Saturday, July 21, 2012

I've been framed

My wife and I went frame shopping today.  We picked our a mat and frame for the shot in this post.  I realized that I've been taking photos for a year and half, every single day and I haven't printed any of my photos in over a year.  

My daughter bought me a frame for my birthday last year just as I was getting involved in my 365 project last year, one of those four holers, with room for four 4x6 prints.  So I picked the four best of what I'd taken so far and had those printed up and they're now hanging on the wall in our living room.

Since then, all of my photos are just pixels in my hard drive.  Yeah, you can see them all, but that was sort of the impetus behind this photo.  Are they real if they only exist on your hard drive?  Sure they are, and sure they have color, but I decided to play around a little bit with PhotoShop to make a point.  And if you follow me on Facebook or at 365, you may see a couple more of these types of shots.  I like what I did here, but I'd like to try a couple of other things using the same technique.

Now, I guess, I need to go back over my shots and get back to work on that photo book I've been thinking about creating.  I know I have a couple of friends who would like one, so I guess this is the "kick in the butt" I need to make it come a reality.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bryce Canyon National Park

After spending four days in Zion, most of them sweating the triple digit heat, it was nice to pack up our tent and head up to Bryce Canyon.  By up, I do mean up since Bryce Canyon is about 4000 feet higher in elevation than is Zion, so needless to say, it was much cooler there, with temperatures only getting into the mid 80s.

For those who have never been to Bryce Canyon, it's really not a canyon, but more of an amphitheater, a series of small canyons parallel to each other all draining down into a valley below.  You can see the bowl-like shape it has in the first shot.

Upon arriving, we quickly set up camp, then headed to Sunset Point, which is the trailhead spot for several popular trails.  We intended on hiking down Wall Street, a series of switchbacks that would take us down this narrow canyon and down to the floor, then hike around the end and hike back up via the Navajo Loop trail a trek of a little over a mile in length.  It's strenuous, but nothing we couldn't handle.  

At the same time, I was also scouting out photo spots for later on.  Bryce Canyon has some of the darkest skies for any national park in the US in the contiguous states, so I was looking forward to trying out some night photography.  Near the end of the hike, we passed by Thor's Hammer and I knew this was where I wanted to take my nighttime shots.  

The next evening, we waited until after 9 PM or so, then headed over to Sunset Point again to hike down.  Thor's Hammer is very close to the rim, so we didn't have to hike too far, but the trail is a little creepy at night, even with good flashlights.  I set up my equipment and took several longer exposures of 30 seconds or less.  Taking less than 30 seconds, you get pretty close to pinpoint stars.  Anything longer than that and your stars start to become trails.  These shots, I wanted individual stars in my photos.

On the LCD screen on the back of my camera, the shots looked to be a little bit of a disappointment, but they turned out much better once I got them on to my computer screen at home.  I need to remember than the next time I'm out shooting stars.  You can't see all of the stars on that little bitty screen.  Here's what I think is one of the best ones I shot that evening.  Thor's Hammer was illuminated by my son using his flashlight.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Official

Two days ago, on Wednesday July 11th, my wife officially has now put up with me for 25 years.  To quote Lou Gehrig, I feel like I'm the luckiest man in the world.  I can't imagine why anyone would want to put up with me for very long, let alone 25 years, so I guess I must be doing something right.

She is my best friend and I am very fortunate to have found her so many years ago.  The ride has been fun, with many ups and a couple of downs, but it's not anywhere near the end. I'm enjoying it too much to ever get off.  I only hope she can claim the same.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The last time I'd been to Zion National Park, it was on my honeymoon, our next to last stop before heading home.  We ate a late lunch in the Zion lodge, walked a trail back to the Narrows, then headed to Las Vegas to spend the night. 

This time, my son and I had four days planned there.  Tuesday dawned and we slept in, mainly because we could.  This was our planned day to explore Zion.  Since my last visit, Zion has instituted, much like other highly visited parks, a shuttle bus system that transports visitors to various spots in the park and relieving the park of the multitude of cars that descend upon them in the summertime.  

After visiting the visitors center near the campground, we boarded a shuttle bus and headed into the canyon.  Zion, like most national parks, has to be walked along the trails to fully appreciate it.  The canyons, very steep walled, block out direct sunlight until much after 7:30 or so in the morning and do the same at night.  The photo above was taken just before 8:00 AM one morning just after the light started to hit the walls of the canyon.

