100 Days of National Parks: Day 63 – Storm Shadow – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Rising up above the valley floor outside of Cortez Colorado onto the towering bluff of Mesa Verde, it’s easy to get distracted by the view of the southern Rockies to the northeast. The towering snow-covered peaks beckon, trying to pull wanderers like myself deeper into their midst. Climbing up the winding road into Mesa Verde at sunrise, I found my gaze continuously drawn to the amazing sunrise, and the looming shadow of a late spring storm descending on the mountains. It was one of the most spectacular vistas I’ve ever come across, and as a result, I arrived at my intended destination far later than I’d planned.

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Storm Shadow

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Rising up above the valley floor outside of Cortez Colorado onto the towering bluff of Mesa Verde, it’s easy to get distracted by the view of the southern Rockies to the northeast.  The towering snow-covered peaks beckon, trying to pull wanderers like myself deeper into their midst.  Climbing up the winding road into Mesa Verde at sunrise, I found my gaze continuously drawn to the amazing sunrise, and the looming shadow of a late spring storm descending on the mountains.  It was one of the most spectacular vistas I’ve ever come across, and as a result, I arrived at my intended destination far later than I’d planned.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 63 – Storm Shadow – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 51 – Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park

One of the great challenges that I find as I travel and advance my photography career, is fighting the ever-present threat of desensitization to the beauty of the places I go and photograph. It hasn’t happened yet, though I’ve felt it creeping in, in amazingly beautiful places that I’ve been to several times, or seen in countless photos from other artists I admire. There are certain places that seem almost over-shot, places that you’ve seen countless times online or as prints in galleries, and so seeing them in person loses some of its luster, and photographing them almost becomes a chore. I’ve seen it in other photographers, arriving at a spot just to shoot it and get it over with, the passion and spark that led them to chasing those shots in the first place replaced with irritation at the process of capturing it.

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Mesa Arch Sunrise

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One of the great challenges that I find as I travel and advance my photography career, is fighting the ever-present threat of desensitization to the beauty of the places I go and photograph.  It hasn’t happened yet, though I’ve felt it creeping in, in amazingly beautiful places that I’ve been to several times, or seen in countless photos from other artists I admire.  There are certain places that seem almost over-shot, places that you’ve seen countless times online or as prints in galleries, and so seeing them in person loses some of its luster, and photographing them almost becomes a chore.  I’ve seen it in other photographers, arriving at a spot just to shoot it and get it over with, the passion and spark that led them to chasing those shots in the first place replaced with irritation at the process of capturing it.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 51 – Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 17 – Flaring Arch, Arches National Park

Sometimes a thunderstorm can be the best time to visit a National Park, as evidenced by my recent trip to Arches in October of 2015. Chasing, and being chased, by thunderstorms all week, I found myself in Moab during a deluge of rain on the way to visit this park just north of town. The rain at one point was so heavy, it became nearly impossible to see out the windshield, and my traveling companion and I had to stop and wait it out.

We watched the weather system on our phones and determined that there would, surprisingly, be a window to catch sunset, so we hopped back in the car and headed into the park, watching as dozens of cars lined up to leave, having been washed out during the storm. We drove into the park, and found it almost entirely empty of people, a profoundly exciting experience anytime you can be fortunate enough to have it. Popular parks like Arches or Zion are rarely so empty, and when you get the chance to have a park to yourself, as we did that day, you relish the unique opportunity to see it without fighting all the crowds.
One opportunity I couldn’t pass up was taking the short walk out to Double Arch in the Windows Section of the park, an experience I’d avoided in my previous visits because there were always throngs of people clambering on the rocks trying to get a picture. To see it empty, and to have the opportunity for an unimpeded shot of sunset through the arch, was almost too much excitement for me to handle.

The sandstone on the arch was still wet from the storm that had passed through not an hour prior, and the dampness gave new meaning to the term “slick-rock.” Having fallen in similar circumstances before, and knowing the danger of wet sandstone, I nevertheless gingerly climbed up to a vantage point across from the western opening in the arch, just as the sun was dipping over the horizon, catching this brilliant light show through the opening.

This image is actually a composite image of a dozen independent shots, each slightly off angle to catch the lens flares at a different perspective. The resultant explosion of light is one of my favorite happy accidents, and made the experience all the sweeter.

Yesterday was the start of National Park week, a fee-free week at all of the 59 U.S. National Parks in the country. Though it’s highly unlikely you’ll have a park to yourself as I did in this case, I encourage everyone to get out and explore a bit. I myself celebrated with an impromptu road trip out to John Day National Monument in eastern Oregon, a place I’d been to as a child but had no memory of, and I’m so glad I did. I hope everyone has a similar opportunity to get out and enjoy our National Parks this week.

Flaring Arch

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Sometimes a thunderstorm can be the best time to visit a National Park, as evidenced by my recent trip to Arches in October of 2015.  Chasing, and being chased, by thunderstorms all week, I found myself in Moab during a deluge of rain on the way to visit this park just north of town.  The rain at one point was so heavy, it became nearly impossible to see out the windshield, and my traveling companion and I had to stop and wait it out.

We watched the weather system on our phones and determined that there would, surprisingly, be a window to catch sunset, so we hopped back in the car and headed into the park, watching as dozens of cars lined up to leave, having been washed out during the storm.  We drove into the park, and found it almost entirely empty of people, a profoundly exciting experience anytime you can be fortunate enough to have it.  Popular parks like Arches or Zion are rarely so empty, and when you get the chance to have a park to yourself, as we did that day, you relish the unique opportunity to see it without fighting all the crowds.

One opportunity I couldn’t pass up was taking the short walk out to Double Arch in the Windows Section of the park, an experience I’d avoided in my previous visits because there were always throngs of people clambering on the rocks trying to get a picture.  To see it empty, and to have the opportunity for an unimpeded shot of sunset through the arch, was almost too much excitement for me to handle.

The sandstone on the arch was still wet from the storm that had passed through not an hour prior, and the dampness gave new meaning to the term “slick-rock.”  Having fallen in similar circumstances before, and knowing the danger of wet sandstone, I nevertheless gingerly climbed up to a vantage point across from the western opening in the arch, just as the sun was dipping over the horizon, catching this brilliant light show through the opening.

This image is actually a composite image of a dozen independent shots, each slightly off angle to catch the lens flares at a different perspective.  The resultant explosion of light is one of my favorite happy accidents, and made the experience all the sweeter.

Yesterday was the start of National Park week, a fee-free week at all of the 59 U.S. National Parks in the country.  Though it’s highly unlikely you’ll have a park to yourself as I did in this case, I encourage everyone to get out and explore a bit.  I myself celebrated with an impromptu road trip out to John Day National Monument in eastern Oregon, a place I’d been to as a child but had no memory of, and I’m so glad I did.  I hope everyone has a similar opportunity to get out and enjoy our National Parks this week.

100 Days of National Parks: Day 16 – Light in the Storm, Zion National Park

Light in the Storm

After what’s been an unexpectedly rough and emotional week, I find nothing re-energizes me on a creative, emotional, and spiritual level than getting out and exploring. When work has me worn down, or my personal life seems to be falling to pieces, I find the simple act of getting out and wandering, finding beautiful moments and beautiful places to photograph, is often enough to clear my head and bring the peace of mind I’m craving.

In September of 2012, my wanderlust was in full swing. I’d started a new job, but had a week off each month to get out and explore, and the main target on my list was a return to Zion National Park. Still trying to find some piece of myself that I found lacking, trying to make myself whole after multiple failed relationships and personal losses, I set out for seven days in southern Utah that would wind up being transformative in my outlook and would further establish my profound love affair with Zion and the National Parks in general.

I’d been once before, seemingly in passing during a weekend road trip the year before, and associated much of the places in the Park with a relationship and people that I no longer wanted to be connected to. Instead of hiding from those associations, though, I faced them head-on, and made a concerted effort to establish new associations, new connections, that have proven more profound and real than any that may have existed before.

A few days into my week there, a massive storm rolled through, and I was privileged to witness one of the most spectacular scenes that everyone should have a chance to appreciate some day. Zion in the rain is a singular experience, one that transforms the park from a dramatic landscape to something otherworldly, seemingly created just for your eyes. As the crowds thin and the clouds obscure the pinnacles of the surrounding cliffs, waterfalls spring out of dry rock faces and life abounds, animals and plants bursting forward to revel in the surrounding wetness.

