Photograph the Moon Rise at Sunset Tonight, October 4, 2017

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: Super Moon Rise

The moon will rise shortly before sunset tonight, providing a perfect opportunity to photograph the moon near the horizon at sunset.  Here are 38 degrees north it’ll rise about 15 minutes before sunset, and be about 1.6 degrees high, or three moon widths, above a zero-degree horizon at sunset.

Mono Lake Moonrise (Re-edit)

About ten minutes later as you may start to see the earth’s shadow rise above the horizon, its blue color contrasting against the adjacent pink-orange last light of the sun in the “belt of Venus” effect, the moon will be about 3.5 degrees high, seven moon widths.

Super Moon Reflection

In apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills you can fine tune the times and moon direction and elevation for any shooting spot you might want to plan for.  Plan well enough, and you can anticipate compositions that place the moon reflecting in lakes, or beside or just over natural or man-made landmarks.

Moon Rise Behind Half Dome

Similar opportunities present themselves on the opposite horizon with the moon set at sunrise, so look at your favorite astrophotography app and start planning! You can combine opportunities, such as catching a moon coming out of eclipse, as it sets behind a nearby ridge.

Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014

Or place the moon on a man-made structure like the tip of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.  I started shooting this sequence of images about 15 minutes ahead of time to show how the placement of the moon can be accurately planned in advance, and rendering the images as a time-lapse video lets you see the entire sequence:

Plan to Shoot the April 14/15 2014 Lunar Eclipse: Example Landing on the Transamerica Pyramid
As calculated, the moon ends up centered on the tip of the pyramid!

For a discussion of advanced considerations, read the article, “I’ve planned my supermoon eclipse shot: what could possibly go wrong?

For a bonus on the tomorrow morning, I see in my SkyWeek+ app that the planets moonVenus and Mars will be within 1/4 degree of each other before dawn on October 5.  The StarWalk+ app shows me that they will be rising by about 5:10 am roughly due east.  Photograph them on and close to the horizon, then conditions should continue to improve improve by around 6 am as they’re rising out of the thicker air and haze close to the horizon.  At that point they are still low enough to be captured in landscape shots as the oncoming twilight increasingly illuminates the landscape.  The sun rises close to 7 am, so they may fade as the sky brightens, and Mars in particular may be long gone by 6:30 am.

Venus Jupiter Moon Conjunction

You never know what you might come up with.  A while back I shot the moon with Jupiter and Venus rising nearby, and my photo was used in an article by astronomer Don Olson of the University of Texas, in an article in the August issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine!

I haven’t looked up the phase that Venus is in, but if you have a strong enough lens, youc an see that it’s illuminated in a crescent phase.

Multi-Colored UFO?

The first step is to anticipate and plan for some great opportunities with the moon and/or planets. Then get out there and shoot! Tonight at sunset and tomorrow before dawn offer you a couple of good ones to start with. You never know what you might discover!

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Photograph Jets Close in Death Valley

High Speed Selfie
Water vapor condenses on the wing of an F-15C from the 144th Fighter Wing of the +Air National Guard in Fresno

I’ve encountered jets in this canyon in Death Valley by coincidence a few times over the years, so I mentioned them on page 130 of my “Photographing California – South” guidebook. But I’ve only recently sat around and waited for them to arrive. The first time, I showed up at 4:30 pm and waited for a couple of hours, and was skunked. I later talked to someone who had arrived at 3:30 pm, and saw three passes in 45 minutes before leaving at 4:15 pm.

The second time I waited from dawn, nothing happened until a single plane went through at 9:50 am. Nothing happened for another hour, then a pair of F-15C jets from the California +Air National Guard went through it in each direction, twice! They seemed to spot the camera on the first run, then on the next three runs the lead plane pulled up sharply right at my location partway down the canyon, to be pulling a lot of Gs and turning up out of the canyon sharply directly next to me. The pilot appears to be looking at the camera each time, and I can’t think of many reasons to end a run up the canyon early, in both directions, so it sure seemed like he was setting up selfies.

