Pregnant Burro in Grass

Pregnant burro in tall grassIf you have never visited Custer State Park in South Dakota, you are really missing out. I found this pregnant burro in tall grass while we were driving through the park during our brief residence nearby. It is a great place to see the burros, coyotes, prairie dogs, buffalo (bison), fox, deer, elk and much more. This burro was just a few steps away from me. They are quite tame and like to come and greet the visitors, who often provide various types of snacks (against park rules). This picture brings me a great deal of peace and satisfaction. The rolling prairie that surrounds the scene is just as calming as you might expect.


Tree of Life

Since I am just beginning to explore the realm of HDR photography, I continually find myself trying to push the limits of what it can and cannot do. What that tends to mean is that I shoot into the sun a lot. Since we’ve been having a record dry summer here in Idaho, that means there aren’t any clouds to photograph. What then? Well, I just make the most of it. On this occasion I saw this cool tree gracing the hillside and knew that I had to at least try and make a photograph. Facing away from the sun meant a rather flat and boring scene, but facing into the sun brought those nice long shadows and also gave me something to use for framing and reducing the glowing sun. And so we have something that looks like an oxymoron, a dried up and dying tree of life.

tree of life


I’m beginning to play with HDR. My goal is not to create images that LOOK like they are HDR, but that have a nice range of tone that is visible to the human eye. Because current camera technology is limited, the only way to do this is to combine several images into one. This can produce some very crazy results. This image looks closer to normal than it started out. Surprisingly, it takes a lot more work to get a natural looking image using HDR processes, rather than a crazy psychedelic scene. This little view is just outside my driveway here in Idaho. It is one of my first attempts at capturing and processing HDR and I hope it is a pleasing skyway view.

skyway in Idaho

Fish Cloud Swimming in the Deep Blue Sky

This part of Idaho is dry in the summer. VERY dry. Like, we haven’t had rain for 65 days kind of dry. So I was a little surprised to see this odd fish cloud lounging above town a few weeks ago. That was the only one. Not a single other cloud could be seen. It struck me as strange, unique and interesting all at once. I wanted to capture the ‘above town’ part of it, but that part of town just wasn’t deserving of being in a photograph. It wasn’t until I started to work on the image that the shape of a fish stuck it’s head out at me. What do you think: fishy or not?

fish cloud

Senj Sky

On the day I was visiting friends in Senj, there were two storms that started to pound on us at almost the same time. This is just a little shot I got when Irma stopped on the side of the road for Jonny and I take a few snaps. It was pretty dark, very windy and I had no tripod. I did my best. I hope you enjoy the Senj Sky as much as I enjoyed seeing it in person along the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

Senj Sky

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

You never quite know what you’ll find when you venture out for a photo walk… One quite evening I decided it was time to go looking in various nooks & crannies to find out what was in my neighborhood. As I boldly crossed the frontier line of my driveway and started down the adjoining one, I immediately was surprised to find this fancy little truck tucked down below the grade of the road. As I started to choose an angle to shoot from I got my second surprise; the cat on a hot tin roof of the truck. It’s my neighbors cat Lucy and she is a very good mouse hunter. What fun! What wasn’t quite as much fun was that this was really the only angle to shoot this from as the others were surrounded by busy/noisy things in the background.

I hope you enjoy this image as much as I enjoyed being surprised by it. If I try hard enough, I can even see this from my own bedroom window.

Cat on a truck

South Mineral Creek Sunrise

While on my latest vacation with my family, I decided to stop being so lazy and actually take some pictures in the morning when the light was optimal. The next thing I did was shoot straight into the sun. Ugh. Well, I think I like this image anyhow. It was just too beautiful to pass up at least attempting to capture the scene. I did take the necessary bracketed exposures for and HDR process, but haven’t gotten to that part quite yet.

The morning was cool and clear until the sun came up. Then all of these awesome puffs of clouds started to rise up out of the valleys and skitter across the sky in assorted patterns. It was actually a great time to be making images of the surrounding cliffs and peaks and I made the most of it while I could. Now I have to do the actual work part of the shots – post processing. Well, that is a story for another time. Back to the setting.

