Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2017

Start it up! - SW Road Trip Spring 2017

Lenticular clouds shifted and slithered for hours entertaining us in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA, early on our spring 2017 road trip. More photos below.

We're back from five weeks touring the Southwest and Texas, and, as usual, I have way too many photos and stories. I rarely have time to blog while traveling in our small  Roadtrek van, but I attempt to jot down a daily account of trip highlights. I'm looking at it now, and deciding how to start. How about at the beginning?

The real beginning, of course, is a belief that life is short and we need to forget about amassing material treasures and instead gather treasured moments while we're able. Travel is one way to become a collector of experiences, and it is good.

In mid-March we drove from our southern Oregon home to Beatty, NV stopping a couple nights in Reno to admire the grandchildren. We need a grandkid fix every couple months so their adorable selves don't disappear, in our absence, into children we hardly know, and who don't know us. Most of our road trips involve a night or two with them, coming or going. Ok. Just one photo. 

 Noah and Hadley sharing a secret. She may be asking him if he has bacon to share. 

The Actual Trip

Beatty, NV on Hwy 95 is a gateway to Death Valley, and as such, has developed a quirky character. It's good to spend a night there, or nearby, if only to get an early start into the park, the entrance to which is just 32 miles west. Early morning light in Death Valley is not to be missed. Get up early!

During a road trip to the Southwest in 2007, we stopped at Rhyolite, a ghost town just a few miles outside Beatty en route to Death Valley.  It's well worth your time. We stopped again this year, for old time's sake, to discover that it's even better now. Something important we've learned after thousands of road miles; it isn't just the national parks and famous attractions that make traveling's also Rhyolite and other roadside oddities, small surprises that you often enjoy in blissful solitude, as we did in Rhyolite, or a sparse crowd, as in the Alabama Hills. (Coming right up!)

These ghostly Last Supper sculptures in Rhyolite are eerie and evocative. 
Rhyolite sculptures appear to gang up on our van. Also at Rhyolite: a house made from glass bottles, a colorful stone mosaic sofa, and a huge labyrinth. 
The sofa had been brightened up since we last saw it.
We've explored Death Valley several times, including during the 2016 Super Bloom (many photos) so  we put on blinders and drove through. Without the blinders, the park's beauty may have sucked us in again. But we had other plans.

Climbing out of Death Valley over the Panamint Mountains into California, however, we stopped for a quick hike at a place we'd missed on earlier trips, Father Crowley Point Overlook. Surprise!
These photographers, plus a few more, were clearly waiting, but for what?  They seemed pleased at our interest, even offering us a cold beer, and told breathless tales about having seen fighter jets fly through the canyon below them several times, including earlier this same day. Once was not enough; these guys were hoping for a rare appearance by the Blue Angels. We hung around for an hour or so before our need to find a camp near Lone Pine, CA, became greater than our desire to see screaming fast jets make impossibly tight turns through the narrow canyon.
Imagine fighter jets flying below this canyon's rim. According to the photographers, they do so almost daily. Check it out, should you find yourself at Father Crowley Point.

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

Just outside Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills rest in the glory of their movie days —at least 150 films or TV productions since the 1920s—while most travelers scoot by on the ultra scenic Hwy. 395, not knowing what they're missing. Alabama Hills, managed by the BLM, is a jumble of impressive  puffy-looking rocks and formations with the Sierra Nevadas, including Mt. Whitney, as a backdrop. 

Sunrise as seen from our dispersed campsite in the Alabama Hills. The Sierra Nevada Mountains glow in the early light, including Mt. Whitney, with the Hills in the foreground. We didn't arrive until after 3 p.m. the previous day, and had to hunt for a camp. Not bad, since it was spring break. There an official campground, where we stayed on an earlier road trip, before we learned that we could just drive around and camp any place that wasn't blocked to preserve vegetation. I don't think there's a boring view in the Hills. A person could spend a few days exploring on foot, including a loop trail to a famous arch. This place is a gem. 