The morning of the storm, I woke early to take photos of the sunrise, and was treated to this amazing vision as the sunlight streamed through a small hole in the clouds on the East Rim of the park. The darkness of the storm seemed to part and let the light through, and I stood in awe of the scene, brief and fleeting though it was, and consider myself profoundly lucky to have been there to witness it.

It’s a true metaphor for the effect visiting these amazing places has on my life and my outlook on the world. No matter how dark things may seem, that darkness just makes it easier to appreciate the moments of light when they find their way through the holes and cracks in the storm.

Light in the Storm

Light in the Storm
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After what’s been an unexpectedly rough and emotional week, I find nothing re-energizes me on a creative, emotional, and spiritual level than getting out and exploring.  When work has me worn down, or my personal life seems to be falling to pieces, I find the simple act of getting out and wandering, finding beautiful moments and beautiful places to photograph, is often enough to clear my head and bring the peace of mind I’m craving.

In September of 2012, my wanderlust was in full swing.  I’d started a new job, but had a week off each month to get out and explore, and the main target on my list was a return to Zion National Park.  Still trying to find some piece of myself that I found lacking, trying to make myself whole after multiple failed relationships and personal losses, I set out for seven days in southern Utah that would wind up being transformative in my outlook and would further establish my profound love affair with Zion and the National Parks in general.

I’d been once before, seemingly in passing during a weekend road trip the year before, and associated much of the places in the Park with a relationship and people that I no longer wanted to be connected to.  Instead of hiding from those associations, though, I faced them head-on, and made a concerted effort to establish new associations, new connections, that have proven more profound and real than any that may have existed before.

A few days into my week there, a massive storm rolled through, and I was privileged to witness one of the most spectacular scenes that everyone should have a chance to appreciate some day.  Zion in the rain is a singular experience, one that transforms the park from a dramatic landscape to something otherworldly, seemingly created just for your eyes.  As the crowds thin and the clouds obscure the pinnacles of the surrounding cliffs, waterfalls spring out of dry rock faces and life abounds, animals and plants bursting forward to revel in the surrounding wetness.

The morning of the storm, I woke early to take photos of the sunrise, and was treated to this amazing vision as the sunlight streamed through a small hole in the clouds on the East Rim of the park.  The darkness of the storm seemed to part and let the light through, and I stood in awe of the scene, brief and fleeting though it was, and consider myself profoundly lucky to have been there to witness it.

It’s a true metaphor for the effect visiting these amazing places has on my life and my outlook on the world.  No matter how dark things may seem, that darkness just makes it easier to appreciate the moments of light when they find their way through the holes and cracks in the storm.

 

100 Days of National Parks: Day 15 – Divine Light, Death Valley National Park

Rays of Fire

I am perhaps the furthest thing from a religious man, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had profoundly spiritual moments in my life, moments that affirm for me the reasons I travel and seek out beauty in everything, the reasons I want to keep exploring in the future. I’ve found, through exploring wilderness areas, particularly in our National Parks, the kind of spiritual connection with the world I never knew before, an understanding of my place within that world, a profound appreciation for natural beauty in all its forms and a desire to see more of it before my time is done.

April 15th is a hard day for me. On this day in 2012, I lost my closest, best friend in the world, Erik Lemke, to a sudden illness that took him before I could say goodbye. For months I existed in a state of perpetual shock. I became disengaged from work, family, friends, everything. I was grieving, yes, but there was more to it. I was facing mortality in a way I’d never dealt with it before, and I was increasingly drawn toward doing all the things I’d always wanted to do, but never had the chance or will to do before.

In June of 2012, I took a road trip up highway 395 in Eastern California on a drive that would take me up to Washington for some much needed family time. On the way, I wanted to detour to some of the National Parks I’d always wanted to see, but for some reason in my five years living in Los Angeles, had never made the trip to. It was the beginning of what I referred to as My Summer of George, and would culminate in visiting a dozen National Parks that year and set me on the path I continue to walk today.

