Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Antelope Canyon - Page, AZ

One of the places I was really looking forward to was lower Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ.  I have seen lots of photos from Antelope and they all make it look like an amazing place.  Antelope Canyon is a called slot canyon.  Slot canyons are narrow "slots" in the earth where water has eroded the sandstone over the centuries.  The canyon ranges from just a few feet deep to over 100 feet deep and in some areas the canyon is only a foot wide.  The slot canyons are very flood prone which is always changing their look.  Several months before our visit, lower Antelope Canyon was completely under water from a flash flood.

This first photo is what most people call "The Chief". If you look in the opening you should see the face of a Native American.

This next photo shows the beautiful colors and texture of the slot canyon.  This is one area in the canyon that has very sharp curves. You walk between the wall on the left and the wall on the right.

This next photo shows a more straight and open part of the canyon.  What I like about this photo is that it shows the difference in color in the canyon.  The rock is all the same colors but the shadows and bounce light make the rocks all look different colors.

This next photo shows a really cool arch in the canyon.
The next photo is what most people call "The Angel".

There are so many photo possibility in these canyons.  As the seasons change, new photos are always possible.  I look forward to exploring more slot canyons in the future.  It would be fun to find one that is a little more remote.  Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are located right on the main highway near Page and are usually very crowded.

Stay Tuned to the next blog entry, it's that time of year... Sandhill Crane Time!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

White Pocket, Arizona

The fourth stop on our trip was White Pocket.  It was the evening of day 5 and the sunrise of day 6 in our trip.  The morning started off in Bryce Canyon, after a quick breakfast at the truck stop, we were back in the jeep on our way to White Pocket.  The majority of the day was spent on very rough jeep trails going through miles and miles of endless desert.  White Pocket is part of the Bureau of Land Management.  White Pocket sits just south of the Utah/Arizona State line and is over 2 hours away from the nearest town.

It seemed like the trip took forever and when we finally arrived, it almost felt like "this is it?"  The main part of White Pocket is no larger than 800 YD by 300 YD, or about 50 Acres.  It's a very small area compared to the most of the places we had visited.  We parked the Jeep and headed into something that felt out of this world.

White Pocket is made up of "Brain Rock" as Josh called it.  He told me its actually petrified sand dunes.  In some areas the brain rock has eroded, exposing the sandstone below.  The white brain rock in contrast with the red sandstone makes for really nice photos.

This first photo shows the brain rock on its own without the erosion and the sandstone.  Its fairly smooth with the occasional tree or water puddle.  There are whole areas of this rock without the sandstone which makes for interesting photos on its own.
This second photo is near the first photo, may be 100 feet away facing another direction.  Things change so fast in White Pocket you can you can literally move a few feet and have a completely different photo.
The sun started to get low on the horizon and things really started to light up.  This photo shows the layers of sandstone under the brain rock.
The high clouds made for a spectacular sunset at White Pocket!  This photo is on the west edge of White Pocket looking west out in to the desert and another rock formation.  In the foreground I am standing on a pile or brain rock.

After that we headed back to the Jeep and set up camp for the night.  Being out in the middle of nowhere was an incredible experience.  It was so dark and so quiet.  I was just us, two other photographers way off on the other side, and a bunch of coyotes off in the distance yipping away in the night. 

The next morning I work up to a coyote yipping right behind my tent.  I don't think he was more than 50 yards away, but it made for a good alarm clock...  At some point Josh moved from his tent to the Jeep so he missed out on that excitement.  Josh met a coyote up close and personal last time he was in white pocket so I am sure he thought this was nothing.
With twilight upon us, it was back to the formations.  Josh headed off to scout out a spot for himself, but I was heading directly to the Dragon's tail.  This first photo shows the Dragon's tail just before sun up.
This next photo shows the Dragon's Tail after sunrise.  Its a really cool formation that really catches the early light well.  The final photo is the Dragon's Tail in landscape orientation.  I don't normally try to do both because I think one should always have a stronger composition, but on this one, I really like both.

That's it for White Pocket.  It's an amazing place.  It's not very easy to get to and not for everyone, but I will definitely be back!  Stay tuned for the next entry as we go underground, Antelope Canyon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Morning of Day 5 - Bryce Canyon

After we finished our hike of the Zion Narrows and returned our Canyoneering Shoes and Dry Pants to the outfitters, we were on the road heading to Panguitch, UT to crash for the night.  The next morning we were up bright and early waiting for sunrise at Bryce Canyon.