Photography bonanza

Since our trip to Africa in 2013,  during which my best travel day ever occurred, I've come to see the world through a camera lens. I don't think of photography as missing out on the moment, but an opportunity to see more closely, more clearly, to be more aware of how landscapes and people intersect, and how light, color and form create magic. The light on the mountains in the panoramic photo above lasted a minute or two, max. I caught this view shortly after I awakened in the van and peeked out of my mountainside window. The sky was pink! The mountains were golden!

I threw on pants and a jacket, leapt from the van, snapped the photo above and a couple more, then RAN to the nearby Mobious Arch, maybe a quarter mile away, the object of which was to frame the sunrise on the mountains through the window of the arch. I was carrying my Lumix Panasonic camera, which I purchased for that fabulous trip to Africa, but I mostly used an iPhone7Plus. Except for telephoto shots, I now prefer the phone to the Lumix.
I documented our location on the Earth before charging toward the Mobius Arch. The light had already changed. Still good, but lacked the glow present just a minute earlier.
By the time I got to the arch, the pink sky and golden light on the mountains had disappeared, but the sun now shone gold on the arch. How fleeting the moments of beauty, and how relative. Had I not seen the pink and intense gold a short time earlier, I would have thought this photo was great. Next time I'll set an alarm.
That's a relatively small photography vantage point that I asked permission to share with a pro photographer who beat me to the arch by a half hour! He was most gracious. When I started to leave after light faded on the mountains, he urged me to wait for the sun to light up the arch. The sun obliged in a minute or two. 
The Alabama Hills have set the scene for numerous film and TV
productions, many of them Westerns.The couple above are modeling
for an outdoor gear catalog. 

Sunset the previous night saw the lenticular clouds settling into the Sierra Nevadas.

We sipped wine in our camp chairs, grateful for the present moment and those still ahead of us on road, where many surprises awaited. 
Next up: Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Galapagos Islands — like nowhere else

Email subscribers, please click on the post's title to see it on the website, which is more eye pleasing.
How did I get this crisp brown pelican's portrait? I was close. I mean  C L O S E.  Perhaps four feet away, crouched in the sand at eye level with my calm and curious subject.
In the Galapagos Islands the wildlife is habituated to people, as if humans are a natural part of their desert island world. To keep it that way, the Galapagos Islands National Park has issued 14 strictly enforced tourist rules including one that says don't get too close. Others include no feeding the wildlife, don't stray beyond the trails or marked areas, and always be be accompanied by a guide.

I had unwittingly broken the no-closer-than-six-feet from wildlife rule.

Later that day, while snorkeling, I shattered this rule again as I bobbed up to clear my mask and was shocked to find myself nose to beak with a floating pelican. They're big! The bird was unruffled. It didn't fly off or make any move to escape my unexpected and immediate presence.

At that point, the pelican needed to observe rules not to scare the crap out of tourists!

Actually, I was thrilled. I think I had the biggest smile within a 50-mile radius.

It was amazing. I will never again see a pelican without recalling the special moments I enjoyed that day. Many more incredible wildlife episodes thrilled me and my companions during the eight days we sailed, hiked, and snorkeled in the Galapagos Islands.

Our floating home in the Galapagos accommodates 16, but there were just 13 including PK and me and our friends and fellow Oregonians, Laurie Gerloff and Steve Lambros. Small yachts are a popular way to tour the islands. Many others choose to stay on an island or two or more. For us, not having to book hotels, find restaurants, hire qualified guides to take us to wildlife areas and snorkeling was worth the few downsides. The yacht was, as they say, pricey, but included all meals and an on-board naturalist who guided us daily on land and sea. Snorkeling! Every day! 
 Our guide, Efren, is a knowledgeable Galapagos native. Visitors 
cannot explore without a guide and must stay on marked trails. 
I confess that before our December trip, I had misgivings. I've seen sea lions, iguanas, turtles and birds galore in the wild, in pictures, and in films. Why would I pay big bucks to see more?

Uncharacteristically wise, I kept these doubts to myself.

Good for me as I was wrong. So wrong.