The first stop was Death Valley National Park. Though I arrived late and didn’t spend much time, I did manage to reach Furnace Creek in time to catch this shot, one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, and one of those life-affirming moments I touched on earlier. There, standing on a rise above the furnace creek campground, I watched the sun blast its rays through the tiniest of holes in the pervasive cloud cover, divine rays stretching out across the sky in brilliant red and orange hues. In that moment I knew I couldn’t look back, that I had to see more moments like this in my short time on my earth, that I had to chase moments like this, seek them out wherever I could find them. It’s why I hike. It’s why I take photos.

Life is short, and filled with moments that could be missed opportunities if you don’t go out and take advantage of all the world has to offer. Get out. Stay out. Find your own.

Divine Light

Rays of Fire
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I am perhaps the furthest thing from a religious man, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had profoundly spiritual moments in my life, moments that affirm for me the reasons I travel and seek out beauty in everything, the reasons I want to keep exploring in the future.  I’ve found, through exploring wilderness areas, particularly in our National Parks, the kind of spiritual connection with the world I never knew before, an understanding of my place within that world, a profound appreciation for natural beauty in all its forms and a desire to see more of it before my time is done.

April 15th is a hard day for me.  On this day in 2012, I lost my closest, best friend in the world, Erik Lemke, to a sudden illness that took him before I could say goodbye.  For months I existed in a state of perpetual shock.  I became disengaged from work, family, friends, everything. I was grieving, yes, but there was more to it.  I was facing mortality in a way I’d never dealt with it before, and I was increasingly drawn toward doing all the things I’d always wanted to do, but never had the chance or will to do before.

In June of 2012, I took a road trip up highway 395 in Eastern California on a drive that would take me up to Washington for some much needed family time.  On the way, I wanted to detour to some of the National Parks I’d always wanted to see, but for some reason in my five years living in Los Angeles, had never made the trip to.  It was the beginning of what I referred to as My Summer of George, and would culminate in visiting a dozen National Parks that year and set me on the path I continue to walk today.

The first stop was Death Valley National Park.  Though I arrived late and didn’t spend much time, I did manage to reach Furnace Creek in time to catch this shot, one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, and one of those life-affirming moments I touched on earlier.  There, standing on a rise above the furnace creek campground, I watched the sun blast its rays through the tiniest of holes in the pervasive cloud cover, divine rays stretching out across the sky in brilliant red and orange hues.  In that moment I knew I couldn’t look back, that I had to see more moments like this in my short time on my earth, that I had to chase moments like this, seek them out wherever I could find them.  It’s why I hike.  It’s why I take photos.

Life is short, and filled with moments that could be missed opportunities if you don’t go out and take advantage of all the world has to offer.  Get out.  Stay out.  Find your own.

100 Days of National Parks: Day 10 – First Light on North Peak, Yosemite National Park

First Light on North Peak

As I write this on a chilly Sunday morning at the Portland Saturday Market, I find myself warmed remembering the coldest morning I can ever recall out in the backcountry, beneath North Peak in the 20 Lakes Basin, on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park.

We had hiked out to this beautiful camping spot overlooking Shamrock Lake, and set up camp the previous evening as the sun went down, and the temperatures began to drop. I awoke at 3:00am unable to sleep and freezing in the single digit temperatures that penetrated my sleeping bag and coated the tent with a film of ice. I crawled out, over my girlfriend’s dogs in a vain attempt not to wake her, and did jumping jacks on the rocky ledge overlooking the lake, watching the first rays of autumn hit the majestic peak to the west.

Sometimes the most beautiful moments come from the most discomfort, and I’ve found it’s always worth braving the cold or the elements to capture a perfect image.

First Light on North Peak

 

First Light on North Peak
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As I write this on a chilly Sunday morning at the Portland Saturday Market, I find myself warmed remembering the coldest morning I can ever recall out in the backcountry, beneath North Peak in the 20 Lakes Basin, on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park.

We had hiked out to this beautiful camping spot overlooking Shamrock Lake, and set up camp the previous evening as the sun went down, and the temperatures began to drop.  I awoke at 3:00am unable to sleep and freezing in the single digit temperatures that penetrated my sleeping bag and coated the tent with a film of ice.  I crawled out, over my girlfriend’s dogs in a vain attempt not to wake her, and did jumping jacks on the rocky ledge overlooking the lake, watching the first rays of autumn hit the majestic peak to the west.

Sometimes the most beautiful moments come from the most discomfort, and I’ve found it’s always worth braving the cold or the elements to capture a perfect image.