The first portion of our trip was well planned. We had permits for backpacking in specific areas and dates. We were going to meet our friends at an agreed upon time and location. The rest of the trip? We didn’t have a plan at all. So where to go next? After tossing around several ideas we decided on the North Cascades in Washington. With a destination selected, it was time to head to the Cascades—but not by the shortest or most direct route. We would make an intermediate stop at the Columbia Gorge.
It ended up being a long drive from the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains to the Columbia Gorge because we chose to drive on primarily on secondary highways instead of Interstates. Slower, yes, but so much more interesting. The first day of driving took us from Bridgeport to just south of Tahoe—but it did include a few hours of hiking. The second day of driving—mostly on Highway 89—barely got us into Oregon by early evening and we ended up stopping in Ashland for the night. We discovered that there was a food co-op nearby and we went shopping for both travel food and dinner items. What a nice store! Lucky Ashlanders!
And, then, another day of driving up Interstate 5 and trying to go around the east side of Portland to miss the traffic. That didn’t work out well as the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace until we finally got onto I-80 eastbound—and finally onto Historic Columbia River Highway.
Oh, it was worth it. The waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge are many and very beautiful. We arrived in late afternoon and stayed well into the evening. Watching the setting sun light up the upper portion of Multnomah Falls made it all worthwhile.
Here are some photos from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon.
This summer we travelled through several western states over a period of about three weeks. Major attractions included watching the Perseid meteor shower in the Nevada desert, backpacking in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California, viewing the waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, and hiking in the northern Cascades of Washington. The weather was good with light rain on two days and heavy rain once—and that was on the drive home.
Here are some photos from Nevada and the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.
The next post will include images from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon which has an abundance of waterfalls.
I found myself at Grand Canyon once again with hopes of interesting storms and lightning as well as sunset and astrophotography.
Late in the afternoon, these two cumulus towers south of Grand Canyon suggested that the next few hours could be interesting. Less than one-half hour later, the convection had become a Cumulonimbus with lightning. The storm was a fair distance away so that the lightning bolts were small—and in the wrong location. I had hoped to photograph a storm with lightning over the canyon but it was not to be.
A few days ago I was in the right place at the right time and watched thunderstorms at sunset that were producing lightning strikes across the nearby cliffs and mountains. The sun was low and was producing warm sunset colors on the hills and rain—and lightning.
This is a composite of several images taken over a period of six minutes.
With continued warm and dry weather expected we headed to Durango, Colorado, for a few days of mountain biking and hiking. We already had a few ideas for trails and we figured we’d get more while in town.
On our first day of riding we did the Dry Fork–Colorado Trail–Hoffheins loop with an extension on the Colorado Trail to the local “high point” giving us a total of about 17 miles. There were plenty of wildflowers along the Colorado Trail section along with occasional views of distant peaks. We also saw a family of wild turkey but, as usual, they were easier to see than to photograph.
With exceptionally clear skies, a waxing cresent moon in the west, and the Milky Way rising in the east it was time to head out and photograph…something wonderful. And so we set out for Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Here is what the National Park Service has to say about this structure:
An architect today might win an award for designing Wukoki Pueblo. The corners, angles, and lines of masonry are meticulous. From its base, the eye is drawn skyward to a height that inspires awe of this ancient craftsmanship.
Indeed, the lines of this remarkable structure do draw your eyes upwards to the stars and the Milky Way. How often was this view seen by those who lived here ca. 1100–1200 A.D?
The summer thunderstorm season got off to a slightly early start this year with moisture flowing northward into northern Arizona in late June. A more typical start would be the first or second week of July. However, you won’t get complaints from most folks about the early start as it signals the end of wildfire season.
The highlight this early in the season is this rainbow seen from Yavapai Point on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The rainbow spans nearly 3/4 of a full circle and contains both primary and secondary bows. Rainbows typically are at least 50% hidden owing to the horizon. Only when the horizon is lower than the observer—e.g., from a mountaintop or over a canyon—will more than 50% be visible.
The North American Monsoon (NAM) is slowly developing across northern Mexico but has not yet spread northward into Arizona. Nonetheless, some tropical moisture moved northward across the state and produced some showers and thunderstorms. In fact, one thunderstorm produced almost 1/2 inch of rain on the southwest side of Flagstaff (including my house!) and the temperature dropped more than 25°F resulting in pleasant conditions.
These storms produced a cool outflow boundary that pushed southward off the Mogollon Rim and into the lower elevations. These outflows can result in new thunderstorms forming over Sedona—one of my favorite places for photographing storms and lightning. And so I headed to Sedona.
The outflow boundary was apparent as a line of shallow cumulus clouds roughly aligned east to west across the area. I selected a spot on Upper Red Rock Crossing Road to shoot towards Cathedral Rock and then waited for lightning.
It was a long wait.
From first test photo to first lighting was a little over an hour. I’m patient but I almost gave up.Then, suddenly, a flash across the sky. Missed it—because I was zoomed in too tight. A moment later—another flash and this one I got. And that was it. No more flashes.
Time to move to another location and shoot twilight colors. I often find myself at the defunct Sedona Cultural Park because it has wide open vistas to the west (at least for now). I arrived as the sun was setting and everyone else was leaving. But the so-called “Blue Hour” can be the best time. If you take long exposures, you can get some really nice colors. I particularly liked this cloud because of the thin streamers of precipitation falling with twilight colors in the background.
A day later and the moisture has moved out of the area resulting in more typical hot, dry days with clear blue skies. Boring.
During the summer months the waxing crescent Moon sets in the west-northwest and lines up with Upper Lake Mary casting a long reflective glow on the water. With this in mind, I set out to capture images of the Moon just two days past new Moon and with only about 6% of the disk directly illuminated. During this lunar phase the dark portion of the Moon is faintly lit by reflected light called Earthshine.
I arrived early and watched the fading colors of sunset then began my wait for the skies to darken. The first image shows the crescent Moon fairly high in the sky with patches of clouds between it and the horizon.
About 45 minutes after the first image I was able to get this photograph as the Moon was approaching the horizon and leaving a long reflective trail across the lake.
A few weeks ago I attempted to photograph the nearly full moon as it rose from behind Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. On previous shoots of this type, I have used The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) to determine where I should be located so that the moon will rise between the spires of this rock. My experience with TPE has been very good and typically I only have to make small adjustments to my position to get the perfect alignment.
For this event, I used TPE but I also wanted to test PhotoPills, an iPhone app. One of the features of PhotoPills is AR (“augmented reality”). What AR does is use the phone camera and superimpose the position of the moon and its track on the image seen by the camera.
As I approached my shooting location (as previously determined by TPE), I checked my position using PhotoPills. PhotoPills was telling me that my position needed to change; i.e., that I was already too far south and had to move back to the north. According to PhotoPills, the moon would rise to the south (right) of Cathedral Rocks. I was fairly certain at this point that TPE was right and PhotoPills was wrong.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. In the first photo, the moon has begun to rise to the left (north) of Cathedral Rock. At this time, PhotoPills was still indicating it would rise to the right (south) of Cathedral Rock (i.e., the far right edge of the photo).
That’s a pretty big error.
It turns out that PhotoPills can only be as good as the GPS and compass in the iPhone and those may not be very accurate. PhotoPills should not be blamed for what is an iPhone issue.
As the moon rose, I quickly moved to the south to attempt to get it between the spires but it was rising faster than I could reposition myself and I did not get the photograph that I wanted. That’s fine—as I have done this before and have a few great shots of the moon rising behind Cathedral Rock. (See, for example, Moonrise 1; Moonrise 2)
I’ll be using TPE for my next moon rise photo. I like PhotoPills for some of the other features it has—just not this one.