Sunset in the Badlands


Over the past year and a half, I have discovered many beautiful places in this country, and camped in sites that provided gorgeous vistas, but few compare to this place: the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which is immediately outside the Badlands National Park (and managed by the US Forest Service). I boondocked here in the Escape for a single evening last month, and was utterly captivated by the vastness of the landscape and its quietude. The camping spots were primitive, and there were about 20 campers along the ridge over a few miles, but it still felt like my own personal park. (The gentleman sitting on the right of the trailer in this shot was strumming on a guitar, which provided a lovely small interlude as the sun set.)

I would have spent days up on this ridge, but I had to move on (and it was due for days of rain, which wouldn’t have been as fun). I also wish Susan had been with me—there is magic in this place—but we’ve talked about it, and we’ll get back there together.

This is a five-frame panorama shot with my iPhone and stitched together in Lightroom. Click on it to see it bigger.

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Capitol Reef sunset

We just spent a beautiful week in Capitol Reef National Park, a gem of a place tucked into the middle of Utah. There were a few weather challenges here and there, but we found plenty of time to get out and see the magnificence of the park and the area. (If you want to see the glorious beauty that is Utah, and you don’t want to deal with the crowds at Zion, Bryce or Moab, you need to go to Capitol Reef—seriously.)

On our last night at the park, Susan and I went out for a shower and a burger on a cool, windy evening, and on our way back to camp, we stopped at a viewpoint. The skies and the rock cliffs were so beautiful, and the light changing so quickly that I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a bunch of photos. Back in the trailer, I stitched 4 frames into the panorama above.

(We’ll have a bit more about Capitol Reef on our blog, once we’ve caught our breath and schedule some writing time.)

clearing mist, waldo lake


Recently, Sue and I spent some time camping at one of her favorite places, Waldo Lake. It’s a lovely part of Oregon, and we had a few beautiful days roaming around the lake. On this morning, the lake was beautiful and calm, with a gorgeous sky, albeit one with many contrails from the planes overhead–we can’t seem to miss that.

This two-image panorama was stitched in Lightroom CC and processed in black and white in the new ON1 Photo 10 app, which is coming soon. (Click on the images to see them larger.)

The color version is below. The panorama was exported at 6,000 pixels wide, but the iPhone shots are the originals. What’s interesting to me when I look at them is how painterly the leaves on the trees are. from a distance, the image looks very sharp. Close up, however, the leaves aren’t that at all. I don’t think this makes the image any less good; it’s just an interesting perspective.





the shot that was

hood-sunset-2015Sometimes, the shot you see in your head doesn’t show up until after you’ve packed up and headed back down the mountain. Last Sunday, at sunset, I shot the crazy clouds around Mount Hood for about an hour, before turning my attention to the actual sun setting in the west (see the previous entry). It was getting cold, and the light was draining from the sky, so I carefully packed my gear back into my bag and started walking down the stairs to the car. As I turned towards Hood one last time, I saw this scene and snapped a few quick shots with my phone, which I had in my hand.

Of course, once I got to the car and looked at what I had, I cursed quite loudly to myself. Why I didn’t take the time to set up the shot with my “real” camera, carefully on the tripod? Then, I certainly would have gotten the photo that was in my head.

Clearly, I’m not the photographer I think I am. Well, here’s the reality of that moment: it was dark; I was tired from the day’s 200-mile drive through the Gorge; my shoulder was screaming at me; I was chatting with a photographer I had just met; I wasn’t sure there was even a picture there; et cetera et cetera. So I clicked a few frames and moved on.

All of that angst was for naught, however: this is a good shot. And who cares that it was taken with an iPhone? Would another 12 megapixels made it that much better of a shot? No, because I would have lost the rapidly dwindling light of the blue hour, and would have taken too long to figure out which lens to use and set up the scene. And, the painterly quality of this photo gives it a glow that might have been lost with a 24-megapixel camera and fine Zeiss glass. (Plus, I got to put a version of this shot up on Instagram right away.)

I’ve been going up to Larch Mountain for more than 10 years, and what’s really funny is that I can’t find a single image in my photo library taken from this vantage point. It is probably the stairs, which are quite busy at sunset, but you’d think, after all the times that “Use the foreground!” has been pounded into my consciousness by photographers better than me, that I would have tried it once or twice. It took a cameraphone to help me think a bit differently about a place I’ve been shooting for years.

Now, of course, I’ll be checking this viewpoint every time I go to Larch. I’ll mark the photo in my library with the ‘revisit’ tag, but, like many of those images, the best ones are always the original.



Went to an amazing restaurant in New York this week, called The Cannibal. I’m on a variant of the Paleo diet right now, and this place was right up my alley. Liz and I found it on Yelp, of all places, and it was three blocks from where we were standing at the time.

It was a great combination of house-made sausages, the chef’s own prosciutto, wonderful veggie plates and more. Liz got to sample the huge array of European-style beers, while I just drank in the atmosphere. Finding a place like this is one of the reasons I love coming to NY with my daughter — we always seem to luck out like this at least one night during our stays.

This was a pretty straightforward iPhone shot of the entryway into the restaurant. The beer fridges are on the right and the left, and the bar is straight ahead. I processed is lightly in Perfect Effects 8’s Dynamic Contrast filter.

the pearl


I’ve been shooting a lot with the iPhone lately, and have largely been posting results to my Instagram feed (I’m bigbuckaroo over there, if you’re interested). I’ve been treating these as different shots than the ones I upload here, but I need to remind myself that it’s a camera like any other. It has strengths and weaknesses, and I can get good work out of it.

I love the iPhone because of its camera. It lets me be quick and spontaneous, and it demands that I share. I don’t have to take photos back to my Mac, sort through them, think about processing, cropping, and other editing tasks: I can just shoot with one of the 10 or so apps that I’ve come to rely on, share, and be done with it. It brings back some of the spontaneity and creativity that I had when shooting with film, especially with Polaroid cameras.[1. My friend Terri turned me on to the work of Dan Marcolina, which I hadn’t heard about before. You can see a gallery of his iPhone shots on Flickr, and, if you’re intrigued further, check out the (very busy) site dedicated to his iPhone Obsessed book and app.]

This image is a case in point. One of the things that I loved with film cameras was the capability to create multiple exposures, and I’ve wished that I could create that effect inside a digital camera. I have that now on the iPhone, with an app called Slow Shutter Cam, and it reminds me of my Holga multiple-exposure experiments from a few years ago. I spent one summer shooting almost exclusively with a Holga, generating plenty of failures, some “interesting” results, and at least one image that I really love.

That whole time, it was a blast going to the processor to pick up my developed film and contact sheets; I never knew what I was going to get. Slow Shutter Cam is a lot like that. I have a slew of stuff that I’ve shot that gets deleted immediately, and I’m still not sure whether it’s an app with “legs,” but it’s tons of fun to play with.[2. If you’d like to see some great stuff shot with this app, check out this blog post by Julieanne Kost; she’s one of the most creative iPhoneographers out there, and wonderful photographer and teacher in general.]

Anyway, I love the painterly effect I got shooting a multiple exposure of this street in the Pearl district, early in the morning before most folks were heading to work.[3. A highly processed version of this photo was posted on Instagram, but I prefer this image.] I know it’s not an effect that will resonate with everyone, but I love it, and I think it will make a lovely print.

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missing photography


I haven’t felt much like a photographer lately–for various reasons, and despite my best intentions–but I have been looking at a lot of other folks’ work. That’s been good. I love to look at photographs; I have lots of lovely books and places to go on the web, and there are many wonderful artists out there, both famous and obscure.[1. Like Vivian Maier, who I think will be famous, if posthumously. I look at her work, especially her portraits, and find myself wondering what she was like, as a photographer. Did she talk about her work with friends over drinks? Or was she just obsessed, driven only to click, develop, print and stack?]

But, I do need to get out of this rut I’m in, and I’ve decided that what I really need to do is some printing. I love to print.[2. In case you were wondering, old friends, Printerville is back up and running. You can find out about it all in this post. Yay!] One of the things that I’ve learned about myself over the years is that, if I’m feeling at a dead-end behind the camera, I should turn to the print.[3. My good friend Duncan tells me this.] The magic of the print was how I got started down this road in the first place, and there are times when it’s good to go back to the beginning.

As a result, l’ve been going through a bunch of my work from the past six to nine months, with an eye towards creating some long-overdue prints that need to go on walls and into the post. This has naturally led me through images from the cross-country trip Liza and I took in early June. For me, though, this simple photo of my daughter, charged up to shoot with her 4×5 camera, and taken quickly with my iPhone on a cold and windy peak on the back side of the middle of Wyoming, will be the image of that trip. It’s not much, but I see a moment that has since become a touchstone for that short but lovely week (head colds and all). Looking at it reminds me why I can get so charged up about taking a photo, and why it’s such an emotional connection for me.

It also reminds me that I miss America, but that’s another story.

america (v1)


If you’ve been looking over here for photos recently and been wondering what’s up, I apologize. I’ve been roaming quite a bit over the past month — for various reasons — and haven’t really had much chance to go through and actually sort/edit the pix I have taken. I have a bunch of things I will be posting, but right now, I’m sorting through the photos I took last week, while on a cross-country trip with my daughter. We had planned this epic, roving photo trip, and, in preparation, brought out all the cameras and lenses we’ve got to muster for such an expedition. Unfortunately, we each got seriously sick, and ended up making a beeline from Boston to Portland as quickly as we could get.

While that might seem like a big drag, we ended up having a blast taking pictures with our iPhone/iPad and Instagram, and ended up with some stuff that we’re each proud of. While we were in the midst of the trip, I got this idea for a collage/mosaic that might actually be almost as cool (to me, I understand if it’s not to you) as our initial, “we’re-going-to-document-America-with-our-big-ass-cameras,” approach.

I’m not done yet, but this is my first stab at what I’m thinking about. (Click the image above to see it bigger.) I’ll be working on it for a few weeks, and I have ideas about what I will end up with, but I do have a final print in mind — and a few more images I’m mulling over. Feel free to chime in with any thoughts.

If you want to see the raw Instagram feed, I’m ‘bigbuckaroo’ over there…if you’re not on Instagram, you can see some of the full-size images via the links below, including a few that I haven’t decided about: