death valley milky way

During Hudson’s Death Valley workshop, we were out every morning before dawn and back out until the blue hour. (It was simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.) On this morning, we woke up at 3 a.m. to go out and catch the rising Milky Way, which was visible for only 30 minutes that day. Hudson did a great job of preparing everyone the evening before, working to get cameras and expectations set for the morning shoot.

After heading out in the van, and hiking out to the Mesquite Dunes, we all lined up and waited for the Milky Way. Hudson had brought along a portable light to illuminate the dunes during our shots, and, although I got a couple of the latter that I liked, this unlit one is my favorite shot of the morning. It violates the cardinal rule that says “thou shalt not put thy subject in the center of the frame,” but to my eye it looks better than some of the off-center shots I made that morning.

I’m still a bit of a newbie on the whole Milky Way thing, but I’ll get there.

an afternoon in the alabama hills

I just finished up helping out on a workshop in Death Valley, run by my good friend Hudson Henry. It was a rich and rewarding event, and it recharged my photographic batteries, which have been low for a few months.

I’m less than midway through the culling process of shots from the trip, but today I started in on a bunch of panoramas that I worked on in the Alabama Hills, which Hudson and I visited the day before the workshop began. The image shown here is one of my favorites, and belies the weather conditions at the time, which was cold and stormy to the west and the south of us. (Click on the photo to see it larger in this browser window; right-click this link and choose “Open Image in New Window” to see it at 6,000 pixels wide.) It’s a bit darker here than I’d like, but it speaks to the mood of the day for me.

I know I’ve been more than scarce with the photos posted here over the past year or more; besides the trailer travels, I’ve been working on book publishing projects[1. Red Notebook Press, my first publishing imprint, released Nan Narboe’s Aging: An Apprenticeship last spring; it did well, but not great, for a variety of reasons. I will say that I learned a lot in the process, and am anxious to apply those lessons to future book projects. (If you’re interested, you can read more about that process in the post, “What I did on my summer vacation“)] and a redo of an older website, Complete Digital Photography (known as CDP around the house). These gigs have kept me quite busy, and I’m pretty much heads down on CDP right now.[2. I also left Portland, and moved to La Grande, a small college town in eastern Oregon, but that’s a story for another day.]

All that said, the image above is a direct result of one recent project: late last year, through CDP Press, I published Hudson’s Panoramas Made Simple. As part of that book’s editing process, I worked to move from the sloppy, “Rick LePage pano method” to the more accurate—and, frankly, more satisfying—methods that Hudson talks about in the book. When we were out in the Alabama Hills and in Death Valley, I spent a lot of my photographic energy working on panoramic compositions. I have a few more that I’ll get up in the next few weeks, but I thought I’d share this one now, while it was still fresh.

Sunrise, Bow Willow campground

When I saw the sunrise on this beautiful morning in camp, I really didn’t see a photo until I walked back around behind the cactus, noticing the silhouette of the rising sun. I jumped into action, although I knew I was going to miss the shot I wanted: one with the sunstar at the crack of the horizon and the light on the tips of the cactus–and without the distractions of the ugly bush and the camp shelter. In the time it took to slap on a neutral-density filter, get the tripod arranged properly, and think through my exposure settings, the sun moved a bit too high in the sky, and I couldn’t find a better cactus grouping. So I snapped this one, hoping for one more pretty, cloud-filled sunrise during our stay, and would use this morning’s photo as a test shot of sorts. There wasn’t another opportunity to get a similar shot while I was here, but I decided that I was ok with what I did get on this gorgeous morning.

dawn on Lake Cahuilla

moon over cahuillaThe mornings down here in the Palm Desert area have been wonderfully cool, with beautiful skies; they’re a good contrast to the full-on heat of the midday sun. Most mornings, Susan and I have been enjoying coffee in our little camp, and I haven’t been motivated to get the full camera rig out. (Truth be told, it’s not terribly photogenic, this spot.)

This morning, I was up a bit earlier than usual, and was captivated by the waning crescent moon above the hills behind camp. So I went off to shoot for a bit, and walked away with two nice images to start the day. (Click to see them bigger.)

sunrise over lake cahuilla

Tehachapi sunset

tehachapi-sunset-pano

Our adventure has started! We’ve been driving for three days, and it’s been a bunch of fun traveling through some of my old stomping grounds in California. I’ll have more to post once we’re settled in our first extended camp, but I wanted to add this photo, from last night. (Click to see it bigger.)

One place I’ve driven through for years is Tehachapi. It’s one of those beautiful spaces that I have admired through the windshield, but I have never stopped, even for gas, if I recall correctly. Last night, Susan and I were thinking about pushing on to Barstow, but decided to call it a day a bit early, and we found this beautiful campground high above it all in Tehachapi, and just in time for a gorgeous sunset. Not bad for day three.

Today, it’s on to Palm Desert, where we’ll be encamped for at least a week.

in the shasta valley

in-the-shasta-valley

This is an older image, shot in November 2007 in the Shasta valley in Northern California, in the heart of Siskiyou County. This area is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been on the planet, and it’s a place that calms and centers me. (As I write this, even thinking of being there is calming.)

I’ve ridden and driven quite a bit through the mountains there; it’s a desolate, sparsely populated area of unparalleled beauty. And the people in Siskiyou County are wonderful. They might not be the richest or the most cosmopolitan–hardscrabble is a good word for many of the people I’ve met there–but they’re damn good folks, among the most welcoming I’ve met in this country (the cows are pretty decent too, which is a tale for another day). Maybe it’s because it’s the home of the mythical State of Jefferson (a concept I can get behind), but I can tell you that the temperature drops 40 degrees once you drop from Siskiyou into Humboldt County, and it’s all because of the people.

On this absolutely gorgeous fall day, I was driving back from San Francisco, with an array of cameras in the car: my Canon 5D digital camera and lenses, a vintage Polaroid SX-70 plenty of film, a Mamiya 7II medium-format film camera and a vintage Voightlander 35mm rangefinder. I also had an odd creation, a lens sawed off of a plastic Holga camera that just barely fit on my 5D. This hack job focused poorly, with plenty of lens aberration, and had the tendency to fall off the camera if I moved too quickly. On this day, however, the combination of dreamy focus, plastic and the Shasta valley on a fall afternoon had a magic that worked. I’ve played with this image a couple of times over the years, but haven’t quite loved the results. The advancements in the latest version of Lightroom’s raw processor made me come back to it, and I spent a little bit of time there and in Perfect Effects to come up with a version I really like.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, with its plastic feel and lack of focus, but it brings me back to a place that I just love to be. Peace.

where is this?