Damon Shaw: Blog https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog en-us (C) Damon Shaw [email protected] (Damon Shaw) Wed, 05 Jun 2024 18:49:00 GMT Wed, 05 Jun 2024 18:49:00 GMT https://www.damonshawphotos.com/img/s/v-12/u843363200-o439893013-50.jpg Damon Shaw: Blog https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog 120 80 My favorite images from Arkansas this spring https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/6/my-favorite-images-from-arkansas-this-spring A Hidden GrottoA Hidden Grotto

Over Memorial Day weekend, my house in Rogers was hit by a tornado. Thankfully, the house itself only has minor roof and siding damage but the majority of the trees in our yard were damaged or completely uprooted.  As the cleanup continues, it's been messy and inconvenient but I'm thankful we  were not injured and our home didn't sustain more damage. Not everyone in Benton County was this lucky. 

After 4 1/2 days with no electricity and over a week with no internet, I'm finally starting to get back to a more normal routine. Now we can take a look back at some of my favorite images in Arkansas this spring.

Pinnacle Mountain PondPinnacle Mountain Pond

In early April, I spent a few days in the Little Rock area, including nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park. 

Pinnacle Mountain is my favorite shaped mountain in Arkansas and it is the most recognizable mountain in Central Arkansas. It has an almost perfect conical shape to it and ever since my childhood it has reminded me of a tiny Mount Fuji in Japan. At just over 1,000 feet above sea level, it is not a tall mountain but it is one of the more challenging climbs in the state, especially from the east side. On this approach, it is sometimes more of a boulder scramble than a hiking trail. Climbing over these boulders from the east approach reminds me a bit of climbing a final part of a 14er in Colorado (without the altitude, of course!).

My favorite view of the mountain from inside the state park is from the fishing pond (seen above). However, I also stumbled upon a view of Pinnacle Mountain that most people never see. The picture below is from a residential neighborhood in far west Little Rock. 

A peek toward Pinnacle MountainA peek toward Pinnacle Mountain

I also flew the drone around for some aerial images of the Little Maumelle River with Pinnacle Mountain in the distance. 

Little Maumelle River DroneLittle Maumelle River Dronedefault

One of the best more urban landscapes during the peak springtime bloom is at The Old Mill Park in North Little Rock.  This mill is featured in opening credits in the 1939 classic film Gone With The Wind

The Old Mill in North Little RockThe Old Mill in North Little Rock

As the spring bloom moved north in the Ozarks of north Arkansas, I then focused on the middle section of the Buffalo River between Tyler Bend and Wollum. One of the my favorite views of this section of the Buffalo is Peter Cave Bluff. 


Here you get both an open view of the river looking toward Point Peter Mountain, but you also have twisted cedar trees. 

Twisted Cedar OverlookTwisted Cedar Overlook

Photographing in spring wouldn't be complete without a trip to a few waterfalls.  One of the more popular waterfalls is Falling Water Falls.  This is the largest waterfall in the state that you can actually drive to. While I have seen the waterfall from this side, this time around I thought I would hike in from the other side to get a different perspective. 

FallingWaterCloseUpApr24FallingWaterCloseUpApr24 Falling Water Falls Close UpFalling Water Falls Close Up

I also joined up with one of my mentors, Tim Ernst, to photograph some waterfalls on private property in Newton County.  With the fog and high water flow after a hard rain, the conditions were about perfect on this early May morning. 

Newton County PouroffNewton County Pouroff

Splashing DownSplashing Down

Home Valley FallsHome Valley Falls


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas waterfalls Buffalo River Falling Water Falls green Little Rock landscape photography Pinnacle Mountain spring https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/6/my-favorite-images-from-arkansas-this-spring Tue, 04 Jun 2024 16:11:54 GMT
Total Eclipse Over Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/4/total-eclipse-over-arkansas        Ever since the last total eclipse that went across the country in 2017, I have been thinking about where I wanted to be on April 8, 2024.  After scouting out a few possibilities in the Ouachita National Forest, the Ozark National Forest and Petit Jean State Park. In the end, I decided to settle in on my piece of quiet property in Newton County...instead of dealing with crowds and traffic along the Interstate 40 corridor.  I looked for potential subjects to incorporate into the landscape, such as tall pine trees that stood out in a field. However, one problem is the sun is high in the sky during the eclipse (about 60 degrees above the horizon). When you have to point the camera so high in the sky, you have to contort your tripod (or your body!) into strange angles to view. Another problem is when so close to a foreground subject, such as a tree, is that the sun is going to look like a tiny speck. I already did something similar during the annual eclipse back in October over New Mexico.  

      I have been getting a little more into time lapse photography.  I decided to only use one camera pointed toward the horizon to capture a time lapse with more time to enjoy the actual eclipse with my own eyes. When the moon's shadow travels at nearly 1,500 mph, there is not a lot of time soak it all in and this allowed me more time to enjoy the show and less time fiddling with tripods and awkward camera angles. 


     There were scattered high, thin cirrus clouds streaming in.  That could also be just enough to cause the sun to be fuzzy and lack detail.  That was one potential drawback to zooming in to only the sun (though many Arkansas photographers were able to successfully do this).  One potential upside was the motion in clouds in this time lapse, as you can see in the video above. Had the sky been completely sunny, a time lapse would be less interesting.  Toward the start of the video, you will see a few birds flying (as black splotches) and that seemed to disappear as it became dark and they stopped flying.  

     Despite a lot of hype, I do believe a total solar eclipse is an incredible experience. I would recommend you see it once in your life.  The key is to be in the path of totality.  90% totality will not give you 90% of the experience and many people do not seem to understand that. 

     The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be in August 2044. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas eclipse landscape Ozark National Forest Ozarks solar eclipse time lapse https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/4/total-eclipse-over-arkansas Tue, 09 Apr 2024 16:43:52 GMT
A visit to the Texas Hill Country https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/3/a-visit-to-the-texas-hill-country CactusBluebonnets2024CactusBluebonnets2024

     This week, I made a brief trip to the Texas Hill Country, west of Austin.  Late March or early April is typically the best time to visit this area for flower photography, with bluebonnets being the most prolific wildflowers in this part of the state. 

     My first stop is the appropriately named Bluebonnet House in Marble Falls.  


     To the west of Marble Falls is the small town of Llano.  Llano is a great base to look for wildflower scenes.  You can find bluebonnets along almost every country road in each direction from Llano.  Here are a couple of some of my favorite scenes within an hour of Llano.   KIngslandTXRailroadKIngslandTXRailroad BendTXTreeBendTXTree

I also hiked a couple of trails at Colorado Bend State Park, between Llano and Lampasses.  We generally don't think as Texas as a state with waterfalls, but there is a pretty scenic spring fed waterfall going down a taverntine cliff.  I arrived at Gorman Falls with some interesting side light.  I generally prefer waterfalls in overcast conditions that are evenly lit, but I felt like this was interesting moment that was captured.  


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) bluebonnets flowers hill country Texas wildflowers https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/3/a-visit-to-the-texas-hill-country Mon, 01 Apr 2024 03:15:00 GMT
Annual Solar Eclipse in New Mexico https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/2/annual-eclipse-in-new-mexico CabezonEclipseCompositeWebCabezonEclipseCompositeWeb

     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.  


     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!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) annual eclipse Cabezon Peak Cabezon Peak New Mexico New Mexico eclipse solar eclipse https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/2/annual-eclipse-in-new-mexico Wed, 21 Feb 2024 20:08:21 GMT
More images from New Mexico https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/1/more-images-from-new-mexico SantaFePetroglyphsSantaFePetroglyphs

     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. 



     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.  


     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.  


     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. 

Dare To Be DifferentDare To Be Different

     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.  


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) fine art New Mexico photography White Sands https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2024/1/more-images-from-new-mexico Thu, 01 Feb 2024 02:44:13 GMT
The wonders around Page, Arizona https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/11/the-wonders-around-page-arizona TeepeesEveningLightWebTeepeesEveningLightWeb  

     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. 

WahweapTowersofSilenceWahweapTowersofSilence WahweapHoodoosVertWahweapHoodoosVert

     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. 


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


     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.  


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


     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... 


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



     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. 


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

NavajoMountainDawnNavajoMountainDawn NavajoMountainGlowNavajoMountainGlow

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

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado River Page Arizona photography slot canyons https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/11/the-wonders-around-page-arizona Tue, 21 Nov 2023 02:30:00 GMT
A different perspective of The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/10/a-different-perspective-of-the-albuquerque-balloon-fiesta ABQballoons600mmIGABQballoons600mmIG

     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. 

ABQballoonsSquareABQballoonsSquare ABQballoons600mmABQballoons600mm

     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. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) albuquerque balloon fiesta birds eye view eye level view https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/10/a-different-perspective-of-the-albuquerque-balloon-fiesta Tue, 17 Oct 2023 17:42:40 GMT
The landscapes of Utah's Capitol Reef National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/9/capitol-reef-national-park-color-and-black-white CapitolReef16x9PanoWebCapitolReef16x9PanoWeb

     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.  

CapitolReefTheCastleCapitolReefTheCastle GoosenecksShadowsGoosenecksShadows

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


     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...

TempleOfTheSunTempleOfTheSun CapitolReefTemplesOverlookBWCapitolReefTemplesOverlookBW CapitolReefCathdralValleyBWCapitolReefCathdralValleyBW

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

CapitolReefPleasantCreekCapitolReefPleasantCreek StrikeValleyOverlookWebStrikeValleyOverlookWeb HallsCreekOverlookWebHallsCreekOverlookWeb

     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. 


     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. 

Bentonite Hills of UtahBentonite Hills of Utah

     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.  



[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Capitol Reef Factory Butte Utah landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/9/capitol-reef-national-park-color-and-black-white Sat, 30 Sep 2023 00:38:43 GMT
From the photo archives: Oregon Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/8/from-the-photo-archives-oregon-coast OceansideBeachOregonOceansideBeachOregon

     This summer, I have been going through the archives and looking back on photos from years past.  This group of pictures was from a trip to the Oregon Coast.  I traveled the entire length of the coast of Oregon, from north to south. I will share you some of my favorite pictures that starts in the north part of Oregon while ending with some pictures in the southern part of the state. 

     The journey began at the town of Astoria, where the Columbia River empties into Pacific Ocean. On this foggy morning, you can (barely) see this bridge spanning over the Columbia River. 


     Just outside of the town of Astoria is Fort Stevens State Park, where another minimalist scene was captured using old wooden piers. 


     Next, it was down to the seastacks at Cannon Beach...

Cannon Beach OregonCannon Beach Oregon

...and the views and sea caves at Cape Kiwanda. 

CapeKiwandaCaveCapeKiwandaCave CapeKiwandaViewCapeKiwandaView

     One great place to see the crashing waves is at Seal Rock, south of Newport.  


     Another place to witness the changing tides and the interaction between waves and rocks is at Thor's Well along the central Oregon coast. 

ThorsWell2 copyThorsWell2 copy Oregon's Thors Well #4Oregon's Thors Well #4

     Here, there is a unique formation in the rocks where you can see the waves pour into a hole. The Oregon Coast is also a great place for lighthouses.  My favorite lighthouse to photograph was the Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon.  


     With its numerous seastacks, Bandon is probably the most famous location to photograph along the Oregon Coast.  Changing skies and tides can make for almost endless compositions to capture. 

Lit Sky at Bandon OregonLit Sky at Bandon Oregon Bandon_Light copyBandon_Light copy

     The trip ended in Southern Oregon, with another photogenic location known as "Secret Beach" north of the town of Brookings. 

SecretBeachColor copySecretBeachColor copy SecretBeachBWSecretBeachBW

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Bandon Oregon Oregon Coast Photography Secret Beach Thors Well Oregon https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/8/from-the-photo-archives-oregon-coast Fri, 01 Sep 2023 00:45:00 GMT
Fireworks at Lake Leatherwood https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/7/fireworks-at-lake-leatherwood LakeLeatherwoodFireworksIGLakeLeatherwoodFireworksIG

     Happy 4th of July!  

     On Sunday night, I drove out to Lake Leatherwood.  This lake is located just outside of Eureka Springs in Northwest Arkansas.  I had hiked around the over a decade ago but never seen the fireworks show there.  Last week, I wanted to seek out a firework show in a natural setting with few structures, preferably with a lake where I can also capture colorful reflections in the water. Lake Leatherwood seemed like the best option to me that was within an hour of my hometown. I wanted to find a way to incorporate the landscape with the firework display, not just point a camera up to the sky.  One way to do that is to back off from where the fireworks are fired and use a mid-range zoom lens instead of a wide angle lens that is more typically used in firework photography. If you are close to the show, you then a restricted to using a wide angle lens that often is pointed mostly up into the sky.  The image above was at a focal length of 90mm to capture the fireworks that were about a mile and half away from where I was standing and is a composite of eight firework images stitched together into one image.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) arkansas eureka springs fireworks lake lake leatherwood https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/7/fireworks-at-lake-leatherwood Tue, 04 Jul 2023 07:45:00 GMT
The varied landscapes of New Zealand https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/4/the-varied-landscapes-of-new-zealand MtTasmanWebMtTasmanWeb

     New Zealand's beauty was a wonderful beginning to this year. In late January and February, I finally was able to go this trip that was in the works since 2019, but was postponed twice during COVID.  In 2022, international tourism resumed and I was finally able to go!

     After flying into Christchurch on the South Island, I met up with one of my favorite photographers...James Kay. He and his wife Susie have been visiting New Zealand for many years and know it well. Mount Cook National Park was the first destination. Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki to the native Māori population, is the highest point in New Zealand. 


     The top of the 12,218 foot tall mountain was shrouded in clouds for much of our stay there.  However, one evening it made a brief and dramatic appearance as the sun shined through a small gap in the clouds over the Tasman Sea.  This scene of the last sunlight of the day hitting the peak with pink clouds behind only lasted a couple of minutes.  

     This was a trip of several "firsts".  It was the first time for me to cross the Equator, cross the International Date Line, drive on the left side of the road and the first time to fly in a helicopter. 



     For each of these helicopter rides, the destination was to either land on a glacier or on top of a mountain. Here is a short video clip of us going over Tasman Glacier: 

Glacier helicopter ride   

     As you take off the glacier and head back down the valley, you can see the geological journey that has been created. It starts from ice fields up high that evolve into glacial moraines and new lakes with ice chunks. 


Ice Chunks


     Out of those newer lakes are braided streams that eventually leads to bigger and more mature lakes downstream.

IMG_9381IMG_9381 IMG_9370IMG_9370

     Back on the ground, you can also get a good look at the difference between the newer and older lakes. The older glacier lake (in black and white) has recently formed with nothing but moraine and rocks still surrounding the lake with floating ice chunks still in the water. 


     The older glacier lake below is a little lower in elevation and now has vegetation growing up around them. 

     Next, it was on to the area around the popular resort town of Queenstown.  It is in this valley that some of the scenes from "Lord of the Rings" was filmed.  It was here, along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, where we were greeted with a cinematic looking rainbow. 


     In this valley, next to Glenorchy and the aptly named village of Paradise, you will find many lush meadows. 

GlenorchyGreensWebGlenorchyGreensWeb ParadiseSheepWebParadiseSheepWeb

     Sheep are also plentiful in this picturesque valley. 

     It was then on to a different environment on west coast. Here, the climate is wetter. The landscape has even more trees that has a temperate rainforest atmosphere.  The scenery is similar to what you find on the southeast Alaska coast or the fjords of Norway. The most well known place on the west coast of the South Island is Milford Sound. 


Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world, averaging 268 inches of rain a year.  Of course, we would see it rain here. Not only that...but also a prolonged heavy rain with a lot of wind. It probably rained somewhere over 5 inches of rain in about 24 hours. So is Milford Sound worth it in the rain? Absolutely! Otherwise, you wouldn't see scenes like these:

IMG_9575IMG_9575 IMG_9586IMG_9586

Waterfalls were just pouring off the cliffs! Here is a short video of our group of photographers braving the elements: 

Milford Sound Boat

A photography trip to New Zealand would not be complete without visiting "The Wanaka Tree" in the town of Wanaka. The Wanaka Tree, a lone willow tree in Lake Wanaka, is one of the most photographed individual trees on the planet.  

WanakaTreePMWeb-2WanakaTreePMWeb-2 WanakaTreeAMWebWanakaTreeAMWeb

We were fortunate to have a view of the distant mountains and great clouds behind the famous tree...and even another rainbow!

Up the valley from Wanaka is Mount Aspiring National Park. Here, we had another helicopter ride with a clear view of the namesake mountain. 

MtAspiringWebMtAspiringWeb MtAspiring2WebMtAspiring2Web

We landed on top of Dragonfly Peak. From here, you can see miles of mountains as far as the eye can see.  In the picture below, you can see Mount Cook in the distance...over 80 miles away! 


New Zealand has a variety of landscapes over short distances.  Many of the above pictures makes you feel as if you could be in Alaska or Switzerland.  However, there are other places that are similar to the Pacific Northwest of Oregon or Washington.  The temperate rain forests scenes were reminiscent of what I have seen in Olympic National Park. 


MtCookFern2WebMtCookFern2Web MtCookFernWebMtCookFernWeb

There were other places where it felt like you were in Sonoma or Napa County in California, such as this vineyard on the outskirts of Wanaka. 


Further north on the west coast, there was more of a subtropical flavor to the landscape.  This felt more like Hawaii than Alaska. 


New Zealand might have become my new favorite country to visit.  I hope to make it back there in a future year.  Here are few more assorted favorite pictures of mine from the South Island:

MilfordSoundCloseupWebMilfordSoundCloseupWeb NZRiverCloseupWebNZRiverCloseupWeb MtTasmanBWWebMtTasmanBWWeb PancakeRocksWebPancakeRocksWeb

MathesonTreesWebMathesonTreesWeb LakePukakiCloudWebLakePukakiCloudWeb

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) new zealand landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/4/the-varied-landscapes-of-new-zealand Tue, 25 Apr 2023 00:13:58 GMT
Dinosaur National Monument https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/1/dinosaur-national-monument DinosaurBareTreeWebDinosaurBareTreeWeb

Back in July, I wrote about the varied landscapes of Colorado.  In that blog entry, I featured one picture of the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument.  Here, I will feature my favorite pictures from the Utah side of the park. Most people come to Dinosaur to see the visitor center exhibits of dinosaur bones.  However, there is also some pleasing landscapes.  One scenic hike is the trail at Harpers Corner with views down onto the Green River. 


There are not really any iconic scenes in Dinosaur. However, with some good light and some scouting, you can come up with some nice scenes with colorful sandstone hills, grasses and cottonwood trees. 

DinosaurColorfulRidgesWebDinosaurColorfulRidgesWeb DinosaurColorfulGrassWebDinosaurColorfulGrassWeb

Besides seeking out landscapes and viewing dinosaur bone exhibits, there are also several nice petroglyph panels in the area. 

DinosaurRedPetroglyphsWebDinosaurRedPetroglyphsWeb DinosaurColorfulPetroglyphsWebDinosaurColorfulPetroglyphsWeb


In May, I will be returning to Utah.  Next time, I will be seeing Capitol Reef National Park.  Come back for that!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) petroglyphs Utah landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2023/1/dinosaur-national-monument Mon, 23 Jan 2023 01:56:43 GMT
A brief trip to Big Bend National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/12/a-brief-trip-to-big-bend-national-park BigBendCactusWebBigBendCactusWeb

Last week, I made a brief trip to Lajitas, Texas.  Lajitas is a border town in far southwest Texas and next to Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is one of my favorite parks, especially in the winter. Because it is far away from any major population centers, it is lightly visited compared to many national parks.  It has an unrefined, spacious and often quiet nature.  There aren't a lot of iconic shots here, but you can come across some nice surprise scenes, such as the prickly pear cactus clinging to the side of rock wall pictured above. 

I took a hike in the Texas sun from the Lajitas Golf Resort into Big Bend on the Mesa de Anguila Trail.  It was a hazy late afternoon with temperatures in the 70s.  Once you climb the mesa, you can look down on the Rio Grande River.  


In this picture, Mexico is left of the Rio Grande with Texas off to the right.  I was looking into the sun with some backlit golden grass in the lower right. I believe the plant off to the left is an ocotillo. I love the atmospherics in the picture with the hazy ridges in the distance. 

I also had an encounter with a couple of horses.  


These horses were on national park land, so I wondered if they were wild or they escaped from a nearby ranch.  This was about 3 miles from any kind of civilization. I have heard of wild horses roaming in some western states, such as Nevada, but didn't know if they were here.  After doing a quick Google search, it turns out that they are domesticated and likely came from Mexico. You can read more here about the not so wild horses of Big Bend.


It has been awhile since I last wrote in this blog. In my last post, my daughter was undergoing the first round of chemotherapy.  After 4 rounds of chemo between July and September, I am pleased to announce that her tumor has shrunk to the point that it is now hard to measure and Helicity's chemo treatments have been discontinued. After losing her hair, it is starting to grow back again.


Her immune system is still not fully recovered so she is still not back in daycare yet.  However, we hope to get her back in daycare early next year and I can get back to producing more blog entries again soon. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Big Bend National Park cactus Lajitas Texas ocotillo Rio Grande photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/12/a-brief-trip-to-big-bend-national-park Thu, 22 Dec 2022 23:37:45 GMT
The varied landscapes of Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/7/the-varied-landscapes-of-colorado MountYaleMarshWebMountYaleMarshWeb

Back in June, I drove out to Colorado.  From chasing storms in the eastern plains to hiking above the treeline in the Rockies and the sandstone canyons of western Colorado, here is a short sample of some of my favorite pictures from that trip. 

On June 7th, I targeted southeast Colorado in anticipation of seeing some storms.  Here I was able to view severe thunderstorms that prompted a few Tornado Warnings in the vicinity of Lamar.  I was a little late to this particular storm that produced a few brief tornado touchdowns, but I was still able to see the rotation in this storm near Two Buttes, Colorado. 


You can see the rotation in this 3 minute 45 second time-lapse sped up 8x into 28 seconds here: 


Next, it was time drive across the Rockies to the western side of the state. My destination was to Dinosaur National Monument along the Utah/Colorado border.  For now, I will just show my favorite location on the Colorado side of park. 


This is Steamboat Rock in far western Colorado. It is located in an area called Echo Park, where the Green and Yampa Rivers meet.  I will highlight the pictures for the Utah side of the park for a future blog post.  

After seeing the landscapes of Dinosaur National Monument, is was time to head a little east to the high country toward Central Colorado. The Flat Tops Wilderness has become one of my favorite places to visit in the last few summers.  I have now been there 3 of the last 4 years. You can see a previous blog post of my previous visit to Flat Tops here. Here I climbed to this viewpoint of the late afternoon light hitting the rock formation known as The Chinese Wall. 


The picture above was from 11,200 feet.  I would soon climb even higher on my next hike at Rocky Mountain National Park. It is one thing to hike above the treeline with a daypack.  It is another to haul a backpack with some camera and camping gear. This was the highest I have climbed while backpacking.


The Boulderfield is a camping area at 12,700 feet inside Rocky Mountain National Park. I have never camped that high before. Hauling your gear to that elevation is quite a challenge in itself. Then you have to have to hope for good weather.  I had to wait about 2 hours for a thunderstorm to pass before I decided to proceed to climbing above the treeline. Being above treeline with lightning popping nearby can be a jarring experience that I now prefer to avoid.  Above is the rock formation called The Keyhole, just below 14,259 foot Longs Peak, which gives you an idea of what it looks like at about 13,000 feet. After all that effort, the perk is to experience sunset and sunrise at such high elevations. 

IMG_6988IMG_6988 BoulderfieldJune22WebBoulderfieldJune22Web

This picture above is looking down on the appropriately named Chasm Lake, still partially frozen in June. The picture below is looking up at the summit of Longs Peak. 


Over the week of the 4th of July, my wife and I went to Colorado for some leisure time in the Colorado Springs and Buena Vista area. We took the cogway up to the top of Pikes Peak and stayed at a fishing resort called Rainbow Lake, seen at sunset on the picture below. 


We also drove up to the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass, just over 12,000 feet. Here we were able to catch some beautiful clouds reflections at this tarn in the late afternoon light. 


We took my 10-month daughter, Helicity, on this trip as well. It was her first time to Colorado. 


Unfortunately, we recently learned that her tumor that was removed back in February has returned.  She is currently in the first round of chemotherapy with a second round on the way in August.  This will probably be last blog post for the rest of the summer and I will be devoting a lot of my time the next couple of months taking care of her.  If you are the praying type, please say a prayer for her in hopes that she will finally beat cancer the second time around!    


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) colorado landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/7/the-varied-landscapes-of-colorado Tue, 19 Jul 2022 03:02:15 GMT
An architectural journey from Santa Fe to Taos https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/5/an-architectural-journey-from-santa-fe-to-taos SantaFeCloudSantaFeCloud

I have been going back into the photo archives the last couple of weeks and I thought I would put together a project from a photo tour in 2019.  This project focuses on the adobe structures from Santa Fe to Taos in New Mexico. The picture above with a cumulonimbus cloud is from downtown Santa Fe. 

The "High Road to Taos" is a scenic highway that goes through old Spanish influenced villages in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo mountains between Santa Fe to Taos. Below are pictures along that highway from the villages of Nambe and Picuris. 

NambeChurchBWNambeChurchBW PicurisChurchPicurisChurch

For the color image above in Picuris, I was fortunate to be there at the right time when the shadow from the ladder creates a triangle around the window. To me, this picture is like having two great images in one.  One could also crop the image down as a vertical centered around the ladder, the window and the shadow.  


The High Road to Taos ends near the town of Rancho de Taos, a few blocks from the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. 


This is probably one of the most painted and photographed churches in the nation, especially from the buttresses in the back. It has been famously painted by Georgia O'Keeffe and photographed by Ansel Adams. I have been here several times myself, and you can see a blog entry from my previous trip to this mission church. 


Completion of its construction took from 1772 to 1815 and it looks much the same to this day. 

The final picture below is from Taos Pueblo. It is an ancient pueblo belonging to the Taos speaking tribe of the Native American tribe of Puebloan people. The Pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States and is now designated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

On my last blog entry, I mentioned that my daughter was about to undergo major surgery to remove a tumor in her chest.  I am pleased to report that the tumor has been removed.  We will still get checkups every 3 months to make sure that the neuroblastoma doesn't reappear. However, for now, we are optimistic that we will be able to avoid any chemotherapy. Now at 8 months of age, she appears to be healthy.  Thanks to those of you who reached out to me with your support and prayers!


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) adobe architecture historical structures New Mexico Santa Fe Taos https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/5/an-architectural-journey-from-santa-fe-to-taos Wed, 25 May 2022 20:39:57 GMT
The Garden Island of Kauai https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/2/the-garden-island-of-kauai Kee Beach in KauaiKee Beach in Kauai

Over the start of the new year, I spent a week of vacation with my family on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. We stayed at the town of Princeville, on the north shore of the island.  Kauai is often nicknamed the "Garden Island" because of its lush vegetation created by the abundant rainfall.  It rained at least part of each day I was there.  Sometimes, the rain was soft and light. Other times, the rain was heavy enough to produce flooding.  The proximity of the sharp cliffs next to the warm ocean encourages humid air to rise quickly into a repeating cycle of condensation and rain. The interior portion of Kauai is considered to be the one of the wettest places in the United States, and among the top 10 in the world. In case you were wondering, the highest mountains in Kauai see an average of 384 inches of rain a year. The top 10 wettest places in the world can be found here


If you look closely in the photo above, you can see waterfalls pouring off the steep cliffs. 

We had a beautiful view from our rental overlooking Hanalei Bay that included rainbows and sunsets.

Hanalei Bay Rainbow in KauaiHanalei Bay Rainbow in Kauai Hanalei Bay Sunset in KauaiHanalei Bay Sunset in Kauai

With its unique landscapes, many films and TV shows have been filmed here. Among some of the most famous movies are Jurassic Park, King Kong, Avatar and Lord of the Flies

Lumahai Beach in KauaiLumahai Beach in Kauai

This beach (pictured above) was part of the film South Pacific. A couple of the more famous TV shows filmed on Kauai were Fantasy Island and Gilligan's Island

My favorite part of island is the Napoli Coast.  Here, you will see a rugged coastline that is only accessible by either boat, plane or foot.  I hiked a section of the famous Kalalau Trail that starts at Haena State Park. 

KalalauTrailWebKalalauTrailWeb NapoliCoastLookoutWebNapoliCoastLookoutWeb

I also recommend taking the drive along the top of Waimea Canyon that leads to the overlook pictured above, known as the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. This lookout gives a higher perspective of the Napoli Coast.


On a personal note, I thought I would take a little time to announce that my 5-month-old daughter has recently been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer.  She will soon be undergoing surgery to have much of the malignant tumor removed from her chest. If you are the praying type, please pray for her to have a safe surgery and for a quick recovery.


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) beaches Coast Kauai landscapes Napoli photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2022/2/the-garden-island-of-kauai Sun, 13 Feb 2022 22:58:45 GMT
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/12/merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year ChatfieldXMasWebChatfieldXMasWeb

It's been awhile since I have last written.  It has been a busy last few months for me.  My wife and I had our first baby, Helicity, on September 14th.  


I haven't taken many pictures the last few months, but routines are starting to re-normalize again.  I hope to get back into travel and photography again in 2022.  I have trips planned to Kauai, Utah and Montana over the next year...as well as a few other states to be determined.  I will also get back into my usual routine of taking more pictures of Arkansas.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy 2022 to you and your family.


