Annual Solar Eclipse in New Mexico

February 21, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

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     I generally do not do a lot of heavy photoshop with my photography.  About 90% of my images are mostly processed or entirely processed in Lightroom.  However, one exception where a significant amount of Photoshop was necessary to create this composite image of the solar eclipse that occurred back on October 14th over Cabezon Peak in New Mexico. Cabezon Peak is located about 40 miles northwest of Albuquerque. 

     I was looking for a prominent natural feature near the path of eclipse that wouldn't have a lot people.  I opted for this ancient volcanic plug that almost looks like a miniature version of Devils Tower in Wyoming. Roughly 40 to 50 people were car camped near the trailhead that was beneath the base of the peak.  Most of them stayed near the bottom or decided to climb the steep peak for the timing of the eclipse.  I chose to hike the length of the trail that wrapped around to the north side of the peak, followed by a short off trail excursion to this vantage point.  I thought I might be the only one crazy enough with this idea but I did see a follow photographer about a 100 yards away from where I decided to plant my tripods for the eclipse. After our shooting, we chatted for a few minutes and I joked with him that great mind thinks alike!

     From this vantage point, looking to the south and southeast, I was able to incorporate the eclipsing sun that was beginning to arc over the peak.  I had to guess where the sun would approximately be during the height of the eclipse at 10:35am.  This can be a bit of a challenge when it is your first time to a location.  Ideally, I would have liked to be here the day before the event to know for sure where I should stand.  However, I made a pretty good estimate of where I wanted to be in relation to the peak.  By 10:35 in the morning, the sun is pretty high in the sky and it can be a challenge to incorporate the sun with something intriguing in the landscape.   

     The above image is a composite of 8 images.  One for the wider landscape that includes Cabezon Peak and 7 close up images of the sun at different phases during the eclipse.  For example, here is a close up of the sun at the height of the eclipse viewed with through a solar filter on the lens of my camera.  

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     The 7 phases of the eclipse where then stitched together onto a single image.  

     Both the picture taking and the post processing was good practice for the upcoming total eclipse that will take place on April 8th of this year.  That path of that eclipse will go from Texas to Michigan while passing through my home state of Arkansas. Hopefully, the weather will be clear enough to fully view and photograph this!


More images from New Mexico

January 31, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

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     This week, I have been looking back at some of my photographs from New Mexico. Here, I will be showcasing a few of my favorite images from White Sands National Park and some of my favorite forest scenes from the Santa Fe National Forest. 

     White Sands National Park, in southern New Mexico, is one of the newest national parks.  It was upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park in 2019. The scenery is unique for its namesake white sand.  It is white because the sand is made of gypsum.  Gypsum is different than the more common and beige colored silica sand. 

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     The colors around sunrise and sunset can be incredible in the dry desert air.  White Sands is best when the sun is low and just over the horizon.  At this time of the day, the sunlight really accentuates the ripple patterns in the sand.  

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     As the sun rises, the black and white photography can also be interesting here. 

     Further north in New Mexico, the mountains get higher and the forests become denser.  One of my favorite trees to photograph are aspen trees.  Aspens are plentiful between roughly 8,000 - 10,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.  Late September and early October are typically the best times to photograph the yellow aspen trees in this region.  

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     I did an off trail hike through one of the most beautiful aspen forests that was located a short distance from the Santa Fe Ski Area.  Not only was this pristine forest near peak color, but it was loaded with golden grass.  Backlight (like in the picture above where I am looking into the sun) can be often be difficult to photograph, but it can lead to dramatic scenes.  I love the backlit golden grass and the shadows in this picture.

     One of the joys of hiking off trail is stumbling upon scenes that few people get to see. Here I came across a lone evergreen tree standing out among the aspen forest. 

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     I still need to work on one more set of pictures from my trip to New Mexico last year.  That involves some heavy editing with the annual eclipse that occurred on October 14th. Hopefully I will have that up soon and might be the subject of my next blog post.  

 


The wonders around Page, Arizona

November 20, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     Earlier this month, I attended the Page Photo Summit in the town of Page, which is in far northern Arizona. There are many geological wonders in this area of southern Utah and northern Arizona, and it is among some of the most remote areas in the lower 48. 

     First, I did a couple of hikes in the southern part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Here, I started a hike in the dark up a desert wash so that I could reach the Wahweap Hoodoos at first light. 

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     On the way back to my car, I would come up to a hoodoo that lined up with a setting moon in the morning sky. 

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     I would also come across some interesting mud cracks and formations along the dry wash.  

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     Next, it was on to Lee's Ferry, Arizona. This is where a lot of the rafters begin their trip to enter The Grand Canyon. However, I came here to hike...and hike UPHILL I did. I climbed the trail from the Colorado River about 1500 vertical feet in less than 2 miles.  It was a slow climb through all the switchbacks and then a short segment of off-trail navigation.  The reward was to see a view of a bend in the Colorado River that view people get to see. This view is almost as good as the now world famous Horseshoe Bend near Page. It is not quite a horseshoe, but it is a nice bend in the river with a lot of solitude.  I do love that feeling of photographing some subjects that rarely get photographed, unlike Horseshoe Bend that is photographed hundreds of times in a day. This image was taken by a drone to safely photograph from the edge of the cliff.  

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      Another great to fly a drone is the colorful Paria badlands in southern Utah. 

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     A trip to Page, Arizona would not be complete with a visit to a couple of slot canyons. I visited the world famous Upper Antelope Canyon... 

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...and the lesser known Waterhole Canyon, both are just outside of the town of Page, Arizona. 

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     Not only can you see some great light bouncing off the walls, but you can also see some some neat tumbleweeds that wind up next to the sand and rock walls in these slot canyons. 

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     The Southwest is also a great place to see the brilliant sunrises and sunsets. 

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Here you can see the pre-sunrise color looking toward Navajo Mountain and Tower Butte. 


A different perspective of The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

October 17, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     Last week, I spent a few days in New Mexico.  While I mostly went there for the annual eclipse that occurred from Oregon to Texas on Saturday October 14th, I also photographed some fall color in the Santa Fe National Forest and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  

     Instead of the usual close up shots looking up at the sky, I opted for a different eye level view of the balloons from afar.  These images were taken from a hiking trail in the Sandia foothills above the city of Albuquerque. 

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     Hopefully, I will have some images from the annual eclipse to share in a future blog post. It was certainly good practice to prepare for the upcoming total eclipse that will occur in April. 


The landscapes of Utah's Capitol Reef National Park

September 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     Back in May, I joined up once again with Utah resident James Kay for a tour of Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is one of five national parks in Utah. It doesn't have iconic scenes like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park or The Narrows and Angels Landing that have become heavily visited in Zion National Park. However, it does feature good red rock scenery without the crowds.  

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     It is also a place for some interesting geology...

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     Capitol Reef only sees about a 1/4 of the visitors of Zion National Park and most of those visitors stay on or close to the main highway that runs through the park. The dirt road that goes north to Cathedral Valley...

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...or the dirt road going south to Strike Valley can provide an even quieter backcountry experience. 

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     The desert of southern Utah is often a stark place where it is hard to find signs of life.  However, I did find isolated spring flowers close to Factory Butte, just outside of Capitol Reef. 

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     It is in this area where the Mars Desert Research Station is located and this barren landscape was used to test the Mars Rover. You can read more about the testing of the Mars Rover that continues in the Utah desert here.

     One great place is the Bentonite Hills, where the red landscape resembles something like you would see on Mars. 

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     While most of the landscape is barren, a couple of my favorite pictures is where water was able to cut a course in the red sandstone.  

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