With the high mountains surrounding, jutting up to 13,000 ft, and the dark foliage of the trees I really had my challenges. I was also down in a deep canyon shooting waterfalls and rocks and sunbeams, and those images truly do need HDR processing to look nice.

Just imagine being there in the still morning air, bundled up in cozy gear against the chilly 38 degrees and the dew on the grass. It’s really a picture of peacefulness.

South Mineral Creek Sunrise, Silverton, CO

Senj Lightning

These images were captured quite unexpectedly and came in the middle of two unlikely and unexpected weather events that just happened to slam into each other: a lightning storm and a thing called the “Bura” (more on that later).

While visiting with some friends in the city of Senj, Croatia we went up into the mountains for a breathtaking look down on the Adriatic Sea. While we were up there, our friend kept watching the weather and encouraging us to make our way back to the cars and go down the mountain. I was pretty much ignoring him because it was just one of those misty, foggy, mushy types of clouds that were very slowly creeping their way toward us. When we finally did wrap up our little hike and head down the mountain all still seemed just fine. Castle in Senj, CroatiaWe got back to the town of Senj and they were showing me a castle when all of a sudden, like a fan was switched on, wind just started hammering us.  Bura. The car (Prius) was being rocked back and forth like a toy. Well, silly me wanted to get out to take pictures of the castle. Smart Jonny had Irma (driving) point the car into the wind so that it wouldn’t rip the door off. Well, good thing he did. After the car was positioned I made my move. Or, tried to. I pushed and strained with all of my might, arms and legs at the end of their power, but I couldn’t get the door open enough against the wind to get out. Even if I had managed to make a gap wide enough, I would not have been able to push with arms and legs and also magically get out at the same time.

I did manage to get a picture, though it isn’t very striking. Cancel the castle and head home.

When we arrived at the house, the wind had lessened to a manageable intensity to at least get out of the car, but at the same time unexpected event number two was knocking at the door.

For those not familiar with the geography of where I am describing, it is sunny and semi-arid. There isn’t much greenery around at all and it is VERY rocky. Everything is stone, though that doesn’t have much impact on the weather. It just doesn’t rain much along the eastern side of the Adriatic during the summer. First the wind surprised us, and then the rain. And they didn’t come from the same directions.  Quite a fancy trick.

When the rain began it was beautiful to see the sun glowing through the storm and the rain falling into the white capped vivid blue sea. A rare treat for this American boy! Then the lightning started with a BOOM to alert us. Jonny decided to get out his camera and tripod to do a little lightning shooting. Their home is up on the hillside facing the sea with the city and harbor below and to the left. He already has an AMAZING image of fireworks at the harbor and lightning striking the lighthouse. Too bad he isn’t interested in showing it to the world or I would link to it. Back to the story.

Jonny is all set up and, knowing I am a photographer, is trying to get me to take out my gear and shoot. I had no tripod. Problem. I have no intervalometer. Another problem. I have no experience shooting lightning. Further problem, but with a solution. My gracious host not only encouraged me to try it but taught me how. I did experience a lot of non-ideal challenges while shooting. I had to set my camera on the (covered) balcony railing since I had no tripod, in the rain. I had to manually trigger each 10 sec exposure. The worst issue, as you’ll see in the images below, is that because of the lack of tripod, I had to set up where there was a giant power pole right in the middle of my frame. UGH! Even more frustrating was that the lightning shots I did get were always directly behind the pole. I was hoping to avoid that by shooting with a wide lens. And since my camera was in the rain I was also getting water spots on the lens. Out of a couple hundred exposures I got a few shots with fire in the sky, and I present my favorite to you below. Please note that there are two versions of the same image. One before correction and one after.

Enjoy the lightning!

Inspiration at the Headgate


As a professional photographer I think it is very important to keep moving forward, growing your skill, your craft and your passion. But, when those things are connected to a paycheck, somehow the fire seems to dim. Well today I got a little fuel added to my fire by Trey Ratcliff (see for his work). He has a series of tutorial videos for anybody interested in getting into photography, and the first one is free to watch so I watched it while I was eating lunch. As I was listening to him teach the very basics (and smugly thinking “I know that already”) it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually doing the entire process of photography, but am generally just pushing the button on the camera and if it isn’t Polaroid success then I just move on. Well, that seems to be the wrong approach, eh? You might say it is severely lacking inspiration.