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Damon photographer Shaw https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/12/merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year Thu, 23 Dec 2021 20:57:53 GMT
More from the Colorado Rockies https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/8/more-from-the-colorado-rockies MtCameronMtCameron

Earlier this summer, I went to Colorado.  I highlighted my trip to the Flat Tops Wilderness in my previous blog post, but here are some of the my favorites to other destinations in Colorado. 


During the last weekend of June, a colder than normal weather disturbance brought a mix of rain and snow to South Zapata Lake, elevation 11,900 feet. If you closely in the photo above, you might see the raindrops hitting the lake and a light dusting of fresh snow on the peaks above. It was good timing for me to do my semi-regular tradition of climbing a 14,000 foot mountain each summer.  This year, I decided to tackle Mount Lincoln. At 14,293 feet, Mount Lincoln is the highest peak in Park County and about 10 miles south of Breckenridge. There was still about a 1/2 inch of snow leftover from the previous day. This is the view from Mount Lincoln with a small coating fresh snow mixed in with the bigger patches of snow, leftover from the winter and spring. 


After a couple of tough hikes in tough conditions it was time to recover with some easier hikes in lower elevations.  One of the my favorite hikes was in the Routt National Forest, northeast of Steamboat Springs. It was here where I came across the best combination of large flowers in an aspen forest that I have ever seen!


These showy flowers are known as "Mulesear".  

I would return to being above the treeline.  My favorite time to be at or above treeline is at dawn to watch the night turn into day. 

MtIdaAlpenglowMtIdaAlpenglow ChapinMtnSunriseWebChapinMtnSunriseWeb

The two pictures above are from Rocky Mountain National Park. The one below is from State Forest State Park.  


You are also more likely to be treated to seeing some wildlife.  On my last trip to Colorado in 2019, I would have a close encounter with some mountain goats. This year, I would see moose and bighorn sheep. 

MtIdaMooseWebMtIdaMooseWeb JewelLakeRamJewelLakeRam  

My favorite destination was to Mirror Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  It involves a lengthy hike of about 15 miles roundtrip from the nearest parking lot.  However, if you are willing to hike that far, you are rewarded to one of the most photogenic mountains in Colorado.  The sharp point is called Lone Eagle Peak and it reflects well in the aptly named Mirror Lake. 


I would also spend the night here on this clear moonless night and photograph The Milky Way.  I'll hopefully have those pictures up soon in another blog post. 

CascadeFallsColumbinesWebCascadeFallsColumbinesWeb GilpinLakeGilpinLake

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado Landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/8/more-from-the-colorado-rockies Tue, 31 Aug 2021 21:42:10 GMT
The Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/7/the-flat-tops-wilderness-of-colorado LostLakesPeak19WebLostLakesPeak19Web

In 2019, and again earlier this month, I made a couple of visits to the Flat Tops Wilderness. Located in the northern part of Colorado, southwest of Steamboat Springs, the Flat Tops were formed by a combination of volcanic and glacial forces over a very long period of time. The Flat Tops’ unique shape is the result of millions of years of erosion that has stripped away ancient layers of softer sedimentary rock and exposed a hard basalt cap. Along the edges of the mountaintops, glacial activity more than 10,000 years ago scraped out stacks of sheer cliffs hundreds of feet tall.


The crest of the Flat Tops is an enormous plateau of mostly flat balsaltic lava, largely above timberline. This rock feature in the picture above is called The Chinese Wall. 

The Devil's Causeway is probably the most popular hiking destination in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The causeway is a narrow neck of the plateau where eroding glaciers on both sides almost met. 

DevilsCauseway21WebDevilsCauseway21Web DevilsCauseway19WebDevilsCauseway19Web

A section of the causeway is only about 4 feet wide with a sheer drop of 400 feet on both sides!

As a result of all the glacier activity, there are numerous small lakes such as the ones you see here.  

FaltTopsSunset19WebFaltTopsSunset19Web KennerLakeWebKennerLakeWeb FlatTopsUnnamedLake19WebFlatTopsUnnamedLake19Web CausewayLakeWebCausewayLakeWeb LittleCausewayLakeWebLittleCausewayLakeWeb

Such goregous reflections!  I will have more new pictures from elsewhere in Colorado soon. That will be my next blog post that comes out later this summer. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado Colorado Wilderness Devils Causeway Flat Tops Flat Tops Wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/7/the-flat-tops-wilderness-of-colorado Sat, 31 Jul 2021 19:24:57 GMT
The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/6/the-blue-ridge-mountains-of-north-carolina BlackBalsamKnobWebBlackBalsamKnobWeb

Earlier this month, my wife and I vacationed to the Asheville area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Although photography wasn't the primary goal of the trip, I still managed to take some nice pictures on our drives and shorter hikes in the area.

Of course, a trip to Asheville would not be complete without a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The picture below was taken at 5,600 feet above sea level, close to some of the highest elevations in the eastern United States.  In this picture, you can see the change in green hues between the highest elevations where the trees had not fully leafed out yet and the lower elevations where the trees had already fully leafed out.  


There were a couple of mornings where I was greeted with fog in the valleys. You may have noticed that the fog is more likely to have a blue color to the landscape, which leads to the topic of how did the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains get there name? The Cherokee referred to the area as “Schconage” (Sha-Kon-O-Hey), which means “land of the blue smoke.” Early white settlers took inspiration from the Cherokee when they named the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The "smoke" is actually fog that comes from the area’s vegetation.

While the Smoky Mountains are not the only place you can find blue smoke, they do have ideal conditions for creating this picturesque fog. The trees containing turpentine in East Tennessee and West North Carolina have high concentrations of vapor molecules called VOC's (volatile organic compounds) that scatter blue light. We all know that plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. What we hear less about is how plants also have this exhale process in volatile organic compounds. VOC's may sound scary, but when they are released from plants, they are completely natural. Have you ever enjoyed the piney smell that comes from an evergreen tree? That scent comes from the tree giving off VOCs as it breathes. The Smokies also benefit from abundant rainfall, plenty of sunlight, and high levels of humidity. Taken all together, these factors produce a breathtaking fog that is worthy of the name “land of the blue smoke.”

SwagFogWebSwagFogWeb SwagFog2WebSwagFog2Web

The Rhododendrons were also in bloom in the higher elevations and there are numerous waterfalls in the region.  Below are Skinny Dip Falls and Looking Glass Falls, both southwest of Asheville. 

SwagRhodiesWebSwagRhodiesWeb SkinnyDipFallsWebSkinnyDipFallsWeb IMG_3157IMG_3157

After my wife went back home, I went on a backpacking trip to the Shining Rock Wilderness, where the highlight is the this quartz rock outcrop known as "Shining Rock" that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains. 


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Blue Ridge Mountains Shining Rock Wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/6/the-blue-ridge-mountains-of-north-carolina Fri, 25 Jun 2021 19:15:21 GMT
Arctic Air Invades Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/2/arctic-air-invades-arkansas ForkTreeSnowForkTreeSnow

     We are now wrapping up one of the coldest 2 week stretches in Arkansas history and central Arkansas is seeing one of its snowiest months ever. Many areas in central Arkansas have seen over a foot of snow this week. While Little Rock had about 20 inches of snow this week, Fayetteville's official temperature reached as low as -20 degrees. This is the new record for Fayetteville's Drake Field. You have to go back to 1899 when there was a thermometer at the U of A that recorded -24 to find the coldest temperature ever recorded in the history of Fayetteville. 

     During the second week of February, most of the state had not seen much snow. However, the higher elevations did see a significant amount of rime ice with a little bit of snow. Most of this was around and above 2,000 feet above sea level. After the entire state saw the first round of snow on Monday, I decided to take the slow, snow-packed road up to the highest point in Arkansas...Mount Magazine. 

MtMagazineSnowFeb21Mt Magazine Snow

A thick coating of rime ice on the branches of every tree. Rime ice is created by an accumulation of water droplets in freezing fog. 

MtMagazineSouthRimeIceMtMagazineSouthRimeIce IMG_2409IMG_2409

     After the second round of snow on Wednesday, I thought I would take advantage of the recent extreme cold and take a hike to Glory Hole. It is one of the more iconic waterfalls in the state. I usually get pretty bored with taking pictures of the icons that everyone else shoots, but I made an exception in this case. Most winters, you will just get at least some flowing water with occasional icicles on the bluffline in the winter months. However, it is a pretty rare occurrence to see the entire column of water freeze from top to bottom as a full cylinder of ice. It usually takes several consecutive days where it stays below freezing all day and a round of temperatures around or below zero for the entire column of ice to freeze.

The last time it was a frozen cylinder, at least to this extent, was in 2011.

Frozen Glory HoleFrozen Glory Hole

     On average, it looks like this only about once (maybe twice) a decade and it will only last a few days. While we still might see another snow later this winter or even early spring, I think it is safe to say that we are through the coldest part of this winter.  Before long, it will be spring. After this 2 week stretch, many of us will be ready!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas weather cold frozen Glory Hole ice Magazine Mount snow winter photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/2/arctic-air-invades-arkansas Sat, 20 Feb 2021 21:46:13 GMT
Snow On Top Of The Ozarks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/1/snow-on-top-of-the-ozarks Snowy MeadowSnowy Meadow

     This week there was a winter storm that affected the higher elevations of the Ozarks. As time drew closer to the event, with the help of my experience in forecasting the weather in the state of Arkansas, confidence was high that this was going to be elevation driven winter storm. Below was a computer model (called the HRRR model) forecast from the day before that I based my decision on where to be for this event. It was suggesting that the highest snow amounts were to be in the higher elevations (around and above 2000 ft. elevation), particularly in/near Newton County and other of the highest mountaintops, such as Mount Magazine, in western Arkansas.


     I made the decision to drive to Newton County and "snow chase". The forecast was pretty much spot on where the accumulations would be. With such marginally cold temperatures, it was a particularly wet snow that was pasty and stuck to the branches of the trees. In general, the warmer the temperature...the wetter the snow. With a colder temperature (roughly mid 20s and colder), the result would be a more powdery snow.


     It was rather fascinating to see the difference in snow between the higher elevations and the lower elevations. The picture below was taken at about 2,000 feet above sea level but you can look down on the Buffalo River Valley at about 1,300 feet above sea level. Notice the difference in the amount of snow on the trees. Down on the valley floor, many of the snowflakes melted into raindrops. This is about the closest thing you can get to snow capped mountains in Arkansas!

CloudlandSnowElevation copyCloudlandSnowElevation copy

     I thought I would take a walk in the woods to a waterfall. However, as you drop in elevation, the amount of snow was lower and already melting. This waterfall in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness was at about 1,800 feet above sea level. Still, the water was nice and the beech trees (beech trees hold their leaves all winter) in the background added a little color.


     Winter is almost half over, but maybe there will be more opportunities to photograph snow later in the season.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas snow Newton County snow Snow In Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/1/snow-on-top-of-the-ozarks Sat, 09 Jan 2021 22:50:56 GMT
Waterfalls and Rainforests of the Pacific Northwest https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/1/waterfalls-and-rainforests-of-the-pacific-northwest MarthaFallsWebMarthaFallsWeb

     Happy New Year!  Although I didn't do quite as much traveling this past year (in part to COVID), I did make it to the Pacific Northwest a couple of times this past year. I thought I would take one last look back to my journeys to Oregon and Washington in 2020. I visited a couple of new national parks this year (North Cascades and Crater Lake) but also visited a couple of familiar favorites (Olympic and Mount Rainier). 

The western part of Washington and Oregon sees a lot of rain, especially in the colder half of the year.  The terrain and high rainfall means there are numerous waterfalls.  Silver Falls State Park in OregonSilver Falls State Park in Oregon

One of the larger and more photogenic waterfalls in Oregon is located in Silver Falls State Park, near Salem. A 7+ mile hike on the Trail Of Ten Falls is the best way to see this beautiful state park. Above you can see a picture of South Falls, one of those 10 waterfalls. I was here in October, the best month to see fall foliage here.  Although the majority of trees in Oregon are evergreen, there are some maple trees that make for some splashes of color in such a green forest. 

TokeeteFallsVertWebTokeeteFallsVertWeb FallsCreekFallsVertWebFallsCreekFallsVertWeb

Pictured above are Tokeete Falls in Oregon (left) and Falls Creek Falls in Washington (right).

PantherCreekFallsVertWebPantherCreekFallsVertWeb ChrstineFallsWebChrstineFallsWeb

Pictured above are Panther Creek Falls (left) and Christine Falls in Washington (right).

A trip to see Pacific Northwest waterfalls would not be complete without a visit to the Columbia River Gorge. Another large and photogenic waterfall in Oregon is Multnomah Falls.  Because it is literally next to a rest stop on I-84 east of Portland, it is photographed hundreds of times a day.  However, it was a must see for this first time visitor to the Columbia River Gorge. 


Other waterfalls can be seen with a short hike from the road, such as this waterfall known as Fairy Falls.

The Pacific Northwest is also home of old growth rain forests. When most people think of rain forests, they tend think of the Amazon or a location that is closer to the Equator. The area along the coast from western Washington up to southern Alaska is known as a temperate rainforest. This temperate rainforest is different than a warmer tropical rainforest. Here, the western slopes of the mountains are the first area to get hit with the moisture-laden wind and rain storms that come in from the Pacific Ocean. As the air rises along the westward slopes of these mountains it cools and yields precipitation, and lots of it.

So how much rain do you need to distinguish a rain forest from just any forest?  The answer is a rain forest sees around or above a 100 inches of rain a year. 


The result is some of most lush forests in the world. Common trees along the Washington coast include Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. Many of these trees have clumps of moss hanging on the branches with numerous ferns on the ground. 


I'm already thinking about another trip back to this part of the country...next time it will be to spend more time on the Oregon Coast. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) landscapes Oregon Pacific Northwest rain forest rainforest Washington waterfalls https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2021/1/waterfalls-and-rainforests-of-the-pacific-northwest Mon, 04 Jan 2021 02:04:52 GMT
2021 Calendar Images https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/12/2021-calendar-images Now is the time to order get those 2021 wall calendars and my photography has been featured in 3 different state calendars.

This image of Pinnacle Mountain was taken from January 2016, which was the last time central Arkansas saw a big snow.  This was on a morning just after it had snowed about 8 inches. 

PinnacleMtAR_DSPinnacleMtAR_DSSnow at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas suring January 2016.

That picture is featured on the January page of the Arkansas Wild & Scenic 2021 wall calendar from Brown Trout Publishing. It can be ordered here.

Another winter picture of mine is featured on the February page of the Missouri Wild & Scenic 2021 wall calendar that can be ordered here. It was -4 degrees on this January morning at Grand Falls near Joplin, Missouri. 


I am also featured on the April page of 2021 Oklahoma Wall Calendar from Smith-Southwestern. This image was from the grounds of the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa. 

DamonShawTulsaPhilbrook2EditedDamonShawTulsaPhilbrook2EditedThe gardens at Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma during May 2019.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Damon Shaw photographer https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/12/2021-calendar-images Sun, 20 Dec 2020 23:44:12 GMT
Mount Rainier: America's Mountain https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/11/mount-rainier-americas-mountain SprayParkAug20WebSprayParkAug20Web

It's been a pretty busy couple of months for me and my wife.  This fall, we completed a move together from our former home in Fayetteville to our new home in Rogers. I have also been working on a new project, which I will reveal to you in 2021. 

Anyway, I'm finally getting around to working on my photos from my two trips to Mount Rainier earlier this year. A longer visit back in August and a brief visit again in October.  

Early August is typically the peak of wildflower season here. My favorite hike was a destination on the Wonderland Trail known as "Indian Henry's Hunting Ground" where there were many flowers in bloom. 

WonderlandTrailAug20WebWonderlandTrailAug20Web WonderlandTrailAug20Web2WonderlandTrailAug20Web2

On this same 6-mile one way hike was The appropriately named Mirror Lake. Despite walking back to the car in the dark, it was worth being there during the early evening to see the beautiful reflections and flowers there. 


I was also able to get some nice reflections with a thin layer of morning fog at Bench Lake. 


     At over 14,000 feet, Mount Rainier is one of the highest mountains in the lower 48. From base to summit, it is also the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. To me, Mount Rainier is the most impressive and beautiful mountain in the lower 48.  A couple of times, I have found myself even startled when I first see the glaciated summit.

     It is still potentially an active volcano that will likely reawaken in the future. Eyewitnesses in Seattle last reported eruptive activity in 1894, but it has been quiet since.  Some of you can remember when nearby Mount St. Helen's had a violent eruption in 1980.

      I'm glad that I made my visit shortly before all the Pacific Northwest fires that would occur later in August and September. Skies were clear for the majority of the time but I also had some occasional atmospherics such as fog and some light haze. 

TipsooFlowersFogWebTipsooFlowersFogWeb SunriseWAFogWebSunriseWAFogWeb SunriseWAFlowersWebSunriseWAFlowersWeb SunriseWAHazeWebSunriseWAHazeWeb

On my second trip to the Pacific Northwest this year, I briefly visited Mount Rainier, but this time after an early snow in October. 


I have more pictures to go through from Oregon and Washington. On the next blog, I will be writing about the rainforest and waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Mount Rainier Mount Rainier National Park Mount Rainier photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/11/mount-rainier-americas-mountain Sun, 22 Nov 2020 03:41:13 GMT
Loose in the Palouse https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/9/loose-in-the-palouse PalouseEnglishTreesWebPalouseEnglishTreesWeb

Welcome to September! The weather is getting cooler across middle part of the nation this week and we are transitioning from summer to fall. That also means harvest season. On my recent trip to Washington, I visited a farming region in southeast Washington known as "The Palouse". Centered around towns like Colfax and Pullman, Whitman County is the number one wheat producing county in the United States. 

SteptoeTractorWebSteptoeTractorWeb SteptoeWhitmanCoSteptoeWhitmanCo

The Palouse is characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields. The hills were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt, called "loess", from dry regions to the southwest. The best vantage point to see these hills is from the summit of Steptoe Butte. They look like giant sand dunes because they were formed in much the same way.

SteptoeButte205mmWebSteptoeButte205mmWeb SteptoeButte562mmWebSteptoeButte562mmWeb SteptoeAbstractWebSteptoeAbstractWeb

With an ultra zoom lens from atop Steptoe Butte, the patterns of these rolling hills are especially fun to compose in the low light just after sunrise and just before sunset. 

The isolated cottonwood trees can also be fun subjects in the vast wheat fields. 

PalouseCottonwoodBWWebPalouseCottonwoodBWWeb PalouseCottonwoodVertWeb-2PalouseCottonwoodVertWeb-2

The landscape here is much like western Kansas...but with bigger hills! There are a few old barns and abandoned homes as well. 

PalouseTwoBarnsWebPalouseTwoBarnsWeb PalouseHomeWebPalouseHomeWeb PalouseHome2WebPalouseHome2Web

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) harvest season Palouse Photography Steptoe Butte wheat wheat field https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/9/loose-in-the-palouse Mon, 07 Sep 2020 12:00:00 GMT
North Cascades National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/8/north-cascades-national-park IMG-1359IMG-1359

I typically spend some time each summer in one of my favorite states, Colorado. However, for this year, I decided to do something different and instead spend time in the state of Washington. I spent 5 days backpacking with Wildland Trekking across North Cascades National Park, just south of the Canadian border. We backpacked for 35 miles from Ross Lake to over Whatcom Pass and over Hannegan Pass. North Cascades is a lesser visited park. There are no lodges and only one road going through the park. With limited facilities, it is primarily a hiking and backpacking park. Even in peak season, you can still get a decent amount of solitude here with just a little effort.  Although I didn't take a lot of pictures, I thought would briefly share some of my favorite pictures while visiting.

WhatcomPassWhatcomPass IMG-1317IMG-1317

IMG-1295IMG-1295 GraybealGraybeal

One of the highlights on this trip was crossing the Chilliwack River on a "cable car". Here is a video clip: 


While in Washington, I also visited Mount Rainer National Park as well as the region known as "The Palouse".  I will share some of those pictures in a future blog entry. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) North Cascades National Park Wildland Trekking https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/8/north-cascades-national-park Mon, 17 Aug 2020 19:07:26 GMT
Comet NEOWISE https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/7/comet-neowise HorseheadLakeCometHorseheadLakeComet

     On Monday night, I decided to photograph Comet NEOWISE. The comet was first discovered on March 28 and spotted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer; that's how the comet earned the name “NEOWISE". It is the 3rd comet that I recall seeing in my lifetime. Growing up, I remember Halley's Comet back in 1986 and Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. To the naked eye, those comets seemed brighter and more visible than this one. Even after getting away from city lights, Comet NEOWISE was only barely visible to my naked eye. However, it is one of the first comets of the digital photography era and these more faint comets show up much better in today's high ISO digital cameras. This image was a 8 second exposure at ISO 3200. 

     After doing some research on where to find the comet, I wanted to find a location where I can could easily incorporate the landscape with the comet...not just point my camera at only the sky.  This involved determining a relatively dark place away from towns with an wide open view to the northwest. I concluded with Horseshoe Lake northwest of Clarksville in the Ozark National Forest. The foreground of the lake and the Boston Mountains complimented the comet. About 40 miles away (as the crow flies) northwest of here is the city of Fayetteville.  With my camera facing northwest, it appears that the city lights from the main cities of Northwest Arkansas illuminated the cirrus clouds beneath the comet. 

     You can see the comet for a little while longer below the Big Dipper in the northwest sky after sunset. It is best seen with binoculars. However, after July 23, it will get a little dimmer each day as the comet moves away from Earth. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas nightscapes Comet Neowise https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/7/comet-neowise Wed, 22 Jul 2020 18:55:03 GMT
The Southern New England Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/7/the-southern-new-england-coast NewportCobblestoneBeachNewportCobblestoneBeach

Earlier this month, I returned from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was the first out of the region travel I had done since COVID-19. While I did take my camera, it was more of a vacation with my wife than a photography centered trip. Most of these pictures were captured early in the morning while my wife slept in. 

Below are 4 pictures taken from the island of Martha's Vineyard. 

MarthasVineyardPondMarthasVineyardPond GayHeadLightGayHeadLight AquinnahDawnAquinnahDawn AquinnahSunset2AquinnahSunset2


Next, it was on to another sister island off the coast of Cape Cod...Nantucket. 

WauwinetChairsWauwinetChairs SconsetBluffWalkSconsetBluffWalk


The landscape of New England is perhaps best known for its numerous lighthouses. These lighthouses at Cape Cod and Nantucket were cloaked in dense fog. 

HighlandLighthouseHighlandLighthouse BrantPointLighthouseBrantPointLighthouse

Rhode Island was not on our original itinerary. However, with Coronavirus out-of-state travel restrictions still in place for Maine, we decided to instead spend some time in Rhode Island. We were pleasantly surprised and especially liked the small island of Block Island. Until recently, I never saw any pictures from Block Island. It is a popular destination for people that live in Rhode Island, but it doesn't get much attention to people outside of New England. I found its coastline to be quite scenic and its beauty underrated. 

MonheganBluffs20_____Monhegan_Bluffs_____Monhegan_BluffsMonheganBluffs20_____Monhegan_Bluffs_____Monhegan_Bluffs BlackRockBeach20bBlackRockBeach20b BlackRockBeach20baBlackRockBeach20ba MonheganBluffsVert20MonheganBluffsVert20

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Block Island Rhode Island Martha's Vineyard New England Landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/7/the-southern-new-england-coast Sun, 19 Jul 2020 22:00:11 GMT
Thunderstorms and waterfalls https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/6/thunderstorms-and-waterfalls Van Buren Shelf CloudVan Buren Shelf Cloud

     The last week of May featured an unsettled weather pattern in Arkansas. Above is a picture of a shelf cloud coming into Van Buren on the evening of Memorial Day. A shelf cloud is typically associated with a solid line of thunderstorms, also known as a squall line. Although brief tornadoes can occur on a squall line, they are typically rain-wrapped and short lived. The main threat with them is usually the straight line winds that occur with the shelf cloud. The wind will come first with the rain following behind it. 

     I only spent a little time looking at the shelf cloud near Van Buren before I had to drive back north toward Fayetteville to stay ahead of the line of storms. After getting back to a meadow on the western outskirts of Fayetteville, I was able to get there in time to record a time lapse of the approaching line of storms. Below is a 10 minute long capture at 10 times the speed to make for a minute long video. 

Fayetteville Storm May 27, 2020

     On the afternoon of May 27th, I captured another time lapse of a storm coming into the Upper Buffalo Wilderness area. This storm was below severe limits and was not as dramatic a shelf cloud as the one that came into Fayetteville a couple of days earlier. However, it was still interesting to see the rain draw closer to me. Below is a 20 minute long capture at 20 times the speed to make for a minute long video.

Cloudland TimeLapse May 27, 2020

     May is typically among the wettest months of the year in Arkansas and is one of the best months for waterfalls. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the last couple of weeks. Each of these pictures below are from Newton County. 

KenSmithFallsWebKenSmithFallsWeb KenSmithFallsVertWebKenSmithFallsVertWeb HammerschmidtFallsWebHammerschmidtFallsWeb PruittHollowWebPruittHollowWeb

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas waterfalls Arkansas weather lapse storms time https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/6/thunderstorms-and-waterfalls Mon, 08 Jun 2020 21:12:22 GMT
A Hike To Hare Mountain https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/5/a-hike-to-hare-mountain HareMtnOHTVertWebHareMtnOHTVertWeb HareMtnOHTVertHareMtnOHTVert

     I haven't done quite as much photography this spring as I have most spring seasons. Part of that has to do with limiting my time away from home with some of the quarantine measures.  Some trails are closed while others are open. One trail that remains open is the Ozark Highlands Trail, which is a long distance backpacking trail that passes through some of the most remote and scenic portions of the Boston Mountains. One of my bucket list items is to see the entire trail from Lake Fort Smith to the lower part of the Buffalo River. I have done about 1/2 of this, mostly in the form of bite sized dayhikes.  It is a good place to escape to in a time like this, as every time I go I see no people or no more than a few people on a hike with many times seeing no people this time. This time, I only saw 2 other hikers on my way to Hare Mountain in the Ozark National Forest. Located in northern Franklin County, it is the highest point on the Ozark Highlands Trail.  


     On my hike this week, I found one of the more prolific displays of wildflowers that I have seen in the Ozarks.  I believe that all the flowers pictured here are phlox. 

HareMtnPhlox1x1HareMtnPhlox1x1 HareMtnPhlox4x5HareMtnPhlox4x5

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas hiking Ozark Highlands Trail Ozark National Forest Ozarks phlox wildflowers https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/5/a-hike-to-hare-mountain Fri, 08 May 2020 13:20:40 GMT
R.I.P. Old Tree https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/r-i-p-old-tree AtkinsTreeAtkinsTree

     Last week, this old tree near Atkins, Arkansas fell victim to a storm. I only photographed this lone, old tree a couple of times...once in daytime and once at night. I do know some other photographers in the state who has photographed this dozens, if not over a hundred times. It was one of the most photographed individual trees in the state. Personally, I preferred the look of this tree at night with its emphasis on its shape in the form of a silhouette. I am sharing you my favorite image of this tree with the Milky Way.  This picture was taken in July of last year shortly after the Arkansas River flooded last year so there was a lot of mud and standing water still leftover from the recent flood. With all that moisture on the ground, one of the most memorable things about the shoot was all the mosquitos biting me while I was trying to take those pictures. Rest in peace old tree. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Milky Way night photography nightscape silhouette tree https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/r-i-p-old-tree Mon, 20 Apr 2020 03:17:11 GMT
A Dichotomy of Seasons https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/a-dichotomy-of-seasons CloudlandMayappleSnowWebCloudlandMayappleSnowWeb

     It's been quite chilly here in Arkansas the last few days. This is the 3rd straight morning we've had temperatures near or below freezing.  Early yesterday morning, we even had a dusting of snow in the Ozarks. Snow during April in Arkansas is rare, but not unheard of. Back in 2013, we even had a bigger snow than this on May 3rd. Odds are I will never see that again in my lifetime here. However, snow in the month of April is rare enough that it gave for unique opportunities to photograph the clash of winter and spring.  



These small umbrella-like plants are mayapples, which sprout up each spring.  The dusting of snow made for some interesting scenes along the forest floor here in Newton County. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Arkansas landscapes photography seasons https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/a-dichotomy-of-seasons Wed, 15 Apr 2020 20:31:46 GMT
Quarantine Sale https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/quarantine-sale Devils Canyon JuniorDevils Canyon Junior

     As a special one time offer to provide relief during the pandemic, I am providing a special offer to my loyal readers of this blog. This offer will be good through the rest of this month. 

For every $100 or more purchase, I will be offering 30% off all prints of mine through this website by entering the coupon code APRIL20 during your checkout process. Here is how you do it:

1. Place your mouse over the photo you want to buy and click on the buy button that will appear in the lower right part of the image.

2. Select which size and type of photo you want on the right hand side and click on the + button. The item will be added to your cart.

3. Click on the shopping cart in the upper right part of the page and click proceed to checkout. You can then either sign in with your account, register an account or continue as a guest. 

