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August 2015

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Trees

***As always, click to enlarge***
***As always, click to enlarge***

I thought I’d try something a little different for Cee’s Black & White Challenge.

This is one of my favorite shots from Hawaii, but it didn’t come from some spectacular wilderness setting.  In the property next to a gas station, there was an interesting group of trees.  This was taken looking up from underneath two of them, but closer to the one on the left.  I love the patterns of the branches reaching skyward, and in color the contrast of the branches against the lush green with red flowers makes this work.  When I converted it to grayscale, it just fell flat.  And then I thought, what’ll happen if I click on Inverse?  The network of branches came back to life!

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: The Letter T (for telescope)

The 24 inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope, used in the discovery of Pluto. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, photo by Steve Bruno
The 24 inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope, used in the discovery of Pluto. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, photo by Steve Bruno

The science of astronomy has come a long way since Percival Lowell sat in his chair peering through this once high-tech telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.  It has been many years since someone “looked” through a large telescope of the magnitude you might find at any of the major observatories in the world.  Instead, astronomers sort through large amounts of data fed to their computers from the instrumentation at the receiving end of these technological works of art.  The romantic notion of someone peering through a telescope towards a new galactic discovery exists only as a Hollywood vision.  If only they were fitted with an eyepiece – the views would be incomparable.

This is my entry for Ed’s Challenge this week.

WPC: From Every Angle

For this week’s challenge, I’m going back into my Calgary files and presenting three views of the Calgary Tower.  The building is a rather tall and an impressive sight, but the further back you get, it just seems to get dwarfed by the rest of the city.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “From Every Angle.”

Bumblebee…..It’s what’s for dinner!

Dragonfly with its bumblebee prey, photo by Steve Bruno
Dragonfly with its bumblebee prey, photo by Steve Bruno

Yesterday, the clouds built in dramatic fashion over the mountains on the western edge of town.  It appeared the photography gods were finally bestowing upon me a reason to take my camera out, and this even seemed to have the potential for heavy rain.  I left shortly after 3, because I wanted to be ahead of rush hour traffic.  Glimpses of occasional lightning bolts where the clouds were starting to let loose were setting the tone for stunning images.  But, alas, I was getting ahead of myself.

By the time I was at the edge of Red Rock Canyon, the dry desert air had taken the legs out from under the storm, and it was looking like I wasted the trip for nothing.  Mount Charleston would have been dangerous when the lightning bolts were flying about, but I was thinking that was a better choice now.  It’s too late for that now.  I’m here, and I might as well try to make something of it.

As I parked at a trailhead, the last wisp of shade was upon me.  I saw a possible photograph in the direction of one of the trails, and headed out that way.  The sand on the trail was pitted from the random raindrops less than an hour before.  When I arrived at the photo location, I pulled out my tripod.  The shot I wanted was a panorama, and I would have to stitch several frames together.  About the same time, a dragonfly landed on the rock near the tripod.  I moved in for a closer inspection, which set the dragonfly into takeoff prep status, so I eased away.  I had pulled a few things out of my pack before I left.  One of them, my longer macro lens, would have come in handy now.  I took a couple shots with the next best lens I had for the situation, then went about taking my panorama.  After I was done, the dragonfly was still there, and it was now that I noticed what looked like bee colors near its head.  This time I took a few more shots showing the bee more clearly.  It was dinnertime for the dragonfly, but I felt like I was the one who was cooked.  A mere half hour in the afternoon sun and it felt like I spent the day out there.  The panorama turned out great, but this is the shot I was meant to get.

WPC: Today Was a Good Day

As an old friend used to say, “Every day above ground is a good day!”  Some days stand out more than others, and here’s one that I still remember.

My friend Dave asked me to join him checking out a hike he had read about.  It was the Taylor Creek hike in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park in Utah.  The National Park Service lists this as a 5 mile roundtrip hike that only gains 450 feet.  Dave and I both have extensive hiking experience, including the Zion Narrows and many Grand Canyon hikes, so this sounded like something we would knock out in about 2 hours.  The official trail ends at Double Arch Alcove, but he had read that going further up canyon was worth investigating.  Even then, we both had the feeling we would be done early, and maybe that would leave time to hike another trail in the park.

We left Las Vegas about 8 am on a late April day.  The forecast for Zion was sunny skies and about 80 degrees F.  This placed us on the trail about 11 am, just in time for mid-day light.  Neither one of us was expecting any great photographs, but it was a beautiful day, and any day hiking is a good day!

The trail started out in relatively open country and we could see higher canyon walls ahead.  The easiness of the trail soon had us at an old cabin along the way.  It didn’t seem like it was much longer when we arrived at Double Arch Alcove.  This was an impressive sight and the depth of this beautiful canyon had become obvious.  As we continued further up, there was a physically demanding spot or two, enough to keep the average tourist back.  Then, our first unexpected sight came up.  It was a large snowbank at the base of the canyon where water was trickling down.  The cool air announced its presence before we had sight of it, and the snow was a bit on the mushy side, as one would expect in 80 degree air.  We continued upward, and as we neared the end of our route we encountered another snowbank.  This one, however, was completely different.  It was several feet thick and rock hard.  We referred to it as the desert glacier, and were estimating that it was still going to be there in June when the temps hit 100.  It was shaded by steep walls of the final narrow box canyon.  At the end of this box canyon were colors and textures that neither one of us had ever seen, and in a canyon so dark we needed a flash to capture it properly.

As we headed back, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a cloud or two floating above.  The weathermen rarely get it right, and this day was no exception.  By the time we got back to Double Arch Alcove, there was more cloud than open sky, and the light was becoming great for photography.  Usually I’m the one who holds other hikers back under these circumstances, but Dave was fascinated with the changing light as much as I was.  A hike which we should have finished in another 45 minutes took us almost 3 hours.  Most of these photographs are along the official trail.

As we got back to the car, we knew we only had about a half hour before sunset, and we couldn’t leave just yet.  We drove into the park about another mile and found a couple great spots to get more photos as the sun was going down.  Afterwards, we headed down to St. George and filled up on a healthy dose of comfort food.  What better way to finish out a very good day?

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: Going Buggy

grasshopper clings to agave plant, photo by Steve Bruno
grasshopper clings to agave plant, photo by Steve Bruno

Grasshopper clinging to an agave plant, my entry for Ed’s Challenge.

WPC: Creepy

I posted a bunch of creepy critters in the Close-Up challenge.  If you missed those, you can find them here.  That made me search harder for some different creepy images.

Initially. I have this lizard which I came across in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona.  Probably not that creepy until you look at the gash on the top of its head.  He was a fairly sizeable creature, but it makes me wonder what thinks of him as dinner.

Lizard with a gash on its head, southeastern Arizona, photo by Steve Bruno
Lizard with a gash on its head, southeastern Arizona, photo by Steve Bruno

Dark forests can be creepy, and one of the darkest I ever came across was in Hawaii, of all places.  I didn’t take any photos there, but this one, with the moss hanging from the branches, is from last year in Oregon.

Sunlight filters through the moss covered forest in central Oregon, photo by Steve Bruno
Sunlight filters through the moss covered forest in central Oregon, photo by Steve Bruno

At Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park in Hawaii, there are many carvings.  Most of these are genderless with ugly faces with large teeth, which would imply they were there to scare off intruders.  The creator of this one decided it was scarier to have a relatively featureless face and a large penis.  That’s creepy!

