Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What is it we are chasing?

 “It is in fact not our dream that makes us happy, 

but chasing that dream!” - Mehmet Murat Ildan 

It's been a year now that I've left my full time job.  Stuck in a tiny office with no window to the outdoors, sucking paint fumes, and fielding the constant influx of unhappy people, I had enough. I couldn't bare another day daydreaming while viewing my computer screen, gazing at images of the outdoors, adventure and travel.   

Indeed it has been a great year, full of photography and travel. I've even had time to put pen to paper and write ( but not as much as I'd like ).  I'm still dreaming though.  I dream of the day I can call myself a full time photographer (or my bank account can). Somehow the dream is just out of arms reach, the proverbial carrot in front of the goat.  But what is it that I'm really chasing?

I've spent more days in the field this year than all the other years put together. I spent a whole week chasing rainbows. A month chasing fall colors, then two chasing ice.  A month chasing tides and sunsets, and weeks in sandy deserts. It was... dreamy.

Surely it is what photographers do, chasing, always chasing. We're chasing opportunities, and expectations. Chasing high hopes for moving experiences, and award winning photographs.    Chasing likes on social media accounts, and schmoozing people at art fairs for attention (or a dollar).

Reality is beginning to take hold.  Maybe I'll never stop chasing. Or maybe I'm not chasing, I'm really running away. You only live once, the fear of missing out, old YOLO and FOMO.  That sense of urgency.  Maybe I've placed more attention on living in the moment instead of planning for the future. Certainly that's what my dad would have thought, were he still alive.   Seeing him slip away, however, flipped a switch in my brain.  I was watching myself pass away in front of my eyes. Life is too damn short.  I put the clipboard of insurance property loss away, and ran away to deal with my own losses. I think I've earned that, at least.

Maybe I'm just a crazy man trying to catch raindrops, but I'm happier chasing the dream.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

On Landscape- The Toadstools of Escalante

 I am happy to announce an article I've written can be found the the 177th issue of On Landscape Magazine.  This subscriber supported magazine is a repository of photographic artistry, with very thought provoking articles. My article is a reader submission to their 4x4 gallery, featuring a four image portfolio of a related subject. 

Again, the magazine is online and subscription only. If you enjoy nature photography it is well worth the couple of bucks a month.

On Landscape  

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Guide to Phogographing Grand Canyon National Park eBook

Happy Birthday to Grand Canyon National Park.
                        100 years old!

I am pleased to announce the debut of my latest project, an eBook on Photographing Grand Canyon National Park, from the South Rim.  This guide will take you from point to point, and lead you to the historical attractions,  while giving you insight into photographing each subject.  The book goes in depth describing the view from each point, the historical significance, and how to to get the best shot. It walks you through the historical Grand Canyon Village, offers tips on shooting the wildlife and, after dark, will advise you on night photography.  Full of stunning imagery and inspiration, it will help you make the most of your time the park and to get the shot you have always dreamed of. 

For a limited time I am offering the 71 page eBook as a free .pdf to the first 100 people that respond.  All you have to do is email me at info@alpineimaging.net with GCNP  in the subject line and I will send you your free copy. You can also follow this link: http://www.alpineimaging.net/reach-me.html

I am currently accepting feedback. If there are any improvements you would like to see, I'd like to hear from you.

 Here's a screen shot:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse

The Blood Wolf Eclipse Composite

Blood moon, wolf moon, eclipse, oh my!  I love nightscapes and the buzz all around was the impending Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse that was about to happen.  Sunday January 20 beginning around 8:30 the moon began to be blocked by the earth, and turn the moon to a curious reddish color.   I still think it's amazing that these events can be predicted to the 'n'th degree.  I don't photograph the night sky too much with out some earthly anchor.  My usual image has a foreground and stars, with a little light painting thrown around.  This kind of photography has fascinated me since making images in high school, with film cameras.   This is why I had it in my mind that an ancient Puebloan ruins close to home would make a terrific subject for such an endeavor.  The area has dark night skies, away from any light pollution.  A little light painting and presto! An image to remember.  Except the government ruined my plans.  The place was barricaded. I could have poached the site I had scoped out, but didn't want to be that guy, a scofflaw. That, and driving around the barricades seemed really destructive.

