Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas At Temple Square

Linda said that one thing on her bucket list was to see the Christmas lights again at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’m not crazy about visiting the city, but we left our peaceful valley to confront the crowds and traffic.  We saw a Christmas play, “The Forgotten Carols”, ate some great food, shopped, and marveled at the amazing Christmas lights.  I even hiked into the hills to photograph an historic old lime kiln.

Temple Square is a ten-acre park-like location that includes the famous temple, tabernacle, visitor’s center, and more for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), often called the Mormon Church.  Linda is a member of the LDS Church, so this visit had extra significance for her.
The Christmas display is one of the best anywhere.  There must be millions of lights, and several pools reflect the colors.  This shot was taken at dusk.

The grounds and buildings are gorgeous.  The Assembly Hall architecture was beautiful in the colorful light.

A tripod is helpful to hold your camera steady for high quality images, but today’s digital cameras can also take beautiful hand held photos after dark using high ISO settings, if you can live with increased digital noise.

A remote shutter release helps minimize camera shake.

This photo was taken at ISO 12800.  

The spectacular display at Temple Square is a wonderful, family friendly place to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.  There are beautiful reminders everywhere about the birth of Jesus Christ.

All photos are copyrighted by Ross Walker, and cannot be used for any purpose without permission.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Small Town Christmas

I get a kick out of the Christmas celebration in downtown Montpelier, Idaho.

This year, December has been unusually warm so a nice crowd came out for the festivities.  Bonfires were set up along Washington Street and people roasted hot dogs in front of Radio Shack.  Horse drawn hay rides went around the city where there were living nativities and other scenes to see.  Santa was at the visitor’s center, there was a traditional Christmas tree lighting, and a Christmas craft fair was in the old abandoned hotel.

I spent the night experimenting with long exposures to capture intentional blur.  (20 seconds, ISO 100, f 10).  There were a heck of a lot of deleted photos.
The sidewalk looks empty in this photo, but the long exposure blurred movement so that people nearly disappeared.  (15 seconds, ISO 100, f 10)
There is a small park with a statue of Old Ephraim, a legendary grizzly bear that was finally killed in 1923 after devastating livestock for years in the Bear Lake Valley.  Now he guards the community Christmas tree.  (5 seconds, ISO 400, F 13)
My wife Linda (left) and her sister, Jo Ann had a table at the craft fair downtown.  Linda sold her crafts and our photo notecards, and Jo Ann sold her books.

Christmas in Montpelier, Idaho seems more laid back and peaceful than in the bigger cities.  The celebration may seem small and old fashioned, but everyone had a good time.  There is no way I would trade it for the commercialism I see most other places.

May your Christmas be filled with the true spirit of this amazing season.

All photos are copyrighted by Ross Walker and can not be used for any purpose without permission.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Photo Piracy

Photographers need to be aware that there are people who will steal your photos off the internet.  I have caught several people lately and would like to share the experience with you so you can protect yourself.  None of these photos were used with my permission, and none gave me credit for the images.

First, who are these people, where do they get the photos, and how do they use them?

This photo was used on Facebook for an outdoor oriented radio station in Montana, posting a regular outdoor editorial feature.  It was taken from our personal web site.  Someone tipped me off about the misuse.

This photo was used as her own on by a photographer in India.  She got it from my posts on the same site where I posted a photo a day for two years.  I recognized photos from many other 365 photographers, and alerted them as well.

Three photos, including this one, were taken from this blog by a prominent former resident of the Bear Lake Valley and used in his own blog.  His written information was even similar to mine.

This one was used by a Salt Lake City law firm on their business web site.  It was taken from our personal web site.  They certainly should know better.

All of the above photos were removed upon request.  No one offered to pay for the images.  The next one is purely a scam.  There is no way to directly track down the people doing this.

This is another one taken from our personal web site and it was used on a commercial wallpaper web site with false contact information.  There are tips on the internet on how to get these people, but it is complicated.  I may give it a try.

How did I find these?  All of my photos have embedded key words that show up on image searches. I googled key words like “Bear Lake” and found my photos attributed to other web sites.  There are also web sites that can search by image content, like, but I have never found anything that way.

How can you protect yourself?  You can be sure that if you have photos on the internet, they can be stolen, and people won’t want to pay you.  It is common for photographers to take credit for someone else’s photos.  Many people simply think it is OK to use anything that is on the internet, but it isn’t OK.  It is illegal.  Other people know it is wrong and will try to use other people’s photos for profit.

First, embed copyright information and key words in the metadata in the photo.  Knowledgeable people can look at this and see who the owner is and that it is copyrighted.  One way to embed data is in Photoshop Elements, File > File Info > Description.

Second, put a visible copyright notice on the edge of the photo, such as © Ross Walker 2014.  It can be cropped off, but if it is, that is proof that there was intent to steal the photo.

Third, a semitransparent watermark can be placed across the image.  I choose not to do this because it degrades the quality of the photo too much for my taste.

Fourth, be vigilant.  Look for violations and contact people who are stealing your photos.  Let them know that what they are doing is wrong.  They are in violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  It doesn’t hurt to ask for payment, but good luck collecting!

All images on this blog are copyrighted by Ross V. Walker, and can not be used for any purpose without permission.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pickleweed Autumn

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge covers about 19,000 acres of the Bear Lake Valley in southeast Idaho near Montpelier, and most of it is bulrush marsh, open water, and flooded meadows.  But, this year I found a surprising landscape on the eastern edge of a public tour loop.

This red salt marsh must have been placed here just for photographers!  There are acres of pickleweed scattered over several large areas east of the main driving tour loop.  Normally this stuff is green, but it turns red in autumn, and this year the color is really vibrant.

 Pickleweed (genus Salicornia)  is also known as glasswort or samphire.  It thrives in salt marshes where it stores excess salt in pod-like sections.  It is edible, in the same family as spinach, and has even become a gourmet delicacy.

We didn’t see much wildlife, but there were insects living in the pickleweed.  We found a few dragonflies that didn’t cooperate very well, but this huge spider (argiope aurantia) posed for photos with a grasshopper that had been a recent meal.  Geese nest in the grassy islands scattered around the marsh, and we found a few broken egg shells.

The red color varies a bit depending on the direction in relation to the sun, so we saw variations of red, pink, and magenta.  No filters were used for any of these photos.

The salt marsh had dried enough to explore on foot, and we found some yellow pickleweed. It added a little variety to the red scenery, and a wide angle lens emphasized the great distance to the mountains surrounding the valley.

Several photographers from our Sharp Shooters Camera Club have been here, and I returned to the scene three days in a row.  I found this Z pattern on the last day.  There is always something interesting to see at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thompson Springs, Utah

My camping buddies and I explored Sego Canyon on our June 2014 annual camping trip.  On the way back to our campsite in Green River, Utah, we stopped at the modern semi-ghost town of Thompson Springs.  As a ghost town hunter, it turned out to be one of my favorite photo opportunities of the trip.

The town had some importance from 1890 when a post office opened, to about 1950 when the Sego Canyon coal mines closed.    The community was a railroad shipping point for ranchers in the area, and Amtrak was a flag stop here as late as 1994 or 1997.  The town was doomed when  I-70 bypassed it by just a couple of miles.

Today, downtown Thompson Springs has many derelict buildings, including the Thompson Motel, a café, the railroad depot, and several vacant houses.

The motel was an interesting photo opportunity.  It is boarded up, but the lobby door was open, and the inside has had a lot of abuse.

I explored the interiors of several abandoned houses, the railroad station, and a few other derelict buildings.  Most were in pretty bad shape and had been trashed by squatters, but there were a few interesting things to photograph, like this sign.

One house had a story to tell about a failed subdivision.  This story has been repeated hundreds of times across the deserts of the western United States.  I wonder if anyone paid $5000.00 for a membership.

The café was different from the other abandoned buildings.  It was locked tight, so my photos were taken through the windows.

It was eerie.  It looks like it could open again tomorrow, except for that huge hole in the ceiling.  But, someone has cleaned up the ceiling debris, and the sugar, salt, and pepper are still on the counters waiting for customers.

There are plans to clean up a uranium mine near Moab and bury the tailings near Thompson Springs.  Who knows… maybe those jobs will bring customers back to the old café?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Nine Mile Canyon Rock Art, Utah

Nine Mile Canyon is actually about 40 miles long, and was probably named after a nine mile transect used by a cartographer on the John Wesley Powell expedition of 1869.  It has been called the longest art gallery in the world, thanks to the thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs along the canyon walls.
I visited the site with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson during our 33rd consecutive year of camping.

Petroglyphs in the Daddy Canyon Complex

The rock art was created by Fremont people as far back as 950 AD, and by the Utes starting in the 16th century.

Many of the images have unclear meanings, such as this anthropomorph with curving feet and mysterious circles.

The rock art of Nine Mile Canyon has been endangered by industrial truck traffic from oil and gas exploration over the last several years.  The rock art was coated by dust from the dirt road through the canyon, which has been paved recently to reduce the damage.

Archer and bighorn sheep petroglyph coated by dust.

Rasmussen Cave is a wonderful location with beautiful pictographs of elk, sheep, and other animals, as well as many petroglyphs, but it has been badly vandalized.

Probably the most famous rock art group in the area is the famous Great Hunt petroglyph panel.  It is located in a spur called Cottonwood Canyon, and the dirt road used to pass by just a few feet away, causing a lot of dust damage.  The road was re-routed away from the panel and paved, so now the hunting scene is accessed by a beautiful paved path.
There is a lot more to see in Nine Mile Canyon, including a ghost town, historic ranches, Fremont ruins, and beautiful canyon scenery.  Please visit my Flickr page to see more rock art and many of the other attractions.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Grand Tetons From The West