Having heard that photographers fly over from Europe to spend a week sitting all day waiting for the jets, and they report 7 to 9 per day, I had my 9 and figured that I had done well. For some reason, Mondays were considered to be less promising, so I might not see any more planes that day. I picked up my tripods and started moving towards the car, and more planes came! It was like that until I had to leave by noon. I’d throw the tripod over my shoulder and another jet would come.

A couple of guys from the adjacent campsite in the Stovepipe Wells campground the night before showed up and saw a jet go through. A few random people watched one go by from time to time. A busload of children on a field trip showed up, their wait was no more than 10 minutes, then a jet went by and they left. It sure seemed as if perhaps they came from a town nearby and had been able to coordinate with the pilot, perhaps a parent of one of the children?

Dropping Into the CanyonWhen these jets was turning the hardest, smoke-like trails formed behind the wingtips, and smoke-like misting formed on top of the wings as well. It turns out that this is water condensing, not uncommon when pulling the most Gs:

“Condensation of water vapor in wing tip vortices is most common on aircraft flying at high angles of attack, such as fighter aircraft in high g maneuvers, or airliners taking off and landing on humid days.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wingtip_vortices

Having been skunked on a prior visit then rewarded with a flurry of activity after a few hours of uneventful watching the second time, I can’t make generalizations yet about your odds of catching jets flying up canyons in Death Valley, but apparently if you are persistent enough, the jets may eventually come. That’s when you’ll find success, when preparation meets opportunity.

What Aircraft Use This Space?

The Panamint, Saline and Eureka Valleys in Death Valley National Park are part of the R-2508 Complex, jointly administered by the Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and Fort Irwin (Army). NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (Named Dryden Flight Research Center until 2014) is located at Edwards AFB. The 144th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, based in Fresno, came through while I was waiting.  Apparently jets from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada come over on exercises, and one of the jets that passed me had a UFO logo on its tail, so it might have been out of Groom Lake (Area 51) on Nellis. 

Although R-2508 stretches 140 miles north and south and 110 miles across, each dimension is only a few minutes across at 500 MPH.  So it’s not all that large from the perspective of the pilots using it, and sub-sections include bombing and artillery ranges, so pilots have to navigate around closed sections on any given day.  Nevertheless, it’s the largest overland Special Use Airspace (SUA) in the United States, so it’s a scarce and valuable resource for the armed services to have.

Why is the military using National Park airspace at all?  This has been a topic of discussion for some time, and in 1977 it was agreed that the jets would stay above 3000 feet over Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks and Death Valley, a national monument at the time. The areas the jets used for low level flying were mostly administered by the BLM, and were in use by the military before the Death Valley National Monument became a national park via the California Desert Protection Act on October 31, 1994. That was also when it was expanded from 2 million acres to 3.4 million acres, adding the valleys being used by military aircraft. 

Why Do Military Aircraft Fly Low?

An information sheet that I picked up at the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest states: 

“Today,one way a military pilot can survive in combat is to fly as close as possible to the ground to avoid detection by enemy radar systems. This skill is developed by flying at very low elevations over a variety of terrain.”

“Not only do the pilots fly very low in combat, but also very fast.  This low and fast flying requires many hours of training time for pilots.  They must train in a gradual step-by-step process down to a minimum low level of flight to gain the confidence and experience needed and then regularly practice this skill to make second nature the necessary split-second decisions.”  

“In general, military flights can occur in the complex as low as 200 feet with several exceptions.”

A discussion of civilian use of the airspace appears here: Navigating “The Complex”.

F-18 Showing Off
Water vapor condenses at the wingtips and over the wings of an F-18 in a high-G turn

#Air National Guard

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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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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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End of the Road for My SUV!

First light on the colorful aspen at Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (Canon 5D Mark III)

The day started like any other fall day on the road: the pink over blue Belt of Venus light leading to a  sunrise, golden hour light and calm morning reflections, fall colors, then driving to the next location on the itinerary.  Usually I don’t finish the drive in a tow truck, with my SUV on the back!

Let’s talk about the good news first.  Sunrise on Jackson Lake was uneventful, with no clouds, but gorgeous nonetheless.  The Belt of Venus color can be fantastic if you know how to coax its color out of the sky and into your camera, and the pastel pink and blue tones on this morning didn’t disappoint.

Fortunately the lake was calm, so the colorful light show in the sky was doubled in the water.  As the sun approached on the eastern horizon, the Tetons were bathed in golden light.  So far it was shaping up to be a good day.

Not far away was Oxbow Bend (above), where colorful aspen trees were lighting up in the first rays of the sun.  There was another spot to the east which had a nice stand of colorful aspen in front of Mt. Moran as well.

Schwabacher Landing (LG G4)

A few miles south on the way to Jackson was Schwabacher Landing, which can get really crowded at sunrise, but it wasn’t all that crowded by the time I arrived.  The sun was behind me, but with a little bit of waiting and some coordination with people walking by, I was able to get some shots without people or shadows in them.  The Tetons here make a long, narrow subject, perfect for the 16 x 9 aspect ratio of my LG G4 smartphone, but it was out of memory.  It has 32GB of memory, 16GB of that left for photos.  The LG G4 has a microSD slot for memory expansion, but I was using one microSD in my GoPro, and had misplaced my spare.

Fortunately, prior to the trip I had been asked to try out the 32GB SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick.  It looks like a USB flash drive that you’d plug into computers, but it connects to your smartphone via wi-fi.  Earlier in the trip I had started a complete gallery backup from the LG G4, and not only did that transfer over 4200 existing photos, it also transferred new photos as I took them.  So all I had to do on the smartphone was delete old photos, since they were already backed up.  I also filled my 64GB iPhone 5S with photos on this trip, and I was able to back up files from that as well, then delete them on the phone.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick with iPhone 6S+

Smartphone memory issue solved, it was on to Jackson for breakfast, grocery shopping, then I could move on to the next area to shoot.  In this case, the location change was from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming to Salt Lake City.  I should return home from there to prepare for a workshop in 2 weeks, but “shoulds” are for wimps.  Having invested so much time and so many miles to get that far, I could extend the trip underway to swing through Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and continue on to Colorado to catch fall colors in Aspen, at the Maroon Bells, in Telluride and Ouray before returning home.  I’d still have a week to get ready to go back out.  Or I could wait until next year, but something could come up and it could end up being the year after that.  Heck, I may not live that long.  Life and time are precious; there’s no time like the present.

But as the saying goes, life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.

Somewhere between Jackson, Wyoming and Salt Lake City, a few miles south of the small town of Cokeville, in the middle of extensive hay fields, and outside of Verizon’s service area, the Explorer made a noise.  An unhappy noise.  A warning noise.  A message in the dashboard was trying to tell me something, but driving into the bright glare of the afternoon sun, I couldn’t read the fading light of its aging display.  Then it was gone.  Everything was apparently fine.  Without a warning indicator, the infamous “check engine” message, I couldn’t use the engine code reader to give me some clues.

The peace didn’t last long.  The light came on again, I was able to read it this time, and “Low Oil Pressure” meant that I needed to pull over ASAP.  The road was elevated with essentially no shoulder.  Just as I spotted a driveway coming up across the road, the engine cut off, so I had to wrestle the now-powerless steering and brakes to cross oncoming traffic and bring the vehicle to a stop.  The stall could have been an engine safety shutdown, but I would need to have it towed to somewhere where a mechanic could assess the failure.  Fortunately Lori Hibbett had flown in to Seattle to join me earlier in the trip, and her AT&T phone had one bar of service, so we could call for a tow.

It was late on a Friday afternoon, so Salt Lake City 150 miles to the south would be the best option for finding a mechanic working on a Saturday.  Thank goodness for premium roadside assistance plans covering tows up to 200 miles!  Not being able to look up shops or do a lot of calling to identify a shop open Saturdays, we had the SUV towed to the Courtyard Marriott at the airport so we’d be able to catch a shuttle to the airport and rent a car to get around.  When we arrived, I called every mobile mechanic in town, so see if one would come out late on a Friday or early Saturday.  No one called me back Friday, even the places which supposedly worked 24 x 7, but Saturday morning I did get a single call back, and the mechanic was there less than an hour later.  At first he was optimistic that the oil pressure sensor may have failed, since it had clearly been worked on, but he eventually tried to turn the engine with a large wrench, and it was seized.  The oil was topped off and there was no coolant mixed in from a broken gasket, so the mode of failure most likely had to do with the oil pump itself, possibly the timing chain which drives it.

Although I had kept the vehicle in immaculate shape to get me in and out of remote places, and I had recently put another $1000 into it to hopefully get another 100,000 miles out of it, the book value was only $2000 and a rebuilt engine would cost more, so it was a total loss.

One shuttle to the airport and one rental minivan later, we were leaving at noon for the 8-hour drive home.  Of course the minivan had weather stripping on both sides of the windshield that whistled loudly over 50 MPH, at what sounded like the exact frequency of my SUV’s warning beep!  A couple of stops and a few feet of gaffer’s tape, and the whistling minivan was silenced.

The following day I was able to locate a place that would buy my vehicle using its pink slip in Reno, but pick it up in Salt Lake City a couple of days later.  Done, except for the fact that I lost the vehicle and its $2000 value, plus expenses associated with the breakdown.  I guess that I need to come up with my next project, and include a new vehicle in the budget for it.

After the trip, I bought an Apple iPhone 6S+ using the Apple Upgrade Plan, and the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick worked like a charm with that as well.  Although the USB connection is mainly to keep the Wireless Stick charged, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that when I plugged it into my laptop, it worked like a USB drive as well, and I was able to copy photos from all three smartphones directly to the laptop.

Although we think of hard drives as being a weak link in our photography toolkit (right behind vehicles), smartphones also fail, often by being dropped in water, so I’m glad to have to have an easy backup solution for the photos on mine.  If you think that you might want to pick up a SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick for storage expansion, backup, or wireless transfer of files among your wi-fi capable devices, SanDisk has given me a coupon code to offer you 30% off: https://goo.gl/1HRPrF

It handles a lot more than smartphones and photos, you can stream music or HD movies to up to 3 devices at once.  Learn about the product here: https://goo.gl/Gp0mBm or watch a product video: https://goo.gl/SfTNNc 


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SanDisk . The opinions and text are all mine.

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Final Leg Home, Without My SUV!

 

SUV breakdown

My SUV on its last journey

After a breakdown on Friday and a diagnosis by a mobile mechanic on Saturday, it was time to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah back to Topaz Lake, in the Eastern Sierra on the California/Nevada border.  We reserved a rental full size SUV at one agency to fit our gear in, but it was unavailable when we showed up.  They tried to pawn off a RAV4 as full size, then substitute a pickup truck at 2X the price, but we eventually found a minivan elsewhere at a much more reasonable rate.

From our refuge at the Courtyard Marriott near the airport, we were on the highway west in minutes.  Crossing the rest of Utah and all but the last few feet of Nevada would be a trip of over 550 miles, about 8 hours.  First you pass south of the Great Salt Lake.  We had to pull off near a Morton Salt facility due to a very loud whistling sound, caused by the weather stripping on both sides of the minivan windshield.  Copious amounts of gaffers’ tape later, the musical vibrating minivan was silenced.

Next you cross the Bonneville Salt Flats, for about an hour.  Near the far end is where the Bonneville Speedway is, where drag races are held, land speed records are broken, and many car commercials are filmed.  This week none of that would be happening, since a heavy rain had left standing water on much of the salt flats, and water-softened rock salt elsewhere.  There were reflections in the water and mirage reflections int he distance, and it was impossible to tell the difference between the two until you were close to the area that you thought had been flooded from a distance.

From the Nevada border to Wells there were some interesting mountains.the Toano Range and the Pequop Mountains. From Wells you can see the colorful aspen-decorated Humboldt Range, where I’ve camped at Angel Lake in the past.

Immediately after Wells was the exit for Deeth, where I encountered interesting and chaotic weather on a photography trip to the Rocky Mountains in the fall of 2006.

