Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Visit to Moab and Arches National Park

After 40 years of thinking about visiting the Colorado Plateau, I signed up for a photography workshop in Moab, Utah in early May. Organized by Bruce Hucko, this workshop, part of the Moab Photography Symposium, was a great way to get a running start there, with folks who really know this area well, as well as a honed, artistic eye. The three day workshop was led by veteran outdoor photographers Jack Dykinga and Jeff Foott.

I'm not an early riser, but one of the first realizations is the need to get in place before sunrise (and sunset). In the morning, especially when clear, it was amazing how quickly the first light lost it's warmth and became harsh right before your eyes. Naturally, clouds could rapidly modify this scenerio and were always a welcome addition.
A flowering Yucca Plant at sunrise with The Organ as a backdrop
Another aspect that was apparent was how well this landscape rendered in monochrome. This led to more exploration in the digital darkroom of Adobe Lightroom capabilities as well as a relatively new tool for me, Nik Silver Efex Pro.
First Light hitting Turret Arch with cirrus clouds
When the sun was out in full glory, the shaded cliff sides were often bathed in a beautiful light reflected off of the surrounding red rock, as well as the light from the blue sky.

After the workshop, it was time to explore on my own. Rising early, with it windy and clear, I returned to places that we had visited. Although Arches NP is heavily visited, once you are away from the main places and trailheads, you can easily find yourself alone with the starkness and beauty. Starting at 5:30a, I explored and photographed until 11:30p.

After sunset, one is treated to a celestial show. With the relatively high altitude and dry air and without the moon, stars are easily seen right down to the horizon. The camera shows many more stars, and meteors. Although the Lyrid meteor shower was probably over, nearly every photo had at least one or two meteors streaking through. The quiet serenity at night, with the rock formations and stars was something one does not soon forget. In May, the Milky Way lies along the horizon after sunset, but there were still plenty of celestial beauty to behold. 
A star show at The Organ
It was enchanting to work here, and I will definitely return. Jack and Jeff were great guides, critics and, most of all, engaging and humorous company.

To see more (and larger) photographs, please click here>

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Columbia Hills/Eastern Gorge Flower and Scenics Workshop

After a week of rain, the weather Gods smiled upon our April workshop and bestowed some fine weather for us to dry out a bit and get some photography done in the beautiful Washington Columbia Hills area of the Columbia Gorge. It wasn't a free ride however, as the wind really kicked in, with gusts at times well over 30 knots. 

First stop was an area along the Columbia with a beautiful field of Camas flowers and wind swept trees. Wind swept it was, so we settled for higher ISO settings and also handheld shots to stop the action and get really low and close to the flowers.

Talking about possibilities and framing. Courtesy, John Camp
John Camp getting low to get close and personal with the Camas. Courtesy, Joanne Nelson.
Next we headed to the Horsethief Butte area, finding just a little shelter from the wind at the east end of the Butte. The Arrowhead Balsamroot was blooming, as well as other wildflowers, including Death Camas. We then drove to The Dalles for lunch at the Petite Provence and afterwards a review/discussion session. 

Following lunch we visited the rolling country side of the Columbia Hills and the Dalles Mountain Ranch. With hillsides covered with flowers, we enjoyed mostly sunny skies and some beautiful clouds to the west, with a subdued Mt. Hood in the distance.

Clouds, flowers sun and a strong wind were our companions. Courtesy, John Camp
We made our way to the high point on the Dalles Mt. Road, then headed back, making a few stops when the light was right in certain areas. All was clouds to the west, so it was nice to have some sun, beautiful flowers and scenery the entire day. Thanks to all for a fun outing. 
Taking a break and taking it in
You can view a small collection of the participant's many fine photos here>>