Solar Eclipse Road Trip, Here We Come!

Solar eclipse photography

Solar eclipse October 2014

I can’t wait to get on the road to shoot the Great American Eclipse!

The path of the moon’s shadow, where the total eclipse will be visible, goes right across the United States.  If you’re not directly in that path a partial eclipse will be visible if you have proper viewing glasses that block the most harmful wavelengths of light.  But people who have experienced totality say there’s nothing quite like it, and you should get to the path if you can.

So where should you go?  Bear in mind that totality lasts 2-3 minutes, so if you have multiple routes to take, weather can be a consideration.  The site GreatAmericanEclipse has suggested ten of the better spots across the country.  They also have state by state maps showing the path of the eclipse across the country, with lines to show the approximate duration of totality depending upon where in that path you are.

Sky and Telescope Magazine suggests a similar Top 10 Places to View the Solar Eclipse.  Another map by Xavier Jubier has superimposed the path of the earth’s shadow on an interactive Google map in case you want to find a place a little less promoted.

Crowds are expected to be record-breaking along the path of the solar eclipse coming up August 21.  Many areas are trying to implement temporary traffic control plans in the narrow path of the moon’s shadow.  I hear that even porta-potty rentals are in short supply as communities try to cope with the crowds.  Fortunately I’ll be bringing my own facilities with me!

You may thank that Jackson, Wyoming sounds like an attractive place to catch the eclipse, but the sun will be south, not west towards the Tetons when the eclipse peaks.  The Jackson Hole Astronomy Club did extensive research with local meteorologists on data from the 2005 – 2015 and determined that just about anywhere else within a 3 mile driving radius had better odds of clear weather.  I’ll be staying near there, but eclipse day is expected to be the busiest day ever for the area, so traffic jams and parking issues could seriously affect viewing plans, and I have plans to exit the area if the crowds look too daunting or the weather forecast turns bad.

If that all sounds like too much risk or hassle to be worth the trip, no problem, there’s a tool that can help you determine how much of an eclipse will be visible wherever you are on that day.

Thank you +Capital Ford for getting the +Ford Motor Company-remanufactured engine into my Ford F-350 truck ASAP so we can stake our claim to a great shooting location!  As of August 4 it’s not going to be back in time to leave this weekend, but they assure me that it’ll be done by Monday or Tuesday.  Fingers crossed!
I’ll make a separate post on viewing and photography, including some of the products I’ve bought for the trip.

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Conditions for Our 2016 Eastern Sierra Spring Workshop Next Week

My early May blog post on spring Eastern Sierra conditions contained a collection of possible outcomes and opportunities for spring.  I’ve been out a few times since then, checking the emergence status of various wildflowers, the water level at Mono Lake tufa sites (and their muddiness, since they form over springs), unpaved road access conditions, snow levels and lake iceout conditions around Tioga Pass, pond water levels and reflection opportunities in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows, bird and wildlife photography opportunities, and so on.

 

Wildflowers vary in intensity and timing from year to year, which is why I do these scouting trips before the workshop, and not while dragging customers around.  Even knowing where various species can be prolific, checking the current year’s status and timing involves many less than fully productive searches.  Wild iris seemed to be a bit behind in timing.  Mules ears have been starting to emerge over the past 2 weeks, and could peak in the next week or two.  The few days of clearer, warmer weather in the forecast early next week could help them along.  Paintbrush was doing well at low elevations but it is too early to tell how prolific it’ll be at mid to high altitudes.  Lupine were healthy in some areas and should still be available for another week or more a lower altitudes, and emerging at mid altitudes.  Wild peach has been strong, and yellow bitterbrush has bloomed as enthusiastically as many local residents can remember (one even mentioned that this native must be a new invasive species), but the peak is now past for both.  Isolated patches offered a variety of other species, sometimes dense, but you really have to search for them.  I’ll be back out over the next few days to see if some of the patches have increased in intensity, enough to warrant a visit during the upcoming workshop.

