The Backyard Challenge continues…

The smoke seems to come and go. Our air quality is a little better, but seeing the mountains and sky is hit or miss. The flowers in the backyard, however, are doing just fine and loving the camera.

So far, I’ve chosen to shoot with the Tamron 150-600 lens handheld. To improve the quality of the images, I need to use a shorter lens and tripod. I enjoy experimenting, and using the big telephoto lens for macro and close up images is an experiment for me. I need to refine my processes, but there’s hope.

And so, here’s a sample of the last couple days.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Volume 5

While preparing my post this morning, I realized that I didn’t finish my ‘summer vacation’ series last year. This volume will showcase images from our trip to Yosemite National Park in August 2017. I was taking a night photography workshop and we decided to spend a few extra days enjoying the Park.

I rented a Canon 6D camera body for this trip to enjoy the ‘full frame sensor’ experience. I liked it and subsequently purchased a Canon 6D Mark II body.

There were fires around Yosemite last year which impacted our time there. They were not as bad as this year, however. Without further ado, here’s my stuff.

We entered Yosemite through the Tioga Pass entrance, uphill from Lee Vining CA. We took our time crossing the Tuolumne Meadows to avoid the daytime traffic in the Yosemite Valley. One of my images of Tenaya Creek…

…and another image from Tioga Road…

…and more Tenaya Creek.

One of the iconic sunset views in Yosemite (El Capitan on the right) obscured by the smoke.

I got to looking around while making the previous image, and found that I liked this view of the Merced River at my feet much better.

One of the images from the famous Swinging Bridge during the night portion of the workshop. The glow on the rocks in the lower right of the image is Yosemite Village.

And the Milky Way did not disappoint. The photographer could have done a better job, however.

Tunnel View.

We were in Yosemite during the solar eclipse and had just arrived at Glacier Point as the eclipse was in progress. My lovely bride made friends with a family looking at the eclipse (they shared their solar glasses with her) while I made this image.

Everyone who goes to Yosemite should ride the Green Dragon. If you don’t know what it is, then you need to go find out. One of our stops was on the Merced River. I used a log as a tripod and made multiple exposures for this HDR image.

Yosemite Falls didn’t disappoint. I got up early one morning and took a walk with the camera and tripod. With few people around at that time of day, I had my pick of vantage points.

We had a wonderful time in Yosemite. We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a dinner in the big dining room at the Majestic Hotel. Go to Yosemite when you get the chance!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

What to shoot when there’s nothing to shoot…

Today started like any other day. I woke up, did my morning things, and went to the kitchen to make breakfast. I was just about to take breakfast to my lovely bride when she walks into the kitchen with her iPad showing a video presentation called ‘what to shoot when there’s nothing to shoot.’ We watched while we ate, enjoying the images on the screen and the commentary.

As we watched, I got to thinking about the current situation here in the Carson Valley. We have serious smoke from the wildfires in California – some news reports indicate that Gardnerville has the worst air quality in the country. Visibility is almost nil. We haven’t seen the mountains in a long time. Of course, the smoke makes for some interesting sunsets.

This has been our view of the evening sun for the last 4-5 days. I shot this with the Canon 7DII, big lens, handheld. Look close and you can see the outline of the mountains in the lower right corner of the image.

The guy making the presentation talked about a time when he was leading a photo workshop in Monument Valley and a snowstorm kicked up. The storm obscured the grand views and challenged his creative processes to make the trip worthwhile.

This is not the first time I’ve faced conditions like this. A year ago, my lovely bride and I were in Yosemite National Park and many of the vista shots were obscured by smoke, so I made the best of it and shot on a smaller scale. I came away with some beautiful images. And I see that I didn’t post any of those images – stay tuned!

With this year’s smoke, I’ve chosen to shoot on an even smaller scale – macro in the back yard.

This is a Rose of Sharon flower being pollenated. (Get really close and one can see pollen on his head and body.) Handheld Canon 7DII with the big lens, from about 9′ away.

