Thursday, December 26, 2013

Arches National Park, Utah

This is a flashback to a trip Linda and I took to southeastern Utah last October.  We were exploring the red rock country from the Green River area to Monument Valley in northern Arizona.  One evening we drove into Arches National Park to photograph the late light.  Arches is located near Moab, which is the perfect place to stay to explore several state and national parks.
It is nearly impossible to find unique photos in Arches National Park.  The place is so beautiful that I can't imagine how many photos have been taken there.  After entering the park, there is a steep hill to ascend, followed by this magnificent sandstone ridge called Park Avenue.  As the sun descended in the west, shadows from another ridge were outlined on the huge formations of Park Avenue.
Continuing on, we soon came to Balanced Rock, another site that has been photographed thousands of times.  As the sun continued to drop in the west, the rock took on a bright glow.  Pretty, but what could be done to make it different from the average tourist photo?  I decided to fill the sky with this rugged old tree as a companion to the beautiful red rock.
We really weren't very far into the park when we turned down a side road to the Windows area.  The scene was changing fast as the sun nearly touched the horizon.  When I got to North Window there was a crowd there watching the moonrise through the arch.  Just a couple of years earlier, I had the good fortune to photograph a sunset here when I had the view to myself.  Anyway, I kind of like having people in the picture to add human interest and scale.  By now, the very low sun had turned the reddish brown rock a glowing orange-red.
Just a few minutes later the glow was gone.  I turned and looked toward the west in time to see the sun disappear, giving me a quick silhouette of Turret Arch to photograph.  Magnificent!

I barely scratched the surface of all there is to see in Arches National Park.  The road goes on for miles past several more arches, and there are trails to many more.  I've learned from experience that this is one place where early or late light is the only way to go for most images.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Firefighter Training, Montpelier, Idaho

I noticed smoke coming from a red metal box in a vacant lot near the edge of town and stopped to see what was going on.

Volunteer firefighters from the Montpelier Fire Department were training in a flashover box.  Sensors showed that the temperature inside was 298 F, while outside it was below freezing with light snow.

A fire was started inside the box and controlled by opening and closing vents.  Notice the fire hose going into the box through a hole on the right.  The men entered the box in full safety gear and learned how to read the behavior of the fire and smoke.  Once in awhile I would hear an alarm go off that meant someone had run out of air, and they would leave the box.
Other fire agencies were invited to participate, and several were there.  These guys are volunteers, and I am amazed at what they do to protect the community.  I want to thank them for allowing me to hang around and take pictures.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Utah Rock Art

Linda and I explored southeastern Utah last month, including eleven sites with Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. Here are a few of the hundreds of photos I took.

Petroglyphs are chipped in the rock, as seen in the images above:

Top - Rattlesnake attack on a large boulder near Moab.
Center left - Kokopelli at Shay Canyon.
Center right - More recent images at Newspaper Rock.
Bottom left - Birthing scene on the same boulder as # 1.
Bottom right - Anthropomorphs at Capitol Reef National Park.

The images on the left are pictographs, which  are painted on the rocks, and since paint is likely to be washed away over the centuries, they are much rarer than petroglyphs.

Top - Sego Canyon, Barrier Canyon style anthropomorphs.
Center - Sego Canyon, more recent Ute style
Bottom - Buckhorn Wash, Barrier Canyon style

Rock art should never be touched.  The oil on our hands will degrade them in time.  Vandalism is a terrible problem, and there are big penalties for anyone caught defacing ancient rock art.  For that reason, many sites are not publicized.

Linda and I have posted more rock art photos and information from this trip on our web site.     -  last three images   -  first twelve images

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lundy Canyon, California

Lundy Canyon is in the Eastern Sierra region in Mono County, California.  I was there October 6th with Stephen Johnson and Bruce Gregory on our annual fall camping trip, looking for fall color.
The canyon is in a magnificent mountain setting where beaver ponds have been built on Mill Creek in the west end.  The area was named for W. J. Lundy who operated a sawmill that supplied much of the timber for Bodie, which is now a famous ghost town.  The mining town of Lundy was here once, but there is no trace of it now, and a resort is located in its place.
The reflections of the aspens and mountains are magnificent.  The problem is, that fall color in the Eastern Sierra is well publicized on web sites, TV, and blogs, so there are crowds to deal with.  I'm not used to that here in Idaho.  When we drove to a trail head at the end of the dirt road, there were trucks and jeeps parked in every available little space between the trees.
With patience, we could avoid the tourists, and I liked these rippled aspen reflections in another beaver pond.  This image was flipped to provide a base for the scene.