4. Enter in your shipping information to continue the checkout process.

5. Apply the coupon code APRIL20 and click apply to get the 30% discount. 

6. Continue the checkout process and enter in your payment information. 


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Damon Shaw https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/quarantine-sale Fri, 10 Apr 2020 13:59:35 GMT
Finding Beauty In Chaos https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/finding-beauty-in-chaos Mountain Fork River OklahomaMountain Fork River Oklahoma

     Happy April!  It is one of my favorite months of the year to spend outside. After a break from taking pictures, the new greenery and blooms have inspired me to get out and photograph again. Through all this Coronavirus chaos, hopefully you have been able to enjoy some time outside. With so many indoor gathering places closed, many of you are spending time outside. Many establishments and city parks are closed, so a lot of people are flocking to the hiking trails in national parks, state parks and national forests that still remain open. Overcrowding has become a problem on the more popular trails. With this in mind, I have avoided the hot spots that are well known through social media. Instead I have only been to places where I feel like I will either see few people or no people at all. I also tend to head out on early weekday mornings before the sun rises or when there is a chance of rain in the forecast. Using this methodology, I have been able to enjoy a lot solitude. 

     However, one drawback to avoiding the iconic locations is that I have to work harder to find what I feel are good pictures. Some places, when you reach the destination it is obvious what you are supposed to shoot. Through research, imagination, walking farther and looking harder I feel like I was able to come up with some unique images that either rarely get photographed or perhaps get an image that nobody has ever produced. I enjoy that challenge. 


The two pictures above are from the Mountain Fork River in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. The water was higher than I expected. The waves were bigger as they flowed over the rocks and was flooding some of the nearby landscape. Brush was often in the way of the view of the river and it can make a rather chaotic scene. Numerous bushes and tree limbs present a challenge, but the goal is to try to simplify and create as much order to the chaos as possible.  Through a couple of openings, I was able to create a couple of intimate landscapes of the flowing water. 

Across the border in southwest Arkansas was another river that can be popular with whitewater canoeists and kayakers when water levels are adequate, but it does not get much foot traffic and I had the entire trail to myself. Below is a picture of the Cossatot River. The large rocks in the river creates a unique look, and has more a "western" flavor to it compared to most streams in Arkansas. 


This morning I went to a small group of waterfalls in the Ozark National Forest in northern Franklin County, Arkansas. I went to a little visited unnamed waterfall where once again I tried to make sense out of chaos.  We are at the peak of redbud season in the Ozarks and this redbud in full bloom made for some nice balance to compliment this waterfall. 

Devils Canyon RedbudDevils Canyon Redbud

When the redbuds are in bloom that means the dogwood trees will soon be out. Hopefully we can all make sense out of the chaos as we get through this and come out better on the other side. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) intimate landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/4/finding-beauty-in-chaos Thu, 02 Apr 2020 00:11:38 GMT
Milky Way On The Maine Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/3/milky-way-on-the-maine-coast I hope all is well with you guys during this unusual time.  The good news with the quarantine measures is that I have been spending more time working on photos from previous trips. I told you that I would show you some night sky pictures from my trip to Maine in August. So I'm going to show you my favorite 2 images from the Maine Coast.  


Ravens Nest Milky WayRavens Nest Milky WayMade from 5 light frames by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.8.0. Algorithm: Min Horizon Noise

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Coast Maine Milky nightscapes Way https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/3/milky-way-on-the-maine-coast Wed, 25 Mar 2020 20:42:42 GMT
Milky Way Over The Matterhorn https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/2/milky-way-over-maine-and-the-matterhorn Last year, I went to Maine back in the summer and Switzerland back in the fall.  I mentioned that I would be posting some night photos from these locations and now I am eventually posting some of those pictures. So first, I thought I would post a picture from the Matterhorn. 


This is a composite image that is actually two pictures blended into one. One picture is exposed for the sky and the reflections in the pond while another picture is exposed for the ground. At longer exposures, the camera will see stars that the naked eye can't see. The glow on the horizon is a result of light pollution over Central Europe. However, it helps make the Matterhorn stand out. I will soon have some night photos from Maine. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Maine landscapes Matterhorn Milky Way night sky https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/2/milky-way-over-maine-and-the-matterhorn Sat, 29 Feb 2020 15:28:14 GMT
Honeymoon in Saint Lucia https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/1/honeymoon-in-saint-lucia LaderaViewPtKissLaderaViewPtKiss

I was married back in October and over the holidays Christina and I spent our honeymoon on the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean Sea, a place of scenic mountains, forests and beaches. The island is volcanic in origin and so it boasts places such as warm sulphur springs and one of the Caribbean’s most famous landmarks, the Pitons, as majestic remnants of the geologic past. Those mountains are known as the Pitons behind us and they were a favorite photo subject on this trip. 


It's nice to get a break from winter in the United States and enjoy temperatures that were always either in the 70s or 80s. We had a nice mix of downtime just enjoying the sun and the views and also did some activities such as snorkeling, hiking and sightseeing. I also managed to do some photography, especially while my new bride slept in.

JadeMountain4x5WebJadeMountain4x5Web LaderaRoomSunsetLaderaRoomSunset JadeMountainSunsetWebJadeMountainSunsetWeb  

Not only did I photograph these two famous mountains with colorful sunrises and sunsets but I also photographed them under clear nights with stars and moonlight. 

JadeMountainStarEdited-2JadeMountainStarEdited-2Made from 10 light frames by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.8.0. Algorithm: Min Horizon Noise LaderaStarCompositeLaderaStarComposite AnseMaminNightWebAnseMaminNightWeb

One night, we had a lionfish dinner on the beach. The bonfire next to the dining area provided nice light painting for this rock outcrop on the shore. Not only was it a tasty meal, but it was also educational. We learned about how lionfish are an invasive species to the oceans and there is a growing industry to eat lionfish in an attempt to curb its population. Lionfish are native to the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, but it is believed that a few home aquarium owners of lionfish were released in the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, they have rapidly reproduced. You can find out more about the lionfish in this educational video from PBS here. Below is an example of what a lion fish looks like. 


Here is a look of that same rock outcrop at Anse Mamin Beach near Soufriere. 


Long exposure shots with water can be fun and challenging. My feet and my tripod legs got wet but I walked away with a few nice wave shots. 

Anse Mamim Beach at St. LuciaAnse Mamim Beach at St. Lucia

We also did a few hikes in the tropical forest. At the end of our favorite trail was this view of the Pitons and Sugar Beach. 

LaderaViewPtSunsetLaderaViewPtSunset LaderaTreeWebLaderaTreeWeb

Wildlife was also seen such as numerous hummingbirds, lizards and geckos. It was our first time to see a tarantula in the wild, but the sight of a rainbow over one of the Pitons made up for it. 

LaderaRainbowLaderaRainbow PalmTreeRainbowWebPalmTreeRainbowWeb

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) caribbean landscapes pitons saint lucia https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2020/1/honeymoon-in-saint-lucia Fri, 24 Jan 2020 02:59:54 GMT
Navigating the swamps of Louisiana https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/12/navigating-the-swamps-of-louisiana CypressIslandPreserveLAPanoCypressIslandPreserveLAPano

Back in November, I drove down to the swamps of southern Louisiana. While some of the photography was captured from land, boats where also used to reach some of the locations. 


Three different times, I went kayaking in search of some unique scenes of cypress and tupelo trees in the swamps and bayous. During mid-November, many of these cypress trees turn a rusty orange/brown color. Below are some of my favorite pictures from Lake Martin, Lake Fausse Point and the Atchafalaya Basin near Lafayette. 

AtchBasinYellowTreeWebAtchBasinYellowTreeWeb CypressIslandPreserveLACypressIslandPreserveLA LakeMartinLANov1419LakeMartinLANov1419 LakeMartinDawnLakeMartinDawn LakeMartinColorfulMossLakeMartinColorfulMoss LakeMartinCypressLakeMartinCypress

With cold air flowing over the warmer water (one morning the temperature was as low as 25 degrees), a thin layer of steam fog developed for one of these kayak outings. Besides the fall color, it is interesting to get up close to some of these wide tree trunk bases.  

LakeMartinColorfulMoss3LakeMartinColorfulMoss3 LakeMartinColorfulPrintLakeMartinColorfulPrint LakeMartinCorridorWebLakeMartinCorridorWeb LakeMartinCypressTrunksLakeMartinCypressTrunks

That is Spanish moss hanging from the cypress trees. It gives a rather spooky and spectacular feel that contributes a lot to that "look" of Louisiana.  Many people get concerned that Spanish moss can damage their trees. Contrary to what many people believe, Spanish moss is not a parasite and does not injure a tree by obtaining any nourishment from it. It only uses the tree for support and doesn’t invade the living tissue unlike mistletoe and other parasitic plants that do. It turns out that Spanish moss gets everything it needs from sunlight, rainwater and air like any other plant. 

I also took a guided motorboat ride into the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge near Houma. Here, I spotted bald eagles and an alligator. 

LouisianaBaldEagleLouisianaBaldEagle LouisianaGator-2LouisianaGator-2

I spent one night at the Oak Alley Plantation to see the beautiful estate both during the day and also at night. 

OakAlleyDayOakAlleyDay OakAlleyNightOakAlleyNight

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Cypress Swamp Lake Martin Louisiana Louisiana landscapes Louisiana photography Oak Alley Plantation https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/12/navigating-the-swamps-of-louisiana Sat, 07 Dec 2019 01:30:16 GMT
The Waterfalls of Fall https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/11/the-waterfalls-of-fall Glory B FallsGlory B Falls

We are close to the peak for fall foliage season here in Northwest Arkansas. However, it seems like it has been a below average year for color in the Ozarks. I think this is because of several reasons.  We had a hotter than average September...followed by a very wet October.  In fact, my hometown of Fayetteville set a record for the most rain ever recorded in October. An early light freeze back on October 12th with a harder freeze and temperatures in the 20s around Halloween didn't help either. Even though the color seems a little dull this year, there was one thing going positive this month and that was the amount of waterfalls flowing. So I decided to use it to my advantage and focus on waterfalls this season. Although the widespread color has been lacking this season, there was still some pockets of nice color in spots. 


The pictures above are from Eden Falls at Lost Valley near Ponca and Triple Falls near Jasper. Below are an assortment of my other favorites from other lesser known waterfalls in Northwest Arkansas. I guess it turns out that I like to take verticals when it comes to waterfalls!

Devils EyebrowDevils Eyebrow    Hideout Hollow Falls in OctoberHideout Hollow Falls in October

HideoutHollowOct19HideoutHollowOct19   IndianCreekOct19IndianCreekOct19

AmberFallsOct19AmberFallsOct19 BroadwaterHollowFallsOct19BroadwaterHollowFallsOct19

Paige Falls OctoberPaige Falls October BroadwaterHollowOct19BroadwaterHollowOct19

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas autumn fall fall color in Arkansas Northwest Arkansas Ozarks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/11/the-waterfalls-of-fall Sun, 03 Nov 2019 19:37:28 GMT
Touring the Top of Switzerland https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/10/touring-the-top-of-switzerland SwissCowSwissCow

Earlier this fall, I made a return trip to my favorite foreign country to see...Switzerland.  I haven't been there since I was in college back in the 90s, so this was my first time to seriously photograph the landscapes here. I joined up with Christian Heeb for a photo tour of his native country. Christian was born and raised there before moving to Oregon. Much of the time was spending the night at hotels on top of a mountain that were reached by trams or funiculars. The picture below is an example of what a funicular (or a cog railway) looks like. 

Murren2Murren2 BirgSunstarBirgSunstar

Spending the night on top of these mountains gave us the opportunity to see both sunrise and sunset. The first night on top of this mountain (pictured below) was near the resort town of St. Moritz, where we were treated with a morning of looking down on a blanket of fog beneath snow capped mountains. 

Being above or at the same height of the clouds was a common theme when on top of these mountains. These clouds made for some dramatic images!


The 4 pictures below came from the top Mount Pilatus near Lucerne, Switzerland and this was one of my favorite spots. 

PilatusCloudsPilatusClouds PilatusSunsetPilatusSunset PilatusChapelPilatusChapel PilatusBerneseAlpsPilatusBerneseAlps

One unique experience on top of Pilatus was to see this small herd of Alpine Ibex with the Bernese Alps in the background. 


Though they look somewhat similar to bighorn sheep, Ibex are not native to North America.  Ibex can be found in Asia, Europe and Africa. Here, they are generally unafraid of humans so I was able to get close to one.  This one looks like it could belong at a diorama in a museum. 


While hopping from mountaintop to mountaintop, there were opportunities to see the valleys of Switzerland...with its picturesque towns, castles and countrysides. 

WerdenbergCastleWindowWerdenbergCastleWindow SwissTreesRoadSwissTreesRoad SwissYellowBirchSwissYellowBirch StMoritzChateauStMoritzChateau PalpuognaseePalpuognasee

We even made a brief visit to the small nation of Liechtenstein, which is only about 15 miles long with fewer than 40,000 people. Below is a picture of the Burg Gutenberg. Built around 1200, this landmark castle deteriorated before being rebuilt in the early 1900s.

One of the highlights to visit any location in Europe are the old structures and its architecture. I am usually not one to photograph scenes that are inside, but the Abbey Library in the town of St. Gallen is remarkable. 


Founded in the 8th Century, it is one of the oldest working libraries in the world. And of course, one also must make a visit to a church.  This Catholic church in St. Gallen was completed in 1767.  StGallenCathedralStGallenCathedral

One of my favorite towns in Switzerland is Zermatt. It is the home of the iconic mountain known as the Matterhorn. We stayed at Gornergrat, which offers outstanding views of the Matterhorn, especially in the morning when the first light of the day reaches the mountain.  I hiked 3 different times to a couple of small lakes and was able to get some outstanding reflections of the peak in the water. 

MatterhornRiffelseeMatterhornRiffelsee MatterhornGoldenGrassMatterhornGoldenGrass

In the other direction of the Matterhorn is the Gornergrat Glacier. Looking down in this grand strand of ice is an incredible sight. We were blessed with nice skies for much of this trip and only one evening was socked in fog so that you couldn't see the surrounding mountains.


I also did some night photography with the Matterhorn.  I will have a blog post in the future on some of my Milky Way shots from earlier this year. Now it is time to focus on my upcoming wedding this weekend and then on to fall photography here in Arkansas.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) ibex Matterhorn Swiss landscapes Switzerland photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/10/touring-the-top-of-switzerland Fri, 25 Oct 2019 00:31:09 GMT
Adventures in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/9/the-wind-river-mountains-of-wyoming LonesomeLakeWYWebLonesomeLakeWYWeb

In August, I headed to the Wind River Range of Wyoming for the first time. Located in the central part of the state, it doesn't get as much attention or visitation as Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks, but the scenery is still spectacular.  Part of the reason is the lack of roads going through this mountain range and the rather lengthy hikes to get into the Popo Agie Wilderness (pronounced po-PO-zsha). 

Popo Agie River WyomingPopo Agie River Wyoming

To speed up the time to get deep into this wilderness, I rode on a horse provided by Diamond 4 Ranch.  It was a lengthy ride from the ranch to our camp...about 14 miles one way. Although a horseback ride provides less wear and tear on my body than it would by if I backpacked (and the pack mules carried the camping and camera gear!). However, after being on a horse for 14 miles, I was left with very sore thighs and knees once I was off the horse.  Thankfully, I was able to walk off the pain within an hour once I was off the horse.  


The view below is of the group of mountains known as The Cirque Of The Towers. Despite all the effort it takes to get to Popo Agie Wilderness, it was a great experience the beauty of the Wind River Range of Wyoming. 

Cirque Of The Towers WyomingCirque Of The Towers Wyoming PopoAgieAug24PMWebPopoAgieAug24PMWeb PopoAgieAug25AMPopoAgieAug25AM

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Popo Agie Wilderness Wind River Mountains Wind River Range Wyoming landscape photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/9/the-wind-river-mountains-of-wyoming Fri, 20 Sep 2019 20:30:00 GMT
Above The Timberline in Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/8/above-the-timberline-in-colorado MtShermanGraysTorreyMtShermanGraysTorrey

I have just returned from Colorado and Wyoming...where I spent a couple of weeks of hiking, backpacking and horseback riding. I will have a future post about my horseback riding adventure in Wyoming.  On my way back from Wyoming, I spent a couple of early mornings in Colorado watching the sun rise from over 13,000 feet. 

The first climb was up the Continental Divide Trail to Argentine Pass and 13,856 foot Mount Edwards. This section of the CDT leads to atop the actual Continental Divide above Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and the Loveland Pass/Eisenhower Tunnel area west of Denver. Watching night turn into day from high above can be a magical experience. The picture below was from Mount Edwards looking east toward Denver and the upcoming sunrise. You can see ridge after ridge of the foothills between me and Denver. Purple mountains majesty!

Argentine Pass DawnArgentine Pass Dawn

Reaching the top of the mountain by sunrise can be a challenge.  Not only does one have to wake up in the middle of the night and hike in the dark, but also one doesn't have much time for rest to catch your breath in thin air. The conditions were harsh with temperatures in the 30s and a stiff wind gust that I would estimate to be over 30 mph.  At times, I would have turn my face away from the direction of where the wind was coming from to properly catch my breath. I would barely get to Mount Edwards in time with a view Grays Peak and the "twilight wedge" behind it.  The band of blueish purple is the Earth's shadow on the western horizon just before sunrise. 


On the way back down to Argentine Pass, I saw a herd of mountain goats.  These mountain goats were generally unafraid of humans.  I slowly approached them as they slowly approached me.  These were some of the best mountain goat pictures that I have ever had. 


Every year since 2014, I have climbed at least one 14er (a mountain exceeding 14,000 feet above sea level).  This year, I targeted Mount Sherman east of Leadville. It was possibly the "easiest" 14er that I have done. Still, it was a stout hike of about a 2,000 foot elevation gain from the trailhead to the top. In order to reach the top before sunrise, I started hiking at about 3:30am to make sure that I would reach the top in time.  It was in the blue hour before sunrise when I reached the top of Mount Sherman to see a nice alpenglow scene. 


As you can see, with the above normal snowpack in Colorado this winter and spring, there was still some snow banks near the top. Although I enjoy the physical challenge reaching the top of a 14er, what I enjoy the most is seeing the morning "atmospherics" from high above the tree line. With a camera, this is best seen with a zoom lens to compress the scene.  

View of Pikes Peak from Mount ShermanView of Pikes Peak from Mount Sherman

The mountain in the distance is Pikes Peak, a little over 50 miles away.  

Tundra from Mount Sherman ColoradoTundra from Mount Sherman Colorado
Here is a wider perspective with Pikes Peak in the distance. Notice the shades of red in the alpine tundra.  The growing season is short here and at this elevation we are already seeing signs of summer transitioning to fall!  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) alpine scenery colorado 14ers colorado rockies mountain goats https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/8/above-the-timberline-in-colorado Sat, 31 Aug 2019 20:40:05 GMT
Along the Maine Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/8/along-the-maine-coast Corea MaineCorea Maine

Last week, I took a quick trip to the coast of Maine.  This eastern part of the Maine Coast is also known as "Downeast Maine". The town of Lubec, Maine (location at the blue dot below) it is not just the easternmost part of Maine, but Lubec is also the easternmost part of the US. 


While the primary goal of this trip was to take a 3-day class on night sky and Milky Way photography, I also took some daytime and sunset pictures. So here are a few of my favorites from Lubec, Maine.  

Lubec Maine SunsetLubec Maine Sunset Boat in Lubec, MaineBoat in Lubec, Maine Quoddy Head ForestQuoddy Head Forest

Since Lubec is on the Canada border, I would also spend a few hours in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. It is the home of Roosevelt Campobello International Park, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family spent summer vacations on their beloved Campobello Island over a period of 56 years. Here you will find some colorful lighthouses and fishing boats. 

Harbour Head Canada LighthouseHarbour Head Canada Lighthouse   NewBrunswickBoatsNewBrunswickBoats MulhollandPointLighthouseMulhollandPointLighthouse

I will show my nighttime and Milky Way pictures from Maine in a future blog post.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Downeast Maine lighthouse Lubec Maine Maine Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/8/along-the-maine-coast Sun, 11 Aug 2019 15:56:21 GMT
Storms in the Northern Plains https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/7/storms-in-the-northern-plains

For the last week in June, I spent a few days doing storm photography in the northern part of the country. Specifically, in the eastern half of both Wyoming and Montana. With the advent of new technology such as GPS, radar on your phones and social media, the roads around tornadoes and severe storms have become increasingly crowded with storm chasers over the last couple of decades...particularly in the Southern Plains in and close to the month of May. However, during late June in the Northern Plains, you can still see no more than a few chasers on the same storm.  Below is a brief summary of my tour and my favorite pictures:

DAY 1: Northeast Wyoming

Afternoon storms developed over the Thunder Basin National Grassland.  The fields of yellow seen above are known as sweet clover, which was a common sight in many of the grasslands in this part of the country. A stronger storm would later develop near the Montana/Wyoming border north of Devils Tower National Monument. This was a rotating thunderstorm that would go on to produce an EF-1 tornado about 10 minutes after this picture was taken north of Hulett, Wyoming. 

It was the only tornado producer in the entire nation that day.  There was great satisfaction to be one of the few people to see the best looking thunderstorm in the nation. After the tornado lifted, the core of the storm moved on to the east of Sundance, Wyoming at sunset. It continued to put on a lightning display with the last sunlight of the day hitting the rain shaft. 

Day 2: Southeast Montana

Another day of storms, though the storms were not quite as photogenic as the day before. Another limiting factor was the road access to best view these storms.  As beautiful as the landscape can be in Montana, the main down side is the lack of a good road network, especially paved roads to quickly get in position of where you want to be. I was still able to get in a few good lightning shots, such as this scene from Powder River County in Montana: 

Day 3: Central Montana

More storms in a part of Montana that I had not in before. Today, I was closer to the mountains.  Storms began to form in the afternoon off the higher terrain of the Little Belt Mountains west of Lewistown, Montana. This storm produced a tornado in the distance, about 8-10 miles from my location. 

This picture is a good example that helps counter the myth that mountains will protect you from tornadoes from happening.  While the added friction from the mountains can sometimes help reduce the chance of a tornado from occurring, mountains cannot prevent it entirely from forming and this picture proves it. The tornado did not last much longer than a couple of minutes and it soon evolved into this shelf cloud as it approached this red barn near Moccasin, Montana. 

There would also be a rotating storm near Judith Gap, Montana. Here is a 9 minute time lapse sped up into a little over 1 minute to emphasize the rotation in this storm: 

You Tube video of a rotating storm near Judith Gap, Montana

Day 4: Central Montana

It was another day of storms in the same area, but the storms did not produce any tornadoes and overall was not quite as photogenic. The lack of road network to work with was also a hindering factor.  However, there was a nice rainbow to end the last day here. 

I look forward to doing some more storm photography in this underrated part of the country in future years!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) lightning storm photography storms https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/7/storms-in-the-northern-plains Sun, 07 Jul 2019 15:11:48 GMT
Springtime in Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/6/springtime-in-arkansas

It is officially the final day of spring.  Well, the last day of ASTRONOMICAL spring.  Us meteorologists like to simply define spring as March, April and May.  This is more aligned with the weather and peoples lifestyles. Instead, astronomers tend to define seasons based on the timing of the equinox.  Rather outdated thinking from centuries ago, in my opinion. For example, astronomers define December 19th as "fall", not winter. However, it clearly falls within the coldest 1/4 of the year, which is how I think seasons should be defined. But I digress...

Anyway, I thought I would write a quick post to show you some of my favorite pictures taken here in Arkansas during the last 3 months.  

Dogwoods and RedbudsDogwoods and Redbuds Wood BotonyWood Botony Cherokee PrairieCherokee Prairie Mossy StreamMossy Stream Buffalo River ViewBuffalo River View

And we did see a lot of rain this spring...which means a lot of waterfalls!

Turtle FallsTurtle Falls

Fuzzybutt FallsFuzzybutt Falls

Bowers Hollow FallsBowers Hollow Falls Shapely SlotShapely Slot

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Arkansas landscape images Arkansas landscape photography Arkansas landscape pictures landscapes spring spring in Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/6/springtime-in-arkansas Thu, 20 Jun 2019 12:00:00 GMT
Utah Adventure https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/5/utah-adventure Sunset ArchSunset Arch

Earlier this month, I was in one of my favorite states to visit...Utah. I joined up with one of my favorite photographers, James Kay who knows Utah well. Southern Utah is home to some of the wildest American landscapes, both in uniqueness and remoteness.  Some of the last places to be mapped in the lower 48 was in Southern Utah.  

I returned to a few favorites but also visited some new spectacular locations. In 2016, I visited the tallest waterfall in Utah...Calf Creek Falls. On my return visit, I did something a little different. Last time, I captured the entire waterfall. But this time, I decided to focus on the up close scenes with a zoom lens.  You can find more scenes like this in my new Nature Up Close Gallery

Calf Creek Close UpCalf Creek Close Up

The region known as Hole In The Rock Road south of the town of Escalante is home of some of best slot canyons in the world.  A slot canyon is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide and in some cases hard to get through the twisty, narrow corridors. 

Another adventure came on our hike to Coyote Gulch.  For the short approach to Coyote Gulch, we did some class III scrambling over some steep rocks. 

I'll admit it was intimidating.  Going down is mentally challenging and going up is physically exhausting. We had a rope, a harness and a helmet for extra safety. Once down and up the rock face, I was glad I did it.  There is some amazing scenery there, such as Jacob Hamblin Arch and Coyote Natural Bridge.  

Coyote Gulch PanoCoyote Gulch Pano

Coyote Gulch ArchCoyote Gulch Arch   Coyote GulchCoyote Gulch

You can also see some wonders just by looking closely at the ground, such as mud cracks and also something else. 

These round rocks that crop up in the Navajo Sandstone are known as "moqui marbles". Moqui marbles are small, brownish-black balls composed of iron oxide and sandstone that formed underground when iron minerals precipitated from flowing groundwater. The word Moqui comes from the Hopi Tribe. The Hopi were previously known as the Moqui Indians, named so by the early Spaniards, until their name was officially changed to Hopi in the early 1900s.

Back in 1996, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was created for protection. However, in 2017, President Trump ordered the monument's size be reduced by nearly 47%. Conservation and outdoor recreation groups have filed suit to block any reduction in the national monument, arguing that a president has no legal authority to shrink a national monument once it is created. If the proposal goes through, the land taken out of the monument would still be open to the public. However, it would then be subject to energy development. The battle continues to be fought in court so uncertainty remains on the future status of this wonderful national monument. 

Utah is well-known for its arches. I visited a couple of them south of the town of Escalante, but I also made a brief visit to Arches National Park and a small section of Canyonlands National Park.  I had already seen and photographed the iconic Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch.  Being a weekend in peak season, I opted for a backcountry hike with more solitude to the lesser seen Tower Arch. 

For some history, I also made a stop to The Great Gallery, located in a small remote part of Canyonlands National Park that is about 30 miles from the nearest paved road followed by a 3 mile hike. These petroglyphs and pictographs have been dated to between 400 A.D. and 1100 A.D.

On the long dirt road drive to the Great Gallery, I passed through some unnamed sand dunes.  Somewhat surprised by this finding, I made a note of it on my GPS in case I wanted to come back.  After my Great Gallery hike, the sun was getting low and I wanted to return to this spot for the last sunlight of the day.  Low sunlight on sand dunes is an amazing sight!

Utah Sand DunesUtah Sand Dunes

Even though these dunes are relatively small, they can appear especially impressive with a zoom lens. This turned out to be one of my favorite moments while I was in Utah. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arches Coyote Gulch Moqui Marbles petroglyphs slot canyon Utah Utah photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/5/utah-adventure Mon, 20 May 2019 02:36:37 GMT
The Olympic Coast https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/4/the-olympic-coast

Back in March, I visited Olympic National Park in Washington. Located in the far northwest tip of the Lower 48, it is a national park with a lot of variety. With its wet climate, it is home to a lot of waterfalls and lush temperate rainforests. In the higher elevations of Olympic, there are also a lot of beautiful snow capped mountains with alpine wildflowers in the summer. However, for this trip, I decided to focus on the beaches. It is home to some of the most remote beaches in the lower 48, with some of the beaches accessible only by several miles of hiking. 

One such location, in the picture above, is Cape Aleva. I hiked over 3 miles in the dark to get to this spot at dawn. When visiting a beach, one thing you will notice is how quickly the landscape changes with the tide levels. The two pictures below were taken 7 minutes apart. Notice how the rocks in the picture on the right that was 7 minutes later are becoming submerged. 

These deer seemed to be caught off guard by higher waves moving in with the incoming tide.  

Tides are caused by the gravity of both the moon and the sun “pulling” at the water in the sea. Because the Earth is constantly turning, the “pull” of gravity affects different places as each day goes on. The tidal force causes the Earth's water to bulge out on the side closest to the moon and the side farthest from the moon. These "bulges" of water are high tides. Because of the rate of how the Earth rotates, coastal areas experience two high tides and two low tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes. High tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart. For more, here is a YouTube video about that:

Video: How Do Tides Work?

Speaking of the moon, I was visiting during the full moon cycle. With the sky being unusually clear for this time of the year, I decided to take advantage of this and hike out for the setting moon at Shi Shi Beach and the sea stacks at Point Of The Arches. With 2 consecutive pre-dawn hikes, I came away with success. 

Notice the band of purple underneath the pink in the sky. This is found when the sky is clear and you look in the opposite direction of the sun before a sunrise or after a sunset. The darker band of purple that appears is the Earth's shadow. I have heard this phenomenon referred to as the "Belt Of Venus" and also as the "Twilight Wedge". Here is another example of it just above the horizon: 

There are also a lot of fun beach scenes where the sky is not involved, here are a few of my favorites. 