Our Hibiscus has been a favorite subject for several years. More close up than macro, as these blooms range from 6″-12″ in diameter. This mature plant produces a large number of blooms for a couple weeks every August.

Another point the presenter made was to give yourself a challenge to make you get out and make images. Taking this to heart, I’ve decided to give myself a new challenge every month. I’ll continue my backyard challenge this month and set a new challenge for September.

Until next time…Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Wyoming landscapes!

While I was in Wyoming this spring, my Dad and I took many drives to places that neither of us had ever been or hadn’t been in a very long time. The landscape around Cheyenne is high plains, as opposed to the high desert and mountains around my home in Nevada. The mountains rise up as you travel west to Laramie. On most days, the skies did not disappoint. Montana advertises itself as ‘Big Sky Country,’ but we had them in our travels in Wyoming.

Traveling on Round Top Road west of Cheyenne, we came across this scene – one of the historic ranches.

Closer to Laramie than Cheyenne, this is one of the smaller rock formations in the Vedawoo recreation area. This image was taken from the shoulder of Happy Jack Road (Wyoming Highway 210).

Traveling on one of the dirt roads off Happy Jack Road, we drove past Crystal Reservoir on the way to Buford, and passed this little scene.

If you’ve ever been to or viewed images of the Palouse Region in southeast Washington state, you know what a photographic place it is. Dad and I took a drive around eastern Laramie County one day and found landscapes that, in many ways, rival the Palouse for its beauty. Here’s one…

…and here’s another. This barn is actually in the Burns township and an old friend if mine chastised me for not calling while I was ‘in town.’ He later admitted that he wasn’t home that day so I was forgiven.

I shot this from US 85 approaching the town of Hawk Springs.

This is also on US 85. I stopped here a couple times. This is the second shot where I got out the neutral density filters to smooth out the water on the spillway.

This image was made along Wyoming Highway 313, east of Chugwater.

This is the Snowy Range west of Laramie. I’m standing near the middle of Wyoming Highway 130. Snowy Range Pass (the road) tops out at 10,850 feet elevation and the views there are stunning!

Well, this is just a little peek into the beautiful scenery that can be found in my former stomping ground. I hope you can see why I refer to the area as God’s Country.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

A very fun evening!

Action Camera and Tamron lenses sponsored a photo walk in Virginia City yesterday evening. Ken Hubbard, the walk leader, is a national representative for Tamron lenses. I’ve had the privilege of taking night photography workshops with Ken previously, so I was excited to explore Virginia City in the evening light.

The town is quiet at 8 p.m. A few cars on the street but, with most stores closed, the pedestrian traffic was very light. VC’s street lights are beautiful, and cast an orange glow on everything. I chose building exteriors and store windows as my subjects for the evening. The store windows offered challenges with interior lights creating hot spots the images and competing with the ambient light from the street lights. I set the Canon 6D Mk II on Manual, played with ISOs of 100, 200, and 800, and various apertures. Shooting on a tripod, I bracketed exposures. This allowed me to be choosy in my selection of images to combine while processing. I also experimented with black and white for several of the images, as you will see in the images below.

Walking up Main Street and I saw these bottles in the window, backlit by the room lights. Next time, I’ll use a smaller aperture to extend the depth of field and make the bottles a little sharper. Of course, shooting at an angle through vintage glass may not allow full focus on the bottles.

One of the store fronts. I tried to mask the interior light using the item nearest the glass, with limited success (in my mind). I worked this image in both color and black and white, and decided I like the b/w version best.

Another of the store fronts. I had better success using the ambient light in this image. I combined 4 of the bracketed exposures and then applied a filter from the Nik Collection for the final image. I liked the color version of this image. Another challenge was the condition of the glass in the store windows – this glass wasn’t too bad.

My favorite image from the evening! This restaurant on the south end of town was wonderful. When I first saw this scene, there was a pickup on the right encroaching into the building. When I walked by again a couple hours later, the truck was gone and I was able to get this. Again, I compared the color version to the black and white version, and chose the b/w. I cropped in a little to reduce clutter on the sides, and had to decide if the fluttering bunting in the center of the image was worth worrying about. (You can’t take your eyes off it now, can you?)

Low light photography is challenging but fun – I experiment with is occasionally. The smoke around Virginia City wasn’t horrible, but did limit my shooting. The moon came up and was a beautiful reddish orange from the smoke, but I didn’t even try for moon shots mostly because of the smoke. Take a chance and go out in the late evening, and just experiment. You will learn a lot and might surprise yourself. Be careful where you go. Take a friend to watch your back. Yes, I’ve found myself in places where I shouldn’t have been without backup so I speak from experience.

On a positive note, the music from one of the bars made the evening pleasant! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

My favorite critter…

As a Wyoming native, I spent my formative years with images and representations of the Bison, although we always called them Buffalo at the time (kind of like Pronghorn…we always called them Antelope). They have always been one of my favorite animals and on my bucket list since I took up serious photography. I spent several months in Wyoming this spring, and had several opportunities to take pictures of the Bison there.

If you’re traveling to or through Wyoming on I-80, stop by Bear River State Park on the Wyoming-Utah border. Take Exit 5 (maybe 6) and turn south. Bear River maintains a Bison herd. In March, I stopped and took some shots in a snow storm.

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One day, Dad and I made a run to Fort Collins CO. On the way back to Cheyenne, we stopped by the Terry Bison Ranch (Exit 2 on I-25) because the Bison were fairly close to the frontage road. While I was shooting over the fence, a nice guy in a Jeep drove up and engaged me in conversation. Turns out he was the ‘Boss’ at the Terry Bison Ranch, and he told me to drive on in and get some pictures. ‘Don’t get out of the car and don’t drive too close’ were his only words of warning. I was able to make these images.

7PS6406-e2-w7ACR6365-e1a-w7ACR6382-e1-w7ACR6368-bw-e1-w7ACR6349-e1a-w7ACR6424-e1a-wAs many of you have experienced,  I use this image as my ‘Rolling On The Floor’ (ROFL) emoji. It just seems appropriate.

Of course, I’ll make more Bison images when we head to other parts of Wyoming next summer. This will have to hold you until then.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

I must be a very bad boy…

…because two times today I was accosted for not posting in a long time. Twice! In one day!! Holy cow!!!

Well, it has been a long time since my last post. I apologize and make no excuses. Now that I’m home, I’ll be going through the images from the last 9 months and you’ll see more from me.

In a feeble attempt to make up for my transgression, I offer the following images of Pronghorn Antelope for your viewing pleasure. Pronghorn outnumber humans in Wyoming (or maybe it just feels that way!) and can be found throughout the state. They are commonly found in the plains areas. Pronghorn can run as fast as 45 mph, which makes them one of the fastest land animals.

These images were made from the side of the road in the southeast corner of Wyoming (around Cheyenne) and just across the border in northern Colorado.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

A very short four months ago, my life took an abrupt turn. As many of you know, my Mother passed away in January. Since that time, I’ve been with my Dad helping him with his life transition.

Barbara Rudolphia ‘Dolfe’ Brown Van Alyne, circa mid 1960’s, June 1932 – January 2018

In helping Dad, I’ve gotten to know my Mother differently. There are things that I knew: the loving Mother, Grandmother, and Great-Grandmother she was, accomplished author, and musician. Thankfully, she kept fun stuff from her childhood and beyond.

Mom was the 14th of 17 children born to Tandy and Grace Brown. When she was two years old, her family moved into their home just east of Holliday Park in Cheyenne WY (the Brown kids pretty much ruled their side of the park). Mom got her middle name, Rudolphia, from Rudolphia Holliday, who was instrumental in building Holliday Park and a good friend of Grandma Brown. Mom used a variation of her middle name – Dolfe – most of her life, because there were several ‘Barbaras’ and even a couple of other ‘Barbara Browns’ in her schools.

Mom had to walk 8 blocks to Fincher Elementary School, even though Alta Vista was only 2 blocks away, because her Mother didn’t like the principal at Alta Vista. (Of course, uphill both ways – sound familiar?) A common theme in her progress reports (aka report cards) was ‘…Dolfe would do better if she worked harder…’ Hmmmmm! She was selected to Girls’ State in 1949 and was elected Sheriff for their mock government session.

Grandma Brown required all her children to play a musical instrument. Mom chose the French Horn and played it extremely well. (I have the judging sheets and band letters to prove it!) She played the piano and taught piano for many years (she used the money from piano lessons to buy the family cabin in the mountains). She also played in piano competitions and placed very well. I didn’t inherit any of her musical talent, even though she tried in vain to teach me both piano and French Horn.

Mom and Dad married in 1951. My brother, Bobby, was born in 1952 and was joined by my sister, Barbara, in 1953. I was born in 1956, and they bought a house in south Cheyenne in 1957. Rodney, the baby brother, was born in 1962. Mom and Dad bought the cabin when I was a toddler, and we spent most of our summer weekends in the mountains.

Mom was very active in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) at our schools, and at the state and national level. She traveled Wyoming in the early 1960’s speaking about the health risks associated with smoking. She was a Girl Scout leader for my sister and several cousins. The local rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, used Girl Scouts as ushers in the 1950’s and ’60’s. I never missed a performance of the rodeo until they quit using Girl Scouts as ushers.

Mom was always a history buff. She loved the history of Cheyenne, the state of Wyoming, and settling the West. When my brother attended the Boy Scouts World Jamboree in Idaho in 1967, our family trip there started by following the Bozeman Trail to Custer’s Battlefield in Montana, to Idaho, then home through Yellowstone National Park and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. Mom knew the story of every fort and battlefield.

Her family caused this passion for history, I think. One of her ancestors was a Cherokee maid who married a ‘dirty old German fur trapper.’ They often set traps in a neighboring tribe’s territory, and Mom often told us of the time they were on a bluff in a cold camp while members of the other tribe camped at the base of the bluff when looking for them.

Her Grandmother, Molly Eidam, was quite the free spirit who wanted to be an independent woman at a time when that wasn’t going to happen. Molly had several marital relationships so she could run various businesses, including houses of ill repute in Colorado and Wyoming.

Mom’s mother, Grace, didn’t approve of Grandma Eidam’s lifestyle and didn’t like being an only child, which contributed to her very high moral code and the large family. Grandma Brown baked pies in a wood burning stove to make money for her children’s music lessons. (All Mom’s brothers are tall and strong from chopping wood, and the sisters are short and round from being in the kitchen helping to bake.) Grace was selected as Wyoming’s Mother of the Year in 1954.

Mom’s father, Tandy, was born in Georgia and came west with the Army. He was stationed at Ft. Crook (now Offutt Air Force Base), Nebraska, and Ft. D. A. Russell (now F. E. Warren AFB) near Cheyenne, where he met and married Grace. Tandy served in the Phillippines and chased Pancho Villa with Blackjack Pershing. He and Grace were expecting their 3rd child when he was mustered out of the Army (apparently a Sergeant couldn’t have that many kids). Shortly after, he started working for the Union Pacific Railroad and continued until his 70th birthday. His job allowed him to take Mom to Georgia to visit family when she was a little girl.

Dad was gone quite often for the National Guard and Boy Scouts. Mom stayed home with the kids, but their letters showed that they loved each other very much. They were married more than 66 years!

In 1981, Dad went on active duty at the Pentagon in Washington, D. C. He started with a two year tour of duty that turned into ten years. Mom went with him to our nation’s capitol, living outside Cheyenne for the first time in her life. She planned on being a soldier’s wife and ‘just stay home’ but that lasted about a week, so she became a Kelley girl. Her earnings allowed them to travel the east coast and expand her study of history to include early American history. She also began serious genealogy research which continued until her death.

Mom and Dad lived on Sergeants Major Row on Ft. Myer (now Joint Base Myer-Henderson), Virginia, which is immediately adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. Mom joined the Ft. Myer Enlisted Wives Club, and was active in the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) Auxiliary where she served as the National Vice President.

Mom was invited to become an Arlington Lady in 1982. The Arlington Ladies attend funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, providing comfort to the families and representing the chiefs of staff of the armed services (Mom represented the Army Chief of Staff). After my brother’s death in 1985, Mom laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. She truly enjoyed her time as an Arlington Lady and spoke of it often.

After Dad’s retirement, they returned to their home in Cheyenne (yes, the one they bought in 1957). Just before Dad’s retirement, they built an addition on the house consisting of a huge family room, master suite, and two car attached garage. At the same time, they remodeled the kitchen. This work included a small office that Mom used extensively. She needed space to store family history information and work on her first book about her family’s involvement in the Civil War. Since her ancestors came from Georgia, they fought for the Confederacy.

Mom and Dad traveled extensively visiting grandchildren and family, and doing genealogy research. They spent lots of time at the cabin, especially during Frontier Days and the hottest part of summer. She became a big fan of the Wyoming Cowgirl basketball team. She was quite tech savvy, using email and texting to keep up with the grandkids and great grandkids, and using computer technology to conduct research and write her books.

After her death, I found that she had two more books in process: the first was a cookbook of recipes used by her mother and other members of the family, and the second was her family tree. The first chapter, Tandy and Grace The Early Years, was written, and the rest of the book was outlined and ready to be written.

Mom and Dad’s health caused them to slow their travel in recent years. The family gathered in the summer of 2016 to celebrate Dad’s 85th birthday and Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary.

It’s tough to have Mother’s Day without my mother. It’s tougher on Dad, though (his mother passed away in 1952), so my attention is focused on him. In my heart, I know that Mom is in heaven with my brother and her family, and has been enjoying meeting all those people who were names on a family tree or possibly an image from a faded picture in her collection.

We miss you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Bonus Day!

Bonus Day is one of my favorite expressions. These two little words, when used in the proper context, can be very powerful. On this day, these two words are appropriate to describe the great shooting day I had.

The weather was gorgeous – 60+ degrees and no wind (a wonderful change from the past couple weeks!). Dad and I loaded up and drove south. We found a few head of Pronghorn and the Bison weren’t too far off the road. We stopped at the Terry Bison Ranch and had a wonderful lunch of Bison burger and sweet potato fries, then proceeded south on the Frontage Road to see if more Bison were close to the road. They weren’t, but we found a Meadowlark and a Finch.

When I first saw this Meadowlark, he was on a fence wire. While I was getting the camera ready, he jumped down on the ground. I pulled forward slowly, and captured him sitting in the grass.

Just a little bit down the road, here was this Finch also sitting on the fence.

And then the real fun began! I’ve posted pictures of Pronghorn recently, but we came on this Buck near the road. I approached cautiously and hadn’t spooked him, but two cars passed us and they scared him off. I had already made this image.

One of my favorite Pronghorn images! How close was he? Well, I didn’t have to crop the image.

We got back on the pavement and turned east towards Carr CO. The road was nice and the country beautiful. We saw lots of Pronghorn, which was not surprising. What was surprising was finding Pronghorn in beautiful settings, and they cooperated…mostly!

This Buck was by himself in front of this beautiful rock formation, and didn’t run as I made my images.

When we stopped here, there were 4 Pronghorn in front of this windmill. This one was alone on the right. The 4 ran (of course) when I got out of the car. This one followed, but I had time to get this shot. I like it, but wish I had caught the 4.

Getting one Wildlife Panorama with Pronghorn would be great, but making two Pronghorn Wildlife Panos in one day is just, well, Bonus Day!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR