Friday, August 25, 2017

Bear Lake County Fair - After Dark

The Bear Lake County Fair in Montpelier, Idaho is always a wonderful event.  There are rodeos, entertainment, food booths, animals, rides, craft displays, and of course a big photography display.  But after dark the fair really comes to life, and the lights are a great opportunity for photographers.

Carnival photos are best just after sunset so there is a little light and color in the sky.  This Ferris wheel changes color, and if you change shutter speeds you can get anything from colorful spokes of light to a blurred circle in infinite variations.  This one was ½ second exposure.

This is the same Ferris wheel from the other side, with carnival game prizes in the corner.  This one was taken after the sky got totally dark, and the shutter speed was 1.3 seconds, resulting in an entirely different pattern.  To reduce camera shake, a tripod is a necessity and a remote shutter release or self timer also helps.  If your camera has image stabilization, turn it off while using the tripod.

This photo of entertainers Dave Anderson and Thatch Elmer was taken on the outdoor stage.  The lights were bright enough to take the photo without a tripod, but in order to pick up details in the light and shadow, three photos were bracketed two stops over and under normal, and combined in the computer using Photomatix Essentials.  The software did an amazing job removing blur caused by people moving.

This food booth photo on the midway was taken with a 2.5 second exposure.  It is fun to use these long exposures to blur moving people.  Everyone becomes anonymous using longer exposures.

Longer exposures can also be used to make abstract images.  This giant swing was exposed for 0.8 seconds, but as the dangling swings were being lowered I increased the exposure to 2.5 seconds to create the abstract image.

So, look for bright colors, movement, and lights to get unusual photos at the county fair.

Please note that my photos are copyrighted and must not be used without permission, and usually a small fee.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho

Bruneau Dunes State Park has become one of my favorite stopping places when traveling across Idaho. This year I used their excellent campground as a place to spend the night on my way to the John Day, Oregon area on my annual camping trip.
The spectacular dunes are a great place to take pictures when the sun gets low just before sunset.  People on top of this dune were sliding down the steep shadowed side as if it were snow.

One of the attractions is the 470 foot high largest single structured sand dune in North America.  There are a couple of ponds in the park that allow the rare opportunity to photograph dunes reflected in water, but this actually isn’t as good as it was several years ago because the beaches have become overgrown with trees and reeds.  Swimmers have kept a few passages open through the reeds.

The wind does amazing things with the sand.  What can cause such abrupt changes in the ripples?  The color of the sand changes from gray to rust as the sun gets low.

There are a few flowers on the dunes that cast long shadows in the afternoon light, like this nakedstem sunray.

The day ended with warm sunlight reflected in the lake from the big dune.  If you decide to photograph these dunes, I suggest putting your camera away until about an hour before sunset when the color gets richer and the shadows and ripples in the sand create wonderful patterns.

Please respect my copyright and do not use these photos without permission.  I often donate usage for charitable purposes, but will charge a small fee for personal or commercial use.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Painted Hills, Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has three separate units.  One of these, the Painted Hills, near Mitchell, Oregon, is famous for its amazing hills striped with color.  It was the highlight of my 47 th camping trip in 36 years with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson.
During the day the colors can appear fairly muted, but as the sun gets low the stripes become brighter, as in this photo from the overlook trail.

The wonderful stripes and contours are perfect for landscape abstracts with a long lens.  These two photos from the overlook trail show how the colors can change with the time of day.  The colors often become golden just before sunset.

Another beautiful location is the perfectly formed Red Hill, where we also found prairie clover.

The soil here is very delicate and would be damaged by walking on it, so most areas are fenced off.  In the Painted Cove area a boardwalk allows visitors to see the textures and shapes close up.

And finally, here is a five shot panorama taken from the overlook trail just as afternoon shadows start to touch the hills.

I hope you enjoy these photos, but please remember that they are copyrighted and must not be used without permission, and usually payment of a small fee.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

The Niagara of the West.  That’s  one name for Shoshone Falls, but Niagara Falls is “just” 167 feet high, and Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high, and 900 feet across.  Shoshone Falls is sort of a seasonal waterfall on the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho.  In the summer it usually has a vastly reduced flow because water upstream is diverted for irrigation, but in the spring it can be booming after a wet winter.  This year we had a huge snow pack, and the falls are roaring.
We visited the falls on a very windy day, and the spray was soaking the observation area of the beautiful city park.  Photography from the nearest observation areas was nearly impossible because the lens was wet as soon as the cover was removed, so this photo was taken a bit further away.  Even so, I had to wait for a moment when the mist was at a minimum and hurry to take the picture.

The mist and bright sun combined for wonderful rainbows.

