Hazel Mountain Morning

Hazel Mountain Overlook | Beebower Productions

Hazel Mountain Overlook

Before the van rolled to a stop, I rocketed out the door, grabbed my gear and sprinted toward the rocks.  I’d miscalculated our travel time to the overlook.  There could be no greater sin for a landscape photographer.  You just don’t miss sunrises.

The entire drive from our cabin to the park I’d fidgeted, mentally kicking myself as I watched the first faint bands of pink color the sky above the mountains.  As we wound up the twisty, turning road to the park that morning, I realized we were so close yet so far.  My barnburner sunrise might just happen without me.

My husband and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia for a long weekend.  The goal:  capture as many sunrise shots as possible.  Day One wasn’t going so well.

I usually get to a location before sunrise to capture the period just before the sun peaks over the horizon.  It produces beautiful, colorful light.  This day I definitely missed the Belt of Venus, as that light is known, but I had just enough time to set up my tripod before the sun actually rose.

Thankfully I’d scouted the Hazel Mountain Overlook the day before. I had composed a photo in my mind that I hoped to capture the next morning.  I knew where the sun would shine its first rays of the morning.  The mountains layered one upon the other from this vantage point.  And the cool rock formations at the overlook perfectly framed those mountain peaks.

On this crisp winter morning, I was alone.  That was good.  No one but my husband and our dog saw my pell mell rush from the van that morning.  The pair decided to keep warm in the van, occasionally checking to make sure I hadn’t fallen off the cliff in my photo quest.

I didn’t have to wait long for the show to start.  That morning’s stress washed away as ribbons of color danced above the purple mountaintops.  A little magenta here, a bit of orange there.   The show just kept getting better and better.  In fact, I didn’t even mind freezing as I bracketed the shot.  (That’s a bold statement for me.  I hate being cold.)

A few hearty birds joined me at the rocks.  They sat facing the rising sun, twittering amongst themselves.  Besides the birds, the only sound I heard was the wind gently blowing across the mountaintops.  Perfect.

I continued shooting for about 40 minutes.  The pictures looked pretty good plus this slice of nature helped me unwind.  So maybe I redeemed myself.  I didn’t miss that glorious sunrise after all.

Bonus: I now knew exactly how long it took to reach the mountaintop from our cabin in the valley.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon | Beebower Productions

Through the Rocks

The Navajo call it Tse’ bighanilini or “the place where water runs through the rocks”. Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona draws thousands of visitors each year. The unusual sandstone rock formations allow shafts of light to stream in illuminating ripples and waves that look like an impressionistic painting.

Thousands of years of flash floods rushing through the canyon sculpted the amazing walls of sandstone. And thousands of people have toured the canyon since the Navajo Nation decided to open the land to the public in 1997. In fact, the only way to see Antelope Canyon, located near the border of Arizona and Utah, is to join a Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation approved tour.

Dad wasted no time getting on a tour truck. Packed like sardines, He, Mom and the other tourists were driven out to the desert. When the truck stopped the only clue they were in the right spot were groups of people who seemingly disappeared into the ground. 

Capturing the Cathedral

The entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon is a narrow, winding slit only a few feet wide. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary dry wash in the desert. But once inside, the magical canyon comes to life.

The elder Navajos consider the canyon a cathedral where one should stop and prepare to be in touch spiritually. While Dad was in awe of the slot canyon’s grandeur, it was hard to be in sync with Mother Nature due to the sheer number of tourists running to and fro. 

The mass of humanity stretched through the entire quarter mile canyon. Dad realized it was going to be mighty tricky to capture a descent photo without folks stepping into his picture.

One thing was right about this trip, though. Dad visited during summer when the shafts of light that sneak down into the canyon are best seen. Lighting is the key to creating a memorable photo. Other than the shafts of light, the canyon is rather dim. Plus the streaming light also enriches the color of the walls. 

All Dad had to do was to navigate through the crowded tour to find a unique angle with a great shaft of light. Then he had keep people out of the photo long enough to get a good exposure and still keep up with his tour guide who was adamant that no one was lingering behind. He was, as Dad likes to say, sweating bullets to get this photo.

Just In Time

During the last 10 minutes of his tour Dad finally found the shot. He quickly turned his tripod into a monopod so no one would trip over it, braced himself against one canyon wall and waited for a break in the steady stream of people.

He managed to snap this one photo before the tour guide hustled everyone out of the canyon. A storm was coming and she was worried about flash floods. People have died in the canyon during flash floods, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to care about in the grand scheme of things. 

Dad, however, breathed a sigh of relief. While under the gun, he managed to produce a really nice photo under really bad circumstances.  One photo. Sometimes photography is like that. You’re lucky to get one great photo. Maybe he’ll get another one when he returns this fall to visit Lower Antelope Canyon. He’s just hoping to see fewer people and feel less like a sardine.

The Great Gallery

The Great Gallery | Beebower Productions

Problems and Plagues

Two minor problems plagued Dad on this photo quest:  getting there and capturing the image.    He ventured to Horseshoe Canyon, a remote location two and a half hours from Moab, Utah, where The Great Gallery tells the story of people who lived there thousands of years ago. 

Ancient artists chose well on the location for their masterpiece.  Few have the fortitude to travel to Horseshoe Canyon.  To see The Great Gallery, visitors must first traverse 34 miles down a hazardous dirt road filled with roving sand dunes and equally wandering cattle.

Dad’s visit in May coincided with a 30-year epic windstorm that pushed whole sand dunes all over the road.  Local ranchers rescued car after car full of unwitting tourists stuck in the roving dunes. 

Dad came prepared.  His 4-wheel drive vehicle and years of practice in Pennsylvania blizzards helped him safely navigate to the parking lot, otherwise known as a plot of desert sand, at the end of the road.  No rescues needed. 

Next problem on tap, the extreme heat.  Even in the early morning, temperatures hovered near 100 degrees.  In fact, the National Park Service closes the canyon during certain times of the year due to heat.  On this day, it would only get hotter on the trail to the rock art.

Dad, his bags loaded with gear and plenty of water, along with Mom descended almost 750 feet down into the abyss, part of Canyonlands National Park, to view The Great Gallery.  Going down was a piece of cake.  Getting out would be challenging.

The 7-mile, round-trip trail led them through a dry, sandy creek bed.  They quickly began seeing small pieces of rock art along the way.  Their anticipation grew as they got closer to the Gallery. 

The canyon that holds the Gallery is a steep, narrow space.  As he descended into the deep a gargantuan 10-foot tall, evil demon-like figure stared down at Dad from the canyon wall.  A closer look revealed an endless array of faces that popped off the stone for at least 200 feet.

Strange Findings

His first thought:  This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.  But it’s pretty darn cool. 

Many of the figures looked like mummies.  Others appeared to be animals like dogs or goats.  All were painted in a red pigment. 

After admiring the artwork, the photographer in Dad got busy creating a photo plan.  The sheer size of the art posed a problem. Some of the figures in The Great Gallery are at least five to ten feet tall and the panel stretches over a long space.  It’s a significant piece of history that wouldn’t fit into one camera shot. 

The entire panel also was in the shade.  It wasn’t necessarily a problem, but it was another factor to consider.  After some contemplation Dad photographed the entire scene in chunks and then back in the office merged the panels in Photoshop to create a panoramic image with great detail.  Mission accomplished.  Now for the fun part.

Getting out of the canyon proved to be the real adventure.  The sandy streambed became a hamster wheel for Mom and Dad.  There was a lot of walking but little progress upward as the sand tried to suck them back down into the canyon.  To make matters worse all of that water they’d packed seemed to have disappeared.  By this time the temperature soared well over 106 degrees.

After a grueling workout, Mom and Dad finally made it to the “parking lot”.  Dad felt great about the images he’d captured.  Mom felt great that an air-conditioned hotel room would be waiting for them. And wouldn’t you know, the bottled water they’d craved on that long hike up had been hiding under some equipment in the camera bag all along.

If you enjoyed Dad’s photo from Horseshoe Canyon, you’ll like these photos too:

Antelope Canyon | Beebower Productions

Zion Moonrise | Beebower Productions

House on Fire | Beebower Productions

Bucket List: 10 Places You Shouldn’t Miss

Artist Portrait | Beebower Productions

His list reads like an Indiana Jones adventure:  mysterious ice caves in New Zealand, giant hungry grizzly bears in Alaska, colorful and glittering jewels in Ecuador, ghost towns baking in Wyoming and unpredictable, angry volcanoes in Iceland.  We’ve all got a bucket list, places we’d love to visit if we had found a pile of gold at the end of the rainbow.  My Dad is no exception.  His bucket list, however, revolves around places with outstanding photographic possibilities. 

He’s been to some of these spots, but it was usually for a commercial advertising shoot on a tight schedule.  Dad would love to go back and explore on his own.  (Incidentally I plan to stowaway in his camera cases for these adventures since I’m currently lacking a pot of gold.)