The further you go back into the canyon, the closer the walls are, and the cooler the temperatures are.  This was really important because the heat would hit triple digits all four days we were there.  We stopped at the old visitors center, which was now a museum, watched a movie about the park, then headed back out to catch the next shuttle which took us to other viewpoints and trail heads.  

We stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs, got our picture taken together by other campers, learned a little about the geology of the park, then decided to head back to camp for lunch.  At that point we decided that we'd hike back since there was a well used trail that we could follow.  

Sunscreen had already been applied and hats were on as we headed out along a trail that followed pretty closely to the Virgin River.  We passed an open area that had once been used as a pen for desert bighorn sheep when they were being reintroduced to the park.  

We crossed over the river on well constructed bridges three or four times.  Most of the erosion in the park happens on about 14 days when the Virgin River is in flood stage.  Thunderstorms in the surrounding hills cause flash flooding which causes the river to become an erosional giant.  Today, we weren't worried, but I was impressed with the solid construction of the bridges and thought that even still, I wouldn't want to be on one of those bridges during a flash flood.

After lunch we ended up lounging around the campsite in the small shade we had, then later, when it was a little cooler, took the shuttle up to the Weeping Rock, something I'll touch on a little bit more in detail in one of my next installments.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Camping - One day at a time

It's been two years since I've been on an extended camping trip with any of my children.  My youngest and I had a week long excursion planned for Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park starting on June 18th.  The new park for both of us was Zion.  I'd been there before, but it had been 25 years and I'd never camped there, so we had four days planned there and 3 days planned at Bryce Canyon.

Monday broke bright and clear and we had the car packed early and were on the road by 8:30 AM.  We were packed lean and mean because this was the first time we were camping in our Corolla.  In the past, we'd always camped using our family van, but with my wife's recent surgery, she didn't have enough hand strength to work the stick shift in the Corolla, so we took that so she could maneuver around in the van.

As always, geocaching was a part of the trip.  When we hike, we usually look for geocaches along the way.  When we drive, we look for geocaches to break up the drive, so I don't get too tired and become a road hazard.  Since we were driving all the way to Zion in Utah in one day, one of our goals for the day was to find a cache in every state we traversed, for a total of four.  It was easily done, with Utah the only state where we only found one cache.

We found several caches in and around Las Vegas.  This was the first time we'd stopped in Las Vegas to find caches.  Since it's a major tourist attraction, most of the geocaches in the city tend to be virtual caches, one where you have to either post a photo showing you were there, or email the cache owner with answers to questions that can only be ascertained by being at the correct coordinates.

We found two virtuals near the MGM Grand Hotel, one at M&M World and one at the MGM Grand.  Las Vegas is such an entertaining city.  I don't think there are too many places where you can see a replica of the Statue of Liberty surrounded by a looping rollercoaster across the street from a large hotel castle.  Across another street is a golden lion and a casino/museum dedicated to candy that touts itself as "Melts in your Mouth, not in you Hand."  And hidden behind a sign near that, we saw Batman, sans mask, taking a drag on a cigarette.  Only in Vegas.

The rest of our trip through the Nevada desert was rather monotonous and we were rather glad we weren't early pioneers to the region since our car thermometer was registering 115˚ F outside that day.  It wasn't much cooler by the time we got to Zion, the temperatures in the high 90s at about 6 PM MDT.  All four days we were in Zion, it was triple digit temps, so shade was at a premium.

But the scenery was worthwhile and we happily set up our tent after a long day's drive.  The one problem that camping newcomers have is they don't know the best sites at a particular campground.  We wouldn't consider ourselves newcomers to camping, but definitely newcomers to Zion.  Our campsite didn't have the best shade in the world, so we had to improvise during the days to make sure we were away from the heat and in shade if we happened to be in camp.  There were other sites, particularly D Loop where there was lots of shade.  At least we'll know for next time.

No campfire that evening, in fact, we didn't have a single campfire as it was pretty much outlawed in southern Utah at the time due to extreme heat and dry conditions.  We survived without our S'mores that week.  But, as you can see, we had a pretty spectacular view.