All of the photos in this post are from May 2016

The weather has been unsettled, great for daytime photography as but less conducive for many types of night photography.  That’s pretty typical for May, which is one reason why I only ran a couple of Bodie night photography workshops then, but currently focus more on June and later.

Some locations are on the wet and muddy side, not unsurprising for spring, but certainly good to know before you show up for a sunrise or sunset and can’t access the compositions that you might have enjoyed in the past, in summer, fall, or simply a drier year.  In other cases, a site might be more dependent upon long term trends, and the long term drought continues to provide cracked earth foregrounds.  If you’re shooting in one basin and the weather and light looks like it might be better 25 miles north or south, you can save an hour of driving if you know that the site that you have in mind isn’t in great condition that week.  Conversely, you can make your day, week or month if you know that a site is in great shape, and you arrive to find great light to complement the site’s full potential.  A good workshop is made great when you can “connect the dots” to consistently arrive at a series of good sites, in great seasonal condition, offering optimal lighting, while reacting to the day’s weather conditions.  There are no guarantees in landscape photography, and that’s part of what makes it exciting, but scouting trips do resolve what would otherwise be unknowns in the mix, increasing the odds of everything coming together just right.

A quick iPhone snapshot is good enough to record conditions, break out the DSLR upon returning in better light

The somewhat early opening of Tioga Pass is not surprising given a fairly dry month of February and the winter’s overall normal to low snowpack (93% in the Mammoth lakes area, closer to 100% north of Tioga Pass).  It has re-closed at times as moisture causes afternoon and evening storms, but it’s open again now.  Lakes are in various stages of losing their ice.  Tenaya Lake was clear by the time the pass opened, Ellery may be completely clear now, Tioga was mostly frozen last week, so it may still hold some ice into next week.  The terrain is complicated up in that area, so having spent many sunrises and sunsets up in that area is important to knowing what is likely to be productive, vs. a bust.

Tuolumne Meadows currently offers a lot of seasonal ponds.  Determining ahead of time which of them provide decent compositions at current water levels helps keep the workshop moving efficiently.  Many workshop leaders spend a lot of time and money marketing, and do a great job filling their workshops.  Good for them.  I prefer to spend my time in the field, develop extensive site and condition knowledge, and over time earn the reputation for delivering great opportunities and results.

It’s important to me for my knowledge to include photographic technique and post-processing skill.  Anyone can apply a filter in post-processing software or use a certain technique to make a landscape look wacky, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that, it it’s the style someone chooses, rather than is trapped into through less than optimal exposure technique or lack of alternate post-processing workflow options.  Getting through the end-to-end digital photographic process with realistic results is like walking a tightrope: bay far the easiest thing to do is to fall off.  There are subtle things you can do all along the way to optimize results.  You don’t need the latest camera or software, it’s more about fine tuning the various steps.

Backlit storm clouds at night

Ansel Adams produced timeless results by producing heavily manipulated but seamlessly realistic results, while popular trends included hand-tinting photographs to add color.  Most of us don’t know the names of his contemporaries today.  No doubt Ansel could have had great commercial success producing those colorized postcards, but any era’s hot trends can look cartoonish years later, out of the unique social context of the time.  We’re not immune from that today: I have over-saturated digital photos from the mid-2000s, tonemapped HDRs from the late 2000s, and I’ve dabbled with luminance masking, color light painting, and lately software filters.  I gravitate more realistic results, and for the experiments with various trends, I’m gradually re-processing many of the more over-the-top post processing results.  It’s useful to try a range of things to settle on your own preferred style, and to continue to try new things for variety and to see if you want to broaden your options for post-processing any given scene in the future.  So I want to maintain a broad enough collection of experiences to be prepared to help photographers who want to expand their own skills.

While the goal of my pre-workshop explorations are mainly to visit locations to assess conditions, it’ll be a fun challenge to line up the sites for great light and weather during the workshop next week.

iPhone 6S+ panorama

With the storms in the past weeks I haven’t been out for night photography as much as I would like, but we should have a great time in Bodie June 4/5, and I hope to be out a few times in the coming nights to assess a few new locations as well.