10.   Wind River Valley and Mountains, Wyoming:

With a motto of “Where Real Cowboys Work and Play” how could you go wrong visiting the area around Dubois, Wyoming in the Wind River Valley?  The valley, located in northwestern and central Wyoming, overflows with century old ranches, alpine meadows teaming with wildflowers, petroglyphs, ghost towns, rodeos, and wildlife.   The valley lies below the impressive Wind River Mountain range that stretches 100 miles through Wyoming.  The Continental Divide marches through the range too. 

Dad could easily fill all three categories of our website (old West, landscapes and wildlife) with stellar new images.  The wildlife alone would make him a happy camper.  You can find pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, eagles, badgers and bears roaming the land. 

He could also shoot his latest interest, gorgeous nighttime skies filled with a canopy of stars.  And the landscapes!  Oh my.  Seven of the largest glaciers in the Rocky Mountains inch through the Wind River Mountains.  The sculpted, giant spires and peaks in the Cirque of the Towers provide a spectacular backdrop for impressive landscape images.   Massive rivers sculpt the land and crystal clear lakes dot the landscape.

No matter where you look both the Wind River Valley and the Wind River mountain ranges are a photographer’s dream.

9.  Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming and Montana:

Next on the list, the Absaroka Mountains.  Nope it’s not the fictional Absaroka County, WY of “Longmire” fame, but a mountain range near the eastern border of Yellowstone National Park.   

The mountains cross the border of Wyoming and Montana and stretch for 160 miles.  This bad boy of ranges contains multiple peaks that reach 10,000 feet or higher many of them whittled into unique shapes.  The climbs can be treacherous due to the crumbling “kitty litter” of rocks.

The Absarokas are one of the most remote areas in the US brimming with wildlife, stunning landscapes, thick forests, active glaciers, tundra plateaus and mountain lakes.  Again, Dad could easily fill our website with old West, landscape and wildlife photos.  You can even go ice climbing on numerous frozen waterfalls at the south fork of the Shoshone River in the southern portion of the Absarokas.  Now that would make an interesting picture!

Dad also could capture images of grizzlies, wolves, big horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, elk, deer and black bears while exploring this area.  In fact, many local guides lead popular hunting expeditions and packhorse trips into the mountains. 

No matter where you look in the Absarokas, there’s a picture lurking. 

8.  Oregon and Washington State coasts:

Dad’s actually done many commercial shoots in both of these states, but he never had time to explore the coast.  Simply driving along US 101, which closely follows the coastline, provides enough eye candy to keep any photographer happy.  Sea stacks, beach caves, tide pools, sand dunes, lighthouses, shipwrecks and wildlife abound along this stretch of highway.  With so many great photo subjects, the trouble maybe tearing yourself away from one photo op to drive to the next.

7.  California:

The Golden State overflows with great scenic spots.  Dad would love to explore in great detail Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Yosemite and Redwood National parks.  He’d happily return to Mt. Shasta too.  All of these locations have outstanding landscape possibilities as well as abundant wildlife opportunities.  Dad will get to shoot at a few of these sites soon since I recently moved to the California.  Plus he gets the bonus of free room and board at my house during his photo expeditions. Throw in the free location scouting and taxi cab service I provide and Dad’s got it pretty easy in California.

6.  Alaska:

Without a doubt, Alaska is synonymous with landscape and wildlife photography. While Dad has been to Alaska several times, he’d gladly return.  Living glaciers, forests, stunning mountains and beaches make taking landscape photos easy.

The wildlife is impressive too, but three areas hold Dad’s interest.  Kachemak Bay near Homer teams with marine life in the protected Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  You can also find gobs of bald eagles.  If you want to capture our national symbol in flight, Kachemak is the place.

Admiralty Island near Juneau also has eagles.  In April and May it’s common to have over 800 bald eagle nests on the island.  Admiralty, also known as the island of the bears, really does have a whole lot of bears, about 1,600.  So if they don’t eat you for lunch, you have a pretty good chance of capturing them with your camera.

At Lake Clark National Park and Preserve west of Anchorage you can see bears as well as a plethora of volcanoes, glaciers, salmon, moose, seabirds and pristine lakes.  What’s not to like?

For the truly adventurous, Saint Paul Island in the Bearing Sea between Alaska and Russia is the place to photograph breeding seabirds and northern fur seals.  It’s also a major flyway for migratory birds.  It’s not, however, for the faint of heart.  Saint Paul is considered a polar climate because even during the summer temperatures it only reaches a high of 50 degrees.  During the winter, temperatures dip into the negatives.  And there’s only one city on the island, Saint Paul.  We don’t know if you can see Russia from your backyard while on Saint Paul, but you sure can get some stellar shots of birds and seals.

No matter where you look in Alaska, there’s definitely something to shoot.

Join us next week when we reveal the remaining top 5 locations that have Dad drooling over polar bears, ice caves, volcanoes, jewels of the garden and reindeer.

Devils Garden

The Executives | Beebower Productions

Creativity.  Dad’s never lacked that.  But his imagination ran wild the first time he set foot in the Devils Garden at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.  Soaring stone arches, curious hoodoos and mushroom rocks made him blink twice to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.  After all it was pretty early in the morning.

“I’d seen pictures in magazines, but I’d never made it there even though I’d really wanted to, “ Dad said.  “You’ve never seen anything like it, so you just stand there and stare.  It’s about the size of three football fields and more stuff unfolds as you walk around.  It’s amazing and very easy to explore.”

Multiple, well-worn footpaths wander through the slickrock and sandy surfaces in the garden luring hikers to the areas with the most visual interest.  Dad spent a couple of hours rambling about photographing the surreal formations from pointy monoliths to hidden caves.  He loved Metate Arch, which he thought looked a lot like rocks out for a stroll.  He called his image “Walking Rocks”.

Walking Rocks | Beebower Productions

Over time wind and water created the strangely shaped rocks like Metate and the smaller Mano Arch.  These unusual formations inspired President Bill Clinton to create the almost two million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996.  For the first time in U.S. history, he put the Bureau of Land Management in charge of the massive park.

The rugged and remote parcel of land in south central Utah remains largely uncultivated.  In fact, it was the last place in the United States to be mapped.  But the Anazai and Freemont peoples, two ancient Native American peoples, not only knew the area; they called the land home from A.D. 950-1100.  Their petroglyphs, ruins and artifacts remain scattered across the land.

Beyond the boundaries of the relatively small Devils Garden, the Monument includes cliffs, terraces, plateaus, raging rivers, natural bridges and vibrant cliffs.  The land comprises five zones from parched deserts to coniferous forests.  Photographers love the narrow slot canyons, rocks with swirling patterns and colorful buttes.  However, reaching these treasures can be challenging, as most of the park remains undeveloped.

Because he wanted to explore more than just the Devils Garden, Dad hired a guide in Escalante to show him other promising spots in the area.  His guide grew up here and he had 4-wheel drive, something Dad lacked on his van.  They met in town at 5 a.m. that morning for a full day of exploration in a company Jeep. 

“The first time you go someplace new, especially some place as remote as Escalante, you should be thinking about the possibilities of getting lost or stuck,” Dad said.  “I viewed this as a scouting trip and hiring a local guide just made sense.”

The guide showed Dad about five or six spots he’d love to return to in the future.  For this trip, though, he did make a second stop at the Devils Garden the next day for more photography.

He quickly discovered the light danced across the Entrada sandstone creating a visual feast for the eyes no matter the time of day.  Naturally sunrise and sunset provided amazing light for photography here, but Dad also felt the allure of nighttime.

“The nifty part of the place is the number of cool images that are possible.  You could easily spend a whole day here photographing,” he said.  “It would be perfect for star photography too.”

This trip didn’t give Dad enough time to photograph everything, but he got lots of ideas for future shots.  No doubt Dad will return to the fiendishly fun garden soon to capture all of those photos dancing in his imagination.

Devils Gardens | Beebower Productions

If You Go

    • Fill up the gas tank and bring plenty of food and water.  There are no services in the immediate area.
    • To reach the Devils Garden, go south from the town Escalante on Highway 12 for about 5 miles.  Turn right on to the dirt Hole-in-the-Rock Road.  Go 12.3 miles until you see the sign “Devils Garden”.  Take the road on the right for ¼ mile.  Park at the trailhead lot.
    • A 4-wheel drive vehicle gives you options on the dirt roads within the Monument.  The rough road to the Devils Garden may be impassible when wet.
    • Cell phone coverage is almost non-existent.  Plan accordingly.
    • The BLM provided a few picnic tables, fire pits and pit toilets.  Collection of wood is forbidden so bring your own wood or charcoal.
    • The BLM operates campgrounds at Calf Creek, Deer Creek and Whitehouse.  You can also get a free overnight permit for backcountry camping at any of the four visitor centers:  Escalante, Kanab, Big Water and Cannonville.
    • While there are no official trails, try to stay away from the fragile desert plants and don’t climb on the arches.
    • Mountain bikes are allowed on all roads but not the slickrock or cross-country.
    • Dogs are allowed, but they must be leashed at all times.
    • To avoid extreme weather (like flash floods or lightening), the best times to visit the area are April through June and September through October.

