Bryce Badlands

June 11, 2010

Bryce Badlands

The barren, colorful hills of Bryce Canyon National Park have intrigued me perhaps more than the hoodoos for which Bryce Canyon is so well known. I’ve always wanted to photograph them, and this particular evening I got my chance. However, this area of the park is accessed via a horse trail. Of course, where there are horses there is horse manure. Navigating the trail requires a strong stomach and strategic skills. In places it can be a disgusting, stinking mess. The stench can be so overpowering that the urge to gag is strong. Going down hill is usually tolerable, since you can hold your breath in bad spots. However, coming out of the canyon is another story. When you’re climbing the steep trails, carrying 30 lbs. of camera equipment, you get breathing hard. Holding your breath is not very possible, instead sucking in the horrid stench. It’s a miracle to me that I didn’t vomit. If you ever hike the horse trail, don’t wear sandals.

Fin Soup

June 7, 2010

Fin Soup

At 4:00 am the alarm went off. I quietly slipped out of the room in which I was sleeping so I wouldn’t wake the other guests. A few years ago I toyed with the idea of camping in southern Utah during the winter. I thought winter nights in the desert would be milder than in the north. However, during the past two winters, southeastern Utah has had some of the coldest temperatures I’ve experienced in my life. Temperatures (at the time I visited this area) regularly hovered around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. On the morning I took this photograph, the little thermometer on my backpack–if it can be trusted–read -5 degrees.

I arrived at the trailhead a little before 5:00 am. Of course, no one was there. I exited the car and quickly began to question my decision. It was dark. A two mile hike in sub-zero temperatures awaited me. I was all alone and began to wonder, “What if?” I knew that “if” something happened, someone would be along sooner or later. But did I want to lie in pain and the bitter cold, “if” something went wrong? Yet, I love the outdoors, and I knew what experiences awaited me.

I cautiously began the hike. After about a half mile I arrived in an area where a vast landscape could be observed under moonlight, I stopped and surveyed my surroundings. The sound of the wind gently blowing; the cold biting at my nose; the salient feeling of solitude, knowing that I’m alone in this incredible landscape, produced feelings that this terrain, though marvelous, demanded respect. I continued my solitary trek through the desolate, snow-drifted terrain. After arriving at this spot, I set up my tripod and waited for the sun.

Winter in Eden

June 4, 2010

Winter in Eden

The Garden of Eden in Arches National Park can be a challenging place to shoot. Finding an organized composition from the chaotic jumble of rocks took a little work. Light from a setting sun makes the rocks glow nicely. However, I wanted a unique image with snow on the rocks. After finally getting these two elements crossed off, I needed an evening with some interesting clouds. After several attempts, all three came together this particular night.

Not Gold

May 21, 2010

Not Gold

Steam rises from a dormant geyser near Yellowstone’s Old Faithful.

Wild and Rugged Tetons

May 5, 2010

Foramen the Tetons

If you’ve ever been to the Tetons from the last weekend in September to the first weekend in October, you’ve witnessed a beautiful sight. The changing colors anchoring the majestic mountain peaks is amazing. As you might imagine, such a scene attracts scores of people as well. Although the crowds can be very annoying, there is a certain vibrant energy throughout park. Interestingly, by the end of your trip, just as nature’s art display is winding down, so too are the crowds.

As I wandered the river bank alone on the last day of my trip, I came across this bone. Along with the grey overcast skies, it reflected my mood well. Just as the bone represented an end, the vibrancy of the past week too was dissipating. I melancholically procrastinated my departure. At one time, a free ranging animal had passed this way. How its end came, I didn’t know. It also occurred to me that there’s a different side of the Tetons I hadn’t realized before. Notwithstanding the hordes of people that visit the park every year, the Tetons remain a wild and rugged place.

Mountain Runoff

May 4, 2010

Mountain Runoff

Spring runoff swells this normally small, meandering stream. On this particular evening, I had high hopes for an incredible sunset due to all the dramatic clouds. However, by the time evening arrived, all that remained was some rather flat light and no color. But it wasn’t a complete waste. A black and white conversion made things interesting.

Removing Hard to Find Dust Spots

April 10, 2010

Perhaps the most common problem with digital photography is the accumulation of dust spots on the digital sensor. However, not all dust spots are created equally. Some spots are less obvious than others and can be difficult to detect. Here’s an easy way to find the elusive spots.

1) After opening your file, create a new blank layer (Layer>New>Layer…, Click OK). This will create a checkerboard-looking layer.

2) Select the clone tool. I love using keystrokes, so select it by pressing ‘S’. This will open a Clone Stamp menu just below the Photoshop menu. Make sure the Sample menu is set to “Current & Below”.

3) Click on the blank layer and begin normally cloning by sampling an adjacent space near the spot and cloning over the spot. You’ll be painting on the blank layer, but that’s OK since it’s sampling the pixels of the layer(s) below the blank one.

4) Here’s where we go after the subtle spots. Above the “blank” layer (it’s not blank anymore since it contains data from the sampled layers below), create a curves adjustment layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves…>. This will create a new layer ABOVE all the other layers. Grab the diagonal line and drag it down. Your image will look horrible, but that’s OK. Continue adjusting the curved line until you see other spots. You can also put another point on the curve and move that around to bring out spot details in the sky; creating an S shaped curve can be quite helpful. Your picture will probably look really horrible by now, but that’s OK.

5) Once you can see the dust spots, click back on the “blank” clone layer. Again, and this is very important, make sure the “Current & Below” sample menu is selected. Begin cloning the other spots. Once done, simply delete the above curves layer. Your picture will return to normal and the elusive pesky spots will be gone.