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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photographing Great Basin National Park

My wife, Kay and I, recently took a short trip to Great Basin National Park in Eastern Nevada. Most people go there to see Lehman's Cave but the main attraction for me is the exquisite alpine scenery.

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Teresa Lake

Wheeler Peak is the highest point in Nevada at just over 13,000 feet. There are two, glacier formed, lakes at the foot of the mountain that make great vantage points to photograph from.

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Kay at Stella Lake

This is one of the few times in my life that I actually used a model (my beautiful wife) intentionally in my photos. The intent was to add depth and perspective to the images.

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Kay hiking the trail to Wheeler Peak

Along the trail you pass hundreds of Bristle-cone pines; the oldest living things on Earth. Some of them are 4,000 to 5,000 years old.

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They are very photogenic against the deep blue alpine sky.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Old photo of my father

My sister Karren had this old photo on her wall of my dad at the cabin. After I looked at it for a while I realized that it is my old Subaru in the photo and that I took it. Brings back a lot of memories.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Self Assignment: Photographing My home. Toquerville, Utah

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I thought I would share a few photos that I took on a self assignment a few days ago. My goal was to stay within 5 miles of my home.

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These photos were all taken with in the city limits of Toquerville, Utah, my home. A sub assignment was to make it not look like the driest area in the second driest state in the nation.

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I think I pulled it off rather nicely.

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The photo above is an HDR experiment using some new software that I have come across. It is called HDR Express and works as a plugin for Lightroom. It worked well and is very easy to use. I am looking forward to more experimentation and will let you see the results when I get a chance.

I live in a beautiful place, don't I.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A chance to photograph a Ring-tailed cat

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a wildlife photographer. Most of them like to lend me a hand when they have a chance. Such a friend is Bob Olsen.

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Bob lives in Toquerville, right next to Ash Creek. He has live traps out all the time in order to control the skunks and squirrels. A few days ago I got a call from Bob announcing that he had captured a ring-tailed cat and wanted to know if I wished to photograph it. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

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In the thirty plus years that I have been a wildlife photographer, I have only had a ring-tail in hand twice. They are actually fairly common in the southwest but are strictly nocturnal so they are seldom seen by humans. The wide eyes, whisker-covered face and long tail are all adaptations that allow this raccoon cousin to function in the dark.

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I ended up photographing the little guy in the fading light of evening. He was surprisingly calm and cooperative. My son Alex shot video while I was shooting stills. When we were finished, we just walked away and let our subject go free. I hope you like the images.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Photographing the formations North of the Paria Contact Station.

I was directed to a new photo destination last weekend. A good friend of mine and outstanding landscape photographer Phill Monson took me to a part of the Paria that I had never explored before.

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We went to the Paria contact station at mile post 20.5 on the road between Kanab and Lake Powel but instead of hiking South to the Paria we went North of the contact station to an area known as the Toad Stools.

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We never actually found the Toad Stools but we saw some beautiful formations and took some great photos. Had a lot of fun along the way with Phil and my son Alex. We were favored by great clouds as well. Enjoy.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

A portfolio of my photographs from the past 5 years.

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I just put together a portfolio of my work from the past 5 years. It was a great experience to go back through Over 80,000 images and pick out some of my favorites. It also shows me how my style has changed and I think improved over time.

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Here is a link.


I hope you will take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Be there when the light is best for better outdoor photographs.

There are a lot of places that I love to go and photograph wildlife. Yellowstone National Park is among my favorites. And early September is my favorite time to be there. There is just so much happening. The most exciting activity for me is the elk mating season called the rut.

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The bulls are at their peak physically and actively competing for the attention of the cows.

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They bugle and fight and chase the cows from one end of the meadow to the other, never taking time to eat or care for themselves. Their only focus is breeding the cows. Each mature bull attempts to gather a harem of as many cows as possible.

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Many times this involves stealing cows from another mature bull. That's when the fights break out. To be there with a camera and telephoto lens during this behavior is a real treat.

Elk can be seen anywhere in the park but one of my favorite locations is the Madison River pull-out just east of West Yellowstone. In September, the light is good all day long but as usual it is best in the morning and evening. I arrived there at about 6:30 pm one evening and found this beautiful bull tending his harem.

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I set up my tripod and spent the rest of the evening right there. The canyon is positioned so that the evening sun skims the meadow unobstructed by any mountains. I shot for nearly 2 hours as the light continued to lower and lower and better until the sun set for the night.

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To my surprise, there were no other photographers there. Everyone left and headed for their motels for the night. I was alone with the light.

I was really excited about the photos that I had taken so I decided to try the sunrise in the same place. The next morning, I rose early and was in place at the turn out by 7 am. The sun was not up yet and it was only 21 degrees F. The cold temperature caused a heavy mist to rise from the Madison River.

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When the sun struck it in full force, It created an almost surreal scene with the elk moving about in the mist. I set up my camera and proceeded to produce what I consider to be some of the finest photographs in my collection. Again I was alone with the elk and the mist.

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By 8:30 the temperature had increased to 28 degrees and the mist was gone. Everyone else decided to stay in bed that morning. What a shame that they missed the magnificent show that morning on the Madison River.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

A beautiful mountain stream.

I found myself on the Tushar Mountains east of Beaver, Utah. I couldn't help myself.

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Griffith Creek is a small stream that that runs year round and is always so inviting to look at. Something about it seems to say "Come photograph me". Well, today I did.

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The flowers were gorgeous and so lush. I took all of these photos within about 1/2 mile from were I parked my truck. Overcast skys added to the light and allowed me to use a slow shutter speed (1/2 second or longer). I love the effect on the water.