 

Bugaboo Falls

Bugaboo Mountain Falls | Beebower Productions

The wheels were turning in his mind.  Spectacular waterfalls.  Cascading streams of water.  Powerful torrents pounding the rocks below.  Dad could see it in his mind.  Now he just had to find it.

From the minute that Dad learned advertising executives were looking for a spectacular waterfall as part of their new ad campaign, he began researching potential spots even though the advertising execs hadn’t decided which photographer would win the assignment. 

Undeterred by this minor detail, Dad flew to Canada, a place his research confirmed had many spectacular waterfalls, to hunt for the perfect one.   First stop on his quest–the remote Bugaboo Falls in British Columbia, Canada. 

To reach the waterfall, he and his assistant zoomed down 50 miles of rutted, rough logging roads in their rented truck. The duo then hiked down into the river valley lugging camera gear (which meant they hiked back up hill too) for Dad to get this shot. 

This photo could have been taken with any number of cameras.  Dad chose the Horseman SW-612 for several reasons.  The waterfall was quite wide.  Since this was taken in the days of film and Photoshop was in its infancy, shooting the picture correctly was of primary importance.  A panoramic camera would allow Dad to show the full width of the falls without distracting distortions that could happen with a regular 35mm camera and wide-angle lens.

The Horseman is a lightweight camera compared to other medium format rigs.  Since Dad was hiking to the falls, every ounce counted. 

The camera also had a viewing lens on top along with masks to fit three different size lenses.  It was almost like using a view camera, a tool that many landscape photographers routinely used.  A view camera is a heavier and more expensive option than the Horseman.

Finally, the size of the film played in Dad’s favor.  Knowing that the advertising execs would blow the image up to billboard size, Dad chose the Horseman because he could use 120 roll film as opposed to 35mm.  The large size of the 120 roll film provided more detail and resolution, something you definitely wanted if a photo of epic proportions would be greeting you along the highway.

To create that epic photo Dad got up very early one morning waded knee-deep into the water at the base of the falls and set up his heavy-duty Gitzo tripod in the swirling, churning waters.  He shot for about two hours, choosing a slow shutter speed to create the foamy streams of water cascading over the rocks.

All of that hiking and shooting created a big appetite.  Once the shoot was in the can, Dad scrambled out of the river and exchanged his muddy duds for clean jeans.  He and his assistant headed up river for some goodies at the ski resort along the creek. 

They didn’t stay long, though, because a giant storm was pressing down on the area.  They needed to get off the logging road before it turned into a muddy monster that could suck a small truck into its depths.  The pair made it safely back to Radium Hot Springs before the worst of the storm hit.  Despite the quick exit, it had been a successful day at the waterfall.

Upon his return to Dallas, Dad learned that the advertising folks did want him to shoot the ad.  He showed them the Bugaboo Falls photo along with several other locations and then waited on their decision.  He waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

The advertising team finally decided they wanted to use the Bugaboo location, but it was December and the range was buried under 30 feet of snow.  (That wasn’t a typo.  They really get at least 30 feet of snow in the winter.)  That extreme weather also freezes the waterfall during wintertime.  So Bugaboo Falls was a no-go for this particular ad campaign.

Luckily Dad knew how ad agencies worked.  He already had a “Plan B” ready for the ad folks in case they took too long deciding on Bugaboo.  He would piece together three different photographs from Canada and Colorado to create the perfect backdrop for beer sales.  At one point, he would find himself dangling over a half-frozen creek to get “a part” of the shot.  You can read all about that adventure here.

While the advertising folks weren’t going to use the Bugaboo photograph, Dad realized he had a very nice image to add to his portfolio.  Plus he had a great story on the lengths he’d go to make his clients happy. 

 

If you like this photo, check out some more fun Outdoor Art!

Canadian Mountain Wilderness |
Beebower Productions

High Country Fly Fishing |
Beebower Productions

Packhorse Rider Fog | Beebower Productions

Keyhole Arch | Beebower Productions

Waterfall People | Beebower Productions

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