Death Valley is one of my favorite places on this planet…
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.
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 projects1 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
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.Notes:
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a rather unbelievable place, 422 square miles of wilderness tucked deep in the southernmost part of Oregon, at 4,000 feet. It is primitive and magnificent, and we were fortunate to spend a week there in September, among the antelope, coyotes, birds, jackrabbits and more. It is definitely a place worth exploring — and revisiting.
I took many photos, but few of them seem to capture the raw beauty of the place.
This shot was taken in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, which is about 60 miles southeast of Moab, Utah. Susan found this location while out on an all day hike, and suggested that it might be a nice place for catching the sunset.
This was a glorious evening, spent in a little-visited part of Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons. I was up at about 7,000 feet, with snow on the ground, a brisk wind in the air and a temperature of 39°F. That said, I was prepared for both the elements and a gorgeous sunset. I wasn’t disappointed.
This is a three-image panorama, taken with the Sony A7RII and the Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35 mm f/4 lens.1 I have a couple of other sunset images to post from this evening (I posted a version of one on Facebook the other day, but I still need to go through the batch to find the right one.)
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.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect when we went to Mykonos; I knew there would be beautiful blue water, beaches, and a quaint old village somewhere with white-washed exteriors and blue doors. I didn’t expect gorgeous rolling, arid hills with rock walls coralling sheep, goats, and the occasional cow or horse.
Our lodgings were an old windmill high up on a hill overlooking a gorgeous bay (stocked with expensive yachts and sailboats, no less), and we didn’t have to go far to find photo opportunities. The previous shot, at sunrise, was a short hike away from our windmill. This one was on the ridge opposite ours. We were hoping that we would get a beautiful full moon rising over the island, but it was too hazy on the horizon for that, so I changed my view, back along the stone wall in front of me. I snapped a few shots, and then, Hudson and I high-tailed it to the other side of the ridge to see if we could get a shot of the setting sun. I don’t think I really got anything post-worthy there, but I think Hudson did. I’ll post a link when he does, but, in the meantime, please check out his slideshow of photos taken so far on his European adventure — he is an unbelievably creative photographer, and I learn something every time I go out into the field with him.
Recently, Susan and I went to see “Mr. Turner,” a movie that I have been dying to see, about the great 19th-century British painter, J.M.W. Turner. The movie was odd–with occasionally impenetrable dialogue and almost no exposition whatsoever–yet I found it compelling and thought-provoking in the end.[1. In a nutshell: if you could figure what was being said, riddle out out who was who (and who was really important to the story), and not be driven crazy by the random dissonance of the soundtrack, you very well might be fascinated by the lengthy character study of an eccentric, seemingly misogynistic man who also happened to be a genius painter. Not a qualified rave, but I am glad that I saw it.]
Thinking about the movie brought me back to a series of images I made early last year on Sauvie Island with Hudson (I’ve posted two photos: cormorants, sauvie island and love and fearlessness). I love the fog and the diffuse light that it often brings with it, and I had tried to work up a few landscapes that incorporated the river, the distant bank, and the clearing fog. I never really did anything with those shots, but last week, thinking about the light on that day, I decided to go back and view the series with a fresh set of eyes. Here’s one view…[2. I’m not equating myself with Turner; it’s more that I have always loved the way he dealt with light, detail and the vastness of a landscape, and he’s one of the artists that has inspired me. And, thinking about painting when looking at a scene with a camera is never a bad thing, in my opinion. I wasn’t channeling him when I was in the field here, but I do have a vision of creating photos in the fog that have both painterly and photographic qualities.]