The Key is Under the Mat

There’s something poetic about walking into a strange house and finding the remains of breakfast still on the kitchen table.  It’s November 14, and we were scheduled to photograph a recently remodeled kitchen. There were three of us, a representative from the architectural firm that had hired us, my assistant, and myself. The residents were off at work or school. We were left with instructions to let ourselves in; the key would be under the mat. As it turns out, the key wasn’t under the mat. But in the midst of poking around we discovered that the back door was unlocked. 

My first impression was that the home owners must have forgotten about our arrangements to photograph the place. Why else would one leave things in a total state of disarray. Once we confirmed that the homeowners anticipated our intrusion we got to work. But not before I photographed this cereal bowl with my iPhone.  It feels like it’s an invasion of privacy to capture this photo. An intimate snapshot of how people really live.  And I find myself creating all sorts of stories about what happened at the breakfast table that morning.

Perfect Day on the Bay

BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle. Tiburon Yacht Club to Point Molate.

I managed to get back on the water yesterday to join some of my paddling buddies from BASK for the “Thursday Lunch Paddle.” We had flat calm with the exception of a few wakes from passing ships and ferries. We launched from Paradise Cay Yacht Harbor at 10:30, with eight of us in seven boats, two in a double, the rest in singles. The route crosses shipping channels, and we held up on the crossing to let shipping traffic and ferries go by before crossing the shipping lanes. When we reached Red Rock we gathered up to discus our options. With the calm conditions we decided to paddle on the Point Molate Beach. On the beach we found a picnic table in the shade and had a vary civilized lunch. When it was time to get back in our boats we had a bunch of inquisitive school kids eager to help us get back on the water. The return trip was just as calm as the trip out, with a slight ebb current carrying us under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and towards our destination. I wore my dry suit, which was probably more protection than I needed for the conditions, being a warm day, but having just gotten it back from the factory for repairs, I wanted to make sure the seals fit properly.

The photos I captured seemed to demand being presented in black and white, particularly with the lighting, reflections and design elements of the bridge. Here are a few more.

At the end of the paddle we had logged 8.8 miles. You can see a track of our course here.

Olmstead Point

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail.” John Muir – Our National Parks, 1901

Lone tree at Olmstead Point. Yosemite National Park.
Lone tree at Olmstead Point. Yosemite National Park.

Olmstead Point is located in high country of Yosemite National Park. It’s 30.5 miles east of Crane Flat on Highway 120. It is a popular spot to stop and get a sense for the grandeur of the high sierra. There is also a short nature hike here. It is also away from the crowds of Yosemite Valley, although it is only accessible in the summer and fall. In winter Highway 120 closes.  Prints of the photo above are available in my online store.

This stop always brings back memories of the photography workshop I did with Ansel Adams in 1980. It was Ansel’s last Yosemite workshop, and while he was restricted to the lower elevations, The workshop instructors and students made our way to this point.

 

Antelope Canyon Photo Tour

Sunbeams. Antelope Canyon

On July 3 I found myself touring Antelope Canyon with camera and tripod in hand.

The slot canyons of the Southwest provide some remarkable photo opportunities. These canyons are often deep and narrow with red sandstone walls eroded into fantastic shapes by wind and water. Antelope Canyon is one of the more famous canyons and you need to book a tour with one of the tour operators that provide Navajo guides. We booked our tour several months ago through Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour. The cost for the tour was $195 for a tour of two canyons; well worth the money. You can book a regular tour in which case you are limited to a hand-held camera or you can book a photo tour which requires a camera and tripod. Joann booked a regular tour for herself and a photo tour for me.

My photo tour started at 9:00 AM, and we were instructed to be at the tour headquarters 45 minutes early. For the regular tour no bags or backpacks are allowed, likewise for the photo tour you can take a camera and tripod, again no bags or backpacks. Some of the canyons are quite narrow and having a backpack would hinder movement. There is also a concern of scratching the canyon walls and leaving marks if you are carrying a backpack with a tripod. I arrived at the headquarters with my backpack, Nikon D800, and two lenses, a 14-24 and a 28-300, and a water bottle. I opted to shoot with the 14-24 on the advice that wider is better. I also had my little Sony RX100 in a holster on my belt. At 8:45 we climbed into an Hummer for a 15 minute ride up a sandy wash. A rather bumpy ride. Our first stop was Rattlesnake Canyon. I left my pack and water bottle in the car and grabbed my camera and tripod. Even if I had taken my second lens, changing lenses in the canyon is not advisable. There is a tremendous amount of dust, and the risk of getting dust on the sensor is quite high.

In the canyon the guides were very efficient at helping us get into position, a challenge with multiple photographers in the tight confines of the canyon. They broke us into groups and placed us in different rooms, while making sure we had time to capture a few images while they controlled the visitors on other tours.

It wasn’t far into the first canyon when I dropped my remote cable in the sand, and at that point it stopped working properly. I was able to get it to work off and on, but it was a bit frustrating. With the tour operating as it does, you have a limited time to capture images. Be advised to make sure you know your camera well and that your equipment is in good order with fully charged batteries. You will have little time to fiddle with camera once you are in the canyon.

Once we had traversed Rattlesnake Canyon we hiked over the canyon rim back to the Hummer and headed for Upper Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a very busy place with many tourists traversing the canyon with their guides. Even so, the tour operators all seem to cooperate to give the photo tour access to some of the more interesting rooms. They will put the photographers in position, halt traffic through a room and give you a couple of minutes to shoot. As noon approached the shafts of light beaming down into the canyon became the focus of the tour. The guides would throw sand in the air to help accentuate the shafts of light. A very dusty experience. Several of the photographers had wrapped their cameras in plastic bags to protect them from dusk. Probably a good idea. Next time I might take my camera raincoat for that purpose. This tour is best done close to the summer solstice when the sun is high in the sky, creating vertical shafts of light deep in the canyon.

Taliesin West

Our travels took us to Taliesin West today. We had purchased tickets ahead of time since we were planning on being in Phoenix today for a family reunion. We booked the “Details Tour,” which was a two hour tour covering some of the details of the architecture. Photos are permitted on this tour, so it as a treat to capture photos with my little Sony RX100.

Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West in 1937 as his winter home and school in the desert. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. I was surprised to find that the buildings seem to be a bit rough hewn, which seems appropriate since the location was a laboratory for design and experimentation and much of the facilities were built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students. The location was very remote at the time it was built and the design reflects Wright’s love of nature and philosophy about how design should interact with nature.

For anybody interested in architecture, design and nature this tour is a must.

 

 

Island in the Sky

Juniper and sky at Island in the Sky. Canyon Lands National Park.

I captured this image a couple of days ago, close to sunset at the Green River Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

“All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”– T. K. Wipple, Study Out the Land

Up the Creek

On Sunday February 20, I paddled my kayak up San Rafael Creek, launching from Loch Lomond Yacht Harbor. The original plan was to meet with a number of fellow paddlers for a paddle across the bay.  With high winds predicted, crossing the bay did not sound like a wise thing to do, so I cancelled the organized paddle. Being the trip initiator though, I thought I should show up at the launch site to intercept anybody that might not have gotten the word about the cancellation.  No other kayaks showed up. From the launch site it’s just a short distance to San Rafael Creek, and for the most part, staying close to shore provides protection from the wind. I decided I would go on a solo paddle. I was wearing a full dry suit for protection should I end up in the water, my personal flotation device (PFD, lifejacket), and I had a marine VHF radio and cell phone which I keep in a Lifeproof case, along with my trusty little Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof camera which has become my go-to camera for paddling. I was also curious to know how my new boat, the Pygmy Ronan, would handle in the wind. So I put my boat in the water, climbed in and took my time paddling up the creek as far as I could go. Being solo I was able to poke along and explore the yacht harbors and boats without having to keep up with the gang; free to do my own thing. Here are a few photos I captured along the way. Happy to report that the boat handled the wind better than I expected. Many kayaks tend to “weathercock” meaning they turn into the wind, which adds to the effort required to get the boat to go in the direction you want. Skegs and rudders are often used to correct for this. I’m thinking I may be fine without any modifications. Shortly after I returned to my launch site the wind picked up and I was happy to be off the water.  A round trip of 5.5 miles. If you are curious about just where it was I was paddling you can see my track here.