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June 2016

Monochrome Madness: MM3-11

Summer started a little over a week ago, and here in Las Vegas we have had 5 days of 110 degrees F already.  In an average year we have between 7 and 9 days (depending on the source) of 110 or higher.  The record is 29 days, from way back in 1940.  Yesterday was a mere 109, and might be the one day that keeps us out of the record books.

Nevada has some mountains worth visiting that allow people to escape the heat, but if this continues, I’ll be heading off towards further destinations.  The photo above, was taken near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  I like this one because of the shadows of the trees being cast across the falls, in addition to the shapes and motion of the water.  This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.

WPC: Partners

On one of my trips to Valley of Fire State Park, I was fortunate enough to come across a herd of bighorn sheep.  They weren’t too fond of my presence at first, but I kept a slow methodical pace to follow them.  This made for a lot of butt shots in the beginning, and eventually my patience rewarded me with the shots I was hoping for.

These 2 (above) stayed together most of the time, which made me think they were partners.  My entire time following the herd was about an hour, and one couple was never close.  I’m assuming this was the alpha male of the herd and his partner (below).  I was under his watchful eyes all the while.

Bighorn Sheep in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Monochrome Madness: MM3-10

One more from the National Parks – this one from Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  We’ve reached the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and (thankfully) heading towards shorter amounts of daylight.  Just because the sun has set, however, doesn’t mean the day is done for photography.  After I thought I was done for the day, I passed this location in the twilight. The eroded hills were still picking up the remaining light in subdued color, but I knew this had to be in b&w.

This is my addition to the collection of b&w images for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. You can check out other photographers work on her site.

WPC: Curve

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge, I’ve found a few shots where the emphasis came from the curve in the photo.  The top shot comes from Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Rainbows made me think of curves, whether in the skies over southern Arizona, or frozen in sandstone at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah.

Rainbow in the desert of southern Arizona by Steve BrunoRainbow Bridge from underneath, Steve Bruno

Curves in the road also came to mind, and this one has plenty.  It’s called the Swift Trail, and it heads up the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona.  As you can tell, there’s nothing swift about this drive, but it can be a lot of fun, and takes you into a beautiful mountain range.

Pinaleno Mountain highway, Steve Bruno

Also in Arizona, you will come across many of these Saguaro cacti.  Although the younger ones are a single column, the older ones develop arms that often curve gracefully.

Curvy Saguaro Cactus Arms, Arizona, Steve Bruno

Window Seat VII: Earth or Mars?

Well, the obvious answer is Earth, but several locations I’ve flown across bear resemblances to sci-fi movie settings.  These are all desert locations, so it probably helps that I fly in and out of Las Vegas.  This also means we’re still at an altitude low enough to see great detail.

Mojave Desert, patterns, aerial, Arizona, Steve Bruno
Textures of the Mojave Desert
desert hills, southern Arizona, aerial, Steve Bruno
Hills in the desert of southern Arizona
Mountains near Lake Mead at sunset, aerial, Arizona, Steve Bruno
Mountains near Lake Mead at sunset
Desert ridges by stormlight outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Steve Bruno
Desert ridges by stormlight outside of Las Vegas
Wash patterns, northwestern New Mexico, Steve Bruno
Wash patterns, northwestern New Mexico
Craters Near Flagstaff, Arizona, aerial, Steve Bruno
Craters Near Flagstaff
Desert Dunes near Death Valley, aerial, Steve Bruno
Desert and dunes near Death Valley

Monochrome Madness: MM3-9

This has been a strange winter and spring, but it looks like summer’s going to be true here in the desert southwest.  I think we had more snow in April than the previous four months, but a glance out the window towards our nearby mountains reveals none of the white stuff anymore.

In keeping with the previous MM post, more National Parks.  This was taken outside the park boundary, but those mountains are definitely inside.  This is Great Basin National Park, in eastern Nevada.  I’m not sure what he visitation numbers are, but I have a feeling it’s low.  One reason is that this park has no buddy.  You know – Yosemite has Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Bryce has Zion, Arches has Canyonlands – all great places to visit and expect a crowd.  If you go to Great Basin NP, better make sure you’re well stocked on gas and food, because this region is about as remote as it gets in the lower 48.

You’ll find this image along with others’ in Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness challenge.

WPC: Pure

Lightning over Phoenix, Arizona by Steve Bruno

Shortly after I moved to Phoenix, Arizona a number of years ago, I was fascinated with the storms that came roaring through the desert in summertime.  There was a great vantage point on a hilltop at the edge of town that used to be my favorite spot to take photographs.  This higher lookout also meant that my tripod and I were going to be favorable targets if the storms got too close.

One particular August evening, I was on my hilltop watching the storm move across the city.  It was a very intense storm with distinct and numerous bolts of lightning.  As the storm moved, I noticed the strikes were nudging along at a pretty consistent distance, so I put on my longest lens and aimed where I thought the next one should be hitting.

This was the only shot I tried with that lens, and the last bolts of that storm.  With the mirror locked up during exposure, I wasn’t able to see through the viewfinder, but I knew I was aimed right where I needed to be.  The feeling was pure adrenaline that night, and again when I developed the film.

So…..pure luck, pure timing, pure electricity, pure adrenaline?  I think this shot finds a couple ways to fit this week’s Daily Post Challenge.

Sunset Of The Year

sunset, Las Vegas, Nevada

 

As I headed out to meet with friends the other night, the skies looked as though they might light up a bit as the sun headed down.  I didn’t take my real camera along, as I knew I didn’t have time to make it past the city limits.  Almost nearing my destination, I stopped a couple blocks short, where there was a decent sized clearing away from structures and power lines.  I snapped a couple shots on my phone, but mostly I just stopped to take it all in.  Here in Las Vegas, we’ve had a couple really spectacular sunsets this spring, but this might be the best one we’re going to see all year.  This photo can’t possibly bring justice to the surroundings that night, not all of which would fit in the frame.  There were so many variations in cloud shape, texture, and color that a phone camera just can’t pick up.  After getting back in the car, I realized the heart of the city was the best viewing angle, and any trip I would have taken to the nearby desert or mountains would not have yielded similar results.  I wasn’t planning on printing this one, and besides, thousands of people saw, and possibly captured, the same thing.

Upon showing the photos to some friends the next day, one remarked, “You should always have your camera with you.  You could have just added a different foreground to it, and it would have made a really amazing photograph!”  That comment reopened a can of worms that had its origin a few years ago.  I was at a highly attended event where one of the major camera manufacturers had a photographer with his powerpoint slideshow.  As he neared the end of his talk, he said “and this is one of my favorite photographs from the trip, but it didn’t really look like this.  I started with this sunset, then added this group of animals (a shot taken in the middle of the day), to get my final result.”  At that point I thought you’re not a photographer, you’re a graphic designer and completely lost interest in anything else he had to say.  I felt his presentation would have been better suited for the folks at Adobe.

A couple of my non-photographer friends have made comments in the past stating that they don’t know what to believe anymore when it comes to photography.  The deluge of imagery on social media has them distrusting of anything they see, and significantly less appreciative of the medium.

When Ansel Adams was photographing, b&w sheet film was his preferred method of capturing images.  His real masterpieces didn’t happen, however, until he got into the darkroom.  If you or I used those same negatives, our results would probably look nothing like the prints that Adams produced.  Yet nobody ever said his work didn’t represent photography accurately.  Darkroom manipulation was considered part of the process that allowed each artist to put their signature on their work.  Now that the majority of images captured around the world are in the form of pixels, and a large number of those go through some form of editing software, it’s not reasonable to expect many photographs to be exactly the same as they came out of the camera.

But how much is too much?  I know in several large photo contests, there are separate categories for lightly retouched images and full-blown manipulations.  That makes me believe that images once considered graphic design have come to be accepted as photography if the elements were all captured with a camera.  My friend’s comment has stirred up a debate, so I’d like to know how you feel.  Is there a point where you don’t like or at least appreciate someone’s work if you feel it has been over-manipulated?  Or the opposite….completely untouched?  Should I have taken my camera along to capture this sunset, then gone out next week to add a Joshua Tree forest to the foreground?

Window Seat VI: Where Water Meets Land

Although most of the flights I have taken in the US are entirely over land, there are times when the direct route veers over the ocean or other larger bodies of water.  The contrast can make for striking compositions.  It’s interesting that ocean currents seem to appear in photos from above, as in the top image, taken off the west coast of Florida.  I don’t know my bearings off the mid-Atlantic so well, but I think the next shot was over the Chesapeake Bay, where patterns on the water also show up.

Cheasapeake Bay Aerial - Steve Bruno

Rivers dissecting the land make great subjects, especially where they cut a sinuous course.  This one, the Mississippi River shortly after takeoff from New Orleans, has those moments, but is more like a boating superhighway here.

Mississippi River, New Orleans, Steve Bruno

Sometimes flights make it over the meeting of two water sources, such as this one from the edge of the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

Great Salt Lake, Utah, Steve Bruno

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