Next you can see the Ruby Mountains, where aspen appeared to be in peak color.  It was tempting to look towards Nevada’s best-known leaf-peeping site or Lamoile Canyon and consider the trip out and back from Elko, but the drive today would be long enough without adding side trips to it.

The center of the state tends to be pretty dry and uninhabited, which is either beautiful or barren, or both.  It’s not hard to see in the middle of the state how important mining is to the economy, as you pass mining machinery for sale, roads with names like Newmont Mine Road, and the mines themselves, with mountains of tailings growing toward the sky.  The boom and bust cycles as people chase one resource or another also tend to leave some interesting abandoned towns and facilities that can be interesting to explore.

We exited US-80 by Fernley, home to a large Amazon.com warehouse, and continued through Yerington, where we were treated to a moonrise during sunset.  The following evening the moon would rise entering a total eclipse.

The trip started September 7 with Lassen Volcanic National Park, passed through the Olympic Peninsula, to the Canadian Rockies, then down the Rocky Mountains to Grand Teton National Park.  It ended September 26 with the return from Salt lake City.  I was hoping to add a week-long extension to Colorado to enjoy fall colors there, but life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

Returning early would give me time to prepare for my two-night photography workshop in Bodie State Historic Park.  Besides, if I’d have to be replacing my SUV, I had that unplanned expense to deal with… good thing I didn’t have the breakdown another 600 miles further from home.  But if you do take long trips, I can’t say enough for roadside assistance plans which give you the protection of a tow up to 200 miles!

I’m going to post the story of this trip on my blogs in installments, in reverse order, so that once they are all posted, they can be read straight through in chronological order to the end, no matter what section new readers may arrive in.   Here’s the new post describing the prior day, leading up to the loss of my SUV: http://activesole.blogspot.com/2015/10/end-of-line-explorer-road-trip-September-2015.html

Total lunar eclipse, as seen from home at Topaz Lake on September 27, 2015

#roadtrip #travel #photography #blogger

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Night Workshops at Bodie State Historic Park

Whether your interest is moonlit portraits of the old buildings, light painting, star trails, Milky Way images or night timelapse photography, we can cover a lot in the space of a few hours!

We will meet in Bridgeport for an early dinner (no host) before we head out to Bodie. Dinner will be around 4:00 pm Saturday to allow us time to meet, eat and drive to the ghost town.  We will be greeted at the gate by our guides for the evening.  After a brief introduction from the Bodie Foundation, we will start our evening of photography from about 6:30 p.m. on, with a departure time of 1:00 a.m..

 

These are the last night workshops we’ll schedule for 2012, and registration will be accepted on a first come, first-served basis.  Credit cards can be used to register through the PayPal links in the right column, or if you’d prefer to mail a check, contact me.

September 22nd
Workshop Fee:    SOLD OUT!

October 6th 
Workshop Fee:   SOLD OUT!

Although our planned night photography workshops for Bodie this year are full, if you have a group of several people eager to go, contact me and perhaps we can schedule a new date.


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New Google+ Page for Workshops at Bodie State Historic Park

To help people find my upcoming photography workshops at Bodie State Historic Park, I’ve set up a Bodie Photo Workshops page on Google+https://plus.google.com/b/116719515450184310739/116719515450184310739/posts
Stay tuned for date announcements, or contact me to get on a list to receive updates.

Find us on Google+


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Chasing The Moon: Lunar Eclipse December 10, 2011

Having shot lunar eclipses several times in the past, my objective this time was to see whether I could line up the Eclipsed moon with a major landmark. I selected San Francisco’s most iconic building, the Transamerica Pyramid. The time I chose was 6:06am, right when the eclipsed moon should be coming out from total eclipse and brightening back up. I looked up the height of the building, the elevation angle of the moon at that time, and that enabled me to calculate the distance I would need to be from the building. I determined the compass direction the shadow would fall, and located point on Google earth with the right direction and distance.

 I set my camera up in that spot 10 minutes early, and here’s how the next 10 minutes turned out:
I pretty much nailed it… the center of the moon passes right past the tip of the building!

Here are some more of my images from that night:

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