We were the first people at this particular spot in Bryce that morning, we walked up to the rim and staked out our spots.  Within minutes the flood gates opened and photographer after photographer rolled in.  Some very nice and polite, others not so much.  As the sun rose, more and more people started running in.  The sun came up people got their shots and cleared out as fast as they came.  I don't think we were there more than an hour, but we were the first to come and the last to leave, sounds like a familiar song lyric.  Bryce was beautiful and I hope to spend more time there in the future.

One interesting from this particular morning was a guy near me was shooting an 11x14 camera built in the 1800's.  11x14 means that the film negative in the camera was literally 11" by 14", which is huge.  In college I shot 4x5 and still have a box of that film to show people.  I have seen some people that shoot 8x10 and I know there are larger, but this 11x14 was a first for me.  Normally this photographer needs to special order the film, but this time we has able to get a large amount that was special ordered for Disney and they ended up not using it.
1800's Film Camera

Well that's all for Bryce, stay tuned to, White Pocket is up next!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sports Panormaic Photos

A quick break from the Southwest photos for a little story about my background with sports photography.  

I have always been a big fan of all local sports teams.  I had been going to Rosenblatt Stadium since I was a little kid.  We attended a few Omaha Royals games each season and my next door neighbor would took me to one CWS game every year.  My dad started taking me to Lancer Hockey at Aksarben.  I went to my first Creighton Basketball game back when Tony Barone was selling out the Civic Auditorium.  Then UNO started their hockey Program at the Civic. 

While I love going to the games and watching the action on the court/field/ice, I have always been just as interested with the venues themselves.  When I started bringing my camera to games, it was no surprise I was always trying to capture the whole scene and not just the action.

Eventually I got in to photographing the action shots as well as the panoramic photos.  First for the Omaha Royals, then UNO and Creighton.  In 2010 I photographed my first CWS for UCLA. 

This past Sunday was no different.  I photographed the first half from my usual spot down on the court.  Then when clock had struck 0.0 the teams headed to the locker rooms for halftime and it was time to get to work.  I changed lenses and hopped in the elevator at the CenturyLink Center Omaha and said "Press Box Please".  I arrived on the 6th floor and staked out my spot at center court.  

After the halftime entertainment cleared the floor, the teams returned from the break, and most importantly the fans returned from the bar er, concession stands, it was time to shoot my favorite photos of the day, the full arena panoramic photos.

This first photo here is taken from the press box high above the east side of the arena.  I like the symmetrical look of the area here.  While its not physically possible to see every single fan in the arena, I feel that this view gives you the opportunity to see the most fans in one shot.  
This second photo is something I discovered last season.  I like it because it makes the arena look really big.  This photo is not for everyone, but its a cool change to the regular arena shot.
While I do enjoy the action down on the court, in the batters box, or out on the ice, There are a lot of times I wish I could spend the whole game working on whole arena or stadium panoramic photos.  To me, there is just something special about them.  They are always the first photos I look at when I get home and download on the computer.  

I look forward to many more panoramic photos to come.  Can't wait to add to my collection of Omaha Sports Teams and other opportunities that may come up along the way.  


Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 4 - Zion Part 2,

After a long hike on day 3, it was right back at it for day 4.  Day five's target was the amazing Zion Narrows on the North Fork of the Virgin River.  Once again we were up long before sunrise to make are way from Hurricane, UT to Zion.  My day started off with a little apprehension...  I was mentally not ready to put my canyoneering shoes back on they were still wet from the day before.  The temperature was again in the upper 20's as it had been the day before.  However once I took a few steps in the river, all felt right and I worried about nothing.

Unlike the day before where you walk back and fourth across the river couple miles, we stepped right in the water and started walking upstream trying to avoid the "snotty bowling balls", as Josh described them, that lay just under the water.  You also need to keep a look out for deep pockets they usually end up where the water is quickly moving around a bend in the river.  With the cold air in November, we were told if we hit a deep pocket and fall in, we might as well turn around and head home.
I am going to explain the photos in the order of how I photographed them, not the order they actually landed on the hike.  This hike was another up and back hike so some of the sights we saw early on but photographed on the way back.  The first photo is several bends in to the hike.  I have no real comprehension of how far we walked, but if I had to mentally map it I would do it by the number of bends in the river.  The first several bends, the canyon were a little bit wider and there are pockets of trees in them.  We lucked out as these trees still had leaves.
The narrowest part of the Narrows is called "Wall Street".  The photo to the right is what I would call the entrance to Wall Street.  It was an amazing site, with towering cliffs on both sides of the river that seem to reach all the way to the sky.  It feels like you are walking among the skyscrapers in Manhattan, only minus all hustle and noise of the big city.  Its hard to get a size perspective, but if you are looking at the photo to the right, you will see a pine tree about halfway up on the back wall in the light. If there were a person in this photo, they would be a tiny little dot at the horizon.  Look at the light colored rock where the water "ends" at the back of the canyon.  I am over 6' tall and that rock was taller than me.  We stopped here for a while and worked the bounce light which is lighting up the back wall in the photo.  Other photographers came and went.  We would stop and take breaks for photographers that wanted to continue on through our shot.  We even met a Photographer from Vegas named Bjorn.  After talking to Bjorn for a min, it turns out that he spent some time in Nebraska at Offutt AFB.
After working that shot for quite a while, we headed back deeper in to the Wall Street .  It was just an incredible walk that made a few turns and it just kept getting narrow and darker.  The photo to the left here is the end of Wall Street. I am actually standing by the end looking back the way we just came.  It doesn't really end, it just starts to widen back out to a normal canyon.  Not knowing what time the sun would be bouncing off of what walls, we started to head back so we didn't miss other opportunities along the way.

I had my sights on one more shot in the narrows.  Unfortunately we walked right past an amazing glow trying to get to that shot.  There were a bunch of people in the way and I was just so worried I was going to miss this last shot.  I definitely have a game plan for my next trip to the narrows now that I have a better idea of the lighting.

These last two photos are from that last location that I was in a huge hurry to get to.  When hiking in, it was the first spot we saw.  There is just something magical about it the way the water cascades over the rocks and then dissipates when it hits the deeper waters in the sandy areas.  I am glad I did what it took to get to this spot and get this photo. However, if I could do it all over again, I would have bagged a few more shots on the way back down.  I feel that I left a lot in the narrows that day.

All said and done, Zion was absolutely amazing!  I can't wait to go back.  I fell that I got a lot of great photos while I was there, but there is still a lot more out there.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Zion, I would highly recommend it.

Stay tuned, there is still plenty more to come from this trip.  Up next, an out of this world place called White Pocket.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stop 2, Days 2&3 - Zion National Park, Utah!
I can't tell you how excited I was to see Zion for the very first time.  The first day in Zion was fairly basic.  We checked out the visitors center, hit the gift shop, and drove around and looked at all the tourist spots easily seen from the car.  This first photo was taken along the banks of the North Fork of the Virgin River.  If this was a "normal" year, we would have hit the peak of fall color in Zion.  By most accounts, the 2013 fall color peak came 10+ days early.  Good news for us, there were still random pockets of fall color scattered here and there.
The next morning we woke up very early and headed for the Left Fork Trail Head.  Hiking the Left Fork requires a back country hiking permit.  We got our permit the day before, but if you go during the busy times, you will want to obtain a permit in advance.  The hike starts with a short half mile walk through the timber to the edge of the canyon.  Once you reach the edge of the canyon its 400 vertical feet down a steep trail of switchbacks.  

Our first stop on the way was Arch Angel Falls.  These falls are beautiful layers of sandstone with water cascading down. The tan sand made for a really nice pattern at the base of the falls.  Normally I would like to include more of the trees and the canyon walls at the top of the falls, but the trees had lost their leaves. I will need to go back again to get that shot!

After the Arch Angel Falls we continued upstream to our next target "The Crack".  The crack is an awesome narrow but deep crack in the rocks were water flows.  The water in the crack is moving quite rapidly however a longer exposure gave a nice white soft look to it.  When we arrived someone had placed red maple leaves all around it.  We decided to leave it as is and snap a few shots.  The red maple leaves are native to the park, but don't usually align themselves in perfect order along the sides of the crack.  After Josh and I were both satisfied with our shots, we removed the leaves carefully and placed them on the bank in case someone else wanted to use them later.  I don't think we were the first to do this because there were several other piles of red maple leaves on the shore.  We then proceed to take another round of photos.  Later on in the day we met another photographer further up the trail who said he was the one that brought them with him.  

The crack is not very big and can easily become crowded with photographers on a busy day.  Luckily we had the whole place to ourselves for quite a while.  After capturing many images another photographer finally showed up and we decided to move on.
The final target of the day was the "The Subway".  I had been looking forward to this spot for a long time.  There is just something about it that really made me want this shot more than any other shot on the trip.  You actually enter from the area of the "tunnel" that everyone is photographing so most people that know of or have been there before yell around the corner and announce their presence.  Nothing like walking into the shot of a guy that is still using film and there are plenty of them.  Most are using large format  so they are very limited on the number of photos they can take.  We got the all clear and made our way up the rocks towards the landing.  Its a small area, maybe 5 photographers wide.  I have heard stories that it can be quite a chaotic and sometimes an aggressive scene among photographers, but this day it was nice and calm and everyone kept trading spots and letting each other in.  The light in the tunnel is all bounce light coming off the walls of the canyon.

After getting all the photos we wanted we headed back down, after all we still had 4.5 miles and a 400' vertical hike to get back to the car.  The trip back down was a lot of fun for the first 3.5 miles.  Most of it we spent walking in the river only returning to land to avoid deeper water or swift waterfalls.  We made our way back to the base of the canyon wall and that's when we learned how out of shape we really are.

The left fork hike to the Subway was absolutely amazing!  I can't wait to get back there and do it again!  I see myself visiting several times in my life!

Stay tuned for the next post, Day Three from Zion - The North Fork hike in the Zion Narrows!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Back in November, I took a trip to the American Southwest.  It was an amazing trip where despite that I saw so many cool things; I feel I barely scratched the surface of what’s out there.

Day One, Stop One - Valley Of Fire State Park, Nevada

Located only one hour (60 miles) from the Las Vegas Strip, Valley of Fire was a perfect place to start this trip.  I flew into Vegas and was picked up by friend and fellow photographer Josh Warrender of Landscapes Limited. Josh lives in Denver and his photo trip started a few days earlier as he worked his way to Vegas to pick me up.

Valley of Fire is an awesome mix of red sandstone, other sedimentary rocks and lots of erosion.  When you first enter the park you start to see all the red rock.  After passing the visitor center work your way North to see the mix of sedimentary rocks and erosion that make it such a captivating place.
Sunset that first night was ridiculously early leaving us very little time to get  in and see the sights.  Luckily Josh had been there before and he had  two spots in mind.
The first spot was a wash running east from the road, it somewhat had the feel of a small slot  canyon.  The late afternoon light was reflecting off one wall on to the  other wall creating a nice glow on the rock.  Years of Erosion have worn  the sandstone smooth with a beautiful texture.

After playing around  in the canyon for a few minutes, we headed up to our sunset target called  "Crazy Hill".  Crazy Hill is a relatively small hill, loaded with different colors from all the minerals in the sediment that has layered up over the years.
I explored around this area from the time we got there until it was dark trying to find the perfect location.  As Josh says, we had "Completely Bluebird
Skies" which wasn't helping the shot.  If the “rock” formation didn't have all the crazy colors, I wouldn't have thought twice about this photo, and left it unprocessed on my hard drive.  While I didn't get that awesome photo that I can print and hang in the gallery, there is always next time and I can't wait to try this shot again.

The Park closes at sunset, but does have campgrounds so we loaded up our gear and went to set up camp for the night.  It was a beautiful campground right up in the red rocks
Since sunset was so early, we were setup and done eating before 7pm and had lots of time to kill.  I decided to set up the camera to work on a star trail.  Being only 60 miles from Vegas we had lots of planes flying in the area so I was planning on lots of light trails across the photo.  These trails really bother some people but I really don't mind them, plus they are quite interesting when the plane is not flying in a straight line.  

I got the camera running and within minutes, the high clouds start to roll in.  I can't help but think, where were these clouds two hours ago!?  I kept the camera rolling for a while but the clouds kept getting thicker and thinker until I decided to shut it off and pack it up for the night.  

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to the day's sunrise target called "Fire Wave". First light was just starting to illuminate the morning sky as we started our hike.  This semi-iconic formation is a wave made of layers of red and white sandstone, somewhere along the line we started calling it "Bacon".
After a short hike, we arrived at the wave and found it completely empty.  Usually when we get to a site even semi-iconic, it is just crawling with people so this was a nice change.  We both moved around for a bit to try to find that perfect spot.  It wasn't long before the morning light started to illuminate the bottom of the clouds.  What ended last night's star photos, was going to be the perfect ingredient for this morning's sunrise shot.  For the next several minutes the color got better and better and the scene came alive.  We got a few shots and as fast as the color came, it was gone and faded back into ordinary grey clouds.  I really wish there was a way to get the “wave” to stick up above the horizon, I think it would really make it stand out better, and be a stronger composition.  I tried and this is the best I could get without losing other good qualities of the photo.  This is definitely the winner of stop one.

After the light faded,a couple other people showed up and we started heading back to the car. Unlike the way down when were moving as fast as we could, we took the long way back and stopped to shoot photos as we went.  The next three images are all on the hike back.

We packed up and headed out.  On the way out we came across one more first for me, a Big Horn Sheep!  It was almost like he was standing right there posing for us!  Not only do I get to see me first Big Horn, I actually get a decent shot of him too!

Thanks for checking out my new blog, I hope you enjoyed it.  It s been fun sitting back and thinking about the trip again as I type this.  Valley of Fire went by so fast and it was the first of many stops on the trip, its almost like a blip on the radar at this point.  It was an awesome place in the Nevada desert and I will make a return trip for sure!

Stay tuned, up next is Zion National Park!

Thanks Again,