ISO 400

#7.    ‘Yosemite Falls Reflection’ ~ I drove into Yosemite National Park on Friday, February 11, 2017, through one of the heaviest rainstorms I have ever experienced in this area. I shot this image by the parking lot just to the left after you cross over Sentinel Bridge. The temporary standing water in Cook’s Meadow provided a unique opportunity for a refection shot of Yosemite Falls, including a small rainbow that appeared briefly at Mid Falls. California experienced on of the most prolific years of precipitation in 2017, that helped bring to an end a seven year drought that had a profound impact on the State. Because of the huge rainfalls, Yosemite was a wash with standing water not seen in any normal year, and provided photogrpahic opportunites for reflections in areas that again, I had never seen before in Yosemite Valley.

February 11, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/40 sec @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 16mm; ISO 100

February 11, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/40 sec @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 16mm; ISO 100

#6.   'Spotlight' ~ captured this Three Brothers reflection on a still Merced River, Yosemite National Park, during my seventh and last trip to Yosemite late 2017. Fall is a great time to be in Yosemite for reflection shots, and I was fortunate to get a sky to go along with a still day. Shot this image from a perfect location to capture reflections of this iconic granite formation. A couple of hours earlier, the sky was perfectly clear, and I began the day by shooting image #3. Then conditions chanh=ged quickly, as they do in Yosemite, creating a ominous looking sky that was perfectly for this composition!

November 2, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/25 sec @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 23mm; ISO 400

November 2, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/25 sec @ f/11; 16-35mm lens @ 23mm; ISO 400

#5.   ‘Before the Deluge’ ~ I drove down to Yosemite National Park the first week of January to find very heavy, warm rains falling, thereby removing all of the fallen snow off the Valley trees. This was shot during about an hour's break in the storm on Thursday, with the mist caused by the abundant water, adding a lot of character to this beautiful Valley. NorCal had been under a deluge of rain/snow earlier that week, and a series of storms over the last few weeks in the Sierra Nevada have been very good to Lake Tahoe. According to the National Weather Service, the lake has gained about 33.6 billion gallons of water since Jan. 1, and the lake has risen about one foot in 5 days!

January 5, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/8 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 32mm; ISO 100

January 5, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/8 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 32mm; ISO 100

#4.  ‘StarLight’ ~ another image from the final sunrise shoot at Monument Valley. After the rising sun broke through the sliver of an opening above the horizon, I found myself chasing the light behind the West Mitten in an effort to capture a sunburst. The resultant low light on the foreground and the sunburst against the Mitten was extremely gratifying, as well as the illumination of the cloud laden sky made it for a very special ending to a very special workshop. I highly recommend this workshop, especially with award-winning Navajo photographer LeRoy DeJolie

May 1, 2017, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 0.3 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 28mm; ISO 400

May 1, 2017, Monument Valley, AZ; exp. 0.3 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 28mm; ISO 400

#3.   Etched in Light ~ I have learned as a  photographer, that ‘being there’ has a great deal to do with getting a great shot. However, when you are there ‘knowing where you need to be’ allows you to get the exceptional shot. I began this morning at Tunnel View with clear, bald blue skies. From experience, I knew that this particular spot on the Merced River could be really good, as early morning could highlight the fall colors at the river bend. I guessed right! I was the only person here on this special morning, November 2, 2017, and came away with my favorite image of my Yosemite fall shoot. 

November 2, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/10 sec @ f/22; 16-35mm lens @ 16mm; ISO 100

November 2, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1/10 sec @ f/22; 16-35mm lens @ 16mm; ISO 100

#2.  ‘Serrano Oak Sunset' ~ ‘Perhaps the crescent moon smiles in doubt at being told that it is a fragment awaiting perfection. ~ Rabindranath Tagore. The rain storms were taking a temporary break in NorCal, which gave us this beautiful sunset and crescent moon last night, at my favorite oak tree a two minute drive from my home. It is aways special and rewarding, after traveling to many faraway places on this planet, that an image shot a few minutes away from where I live, ends up in the Top Twelve Photographs of any year!