Starry Night over Bodie Church

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Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop in June: What’s in Store?

Eastern Sierra landscape photography workshops

Eastern Sierra wildflowers, late May

“The Traveler sees what he sees. The Tourist sees what he has come to see.” G.K. Chesterton

North Peak Sunset AlpenglowUpdate 1, May 31: Tioga Pass opened in Mid-May, so we can include Yosemite”s Tioga Pass area in our workshops starting this Thursday.  I’ve already been up there three times in the past couple of weeks to assess and monitor conditions.

Update 2, May 31: One of my customers has asked to extend the workshop with a few days in Yosemite Valley, so we’re adding June 6, 7, and 8 next week to the schedule!

The first week of June is amazing for the Eastern Sierra for so many reasons. Some snow remains on the Sierra Nevada (and possibly the White Mountains) to catch alpenglow, and there can be a fresh snowfall around the end of May to refresh that surface. Several species of wildflowers are starting to bloom, profusely in some areas.

This year the new moon and Milky Way shooting timing coincides with this week, and we have the possibility of a late spring storm from the northwest for interesting sunrises and sunsets, or warmer monsoon moisture from the Baja coast that could bring dramatic afternoon clouds, showers and rainbows, or evening thunderstorms.

I used to be nervous about the thunderstorms interfering with night photography, but I’ve learned through experience in Bodie and the surrounding area that convection-driven storms tend to break up or blow east by the time the sky is fully dark around 10/10:20, so they’re really just bonuses for sunset and twilight shooting, even when rain showers interfere locally for an hour or so (and even then they often give way to rainbows).

We’ll start with a sunrise on Thursday, pursue wildflowers and weather during the day, have an early dinner, and head back out for sunset at Mono Lake.
Entering the Earth's Shadow

We’ll pick from a number of spots for Milky Way shooting, and arrive by the time it’s fully dark at 10:07, when the galactic center of the Milky Way has already risen 6 degrees, perfect for placing it in our compositions.

Mono Lake Milky Way Panorama

Friday we’ll catch sunrise at Mono Lake before the weekend crowds arrive, shoot different wildflowers, maybe explore some interesting geology or head up to Tioga Pass if its open for snowier views. Another sunset spot, More night photography, and turn in not too late since most of us are continuing on to Bodie the following night, and Bodie interiors the following morning.

Storm Over Mono LakeWorkshops take me out of the field as I work on permits, itineraries, write descriptions, set up payment / registration buttons, and I perform a some kind of marketing to get them seen, if only a mention or two on social media. I’m not going for volume, and I personally lead all of my workshops, so they are designed to place you in a stunning place, in a peak season, as the exact best time.

Eastern Sierra Mules EarsI have to be efficient and pack as much opportunity as I can into my time in the field. Every day has the sun rising and setting. Some weeks have wildflowers. Fall colors may be peaking in a given location for only a few days to a week. The Milky Way is available during a few weeks of the year, a moon rise at sunset or moon set at sunrise about a dozen times each. So I am careful to hold my workshops in a prime season, and I then select the most likely peak days and times, including astronomical considerations.

Along Yosemite's Tioga Pass Road

Tioga Pass Road sunset reflection, May 2016

Plans are all well and good; I frequently plan something as simple as a sunset moon rise composition weeks in advance.  But landscape photography is about light, so if you’re on a workshop, you want a leader have enough depth in detailed regional knowledge to be ready to ditch all plans and react to the weather and light if there’s more potential 20 or 30 miles from where you are.  So leave the tourists behind who are stuck to their fixed agenda, and rather than a traveler who reacts to the weather and looks for a place to shoot it, you can travel with a local who knows the opportunities in every direction, and anticipates the conditions before you pick the next destination and hop in the car to arrive there just in time.