I didn't want to be disappointed, after all I was out that night to shoot the moon.  I shifted my expectations a little, and chose to stay in an area that was forest service, and thus not protected.   Part of being a photographer is managing expectations.  Having an idea in your mind's eye is the basis for every creative endeavor, but expecting everything to work out perfectly every time is unrealistic. Instead of packing up when the light is 'bad,' another opportunity could be lurking around the corner.  

Camper and Eclipse

I drove around on the cinder forest service road in the dark with some driving lights, and settled on an area surrounded by short grasses and small juniper trees.  I set up camp and two cameras, each with tripods. With an eye on the sky, I quickly heated up some Kung Pao that I had prepared a night or two before. Well past happy hour, I also cracked a beer and waited for the show to begin.  

One camera was pointed at the camper, since ancient ruins were unavailable. And I love a foreground, oh and light painting.  I used a wide 24mm lens at f2.8.  The other was set up zoomed all the way in to 200mm.  I used various apertures and iso's and tried to keep shutter speeds above 1/15s.  Any longer runs the risk of the moon movement creating a blur.  I kept having to recompose after about five shots, so the moon didn't creep out of the frame. Focusing on the moon at it's brightest, and then shutting off the auto focus is always a good idea.  Mirror-lock up and an external release was also used to avoid any camera shake. The moon progression was to last about an hour and a half.  I started making images about every two minutes, ending with about 80 images all together.  Better to have too many than not enough.  It started to get a bit windy toward the end, and some high clouds were being pushed through.  I thought I might capture the waning eclipse but at 37 degrees, and the wind getting stiffer, I decided to pack it in. My hands and feet were pretty numb. 

Dawn on Citadel Ruin

I spent the night, and awoke to the vibrant sunrise peaking through the window.  The wind had kicked up to about 60 mph and I thought I might as well head home for breakfast.  On the way out the light was just awesome.  Sunrise, clouds and a setting full moon kept stopping me.  I made a few images from off the side of the road.  I made it home before a snow squall caught up to me. 

At home I took the images into Lightroom, and analyzed them, and sorted them to the best ones.  With the high clouds some were definitely better than others.  I settled on 12 that had good luminance and detail.  I exported each one as a separate layer into Photoshop into one document, reduced their opacity as I arranged them into a row. I then selected all the layers and used the blend mode 'screen'.  I added a vector with the pen tool in a separate layer so I could then further line up the moons, then deleted it when I was satisfied.  Flattening the image layers was the last thing to do before saving.  I have Photoshop set to stack the new image with the others in Lightroom, then I adjusted whatever aberrations or hot pixels there were from there. 

Cinder Cone Dawn

What would I have done if the clouds completely obscured the event, you might ask?  Shots of tequila.

Monday, December 31, 2018

18 from '18 - My Favorite Images

Rainbow Rim

This has been an exciting year for me, full of adventure and photography.  It was also a life changing one, having retired from a career of 25 years filing insurance paperwork for auto collisions.  I never really saw my 'calling' in that industry, it always felt like a means to an end. I always saw myself as an artist, a writer, or a traveler.  Now that I'm here I can dedicate more of my time to those endeavors.  I don't really have a plan yet, I just closed my eyes and stepped off into the precipice.

Aspen on Ice

If asked what is my all time favorite image I've made, or where was my favorite place was, I'd have to answer "The one I haven't taken or visited yet." That feeling of anticipation and the joy of discovery are the real reasons I love photography, and travel.  There is no feeling like gazing at a beautiful rainbow, or studying the delicate structure of ice, and having the freedom to do so.

Muley Point

Natural Bridges Ruins
Chimney Rock

I started my year of image making in the spring.  I had the fortune of attending the last and final Moab Photography Symposium in Utah.  I met a lot a great people, and am looking forward to continuing to connect and use their inspiration to help motivate me. There is nothing like the fellowship of like minded artists to elevate ones mindset.  Seeing their creative process opens up possibilities that would never have otherwise occurred.  I spent 10 days in and around the area visiting favorite old locations and discovering new ones.

Symbiotic Fern

Less than a month later I set out on another adventure. Kristi's mom had just moved to be near her brother in another one of the coolest places in the country, Port Townsend Washington.  We both drove there, visiting friends along the way. I got to explore the Olympic National Park, and ferry to the San Juan Islands, ride sailboats, and hike to hidden beaches. Thirty days was spent with relatives and rain-forests. 

Hoh Rainforest Creek

Olympic Roddys

Rhododendron Forest
Shi Shi Beach
Fourth Beach

Rialto Seastacks

The rest of the summer was spent finishing a rental cottage I was building. During which time, every weekend was spent camping locally.  After having rented the cottage out, I struck out on my own chasing the storms of Hurricane Rosa and looking for fall colors. The San Francisco Peaks, Grand Canyon, Coal Mine Canyon, then back to the Inner Basin. I even got to throw in a biking trip to the North Rim during peak fall color and the unsettled weather of the 'Remnants of Rosa.' 

Coal Mine Canyon Rainbow
Moody Grand View

I ended the year with dessert. Desert, rather.  The Mohave desert. We spent the Christmas holiday at Joshua Tree just in time for the Government shutdown. More on that later on my travelblog.

Joshua Tree Dawn Monochrome

Joshua Tree Milkyway

White Granite Arch

I sit here writing this, watching huge snowflakes falling.  Gathering snow covers the houses and streets, smoothing all the rough edges, and clinging to the trees.  Looking back at the year in photos really smooths out those rough edges.  Looking back is also bitter-sweet.  Thinking of friends and family lost, then thinking of family and friends gained.  Hold them like snow clinging to the trees.

Frosted Aspen Landscape

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Has photography turned into destructive Instagratography?

  I love the outdoors, and beautiful landscapes.  I also love photographing and sharing them.  But what have I done? Lately there have been many articles about how landscape photography has morphed into an obsessive destructive past time. Posting images online and revealing their locations have brought a flood of "me too's",  resulting in an ever increasing visitation and copycatting conundrum.

   Time was that early photographers shared their work with publications and politicians to affect a change in perception and policy.  Works from Ansel Adams, Phillip Hyde, and Katie Lee come to mind. Adams once wrote: “Wilderness is rapidly becoming one of those aspects of the American dream which is more of the past than of the present."  A sentiment shared by many, and dating back to even the earliest days of this country. John Muir wrote around the turn of the century: "The battle for conservation must go on endlessly. It is part of the universal warfare between right and wrong."

  They both were fundamental members of the Sierra Club, one of the premier organizations that helped battle development and promote conservation of the American wilderness.  Phillip Hyde worked with Adams and the Sierra Club and was instrumental at helping protect Dinosaur National Monument, the Grand Canyon,  Canyon de Chelly, Canyonlands, and many others with his photography. Philip Hyde adamantly stated that his reason for being a photographer was to "share the beauty of nature and encourage the preservation of wild places."

    A couple of years ago I attended an exposition at a local art gallery West of the Moon.  It depicted images of a young Katie Lee in tasteful, yet risque nudes in and around Glenn Canyon prior to the dam construction and subsequent flooding starting in the late 1960s.  Her photos, made by Tad Nichols, raised awareness of the beauty and cultural heritage that would be lost once the reservoir filled to capacity by the 80s.  Sadly the dam was built regardless, and ironically has since lost most of it's virility due to constant siphoning and drought that seems to plague the American West as of late. Her images stand as a testament of what was loved, and lost, raising the stakes even higher.

For better or for worse, I wanted my photography to make such an impact.  I love wilderness, and landscapes.  It seemed only natural that I would photograph them and share the images in hopes it would instill the appreciation and awe that I possessed with my audience. With such a noble motivation, and brilliant shoulders to stand upon, what could possibly go wrong?

   A year or so ago, I was in Chaco Canyon National Park exploring ancient ruins of the Ancestral Puebloan people.  Here was a vibrant culture that had created an incredible hub for trade and agriculture, laid to ruin by the effects of tribalism and climate change. I was fascinated by the striking parallels. Having studied and visited there in college over a decade ago, I was excited to return.  I was also driving a four wheel drive campervan, that I had newly built. Having driven a '76 VW campmobile for the past 15 years, I wasn't a stranger to vanlife, even before it was a hashtag thing.   I was extremely excited to share my accomplishments and exploits in vanning and photography, so I joined a forum of like-minded individuals. 

   It was in that forum that I had shared a trip report of an adventure I had driving the rough road to Alstrom Point overlooking Lake Powell.  I had seen a triptych of Gunsight Butte at an art show, and now with my uber-capable camping machine couldn't wait to "me too."  Sure, I did that too, and wrote about and shared it on that forum.   A year later I found myself in the Chaco Canyon campground standing next to another adventure van speaking to it's owner.  I soon realized we both were members on the forum, and after having exchanged each other's 'handle' we recognized each other. I discovered that he and his wife had just completed the same Alstrom Point trip and used my trip report as their guide. 

  At first I was flattered. Then I thought, if that guy had seen my post, how many other people have seen the post?   Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a guy starting a tourism website and was asked if he could share my trip report on his website. There was my answer, and hastily, I agreed.  Now most people would relish in the attention, and use it to further promote themselves in a "look at me" sort of way.  Instead I started to become remorseful.  I began to think, "Oh God, what have I done?"  I've helped proliferate visitation to a remote and gorgeous location that can't possibly support the added numbers of "me too's."   
This issue isn't just affecting my conscience.  It is becoming an ubiquitous issue effecting landscapes around the world. Photography has morphed into a social media frenzy of bucket list check boxes.  Visitation to locations such as Horseshoe Bend outside of Page, Arizona has been increasing exponentially from when I visited in 2011. It has jumped from less than a thousand people a day to nearly six thousand in a mere seven years. Now there are plans for a visitor center, and parking for 450 vehicles. Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism  has recently requested people stop geotagging and posting images of the area, saying “Every time someone captures stunning scenery and tags the exact location, crowds follow.” New Zealand's Roys Peak, and the famous tree in Lake Wanaka are yet another example. Aaron Fleming, an operations director at the New Zealand Department of Conservation, says tourists are getting fixated on reproducing the same photos found on Instagram.  “One of the biggest challenges park managers face worldwide is the power of social media to create new visitor destinations at short notice.”  The internet is sparking lines of people queuing up to imitate and take all the same photos. Tripod holes have been replaced with geotagged social smart phone holes.

   People's inclination of seeing an image and attempting to duplicate it has been around since the days of Da Vinci.   It was even taught to budding artists, sparking some really convincing forgeries.   But there comes a time when an artist has to strike out on their own to make more original and personal works of art. Same goes with shooting icons.  Shooting icons are great.  The places are beautiful and inspiring, and they make amazing images. But don't try and shoot forgeries. Try to look at the scene differently. Get creative. Make it personal. Go somewhere else. 

   But what about those that have no concern for making art? What are we to do about those that inundate these beautiful places just to see how many likes they can get on their social media account?   I shudder at the thought. It makes me want to crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after me.

   So you want to see that amazing place in person. That's fine I'm all for it. Like Mark Twain says "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." But let's not be a lemming.  Let's not stand in a queue waiting to take the same photo over and over. And especially let's not geotag it, Instagram it, or love it to death. 

This ancient ruin located in an alcove in Canyonlands National Park has been permanently closed by the National Park Service for being loved to death. It's location was guarded by the NPS, but the internet has a way of disseminating information, to the detriment of cultural preservation.  


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Alpine Imaging at Long Line Pilates Open Studio

Have you ever wanted to see what Wade and Kristi are up to?  We are both proud of our accomplishments and would like to share our passions with you.  This is why we decided to create an event that does just that.  It's been two years since I've had an event showcasing my work. Kristi is even more shy, as she hasn't ever had an Open Studio event.  She is an incredible teacher, and her clients are some of the most loyal I've ever seen.  Somehow art and exercise just go together. Get a jump on your New Years Resolution, or holiday gift giving and join us at Long Line Pilates for an Open Studio and Exhibit reception. 

Canvas wraps, Metal Prints, Framed Prints, Matted Prints are all for your perusal. Elevate your life with emotive art.  Try out the Reformer, hop on the Cadillac, stretch your back on the Ladder Barrel.   You might just discover some endorphins you never knew you had.  You'll love you for it.