January 31, 2017, Serrano, El Dorado Hills, CA; exp. 1/15 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 24mm; ISO 100

January 31, 2017, Serrano, El Dorado Hills, CA; exp. 1/15 sec @ f/11; 24-105mm lens @ 24mm; ISO 100

#1.  ‘Majestic’ ~ one of my favorite locations in Yosemite National Park, a place that I refer to as River Bend, that has this magnificent view of Half Dome and the Merced River. Sunset on a Saturday night, March 4, 2017, provided these beautiful colors, and with a slow shutter speed I was able to smooth out the river waters and pick up more of the reflection colors. The eddies and swirls added that needed interest to the foreground, all adding up to this image being voted #1 in 2017!

March 4, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1.6 sec @ f/22; 24-105mm lens @ 32mm; ISO 50

March 4, 2017, Yosemite National Park, CA; exp. 1.6 sec @ f/22; 24-105mm lens @ 32mm; ISO 50

And there you have it, my fifth annual Top 12 Photographs for the 2017 year. Also, a continuing tradition, a few observations in closing - 1. Five of the Top Twelve images voted on in 2017 were shot in Yosemite National Park, a very special place on Earth for me, both spiritually and photographically, 2. six of the twelve were shot in first-time locations for me (Monument Valley, Hunts Mesa, AZ, Mabry Mill, VA, and the Palouse, WA}. It is always interesting for me to compile these images every year and be reminded of the wonderful accomplishments I was privileged to complete by traveling to these beautiful locations, as well as what excellent tastes that the followers of my Facebook page have. The Likes and Comments each image receives are the basis of determining what appears in this Top Twelve list each year. So a big thank you to all these people for taking the time to do so - greatly appreciated!

In conclusion, and as always, I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many people who support my photography by purchasing my images in print form, attend my workshops, as well as the hundreds of Likes and Comments that so many people take the time to stop by and leave on my Facebook page at  http://facebook.com/djgrenier . Last but not least, the wonderful and talented photographers and friends of mine that I travel and live with during these photographic journeys through out the year - again, my deepest thanks!

Looking forward to 2018 and wishing everybody a Wonderful New Year!

 

 

 

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So Far, So Good! First Half of 2017

I have been very fortunate to photograph in a number of beautiful locations during the first half of 2017. This has probably been my most rewarding six months of photography in the first half of any year, and therefore want to briefly memorialize these experiences in this blog post. I will go through each location and pick a few images that I think highlight the best moments of the time spent there.

Yosemite Valley, California

At the top of the list is Yosemite National Park, which I have visited five times so far this year. My first visit was January 5th, and my last was May 10th. During those times, I also conducted two private workshops with special clients that I enjoyed spending time with showing the nooks and crannies of one of my most favorite places on earth. The highlight for this blog though has to be the massive rains that California received this year, and the resultant flooding that occurred in Yosemite Valley. California had been in a six year drought until this year, where the drought formally came to an end due to massive rain and snowfalls, with this season going into the history books as the second wettest in 122 years of record-keeping!

iPhone 7 Plus; 5:05 pm, February 10, 2017

The image above was shot on the evening of February 10th when I first arrived and began to drive around the Valley. In all the years I have been visiting Yosemite I have never seen standing water in this particular location, or that much of it. It is also interesting to note the sign that shows the level of the water in this location on January 2, 1997, the last big flood in the area. The flood stands as arguably the park's worst natural disaster to date (some would give this designation to the rockfall of 1996 or the Rim Fire of 2013), and inarguably the worst flood in park history. The flooding stranded 2,100 visitors in the park, albeit fortunately there were no fatalities. Total park damages were estimated at $178 million at that time.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/40 sec at f/11; Canon EF 16-35mm @ 16mm; ISO 100; 8:57 am, February 11, 2017

I began thinking about a reflection shot immediately I saw this standing water and came back the next morning at sunrise. I have never seen a shot like this showing Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls reflected from this particular location previously, so was very excited to capture this unique image. The small rainbow at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls was a nice added touch.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/25 sec at f/16; Canon EF 16-35mm @ 16mm; ISO 125; 9:09 am, May 11, 2017