Sunset Rain Clouds Over Mono LakeEarly June in the Eastern Sierra offers an annual convergence of so many factors which could make photography conditions stunning.  Photography is more fun shared, so I can’t wait, and all the better that I get to share all of this bounty with old and new friends!

Spring is Coming to the High Sierra!

Most of the participants are returning customers, but we have room for one or two more if anyone’s interested!

Bodie's Standard Mill

Milky Way Arch Over Standard Mill

Connect with me in all of the usual places for photographers: Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+YouTube, 500px, Tumblr, or my Web site.

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Shell Creek Road Wildflowers

Shell Creek Road is a rural road running north – south
between CA – 58 and CA – 46, passing pastures and rolling hills that can feature wildflowers in late March through April. There are also agricultural fields which can have symmetric lines for photographs, as well as a large vineyard with both old and young vines. The old vines are probably the ones which yield the excellent the Shell Creek Vineyard reserve petite sirah produced by David Bruce Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Shell Creek Road can be a convenient detour to take when approaching Carrizo Plain National Monument from the north, or departing Carrizo Plain in the direction of Paso Robles. The wildflowers are more concentrated towards the southern 6 miles or so.

Directions

From Paso Robles at US-101, take CA-46 east 15.6 miles and turn right onto CA-41 West Centre street.  Go 2.8 miles and turn right onto Toby Way.  After 0.3 miles on Toby Way turn right onto San Juan Road.  After 4.5 miles turn right onto Shell Creek Road.  You’ll be on Shell Creek Road 10.7 miles, ending at CA-58.

To continue to Carrizo Plain National Monument, travel east on CA-58 24.2 miles, turn right on Soda Lake Road and travel 13.7 miles.

There’s a creek at the north end of the road which can flow over the road after a heavy rain, and this can close the road. When I last visited, there was a car in the creek, just downstream of where it had washed off of the road. Don’t underestimate how deep the water is, or how little force it might take to push your vehicle off the road!

For more information on the area, I cover Shell Creek Road on page 177 of my “Photographing California Vol. 2 South” landscape photography guidebook.

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California Wildflower Sites: Antelope Valley

The Mojave Desert in April

Goldfields and California poppies mix with Joshua trees in Antelope Valley

One of my favorite photography road trips ever was a tour of California wildflower sites in the spring, including Antelope Valley and the California State Poppy Reserve, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area in the +Los Padres National Forest, and the area covered by the annual Ridgecrest Wildflower Festival in the Eastern Sierra. I posted on my blog at the time some of my favorite photos from the Antelope Valley, but I have a little more time now to take a second pass and show you more of what I saw.

I’m considering taking that route again this year, so reviewing past trips and refreshing my memory on what to stop in on and check can be productive. I’ve also looked up the wildflower report at the California State Poppy Reserve, which posted this update on Saturday, April 2:

“The season appears to have ended early, as last month’s rains came too late to sustain the bloom that had barely started. The fields are mostly grasses now; only a handful of poppies are blooming alongside the trails. The beavertail cactus in front of the visitor center is blooming, which usually happens after the season has ended- a sign that an early summer is on the way.”

An early start to summer should not be entirely unexpected, given the record El Nino heat in the Pacific Ocean driving our weather pattern in recent months. It’s a shame though that it didn’t bring enough rain at the right time to deliver a bumper crop of wildflowers in the Antelope Valley. The Antelope Valley is large though, and there may be dispersed pockets where enough rain fell, perhaps with a northern exposure to minimize drying during the gap in winter storms in February. Much of the area is in the Mojave Desert ecosystem, where Joshua trees serve as gerat subjects, with or without wildflowers.

In any case, many other areas of Southern California desert are blooming with normal to above normal intensity, so if I decide to take the trip, the conditions in the Antelope Valley won’t make or break the outcome.

So while I have my photos handy, here are a few more photos from the Antelope Valley area on that prior trip, and I’ll sprinkle a few across my various social media accounts as well.

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve often starts its wildflower reports in mid-March to keep visitors updated on the conditions as they peak at some point through April. The area celebrates the annual bloom at the California Poppy Festival.  This year the 25th California Poppy Festival will be held April 16-17, 2016.

For more information, I cover the Antelope Valley California State Poppy Reserve and other sites to visit on an April California wildflower tour on page 184 of my new 320-page guidebook, Photographing California Vol. 2 – South (shown to the right).

Road to Nowhere

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Death Valley Wildflower Workshop This Week

Ashford Mill to Jubilee Pass
With modest enrollment, the participants have elected to make this a camping-based trip, so we can stay closer to where we want to shoot, and pursue night shots as well.  We’ll also have the flexibility to follow the latest wildflower reports, the unfolding weather, and the discoveries we make along the way.  

Desert Gold February 2016This is probably the best wildflower season in the last decade, with the added bonus of water on Badwater salt flats (as of a couple of days ago) for sunrise reflections.  I just passed through the park 2 weeks ago and I’ve been following updated wildflower reports, so I have a good idea from those and from past years where to go.

When we get tired of wildflowers and Badwater reflections, if that’s possible, they want me to show them a slot canyon and sand dunes that most park visitors don’t visit or see.  We’ll pursue a little night photography as well, and I have some good ideas on what we might want to do for that.
Temporary Inland Sea

This Spring in Death Valley album shows approximately what we might cover this week, with the most relevant being the first 50-60, up to the red fire truck and red Fiat: https://plus.google.com/photos/107459220492917008623/albums/5831194499079947137

Dune Lines

Although we’ll be camping, we’ll often be only 30 to 60 minuted from Furnace Creek or Shoshone to access a meal or shower.  We’ll have camp stoves for some meals and I’ll bring wood, steaks, etc. and cook over a fire Tuesday or Wednesday night.

It’s going to be a fun week!
http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/death-valley-photography-workshop-2013/

Revisting an Old Friend

Desert Gold and Sand Verbena

Milky Way over Devil's Cornfield

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Top 10 Travel Photos: 2014

Milky Way rising behind the Standard Mill in Bodie, California

Continuing the retrospective look at my last decade of travel and landscape photography, 2006 – 2015, here are some of my favorites from 2014.

Sierra Crest Sunset Layers
The Minarets and Sierra Nevada at sunset
Snowy Day at Mono Lake
Mono Lake tufa rock formations selectively lit by the sun
Bodie Sunset Re-edit with HDR
Sunset in Bodie State Historic Park, California
SUCCESS!
NASA’s Orion EFT-1 launch at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Sunrise Yesterday Morning
There’s no place like home.  A rock sheep enclosure at sunrise, Topaz Lake (on the California/Nevada border).
Revisting an Old Friend
One of the Death Valley slot canyons disclosed in my “Photographing California – South” guidebook
Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014
Moon setting over the Sierra Nevada, while emerging from the earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse!
Wild Mustangs
Wild mustangs in the Eastern Sierra

Bristlecone Pine
Playing with depth of field in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (iPhone 5S)

This was a selection of a few of my favorites from an album of over 45 photos from 2013, so there are many more that you might prefer over these. To see more of them, click on the link or album photo below.

More of my favorite photos from 2014:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157650285822751

2014 Favorites
#landscapephotography #travelphotography #photography #top10

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Top 10 Favorite Travel and Landscape Photos from 2015

Bandon Sunset Reflection, Oregon Coast

Ansel Adams once stated that “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”  Perhaps Ansel would be more efficient and productive today with digital photography, or perhaps he simply had a really high bar for what he considered “significant”.  

I often produce a few dozen photos per year that I’m pleased with and collect into albums on Flickr, so reducing them down further, to something like an annual “Top 10”, doesn’t always reach the top of my “to do” list. But as the “Photographing California” book that I finished and released in 2015 starts to go into retail auto-pilot, I can take a moment to reflect on my past year of photographic adventures as I look towards 2016. 