Carved statue in Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii by Steve Bruno
Carved statue in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii by Steve Bruno

Other symbols, created by a different civilization are equally bizarre.  In the Grand Canyon, this panel of pictographs has some creepy characters on it.  In addition to the large symbols, there are 5 faces which are nothing more than 3 dots and a line on top (4 lines for number 1).  Two eyes and a mouth is my guess, but it’s more like a nose on 4 and 5.  There’s also the ghostly white symbol on the far left.  I’m not sure how the two deer ended up on this one.  This panel is, fortunately, out of reach of anybody today, so this is how it was created over 700 years ago.

Strange panel of pictographs in the Grand Canyon, Arizona by Steve Bruno
Strange panel of pictographs in the Grand Canyon, Arizona by Steve Bruno

By far, the creepiest site I have ever encountered was this pair of grottos in the canyons near Moab, Utah.  The dark features around the two grottos suggest a rather alien-like face, and I couldn’t help but have the feeling I was being watched.

Canyon walls near Moab, Utah appear to have eyes. Photo by Steve Bruno
Canyon walls near Moab, Utah appear to have eyes. Photo by Steve Bruno

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: Clouds in Black and White

Last summer, I was out hiking a favorite trail in Red Rock Canyon, when I saw this group of storm clouds building over a ridge.  I knew this meant it was time to be heading back to my vehicle.  I miss having real weather, as this summer has pretty much been a letdown for photography locally.

See more on Ed’s site, Sunday Stills!

WPC: Beneath Your Feet

For this week’s challenge, I thought it would be easy to come across many photos fitting the category.  Emphasizing the foreground in landscape photography is one of the standard rules.  Moving in close doesn’t necessarily equate to showing what’s beneath your feet, however.
The featured image, taken in Yosemite National Park, is a location where everything was below my feet.  I had a great vantage point where three creeks came together, providing a different perspective on tumbling water.
At Bryce Canyon National Park, I usually prefer to hike down amongst the formations, but this has been a favorite from the rims.  I have often been asked where I was standing to get this one.  Since then, I think erosion has made this spot off limits.

Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno
Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno

Not far from Bryce, in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, I encountered these sandstone discs embedded in the ground, on edge.  This repetitive pattern was under my feet for some distance.

Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno
Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno

The Painted Desert was a well chosen name, which becomes more obvious when you see it after a rain.  These patterns were in a wash where the water was still standing in limited pockets.  A polarizer was used to remove the glare and allowed the color come through.

Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno
Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno

Getting down close to the ground was the best way to get photos of these little goslings, seen on one of my trips to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno
young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno

Most people are in disbelief when you tell them there is a great hiking trail right next to Interstate 10, which is arguably the most boring drive in the US.  Picacho Peak rises about 1500 feet above the surrounding desert, and on the back side there’s a stretch with very little earth beneath your feet.  Posts, cables and planks assist hikers in this steep section.  Thrillseekers expecting something along the lines of Spain’s El Caminito del Rey will be disappointed.

Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno
Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno

I know some people are big on taking foot-selfie’s wherever they go, but this is the only one I have.  From under one of Valley of Fire State Park’s largest arches, where I brought my friend and accomplished hiker, Dave.

Valley Of Fire Overlook-Steve Bruno
After the arch, Dave and I explored the large sandstone mass in the middle of the park, which I refer to as the park’s summit.  Along the way, we came across some interesting potholes and pools.  This one went down a short distance, then ejected from the small side canyon in the shaded area, upper left.  Nothing under his feet there, and as we walked this area, we could hear some areas that had a hollow sound underneath.

Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Another great place to check out what’s beneath your feet is Mount Charleston, just west of Las Vegas.  The red flowers are called Indian Paintbrush, and this is a squirrel’s perspective on them.

Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Also on the mountain you will come across both of Nevada’s state trees.  This one, the bristlecone pine, is characterized by distinct coloring and patterns, and can live to be 5000 years old.

The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.
The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.

At the base of Mount Charleston, there are thousands of joshua trees.  I wasn’t quite sure what was lurking under all that snow, however.  Rocks?  Bushes?  Frozen bunnies?

Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

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