This reflection shot of El Capitan and the Three Brothers was shot three months later to the day, when warmer weather created a powerful snow melt that caused the Merced River to overflow its banks in some places that, again, I had never seen standing water. I got my lower body very wet getting this shot, a three image panorama, standing in water that was a few inches deeper that the tops of my Wellingtons that got completely filled with very cold water! All's well that ends well:)

Canon EOS 5DS R; 0.6 sec at f/18; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 32mm; ISO 125; 6:30 pm, May 11, 2017

I thought that I would leave you with this sunset shot from Cook's Meadow, with the beautiful infamous elm tree in the foreground, fondly referred to as 'Ansel's Tree'. It is interesting how the weather patterns can change so rapidly in Yosemite. When we set up at this location, it did not look like there was going to be much of a sunset this particular evening. There was a small cloud sitting at the top of Half Dome and at best we were hoping for some alpine glow on the granite face. Gradually that cloud morphed into this beautiful structure that then began to catch color from the setting sun

Monument Valley/Hunts Mesa, Arizona

I had wanted to photograph Monument Valley, Arizona, for sometime now, and when I found an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop that would take me to Monument Valley, as well as Hunts Mesa I decided to sign up immediately. Along with a good friend, we began our journey to Arizona on May 26, and returning May 30, including visits to Kayenta, Monument Valley, and the highlight of the trip being an overnight camping stop in the incomparable Hunts Mesa.

Monument Valley, a red-sand desert region on the Arizona-Utah border, is known for the towering sandstone buttes of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The park, frequently a filming location for Western movies, is accessed by the looping, 17-mile Valley Drive. The famous, steeply sloped Mittens buttes can be viewed from the road or from overlooks such as John Ford’s Point. Hunts Mesa forms the southeastern edge of Monument Valley and the northern edge of Little Capitan Valley. Its elevation is 6,370 feet (1,942 m). Access to Hunts Mesa is not through the general entrance of the park but rather through the sand dunes northeast of the town of Kayenta, Arizona.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 121 sec at f/11; Canon EF 16-35mm @ 18mm; ISO 160; 9:09 am, May 11, 2017

I chose the shot above of Monument Valley, at sunrise, where I decided to use my 10 stop filter to accentuate the clouds in the sky with a two minute long exposure. It created the streaks in the clouds and gave it an interesting, unique look that added an element of drama to the scene, that includes the infamous East and West Mittens, together with the Merrick Butte on the right.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/250 sec at f/16; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 35mm; ISO 400; 9:09 am, May 11, 2017

This is a sunrise shot from Hunts Mesa, after a sleepless night in a small tent and howling winds that did not let up all night long! The tent was so small I could not stretch out on the cot that we were provided with, and it had been thirty plus years since I had slept in a sleeping bag. Clearly, this confirmed that it is illegal, as well as foolish for me to consider camping even for one night again:)

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/6 sec at f/16; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 28mm; ISO 125; 9:09 am, May 11, 2017

This is the Totem Pole at dawn, and on the left the Yel-Bichel pinnacles. The Totem Pole is a pillar or rock spire and is a highly eroded remains of a butte. It is over 400 feet tall, and was last climbed by Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy in Eastwood’s 1975 film, The Eiger Sanction. The Yei-Bi-Chei pinnacles are named for their resemblance to the real dancers who appear on the ninth and last night of the Navajo winter religious ceremony called “The Night Way”.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/125 sec at f/11; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 65mm; ISO 200; 9:16 am, April 30, 2017

Monument Valley, has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. It is perhaps most famous for its use in many John Ford films, including Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956). It has also been featured in the film Easy Rider (1969), Robert Zemeckis' film Forrest Gump, Clint Eastwood's film The Eiger Sanction (1975), and recently the popular United Kingdom television show Doctor Who in the two episodes "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon". This is John Ford Point, named in honor of the movie director who spent a lot of time in Monument Valley, aside from making five movies here. We had a young Navajo Native American ride the horse in this image and pose as a model that provided an added interesting, and appropriate touch to the composition.

