Joshua Tree I (for Richard)

I have just returned from a tour of the deserts of the Southwest: Death Valley, Palm Desert, Joshua Tree, and the Valley of Fire. It was good for Susan and me to be down that way: the desert nourishes us, especially in the late winter and early spring. I also received a lovely gift during our trip: the welcome return of the photographic spirit, which had been largely absent for me last year.

Today, as I was editing some photos from the trip, I learned that an old friend, Richard Wanderman, passed away earlier this month while I was largely incommunicado. I had known that he was seriously ill, and that his illness was most likely terminal, but I had hoped that he might make a bit of a recovery. He was often on my mind during my travels, but I wasn’t online enough to check about his condition.

I’ve known Richard in one way or another since the 1980s: he was a subscriber to my newsletter MacInTouch (which I published with my friend Ric), although our interactions were largely at trade shows. After a number of years in the ‘90s where we had minimal contact, Richard reconnected with me on Flickr. Since that time, we have had a wonderful ongoing photographic discussion, with the occasional detour into personal topics. Richard was one of the people who commented regularly on my essays and photographs, and he had deeply felt words of encouragement and care for me during Lee’s illness and after her death. I valued our connection, even if it was electronic and occasional.

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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.

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.

[where is this?]

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.)

yet another larch mountain sunset (panorama)

larch-sunset-2016-panorama

One of my favorite places in the Portland area is Larch Mountain. I’ve been photographing there for years at all hours of the day, and one of the things I love is spending a sunset atop the mountain. Despite the small platform at the summit, Larch often has a party atmosphere at sunset, especially during the summer. That’s where my pal Duncan and I first met the wonderful Hudson Henry, and I’ve witnessed marriage proposals, champagne toasts, and what seems like a million photographers while on the mountain.

When I first went to Larch, it bugged me that this big rock got in the way of the sunset, but once I discovered the wonder of the silhouette, I was hooked on looking west at least a few times while shooting Mt. Hood off to the east. And, despite the fact that a silhouette is a silhouette is a silhouette, I keep seeing different sides to them, as with this shot.

This is a three-shot panoramic merge of an iPhone 6s photo, and it’s better than anything I shot with my Sony A7RII that evening. A lot of tines, the phone will blow out the highlights in a sunset, but I seemed to get the light at the right time, while playing with the exposure.[1. While framing your image, click and hold to lock focus and exposure on the brightest spot, then drag down to lower the exposure a little bit.] I’m continually amazed at how many of my favorite shots from the past year have come from that pocket camera. (I’ll have another in a day or so.)

Click on the image above to see it bigger. See my other Larch Mountain shots.

sunset, Pine Valley Peak

sunset, pine valley peak

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 keep thinking that the lens isn’t all that great, when compared with my trusty old Canon 16-35 mm F/2.8L, and then I see something like this when I’m back at my Mac.] 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.)

[where is this? | see it bigger]

sunset in the valley (panorama)

sunset in the valley pano

I’m currently camped in Valley of Fire State Park, north of Las Vegas. I’ve been coming here for years, but I have never seen the desert as green as it is right now; this is a banner year for the deserts of southern California and Nevada, and we’ve been lucky to see the blooms (although we wish we had made a detour to Death Valley on our way down).

There are wildflowers everywhere, but what’s really stuck with me is the different shades of green that are everywhere — even up into the mountains. There are shades of green that range from the bright greens you see in a baseball park, to the earthy slate greens of olive branches, to the warm yellowish greens of spring trees in Portland. I’ve been struggling with trying to get that range photographically. Here’s one attempt, from this beautiful valley I’ve been looking at every evening.

Click to see it larger.[1. I know there’s an issue with the top of the image getting cut off when you view it larger; I’m looking into it, but won’t really be able to get it fixed until I’m in a place with better–and more regular–wifi.]

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.

clearing mist, waldo lake

waldo-lake-original-pano-bw

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.

waldo-lake-original-pano-color