The rainbow framed the Snake River Canyon when Linda and I returned the following morning.  We hoped that there would be less wind, therefore less mist, and drier conditions for photography.  Wrong, but at least we saw the rainbow from a different angle because we were so much earlier in the day.
If anything, the wind was worse, and instead of the observation area being soaked, the entire city park was drenched.   The best we could do was remove the lens cover, take a quick shot or two, and slap the cover back on.  Then find someplace dry to clean the lens.  Then try again. 
 Even seen through the mist, the power of these magnificent falls was astonishing.  If you go, try to be there between April and July during a wet year.

Please note that these photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without permission.  We usually request a small payment depending on usage.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Steam Engine # 844

The Union Pacific railroad has done a good job restoring and maintaining some of its historic equipment, and today one of its steam engines made an excursion run through western Wyoming and southeast Idaho.  Steam engine # 844 was the last one built for Union Pacific.
Here the train approaches Rocky Point, southwest of Montpelier, Idaho.  It was on a trip from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Boise, Idaho and back.

The train crossed the Bear River at Rocky Point.

 Union Pacific took delivery of 844, known as the “Living Legend”, in 1944 to be used as a high speed passenger engine.  It pulled several famous trains, including the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose, and Challenger.

As the train left Montpelier, Idaho it passed under a signal Bridge.

After diesels took over, 844 was used for freight service from 1957 to 1959, and in 1960 it was saved from scrapping to be used as a goodwill ambassador for Union Pacific.  The engine has run hundreds of thousands of miles.

Leaving the Bear Lake Valley, near Montpelier, Idaho

The statistics on steam engine 844 are staggering.  The engine and tender weigh 454 tons and are just over 114 feet long.  The water capacity is 23,500 gallons, and it runs on 6,200 gallons of oil.  The drive wheels are 80 inches in diameter.  The top speed is 120 mph (190 km/h) and it generates 4,500 horsepower.

When this engine blasts by a few feet away, it shakes the earth, and the whistle is ear-shattering. What an experience!

Please be aware that these photos are copyrighted and must not be used without permission and usually a small payment.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Garter Snakes Mating

Our huge snow pack in the Bear Lake Valley melted fast.  While there is still snow in the mountains, here on the valley floor we are dealing with a lot of water, and the smaller members of our wildlife community are appearing.
I was driving around the valley looking for photos of the flooded fields when I spotted these two intertwined common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) that had probably just emerged from hibernation.
I assumed they were mating, but after reading about them it is possible they were huddled together for warmth in our cold climate.  Some males are able to produce female pheromones which attract other males away from the den.  Then the first male ditches the pheromones and races back to the den where he hopes to have the females to himself.  This same technique tricks other males into “warming up” the trickster.
These snakes were very patient with me.  When I got down to their level, the smaller one stretched out toward the lens curiously, and I wonder if he was looking at his reflection.  Also, I wonder about the dusty color of these usually brilliant snakes.  Could it be that after emerging from hibernation their colors are dull until after they molt?  I just don’t know.

Please respect my copyright and do not use these photos without permission.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Feeding An Elk Herd

This winter has been the most difficult one I’ve seen in the Bear Lake Valley since we moved here in 1999.  So far, snowfall has been over 10 feet and we are sure to get more.  Of course, it was more compact on the ground so it was just a few feet deep, but when combined with thick layers of ice it has been very difficult for wildlife to find food.  There are places where people feed deer and elk every year in this area, but this year new feeding stations have been set up to take care of animals that normally make it through winter on their own.

Micah Rigby and R C Hymas on their three-horse sleigh.

In Bear Lake County alone, 20 emergency feed grounds have been set up for deer, and 4 for elk.  I was fortunate to be able to ride along on a horse-drawn sleigh with fellow photographer Jim Parker to feed a herd of elk at Banks Valley, Idaho.  The public was asked to stay away to avoid stressing the animals.

Even the horses seemed interested in the elk herd.

A work sleigh with three horses was driven a couple of miles by R C Hymas and Micah Rigby for the cross country trip to where a herd of about 400 elk was waiting.  The elk have become accustomed to sleighs at the annual feed grounds, but here the elk were wild, and they kept their distance.  As the sleigh was driven along the line of elk, sections of hay were kicked off from four big bales so they would be strung out enough for all the elk to get to some.  They lined up like kids in a school lunch line to be fed.

These animals were easily spooked and if one started to run, several would go along, but they wouldn’t go too far as long as they had hay to eat.

I admire the way these guys handled their horses.  The jobs of harnessing and driving these beautiful animals were second nature to them, and I appreciate all they are doing to help Idaho’s wildlife.

Jim Parker holds the tired horses while they are unhitched from the sleigh.

Please be aware that my photos are copyrighted and must not be used without permission.  I often donate usage for charitable or educational purposes, but require a small fee for personal use.