So I decided to go outside in my own yard and poke around. I did my very own, solo photo walk. There are a bunch of side-by-side comparisons of the raw file before I did any processing, and then there is the way I have decided to finalize the images, at least for now. It is not unusual for me to revisit images a few months later for a fresh perspective.

The images following are the result of inspiration to do a particular thing, and that is take advantage of the depth of the raw file as much as possible, just using Lightroom. Because of that I ended up exploring the same subject from multiple points of view, and with a lens change as well. I was shooting with my Tamron 10-24 f3.5-4.5 at first, and later on switched to my Canon 28-135 f3.5-5.6.

In this instance I was using Trey as inspiration, but also trying to learn a little bit about how he thinks so that I can apply some of his techniques in my own process. I have to admit here that I have been too down on myself because of my aged equipment, which is no excuse. (For those interested, I’m shooting a Canon 30d and post with Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS3.) So take the images for what you will, and please ask any questions in the comments.

Backpacking: Bench Lakes & Fishhook Creek, Idaho

We're ready to go!

Last July (I know, long delay posting pics) Sylvia and I went on our first-ever backpacking trip! It was basically awesome and amazing, and a little nerve wracking. I had only been “backpacking” one other time, and that was more akin to camping 2 miles from the car. This time, we went into the Sawtooth Wilderness, where there are bears to eat our food and ourselves. Fortunately we saw no signs of bears and only saw the cute animals that aren’t likely to kill you. Things like deer and kuna (marten?), and horses with people on them.

On the first night we barely had time to set camp before dark because of a delay leaving. The landlord had hired a crew to paint the exterior of our apartment, and they decided to come on the very day we were set to leave for our trip. VERY upsetting as we had to stay there so they could paint our doors, which requires the doors being open. Anyway, we didn’t hit the trail until about 6:45 pm. VERY late to start a backpacking trip, but at least it was early July and we had the most daylight possible! Let’s go!

We started out on a beautiful little trail off through the trees and along a gurgling stream, which was actually more like a small river in the late spring runoff. I didn’t get a single picture of the stream for some reason. I was probably too excited about just going on the trip. I’d been itching for it for a very long time.

As we walked along, getting accustomed to carrying our food and shelter on our backs, I was paying careful attention to all of the ‘signs’ around me of possible danger. Where those scratch marks on that tree, or just ant trails left behind after the bark fell off? Was that scat nearby or just a clump of debris leftover from winter? I wasn’t taking any chances!

When we reached the edge of the officially designated wilderness area, there was a small wetland. We didn’t see any wildlife here, but it saw us. Mosquitos! I think we used up half of our bug spray right then and there.

As is evident in the picture to the right, we were running out of daylight pretty fast. In my nervousness I pestered Sylvia to walk as fast as she could and together we hustled on the rest of the way to what seemed like the end of the trail. We set camp in pretty good time considering we had neither one done it before. After a delicious supper of re-hydrated mac n’ cheese and something with an Indian flavor, we got the dishes done and set about tidying up for the night.

Good morning, sunshine!

The most difficult part was tying up the food. You would think that in the forest, surrounded by trees, you could get a line up and suspend your food without much trouble. Boy was I wrong about that. It must have taken 20 or 30 minutes to find the proper tree, figure out a way to throw the line through and get it around all the other branches. I had read that the food should be about 12 feet above the ground and six feet from the nearest tree, including the one’s suspending it. This proved to be very difficult for me to accomplish. I think I made it to about 9 feet and 3 feet.

We turned in for the night and waited for it to get dark. This was the most difficult part. Sleeping in a tent doesn’t provide much darkness from the brilliance of the long evenings in the north. It was nice to just lay there and listen to the stream, wondering what the stars looked like. My tent does have a full ‘screen’ body, so we could have removed the rainfly to see the stars, but I didn’t want to wake up in the night covered in frost, or worse, in rain.