The photo above was captured early on in my 3500-mile “victory lap” road trip that I embarked on in September, as my book was about to ship to wholesalers and Amazon.com. I visited Mt. Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Crater Lake National Park before turning west and heading for the coast. I arrived just in time for sunset. 

Evening Light in Eroded HillsIn March I took a quick trip across Nevada to scout for locations for possible Nevada photography workshops in 2016. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, but it takes a lot of experience to get to know a region, in detail, in a variety of season s and weather conditions. The photo to the right shows one of the sites that I really enjoyed for its geology and geometry.  Other sites in Nevada are good for wildflowers, dark, clear night skies, history (petroglyphs, mining areas and abandoned ranches), or cultural details. The state is huge though, and supporting resources such as gas, restaurants and lodging are spread out, so it’ll pose some interesting challenges to cover efficiently and comfortably with a group. Access can also be complicated by weather and washouts on the often unpaved roads, so vehicles with appropriate all terrain tires and adequate ground clearance can also be a consideration. A year wouldn’t be complete for me without astrophotography, so in late April I headed out to the Mojave Desert in search of some photos of the Milky Way rising. In the case of the image below, I captured a sequence of 54 photos around 2 am to show the movement of the stars.

 

Milky Way Rising Behind Joshua Trees.
Milky Way Rising Behind Joshua Trees, Mojave Desert

In June I still had the Milky Way on my mind, as I dropped by Mono Lake to capture a 360-degree panorama featuring the lake’s tufa calcium carbonate rock formations under the arch of the Milky Way.

 

Mono-Lake-360-degree--panorama-tufa-Milky-Way-night-photography-jeff-sullivan
Mono Lake Milky Way Arch Panorama

By July we had a nice summer monsoon season of sporadic storms, not enough to end our drought in the Eastern Sierra, but storms are certainly a plus for landscape photography! In this case a shaft of golden hour sunlight struck a column of rain, producing a warm-tinted sunset rainbow.

Shaft of Water and Light
Shaft of Water and Light, Topaz Lake

Although there are so many stunning photography locations to cover in California I only included a handful of backpacking destinations in my book, I personally love backpacking, so I took the opportunity to visit the Golden Trout Wilderness in July. Little did I know that the remains of Hurricane Dolores would come ashore that night, creating “super historic” record July rainfall across much of Southern California. Fortunately there was a break in the rain on the following day, so I could head to the trailhead to dry out my gear before selecting my next adventure.

 

Muir Lake Morning Reflection
Muir Lake Morning Reflection, Golden Trout Wilderness

In August the big event for me is usually the Perseid meteor shower. Sometimes I like to maximize sky in my meteor shower photos, but in this case I decided to include an interesting Joshua tree. So back to the Mojave Desert I went.

 

Perseid Meteor Shower 2015
Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Joshua Tree, Mojave Desert

Another location that I visited during my whirlwind September road trip was Morraine Lake in Alberta’s Banff National Park. I was fortunate to arrive right after the first snowfall of the year, and it was still snowing lightly as the last light of the day faded, so there weren’t many people out in the cold to wander into this shot along the shoreline. I also picked up the more typical elevated view from a nearby knoll, showing the glacial blue color of the lake, on the following morning.

 

Morraine Lake, Jasper National Park
Morraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

I captured a number of nice Bodie and Eastern Sierra fall colors images this year, but one of my favorites was this late, snowy fall colors shot from Conway Summit in early November. Many of the compositions I was capturing on this morning were a little too evenly lit, but for a moment a thin spot in the cloud cover had the lower portion of this line of trees brightly lit while the trees and hill in the ravine in the background fell into darker shadow. This highlighted the lower line of trees and gave the whole scene a more 3D feel to it.

Snowy Fall Aspen
Snowy Fall Aspen, Early November in Mono County

Later in November I headed to Death Valley to pursue some new locations for an upcoming detailed guide to the park that I’m writing, but one of my favorite images ended up being from the Mesquite Flat Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. I had other photos with arguably better light, but the photographers add scale and a nice point of interest. I’ve photographed these dunes a lot, but the combination of low angle sun and broken light passing through breaks in the clouds created some unique opportunities.