Lundy Lake is in the eastern end of Lundy Canyon.  There was once a small natural lake here, but a dam raised it 37 feet in 1911 for a hydroelectric project.  Today it provides a colorful backdrop for fall photography.

This was an excellent year for fall color in the Eastern Sierra, and especially in Lundy Canyon.  Once again, our camping trip was an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Silver City, Idaho

This was a great summer with three trips around the west and little time to update this blog.  So, once in awhile I plan to add a post to share an experience from this last summer.

I visited Silver City, Idaho for the third time last July, while on my annual camping trip with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson.  We camped at Jordan Valley, Oregon and took the road in from the west.  It is a little longer drive from there, but the road is much better than the road from the north.

Silver City has been described as Idaho's best ghost town, but the truth is, it is gradually being restored.  Many of the old buildings are now in great shape and are being used as summer homes.  The massive Idaho Hotel, shown above, has been partially restored and is open for business.

There is still plenty to see in Silver City, including the "world's tallest outhouse."  By walking the dirt streets you can find lots of interesting details to photograph, such as fire hydrants, old mining equipment, a cemetery, and this old fashioned door latch.  The city dates back to the 1860's, and has a wide variety of architecture.

I think the most beautifully restored building is the Stoddard house, seen here as a ghostly reflection in a school window.  I invite you to look at the new Silver City gallery on my web site, below, where you can see the buildings as they are now and as they appeared a few years ago.  The change is remarkable.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tadpole Shrimp, A Living Fossil

A recent trip to Utah included a stop at Dead Horse Point State Park where I took a short hike along the canyon rim to an area of potholes.
Recent storms had filled the potholes with water, just a few feet from the edge of the cliff 2000 feet above the canyon floor.
I saw movement in a few of the pools and when I looked closely, saw tiny creatures crawling and swimming in the puddles.  A park ranger later identified them as Tadpole Shrimp from my photo.  They have often been called "living fossils" because they are essentially unchanged from their 250 million year-old ancestors.  These fascinating animals live just 20 or 30 days in ephemeral pools.  They have been known to lay eggs that stay dormant for years until rain fills the puddles long enough for them to hatch.
This photo shows how close to the drop-off some of these potholes were.
Tadpole Shrimp (scientific name Triops longicaudatus, in the order Notostraca. in the class Branchiopoda) are sometimes sold in novelty stores, but it was a thrill to find them in the wild.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tunnel, Nevada - Ghost Town

Tunnel, Nevada is one of the best true ghost towns I have ever seen.  I was there with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson, camping buddies for the last 32 years.
Tunnel has it all.  It is in a remote location north of Lovelock, is completely deserted, and has several intact buildings, as well as this photogenic old truck.

Tunnel is one of the only places where I have found an intact stamp mill on site.  These things are usually found only in museums.

Tunnel was founded in 1927 and named for an attempt to bore a tunnel from Seven Troughs on the other side of the mountain to improve drainage and help move ore to a mill on site.  Veins of gold were found in the 2 1/2 mile tunnel.

Perhaps this brick building was a power plant or office building for the Nevada State Mining Company.  Vandals have severely damaged the walls and roof.

There is a human factor seen here.  It is the only ghost town where I have found clothes still hanging on the wall in an old cabin.

The cemetery has 13 graves with wood and metal crosses.  There are no names or dates on any of the markers.  Who were these people?  What happened to them?

Was this an assay office?  There are hundreds of bags of ore samples inside, but of course they have been broken open and scattered everywhere.

There isn't a lot of information about Tunnel, but I understand that water in the tunnel brought an end to mining in the 1950's.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gilmore Ghost Town, Idaho

My wife, Linda, was away for a few days on a trip with her sisters, so I decided to make a quick run to the Birch Creek kilns and to Gilmore, a ghost town in the mountains of Lemhi County, Idaho.
The first stop was five miles up a dirt road at the beautiful Birch Creek kilns, which once supplied charcoal for the smelter at nearby Nicholia.  There were once 16 of these beehive kilns, and most have disappeared, along with most of Nicholia.  A storm came in fast while I was here, and I left in a thunderstorm with plenty of rain and hail.
When I got to nearby Gilmore the temperature was in the 30's and the wind was howling.  Soon the storm caught up and I had to try to take pictures in really difficult conditions.  The Gilmore Mercantile building looked suitably ghostly through the rain and hail on my windshield.