I would like to make a mention here of the leader of our workshop, a Navajo Native American photographer of renown, LeRoy DeJolie. This is the third Arizona Highways Photo Workshop I have taken with LeRoy, and I highly recommend him as a workshop leader. His local knowledge is second to none, works very hard to help any photographer that asks, and he is the perfect Navajo guide, a mandated necessity, to get us into these beautiful ancient Navajo lands. These workshops are a very reasonable cost method of getting to locations that you want to photograph, always led by a great professional photographer, who know the right places to go and at the right times of day, together with very competent support people who work very hard to make these events memorable.

Palouse, Washington

For my next photo shoot, I joined two of my closest photographer friends on a road trip that took us to the Palouse, Washington, onto Yellowstone National Park, and finally to the Grand Teton National Park, both in Wyoming.

The Palouse is the most serene and pastoral region in southeastern Washington characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields. The hills were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt, called "loess", from dry regions to the south west. Seen from the summit of 3,612 foot high Steptoe Butte, they look like giant, colored sand dunes because they were formed in much the same way. In the spring they are lush shades of green when the wheat and barley are young, and in the summer they are dry shades of brown when the crops are ready for harvest. The Palouse hills are not only a landscape unique in the world, but they are beautiful to behold and or photograph.

This was one of the most joyful shoots that I have ever experienced. The area to photograph is endless, the compositions are unlimited, and the lighting we had, both at sunset and sunrise was simply stunning. I have so many images that I like it is very difficult to choose, but I chose the following and hope that it portrays the region well and shows the endless beauty of this magnificent region of Washington state.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/125 sec at f/11; Canon EF 28-300mm @ 105mm; ISO 400; 5:49 am, May 23, 2017

This first image is a panorama that I shot during the first sunrise that we did from Steptoe Butte. This location, in my humble opinion, is what makes the Palouse so photogenic. It is the highest point in the region, and at the very top, it gives a photographer a 360 degree view to shoot from. The early morning light on these 'earth dunes' is magical, and the compositions are endless. The sunsets too are special, again because of the light and never ending views.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/4 sec at f/9; Canon EF 28-300mm @ 60mm; ISO 100; 8:16 pm, May 22, 2017

This is an image from our first sunset shoot on Steptoe Butte. The setting sun and the lupin created this beautiful scene typical of this magical area in Washington. The 3,612-foot (1,101 m) butte is preserved as Steptoe Butte State Park, a publicly owned 150-acre (61 ha) recreation area located 12 miles (19 km) east of the nearest town, Colfax.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/640 sec at f/11; Canon EF 28-300mm @ 80mm; ISO 500; 4:20 pm, May 24, 2017

This is a location that we stumbled upon driving up and down roads using a map of the region provided to tourists by the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. What made this location so special on this afternoon was the way the clouds in the sky filtered the light on the landscape, where as you waited the light changed and lit up different areas just like spotlights. Again so many compositions and three to four points of view to shoot from just one location.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/8 sec at f/11; Canon EF 28-300mm @ 28mm; ISO 400; 8:37 pm, May 24, 2017

After shooting the location above we drove around for quite some time looking for a location to shoot the sunset. With the ever present clouds in the sky we were anticipating a colorful sunset but had great difficulty finding a suitable location until we stumbled upon this hill, at what turned out to be on an unmarked private property. Soon after we decided that this location would have to do because we were running out of time before the sunset would begin, the farm owner drove up to inform us that we were on his private property.

With our best smile and diplomatic attitude we asked him if that meant we had to leave, and also informed him that if we had seen any signs driving in that told us we were on private property we certainly would not have done so. He was kind enough to let us stay, even though he did come back later after the sunset was over and saw us drive off his property. A wonderful end to an extremely productive day!

