Images, Thoughts on Travel, Equipment and Techniques that somehow relate to Nature & Wildlife Photography.

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"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness"... John Muir

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Details

Cottonwood leaf against red mud patterns; Pleasant Creek, Capitol Reef NP, Utah

Cottonwood leaf against red mud patterns; Pleasant Creek, Capitol Reef NP, Utah

They say the devil is in the details. Haven’t seen the devil but we have found a whole universe in the details, what Elliot Porter called the “intimate landscape”. When out trying to get a great scenic shot how many times have you had the light fizzle, the scene just not meet your expectations? If you have unlimited time that’s not much of an issue, just wait it out, something good is bound to happen. Most people don’t have boundless time to capture their vision. So, what do you do when all that planning or at least hoping goes south? We’ve all been there, I can’t tell you how many times a gray, high cloud has snuffed that spectacular late day light. But there you are, what to do?

"Eagle" eroding out of Navajo Sandstone, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

“Eagle” eroding out of Navajo Sandstone, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Iconic landscapes are a blessing and a curse, stunningly gorgeous places that are a joy to experience but have been photographed by virtually everyone. Finding that one-off shot that can set your image apart is difficult, requiring much time and luck. Who hasn’t wanted one of those killer shots of the Grand Canyon or Half Dome in Yosemite? You know, the one people tell you that should be in National Geographic.

Sandstone swirls, Crack Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah

Sandstone swirls, Crack Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah

That search for the Grand Landscape can blind us to the very things that make such a place special. Those are the details, a macro view of a place, the way wind and water has polished a rock, the way sand lays against a tree root, tracks in the snow. Another nice aspect of looking for the details is that these almost secret landscapes are everywhere. I suspect most of us from time to time travel the same routes that have become so familiar we no longer see them. We chase the light, when it refuses to be caught we just need to take a more contemplative look around. What do you do to salvage a view that just won’t cooperate?

sand patterns, looking like palm fronds created by surf at low tide; Playa Las Lajas, Panama

sand patterns, looking like palm fronds created by surf at low tide; Playa Las Lajas, Panama

Ice and sand patterns; Zion NP., UT

Ice and sand patterns; Zion NP., UT

Oak leaf litter; Colorado

Oak leaf litter; Colorado

Trail patterns in sand created by feeding snails at low tide; Playa Las Lajas, Panama

Trail patterns in sand created by feeding snails at low tide; Playa Las Lajas, Panama

Unexpected Travelers

Monarch Butterfly during winter migration, feeding on nectar of bottlebrush tree flowers.

Monarch Butterfly during winter migration, feeding on nectar of bottlebrush tree flowers.

Butterflies flit

that is all, amid the

field of sunlight…Basho

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On the Beach

We headed north out of the traffic cluster that is LA having attended an October wedding in the City of Angels.  Not our idea of a place to hang out, so having never visited the central California coast this seemed to be a good opportunity to see and photograph some of the wildlife found between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  After some research we knew there would be opportunities to see and hopefully photograph the monarch butterflies gathered for the winter at Pismo Beach.  We also knew that sea otters were common at Morro Bay and from there north of Cambria there would be elephant seals.

Northern Elephant Seal bull, the "beachmaster"

Northern Elephant Seal bull, the “beachmaster”

 

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The Celestial River

After a hiatus of about 12 years we felt that it was time to return to Costa Rica.  We had spent a good deal of time traveling around in the country starting back in 1990.  By 1992 we started on a project that, after 14 years, became the book “A Field Guide to the Plants of Costa Rica”.  We needed to see if the magic of CR was still there for us so in September we headed down. We knew that much had changed over the years but we didn’t have any real idea how considerable that change was.

Some places seem timeless. Things change but at a pace that seems reasonable, maybe in ways that aren’t noticeable, and then… Of course 2 million tourists a year are going to transform anyplace, particularly a small country that had an economy based on agriculture.  Places on the tourist circuit have changed and not always in good ways, still very nice but certainly not the “way it was”.  Fortunately not every place is on that circuit.

I hesitate to mention this area in northern CR but it is so special that people need to experience it.  There is a small town called Bijagua, near Volcan Tenorio and the national park of the same name.  A little town with a couple of places to eat, at least one of those is very good and a couple of places to stay, some very nice (if you find yourself there, check out Sueno Celeste) but not overrun with touristy stuff nor tourists.   There are a few places to stay closer to the park entrance.

Backroad view of Volcan Tenorio from Tierras Morenas to Highway 6 south of Bijaguas.

Backroad view of Volcan Tenorio from Tierras Morenas to Highway 6 south of Bijagua.

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When Bad Weather Isn’t

Evening light fades with a few clouds, doesn’t seem too threatening so off to bed.  Sometime in the night it starts with the wind rustling and sighing through the trees.  Then there is a swishing and scampering across the camper roof as if an assemblage of mice were dancing, probably the wind scattering leaves.  The gusts get stronger and other than the sound of wind the night becomes silent.  First light comes late and seems subdued but we are in a high mountain valley surrounded by higher peaks, the sun always seems overdue.  A look outside is at first a shock and then the giddy realization, snow!  Just a few inches, 3 or 4 but enough to transform the fall beauty we came to photograph into something more magical.   There is an adage that tells us that bad weather makes for good photography.  Does it?  As in all things it depends on what the subject is and what the photographer is trying to capture.

Fresh new snow decorates an autumn landscape along the Cimarron River in the Uncompahgre Range; wilderness; Uncompahgre National

Fresh new snow decorates an autumn landscape along the Cimarron River in the Uncompahgre Range.

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