There are probably about 25 old buildings scattered over the hillside, with a mix of modern trailers.  Some of the old houses have been converted to summer cabins, but most are abandoned and decaying.

The entire front of this house was missing, so I could photograph the peeling wallpaper and crooked door.

The next day promised better weather, so I camped at the city park in Leadore to wait out the storm.  It got very cold during the night, and I woke up to snow on the hills and frost in the park.  I'm sure people were wondering why I was crawling around in the frost with my camera.

Gilmore was a silver and lead mining camp called the Texas Mining District.  At one time 600 people lived there and it was the second richest silver mining area in Idaho, but in 1929 a power plant exploded and the area never recovered.  Until then, the Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad transported ore to Montana for smelting.  The prosperous town had a hotel, stores, banks, restaurants, and a school.

Morning brought a crisp, clear day.  I returned to Gilmore to explore the town in better light.  I don't think there is a straight line or a level building anywhere in the town.

Gilmore is located between Mud Lake and Leadore, Idaho.  It is well worth the trip for ghost town hunters and photographers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Flying Over Bear Lake Valley

Every year the LOTOJA bicycle race passes through the Bear Lake Valley.  It is the longest sanctioned one day bicycle race in the country, and it goes from LOgan, Utah TO JAckson, Wyoming - 206 miles.  I was invited by a friend, Jim Parker, to photograph the event from the air, and he asked Rodger Sorensen if he would give us a ride.  Rodger brought his 1979 Maule four seater from Soda Springs to Bear Lake County Airport.  It was great.  No TSA, check-in lines, tickets, baggage, or hassles.  The first thing they did was take off the door so I could get a better view!  I had the back seat next to the non-existent door, and Jim sat up front with a small porthole to shoot through.

The weather was heavily overcast so the light wasn't too great.  I set the camera for a high ISO, opened the aperture all the way, checked my seat belt, and started shooting.  We found the racers on the highway from Emigration Canyon to Montpelier and got a few photos.
There is so much to see from up there.  Rodger took us as far as Copenhagen Basin summit, then turned back toward the valley.  The ride was incredibly smooth and he gave us a steady platform for photographing scenes like this farm.

We flew over the valley and continued east over the Preuss Range to the Geneva, Idaho area, then turned south toward Bear River.  The fields, creeks, river, and irrigation ditches made wonderful geometric patterns.
Near Pegram, we passed a train as it went under some power lines.  I thought the towers added an interesting perspective for the view from above, and the sun came out for a moment.
We flew over this beautiful green field with its single red tractor.  I could show you a lot more, but we returned to Bear Lake Airport.

After a perfect landing, Jim and Rodger replaced the back door and posed for a photo before Rodger took off for the return trip to Soda Springs.

What a great experience.  Thank you, Rodger and Jim for a wonderful morning and a smooth flight.  I would fly with these guys anytime.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Old Idaho Penitentiary

I was with Linda and her sister Jo Ann in Boise, Idaho, where we met Lisa, a friend from my 365 project, and went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site.  The penitentiary was used as a prison from 1870 to 1973 and is a picturesque complex of old and newer stone buildings.
There is so much history here.  For example, this building dates back to 1872, but was destroyed by fire in a 1973 prison riot.
This guard tower overlooks a beautiful rose garden which was the site of six executions by hanging.  Inmates could watch the gallows being built from Death Row.
This is one of the older cell blocks, and it is an incredibly eerie place.  There was one small radiator to heat a huge, four story room.  It must have been extremely cold and dark in those tiny cells, and until 1928 none of the cell blocks had indoor plumbing.  Before then, a "honey bucket" in the corner of each cell was the toilet.

Several of the buildings gave chilling hints about what it must have been like to stay here.  Just imagine what it would have been like to use this community shower with other inmates who probably were not very nice people.  There were also exhibits of prison tattoos, weapons, and more.

The laundry room was one of my favorites.  There were a lot of mysterious machines in a poorly lit, dusty room.  This crank was a good subject for black and white photography.  Because of the lack of light, a tripod was a necessity inside.

If you decide to go, look for details.  They are everywhere.  This sign nearly blended with the background until I played with contrast and converted it to black and white.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens are right next door, so if you visit the penitentiary with someone who does not enjoy this eerie place, send them into the sunlight and flowers.

But, I think it is a fascinating photo op.