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho too. Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It's also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. The Yellowstone Caldera is a volcanic caldera and supervolcano located underground in Yellowstone, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

The term “supervolcano” implies an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index, indicating an eruption of more than 1,000 cubic kilometers (250 cubic miles) of magma. Yellowstone has had at least three such eruptions: The three eruptions, 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, were about 6,000, 700 and 2,500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.

While the Yellowstone national park in Wyoming is stunningly beautiful, with brightly coloured sulphuric hot springs and erupting geysers, it packs a mighty punch. If the volcano were to erupt, it could cause a global catastrophe, particularly in the US where it would instantly kill 87,000 people and make two-thirds of the country immediately uninhabitable as the large spew of ash into the atmosphere would block out sunlight and directly affect life beneath it. I can only hope that this does event not need to occur in all of its majesty during my lifetime!

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/10 sec at f/11; Canon EF 16-35mm @ 16mm; ISO 160; 5:59 am, May 26, 2017

The Grand Prismatic Spring, discovered by geologists in 1871, is the largest hot spring in America and the third largest in the world. It has a diameter of about 295 feet and a depth of 164 feet. In the center of the spring the water is so hot that the bacteria is not able to survive, whereas the temperature gradually drops towards the edges. This explains why the dazzling bright yellows, fierce oranges and deep reds only appear around the edges while the deep blue remains confined to the center. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin and is one of my favorite geyser springs to photograph in Yellowstone.

One item of interest that we learned while we were at the Yellowstone Visitor Center, is that the Park Rangers have been in the process of constructing a viewing platform on on the ridge that you see in the background of the image above. It is scheduled to open in July this year, and will provide a magnificent photographic opportunity to capture the whole of this spring from above, something that has only been previously available to adventurous people who were willing to climb up into the hills around this area. Can't wait to get there again and photograph from the new location!

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/5 sec at f/14; Canon EF 16-35mm @ 27mm; ISO 125; 5:52 am, May 28, 2017

Silex Spring, a favorite go to sunrise location when in Yellowstone, has a temperature of 193 F and is 36 feet x 40 feet, and a depth of 27 feet. It is unknown when or by whom this colorful blue spring was named, but the name Silex may refer to the word silica. Some believe it may refer to the Silex coffee percolator. The spring boils occasionally and, periodically large bubbles of gas rise to the surface. The 1959 earthquake caused it to erupt and increased the flow. The discharge is now 70 to 100 gallons per minute.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/25 sec at f/11; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 28mm; ISO 125; 2:15 pm, May 27, 2017

This is Lower Yellowstone Falls, and an area of the Park that I had not visited the last time I was here in the fall last year. Yellowstone Falls consist of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River. As the Yellowstone river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, it leaves the Hayden Valley and plunges first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile (400 m) downstream over Lower Yellowstone Falls, at which point it then enters the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is up to 1,000 feet (304 m) deep.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/500 sec at f/5.6; Canon EF 1oo-400mm @ 100mm; ISO 800; 9:21 am, May 28, 2017

On our final day in Yellowstone we set out to photograph Bison. Not exactly my expertise so I wanted to get some practice in and bring back one or two images of these majestic animals. This was our first stop, where I managed to get this beautiful animal as it just crossed the Madison River, near West Yellowstone. The male Bison can weigh approximately 2000 lbs., and this one still had on its winter coat, albeit soaking wet in the rear because it had just swam across the river.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is in the northwest of the state of Wyoming. It encompasses the Teton mountain range, the 4,000-meter Grand Teton peak, and the valley known as Jackson Hole. It’s a popular destination in summer for mountaineering, hiking, backcountry camping and fishing, linked to nearby Yellowstone National Park by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. It is only 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park. Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. This is a beautiful location to stop at on your way into Yellowstone or on your way out. I first visited it last year in the fall and wanted to see it in the spring, which did not disappoint one bit! From my experience in this area I have found that there are four classic locations for photography, and I have images from each one below.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/4 sec at f/16; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 82mm; ISO 100; 5:18 am, May 29, 2017

Sunrise at the T.A. Moulton Barn and with the Grand Teton showing in the background. The T. A. Moulton Barn is all that remains of the homestead built by Thomas Alma Moulton and his sons between about 1912 and 1945. It sits west of the road known as Mormon Row, in an area called Antelope Flats. The property with the barn was one of the last parcels sold to the National Park Service by the Moulton family.