Those are sea anemones that can be best found in the tide pools at low tide. These up-close scenes can be found in my new "Nature Up Close" gallery that I recently created. Some of you regular visitors to my website may have noticed that I have done some re-organizing of my galleries. My non-Arkansas pictures have been divided up into 6 different scene categories, including my "Nature Up Close" gallery. You can find that here

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Olympic Coast Olympic National Park Washington Coast photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/4/the-olympic-coast Tue, 02 Apr 2019 19:44:25 GMT
South Of The Border https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/3/south-of-the-border Screenshot

I recently went to Mexico, where I stayed with one of my photography mentors...Christian Heeb.  Christian is a resident of Oregon, but has a winter home on Baja Peninsula. Before I went, he described it to me as "Tucson by the sea".  I would say that is a pretty accurate description of the landscapes there.  There were saguaro cactus next to the ocean to give it a stark contrast of the desert against the beach. 

I stayed at his casita near the small town of La Ventana, about two hours north of Los Cabos.  

Although frequented by Americans, the town of La Ventana has a different flavor than the louder and bigger resort cities like Cabo San Lucas. Instead of attracting the large throngs of tourists looking to party at resorts in Cabo, La Ventana attracts a sportier crowd. During the winter months, when winds from the north come down over the Gulf of California, La Ventana becomes one of the kitesurfing capitals of the world. 

You will find many forms of cacti on the Baja Peninsula, but you can also find a hidden waterfall in an otherwise dry climate. A real oasis in the desert! 

However, it was the beach scenes that I enjoyed the most.  

Coming up later this month, I will be visiting beaches of a different sort.  I will be going to the Pacific Northwest to visit Olympic National Park in Washington. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Baja Mexico Baja Photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/3/south-of-the-border Mon, 04 Mar 2019 00:15:00 GMT
Icy Wonders https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/2/icy-wonders Last week, I took advantage of the cold temperatures to photograph some waterfalls at Sweden Creek and Dug Hollow...both near Boxley, Arkansas. With temperatures that were recently in the lower teens, icicles were forming near these waterfalls.  

I especially loved the close-up intimate scenes of the icicles and flowing water, like these. 

The bluff overhangs was dripping with water with some ferns underneath. Once the water fell on these ferns, the water would then freeze into formations that would have the appearance of blown glass all over the fern. Some neat scenes!

Icy FernsIcy Ferns

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas photography ice Ozarks winter https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/2/icy-wonders Fri, 15 Feb 2019 19:12:39 GMT
Snow in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/1/snow-in-the-upper-buffalo-wilderness

My background is in meteorology, so I follow the latest computer weather models rather closely. As I like to say, weather is the ultimate wildcard in landscape photography. On Friday night, I noticed an upward trend in accumulating snowfall potential in northern and western Arkansas, particularly to the south and east of my hometown of Fayetteville. So before daylight Saturday morning, I headed toward my cabin in Newton County. Sleet and snow fell for the first half of Saturday and when it ended Saturday afternoon I measured 1.8 inches of snow.  

Clouds began to clear late Saturday night, so I headed out on an early morning to Hawksbill Crag. With fresh snow on the ground and a full moon lighting up the ground, I didn't even need my headlamp on my hike. I arrived at the Crag at about 5:30am with temperatures in the lower teens. The moon was still out but getting low enough in the sky to create shadows on some the landscape.  

The moon was shining on the mountains behind the Crag, but the Crag itself was in the shadow. In retrospect, perhaps I should have been there about an hour earlier when the Crag would have still been in the moonlight. However, I then would have had to wait even longer in the cold for the dawn light to arrive. After waiting about an hour in the cold, I finally caught this image. 

Hawksbill Crag Snowy DawnHawksbill Crag Snowy Dawn

I also hiked out to a small unnamed waterfall inside the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. This drainage is full of beech trees that still retain their leaves all winter and this added some color to the snowy landscape.  

Snowy waterfallSnowy waterfall

Snow is usually infrequent to the Ozarks, so I was glad to take advantage of this unique opportunity. We will see if this winter season still offers more scenes like this.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas photography Arkansas scenics Hawksbill Crag Ozarks snow Whitaker Point winter https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/1/snow-in-the-upper-buffalo-wilderness Wed, 23 Jan 2019 18:05:14 GMT
Snow in Santa Fe https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/1/snow-in-santa-fe

Over the week of New Years Day, I went to northern New Mexico. I arrived in Santa Fe with cold temperatures and snow already on the ground. Once again, on the night of New Years Eve, snow fell across much of New Mexico. While most people slept in on the morning of New Years Day, I headed out for a walk to the plaza area of downtown Santa Fe. With a fresh coating of snow on many surfaces, it made for some unique imagery. Below are a couple of pictures from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the Loretto Chapel. 

The sun would soon come out but temperatures remained cold. For something a little different, I also headed to the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway takes the traveler through an authentic remnant of Old Spain that is still evident in the religion, architecture and history along the route between Santa Fe and Taos. This road travels through Chimayo, a community known for the beautiful El Santuario de Chimayo, and also the village of Las Trampas, home of the San Jose de Gracia Church. These Spanish pueblo mission churches were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

New Mexico VillageNew Mexico Village

Just outside of Taos is the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Rancho de Taos. Another mission constructed in the late 1700s, it has been the subject of several paintings by Georgia O'Keefe and photographs by Ansel Adams.  

Rancho de TaosRancho de Taos

I will be heading back to New Mexico in September, so look for some new photographs from Santa Fe, Taos and nearby Abiquiu (where Georgia O'Keffe lived) this fall. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Chimayo Photography New Mexico photography Santa Fe Spanish Mission Taos Photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2019/1/snow-in-santa-fe Tue, 08 Jan 2019 23:09:53 GMT
A Trip to Navajoland https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/12/a-trip-to-navajoland

Early in the fall, when I drove to Colorado and New Mexico, I also made the excursion to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in northeast Arizona. In the town of Tuba City, I met up with Alain Briot, who once lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation for 7 years. The theme of this trip was to visit some little known areas of northeastern Arizona and not the well known, heavily photographed landmarks like Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley. With his knowledge of the area, I was able to see some spectacular places that not many get to see. In fact, we didn't see another photographer at each place we went to. There are some great overlooks of the colorful landscape!

During late September, I was there for the tail end of monsoon season and was fortunate to get thunderstorm there.  

After one of the storms, I was also able to get a small segment of a rainbow in the distance just above the horizon. I had to pull out the 600mm lens to make this small piece of the rainbow seem big.

I was also there during the full moon cycle and was able to catch the moon just before it would set beneath these clay hills.  

There are also some amazing hidden petroglyphs...among some of the best preserved that I have seen and really stand out well against the dark varnish. 

While most of the Grand Canyon is on National Park Service land, there is a section in the eastern part of the Grand Canyon that is a part of the Navajo Nation. The drive to the Navajo side of the Grand Canyon does involve a good map, a GPS, a permit to drive on Navajo roads and a willingness to navigate the long and bumpy dirt roads to see the canyon from here. However, it is a peaceful setting that will likely be all to yourself when you do get there. Thankfully, plans for a proposed resort at where the Navajo land meets the Grand Canyon have been shut down for now. Hopefully, the serenity will remain for years to come here.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arizona Photography Hopi Navajo Tuba City https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/12/a-trip-to-navajoland Mon, 24 Dec 2018 01:35:48 GMT
Cyber Monday Sale & More Fall Colors https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/11/cyber-week-sale-more-fall-colors Little Missouri River in NovemberLittle Missouri River in November

Today is Cyber Monday and I am offering a discount to the loyal readers of this blog. Type in the coupon code "CM2018" as you checkout here on my website for a 30% off discount plus free shipping for an order over $60. This offer goes from Monday through Wednesday, November 26th to 28th. 

I also thought I would make a quick post to show some of my remaining favorite pictures from earlier this month. Back on the morning of Election Day November 6th, I was treated to some fog while overlooking the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. 

Cloudland Fog in NovemberCloudland Fog in November Cloudland Fog 244mmCloudland Fog 244mm Upper Buffalo Wilderness BlufflineUpper Buffalo Wilderness Bluffline

I also made a couple of trips to Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas, where these trees clinging to the side of the mountain are among the most photographed trees in the state. 

Mount Magazine Skeleton Tree in NovemberMount Magazine Skeleton Tree in November Mount Magazine Sunset in NovemberMount Magazine Sunset in November Mt Magazine in NovemberMt Magazine in November

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/11/cyber-week-sale-more-fall-colors Mon, 26 Nov 2018 06:30:00 GMT
Fall Color in Arkansas: Part II https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/11/fall-color-in-arkansas-part-ii We had a lot of rain on Halloween, which was also close to the peak of fall foliage season in the Ozarks of Arkansas. It is not often when you get a prolonged or heavy enough rain to create runoff at the same time that it coincides with peak fall color; so I decided to focus on some waterfall photography for a few days. For my first destination, I went to Twin Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness. This waterfall usually has at least some water most days of the year and I intentionally went the day before the big rain because my thoughts were that the clear pool of water would soon have too much sediment stirred up to where you couldn't see the bottom.  While there wasn't a lot of water flowing, the clear pool was there with a nice leaf swirl.  This image of the right part of Twin Falls is a 30 second exposure that creates the circular movement in the water. 

Leaf SwirlLeaf Swirl

After it rained for much of Halloween, I decided to head out to look for waterfalls.  I picked a few locations based on radar estimates of rainfall amounts.  Some of those places that saw the most rain were some of the lesser known hollows off of Highway 7 north of Russellville.  Few people venture off into these hollows and most of the time there is not this much water.  However, this day it allowed for some unique images that most don't get to experience.  Here are some of my favorite images from that day.

Mose Freeman HollowMose Freeman Hollow Cowan HollowCowan Hollow

This waterfall below is named after Dr. Neil Compton, who helped lead the way to saving the Buffalo River in the 60s and early 70s. Again, most days of the year it does not look like this. But when there is enough water, it is one of most photogenic waterfalls in Arkansas. 


Flash Flood Warnings were issued on Halloween for parts of the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas.  So earlier this week, I decided to head there where a lot of water was still flowing.  Blaylock Creek Falls and Katy Falls are among the bigger falls in this part of the state. 

Katy FallsKaty Falls

Although the fall color is beginning to fade, there is still some autumn color to enjoy.  Snow is also in the forecast in Northwest Arkansas for Monday. If we see enough accumulation on the grass, I may be able to post some pictures of the leftover fall foliage with snow on the ground.  Another rare opportunity!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas photography Arkansas waterfalls fall color fall color in Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/11/fall-color-in-arkansas-part-ii Sun, 11 Nov 2018 23:57:30 GMT
Fall Color in Arkansas: Part I https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/10/fall-color-in-arkansas-part-i The fall color has really come along the last few days in the Ozarks and we will be hitting peak color over the next few days. On Thursday and Friday, I took a couple of hikes into the Ponca Wilderness near Ponca, Arkansas. Thursday was a day of calm winds, low clouds, fog and drizzle.  As long as the drizzle didn't get too heavy, it was an ideal time to photograph the forest and it was fun to watch the ever-changing fog only a few hundred feet above the banks of the Buffalo River. 

Old River Trail near  Steel Creek in OctoberOld River Trail near Steel Creek in October

When the fog wasn't too low and thick, looking down onto the Buffalo River Valley was also a treat. So many colors! 

Steel Creek Overlook in OctoberSteel Creek Overlook in October Buffalo River Trail near Kyles Landing Overlook in OctoberBuffalo River Trail near Kyles Landing Overlook in October

I believe those are sweet gum trees that are turning brilliant shades of orange.  On Friday, the drizzle stopped and the ceiling lifted, but there was still ample cloud cover to photograph the flowing water and the forest.  

Grey Rock Shoals on the BuffaloGrey Rock Shoals on the Buffalo    Grey Rock Leaf Swirl VerticalGrey Rock Leaf Swirl Vertical

As dusk approached, I photographed the leaves swirling in the eddy. These images were made with about a 5-10 second long exposure to get the circular movement of the leaves and bubbles in the water.  

Grey Rock Leaf Swirl on the BuffaloGrey Rock Leaf Swirl on the Buffalo

On Friday night, the skies cleared and the forest was beginning to dry out. However, there was enough lingering moisture in the air to create some patchy light fog in the valleys of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. These images below were taken just after sunrise on Saturday morning. 

Cloudland View OctoberCloudland View October

So far, this has been a good year for fall colors in Arkansas, possibly the best in the last few years. I will have more fall color pictures for my next blog entry to come in November.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Arkansas landscapes Arkansas" Buffalo River fall fall color in Arkansas foliage Newton County Arkansas Ozarks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/10/fall-color-in-arkansas-part-i Sun, 28 Oct 2018 20:54:09 GMT
Fall Colors & Starry Skies Of The Southwest https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/10/fall-colors-starry-skies-of-the-southwest I recently drove out to Colorado and New Mexico to photograph some of the night skies and aspen and cottonwood trees that turn yellow in late September and early October.   

My first stop was to the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico. Bisti is a fascinating place of whimsical rock formations and hoodoos.  After a short night of car camping in the remote parking lot, I decided to head out in the middle of the night to photograph some of these unusual rock formations in a clear, starry night.  I wanted to reach the location I had in mind in the moonlight before the moon would soon set.  The picture below on the left is in moonlight while the picture below on the right was as the night sky was beginning to get twilight before sunrise. 

I also did some night photography in Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Photographing the Milky Way is best between April and October in the Northern Hemisphere, when the galactic center is visible above the horizon at night. The "star" that you see to the left of the Milky Way is Mars. With the help of a tent and light painting from Glenn Randall, I also was able to do some cool captures of the landscape under the Milky Way.  

Milky Way at Great Sand DunesMilky Way at Great Sand Dunes


I also did a hike in the La Plata Mountains near Durango, Colorado. The aspens were close to their peak when I was there.  

Before I left, snow began to fall in the higher elevations of the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico.  A dusting of snow accumulated at the top of Santa Fe Ski Area.  The changing of seasons is showing up!

Frosted ForestFrosted Forest

While in the Four Corners region, I also went to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Arizona. I will have a blog post on that trip later this fall. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Bisti Milky Way night photography tent yellow aspens https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/10/fall-colors-starry-skies-of-the-southwest Mon, 15 Oct 2018 21:01:32 GMT
Arts On The Creeks: Saturday September 29th https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/9/arts-on-the-creeks-saturday-september-29th                      

I am currently preparing for the upcoming Arts On The Creeks Fine Art Festival in Rogers, Arkansas that will take place on Saturday September 29th between 10am-6pm.  I will be one of the over 80 artists including photographers, painters, sculptors and more. I will have some items on display and for sale such as matted prints, metal prints, framed photographs and more.  To those of you who live in Fayetteville, this will be on the same weekend as Bikes, Blues and BBQ, so it will be a good excuse to leave town and head north to Rogers. If you mention this blog to me, I will apply a 10% discount off any item.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/9/arts-on-the-creeks-saturday-september-29th Thu, 13 Sep 2018 23:21:33 GMT
Colorado Summer 2018 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/8/colorado-summer-2018

I spent much of July in my favorite summer hangout, the Colorado Rockies. I did a lot of hiking with early morning starts with many of these hikes going up the mountain to catch sunrises and early morning light above the treeline. Therefore, I often wake up at 3am and start hiking by 4am to get there in time.   

My first early morning hike was to Bison Peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness. The Lost Creek Wilderness is a bit overlooked compared to the surrounding areas of Colorado. It doesn't feature classic soaring 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks that Colorado is known for, but it does feature some 12,000+ feet tall mountains with some unusual granite rock formations, such as these you see here. 

It was about 5 1/2 mile hike uphill with over 4,000 foot elevation gain to reach this point, but it was good training for my backpack trip into the Wild Basin Region of Rocky Mountain National Park. I spent one night near Finch Lake where I was able to get this shot at dusk looking toward the Continental Divide. 

The next morning I hiked up to Pear Lake to get first light shining on the mountains. I also spent 3 nights at Thunder Lake, where the wildflowers were at their peak.  

From Thunder Lake, I hiked even farther up to above the treeline and almost to the Continental Divide. Here, I looked down onto Thunder Lake in the far distance beyond Lake Of The Many Winds, where a reflection of a puffy cumulus cloud was placed perfectly.  

I spent one night in the Eagles Nest Wilderness just north of the ski resort town of Copper Mountain, where I camped close to this unnamed lake. Not a bad place to spend the night and watch the light change! The magenta flowers are called Paintbrush. 

Watching the light change at a high elevation can be a magical experience. In my opinion, it is worth it to either spend the night at remote locations or to force myself to get out of a comfy bed at 3am. One of the my favorite shorter day hikes in Colorado is to head to Shrine Mountain near Vail Pass. The wildflowers are often great there in the summer and you can gaze out toward the Gore Range to the north or Mount Of The Holy Cross to the west (seen below). 

The snowpack was lighter than usual this year and the snow melted about 2 or 3 weeks earlier than average. The drought conditions in southern half of Colorado made for a rather unusual flower experience as the timing was off. Most of the common species were either ahead of schedule and past peak or the number of flowers seemed fewer than normal because of the lower moisture in the ground. However, the fireweed was in full bloom and at its peak by the time I was farther south toward Crested Butte and Silverton.  There were some nice fields of tall fireweed stands in the Crested Butte area. 

Below are some of my favorite pictures from my hiking and jeeping adventures in the Silverton area of southwest Colorado.  

A trip to Colorado in the summer wouldn't seem complete to me without climbing a 14er, as I have climbed at least one each of the last 5 years. This year I did Mount Evans and Mount Elbert. One can also drive to the top of Mount Evans, which is the highest paved road in North America. Mount Elbert, at 14,433 feet, is the highest point in Colorado and the 2nd highest point in the lower 48. Only Mount Whitney in California is slightly higher.  

The picture above was the view at dawn on the way to the top. I have now been to 5 of the states' highest points (Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). I don't plan on seeing all 50 state high points, but I would like to knock out at least a few more in my lifetime.  Here is the view from the top of Mount Elbert. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado Landscapes Colorado Photography Colorado Rockies https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/8/colorado-summer-2018 Tue, 28 Aug 2018 14:06:33 GMT
Is Social Media Ruining Our Natural Wonders? https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/7/is-social-media-ruining-our-natural-wonders

Photographer Art Wolfe once said you can celebrate something to death. In today's internet and social media age it seems that we are quickly reaching that point at some locations. The battle between conservationism and tourism is certainly not a new issue and social media is not the only thing to blame. But is social media (namely Facebook and especially Instagram) creating a culture that sends hoards of people to trample over the same spots over and over?  

Industry and development has always threatened our natural spaces, but in recent years it has been the average person who is contributing to the decline in some of these places. We now have a chain of events that begins with people looking for reactions to a nice photo, followed by requests for the location, followed by a travel account sharing the photo. A multiplier effect begins where people are adding it to their list of places to see and a herd mentality soon develops where the masses follow the likes. People will always see an image of an amazing place and think "I need to go there" or "I want to shoot that" (we're all guilty of having these impulses to some extent).

The result has been an exponential increase in visitors this decade to our natural wonders. The well known Maroon Bells in Colorado had a 39% increase in visitors between 2015-2017.  Lesser known Hanging Lake in Colorado had an 81% increase in visitors between 2014-2016. These lesser known locations are now suffering under the weight of sudden online fame and are not prepared for the influx of tourists in huge volumes. The picture at the top of the page is an extreme example from Oregon's Oneonta Gorge, a fragile location that has suffered sudden over-visitation this decade. This recent rise seems to be stemming from a combination of increased population growth, more people getting outside and the effects of social media sharing sites. 

This issue is a double edged sword. Publishing pictures of our beauty can have positive benefits. On one end, encouraging more people to get out in nature and raising awareness of the beauty that surrounds us can be a good thing. By reaching thousands of people in an instant, social media is putting the Earth’s natural wonders right in front of them. In theory, it could inspire new people to lead further environmental movements. On the other side, perhaps a once-special place is now in danger of being destroyed because the location can’t handle the number of visitors and can be literally trampled to its end. Early pioneers of environmental causes such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Ansel Adams inspired the public to set aside land to be protected. As our growing population continues to be more mobile and with more people enjoying the backcountry, the next challenge will be not only be to protect our lands from development, but also to protect it from the masses. It used to be that in order to find some of our hidden wonders, you had to pick up a book or hear about it from old-fashinoned word of mouth. In the digital age, information spreads at a faster rate and sent to a wider audience. Spoon feeding specific information to the masses opens up these places to a different audience who may not as respectful. With this comes a new group of people who are introduced to the outdoors through social media who may be unaware of nature's delicacies. These individuals may treat it as a theme park and have a lack of respect for the environment around them. Photos on social media rarely come with Leave No Trace guidelines. Very few of us are talking about Leave No Trace principles or making an effort to educate newcomers about responsible backcountry travel and the message of conservation and environmentalism is often missing in Instagram's look at me and follow me culture. The result can be the backcountry becoming increasingly trashed by people who know how to "like" a place, but not know how to love it.

Over the last 20 years, I've seen some hiking trails have an increase in litter, graffiti, dog feces and illegal campfire ring scars in places that were once pristine.  I have also noticed in recent years that paths are appearing that weren't there even earlier this decade. Some of these tracks that were once faint and narrow are becoming mudslides or mud pits as a result of all the foot traffic. Back in the 90s, even on a sunny weekend, you would usually only see about 5 or fewer people on a remote wilderness hike to Arkansas' Hawksbill Crag. Now you commonly see over 50 people during that hike on a similar weekend. The result of the heavy foot traffic has striped away the vegetation leading to Hawksbill Crag (seen below). 

Waterfalls and other fragile areas are increasingly being trampled by Instagrammers seeking to claim their own version of shots they've admired online. Most don't even realize the future consequences of their actions. It can be hard for some to understand how just one person doing these things can be such a big deal. The problem is this: one person's post influences the masses. Some of the impacts can be more than cosmetic. Many of us also come to the backcountry to seek solitude and this can be harder to find in the digital age as more people come in. 

There has been a debate between sharing and keeping things a secret. In the past few years, I began to re-examine this issue. I’m comfortable with revealing well known locations that are landmarks which are easily found on the internet.  Even with this, I sometimes question if I am sending even more "Instatraffic" to these more well-known locations. In some cases, I am hesitant to give any kind of attention to the lesser known places or the most fragile environments. When I do post, I often choose just keep it generic like "X National Park", "Y National Forest" or "Z Wilderness", but don't give specifics on exactly where the picture was taken. In these cases, I don't think it is a good idea to publish the location to prevent hordes of people from showing up. Those who geotag exact names or handing out GPS coordinates of lesser known locations or in fragile environments, especially on the internet, can make it worse. 

It is human nature for us to want to share some of our favorite images with other people and get compliments. We want to share our love of the outdoors with others but we also don't want to see these great places we love to become crowded and their beauty tarnished. That is the terrible irony to being a landscape photographer. One side of me wants to restrict the knowledge of beautiful places because of potential impacts, but the other side acknowledges the best way to protect wild places is through increasing awareness of these areas. Each of us as photographers must balance to want to share our love of the natural world while doing our part not to be part of the problem. As a personal choice to minimize my impact, I don't give exact directions to little known locations, except to people I know and can trust that they will respect the place. It’s easier than ever for word to get out to a bad apple and that bad apple then ruins it for everyone. It is one thing for respectful individuals who I know and trust to know but it is another when it is delivered for "the masses" and I have no idea how each will behave. For all I know, they might be the type that throws out their trash and shoot off fireworks into a dry forest. 

It can be a downward spiral when a place gets popular and it will never improve because it was at its peak beauty before humans got involved. There is not an easy answer to this growing dilemma. In my opinion, it starts with every individual and education. Without education, the problems I've addressed will grow. The best thing we can do is to communicate to others how to act responsibly in the outdoors and educate the public so that new visitors learn there are rules for behavior in outdoor spaces. While it is debatable to say social media and is ruining our natural wonders, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this exposure is coming with a price and adverse effects are occurring. I ask for photographers and the public in general to reflect on their own impact and be more mindful of what photos they post and share. Telling everybody about these places practically guarantees their destruction, but we can at least try to slow the process down. Let’s try not to put fragile environments even more at risk. If we really must see these places, it is our obligation to leave no trace and EVERYBODY must treat nature with respect. I still want these places to be just as beautiful when I return in 20 years. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) impacting Instagram nature outdoors ruining social media https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/7/is-social-media-ruining-our-natural-wonders Sun, 29 Jul 2018 23:38:59 GMT
Back To The Canadian Rockies https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/6/bac

Back in August 2017, I visited many of the icons of the Canadian Rockies. This time around, I went a little earlier in the summer to see some of the lesser known scenes in the vicinity of Banff and Lake Louise. Personally, I think it is a little better to visit Canada earlier in the summer before the snow melts and fire season kicks in. When I visited last year in August, fires across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest caused visibility problems at times. 

I joined up with Dan Ballard, who scouted these world class locations.  He told us in advance that we would not be going to the famous places...like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. That was fine with me as I had already photographed them last year and there are a lot of tourists that go to those two beautiful places.  While we stayed in the Banff and Lake Louise area, many of the locations we went to were isolated and that gave us a better opportunity to come up with more original images. 

Banff National Parks is full of beautiful glacier fed lakes, such as Waterfowl Lake (above) and Bow Lake (below).


Above and below are the group of mountains known as the Three Sisters near Canmore, Alberta. In the picture above, you might be able to spot the duck in the foreground. 

Banff and Jasper National Parks are Canada's two most visited national parks. Nearby and to the south are several smaller and lesser known provincial parks collectively known as Kananaskis Country.  Two of these I visited were Spray Valley and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks. These provincial parks don't have the large glaciers or naturally formed lakes; however, the scenery and mountains are just as pretty with far less people. 


Those are some of the highlights of my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies.  Soon, I will be on my way to the Colorado Rockies. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) banff banff national park canadian rockies https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/6/bac Thu, 28 Jun 2018 21:15:00 GMT
Storm Chasing 2018 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/6/storm-chasing-2018 I was only able to head out 3 days this year for some storm chasing.  It might be a good thing I didn't get out much this year as it has been a slower than normal season.  Back on May 23, it was reported that the Storm Prediction Center had issued its fewest number of severe thunderstorm and tornado watches year-to-date in over 20 years. Oklahoma didn't even see a tornado until the beginning of May and Oklahoma City has only been under one tornado watch so far this year.

On May 29th, I drove out to where western Oklahoma meets the Texas Panhandle.  While, I didn't see a tornado this season, I did capture a pretty cool time lapse of a rotating severe thunderstorm tracking near I-40 along the Texas/Oklahoma state line.  A tornado warning would soon be issued in Erick, Oklahoma for this storm. 

This 12 minute video was sped up 16x into 44 seconds:

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/6/storm-chasing-2018 Tue, 19 Jun 2018 22:54:35 GMT
Eureka Springs Photography Contest https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/5/eureka-springs-photography-contest Beaver BridgeBeaver Bridge

This past weekend, I participated in the Eureka Springs Northwest Arkansas National Photography Contest and Exhibit presented by the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce. Two of my photos that I submitted finished in 2nd place in their respective categories. The picture above finished 2nd place in the local Eureka Springs area category, while the picture below of Chicago finished 2nd place in the Black & White category. These framed pictures at 37"x27" (with frame included) ready to hang are available for $299 each. Contact me at [email protected] for more information and details if you are interested in purchasing these. 

John Hancock B&WJohn Hancock B&W

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) beaver bridge chicago art chicago skyline eureka springs https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/5/eureka-springs-photography-contest Wed, 23 May 2018 14:01:49 GMT
Springtime in the Ozarks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/5/springtime-in-the-ozarks Rolling hills near HastyRolling hills near Hasty

Spring was seemingly later to come to northern Arkansas as temperatures this April were about 6 degrees colder than a normal April. However, we did warm up by the end of the month and the forest eventually became fully green. Now that we are into May, we are starting to consistently see highs in the 70s and 80s. 

I visited both iconic spots that are well known and did some off trail hiking to waterfalls that are rarely photographed. Personally, I like going to the non-iconic spots more as I enjoy the challenge of creating my own unique art. However, the icons tend to be more popular among the public and sell better.  People tend to want pictures of locations they have been to or are familiar with. I prefer to visit the icons that are frequently visited either early on weekday mornings or when the weather is lousy, when most people stay home. Such was the case on April 25th. Rain in the middle of the day kept most people away from Hawksbill Crag. Looking at the radar, I decided to time my hike there as most of the steady rain was ending but areas of mist were left behind.  Not only did I have the place to myself, but it also made for some good pictures. 

The rain and warmer weather allowed for some mushrooms to grow.  I just happened to come across these morel mushrooms while hiking on the Ozark Highlands Trail. A bit of a rare find!

Last week, I did a couple of early morning hikes inside the Ponca Wilderness which includes some of the most beautiful and rugged scenery in Arkansas, including the Buffalo River that runs right through it. I hiked 3 miles in the dark to Big Bluff, one of the tallest bluffs on the Buffalo River. My original intent was to capture the dawn colors in the sky that I was expecting just before sunrise. I arrived just in time to find that the moonlight was reflected in the river. Both scenes turned out to be quite nice. Hikes that start in the dark can have rewards!

Big Bluff MoonlightBig Bluff Moonlight Big Bluff DawnBig Bluff Dawn

The next morning I took a hike on the Buffalo River Trail above the Steel Creek Campground with its view of the river and Roark Bluff. 

Roark BluffRoark BluffRoark Bluff along the banks of the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

I also did some off trail exploring to some hidden treasures in little traveled areas of the Ozark National Forest, which included some wild irises at this unnamed waterfall. 

Hidden IrisesHidden Irises

Briar Creek FallsBriar Creek Falls

This previous Saturday morning, I was treated to spectacular early morning fog in the valleys of the Buffalo River. At my overlook of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, I pulled out a zoom lens to capture the ever-changing patterns and light of the fog that slowly burned off. 

Upper Buffalo FogUpper Buffalo Fog

This morning, I went to one of the more frequently visited waterfalls of Arkansas, Eden Falls at Lost Valley near Ponca, Arkansas. At over 50 feet tall, it is also one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the state with a pretty little pool at the bottom.  Nearby, I also spotted some red columbines in bloom. 

Eden FallsEden Falls

It is amazing how fast the forest can turn green. The phase of newly leafed out bright green leaves on the trees doesn't last long. Soon the forest will turn a darker and duller shade of green and will be that way through September. I will soon be focusing on storm chasing opportunities in the Plains for the rest of this month and into June.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) arkansas photography arkansas scenics ozark national forest ozarks upper buffalo wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/5/springtime-in-the-ozarks Tue, 08 May 2018 01:10:13 GMT
Springtime In The Ouachitas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/4/springtime-in-the-ouachitas Dam at Crystal Rec AreaDam at Crystal Rec Area

Spring has been slow to come in my home state of Arkansas this year. During the period of April 1-15, the average temperature has been about 6 degrees colder than what is considered normal. I don't recall the trees in the higher elevations of the Ozarks to be this bare in mid-April. With that in mind, I decided to head south a bit to the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. I felt I would see more green on the trees down there than I would in northern Arkansas. There indeed was a pretty big difference in the amount of green coming out. The picture above was taken earlier this week along Montgomery Creek at the Crystal Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest. 

Among one of my favorite hiking trails for climbing to mountain top views is the trail to Tall Peak in Polk County. Along the way, there was a field of wild phlox in a meadow with a view. Phlox is one of the most common wildflowers found in Arkansas during the month of April. 


I continued to the top of Tall Peak. The views aren't that good at the very top, so I decided to head back down slightly to the more open views with some foreground elements to work with sunset. I climbed up a small rock outcrop just off trail and waited for sunset to happen. I was pleasantly surprised with how well this photograph turned out as shooting into the sun can be challenging. In order to photograph the contrast in light between bright sunshine and dark shadows, I used exposure blending of five different photos at different shutter speeds. This method in photography is called HDR, or High Dynamic Range.  

                                        Ouachita SunsetOuachita Sunset

The next day, equipped with a GPS and topo map, I headed to a unique view in Montgomery County. My first attempt to go there via driving on a dirt road warned me that I would be on private property. So this time, I decided to avoid the standard way in and instead bushwhack a roundtrip distance of 6 miles over 6 hours. This place is known as The Blue Hole and was actually once the McKnight Barite Mine. This manmade pit was once a mine rich in barite, a mineral used in drilling for oil. The Blue Hole has become a favorite swim spot since mining ceased in the early 1980s. The legend is that the miners hit an underground spring that soon caused the mine to fill with water. 


Quite a beautiful accident!  On the way back to my car, I stumbled upon a good viewpoint where I could gaze out into the forest bathing in late afternoon sun.  

              Ouachita GreensOuachita Greens

I wish I could have stayed for sunset, but my car was down in that valley in the distance and I had to bushwhack my way down to the dirt road that my car was on before it got too dark. 

              Spring Colors at Caney Creek WildernessSpring Colors at Caney Creek Wilderness

I love the various shades of green you can find this time of the year. In April, the freshly leafed out deciduous trees display various shades of bright green. This makes for a nice contrast with the darker greens found in evergreen trees. As the weather begins to warm up, I plan to focus more on springtime in the Ozarks, which is the last week of April. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) arkansas photography ouachita mountains ouachita national forest spring in arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/4/springtime-in-the-ouachitas Sun, 22 Apr 2018 19:06:15 GMT
A Visit to Washington DC https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/4/a-visit-to-washington-dc

Last week I made a visit to our nation's capital, Washington DC. I hoped to time my trip for the peak of cherry blossom season. Typically they occur around late March or early April.  However, due to the cooler than average temperatures in March this year, the peak is occurring now as I write this entry (April 6th).  When I was there Easter Weekend, the colorful buds had emerged but most of the trees did not have the pink flowers fully out. There was one tree along the Tidal Basin that did have blooms and I framed it with the Washington Monument in the background.   

On Saturday morning, I caught the full moon setting behind the budding cherry blossoms. 

Of course, I visited some of the major monuments in and around The Mall, including The Lincoln Memorial. One of the few times you can photograph this without many people in the way is early in the morning. Plus, you also get some neat lighting effects from the spotlights inside the memorial during the twilight hours. 


Many of the buildings in Washington DC have a European flavor.  After all, the city was designed by French born American engineer and architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Washington features some the most beautiful buildings, both on the outside and inside, to make you feel like you are in Europe. One of those structures is the National Cathedral. I happened to catch a unique moment as sunlight was shining through one of the stained glass windows. Beams of colorful lights were adorning the cathedral walls, as well as the face and shoulder of the statue of George Washington. 


Another building with beautiful interiors that makes you feel like you are in Europe is The Library of Congress. 


One last stop was to Arlington Cemetery on Easter morning.  There I was able to photograph the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy as well as Senator and astronaut John Glenn.  


One of the must sees when coming to Arlington Cemetery is the ceremony of "The Changing Of The Guard" at The Tomb of the Unknown Solider, the burial site of an unidentified American soldier from World War I. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by tomb guard sentinels.  During the daytime, either every hour or half hour (depending on time of the year), there is a shift change of the guard.  Here I was able to capture the changing ceremony from one impeccably uniformed sentinel to the next. 

You can read more about the process this here.





[email protected] (Damon Shaw) washington dc photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/4/a-visit-to-washington-dc Sat, 07 Apr 2018 01:08:32 GMT
February Waterfalls https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/3/february-waterfalls               Magnolia FallsMagnolia Falls

Last week was a very rainy week in the state of the Arkansas...some of the best rains we have seen in months. So I decided to head out and photograph a couple of waterfalls in the Ozark National Forest. One of the more iconic waterfalls in Arkansas is Glory Hole. Back when I was a teenager in the 90s, I had visited Glory Hole for the first time on a family hike. I felt that it was long overdue to return there and get some pictures of this most unique waterfall where a hole has been drilled into the sandstone. Back in 1993, Glory Hole was a relatively little known place and the trail leading to it was somewhat narrow and lightly used.  These days, the trail is wider as it is visited many days of the year. Unfortunately, it is starting to show some scars of overvisitation...such as litter, carved up beech trees and even some graffiti on the rock overhang. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful place to admire and I had it all to myself on that foggy morning. 

               Glory HoleGlory Hole

I also visited a lesser known waterfall that is nearby in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. There is a primitive trail leading to it, but thankfully the area is still pristine. Hopefully, it will still stay that way. As more and more people head to the backcountry, this is becoming more of a challenge. Please remember when you visit these places, leave no trace. 


The following day, the rain ended and soon the skies cleared the following night. This allowed for fog to form in the valley of the Buffalo River below.   

So now waterfall season has begun and soon the forest will begin to leaf out and add more color. I will have more waterfall pictures coming up this spring. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) arkansas waterfalls glory hole ozark national forest upper buffalo wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/3/february-waterfalls Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:45:29 GMT
Full Moons & Freezing Fog https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/2/full-moons-freezing-fog On the last day of January, we had a full moon. The night before the full moon, I decided to head to the top of Roark Bluff that overlooks the Steel Creek Campground on the Buffalo River. Many times, the best day to photograph is the day before the actual full moon, which in this case was January 31st. So why is it better to photograph just before the actual peak of full moon? In the days before the moon is completely full, the moon rises before sunset. For example, the moon rose 43 minutes before sunset on January 30th but didn’t rise until 26 minutes after sunset on January 31st. When the sun doesn't rise until after sunset, it becomes more difficult to photograph because of the contrast of the bright moon and the dark sky.  

After a short hike on a trail and a steep bushwhack, I arrived to the west end of Roark Bluff to get the moon rising over the east of Roark Bluff. Technically, the full moon was 100% the following morning, and was 99.5% full when I took this shot the evening before. However, to the naked eye, you can't really tell the difference. It still appears full. 

             Roark Bluff MoonriseRoark Bluff Moonrise

The following morning, with the moon officially 100% full, I went back to the Steel Creek area and shot back in the other direction for the moonset in the western sky. However, there was also a lunar eclipse occurring at the same time. Part of the moon in this photograph is obscured by the Earth's shadow and the rest of the moon has a reddish appearance.  

              Lunar EclipseLunar Eclipse

During this past weekend, we had some persistent freezing drizzle in Northwest Arkansas. While it created slick roads, the icing of the trees in Fayetteville was limited. However, that changed quickly in the higher elevations. Once I got up to about 2,000 feet in elevation above sea level, the ice accumulations on the trees changed dramatically. This was due to a phenomenon called rime ice. The rime ice was caused by the freezing fog occurring in the higher elevations when these trees were up into the low hanging clouds. Rime icing occurs when dense fog and below freezing temperatures exist simultaneously. If the right conditions exist, magnificent ice creations can form by the rapid freezing of water vapor on cold surfaces. This fog freezes to the wind-facing side of tree branches, usually with higher wind speeds and air temperatures between −2 and −8 °C (28 and 18 °F).


These pictures were taken along forest service roads in northern Franklin and Crawford Counties at an elevation of about 2,200 feet.  

             Ice At White Rock MountainIce At White Rock Mountain

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) full moon ozark national forest ozarks rime ice https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/2/full-moons-freezing-fog Thu, 15 Feb 2018 03:57:05 GMT
Abstracts and Architecture Of Chicago https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/1/abstracts-and-architecture-of-Chicago                              

Back in October, I joined up with Justin Reznick for a photography tour of Chicago. This city is the birthplace of the skyscraper and is filled with incredible architectural gems. After the great fire in 1871, Chicago had to start from scratch, and aimed for the most ambitious buildings of its time. This started a movement to push boundaries and be on the forefront of architecture which hasn’t slowed down, even to this day. 

The first skyscraper we visited was to the top of the 83-story Aon Tower. Most days, the top floor is not open to the public, but for a few days a year, there is an open house where you are allowed to take in the views from the top floor. With a zoom looms, you can isolate on the bridge at Millenium Park and the steel sculpture known as Cloud Gate. 

                               Millenium BridgeMillenium Bridge   


After that, we took a walk along Lake Michigan. It rained a lot the night before, so the Chicago River and Lake Michigan water levels were higher than normal. The water splashing up over some of the walls made for some unique images that you can't always get. The image below was a 3 second exposure used to capture the water flowing back down into Lake Michigan. 

  John Hancock B&WJohn Hancock B&W

Another fun long exposure was in front of the Chicago Theater. In this image, I waited for a bus going southbound on State Street to approach me and then took a 6-second exposure to capture the headlights and taillights going by to give it the blurry effect you see here.  

There are some unusual buildings in downtown Chicago, and it is a great city to do some abstract photography with the structures. When I first approached the wood sculpture known as the Peoples Gas Education Pavilion at Lincoln Park, I was unsure what photographic appeal it would have. It took me a while to get into this place. However, as I started to take pictures, I started to become entranced with symmetry of these wooden beams overhead.   Chicago Wood SculptureChicago Wood Sculpture

Even looking up on the balconies of the apartment buildings was mesmerizing to me.  

Grids and patternsGrids and patterns

The wavy nature of the modern building known as the Aqua Tower was also fun. It made for some interesting light and patterns as the golden rays of sun hit portions of this apartment building. I love the contrast of the cool and warm tones to this picture! Chicago Aqua TowerChicago Aqua Tower

Chicago architecture is known for Frank Lloyd Wright. While I did not visit his famous home designed in the suburb of Oak Park, I did visit The Rookery Building, Chicago's oldest high-rise. This 1885 Romanesque structure has a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed lobby with a beautiful staircase.   Rookery StaircaseRookery Staircase

A photography trip to downtown Chicago would not be complete without some urban landscapes of the skyline. We went up to the top of the John Hancock Tower. This picture is looking south down Michigan Avenue.  

From The John Hancock TowerFrom The John Hancock Tower

The three tallest buildings from left to right are the Aon Tower, Trump Tower and the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. The Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world for 25 years once completed in 1973. In 2009, the Willis Group took over the naming rights. The contract for the name of what is still the tallest building in Chicago will be up in 2024. There is some speculation that it could be renamed the United Tower, as United Airlines is the largest tenant inside what is now known as the Willis Tower.  Chicago SkylineChicago Skyline

This image was taken from the Chicago Planetarium along a peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. The "blue hour" is my favorite time to shoot urban skylines. It is centered about 30 minutes after sunset when the sky has lost has its warm colors from the sun, but the sky hasn't turned black yet. It also works the same way about 30 minutes before sunrise.

Our last stop was to the stainless steel bean shaped sculpture known as Cloud Gate. Constructed in the mid 2000s, the sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury and the sculpture's surface reflects and distorts the city's skyline. In my opinion, the best time to photograph Cloud Gate is just before sunrise when there are not many people in front of it.  

Chicago CloudgateChicago Cloudgate

After the sun came up and some light from the sun began to get underneath the metal structure, the color changed and made for some very interesting abstract images. This one was my favorite Cloud Gate abstract! 

At the end of March, I will be visiting another great city to photograph...Washington DC. Hopefully I'll be there in time to catch the cherry blossoms in peak bloom!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) abstracts architecture chicago architecture chicago photography chicago skyline cloud gate cloudgate https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/1/abstracts-and-architecture-of-Chicago Tue, 30 Jan 2018 04:44:26 GMT
January snow in the Ozarks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/1/january-snow-in-the-ozarks Lately, we have seen some very cold temperatures in my home state of Arkansas and even some snow. Thinking there would at least be some light accumulations somewhere in North Arkansas, I set my alarm clock for 3am Sunday morning and decided where to go next. Looking out the window of my cabin overlooking the Upper Buffalo Wilderness I noticed a small coating of snow on my patio so I decided to head over to nearby Hawksbill Crag at first light. 

                  Hawksbill Crag dustingHawksbill Crag dusting

There wasn't much on the ground, about 1/4 inch, but it was enough to add a little interest to the scene. Hopefully, I can be out there for a bigger snow before winter is over.  

With another round of snow expected along the Missouri border on the morning of MLK day, I headed to Eureka Springs for some street photography. One of the classic street shots is here next to Basin Park.  

                  Basin Park snowBasin Park snow

As I walked up and down the slippery streets and sidewalks, I zeroed in on this intimate scene just off Spring Street. The snow clinging to some of the bricks made for a nice touch.  

                             Eureka Springs Street ArtEureka Springs Street Art

Yesterday evening, I returned to the Eureka Springs area to the small community below Beaver Dam called Beaver. The bridge there that goes across the White River is one of the most photogenic bridges in the state. The snow in the foreground added a nice element and having car headlights and taillights go across the bridge is what made this 30 second exposure come alive.

                 Beaver BridgeBeaver Bridge

When it is 5 degrees, it is tough to patiently wait for a car to drive over the suspension bridge! However, with some patience, I did get the shot I was looking for. If you look close, you can also see some shallow fog forming on the surface of the river as frigid air flows over the relatively warmer water.  

In search of snow and icicles, I made the drive to the outskirts of Joplin, Missouri this morning to briefly visit Grand Falls on Shoal Creek...and I do mean brief. When I pulled up to the falls, my car thermometer read -6! Even when I was dressed in long underwear, a thick coat and with gloves, I could only tolerate about 10 minutes of shooting before wanting to return to my car to warm up. Though not tall, Grand Falls is Missouri's largest natural continually flowing waterfall and it kind of resembles a miniature Niagara Falls. 

                              Frozen Grand FallsFrozen Grand Falls

I'm nearly finished with the pictures from my trip to Chicago and I should be posting that blog article later this month.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) beaver bridge eureka springs frozen grand falls missouri hawksbill crag landscapes scenes snow winter https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2018/1/january-snow-in-the-ozarks Wed, 17 Jan 2018 19:12:47 GMT
Valley Of Fire State Park: Color vs. Black & White https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/12/valley-of-fire-state-park-color-vs-black-white                               

After my excursion in Utah, I went to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Located about an hour from Las Vegas, I first came here in 2014 on a 1/2 day trip from a company called Pink Jeep Trips. Even though it was a good way to familiarize myself to what is there, the problem I experienced was being there during the middle of the day from about 10am to 2pm...often the worst time of the day for landscape photography. This time I had more freedom to see the park early in the morning as well as late in the afternoon and the dividends paid off. 


On one of the evenings, as seen above, I witnessed one of the most incredible glows from a pink sky where the light seemed bounce off the rocks in glorious fashion.  This rock with the stripes is known as the Fire Wave. If you are going to take a photo hike to one place in the park, this would be my pick and there are numerous compositions you can take of this stratified rock formation. I also had fun with compositions for rock abstracts and close ups without any sky!




There are numerous small arches and other hidden features in the sandstone here. Here, I placed a wide angle lens inside one of the small arches. It can make the arches seem bigger than they really are.  



A photography method that I am beginning to do more of is "focus stacking". In the two pictures immediately above and below, I have combined three images together into one image. In one of the images, I set the focus point a short distance away to get what is close to the camera to be sharp in that picture. In another image, I have the focus point far away to get what is in the distant background in focus. In a third image, the focus is set in between what is near and far. I then make a composition of these three images into one image so that it is sharper from front to back than what it would be if I just took one image alone. 



I love the sculpted rocks in these desert washes here. While Valley of Fire State Park is a very colorful place with both red and multicolored rocks, the interesting textures can sometimes make for good black and white images as well. In short, one might convert images to black and white when the light, form, or texture in the scene is more compelling than the hues of the subject matter. Black and white can be a good choice when the color in a photo serves only as a distraction from the message you want the image to convey.  

In some of the photos I took, I found the somewhat uniform white/dull gray clouds in the sky to be uninteresting. What if we converted the color images to black and white?


Perhaps in some instances, shapes, textures and patterns can play a bigger role than the color? In many cases there is not a right or wrong answer and the end decision is personal and subjective.

Below, I have made some more comparisons between color and images I converted to black and white. Which do you prefer? 





[email protected] (Damon Shaw) desert landscapes nevada landscapes rock abstracts valley of fire state park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/12/valley-of-fire-state-park-color-vs-black-white Thu, 21 Dec 2017 14:53:54 GMT
Slot Canyons Of Southern Utah https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/12/slot-canyons-of-southern-utah

In November, I visited Southern Utah which includes some of the most undeveloped land in the Lower 48.  In fact, there is one section in Southern Utah known as the Henry Mountains that were the last mountain range to be mapped in the 48 contiguous U.S. states.  The southern half of Utah has 5 national parks, but I only visited Zion National Park on this trip.  Zion has become one of the top 10 most visited national parks and contains one of the best hikes I have ever been on, known as the Zion Narrows.  Here, the Virgin River has carved its way through large sandstone walls.  

For this trip, I rented dry pants, canyoneering shoes, and neoprene socks for the numerous water crossings.  These, as well as a hiking stick, are very useful...if not essential. The water is quite cold and the rocks on the bottom of the river can be slick.  National Geographic Magazine rated it #5 in the Best American Adventures.  


I'm not sure how well these pictures do the grand landscape justice but I also had fun taking pictures of the more intimate scenes such as abstracts in the Virgin River.

On the way out of Zion, I did a short hike to the Canyon Overlook.  Here is the panorama that I made of the alpenglow just before sunrise.  

Now it was on to the town of Escalante, Utah, where there is the vast expanse of land known as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  There are many scenic and hidden out of the way places and it is known as having some of the best slot canyons in the world.  Two places just off the 62 mile long gravel road called "Hole In The Rock Road" are Zebra Canyon and Spooky Canyon. They are very scenic, but also very narrow.  They are definitely not places for those who are claustrophobic. Getting through these narrow canyon with a pack of camera gear can be a challenge!

Zebra CanyonZebra Canyon     Spooky CanyonSpooky Canyon

This area is making news now.  Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was created in 1996 with nearly 1.9 million acres set to be protected.  However, an announcement is expected Monday that this area of protection will soon be reduced to 997,490 acres.  You can read more about that here

A cloudless sky in the middle of the day is the best time to visit these slot canyons.  When the sun is high, the light can enter the canyon and tends to bounce around and create these glows on the walls. Sometimes in the middle of the day, you can see shafts of light that enter the canyon.  Throwing dust up in the air can illuminate these light beams.  


These two pictures above were taken in Buckskin Gulch along the Utah-Arizona border.  It is home to the longest slot canyon in the world, where the canyon is narrow for 12 miles!  One last place to see...Kanarra Creek. The slot canyon is not nearly as long but what makes this one unique is the waterfall that flows through it.  

Kannaraville FallsKannaraville Falls   

Above is a sunrise taken from Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah.  My next blog post will be from Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) escalante grand staircase slot canyon utah zion https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/12/slot-canyons-of-southern-utah Fri, 01 Dec 2017 22:36:53 GMT
Two visits to Old Main https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/11/two-visits-to-old-main Old Main 302mmOld Main 302mmA pink sky over the Old Main at the campus of the University of Arkansas.

Old Main, on the campus of the University of Arkansas, could be the most photographed building in Arkansas.  Built in 1875, it is also the oldest building on campus.  

On Halloween morning, I was expecting some nice color in the sky for dawn.  With clear skies on the eastern horizon and some high clouds overhead, it indeed happened. In the image above, I used a zoom lens but also wanted the composition to be wide enough to get some of pink colors overhead in the sky.  I also did a vertical on the South Tower. 

Old Main Close Up VerticalOld Main Close Up Vertical

Interesting historical footnote: According to WikiPedia, When Bill Clinton gave a speech at the J. William Fulbright statue dedication ceremony, Clinton asked Chancellor John White, "Where is the clock?" 3 years later, Old Main received a clock face.  On October 27, 2005, after more than 130 years without a functioning clock face, a specially constructed clock was completed and dedicated on the South Tower.

You might have noticed that the North Tower is larger and taller than the South Tower.  Old Main was designed by Chicago architect John Mills Van Osdel less than a decade after The Civil War.  Legend has it that he designed the North Tower to be larger to remind everyone who won.  

On the afternoon of Sunday November 5th, I returned to the same spot.   Old Main Fall with flying flagOld Main Fall with flying flag

While the sky was not quite as interesting and colorful as what I had seen earlier in the week, it did have a few things going that I didn't have the first time.  One, the sun is shining on the structure and the trees to give it a little more interest.  Two, the color in the trees was now close to peak. And three, the wind is blowing the flag and adds another element. 

Each of these are now up for purchase on my Autumn In Arkansas page here.

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) fayetteville arkansas old main university of arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/11/two-visits-to-old-main Tue, 07 Nov 2017 23:00:00 GMT
Fall Colors of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/11/fall-colors-of-the-upper-buffalo-wilderness Cloudland Fall ColorsCloudland Fall Colors

Between October 27 and November 2, I spent some time at my cabin overlooking the Upper Buffalo Wilderness in Arkansas.  Overall, the fall colors were better and more on schedule that the unusually warm fall we saw last year. One of my favorite images was what you see above. Something that I have been getting more into is shooting landscapes with a telephoto zoom lens.  This image above was shot at 335mm back on the morning of October 27th. 

On the afternoon of October 27th, there was quite a bit of high cloud cover.  With my background in meteorology, I tend to follow the weather a lot and try to use it to my advantage when it comes to photography. That afternoon, I looked at the satellite image showing some clearing taking place to the west out in Oklahoma. To me, it looked like the timing was going to be right for enough clearing on the western horizon for sunlight to hit the remaining high clouds overhead at sunset.  So I headed to Hawksbill Crag to try to capture this.  You can see that the was some nice pink light in the clouds. 

Hawksbill Crag is likely the most photographed natural feature in Arkansas, but yet I felt like I needed to add to my portfolio of this great spot. You can purchase these photos above on my Autumn in Arkansas page here

November 1st was a gloomy day filled with dense fog all day on the mountain tops. This discourages some people from getting outside, but to me this is a great time to do forest photography. Below are a few examples of usual mundane forest scenes that can change from ordinary to extraordinary with fog. 



On the morning of November 2nd, the fog began to lift and the surroundings could once again be seen.  Now back to civilization and my hometown of Fayetteville. 


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) arkansas hawksbill crag ozarks upper buffalo wilderness whitaker point https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/11/fall-colors-of-the-upper-buffalo-wilderness Fri, 03 Nov 2017 19:50:41 GMT
Fall Colors of Colorado & West Virginia https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/10/fall-colors-of-colorado-west-virginia

     My favorite place to be in late September is in the Colorado Rockies, when the aspen trees usually peak in Central and Southern Colorado.  The colors seemed a little more subdued this season compared to last season, but that didn't prevent me from finding some great scenes.  There were also a couple of times when snow fell on the peaks.  Below is a picture of 14,131 foot Capitol Peak near Aspen & Snowmass. 

The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is a great place to look for fall color. Another favorite place for hiking is the Raggeds Wilderness, west of Crested Butte. I found this colorful scene on a hiking trail looking toward Marcellina Mountain. 

Not all of the great scenes have to be found on hiking trails.  Some are found on the side of the road.  One popular drive for leaf peepers is the Ohio Creek Road south of Ohio Pass in the Gunnison National Forest. It is road filled with colorful understory ferns and beautiful aspen trunks.  

Vibrant ForestVibrant Forest

Another popular drive in the Crested Butte area is Kebler Pass Road.  Here you will find one of the worlds largest aspen groves. Not only is there an awe-inspiring sea of yellow, but with this size comes variety. An area know as “The Dyke” near Kebler Pass, contains some aspen stands, which turn a striking red shade.  I'm told that certain soil conditions causes some of these aspen trees to turn more rosy.

Most people just photograph from the side of the road or nearby pullovers while looking up at this particular aspen grove, but I tried to find a more secluded spot and to be more at eye level with this colorful grove by hiking one of the nearby trails. 


This October, I went to West Virginia for a different variety of fall foliage.  While you won't see quite the soaring mountains and aspen trees in West Virginia, you will find plenty of other beautiful trees, rugged terrain and waterfalls. West Virginia might be the state that most resembles my stomping grounds in the Ozarks of northern and western Arkansas.  Both tend to overlooked on national level for scenery, but some of the mountains in West Virginia are a little higher than the mountains of Arkansas.  Some of the highest elevations in the state are found near a place called Bear Rocks, where you will find views and colorful shrubs. The red shrubs in the bottom of the picture (below left) are blueberry bushes that turn crimson in early October. 

Bear RocksBear Rocks    Lindy PointLindy Point

One great place in West Virginia to visit is Blackwater Falls State Park. In addition to waterfalls, you will also find nice viewpoints, such as Lindy Point (above right) and the Pendleton Overlook (below). 

Pendleton OverlooksPendleton Overlooks

Of course, visiting Blackwater Falls is a must see when in the area.   Blackwater FallsBlackwater Falls

My favorite backcountry area was in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  The color was peaking about the same time that the remnants of Hurricane Nate had just brought some soaking rains to West Virginia. With the recent runoff, my hike along Red Creek was well timed.  

Red Creek at Dolly SodsRed Creek at Dolly Sods Red Creek at Dolly Sods Wilderness in West VirginiaRed Creek at Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia

A trip to West Virginia would not be complete without visiting the most photographed spot in West Virginia, Babcock Mill at Babcock Mill State Park. 

Babcock MillBabcock Mill

However, I find more pleasure in finding and photographing spots that aren't as iconic and well known, such as this lone shapely bare tree next to a calm pond in the fog at Canaan Valley State Park.

Lone Tree & PondLone Tree & Pond

We are heading into the heart of fall foliage season in the Ozarks of Arkansas as it seems to be on target for peaking during the usual time of late October and early November.  That will be the subject of my next blog post. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) colorado dolly sods fall colors fall foliage kebler pass west virginia https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/10/fall-colors-of-colorado-west-virginia Wed, 25 Oct 2017 19:39:37 GMT
The Bears Of Katmai National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/10/the-bears-of-katmai-national-park

In September, I visited Katmai National Park in southern Alaska to view and photograph brown bears. Katmai is one of the 10 least visited national parks.  You can not drive to Katmai.  The only way to get there is by float plane, such as one seen below.   

I joined Russ Nordstrand (his website is backcountryjourneys.com) and the rest of our photography participants in King Salmon, which is the nearest town that we flew in from.  We camped 3 nights at the Brooks Camp...inside an electric fence to help keep these wondering bears out.  The bears here are known as brown bears. All grizzly bears are brown bears, but not all brown bears are grizzly bears. Grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species (Ursus arctos), but grizzly bears are considered to be a separate subspecies.  Even though grizzlies are considered to be a subspecies of brown bear, the difference between a grizzly bear and a brown bear is fairly arbitrary. In North America, brown bears are generally considered to be those of the species that have access to coastal food resources like salmon. Grizzly bears live further inland and typically do not have access to marine-derived food resources. Because of the abundance of salmon here, this is why they are among some of the largest brown bears in the world.  Besides habitat and diet, there are physical differences between brown and grizzly bears. Large male brown bears in Katmai can routinely weigh over 1,000 pounds while feasting in the fall. In contrast, grizzly bears in a place like Yellowstone or Glacier National Park weigh far less on average. There have been no documented cases of grizzly bears weighing over 900 pounds in Yellowstone.  These are among some of largest brown bears in the world. Only the Kodiak subspecies of the brown bears and polar bears are larger.  

Brooks Falls is one of the best places in the world to watch brown bears because of the salmon that collect here.  July and September are by far the best months for viewing these bears in the Brooks Falls area. In the fall, Coho and Sockeye Salmon heavily populate the area below Brooks Falls during spawning season while some of these salmon attempt to jump to get above Brooks Falls.  

One method to catching the salmon is to try to grab one from the top of the falls.  

Another method is to hang out at the bottom of the falls and wait for one to swim up next to the bears, such as this time. Here is one video that I captured using that method:

It should be noted that most of these images were taken from viewing platforms with gates that prevent the bears from posing a danger to humans.  Others were captured while being at least 50 yards away using a telephoto lens. Sometimes, you can view bears in their lighter, more playful moments.

You can check out the webcam at Brooks Falls here, which is live during daylight hours.  Come November, the bears will be in more in hibernation mode, but you still should be able to see some bears at the falls for a few more weeks. 

While the brown bears are the star at Katmai, the scenery is pretty nice, too.  Below are couple landscape shots close to sunset along the shores of Naknek Lake. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) alaska bears brown bears katmai katmai bears katmai national park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/10/the-bears-of-katmai-national-park Thu, 05 Oct 2017 14:30:26 GMT
Visiting the Canadian Rockies https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/9/visiting-the-canadian-rockies

I recently spent 3 weeks in western Canada, much of it in the Canadian Rockies, exploring some of the best places between Calgary and Vancouver. This included the iconic places in Banff, Jasper, Yoho & Waterton Lakes National Parks.  There were significantly more people in these parks than I recall on my last trip here in 1994.  As a part of Canada's 150th birthday this year, admission into the parks was free and I imagine this was the busiest year that the Canadian national parks have ever seen. Many of the best places are right on the road or with a short walk from the parking lot.  However, I also did a few longer hikes...like this one up to the top of Sentinel Pass, which is the highest maintained trail in Banff National Park. 

As you can see behind me, there were some times when smoke was in the air from wildfires in British Columbia and the US Pacific Northwest. While the visibility was not quite always picture perfect, it did give the landscape a mystical feel at times. But there was also some clear air days where you could see unobstructed views for miles, like this view of Peyto Lake. 


The water has this unearthly color because of the floating reflective particles of glacier silt, or very small particles of sediment, that are suspended in the water.  Below are some more good examples at Lake Louise, Emerald Lake and Maligne Lake. Each of these lakes sits just below melting glaciers to give the water this color. 

Lake Louise has a lot of visitors and tourists. Because of this, it is the most photographed place in Canada. Moraine Lake (pictured below) is probably number 2.  I personally think Moraine Lake is more photogenic. It used to be on the face of a 20 Canadian dollar bill and I probably see more pictures from more photographers on Instagram from Moraine Lake than any other place in Canada. The lake was recently featured on the cover of National Geographic Traveler as one of the "Must See Places for 2017".  

I was treated to a lot of calm mornings with no wind.  This made for great reflections of the trees and mountains in the lakes.  Below is a pair of pictures from Two Jack Lake with Mount Rundle near Banff.  


Although many of the days were sunny and warm, there were some signs of summer transitioning to fall in a few places.  Some patchy color was beginning to show up, such as this red shrubbery here just below Athabasca Glacier, as well as some small yellow trees at Waterton Lakes National Park.  

I also visited a few lesser known national parks and provincial parks.  One of my favorite views looking down was from atop Mount Revelstoke National Park in British Columbia (left). Mount Robson (right), at 12,972 feet above sea level, is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies and the highlight of Mount Robson Provincial Park.  


Another great provincial park in British Columbia is Wells Gray, which is known for its large waterfalls. On the left is Helmcken Falls and on the right is the base of Dawson Falls.  


Wells Gray Provincial Park is also a good place to view spawning salmon trying to swim upstream. Only the strongest fish can to make the successful jump up the heavy rapids and strong currents of Bailey's Chute in the Clearwater River. 

Sometimes you will see bears at these large waterfalls with spawning salmon.  I didn't see any bears there, but I did see up to 7 black bears in one day at Waterton Lakes National Park!  Most of these were viewed from the from the side of the road, but one was while on a hiking trail.  

I will probably see more bears and salmon when I make a trip to Katmai National Park on the coast of Alaska later this month.  Until then, here are a few more of my favorite pictures from Canada.



[email protected] (Damon Shaw) canadian rockies parks canada https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/9/visiting-the-canadian-rockies Sun, 10 Sep 2017 15:43:21 GMT
My Favorite Colorado Landscape Photos This Summer https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/8/my-favorite-colorado-landscape-photos-this-summer      Colorado is probably my favorite place to visit, so that is why I chose to spend nearly 6 weeks there this summer.   The visit began at the Music Meadows Ranch June when I visited the Music Meadows Ranch near Westcliffe.  You can read more about that visit here. Early June is an excellent time because the aspen trees leaf out with their fresh, bright green leaves and I managed to capture this image of fog burning off near the base of this grove of aspen trees in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. 

What might be my most unique image of the summer was back in June atop a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.  My goal was to hike to the top of the mountain by the time the moon set between Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.  You can read more about the story behind that photograph here.

Moonset at Rocky Mountain Nat'l ParkMoonset at Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

My favorite hike along a river was along the Cache La Poudre River west of Fort Collins.  The name of the river translates to "hiding of the powder" in French, which refers to an incident in the 1820s when French fur trappers, caught by a snowstorm, were forced to bury part of their gunpowder along the banks of the river.  It is the only federally designated Wild & Scenic River that flows in Colorado, with 30 miles of its course being deemed as "wild".  Wild rivers are the most remote and undeveloped, while recreational rivers often have many access points, roads, railroads, and bridges.  The best hike to get that feeling of wilderness along the river is along the Big South Trail. Here I was able to create a panorama of the raging river. Cache La Poudre PanoramaCache La Poudre Panorama

Another of my favorite hikes was in Rocky Mountain National Park.  On a morning in early July, I walked the trail leading to Chasm Lake near the base of 14,259 foot tall Longs Peak.  Once again, it was another walk uphill in the dark to get to these scenic places above the tree-line.  The sunrise here that time of the year is 5:38am!   I was on my way to get to Chasm Lake for first light.  There was one problem...the trail crossed a steep snowbank.  You can see a faint line going through the snow in the upper right corner of the picture below.  That is the trail I would have had to go across to make it any farther. 

I didn't have any crampons or spikes on my boots to trek across the snow and it was a long slide down the icy slope if I did slip.  I decided not to take the chance of risking injury and opted to explore my surroundings beneath the trail.  After doing minor scrambling down some boulders, I discovered a nice patch of columbines within viewing distance of the appropriately named Columbine Falls. Although my original intention was to make it beyond the waterfall, it made for a nice consolation prize. In fact, this may have been a more photogenic spot had I continued to the lake.  Sometimes serendipity can work out!  Looking up the rugged face of Longs Peak from down here was a humbling experience for me. 

One nice spot to hike to in Rocky Mountain National Park is Sandbeach Lake.  My favorite thing about this photo was the log that was floating in the still water.  Another great lake in the park is Dream Lake, which has been called the most photographed lake in Colorado that can only be reached by foot.  The steep face of Hallett Peak makes nice for a backdrop to this scenic lake.  The only lake that probably gets photographed more often is Maroon Lake and its view of the Maroon Bells, which can be reached by road.  

Dream Lake DawnDream Lake Dawn

I often try to make it to above treeline for sunrise, like this scene looking east from the Front Range of the Rockies west of Boulder.  There is something magical about watching it fade from night to day at a place like this.

The treeline is usually between 11,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level in Colorado.  Once you get to about 12,000 feet, the open tundra spreads out before you.  The alpine buttercup is a common tundra flower in Colorado.  Although short and small, they can put a nice display of yellow and other colors of wildflowers are plentiful as well.  

Hallett Peak ButtercupsHallett Peak Buttercups

I also saw an assortment of wildlife, including mountain goats, elk and moose.  On my way up from Dream Lake to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw a young elk, as well as a young moose at Kenosha Pass.  

I will be returning to Colorado for its fall color that peaks in late September.  My next blog post will be from the Canadian Rockies.  Stay tuned for that coming up in early September.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) colorado in summer rocky mountain photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/8/my-favorite-colorado-landscape-photos-this-summer Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:55:23 GMT
Visiting Glacier National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/8/visiting-glacier-national-park First Light at Swiftcurrent LakeFirst Light at Swiftcurrent Lake

For a week in July, I visited Glacier National Park in northern Montana.  While Glacier is a unique place in the national park system, only a very small part of the park is actually covered by glaciers themselves these days.  The glaciers are smaller than what you would find in Canada and Alaska and they are continuing to get smaller.  In 1850, the area now comprising the national park had 150 glaciers, but today there are 25 active glaciers remaining in the park. The definition of a glacier is a large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface.  Many of the original glaciers have disappeared or been reduced to permanent or semi-permanent snowfields that have become stationary, thus no longer defined as a glacier.  Despite this gradual change, the park is an incredible place to see and photograph.  There are many glacial carved valleys, colorful lakes and shapely mountains in the park.  One of the most popular overlooks is from just above Logan Pass on the famous Going To The Sun Road.  Here you hike to the overlook of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain. 

This might be the most popular trail in the park...and for good reason.  Not only do you get a great view for relatively little effort, but you also will likely see mountain goats that come up close to you right along the trail.  

Bearhat Mountain GoatBearhat Mountain Goat

If you can tolerate the crowds and sometimes even bumper to bumper traffic on Going To The Sun Road, mid-July is one of the best times to see Glacier National Park.  By then, enough of the snow has melted to allow for wildflowers to be in full bloom...including beargrass.  These large, showy white flowers have the appearance of giant Q-tips in the wild, or something that would appear in a Dr. Suess book.  Beargrass is a common wildflower found in Glacier National Park and this year has produced prolific blossoms thanks to a higher than average snowpack this winter and warmer than average temperatures so far this summer. The plant was first called beargrass by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Beargrass is not a grass and actually not even consumed by bears but sheep, deer, elk, and goats are known to eat beargrass.  However, bears will use these leaves as denning material.

The pink flowers next to this beargrass above Grinnell Lake are known as Pink Spirea. The hike up to Grinnell Glacier is in my opinion one of the most scenic trails that I have been on in a national park. After leaving Many Glacier Hotel, I boarded the ferry that goes across Lake Josephine (pictured below) to access the Grinnell Glacier Trail that goes above Lower Grinnell Lake (also pictured below).  Lake JosephineLake Josephine Lower Grinnell LakeLower Grinnell Lake

Lower Grinnell Lake is among one of the most colorful lakes I have seen as the teal color comes from glacial silt, a suspension of fine particles of limestone (calcium carbonate) ground up by glacial movement. The hike leads to Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier.  The lake (pictured below) has been newly formed within the last 100 years due recent melt from Grinnell and Salamander Glacier.  

Upper Grinnell LakeUpper Grinnell Lake

Another great hike is up to Iceberg Lake (pictured below).  Iceberg Lake is a bit lower in elevation and does not have as much ice as Upper Grinnell Lake, but still has some leftover icebergs in it.  It is believed that if current warming trends continue, there will be no glaciers left in the Glacier National Park by 2030. You can find more about the change in these glaciers from this article from the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/24/climate/mapping-50-years-of-ice-loss-in-glacier-national-park.html

Iceberg at Iceberg LakeIceberg at Iceberg Lake   Iceberg LakeIceberg Lake

While wildlife and spectacular mountain scenery with lakes is the highlight of photography at Glacier, some of my favorite photographs were from along the streams.  So many waterfalls, colorful rocks and beautiful water formations!  

Saint Mary Falls, MontanaSaint Mary Falls, Montana Avalanche Creek. MontanaAvalanche Creek. Montana



[email protected] (Damon Shaw) beargrass glacier national park montana photography mountain goat https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/8/visiting-glacier-national-park Wed, 02 Aug 2017 23:48:46 GMT
Music Meadows Ranch & The Wet Mountain Valley Of Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/7/music-meadows-ranch-the-wet-mountain-valley-of-colorado

Back in June, I visited the Music Meadows Ranch near Westcliffe, Colorado.  Westcliffe is located in the Wet Mountain Valley of Southern Colorado and is away from the touristy ski resorts of Colorado. Westcliffe has more of an "Old West" feel to it and Music Meadows is a great place to experience an authentic guest ranch.  The Sangre de Cristo Mountains make for a great backdrop, but it is the horses that are the real stars! If you are interested in finding out more, you can visit their website at musicmeadows.com


Even without any horses, the scenery is also quite amazing in the Wet Mountain Valley!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Music Meadows Ranch Westcliffe Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/7/music-meadows-ranch-the-wet-mountain-valley-of-colorado Sat, 08 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT
Storms Of 2017 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/6/storms-of-2017

May and June are my favorite months to roam the Southern and Central Plains in search of photogenic storms.   Back on May 16, I drove out to western Oklahoma where some tornadic thunderstorms occurred at the town of Elk City.  There were a lot of chasers on this storm and the tornado was obscured in sheets in rain, so I decided to turn south away from the storm to get a different perspective.   To me, chasing storms is more than looking for tornadoes, When there are too many chasers on a storm, I like to step back and find my own art with storms from afar. The images above and below were taken south of Elk City, Oklahoma.  


On the afternoon of June 5th, I drove out to one of my favorite locations on the plains of Colorado, Pawnee Buttes.  The curtains of heavy rain (probably containing hail, too) made for a nice backdrop.   Pawnee Buttes, ColoradoPawnee Buttes, Colorado


On June 12th, I started off at Wheatland, Wyoming and would up at Alliance, Nebraska around sunset. I saw 4 brief and weak tornadoes.  None of them really made for good pictures.  Either they were too far away or too brief.  Seemed like each time I saw a tornado, by the time I parked on the side of the road and pulled out my camera, they were gone. The most photogenic scene of the evening was this scene below from just east of Alliance, Nebraska.  The "mothership" appearance is of a rotating supercell thunderstorm.  

Supercell near Alliance, NebraskaSupercell near Alliance, Nebraska


On June 15, I spent the afternoon and evening in Central Kansas. One storm in the Hays, Kansas area was strong enough to produce a tornado warning.  While there did not appear to be a true tornado, there was what us meteorologists call a "gustnado".  One should think of a gustnado as a little circulation along the leading edge of a gust front where cooler outflow winds are blowing out from the thunderstorm.  They are weak and often brief.  A tornado would otherwise be a rotating column of air that goes from the rotating part of a thunderstorm that extends to the ground. Also, notice the greenish tint to some of the clouds. It is believed that the greenish color to the sky is a sign of large hail.  


The storms became rather messy with a lot of rain obscuring the best parts of the storm, so I decided to find a hotel in Salina, Kansas.  Coming into Salina, I noticed some bumpy looking "mammatus" clouds overhead in the sky and the sun was about to set with some clear skies on the western horizon.  I was getting that feeling that sky was going to look incredible soon.  While pulling into the hotel parking lot, I noticed this church across the street and down the road about a 1/4 mile away from the hotel.  It turned out to be a yesteryear museum based on the heritage of Kansas.  The little model church made for a great subject against the picturesque sky.  Sometimes the best pictures are after when the storm "chase" is done!

Mammattus clouds & a churchMammattus clouds & a church

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) storm photography https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/6/storms-of-2017 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:10:33 GMT
Waking Up At Midnight https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/6/waking-up-at-midnight Moonset at Rocky Mountain Nat'l ParkMoonset at Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

This morning, I woke up at midnight to begin my day.  In all my years, I don't think I have ever done that.  Certainly, not voluntarily!  However, I had this date circled on my calendar. I was told from Glenn Randall, a pro photographer from Colorado, that on the morning of the full moon in June that you can get a unique shot.  When at Twin Sisters Peak, he said that the moon would set between Longs Peak and Mount Meeker in Rocky Mountain National Park. This only can be photographed one morning each year, when the moon sets the furthest south all year. We might be the only 2 people have attempted this hike specifically with this shot in mind. It involved a hiking trail in the dark starting at 1am and crossing a few leftover snow patches. A headlamp was necessary. The moonlight, as well as the footprints in the snow, was also helpful for guidance. There was a short section where I struggled to get up an icy patch on a somewhat steep slope.  It proved nearly impossible to walk up it in normal hiking boots.  But with some scrambling on my hands and knees I was able to get pass that obstacle.  Once above the treeline, I was greeted with howling winds.  I would guess gusting to about 50 mph a couple of times.  It was sometimes tough to just walk straight and a reminder on how harsh the environment can be at over 11,000 feet.  Thankfully, the winds died down some as the moon was setting in the west and twilight was coming in from the east. I was also worried about the cirrus clouds obstructing the detail of the moon.  It was sometimes thick enough to make the moon a little fuzzy.  However, it thinned out enough to get more detail on the moon.  The thin cirrus clouds also added a little color to the sky as the first light from the sun was hitting the upper layers of the atmosphere.  It was a challenging hike and photo shoot.  However, once I got the shot that I was looking for and I was able to get up and down safely off the mountain, it was totally worth the extra effort of getting up at midnight!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Rocky Mountain National Park full moon https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/6/waking-up-at-midnight Sat, 10 Jun 2017 02:17:52 GMT
A visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/5/a-visit-to-theodore-roosevelt-national-park

Earlier this month, I made my first visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Located in the western part of North Dakota, it is one of the least known of the national parks in the lower 48.  I honestly had not even heard about this place until a few years ago when it was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. In that feature, it mentioned that President Roosevelt frequently visited and hunted this part of the country and this helped to inspire his vision of protecting our land.  I heard about it again last year when a couple of other photographers said it is the 2nd best national park to view wildlife, behind Yellowstone.  I haven't been to every national park, but this seemed to live up to expectations. This is among some of the highest concentrations of bison you can find. 

Not only was there was bison, but there were also feral horses.  

While the wildlife is the highlight of visiting Theodore Roosevelt, the landscapes are also really nice. The park contains landscapes of grassland plains, rolling hills, badlands and hoodoos.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Theodore Roosevelt National Park bison buffalo horses wild https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/5/a-visit-to-theodore-roosevelt-national-park Thu, 01 Jun 2017 01:41:10 GMT
Waterfalls of Spring 2017 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/5/waterfalls-of-spring-2017 Through the first half of April, precipitation so far this year was below average in Northwest Arkansas, which makes for more difficult waterfall photography.  However, it quickly changed in the last couple of weeks of April and into the start of May.  In my hometown of Fayetteville, we had over 11 inches of rain for last 10 days of April, including over 5 inches of rain in about 30 hours.  While the excessive rain did create some damage and negative consequences, it also made for prolific waterfalls all over the Ozarks.  

Raney CoveRaney Cove

Back on the weekend of April 22nd, I stayed at the Ozark Bluff Dwellers cabins in Newton County, Arkansas (ozarkbluffdwellers.com). These cabins not only offer some of the best views in all of Arkansas, but also has a seasonal/wet-weather waterfall on the property, seen above.  With so much recent rain, some of the larger waterfalls with a pool of water at the base of the waterfall had become murky.  Because of this, I opted to zoom in on only part of the waterfall to create more appealing images.  My original plan was to also photograph Twin Falls (sometimes seen and known as Triple Falls) this same weekend at the boy scout camp known as Camp Orr.  However, with the pool of water being initially muddy, I decided to return back a couple of days later for the residue to settle down and water to become clearer.  When I returned, the water cleared up but there was plenty of streamflow to still create the third plume of water to make it appear as Triple Falls.  

Triple FallsTriple Falls Triple FallsTriple Falls

On May 1st, shortly after the severe flooding in Northwest Arkansas, I hiked to Teakettle Falls in Madison County.  This waterfall flows only just after a prolonged heavy rain, but when it does flow, it is among one of the more photogenic waterfalls in Arkansas.  Once again, I waited a day for the water to settle and recede.  Again, my timing was near perfect to visit this waterfall.  Not only was there was there optimum flow of the water, but there was also red columbines within viewing distance of the waterfall.  

Teakettle FallsTeakettle Falls Red ColumbinesRed Columbines

There is also a lesser known waterfall in a side drainage of Warm Fork Creek but still close to Teakettle Falls.  It is not high, but I love the pool of water at the base of these falls. 

                                                      Madison County waterfallMadison County waterfall

I recently heard that the state of Oklahoma is threatening to close 18 of its state parks in the an attempt to cut costs.  One of the possible closings on this list is Natural Falls State Park near West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma.  If this were to happen, this would be among the last opportunities to view the waterfalls there at such a nice flow.  I have driven to Tulsa many times seeing the sign on where to turn off for this state park. It is a short distance from US highway 412 and all these years I had been underestimating how great these falls were when under the right water conditions!  

Just looking at the photos, you wouldn't even think they were in Oklahoma.  Let's hope that the government can keep great state parks like this going for future years!





[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Falls Natural Oklahoma Ozarks Park Parks State Teakettle Triple https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/5/waterfalls-of-spring-2017 Thu, 04 May 2017 19:31:17 GMT
A visit to Charleston, South Carolina. https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/4/a-visit-to-charleston-south-carolina Back in the last week of March, I spent nearly a week doing photography in the Charleston, South Carolina area.  There is a variety of subjects to take pictures of along the South Carolina coast. These range anywhere from historical plantations, cemeteries and old style street photography to landscapes of the swamps and beaches.  I joined with a couple of photography workshops hosted by Richard Bernabe and Tony Sweet.  

Below is an image close to sunrise from Edisto Beach.  

Edisto BeachEdisto Beach Folly Beach PierFolly Beach Pier


This picture is from below the pier at Folly Beach.  

The Charleston area was affected by Hurricane Matthew back in October. Even though it weakened to a category 1 hurricane, it still had enough high surf and storm surge to wipe out the "boneyard" trees that were located on Edisto Island.   Therefore, we had to take a ferry to Bull Island, which still contains some of these boneyard trees.  What is a Boneyard Beach?  Simply put, a Boneyard beach is a maritime forest the is being eroded into the ocean.  Over time, the Atlantic ocean eats into the forest, stripping away its soil and killing the trees.  This creates a unique environment that is part forest, part swamp and part ocean.  It creates some eerily beautiful scenes. 

Bull Island BoneyardBull Island Boneyard Bonyard Tree SunstarBonyard Tree Sunstar

Away from the shores are many stately Live Oak trees.  One particularly large live oak tree is called Angel Oak.  It is believed to be the largest oak tree that exists.  It stands over 66 feet tall, measures 28 feet in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. Its longest branch distance is 187 feet in length.  Here, I was lying on the ground and pointing an infrared camera up toward the many branches of Angel Oak.  

Angel Oak InfraredAngel Oak Infrared

One of the highlights of visiting the Charleston area are the beautiful plantations.  One of the most photogenic is the Tomotley Planation between Charleston and Hilton Head.  The earliest known date of existence goes all the way back to 1698!   The avenue of Oaks are believed to be planted around 1820.  

Tomotley PlantationTomotley Plantation

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Charleston is a visit to Magnolia Gardens.  It is a scenic place of live oak trees, former plantations, swamps and wildlife.  

Here I was able experiment with some "swipe photography" to make some impressionistic photographs that look like paintings.  Some will think that Photoshop was involved, but all it takes a camera, a tripod and the right technique on how you move the camera while it is exposing the picture. After that, you just have to start out experimenting.  Some will look good, many will not.  In this image of the trees in the swamp, first I placed the camera on a tripod.  Then I tilt the camera down as I am taking the picture. In this example, it was a 1 second exposure.  The pink and blue colors on the trees is a unique form of lichen.  

Swamp SwipeSwamp Swipe  

Magnolia Gardens also has numerous wildlife opportunities, including birds and alligators.  I was particularly enjoying taking pictures of the gators...at least from a safe distance.   

The above image was using a 400mm zoom lens, while the image below of the baby gator was at 340mm.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Angel Oak Charleston South Carolina South Carolina Beaches South Carolina landscapes Tomotley Plantation https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/4/a-visit-to-charleston-south-carolina Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:38:24 GMT
A trip to Utah and Arizona https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/4/a-trip-to-utah-and-arizona Back in October, I spent some time in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  The photographic possibilities are almost endless in this special place of the country.  For nearly a week, I was based out the small town of Boulder, Utah for a workshop with James Kay.  What I love about Utah is the wide variety of landscapes that can be photographed there.  Anything from colorful aspen forests in the higher elevations to red rock sandstone deserts in the lower elevations.   

I was there in mid October when most of the aspen trees had lost most of their colorful leaves, but the fresh leaves on the ground made for pretty forest scenes focused on the ground.   

Balancing RockBalancing Rock

The sun was often shining for my visit to Southern Utah.  With the sun highlighting the forms and textures of the landscape, it can also make for interesting black and white photography.  However, the colorful landscapes can't be ignored either.  Although the aspen trees in the mountains had already lost their leaves, the cottonwoods still had plenty of their yellow leaves.   Cottonwood CurvesCottonwood Curves

I love the "S" curve to the cottonwoods lining this creek!  One of the highlights of this week was getting different perspectives of the largest waterfall in Utah, Calf Creek Falls. We hiked the 3-mile one way hiking trail that goes to the bottom of the waterfall.  Like the picture below in the upper left, most people see the waterfall from this prospective.  Like me, James likes to photograph scenes that are off the beaten path and get different perspectives.  In the picture in the upper right, you can get a unique perspective the waterfall reflected in a pool of water off to the side.  

  Calf Creek FallsCalf Creek Falls Pool at Calf Creek FallsPool at Calf Creek Falls

                                    Calf Creek Falls from aboveCalf Creek Falls from above  

Many of the places we walked to were considered to be "off trail".  We hiked down from the highway and blazed our own trail down the sandstone slopes to get a birds eye view of the falls from the rim of the canyon.  We also hiked along a little used primitive trail and made numerous stream crossings to get Calf Creek just above the 200+ foot tall waterfall.  Here, there were nice intimate landscapes of the cascades and pools of water.  

Calf Creek Yellow LeafCalf Creek Yellow Leaf

After the conclusion of the photo workshop, it was time for me to join up with Alex Noriega for a camping trip at a place called "White Pocket" in northern Arizona.  White Pocket is a hard to place that is only accessible by high clearance vehicles with the ability to drive on deep sand.  Once there, it is a strange landscape of oddly shaped white and red rocks.  

Brain RockBrain Rock

It has the feeling of what it could be like on Mars. This rock seen above is known as "The Brain".   You can also see it in the distance in one of the pictures down below.  Our group also had a fun time doing some light painting on the rocks with the Milky Way here.  As you can see, I was fortunate to time the alignment of the Milky Way, a single tree and a long singular crack in the rock!  

White PocketWhite Pocket      Milky Way at the White PocketMilky Way at the White Pocket

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Boulder Utah Calf Creek Falls Grand Staircase White Pocket https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/4/a-trip-to-utah-and-arizona Sat, 15 Apr 2017 20:19:09 GMT
Death Valley & Yosemite National Parks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/2/death-valley-yosemite-national-parks It was time for another trip to California.  So much to explore and such a varied state!  This was my third trip to Death Valley National Park in the last 3 years and it was probably my most productive trip so far. As I approached Death Valley while driving from Las Vegas, one thing that was a little different this time was the amount of snow on the mountains.


A winter storm brought widespread rain to California and a blanket of snow to elevations above 4,000 feet nearly a couple of weeks before my arrival.  Snow still remained on the mountains and as well as some puddles of water in the lowest basins.  

This time I joined David Kingham and Jennifer Renwick.  They are a nice couple to hang out with and great hosts for their photography outings.  This was their "Extreme Death Valley" trip, which involved more walking than most photography tours. One day involved a total of 9 miles of walking!  There was camping each night, some in very remote locations where we were by ourselves. Our first night was near Ibex Dunes, one of the more remote sand dunes of the park. Even thought the light and sky were not that great, the dunes were peaceful in part because we were only ones there.  Well, except for this beetle. It turns out that you can see life in the sand dunes.  

Bigger sand dunes were to come at Eureka Dunes, which are the tallest dunes in California and the second tallest in North America.  Here, the light on the dunes and colors in the sky were better.  This might be my favorite place in the park.  We also visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, where several movies have been filmed, including "Star Wars". 

Water at Death ValleyWater at Death Valley Mesquite Dune RipplesMesquite Dune Ripples

At first glance, the desert seems desolate and static.  However, it is an ever-changing environment that depends on the winds that blow and the rains that fall. The shifting sands make for new scenes each visit to the same place.  Cycles of droughts and floods can alter the landscape here, too. Recent winter storms have brought rains to Badwater Basin. The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water" and accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. After rain collects on the salt deposits, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into polygonal honeycomb shapes.

Salt Polygons at Death ValleySalt Polygons at Death Valley

At Death Valley, even the mud can be beautiful.  These were the deepest mud cracks that I have ever seen.  Some cracks were even as deep as a few inches...so deep that I was worried about dropping my lens cap into them! Thanks to David for scouting these locations that contained the fantastic polygons and mud cracks before I arrived!  

Death Valley Mud CracksDeath Valley Mud Cracks

Now on to Yosemite...

You have probably heard in the news that California has been receiving a lot rain this winter with higher elevation snow.  This was very evident as I drove up the Merced River Valley leading up to Yosemite National Park.  The river was swift and higher than it would be normally. Numerous waterfalls were pouring off the side drainages. Before I even entered in the park, I could tell that I would be seeing Yosemite in rare form.  

I joined up with Gary Hart, who led our 4-day photography workshop. Gary has been coming to Yosemite since the 70's and told us that he was seeing waterfalls where he had never seen them before. A special treat for us was that the waterfalls that are usually there were flowing in their full glory. On the left is the base of Bridal Veil Falls and the right picture is Yosemite Falls. 

  Yosemite FallsYosemite Falls

The wet conditions this winter not only made for great waterfall pictures, but also created water in places that usually aren't filled with water. With the Merced River recently flooding, some fields had standing water that would normally be just grass and dirt.  These field conditions made for great reflections of Half Dome. 

Half Dome ReflectionsHalf Dome Reflections

The weather was completely overcast for my first 3 days in Yosemite, with about 24 hours of almost non-stop rain. On the final day, the sun was shining all day and the air was still which made for great reflections as you can see.  With the flooded fields in the valley, it created for this especially unique picture of Yosemite Falls (complete with a rainbow!) from Cooks Meadow as well as river reflection of the rock formation known as El Capitan.  

  El Capitan ReflectionsEl Capitan Reflections

With the waterfalls flowing and the sky now clear, it made for a good evening to see the "firefall" known as Horsetail Falls.  It is a stream of water pouring off the side of El Capitan.  For about 2 weeks in February, the last light of the day shines directly on the waterfall. If the sky is clear on the western horizon at sunset, you can see the color of the waterfall evolve from golden to red before the sun completely sets.  Although I was there on February 11th, this phenomenon peaks around the 3rd week of February.  Even though I was there a little before the peak, I was fortunate to be there on an evening when the sky was perfectly clear. 

Horsetail Falls (aka Firefall)Horsetail Falls (aka Firefall)

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) California Death Valley Yosemite photographs https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2017/2/death-valley-yosemite-national-parks Mon, 27 Feb 2017 20:27:40 GMT
A trip to California https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/12/a-trip-to-california Earlier this month, I took a 2 week journey to California. I would say that California is probably the most varied state to photograph, with possibilities ranging anywhere from deserts to oceans to mountains.  For this trip, I decided to focus on the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park and the Central/Northern California coast.  

Joshua Tree National Park is a stark place consisting mostly of rocks and yucca plants with some scattered groves of the uniquely shaped Joshua Trees.  There are no real iconic places to photograph and you have to look harder for good compositions than many national parks.  However, I enjoy the challenge of trying to decide which features to include and not include in my photographs.  For 5 days in early December, I did a photography workshop with a company called Barefoot Contessa.  Margo and Arnie go to Joshua Tree every year.  While they know the park well, one of the highlights of taking one of their workshops are the critique sessions we do in the middle of each day.  Not only do you get feedback from some of my own photos, but it is also interesting to see what others photograph. Some were misses, but some were hits.  Below are some of my favorite photos from Joshua Tree National Park.  

Joshua Tree SilhouetteJoshua Tree Silhouette

Moon at Joshua TreeMoon at Joshua Tree

After leaving rather sunny Southern California, it was then on to the Central and Northern California coast, where the weather turned to predominantly foggy conditions with occasional drizzle.  

Big Sur BridgeBig Sur Bridge

But the gloomy conditions made for great waterfall and forest photography at Limekiln State Park on the southern end of the Big Sur region, where there are plenty of flowing streams and stately redwoods.  

Limekiln RedwoodsLimekiln RedwoodsA stream winds its way through a redwood forest at Limelikn State Park in California during December 2016.


One of the icons of the Big Sur is McWay Falls.  As I arrived, it was extremely foggy. At first, it was hard to even see the waterfall from the overlook.  It is photographed a lot, but still a unique place where a long waterfall spills onto the sandy beach next to the ocean.   Thankfully, the fog cleared just enough to get a clear view of the waterfall and beach.

While driving on Highway 1, I noticed a lush gully with some large white flowers (pictured below).  These are called Calla Lilies. Below are a couple of pictures from Garrapata State Park, south of Carmel.  

Calla LiliesCalla Lilies Waves at Garrapata State ParkWaves at Garrapata State Park

After beautiful Big Sur, it was time to drive further north into San Francisco to visit a couple of Bay Area icons.  Does anyone else think of the old TV show "Full House" when they see these houses known as "The Painted Ladies"?

The Painted Ladies in San FranciscoThe Painted Ladies in San Francisco

Even a brief photography trip to San Francisco isn't complete without some shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Marshall's BeachMarshall's Beach Baker BeachBaker Beach

On the north side of the Bay Area is Marin County, home of Point Reyes National Seashore.  Inside this, is a little visited waterfall that you have to hike 4 miles (one way) to get to.  The name of the waterfall below is Alamere Falls.  Most of the walking was pretty level, except for the last part down to the beach.  After going down this steep pitch to the beach, I was a little worried if I could get back up the cliff...but i did.  Worth the effort to reach these beautiful falls right on the beach!  

Alamere FallsAlamere Falls

Another little known and photographed place along the Northern California coast is a place called "Bowling Ball" Beach.  I heard about this place from another photographer while visiting Big Sur.  After finding the beach on Google Maps, I went up and down the beach to find no large rocks shaped like giant bowling balls.  While photographing other rocks on the beach, I started to notice the tide was starting to drop.   I then started to wonder if the high tide was covering up the bowling balls.  After another trip to the other side of the beach, I noticed the large round boulders were beginning to slowly emerge as the water receded.  Bowling balls!  

Bowling Ball BeachBowling Ball Beach

I will be returning to California again in February, but the next trip will include stops to Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks.  


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Big Sur California California Beaches California Landscapes Joshua Tree San Francisco https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/12/a-trip-to-california Sun, 01 Jan 2017 03:16:29 GMT
Fall in Arkansas 2016 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/11/fall-in-arkansas-2016 It has been unusual year for the timing of good fall foliage in Arkansas.  An unseasonably warm October has been the primary reason for delaying the best color about 2 weeks.  As a native Arkansan, I have never seen it peak this late.  Usually, the peak color in the Arkansas Ozarks is around the end of October and start of November.  However, this year it didn't come until mid-November.  Finding good color was not only late but also harder to find this year.  Still, I did manage to come away with a few good images.  

Probably my favorite fall color picture of the season was this one at Richland Creek, which in my opinion is among the most beautiful streams in Arkansas.  I also visited a couple of my favorite views of the Buffalo River.  While the color was not especially good, the sunset was great from atop this bluff upstream of Tyler Bend.  

Peter Cave Bluff SunsetPeter Cave Bluff Sunset

Some of my best pictures in the last few weeks have been without fall color as the primary feature of the photograph.  Last weekend, we had a full moon.  Because the full moon this month was the closest to the Earth since 1948, it has been called a "Supermoon".  The moon appears only about 15% bigger and brighter than the average full moon but it is still impressive.  I was fortunate to have clear skies Sunday night to have a good vantage point of the rising moon at Lake Fayetteville.  

SupermoonSupermoon Lake FayettevilleLake Fayetteville

On the morning after the official full moon, I thought I would drive up to the top of Mount Sequoyah, the highest point in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  My initial plan was to photograph the setting moon above "Old Main" shortly after sunrise.  Old Main is the iconic old building that represents the University of Arkansas.  However, the moon was too high in the sky above the building for a really nice scene of the two features together.  However, with  shallow ground fog hovering over the campus, it made a striking scene of fog on the ground at the base of the building with the two towers over the fog.  With Old Main located over a mile away from my vantage point, I used a zoom lens to capture this scene.  The focal length was 600mm, the closest I could zoom in.  

Old Main FogOld Main Fog


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Buffalo River Creek Fayetteville Arkansas Old Main Ozarks Richland University Of Arkansas color fall supermoon https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/11/fall-in-arkansas-2016 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 22:28:33 GMT
My favorite fall pictures from Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/10/my-favorite-fall-pictures-from-colorado I recently spent about 3 weeks in the Colorado Rockies during its fall color season.  I arrived in the Aspen area, where the aspens were already turning gold in some places.  As I arrived at my hotel at the Snowmass Ski Area, I noticed a herd of elk hanging out in a meadow.  I am not much of a wildlife photographer, but I will take advantage of the opportunity when I happen to across it. I recently purchased a 150-600mm zoom lens and it proved useful to get a photo like this.  

The elk were already bugling with the change of the seasons underway and the colors were approaching peak in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.  Probably the most iconic and photographed place in Colorado is an area called the Maroon Bells, south of Aspen.  I had been here a couple of years ago close to peak with good light and clouds over Maroon Peak with reflections in Maroon Lake.  Being satisfied with my images from two years ago and recalling the 100-200 other photographers that are often there on late September mornings, I sought an alternative view of the Maroon Bells. So I decided to arrive a couple of hours before sunrise at Maroon Lake and hiked up the trail nearly 2 miles to the lake above it called Crater Lake.  The fall color is not quite as widespread as the large groves of aspen trees found around Maroon Lake, but the crowds were much less.  When I arrived at Crater Lake, there were only a couple of tents and a few campers already there before me.  Otherwise, I was the first to arrive at the lake for the morning.  The views of the Maroon Bells are almost as good here, and is a nice alternative to the bustle at Maroon Lake.  About the only problem with the view that morning, was the top of Maroon Peak shrouded in clouds.  

After spending a few days in the Aspen & Snowmass area, it was then southward to spend a little time in the Crested Butte area.  A great place to see aspens in their fall glory is a road called the Kebler Pass Road, just west of Crested Butte.  I have heard some say that it is the largest aspen grove in the world and I can believe it.  Not only do the aspens seem to be go on for miles here, but there trunks and the understory beneath the foliage just seems more scenic here than just about any other aspen forest that I have seen.   

One could spend a lot of time exploring the forests around Kebler Pass, but I had already made reservations to head to Ouray and the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado.  It was a rainy day as I left Crested Butte as a strong storm system entered western Colorado.  The temperatures were getting colder and accumulating snow made it as far down as about 8500 feet.  Most aspens in Colorado grow around 8,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level, so it made for a great combination of color and snowfall.   I was lucky to be here at such a great time!   Some years, the snow comes just after the best color.   Given the right conditions, I had to pay a visit to Dallas Divide near Ridgway.  It could be argued that Dallas Divide might be the 2nd most photographed location behind Maroon Bells.  I have been visiting this region of Colorado regularly for 20 years and this was probably the best combination of fall color and snow on the Sneffels Range that I have seen.  This image is a Colorado classic that I have wanted for a long time!

Autumn at Dallas DivideAutumn at Dallas Divide

After spending the night in Ouray, I had to take advantage of the snow on the ground by going up toward Red Mountain Pass south of Ouray.  It didn't disappoint!  Such a great combination of widespread color and snow.  These roadside images could be found along US 550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway.  

Crystal Lake ReflectionsCrystal Lake Reflections

The snow would soon begin to melt but the color would remain strong for about another week.  The San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado typically are best during the last week of September and the first week of October.   I would spend a lot of this time in the Telluride area, with some occasional trips to the Ridgway area.  One of my favorite fall color hikes in the Telluride area is the Wilson Mesa Trail.  It is rare when I see another hiker here and the trail goes through one of the prettiest meadows in Colorado for aspens and mountain views.  The image below is looking at Wilson Peak (a 14er featured in the Coors Beer logo) in alpenglow light before sunrise.  

One of my favorite Colorado photographers is Glenn Randall.  When looking at his blog, he talked about looking for unique views.  One place he discussed was at a place above Owl Creek Pass, east of Ridgway.  After studying his image, a topo map and Google Earth, I had a good idea of where he took this image of Chimney Rock and looking beyond toward the Uncompahgre Wilderness.   I had already made plans to try to find this place.  Ironically, later that week, I saw his image featured on the October issue of Backpacker Magazine.   I was now even more motivated to find it!  On the peak weekend of fall color, I drove to a pullover near Owl Creek Pass and headed up.  Some of this was on a sometimes faint, unmarked trail.  Other times, I was just bushwhacking my way up to this magnificent viewpoint.  With no maintained trail to get here, I was expecting to be the only one to be photographing this not so much publicized location.  To my surprise, there were a couple of other photographers there before me, and a couple more arrived after I did.  I guess I wasn't the only one inspired by Glenn Randall and his cover of Backpacker magazine!  Getting here was definitely worth the effort.  Not only were the aspens at peak color, but the sky was great as the sun set.  

Another great photographer that represents the beauty of Colorado is John Fielder.  I wrapped up my trip by taking one of his weekend workshops based out of Telluride.  I had a couple of more "abstract" images that I really liked and I thought was kinda unique.  

Woods Lake ReflectionsWoods Lake Reflections

Twisted AspensTwisted Aspens

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado fall color yellow aspens https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/10/my-favorite-fall-pictures-from-colorado Mon, 24 Oct 2016 05:15:00 GMT
Across Northern Arizona & Southern Utah https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/10/across-northern-arizona-southern-utah Back in mid-August, I joined up with Kerrick James for one of his photo safaris in the Southwest United States.  His itinerary began in Las Vegas and ended up in Winslow, Arizona with many great locations along the way that week.   Our first stop was kayaking along the Colorado River just below Hoover Dam.  In my opinion, August is not exactly the best time to be outdoors in the Las Vegas area. That afternoon, it reached a high of 111 degrees in Las Vegas.  Thankfully, the water coming from the bottom of Lake Mead below Hoover Dam is quite chilly...a water temperature of about 55-60 degrees. Kayaking over the cool water made the extreme heat more tolerable.  The highlight of kayaking down the Colorado River here is a place called Emerald Cave.  If you come here at the right time of the day, you will quickly see why it is called Emerald Cave.  Kerrick was among the first to discover the place back in the mid 90s (when the section of the river was opened to the public) and the first to publish photographs of this cave.   He knew that the best time of the day would be about 2-3pm, when the angle of the sun would be just right for light to enter the cave and make the water appear as an emerald color.  

Later, it was on to Utah to a state park called Snow Canyon...located next to the town of St. George.  I had never seen a picture from Snow Canyon State Park, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  However, I was impressed with the scenery here.  Kerrick took us to small ridge overlooking the red rock country.   However, I thought the most unique feature to photograph was something known as "Moqui Marbles".  You can purchase a picture of these pebbles on my new "Abstract & Architecture" page.   

After that, it was to the Grand Canyon...where we camped out at the Toroweap Overlook.  I have wanted to go to Toroweap for a couple of years now.  However, it is not an easy place to get to.  It is at the end of a long dirt road...about 60 miles from the nearest paved road.   In dry conditions, much of the road is usually passable for most vehicles.  However, the last 2 or 3 miles, the unmaintained road becomes more bumpy and full of sharp of rocks. We came here in a guided 4 wheel drive from an outfitter in Kanab, Utah. If you ever want to come here by yourself, make sure your vehicle has high ground clearance, good tires and a spare.  Once you get here, it is among the best places to be to photograph and experience the Grand Canyon.  The campground was quiet and the scenery is top notch.  Here, you can high enough to get great view, but close enough to the bottom to get great views of Colorado Rivers.  Here, It is only about a mile from one rim of the canyon to the other and you are over 2,000 vertical feet straight above the river.  Taking these images was slightly unnerving...as you are literarily a few feet away from death by going over the edge.

Edge of the Grand CanyonEdge of the Grand Canyon

It was then on to the town of Page, Arizona.  There are many great places to photograph within a short drive of Page.  With this has come a boom in tourism, even international tourism.  Unfortunatly, some of these great places have now become overrun by tourists and do not offer the solitude that they once did.  But there still are some iconic scenes in the region. Below is a picture from Horseshoe Bend.  This is the Colorado River below Lake Powell and on it's way to the Grand Canyon.  

Horseshoe BendHorseshoe Bend

Slot Canyons are a big attraction to Page, Arizona.  The most famous being Antelope Canyon.  I have been to Antelope Canyon a couple of times and each time frustrated by the crowds that are piled into the narrow slot canyon.  Often, you have to wait for other tourists to go by before you can take your pictures.  One alternative, is a place called Secret Canyon.  While it is not as long as Antelope Canyon, it is nearly as scenic and sees a small fraction of visitors.  It is gated and on private property, so you will need to hire a guide from a jeep tour company to see this spectacular location.  

Slot Canyon CurvesSlot Canyon Curves

After Page, we went to Monument Valley, a Navajo Nation Tribal Park on the Utah-Arizona border.  One early morning, we had a Navajo guide drive us to the backside of the park where the unusual rock spires of the Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei are located.  We had some great clouds in the sky for sunrise that gave us a kaleidoscope of colors!   

Dawn at Monument ValleyDawn at Monument Valley

Sand Dunes at Monument ValleySand Dunes at Monument Valley

Another great location in Monument Valley that is harder to reach is called Hunt's Mesa.  Getting there requires a Navajo guide to drive you to the top of the mesa.  It is one of the roughest roads that I have ever been on....and in some places it is generous to call it a road.  We went up steep sandstone and over deep sand to reach Hunt's Mesa.  We camped here for a night to overlook Monument Valley for a different perspective of the great rock formations of this tribal park.  

Dawn At Hunts MesaDawn At Hunts Mesa

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arizona Utah desert southwest landscapes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/10/across-northern-arizona-southern-utah Wed, 12 Oct 2016 01:53:46 GMT
Finding Life in Death Valley https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/9/finding-life-in-death-valley Shortly after returning to the lower 48 after my trip to Alaska, it was time to go from one extreme to another...Death Valley National Park in the desert of California. Here, temperatures reached 90 degrees in the lowest elevations of the park, actually below sea level.  The park was more crowded in spots than my visit back in January of last year.  This seemed to be due to 2 reasons.  One was Spring Break was going on for much of the country.  The other seemed to be for the "superbloom" as recent rainfall over the winter has produced probably the best wildflower displays the park has seen in over 10 years...giving a little bit more life to Death Valley.  

With a higher than average winter rainfall, it was a little easier to find standing water in Badwater Basin.  

Sand dunes are among the highlights of a visit to Death Valley.  There are so many compositions that you can do when you are at sand dunes.  You can do anything to grand landscapes that include sky or focus tightly on the patterns and textures.  I did some of both!  These pictures were all at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.   

Mesquite Dunes B&WMesquite Dunes B&WPanamint Dunes at Death Valley National Park.

Above are the tracks of a small rattlesnake that has recently been sidewinding through the sand.  Below are dried mud cracks. 

After the sand dunes, it was time to make the long drive to a remote part of the park called "The Racetrack".  I have wanted to go there for a couple of years now, but didn't want to drive there alone.  It is 27 miles from the nearest paved road and the road is rough with washboards.  Flat tires are common on this road.  With Muench Workshops, we traveled in a couple of rented jeeps from a local outfitter.  With the rough road, one of the jeep's front axel broke!   Thankfully, we able to get our jeep replaced in a few hours.  The Racetrack playa is an otherworldly landscape with a large flat, dry lake with a few scattered rocks that "slide" across the playa with the right conditions of water, ice and wind.  The mystery of how these rocks move was not solved until a couple of years ago.  Below is my favorite picture of the scene there and now might be my favorite Milky Way image.    

Milky Way at Death Valley National ParkMilky Way at Death Valley National Park


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Death Dunes" Racetrack Playa Sand Valley https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/9/finding-life-in-death-valley Tue, 13 Sep 2016 20:30:56 GMT
My favorite summer pictures from Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/8/my-favorite-summer-pictures-from-colorado I spent a large part of this past summer in Colorado.  The southwest part of the state is one of my favorite areas to visit, especially the area around Telluride.  I have been coming to Telluride nearly every year for the last 20 years.  Just outside of town, less than a 1/2 mile walk from town is Cornet Falls (pictured below).  I made my way up the short, but sometimes steep, trail to Cornet Falls 3 times in July.  On the first trip, I was able to get these nice clouds along with a little bit of valley fog in the background while looking out from underneath the base of the waterfall.  Seeing all the open sky to the south and southwest of the falls made me wonder if the Milky Way would be visible.  After midnight and before dawn, it was!   I did 2 night photography trips to Cornet Falls.  I am still working on picture of this waterfall with the Milky Way, and should be up on this blog sometime in September.  

Plunging Water at Cornet FallsPlunging Water at Cornet Falls

During the second weekend of July, I met up David Kingham who was hosting a photography/backpacking trip to Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton.  In my opinion, Ice Lakes is among one of the prettiest lake basins in all of Colorado.  The picture on the left below is near where we camped out for a couple of nights in the Lower Ice Lakes Basin.  However, the scenery is even better when you hike up to the upper basin.  We made it up to a smaller lake in the upper basin (below right) around sunrise. 

Ice Lake ReflectionsIce Lake Reflections

Island LakeIsland Lake

After sunrise, we climbed even higher to about 12,500 feet to Island Lake (pictured above).  As you can see, the lake is appropriately named and the water here has a unique turquoise color to it, caused by the minerals in the area.  By the middle of July, the wildflowers above treeline are beginning to hit their peak.  One of my favorite hikes in the Lizard Head Wilderness southwest of Telluride is the Cross Mountain Trail leading up to the base of the rock face called Lizard Head.  Pictured below, you can see the wonderful spread of wildflowers with the first light of the day hitting Mount Wilson.  

Later in July, I made it over to the town Ouray for a photography tour lead by Jim Sternberg.  What made this tour unique is that it would include jeep rides over rugged terrain each morning.  Below is an image of columbines, as well as a mix of other wildflowers, in the Imogene Basin between Ouray and Telluride. This little area had some the most dense and varied stands of wildflowers that I have seen.  

Imogene Basin ColumbinesImogene Basin Columbines

Morning LightMorning Light

We also visited the little photographed Silver Basin (above left) and the ghost town of Animas Forks (above right).  However, my favorite morning shoot was from a hidden pond near Red Mountain (pictured below) between Ouray and Silverton.  It by far is the redest mountain that I have seen.  The red color comes from the rich iron ore in the mountain.  The still conditions made for a perfect reflections in this tarn!  

Alpine ParadiseAlpine Paradise

Red Mountain ReflectionsRed Mountain Reflections

I did a lot of hiking this summer in the Colorado Rockies.  I have recently set a goal to climb a 14er in Colorado each year.   A 14er is a mountain that is at least 14,000 feet above sea level.  This year, I picked Quandary Peak near Breckenridge.   It is one of "easiest" 14ers to climb in Colorado, but still a good workout for your heart and lungs!   On the way up to the summit, I was greeted by a couple of mountain goats.  


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Colorado Wildflowers Ice Lakes Lizard Head Wilderness Ouray Red Mountain San Juan Mountains Silverton Telluride columbines https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/8/my-favorite-summer-pictures-from-colorado Thu, 01 Sep 2016 02:36:49 GMT
Northern Lights in the Arctic https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/3/northern-lights-in-the-arctic This was my first trip to Alaska, and while most decide to visit in summer, I decided to do mine in March.  However, March is one of the best months to view the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.  The weather is SLIGHTLY warmer than in the months of December through February and the nights are still long enough and dark enough to observe them.  My trip was led by Andy Long, who has been leading northern lights workshops to Wiseman, Alaska for 13 years.  

Despite the clear skies, the first night in the Fairbanks, Alaska did not yield any Northern Lights, at least not while we were awake.  We later did hear a report that they did come out around 3am...but I think I would have rather sleep, especially getting used to the 3 hour time change.  However, the second night in Fairbanks did yield to lights much earlier in the evening. This was the first night I was able to see them and it is quite a magical experience to see them, especially when you can see them "dance" in the sky.  

After a couple of days in Fairbanks, it was on to an even more remote location...Wiseman, Alaska (population 14 in the 2010 census).  Wiseman is located in Northern Alaska...and even north of the Arctic Circle!  The red pin in the map is where Wiseman Alaska located. 


Yes, it was cold north of the Arctic but temperatures were above normal for this time of the year.  The lowest reading I saw from the thermometer outside our cabin was -2 degrees and daytime highs reached the 20s.  I dressed in layers including long underwear and was equipped with snow boots, hand warmers and toe warmers.  However, with the proper gear, it was not all that uncomfortable as long as the wind was light.  

That is the cabin we stayed in Wiseman.  Overall, the conditions were good as I viewed northern lights 5 of the 6 nights this week!  I would love to head back to Alaska soon, but the next trip will probably be in the summer!  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Alaska Arctic Circle Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Wiseman Alaska https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/3/northern-lights-in-the-arctic Mon, 14 Mar 2016 01:56:19 GMT
My favorite Arkansas photos this winter https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/2/winter-waterfalls-in-arkansas Where I live in Northwest Arkansas, there hasn't been any more than a dusting of snow so far this winter.  Back in January, in order to see snow covering the ground, I have had to travel south into Central Arkansas.  On the morning of January 22nd, I drove to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, just outside of Little Rock.   Here about 6 inches of fresh snow covered the landscape.  

Snow at Pinnacle MountainSnow at Pinnacle Mountain

Winter is a great time to hunt for waterfalls.   One of the more unique and photogenic waterfalls that has been recently "discovered" in the Ozark National Forest is a little known place called Short Grotto Falls.  The waterfall is not big, but the grotto that has been created has made it an interesting place to visit.   

Short Grotto FallsShort Grotto FallsA hidden waterfall is located inside the Ozark National Forest.

There is no trail to get to this place, but it is a relatively short and east bushwack to get there.  I suspect that this place will become more well known in the coming years, especially once it is published in the next upcoming edition of Tim Ernst's Waterfalls Of Arkansas.  Another little known place, also in Johnson County, is a rock formation called the Arkansas Sphinx.  Nobody seemed to know that this place even existed until loggers recently cut down the trees around it.  There is now a short, but steep, trail to get to this place.  The view is fantastic from this place, but the view won't be there forever.  Over the coming years, as the trees grow back, the view will diminish.  However, for now, it has become one my favorite subjects to shoot in the Ozarks of Arkansas.   

On the morning of February 24, a heavy wet snow fell in the highest elevations of Arkansas.  The most impressive snow totals fell over 2,000 feet above sea level, where about 5 to 9 inches of snow accumulated.  I drove from Fayetteville (where snow did not accumulate), but it was a different world about 30 miles east and less than a thousand feet higher.  Knowing ahead of time, that is was going to be an elevation dependent snow event, I opted to drive to one of the icons of Arkansas, Hawksbill Crag.  That morning, it was not an easy place to reach, even by car.   On Highway 16 in far southeast Madison County, just before the turnoff to Cave Mountain Road, it was a winter wonderland...about 6 inches of fresh wet snow clinging to all the trees.  It caused one tree fall across the road, and I was blocked from going any further!  I had to wait for an electric company crew to clear out the tree with their chainsaws.  Once on Cave Mountain Road, I was the first person to drive on the snow covered dirt.  I was stuck in the snow a couple of times and decided to walk the rest of the way to the trailhead.  The trailhead is located about 2,200 feet and the entire landscape was covered in snow. However, as the trail drops down to the crag at about 1,900 feet, there was a noticeable difference in the amount of snow that fell and it was already melting pretty fast.  in this picture, you can see the difference in snow between the top and bottom of the mountains.  This type of snowfall was the closest thing you will see to seeing snow capped mountains in Arkansas!

Hawksbill CragHawksbill Crag







[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Arkansas Sphinx Ozark National Forest Ozarks Pinnacle Mountain Short Grotto Falls https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/2/winter-waterfalls-in-arkansas Mon, 29 Feb 2016 14:31:59 GMT
A Weekend In San Francisco https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/1/a-weekend-in-san-francisco Earlier this month I visited San Francisco for the first time.   This was a photography tour, hosted by the Aperture Academy, that visited some of the highlights of the San Francisco area, including Marin County.   Below were some of the locations we visited.   

The Palace Of Fine Arts Theatre


Lombard Street in San FranciscoLombard Street in San Francisco

Lombard Street


Bay Bridge in San FranciscoBay Bridge in San Francisco

Bay Bridge


Golden Gate Bridge 


Hallway inside Fort Point


Rodeo Beach in Marin CountyRodeo Beach in Marin County

Rodeo Beach

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Aperture Academy Bay Bridge Golden Gate Bridge Lombard Street Marin County Rodeo Beach San Francisco https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2016/1/a-weekend-in-san-francisco Wed, 27 Jan 2016 20:51:47 GMT
Utah: Anasazi Ruins & National Parks https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/12/utah-anasazi-ruins-national-parks I recently made a trip to visit some of the hidden Anasazi ruins of southeast Utah.  This photography tour was led by Stephen Oachs of the Aperture Academy, who has extensively scouted for hidden ruins in the Cedar Mesa region near Bluff, Utah.  Some of the ruins he guided us to are somewhat well known, others are not.  The first stop on the tour was to the House On Fire Ruin, which was a relatively short and easy hike.   

House On Fire RuinHouse On Fire Ruin

The next place was a longer and more difficult hike to the Fallen Roof Ruin, which I think was the most photogenic.  You can see part of the roof has collapsed onto the rock floor.   I just loved the colors and patterns at this special spot!  


Fallen Roof RuinFallen Roof Ruin

While House On Fire and Fallen Roof Ruins have been photographed quite a bit in recent years; some locations that we visited are rarely seen.  It takes some effort to get to these unnamed places. One location was about a 15-20 mile drive from the nearest paved road on a rough dirt road. Then after parking, you walk and even scramble over rocks to get to these hidden places.  There was no formal trail and that is why the guidance from Stephen was especially helpful.  

Some of locations had some fantastic rock art and even a few relics on the ground from years' past.  

After the conclusion of this unique tour, I drove north to Moab and explored the wonders of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  I was fortunate to visit these parks shortly after some rain in the lower elevations, as well as snow in higher elevations.  I wandered off the main road toward these red hoodoo formations in search for some puddles of water after the recent rain from the night before.  Success!

Of course, a trip to Arches would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Delicate Arch.  While the place is heavily visited and photographed by tourists, it is must for photographers to see at least once in your life.  I was able to shoot the classic composition with the snow covered La Sal Mountains behind the famous arch.  

The following morning, it was time to wake up early for the drive to another icon...Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.  After walking on the snow coated trail, I arrived at the long and slender arch at about 5am. I had heard that a crowd of photographers can sometimes gather here to watch the sunrise through the arch.  However, with my early start and temperatures in the 20s, I was the first one to arrive and set up my tripod anywhere I wanted.  Before leaving, I saw only 3 other people at the arch.  At least the cold air seemed to scare away most people from joining me and I had to wait about 2 hours for the sun to rise.  I guess I am one of the few who is crazy enough to do this. However, it was totally worth the effort!  Just before the sun came up, the rocks on the bottom side of the arch started to display a soft, warm glow.  The image below was taken about 10 minutes before the sun came up.  It turned out to be one of my favorite images, as I love the yellow sky beneath the arch while the sky transitions to deep blue above it.  

A few minutes after sunrise.  

Another very photogenic spot in Canyonlands is called False Kiva.  It is located in a naturally occurring cave. The name False Kiva comes from the uncertainty around the circle of stones' origins and purpose.  Whether it was really an authentic kiva that used for religious purposes is unknown. To me, this is one of the best views in all of Utah!


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Anasazi ruins Arches Canyonlands Creek Delicate Arch Fallen Roof Ruin House On Fire Ruin Mesa Arch Stephen Oachs national parks in Utah https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/12/utah-anasazi-ruins-national-parks Sun, 20 Dec 2015 20:31:44 GMT
Fall Colors Part 2 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/11/fall-colors-part-2 After the fall colors in Colorado, it was time to see what it was like in the Eastern United States.  I have always wanted to see want the fall colors look like in New England, so I visited Acadia National Park in October.  Below are some of my favorite images from that trip.  

Acadia Waterfall Bass Head Harbor Lighthouse

First Light At Thunder Hole

Crashing Waves At Thunder Hole



[email protected] (Damon Shaw) https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/11/fall-colors-part-2 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 03:11:58 GMT
Fall Colors Part 1 https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/10/fall-colors-part-1 This year I began the fall color season in Colorado.   The weather was mild and dry for the last week of September, which is typically the peak for aspen colors in most of Colorado.   The first destination I went to was Rocky Mountain National Park.  I had seen a picture from Colorado photographer Glenn Randall of Bear Lake and Longs Peak framed by yellow and orange aspen trees.  I could get a general idea of where the picture was taken, but after scrambling around through the bushes and rocks, it took me 3 attempts to finally find the exact spot to get the composition I desired.  I was fortunate to find this spot at the time when the aspen trees were peaking.   

The only thing missing was some fresh snow on Longs Peak in the distance.  Maybe next year?   Last year, I read an article in 5280 Magazine about some recommended fall color hikes in Colorado.   One of these was near the town of Edwards, next to the ski resort of Beaver Creek.   The East Lake Creek Trail not only featured some nice aspen stands, but also some understory bushes and ferns that was also colorful.  

Another trail that was recommended was a small section of the Colorado Trail starting at Molas Pass. Molas Pass is along scenic US highway 550, known as the "Million Dollar Highway" in southwest Colorado.  However, looking at the map, it dawned on me that a more unique attraction might be over 4 miles from the highway.  After a nice hike to the bottom of the Animas River Valley, I arrived at the railroad where the famous narrow gauge railroad train takes tourists between the towns of Durango and Silverton.  Intrigued by this, I decided to look at the train schedule so that I can plan my hike around when the 2 trains on this day would pass through this area where it intersects with the Colorado Trail.  

Silverton TrainSilverton Train

I submitted this image to USA Today's "Your Take" website, where they featured this as their Image of the Day back on October 8th.  

One my favorite places to visit is Telluride, especially during the last few days of September.  This time I decided to get a different perspective of the expansive aspen groves surrounding the town.   With the mild temperatures and no snow on the summits yet, I made the climb to 12,785 feet Ajax Peak.  It was a long ascent to the top, but totally worth it!


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Ajax Peak Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Telluride aspen trees aspen trees in Rocky Mountain National Park fall in Colorado yellow aspens https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/10/fall-colors-part-1 Sun, 01 Nov 2015 00:27:44 GMT
Slot Canyon Tour https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/9/slot-canyon-tour Earlier this week, I went on a 5-day tour of slot canyons in Utah.  This trip was organized by renown storm chaser Roger Hill from Silver Lining Tours.  Roger is well known for his tornado tours, but in the off season, he also schedules tours of various slot canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona.  I was impressed with his knowledge of the area.  
We first visited this slot canyon near Goblin Valley State Park in Utah (above) before moving down to the area near Escalante, Utah where I saw some of the narrowest canyons possible.   Hiking into these very narrow and winding made for one of the most unique hikes I have ever done.  In some places, you have to walk sideways with your camera and backpack down by your side just to fit through this.  
If you are in the right place at the right time, you can get some beams of light shining through these canyons!
This slot canyon near Kanab, Utah (below) featured red Navajo sandstone which makes for some fantastic color!
Many of these canyons pictured above usually do not see any more than a few visitors a day, which added to even more charm to visiting these places.  Our final stop was Lower Antelope Canyon just outside of Page, Arizona.  Antelope Canyon (pictured below) has probably become most visited slot canyons in the world and has turned into a major tourist attraction.  You have to battle the crowds when photographing this famous canyon.  However, with some patience and a good Navajo guide to halt the crowds while you photograph, you can still have some great pictures here and it is a magical place to visit.  
We also did some night photography in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.  Here are a couple of my favorites from that night featuring the Milky way and the unusual arches there.  
Metate Arch in UtahMetate Arch in Utah     
[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Antelope Canyon Roger Hill Southwest photography slot canyons https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/9/slot-canyon-tour Sun, 20 Sep 2015 16:53:43 GMT
Storm Chasing: Southwest Style https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/8/storm-chasing-southwest-style I have done quite a bit of storm chasing before, and I have also been to Arizona before.   However, this is the first time I have combined the two together with the intent of photographing storms in Arizona.  Earlier this August, I joined David Kingham again for storm chasing across Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.  Some days produced storms, others didn't.  On the days when there were storms, I used a "Lightning Trigger" with my camera for the first time to help capture lightning, which can be quite a challenge to capture strikes in the daytime.  These triggers are designed to trip the shutter at exactly the right moment when electricity is detected.  With the help of this, I was able to capture several lightning images.  

Utah LightningLightning from the Dixie National Forest near Boulder, Utah

Point Imperial LightningStorm over Grand Canyon National Park.

There was more than just thunderstorms to shoot at the Grand Canyon.  Just after a storm left at Point Imperial (the highest viewpoint in Grand Canyon National Park) was an incredible moment.  Clouds were left hanging over the Canyon with a rainbow in the background!

After the storm at The Grand CanyonImperial Point Overlook. Grand Canyon National Park.







[email protected] (Damon Shaw) David Kingham Grand Canyon lightning monsoon storm chasing https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/8/storm-chasing-southwest-style Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:59:53 GMT
Travels Across Colorado https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/7/travels-across-colorado During the month of July, I spent quite a bit of time in the Colorado Rockies, including seeing some new territory in Central Colorado.   On the morning of July 4th, I took a hike into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness near Leadville and Buena Vista up to Lake Ann.  The columbines were coming out for the summer.  

Columbines at Collegiate Peaks WildernessColumbines at Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Hikes like this with a daypack was a good warmup for the hikes I was about to take with a backpack for a 2 night trip into the Mount Sneffels Wilderness near Ridgeway.   During the second weekend of July, I was guided by professional photographer David Kingham, who did a great job scouting out a scenic campsite spot between Lower Blue Lake and Middle Blue Lake.  The climb was tough carrying a 33 pound backpack, especially after climbing above the lower Lake of the three Blue Lakes.  However, it was worth the effort.  When the sun shines on the water, it really brings out the the turquoise colors caused by the rich minerals in this basin.  The colors of the water remind of some lakes that I have seen in Glacier National Park or in the Canadian Rockies around Banff and Lake Louise.  

David picked a location where we could photograph either the Lower or Middle of the Blue Lakes with only a short walk for the sunrise and sunset of those 2 nights we were there.  This picture was taken just before sunset as we were looking down from the where the middle Blue Lake empties into this beautiful mountain stream.  

Wilderness DuskStream below Middle Blue Lake in the Mount Sneffles Wilderness.

For a couple of days during the 3rd week of July, it was time to attend a workshop in Crested Butte, hosted by John Fielder.  John is not only great at promoting the beauty of Colorado, but is a talented photographer and quite possibly the most well known of the Colorado Landscape photographers.  I have admired his work for a number of years and it was great to meet him in person.   For a evening session, he would drive us up a 4 wheel drive road to a place locally known as "Paradise Divide", where there is a scenic pond at an elevation of 11,250 feet.   We were fortunate to be here on such a calm evening where the water was so still.   It made for great reflections in the water!

ReflectionsReflectionsPond at Paradise Divide near Crested Butte

The following morning we would make the short drive just outside Crested Butte to Peanut Lake for a great sunrise!

After leaving the Crested Butte workshop, I would move on to the Aspen area and climb up to Electric Pass, at an elevation of over 13,000 feet. This is the 2nd highest hike I have taken.  It is amazing to see that a few rather large wildflowers can grow at this elevation.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Blue Lakes Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Crested Butte Electric Pass John Fielder Workshop Mount Sneffels Wilderness https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/7/travels-across-colorado Sat, 01 Aug 2015 03:41:24 GMT
Weekend Workshop With Tim Ernst https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/weekend-workshop-with-tim-ernst I have rested up from a extensive weekend workshop with Tim Ernst.  Tim is well known as a pioneer in Arkansas landscape photography.  Our workshop was headquartered at Harmony Mountain Retreat, south of Jasper.  Our group of 6 participants all seemed to have a great time enjoying the best of what Arkansas has to offer in the spring time.   Our first day in the field was a cool, overcast day with occasional light rain...ideal for shooting waterfalls.  Also, the water levels were just about right for all the places we visited.  

Our first stop was to Falling Water Falls, located on Falling Water Creek.   This scene has become an Arkansas classic.  
Falling Water FallsFalling Water FallsFalling Water Falls on Falling Water Creek in April.

Our 2nd destination was to 6-Finger Falls, downstream of Falling Water Falls on Falling Water Creek.   

Fingers Of WaterFingers Of Water6 Finger Falls on Falling Water Creek.

We then crossed the creek with our legs knee deep in cold water.  A short walk on the other side of the creek is Fuzzybutt Falls, which I think is among one of the most picturesque small waterfalls in the state.  

Lush WaterfallLush WaterfallFuzzybutt Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness.

I had been to all the above destinations before, but it was still nice to return to these great spots. Later that day, we visited a place I had not visited before, Big Creek.   This tributary of the Buffalo River might be now most well known for being close to the large hog farm that is produced much controversy in the last few years.  Thankfully, we were UPSTREAM from that hog farm, where the water is still pristine.  There are some spots where the stream is full of pools and boulders.  The picture below might be my favorite from this trip, as this spot as been photographed very little.  

Big Creek CascadesBig Creek Cascades

However, there was still great stuff to explore further upstream, including spring fed streams that pour out of caves.  There are only a few places in Arkansas where a stream comes out from a cave. Places like Lost Valley and Blanchard Springs come to mind. They have been visited heavily. However, the hike to Big Creek Cave didn't become open to the public until just a few years ago.  Here are a couple of the caves located near Big Creek.  

Just downstream of one of these caves is a beautiful stream with moss covered rocks.  So gorgeous!  

The next day was much warmer and sunnier.  Therefore, not good for photographing waterfalls.  So we focused on some nice viewpoints instead. We visited Hawksbill Crag, which has arguably become the most photographed natural feature in Arkansas.   Tim Ernst and his publications have a lot to do with that.  On sunny weekends in the spring and fall,  Hawksbill Crag can become rather crowded, a little too crowded for my tastes. Thankfully, we arrived there just before the crowds arrive and I was able to photograph the rock outcrop without any people on it.  The trees were so green!

We also visited another great rock outcrop called Sam's Throne to watch the sunset.  

Our final morning included a rare treat.   Tim Ernst received permission to access a unique spot called Tea Table Rocks at Home Valley Bluff.  It is important for me to say that you have to cross private land to get to this spot in the Ozark National Forest.  I had seen a couple of other photos of this place, and glad I was able to visit, as I may never be able to visit Tea Table Rocks again.   I love the view from here!

It was great to spend time with Tim, as I have enjoyed his work ever since I was a kid.   His hiking guides and picture books have had a large influence for my love of the Ozarks of Arkansas.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) 6 Finger Falls Arkansas Waterfalls Big Creek Falling Water Falls Fuzzybutt Falls Hawksbill Crag Home Valley Bluff Sam's Throne Tea Table Rocks Tim Ernst Tim Ernst Workshop https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/weekend-workshop-with-tim-ernst Tue, 28 Apr 2015 04:10:14 GMT
Texas Wildflowers Tour https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/texas-wildflowers-tour Earlier this week, I completed a wildflower tour across Texas hosted by professional photographers David Cobb and Kevin McNeil.   After flying into Dallas, we begin the tour in Ennis...about 45 minutes south of Dallas. With the end of February and start of March being colder than usual, the flowers were slower to start this season.  The flowers were closer to peak in Central and South Texas than they were in North Texas.  After spending only one morning in Ennis, David and Kevin decided that it would better to spend more time further south.  So it was on to the Texas Hill Country west of Austin where the flowers were more widespread and especially colorful.   Our first evening in the Hill Country was near Fredericksburg on the Willow City Loop.   Here we were able to catch a nice sunset among bluebonnets.  

Bluebonnets At SunsetBluebonnets At SunsetA field of bluebonnets at sunset in the Texas Hill Country.

Overall, the weather was quite cloudy for much of this tour.   We rarely could actually see the actual sun rise or set.  However, sometimes there was enough of a gap in cloud cover to catch a red glow for a few minutes. While spending two nights in Johnson City, we made two morning visits to nearby Lake Travis where there was a beautiful spot called Muleshoe Bend.   The bluebonnets were especially thick here...some of the most widespread wildflowers I have ever seen.   

While bluebonnets were the primary wildflower in the Texas Hill Country, there was more variety in color with wildflowers in South Texas.   Texas paintbrush that was colored red seemed to be the most common in the area around Sequin, but there was many other species too.   There were also a few small churches that were surrounded by wildflowers of many colors.  

The timing and type of flowers can vary greatly from year to year.  I want to again say thanks to David and Kevin. They did a lot of scouting before I arrived to ensure that great wildflowers would be seen on this tour. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Church With Wildflowers Damon Shaw David Cobb Kevin McNeil Texas Wildflowers bluebonnets https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/texas-wildflowers-tour Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:30:48 GMT
Texas Skylines At Night https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/texas-skylines-at-night Today I am returning to Arkansas.  Over the last week, I have been on Texas Wildflower Tour hosted by professional photographers David Cobb and Kevin McNeil.  While the emphasis has been on finding great wildflower scenes, a couple of nights were devoted photographing Dallas and Austin after sunset.  

The first night after I arrived to Dallas, we went to an open spot near the Trinity River just southwest of Downtown Dallas.   Dallas has a recognizable skyline including Reunion Tower, which has the round top that lights up and also the Bank Of America Plaza which is lighted up green at night.  

On the last night in Texas, we made a stop in downtown Austin.  This picture was taken from the south side of the Colorado River about 30 minutes after sunset.   A cloud drifted over at the right time to create the right balance of blue and gray colors over the skyline.  

Austin At NightAustin At Night

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Austin Dallas Downtown Skylines Texas at night https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/texas-skylines-at-night Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:27:41 GMT
Ouachita Mountain Waterfall Hunt https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/ouachita-mountain-waterfall-hunt Spring has come and April is one of my favorite times of the year to be in Arkansas.   The trees are beginning to leaf out and after a nice rain there can be numerous waterfalls.  I recently spent a couple of days in the Ouachita National Forest.   This section southeast of Mena is one of my favorite places to explore in Arkansas.  There are numerous cascades and waterfalls in this region of the Ouachitas. There are some well known cascades, such as Little Missouri Falls and Cossatot Falls, and also some hidden waterfalls within a short walk from a dirt road, such as Blaylock Creek Falls pictured below. You can see below the environment is lush and green and has an almost tropical appearance with the moss and ferns clinging the cliff.  Not only the 40 foot or so tall waterfall is nice, but in front of the waterfall is an attractive large pool in Blaylock Creek.  

I met up with William Rainey, a photographer in Mena who knows these mountains better than anyone else I know.  He showed me a couple of places that I have not seen before.   All of these pictures are within a short drive of the Albert Pike Recreation Area of the Ouachita National Forest.  He took me to Crooked Creek.  In the upper reaches of Crooked Creek, a beautiful stream begins.   Here the water is not wide and the falls are not tall, but the water is crystal clear and the slate rock that is carved out has some interesting square patterns.  

Further down Crooked Creek, the falls get bigger but the water is just as clear!

William also took me to some unnamed waterfalls.  This one was near Statehouse Mountain.  

Oh yeah, and the wildflowers are coming out too!

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Blaylock Creek Crooked Forest Mountains National Ouachita waterfalls https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/4/ouachita-mountain-waterfall-hunt Wed, 08 Apr 2015 05:11:01 GMT
Wintry Weather In Arkansas https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/2/wintry-weather-in-arkansas It has been an active week of weather in the state of Arkansas, especially in the Central & Southern part of the state where they have seen more snow than in the Northwest corner of the state, where I live.  So within the last week, I made a couple of trips down to the Ozark and Ouachita National Forest.  I thought I would share a couple of my favorite pictures of the beautiful streams with snow on the rocks next to beautiful water.  The top picture is Big Piney Creek in the Ozark National Forest.  This picture was taken from the Longpool Campground.  The bottom picture is Jack Creek, located south of Booneville in the Ouachita National Forest.  


[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Arkansas Big Creek Jack Ozarks Piney Streams snow winter https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/2/wintry-weather-in-arkansas Fri, 27 Feb 2015 03:46:47 GMT
The Dunes of Death Valley...and Joshua Trees Too https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/2/the-dunes-of-death-valley-and-joshua-trees-too Yesterday, I returned from my 13 day trip across parts of Nevada, California and Arizona.  My favorite area to explore was Death Valley National Park.  There are a few sand dunes in the park and there were pros and cons of the two sand dunes that I visited.   The most accessible is Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which is near the paved California Highway 190 that runs through the central area of the park. The upside to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is that it is an easy drive and a short walk from the parking area.  However, it is also the most visited dunes in Death Valley, so the sand is not as pristine with some footprints in places.  There were a few other photographers on other nearby dune tops that I was taking pictures from, so I had to work around them.  I still had some nice shots, especially just before sunrise with great color in the cirrus clouds floating overhead.  

Another dune field is Panamint Dunes.  I personally preferred these dunes a bit more, but they were not easy to reach in time for sunrise. To reach Panamint Dunes, one must first drive to the trailhead on a dirt road for about 6 miles off the paved road.  Then one has to walk about 4 miles from where you parked the car, so not many people visit Panamint Dunes.  Because of this, the sand was very pristine with no footprints to be seen...other than my own.  To my surprise, there was another car parked at the trailhead as they were car camping. They probably were not too happy with me showing up at 4:40 am and waking them up as I pulled into the trailhead at such an early time while it was still dark.  After about 4 miles of walking in the dark with a headlamp, I arrived at the dunes as the sky was starting to lighten up.  Despite the extra effort to reach these dunes, I thought it was totally worth it.  The clouds at times would obscure the sun. However, when the sun did shine, it made for spectacular pictures that highlighted the dune shadows and fine lines within the sand. Here a few of my favorite pictures from Panamint Dunes that morning:


While Death Valley is not known for its joshua trees, there was a nice forest of joshua trees in the Lee Flats area of the park that is considered to be high desert.  This forest of Joshua trees located in the western area of the park was at an elevation of at or just above 5,000 feet above sea level.  This was another lightly visited area of the park, but accessible by a dirt road without having to walk. I did some night photography with some light painting on the unusually shaped trees.  With even just a half moon, it was amazing to see how much moonlight showed up in these images.  The breeze was blowing in this remote area on a moonlit night.  So it had a surreal, almost eerie, feel to being out here.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Death Valley National Park Mesquite Dunes Panamint Dunes joshua tree sand dunes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/2/the-dunes-of-death-valley-and-joshua-trees-too Tue, 03 Feb 2015 03:17:25 GMT
A Weekend With Vern Clevenger https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/a-weekend-with-vern-clevenger This I weekend made a trip to Lone Pine, California to attend a weekend workshop with professional photographer Vern Clevenger.  Lone Pine is located on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is in a very scenic location with Mount Whitney and the Alabama Hills as a backdrop.  Mount Whitney is the highest point in California, as well as the highest point in the Lower 48 of the United States.  The Alabama Hills is an interesting area full of rocky outcrops and a few small arches as well.   This area was used in many old movies, including some John Wayne films.  The most photographed spot of the Alabama Hills is Mobius Arch, pictured below.  Mount Whitney can be seen in the distance through the arch.  

After some midday instruction, it was time to go back into the field for the evening.  This time we went to an unnamed, smaller arch that Vern had been to many times.   We hustled to get to the arch in time before the sun set behind the Sierras.  I barely got to this spot in time to snap this image of the sun as it goes over the mountains, next to the base of the arch.  

Once the sun went over the other side of the Sierras, it appeared that it would be rather boring for the rest of the evening with no clouds in the sky.  I thought I would just practice with some focus with some rather mundane compositions to work with.  I was not expecting to come up with any "keepers" for the rest of the evening.  However, walking around the base of that small arch, something caught my eye as a potential composition.  However, it turned to be a great shot that I could work with.  Even Vern was impressed with this picture as it was a unique angle that he had not photographed before at the area of this unnamed arch.  

Below are a couple of images from Movie Road, just northwest of Lone Pine.  These were taken as first light was hitting the rocks and the Sierras.  







[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Alabama Arch Hills Lone Mobius Mount Pine Whitney https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/a-weekend-with-vern-clevenger Sun, 25 Jan 2015 20:51:25 GMT
Death Valley: Land Of Extremes https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/death-valley-land-of-extremes From Las Vegas, it was time to cover some new territory for me.  This is my first visit to Death Valley National Park. It is known for being the lowest, driest and hottest spot in North America.  Back on July 10th of 1913, Death Valley set a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth at 134 degrees!  That record still stands today.  Part of the reason why it is so hot is that it is actually below sea level.  Badwater Basin, inside Death Valley National Park, is the lowest place in North America.  At this spot, the elevation is as low as 282 below sea level.  Death Valley does not receive much rainfall and it is the driest location in North America.  However, what little water does fall can collect enough that sometimes there can be some standing water in this little spot after a recent rain.  You are more likely to see water here during the winter and spring. 

There is a lot of salt deposits here in the lowest elevations of Death Valley.  One of the large salt pans with a rough texture in Death Valley is aptly named The Devil's Golf Course.  Back in 1934, a National Park Service guide book stated that "Only the devil could play golf" on its surface.   Who would want to hit a golf ball out of this!?  Those aren't rocks. They are large clumps of dirt with a crust of salt crystals.  

Devil's Golf CourseDevil's Golf CourseRough land formations called the Devil's Golf Course at Death Valley National Park.

As you can see there was not a cloud in the sky that afternoon in Death Valley.  It can often make for "boring" daytime pictures, particularly when the sun is high in the sky.  However, it can make for outstanding night photography to photograph a sky full of stars.  With this in mind, I thought visit the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada on that clear moonless night. There are only a few remaining structures, but one building is a rather large ruin of what was a bank.  Hard to imagine that an estimated 4,000 people lived here around 1907 during the height of the gold rush in the nearby hills.  Rhyolite disappeared about as fast as it sprung up...most of its citizens left by 1920.  












[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Badwater Basin Death Valley Devil's Golf Course Rhyolite Ghost Town https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/death-valley-land-of-extremes Fri, 23 Jan 2015 05:24:40 GMT
Neon Lights & Valley of Fires https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/neon-lights-valley-of-fires I am starting out my 13 day trip of the Desert Southwest.  The first destination is to Las Vegas.  While Las Vegas is known for its urban fun along "The Strip", there is also some scenic beauty within an hour of the city.  I joined a guided jeep tour with Las Vegas based Pink Jeep Tours that offers 6 hour trips to Valley of Fires State Park.  The first stop was to the petroglyph site at Atlatl Rock.  An atlatl (rhymes with battle) is a hunting device used for launching a spear.  The ancient Indians used these weapons and they are depicted in the petroglyphs located at Atlatl Rock.  This area has outstanding petroglyphs that should not be missed.  

Petroglyph ArtPetroglyph ArtPetroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada

While there is plenty of ancient history at Valley of Fires State Park, my favorite area is the colorful drive along White Domes Road.  This scenic drive features spectacular eroded rocks of many colors.   

At the end of this scenic drive, is a hiking trail with an up close look at the multi-colored rocks.  Many of the rocks contain yellow and orange, but you will also find some bands of other colors such as white, pink and red.  

The midday light was someone flat on this tour under an overcast sky.  I can imagine these scenes can be even more dramatic when you are here just after sunrise or just before sunset.  Imagining this makes me want to return to this state park again.  Now it was time to had back to Las Vegas for some nighttime photography on Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as "The Strip".  From a pedestrian bridge at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, looking north you can see The Cosmopolitan, The Bellagio, Caesars Palace and The Mirage. This image was a 5 second exposure that gives the blurry motion of the cars.  

Las Vegas Strip At NightLas Vegas Strip At Night







[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Las Vegas Valley of Fires Vegas Strip At Night colorful rocks petroglyphs https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/neon-lights-valley-of-fires Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:26:44 GMT
Snowy Telluride Part II, Mesa Verde & Rime Ice https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/telluride-part-ii-mesa-verde I have returned from Telluride.  Earlier this week, I attempted to take pictures of the full moon setting.  There was some high, thin cloud cover...just enough to make the moon fuzzy most of the time.  However, as it was getting close to Little Cone Mountain, there was enough of a gap in the clouds to get a clearer shot of the moon.  

With a temperature of 17 degrees (at least it was +17 degrees that morning!), it was time to focus on the approaching dawn and its array of colors in these high, thin cirrus clouds.   In my opinion, these cirrus clouds are best for comes to sunrise and sunset colors, often spectacular just before sunrise or just after sunset.   Here, you can see an array of pink, blue and purple as light begins to hit the bottom of these clouds.  That is Wilson Peak, southwest of Telluride.  

Here is a close up of the pink sky behind Wilson Peak.  

While on my way back from Telluride, I also spent a half a day at Mesa Verde National Park.  There are advantages and disadvantages to visiting Mesa Verde in January.  Some of the ruins and hiking trails are closed in winter.   However, the crowds are light this time of the year.  There were times were you felt like you had the park to yourself.  Here is a picture of the Far View Ruins with some snow on top.

Walls at Mesa VerdeWalls at Mesa VerdeMesa Verde National Park

Leaving the park around sunset had a great view of the last light hitting the cliffs known as The Knife Edge.  

After spending the night in Central New Mexico, freezing fog overnight created this beautiful scene on Interstate 40 near Clines Corner, New Mexico.  Rime ice is formed by water droplets in the fog that freezes to surfaces of objects. When you have this low hanging fog while temperatures are in the teens or 20s, this phenomena can be seen on the windward (wind-facing) side of tree branches. 

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Far View Ruins Full Moon Mesa Verde Rime Ice Telluride Wilson Peak ice rime https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/telluride-part-ii-mesa-verde Sat, 10 Jan 2015 05:57:53 GMT
Snowy Telluride https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/snowy-telluride Happy New Year from Telluride, Colorado!   On New Year's Eve, I shot some photographs from Telluride's Mountain Village, where fireworks were on display.  You can see some of the ski runs of Telluride Ski Area.  

There were a few light snow showers on New Year's Day.  Not much to add to the snow already on the ground, maybe an inch of fresh powder, but it was just enough to make want to go out and shoot some fresh snowfall pictures.   My first destination was to Lizard Head Pass, just southwest of Telluride at an elevation of over 10,000 feet.  It was extremely cold under a clear sky.  My car thermometer read -17 degrees!  Another photographer was already there trying to stay warm in his car before first light hit the peaks.  Soon, light began to reach the tops of Mount Wilson and the rock spire called Lizard Head (pictured below).   It was so cold that frost was developing on my tripod ball head.  I had to be careful about exhaling moisture onto my camera while taking pictures so that ice wouldn't form on my camera.   Due to the very cold air, I didn't stay here long... but did get a nice wintry shot of Lizard Head.  

Warming up while driving, it was then on to Last Dollar Road just above the Telluride Airport.  This area features a mix of ranch land and homes.  I was on this road back in September while on a photo tour with Rick Louie.  He pointed out a nice scene of an old barn with 14,017 foot Wilson Peak in the background.  I had been on this road several times, but it is easy to miss this photogenic scene because it is nestled between two homes.  Wilson Peak is the mountain featured on the logo of Coors Beer.  

[email protected] (Damon Shaw) Lizard Head Telluride Wilson Peak fireworks snow https://www.damonshawphotos.com/blog/2015/1/snowy-telluride Fri, 02 Jan 2015 21:37:43 GMT