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Obviously you have to use a tripod at those shutter speeds. I like to use the "live view" feature to frame the photos and the self-timer set at 2 seconds delay to add sharpness to the photo. All photos were taken with a 24 - 105 mm lens set at f/22.

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I always feel like I have accomplished something when I get out of my car and go make some pictures.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mountain Wildflowers

I have never considered myself a flower photographer.

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Indeed I have always been disappointed in my efforts to produce floral photos that I wanted o take a second look at.

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This has been a unique year for moisture on the mountain. As a result, the wild flower bloom has been exceptional.

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I decided to take advantage of the situation and give it one more try. This time, I committed to be patient and spend the time that was needed to create some images. (I usually get antsy and go try to find some kind of wildlife.)

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Cedar Breaks National Monument offers a great selection of flowers and is close to my home. The month of July and Early August is prime time for flowers there.

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This year is truly exceptional. If you haven't been there yet be sure you get out and go.

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I satisfied myself on this trip. I proved to myself that with patience and persistence, you can produce images that are worth taking a second and even a third look at.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photographing Alligators in the Everglades

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to produce and host a TV show about outdoor photography entitled "Outdoor Photo Adventures" for the Outdoor Channel. The very first show that we did was based in the Everglades National Park. Wow! What a treat for a boy from Utah to go to the worlds most famous marsh to photograph wildlife. The bird photography was great and I will talk about that later. I wanted to start this series on the Everglades with a few photos of Alligators.

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The American alligator is probably the iconic species of the Everglades. You see them everywhere you go and they behave like they own the place (I guess they pretty much do). We were there in late February which is the best time to visit the park. The water level is still low and the stormy season is over.

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I was walking along the pathway at the Anhinga trail when I came across this large male alligator with his head held high out of the water.

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I, of course, stopped and took a couple of photos (okay maybe I took several dozen) When he started to bellow. He would move up and down in the water and let out this low growling noise. I had seen enough David Attenborough specials to know that this was a mating display and was designed to drive the females crazy with passion. Within a few seconds the entire marsh came alive with the deep, rolling, sound of many love starved alligators just out of sight of the camera. Needless to say, I took many more photos but non of them do justice to the event. The video that was shot for the show adds a lot to the experience.

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This experience illustrates the point that it is great to look at others photos but it is much better to get out and see the world for yourself.

The California Condor: A very Personal experience with one of the worlds most endangered animals

As a wildlife photographer, I am always looking for an opportunity to get close to wild animals. Several years ago, when rumors started to fly about California Condors frequenting the Kolob area near Zion National park, I decided to investigate and see for myself.

The first time I saw them, I found five, birds near a mountain cabin at the present viewing site. They were perched in the top of a tree and on the nearby rocks.

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I took several photos and was just admiring them when I heard the rushing of the wind coming from close behind me. I instinctively ducked, slightly as a giant pair of wings passed no more than two feet over my head.

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I can still remember feeling the air pressure change which caused me to lurch forward slightly as the condor passed by. It was a mature bird with a wingspan of over 9 feet and it landed on the fence not more than 30 feet in front of me.

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I got several close photos and the experience left me with a feeling of awe for this very special bird.

Since that time I have viewed and photographed condors many times. I have watched them as they perform aerial ballets for the crowds that gather to see them on “The Day of the Condor” and since this is not a scientific writing, I can tell you that I am convinced that they enjoy putting on a show for people. I think that that bird was intentionally messing with me when it flew so close over my head.

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Because of that first experience, I feel a tie with condors and I love to share these birds with others that may come away from the experience feeling a little stronger link with wildlife.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mount McKinley, What a way to end the day.

One of the absolute highlights of my trip to Alaska was the opportunity that I had to photograph Mt. McKinley. We were very fortunate in that it was visible on the evening that we had set aside. It is typically only seen about 3 days in 10 so I was excited to see the clouds part. 

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Mt. McKinley is 20,320 feet tall and is located in the middle of Denali National Park. The 90 mile gravel road, to the park's interior, is mostly traveled by buses as only a few private vehicles are allowed to traverse it. We were fortunate enough to purchase a photographer's pass so that we had free run of the road on our own time schedule. Most visitors must ride the bus, which is really quite convenient as they run every 15 minutes or so and make frequent stops. If you wish to spend additional time in one area you simply get off of the bus and catch the next one when you are ready to move on. This works well unless you want to stay late and catch the sunset on the highest mountain in North America. We were there in August and the light hung on until well after midnight. 

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Reflection Lake is located near Wonder Lake at about the 84 mile mark along the way. This is a great vantage point from which to shoot the mountain but it takes a long while to get there and if you stay until the light is gone. You will end up camping somewhere near it. We had a 20 foot motor home so that made it quite convenient. 

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We arrived at about 8 pm and set up the cameras. By the time we had set up, the clouds had opened up and the mountain was glorious. I started snapping photos and was able to try many different compositions. I continued taking pictures for over 2 hours. 

At one point I turned around to see a bull caribou standing on the hill behind me. I had to stop long enough to photograph him as well. 

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About 9:30 pm I decided to try a panorama and shot 6 photos with the idea of stitching them together in Photoshop later. The panorama turned out to be one of my favorites and it hangs on my wall as a 17 x 70 inch print to this day. 

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Many of the photos that I took, even later than that, turned out beautifully as well. I especially like the alpen glow affect on some of the later photos.

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This is a moment that I will never forget. I will always be grateful for the chance to visit Alask