Stunning Light on the Dunes in Death Valley
Exploring the Dunes in Death Valley, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

New 2015 Results from Past Years

Sunset reflection at Valley View, Yosemite National Park
Valley View Calm Evening Reflection, Aug 2007
As I was working on the book I occasionally came across good photos from past years… when either I lacked the tools to complete a nice result, or I simply overlooked an image due to time constraints or simple oversight. Fortunately I can rediscover and rescue these old files on future visits to the folders that they’re in. The one to the right was from Yosemite, way back in August 2007. It was captured on a Canon Digital Rebel XTi! A little adjustment in Lightroom 5, and voila! It’s as good as new. I used it as the title page for my guidebook.
One of my more stunning finds was from an incredible sunset in Bodie during one of my workshops on June 29, 2013. Bodie was just outside of the area I was covering with my book, so post-processing photos from there hadn’t been a priority. My loss then, and gain now! It was an unusually purple-tinted sunset, as confirmed across many photographers and cameras from various manufacturers.A few shots in the middle of the sunset’s transformation had a wide variety of colors, ranging from orange-yellow to magenta-pink and blue to indigo shades, in addition to the base purple that dominated many adjacent shots.

Sunset Over Bodie Main Street
Sunset Over Bodie Main Street, June 2013

There was another surprising overlooked shot that I found in an old Yosemite folder from 2008. Covering Half Dome at sunset from Glacier Point, the Yosemite chapter had already gone through layout before I found it in February, but it’s a nice addition to my Yosemite portfolio for future uses! Sunset Alpenglow on Half Dome

Finalist Images for 2015

I named my Top 10 for people who prefer the predictability and order of a preset and finite number, but I’ll show a few of the other contenders for people who prefer not to be arbitrarily constrained. This sunset shot is from the Cambridge Hills south of Yerington in Mason Valley, Nevada. I was looking for some old cars that were supposed to be in the area, but they were apparently either moved or stolen. The road had to serve as the subject and leading line, heading to that last bit of orange sunlight on a shaft of rain in the distance. Storm Chasing in NevadaThis dune shot was captured at 200mm to isolate the dune ridge and blowing sand from the dark background. I was hoping to see a desert tortoise or two in the area, but the burrows I found had cobwebs in their entrances. Windy Day on the Dunes in Death ValleyAt the bases of Death Valley’s mountain ranges, on the edges of their alluvial fans of gravel and debris, you sometimes find small springs. In a landscape that only receives an average of 1.93″ of rain per year, these are precious sources of water for nearby wildlife.  They are delicate places as well, with soft mud that will easily become severely trampled if hordes of visitors show up and love them to death. Sunrise in Death ValleyI spend a lot of time in Bodie, and occasionally I’m there for the evening break-up of afternoon thunderstorms. In this case I saw a rainbow forming over town, and I knew that if I shifted my camera position a couple of hundred yards, I could place the rainbow over the Standard Mill. These opportunities can change quickly, so I hopped into my car, and drove east to move the rainbow. Rainbow over Standard MillThis rainbow and reflection shot was one of my favorite mobile phone images in 2015, and one of my first photos taken on an LG G4 smartphone that I was provided with as part of the #G4Preview program. Wet Rainbow ReflectionThis sun shot captured through geyser basin fog in Yellowstone is another of my favorite mobile images, this one captured on my 2 year old iPhone 5S.  It won an +Instagram / iPhone assignment being conducted by Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Sun and Trees in Yellowstone FogI have many more images that I considered for my favorite photos and moments of 2015, and I’ve collected over 50 of them in a 2015 Favorites album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157651316649769

Favorite Photos from Prior Years

Here are some of my collections from prior years.  It has been a great decade of adventure, I can’t wait to see what I can find to show you in the next 10!

