Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunrise at Eureka Dunes

The beginning of a very beautiful day of adventure in Death Valley National Park :-) 

December on West Bearskin

What a sublime weekend on the Gunflint Trail!  It seemed like everyone was out having a great time, no matter what their pursuit of choice was.  I saw lots of snowmobilers, I met some snowshoers while hiking up to this overlook and then saw these 3 people in the distance skiing across the lake.  Everyone that I ran into had big smiles on their faces and were so amazed at how pretty everything was with the dumping of snow we just received!  Northeast Minnesota is an amazing place that I am thankful to call my home :-)  

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Year's Weekend - Heading to Hungry Jack

What a beautiful day!  I spent the afternoon taking in the sights and making some photographs along the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais, MN.  As the sun was setting I found myself on top of Honeymoon Bluff looking towards Hungry Jack Lodge.  As I was taking in the view a group of snowmobilers was heading across the lake towards the lodge.  I imagine they had an awesome day playing in all the fresh snow that just fell over the last couple of days!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The beauty after the storm

It's amazing what almost 20 inches of snow does to a landscape.  It turns into a photographic wonderland!  These photos were taken along the last few miles of Highway 61 in northeast Minnesota, just before reaching the Canadian border.  

Two Views of High Falls

Grand Portage State Park, MN - I'm sure by now most of you have heard Minnesota had a big snow storm yesterday.  In Grand Portage we received almost 20 inches of heavy, wet snow in less than 24 hours.  The power was out for a bit, and a lot of trees succumbed to the weight of the snow.  Still, there is a beauty during and just after a big snowstorm that is unparalleled.  Here are two photos of High Falls, Minnesota's tallest waterfall.  The first photo was taken yesterday during the storm and the second photo was taken this afternoon after the storm had passed.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Rising Moon over the Eureka Dunes

Death Valley National Park - I can't tell you how excited I was to finally be at the Eureka Dunes!  I had been wanting to visit this location for a long time.  As the last bit of daylight faded from the sky I was treated to an awesome view of the moon rising over the dunes.  Time to settle in for the night to get an early start climbing the dunes in the morning!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Exploring the Eureka Dunes

One of the most anticipated locations of my southwest trip: The Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park!  The tallest of the dunes towers 700 feet above the valley floor, making them the tallest sand dunes in California.  That's the same height as Mt. Josephine in Grand Portage!  Mt. Josephine is right in my back yard and when I look out my dining room window at it I still can't believe there are sand dunes that high!  I used my telephoto lens to zoom in and capture people exploring the dunes.  They're so tiny compared to the dunes, they look like little ants on the landscape. 

Entering Death Valley via Eureka Valley

The next leg of my trip would bring me through Death Valley National Park. I was really looking forward to this segment, as I've wanted to explore some of the more remote areas of Death Valley for quite some time.  I entered the park from the north, via Eureka Valley and my first planned visit was to be the Eureka Dunes.  Before arriving at the dunes, however, I had to stop and take a few photos while crossing the broad expanse of Eureka Valley.  

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bristlecone Pine Star Trails

These are the last Bristlecone Pine images I'm going to share with you.  I capped off my night in the White Mountains with a 27 minute exposure of this tree in the Schulman Grove, which is arguably my 'favorite' of the Bristlecones.  I just love the shape of this tree and how it lines up with the sky.  

Weathered Warrior

This particular tree in the Patriarch Grove of the Bristlecone Pine Forest blows my mind.  I can't believe it's still standing.  It has a pretty prominent lean and I can only imagine the wind and weather it has endured over it's multi-thousand year life span.  A weathered warrior for sure, still standing the test of time.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Ancient Earth meets Ancient Starlight

Last night was the longest night of the year.  In honor of that fact I've decided today to share my favorite night sky image from the White Mountains of California.  Ever since I first heard about the majestic Bristlecone Pines I wanted not only to simply see them, but also to photograph them at night.  It was a humbling experience to sit and contemplate the cosmos while taking in this view where ancient earth meets with ancient starlight.  

The most interesting thing I became aware of while basking in the presence of these amazing trees is that I felt a peace there unlike I've felt anywhere else.  Maybe it's the fact that I've been practicing mindfulness as much as possible when working on my photography, or maybe (probably) there is a special energy that exists there and I was feeling that.  I'd like to think it's a little bit of both and that one plays into the other.  At any rate I felt rejuvenated after my time with the Bristlecones and I came away with some images that I absolutely love.  

Friday, December 21, 2018

November Night Sky, Bristlecone Forest

Loving the California night sky, whether it's low elevation in the desert or the high elevations of the White Mountains.  Visiting the Golden State during the new moon phase and dedicating most nights of my trip to spending time under the stars was one of the best decisions I've made. 

First Stars in the Bristlecone Forest

So many things I love in California and right at the top of the list are the magnificent and mesmerizing Bristlecone Pines.  Bristlecones are among the longest-lived species on Earth.  The oldest individual is over 4,500 years of age.  The trees do very well where most other plants cannot even grow, such as in the high elevations of the White Mountains in California.  This particular tree is in the Patriarch Grove which resides at an elevation of about 11,000 feet.  The Patriarch Grove contains the world's largest Bristlecone Pine (not the tree pictured here).  