Uneventfully, morning arrived. Brr… I didn’t want to get up until the sun was shining on our camp. That proved to be a very long wait. The mountains around us were tall, and the valley deep. It was probably around 8 am before we decided to get up and see what the day had in store. As I flung back the tent flap, to my surprise and joy I got my reward for walking up this one-way valley. The first sight of the morning was a deer outside the tent. What a way to start the day! The many flowers blooming, the greenery all around and the bright sunshine beckoned us to get moving and enjoy the day. We had a delightful breakfast of oatmeal and struck camp. We were headed to a new location, but back the way we had come the night before in order to get there.

On our way out, the scenery was much different and more beautiful, at least to me, because of the time of day. The vividness of the spring colors really grabs your attention when the sun is shining bright.

After we passed back through the previous days terrain, we headed up a new trail toward Bench Lakes, so named because there are several lakes that rest on the side of a mountain each one progressively higher than the other. Sadly, we didn’t see anything like I’m sure you are imagining. The trees surrounding the lakes were enough that we really weren’t aware we were on the side of a mountain at all.

On our way to the Bench lakes, we walked along a large mountain lake called Redfish. The name comes from the endangered sockeye salmon that used to inundate the lake with their red bodies. The waters no longer shimmer red with the color of the fish, but they can still be seen there today.

Our journey was interesting to say the least. After climbing up what seemed like an endless ascent through the dry foothill forest, we finally reached the top of the knife ridge. To our left (east) we had a gorgeous view of Redfish lake, which was nearly straight down. And to our right (west) the mountains we were headed for.

The ridge trail trek was about 2 to 3 miles long, briefly descending into a gentle valley with a trailside creek, and then we started up again. This time it was on the nearly treeless face of the mountain we were to camp on. This last part of the trek was the hottest and most dry, but it was free from bugs and there was a little puff of a breeze from time to time.

As we climbed higher and higher, the view got better and better. And I think our energy got lower and lower. Of course I was fueled by excitement for the trip, but even that can run out eventually. At least we had good reasons to stop and rest: the scenery was too good to pass by and not take a picture!

Shortly after our last photograph of the surrounding mountains, we reached a turn in the trail and headed into the trees. Just a few hundred yards ahead lay a lake. We had made it! We thought that surely we would find a place quickly and set up camp, but to our surprise there were already quite a few campers there already. Most of these people were choosing to ignore the wilderness rule of camping at least 100 feet from the nearest water and instead were directly beside the lake. I suppose we might have been tempted to do the same if there were any good spots available, which there weren’t. We spent the next hour hiking around in circles trying to find a place that was free from snow, boulders, saplings and was somewhat level. When we finally got that accomplished it was time for some food! And time to go through the rigors of tying the food bag up in a tree. We made it, with even more difficulty, but no harm done. This was what we signed up for, right?

The only shot of the lake, barely.

When we finally lay down for the night, we opted to keep the rain fly off so that we could see the stars. While it wasn’t the most spectacular starry night I’ve ever seen, it was still worth the effort. Lying beneath towering trees watching the stars slowly appear in the ever dimming night sky is a treat not often enjoyed in our modern, city-oriented lives.

As we lay dozing off, relishing the bliss of clean air and silence all around, our silence was intermittently perforated by bumping and thudding and a sort of ‘whoosh’ sound. I was concerned about bears, but the sounds just didn’t seem right. I tried to remain calm and go to sleep but it was so difficult. I think it was Sylvia who sat up to have a look around at what was making these noises. To my great relief, it was only passing deer. We had inadvertently set up camp near a busy deer trail, probably leading down to the lake. We were interrupting their evening drink, and I suppose as they smelled us they would stamp and snort to alert others before moving away.

In the morning it was the same routine, and we decided to head home. Our first trip was a success, and we experienced both the beauty and the rigor of backpacking.

Summer is on the way, and we’re fully prepared to hit the highlands as soon as the snow will allow!

Happy trails!

Below are all all of the images from this trip, worth showing. There are a few repeats from above, but more than half are unique.