2014 Favorites album on Flickr
2014 Top 10 Blog Post

2013 Favorites album on Flickr
2013 Top 10 Blog Post

2012 Favorites album on Flickr
2012 Top 10 Blog Post

2011 Favorites album on Flickr
2011 Top 10 blog post

2010 Favorites album on Flickr
2010 Top 10 blog post

2009 Favorites album on Flickr
2009 Top 10 blog post

2008 Favorites album on Flickr
2008 Top 10 blog post

2007 Favorites album on Flickr 
2007 Top 10 blog post

2006 Favorites album on Flickr
2006 Top 10 blog post

#landscapephotography #travelphotography #photography #top10

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Sunset Moon Rise Coming December 24

Mono Lake moon rise November 16, 2013

A few times each year, the moon rises at just the right time to be visible during sunset, while there’s enough light on the landscape to capture that in the photo as well.  That will happen this month on December 24, Christmas Eve.  I’m not suggesting that you ditch the family to go chase the moon, just step outside at sunset, look to the east, and you’ll have one more reason for the night to be a particularly memorable one.

If you might also want to photograph the moon, I’ve collected some notes on this blog post that I started in 2006:

How to Plan Great Full Mooon Rise and Set Shots
http://activesole.blogspot.com/2006/11/plan-ahead-for-great-full-moon-rise-and.html

I’m not sure if we’ll head down to Mono Lake.  I’ve been going there for decades and my kids have been going there for all of their lives, so it holds a lot of sentimental value for us. It’s pretty close by, so if the weather is nice, we may head down there.  The light could be particularly nice around: 4:35 – 4:55 pm.  Ping me on social media if you’re down there, in case we’re standing a few feet down the shore from each other!

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Meteors with Venus, Jupiter & Mars in Zodiacal Light

Meteor with planets Venus, Jupiter and Mars

Meteor with Venus, Jupiter & Mars rising in zodiacal light during the Orionids, October 22, 2015

Who saw or photographed some Orionid meteors over the last night or two?  In the photo above, a meteor crosses over the path of Venus, Jupiter and Mars, rising in zodiacal light during the Orionid meteor shower around 5 am this morning, October 22, 2015.

Although the streak is clearly a meteor (note the characteristic green color), technically it’s not an Orionid, since the radiant point for the Orionid meteor shower is out of the upper right corner of the frame.  So this meteor is traveling at nearly a right angle to what its trajectory would be if it were one of the Orionids.

It may however be a Leo Minorid meteor, since its radiant point is to the left of Venus Jupiter and Mars this morning.  The Leo Minorid meteor shower peaks the morning of October 23, but it is a minor shower with an estimated 2 meteors per hour, but minor showers sometimes have an unexpectedly high rate, so tomorrow morning could offer a surprise from the Leo Minorids along with after-peak Orionids.

There are also random, sporadic meteors, particularly in the early morning, as your position on the earth rotates to the leading side of the earth as it travels through space rotating around the sun.

The Zodiacal light is sunlight shining off of dust in our solar system, the light tilted up from the lower left in the photo above.  You can experience the Zodiacal light, or false dawn, this time of year when a a pyramid-shaped glow can be seen in the east an hour before dawn’s first light (or 80 to 120 minutes before sunrise). This light is caused by sunlight reflecting off of dust particles in space in the same plane as earth and can resemble the lights from a city. It is tilted to follow the same ecliptic plane that the planets travel in.  Zodiacal light is best seen under dark skies, in places with minimal light pollution.  You can catch the Zodiacal light for another 2 or 3 mornings this month, but after that the moon will be too full and it will no longer set early enough to leave you with a dark enough sky to see this pre-dawn light.

You can see the Zodiacal light as the planets rise in this time-lapse video captured this morning before and twilight light started to brighten the sky:

Venus, Jupiter and Mars in Zodiacal light during the Orionid meteor shower this morning

#orionids #meteorshower #Canon #astrophotography

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