I love spending time in this area.  When I've been here it's always been very peaceful and quiet.  On this trip I specifically went here to photograph the trees at night.  I arrived in time for sunset but there weren't any clouds at all so I didn't capture very dramatic photographs as the sun as going down.  However that meant once the stars would come out I would have a terrific view of the night sky!  While I was waiting for the sky to get dark enough for the stars to show up, I wandered the grove and made a few images as day turned to night.  The image you see here is my favorite taken during that time period.  

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mojave Nights

Continuing my after-dark adventures in the southern California desert, I had an awesome time photographing the Milky Way in Mojave National Preserve.  I found this nice composition deep along the Cedar Canyon Road within the Preserve.  Since this is a high-ISO long exposure (25 seconds at ISO 3200), I could not leave my Jeep lights on during the exposure or they would have been completely overexposed.  So, what I did was start the Jeep at the tail end of the exposure using the remote start system.  When the Jeep starts up the tail lights give two rapid blinks.  It was the light from those two rapid blinks that lit up the Jeep and the ground around it.  I really like how it added to the effect of this photo!

In the photo below, I was wandering around on foot looking for interesting Joshua Trees to photograph off the edge of Cedar Canyon Road near where the above photo was taken.  It didn't take long for me to find this nicely shaped tree and the glow of the Las Vegas city lights in the background.  Las Vegas is about 60 miles away but as you know is absolutely LOADED with all kinds of lights so that glow carries quite a distance in the desert night.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Mojave Desert Sunset

No clouds but the sky sure had a beautiful glow after the sun went down in Mojave National Preserve, California!

Missing Mojave

I've been back home for a few weeks now (which is nice!) but at times I wish I was still wandering the off-pavement routes of Mojave National Preserve...

Monday, December 17, 2018

Mojave Backroads

I really enjoyed exploring the backroads of Mojave National Preserve in California.  So many beautiful sights along the various roads.  I can't wait to go back! Next time I'd like to bring my bike and do some pedaling along some of these backcountry routes.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Top of the Dunes

I found a couple more images from the Kelso Dunes that I wanted to share.  Giant sand dunes are so unbelievably pretty!  I spent half the day wandering through just a relatively small area of the overall dune field and I was absolutely blown away by the beauty.  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Climbing the Kelso Dunes

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe it was helpful to go to the top of the Kelso dunes in my mind before actually physically going there.  I think if I hadn't done that, I probably would have given up before reaching the top.  The main reason I say this is because of the wind, which was absolutely BRUTAL.  It's hard to believe, because you can't really see that in these images.  The photos look peaceful but when I was up on the crest of the dunes, I literally had to lean hard into the wind to keep from blowing over.  

Since I had already been to the top in my mind I knew that I didn't want to miss those views in person.  So, I persisted.  As I pushed on every nook and cranny of my clothing and camera gear that could hold sand did just that.  By the time I was back down off the dunes I had sand everywhere.  It was in my pants pockets, jacket pockets, in my hair, in my ears.  My shoes were packed tight with sand.  I lost count of how many times I had to lean into the wind and close my eyes while I waited for a long sustained gust to pass.  Luckily my camera gear did not sustain any damage.  After a thorough cleaning all was well.  The views and the resulting images were worth it.  I had an awesome experience, certainly one that I will never forget!

Watch this video to see just how windy it was!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Evening at Kelso Dunes

"Your body can't go where your mind hasn't already been."

A little nugget of wisdom I picked up at a training I was at last week. And it can be true on so many levels.  You can't really tell from the perspective of this photo, but that's a 600 foot tall sand dune on the horizon.  I arrived at this location too late in the day to try and hike to the top of the dune in time for sunset, but I was intent on getting there in the morning.  I went there in my mind first.  Imagining myself struggling up the side of the steep, sandy slope and the reward of the amazing views that I was sure awaited me at the summit.  I believe going there in my mind first was crucial to my success in making it to the top the next morning (more on that later).  

This is the Kelso dune field in Mojave National Preserve, California.  I first heard about these dunes about a year and a half ago or so and ever since then I've wanted to visit them.  They sure didn't disappoint.  The dunes are massive and as you approach them from the nearby highway they look like a gigantic wall of sand.  It was an amazing place to spend some time.  Like so many places I visited on this trip, I can't wait to go back!

Zen Moments

When I was in the southwest recently I experienced many supremely peaceful moments.  They occurred at all times of the day, but mostly they were at night as I gazed up at the stars.  I totally lost myself (in a good way) on that trip.  All thoughts of the past and future faded away and I was finding myself really being "in the moment" throughout each day.  It was a great feeling and one that I find difficult to hang onto when I'm in the normal daily routine of life back home.  I think it's a healthy exercise to try and put ourselves in that mindset as often as we can.  I know I feel better when I'm able to get there.  

Sometimes I like to do comparison shots of the same subject, which is what I've done here with this Joshua Tree which I photographed in Joshua Tree National Park.  The first image is a 25 second exposure and the second image is a 32 minute exposure.  It's always interesting to see what happens when you record the light at varying exposure lengths.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joshua Tree Nights

Continuing on with my goal of spending as much time as possible appreciating and photographing the night skies of the southwest, I spent an amazing night under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park.  I feel like I could bask in the glow of these stars forever...