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/15 sec at f/11; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 50mm; ISO 800; 4:45 am, May 30, 2017

Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park is located just a little over a mile straight east of the Jackson Lake Junction on Highway 89.  It's where the Snake River gets extremely wide and Mount Moran is seen reflecting in the calm water in all it's glory.  It's really a sight to behold. Oxbow Bend is without a doubt the most photographed place in the entire park.  The image of the Snake River with Mount Moran's reflection is iconic and is probably the most recognized image of Grand Teton National Park throughout the world.  It is a magnificent sunrise location, and it is grand central station in the fall, where I have seen over 300 plus photographers line up for a sunrise shoot!

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/13 sec at f/11; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 32mm; ISO 125o; 4:57 am, May 31, 2017

Schwabachers Landing is a boat landing located a few miles south of Snake River Overlook, along the east shore of the Snake River. It provides an opportunity for beautiful reflections of the Grand Teton range, and is especially beautiful in low morning light at sunrise. Having the duck in the foreground was a bonus, and in order to ensure it was sharp I adjusted my ISO to 1250. One huge noticeable difference shooting in these locations in the spring vs the fall, is in spring there were a significantly less number of photographers to contend with in all of these locations.

Some 75 years ago you could see the bend of the Snake River, where Ansel Adams included it in one of his most iconic images in 1942, The Tetons and the Snake River. Today the trees have grown, as you can see in the image below, and you can no longer see that bend in the river, though it is still one of my favorite places to see and photograph the Grand Teton Range.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III; 1/25 sec at f/16; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 40mm; ISO 10o; 4:37 pm, May 30, 2017

On the last evening of our stay in the Park, we decided that we would go out and practice photographing Bison again. That is until, driving out of Jackson we noticed a massive and beautiful storm sitting right above the Teton Range. We immediately decided that we should head straight out to the Snake River Outlook, an ideal location to photograph this gnarly looking storm. I was so excited to have this opportunity as I had never seen such a beautiful looking sky over this mountain range and was so looking forward to the chance to capture some unique images.

We literarily raced out to the location, got out of the vehicle, opened the trunk to reach for my camera and tripod when it hit me - I had left both my camera bodies in my hotel room. I was incredulous that I could have made such a stupid mistake! We had been photographing Bison earlier in the day, and I had long lenses on both camera bodies which gave me a wider choice of focal range. When we got back to our hotel earlier in the day, I grabbed both bodies and headed up to the room to change lenses and set everything back to the way it normally was. I then forgot to bring them back out with me to the vehicle when we left.

The owner of the vehicle we were traveling in very kindly offered his vehicle for me to drive back and fetch my camera, which I did in about 45 minutes, and by the time I got back there was still a beautiful sky available and I ended up with some nice images after all. You get by with a little help from your friends:)

San Francisco

Canon EOS 5DS R; 1/120 sec at f/9; Canon EF 24-105mm @ 50mm; ISO 1000; 7:40 pm, June 24, 2017

And finally, I will leave you with an image of Mt. Tamalpais that I shot last Sunday. I took a very good friend and photographer with me to show her this phenomenon of coastal fog that rolls in and creates beautiful scenes as it washes over into the Marin Headlands in the summer. We went back to a spot that my daughter Michelle, who lives in the area, took me to just over two years ago. We had a lot more fog on that particular day, though this experience did not disappoint!

As I wrap up this blog post just before the celebration of this country's Independence Day, I feel grateful and excited about the photographic opportunities that I have had so far this year. I also feel grateful to have some wonderful friends to accompany me on these photo journeys, whose presence makes these adventures even more fun. I am now getting ready to leave on my first professional assignment for a marketing company in San Francisco. I am being sent out to the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii, on the 4th of July returning July 13th, to shoot landscape images on what is so rightfully called the 'Garden Isle'.

The adventure continues!

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