The sheer volume of wildlife alone is astounding. It's insanely beautiful, exotic, and exciting to step around and over hundreds of creatures during a couple hours of slow hiking over lava and sand, and on paths through thickets of brush including the eerie white palo santo (incense) trees endemic to the islands, and the occasional pond fringed by lush vegetation. The trees were beginning to bud during our visit, which in that part of the world, was early spring.
In this photo at least 10 birds are visible and others are flying overhead. Marine iguanas and Sally lightfoot crabs are likely on the lava rocks, and other birds are no doubt perched in the white palo santo trees. Nearby we'd viewed frigate birds dive bombing nesting flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies nuzzling on their lava perch, Pacific green sea turtles swimming past our dinghy, and more and more and more.
Many species we saw exist only in the Galapagos Islands and were central to Charles Darwin developing the theory of evolution. 

I've evolved  into the sort of person who gets a huge charge out of photographing wildlife, and it's likely there are few places on earth more satisfying to be a camera freak than the Galapagos Islands.

For the most part, the various species carry on as if you aren't there. If you laid down on the sand or lava, they'd just walk right over you and maybe pick through your hair for morsels.
A bird - a Galapagos mockingbird, I think -  perched upon a marine iguana may just be seeking higher elevation, or perhaps she's looking for a snack lodged in the iguana's armor.

I'll shut up now and share more of my favorite images from a magical week.

Steve and Laurie enjoy up close the sight and sounds(!) of a baby sea lion suckling.

The pup's noisy suckling was entertaining. Our presence didn't
appear to affect any of the hundreds of sea lions we observed during the
week. Sand in the eyes doesn't seem to bother them either.
Unabashed sun worshipping is common. I love the sea lion's glossy coat and burnished colors.
         Blue-footed boobies are common in the Galapagos. 

Even more common are the colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs, which occupy seashore lava. 

A Sally Lightfoot crab appears to be pursuing an oystercatcher, but is headed for the water. 

   Here's another oystercatcher, nesting. What an odd eye with an iris that seems to be leaking. 

Marine iguanas, like most amphibians, love to luxuriate in the sunshine. I never made personal contact with an iguana, but that guy in the middle seems to be giving me the eye. I just now noticed that their lips look like tires. So prehistoric looking.  
Nice top knot on this snoozing sunbathing iguana, which, with all that pink, must be a female. :)
I was surprised and delighted to see a few flamingos. Our guide explained that prolonged drought has dried up some of their habitat, and usually they can be seen in flocks of 50 or more. 

                                          The common stilt doesn't look at all common to me. 
Galapagos great blue heron in a mangrove lagoon. These herons aren't as blue as the ones we're used to seeing in the Pacific Northwest, but every bit as graceful and eye-catching.

This yellow warbler wandered around on the beach as if she hadn't a care or an enemy. 
                        Vermillion flycatcher.  We were fortunate to see one, according to our guide.
An inspiring sunrise on a Galapagos morning. I was up early for the usual two-hour hike followed by an hour or so of snorkeling. Snorkeling every day! Next up - a post about sea life and a bit more about taking the yacht route to exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Earlier posts about Ecuador travels 2016

Amazon Adventure - Kapawi Ecolodge  - All about tramping around in the rainforest, gaining insights into Achuar culture, and seeing how various rainforest plants are used for just about everything from housing construction to medicine to spiritual enlightenment.

Off to a shaky start at Kapawi Ecolodge   But it was all good, even the fishtailing bush plane and the drink made from manioc and spit.

Wild in the Amazon - photos and some amateur anthropology

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Garden Show & Tell

Lily in the front flower garden.

Day lilies, woodruff and climbing roses along the garden fence.
Garlic is about ready to harvest and will keep us supplied for a year.

Early summer 2011. Tractor isn't used in the garden, but PK uses it for hauling and mowing.  Yesterday he attached an auger to it  to dig post holes  for fencing a soon-to-be pasture. Livestock may be in our future. 

Roses with hills reflected in living room windows. 
Day lilies and climbing roses.

Lily and purple yarrow.

So-sweet beets.
Beets before harvesting. Roughly a third were taken.
Stir fry tonight!
Onions and lettuce.
Home sweet home.