When we think of the beautiful Grand Teton Mountains, most of us remember views we have seen from the eastern side, looking west from Jackson Hole or Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.  Linda and I decided to visit the Teton Valley in Idaho, on the western side of the mountains.  We planned to get there by driving through Star Valley and Swan Valley, Wyoming, but a big spring snowstorm changed our mind about crossing the high mountain passes.  Instead, we drove an extra 100 miles around the storm to Rexburg, and arrived from the west.
The storm was clearing as we entered the Teton Valley on Highway 33 and stopped at the Teton River.  This view shows the small city of Tetonia in the distance with the magnificent Grand Teton mountains as a backdrop.  This photo is an HDR image created from three photos, one properly exposed, and the others two stops over and underexposed.
The Teton Valley is on the Idaho / Wyoming border.  After settling in to a beautiful log cabin in Driggs, Idaho, we drove west across the Wyoming border past the small town of Alta.  At this high elevation, the trees were just starting to leaf out in the middle of May.  The air was remarkably clear after the storm passed through, and we were lucky to find this gorgeous view at the John O. Sessions Overlook.  Later, we were told that days this clear are extremely rare.
We spent several days exploring the area, and at the end of our trip looked for another view of the mountains.  The Teton Valley used to be entirely agricultural, but now houses are scattered everywhere and it is rapidly losing its rural look.  We searched back roads for a country view of the mountains, and finally found this farm north of Driggs near the Idaho / Wyoming border.  I think it is in Idaho.  There was a pretty good sky and the shadows on the Tetons gave them a very different look compared to the previous sunlit view.
There is a lot to see in the Teton Valley area.  I don't think it will ever become another Jackson Hole, but it is changing fast, so if you want to see it, I suggest visiting there soon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Groundbreaking at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital

We are a long way from a big city hospital here in Montpelier, Idaho, so our small rural hospital is an important part of our community.  Fortunately, it is an excellent hospital with great doctors and a community spirit.  But, the patient rooms are 50 years old and have two beds per room.  Two million dollars had to be raised in order to upgrade the rooms, which seemed like an impossible task for a city with just 2600 people in a county with a population of just 6000.  We did it, and the groundbreaking was held on April 3, 2014.  This may not be a great photo opportunity, but it is such an important event for the community that I had to share it.  Hospital administrator, Rod Jacobson welcomed a large crowd, told about the vision and fund raising efforts, and thanked contributors.

The variety of activities used to raise money was amazing, including recycling abandoned cars (rust to rooms), raffling a restored Volkswagen donated by Patricia Talcott, and Auxiliary volunteers earning money at a Thrift Store, annual snowball dance, and more.

Three large checks were presented for $200,000 by the Hospital Auxiliary, $200,000 from hospital employees, and $1,400,000 from individual donations, including one of $500,000 from Ted and Liz Schmidt.
Several groups took turns breaking ground, starting with hospital board members and officials.
The hospital Auxiliary took a turn.  My wife, Linda is fourth from the left.

Photographically, this isn't the most interesting post, but as an important local event and a source of community pride, it is hard to beat.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter in Bear Lake Valley, Idaho - 2014

On January 18th I posted photos of the amazing hoar frost we had here in the valley this winter.  This was an exceptionally beautiful winter in the Idaho end of the valley, so now that spring has arrived, I thought I would post a few scenic photos from winter days that didn't have that gorgeous frost.
The Rearing Pond in Montpelier Canyon is a favorite photo stop, but I don't think it ever looked better than on this day.
Conditions could be harsh, and this scene on the edge of Montpelier was a challenge because of strong winds and blowing snow.
One morning in late winter I saw these low clouds and hurried down the street to this abandoned house.  I think it was a great subject for a black and white photo.
The Bear River between Georgetown and Nounan was beautiful when the ice started to melt and the transition to spring started.  Most people are ready for spring, but I will miss the clean beauty of winter in the Bear Lake Valley.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Artist Point, Yellowstone

The Sharp Shooters Camera Club had a field trip on February 8, 2014 to Yellowstone National Park.  We reserved a snowcoach and left from West Yellowstone, Montana on a snowy day.  The snowcoach took us along the Madison River and across the park to the Canyon area where one of the stops was at Artist Point.  The driver was worried that we wouldn't be able to see much because of the storm, but the snow eased up when we arrived at the Canyon.

Artist Point was thought to be the location where Thomas Moran created a famous painting in 1872.  It was named by park photographer F. Jay Haynes about 1883 and the name stuck, even though the painting was actually done at Moran Point.

Our view was straight down the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone toward Lower Falls, which were about a mile away.  The wind was blowing hard, and photography was difficult with snow blowing toward the camera.

Notice the yellow color of some of the cliffs that gave the park its name.

As we zoom in closer, the Yellowstone River and Lower Falls become easier to see.

Finally, the third photo shows a closeup view of the 308 foot falls, which were partially frozen.  An inverted V of water along the left edge drops down to a huge mound of snow and ice at the base of the falls.

The trail back to our snowcoach was a snow-covered uphill walk along the canyon wall.  It was interesting to look down on the rocks and trees in the deep snow.  This tree was the only one to survive the steep cliff and snowdrifts in one area.
If you don't mind a little cold and snow, a snowcoach tour is a great way to see Yellowstone.