100 Days of National Parks: Day 47 – Double Falls, Zion National Park

A few weeks back, someone asked me what my favorite place in Zion National Park was, and I froze, not sure how I should answer. How could I pick just one place in my favorite National Park, one example of the boundless examples of natural beauty around every corner, in every tucked-away canyon, up every seemingly unremarkable streambed. When I finally answered, I offered up the Right Fork of North Creek, which seemed to catch them off guard.

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Double Falls

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A few weeks back, someone asked me what my favorite place in Zion National Park was, and I froze, not sure how I should answer.  How could I pick just one place in my favorite National Park, one example of the boundless examples of natural beauty around every corner, in every tucked-away canyon, up every seemingly unremarkable streambed.  When I finally answered, I offered up the Right Fork of North Creek, which seemed to catch them off guard.   Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 47 – Double Falls, Zion National Park”

Taking a John-Day in John Day

Sometimes you just need to take a day for yourself, get in the car, and drive until you can’t drive anymore. After a week filled with a lot of emotional and personal frustrations, I headed down to the Portland Saturday Market excited to get out and sell some more photos, only to find all the vendor spots taken and myself left out of the Market for the day. It was a beautiful morning though, the sun casting beautiful morning light along the waterfront in downtown Portland, and I seized the opportunity to head out and look for some areas of Oregon I’d never taken the chance to explore before. I loaded up with all the essentials; half a dozen Blue Star Donuts and enough candy and snack food to last me a week, and set off eastward.

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Sometimes you just need to take a day for yourself, get in the car, and drive until you can’t drive anymore.  After a week filled with a lot of emotional and personal frustrations, I headed down to the Portland Saturday Market excited to get out and sell some more photos, only to find all the vendor spots taken and myself left out of the Market for the day.  It was a beautiful morning though, the sun casting beautiful morning light along the waterfront in downtown Portland, and I seized the opportunity to head out and look for some areas of Oregon I’d never taken the chance to explore before.  I loaded up with all the essentials; half a dozen Blue Star Donuts and enough candy and snack food to last me a week, and set off eastward.

Continue reading “Taking a John-Day in John Day”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 14 – Majesty in the Mojave, Joshua Tree National Park

If I’m being completely honest, I find Joshua Tree National Park, above all others, to be the most difficult park to photograph. I believe the main reason behind this difficulty for me is the profound aversion I have to the Mojave Desert. Dry, dusty, gross, and gray, I feel like you have to work to find the beauty in this landscape, to appreciate the minutiae of the details. Perhaps I’m jaded from spending so much time wandering through the deserts of Southern California, perhaps my aversion to the landscape is more deep-seeded, but whatever it is, I really dislike the Mojave Desert.

Despite all of this, however, there is true majesty to be found in the right angles, the right moments. Taken as a whole, the Mojave, and Joshua Tree National Park, seem barren, lifeless, vast expanses of gray and brown nothingness. It’s when you look at the details, however, and notice the wild asymmetry of the joshua tree in bloom, the way it stands out, and above, the surrounding landscape, that the beauty of this seemingly lifeless desert comes to the fore.

The monolithic namesake trees in Joshua Tree National Park stand taller than any other I’ve seen, and seem ancient, permanent. Their bulbous late winter flowers protrude from their spiked arms, drawing in a huge number of pollinating insects. The shade of their outstretched branches is the only respite in all the surrounding countryside from the ever-present heat of the sun above. They seem at once permanent and infinitely fragile, impervious to the harsh elements in which they grow, yet feeling weak enough to tip over with a strong push.
The extra work to find the right shot in Joshua Tree is what, for me, makes the experience of exploring the park a great one. While most of its visitors wander the iconic boulder fields or seek out its numerous mines and hidden canyons, for me its the challenge of finding the beautiful moments, the minute details that aren’t readily apparent at first glance, to appreciate the majesty of the mojave, in spite of its many flaws.

Majesty in the Mojave

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If I’m being completely honest, I find Joshua Tree National Park, above all others, to be the most difficult park to photograph.  I believe the main reason behind this difficulty for me is the profound aversion I have to the Mojave Desert.  Dry, dusty, gross, and gray, I feel like you have to work to find the beauty in this landscape, to appreciate the minutiae of the details.  Perhaps I’m jaded from spending so much time wandering through the deserts of Southern California, perhaps my aversion to the landscape is more deep-seeded, but whatever it is, I really dislike the Mojave Desert.

Despite all of this, however, there is true majesty to be found in the right angles, the right moments.  Taken as a whole, the Mojave, and Joshua Tree National Park, seem barren, lifeless, vast expanses of gray and brown nothingness.  It’s when you look at the details, however, and notice the wild asymmetry of the joshua tree in bloom, the way it stands out, and above, the surrounding landscape, that the beauty of this seemingly lifeless desert comes to the fore.

The monolithic namesake trees in Joshua Tree National Park stand taller than any other I’ve seen, and seem ancient, permanent.  Their bulbous late winter flowers protrude from their spiked arms, drawing in a huge number of pollinating insects.  The shade of their outstretched branches is the only respite in all the surrounding countryside from the ever-present heat of the sun above.  They seem at once permanent and infinitely fragile, impervious to the harsh elements in which they grow, yet feeling weak enough to tip over with a strong push.

The extra work to find the right shot in Joshua Tree is what, for me, makes the experience of exploring the park a great one.  While most of its visitors wander the iconic boulder fields or seek out its numerous mines and hidden canyons, for me its the challenge of finding the beautiful moments, the minute details that aren’t readily apparent at first glance, to appreciate the majesty of the mojave, in spite of its many flaws.

Grafton, Utah

Just a stone’s throw from Zion National Park lies the small ghost town of Grafton, Utah, a former settlement along the south banks of the Virgin River.

Just a stone’s throw from Zion National Park lies the small ghost town of Grafton, Utah, a former settlement along the south banks of the Virgin River.  Settled in 1859 by Mormon cotton farmers, and officially abandoned in 1944, the town never had many people, and was emblematic of the difficulties inherent to farming along the notoriously unpredictable river.  It was often racked with floods, erosion, and heavy silt accumulation during its short existence, and by the turn of the century, fewer than 100 people called it home.

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