The Sweet Light

Post-sunset Light, Indian Creek, Utah

A ten second exposure reveals the sweet light reflected on towering sandstone cliffs by fiery sunset clouds on the opposite horizon. A medium telephoto focal length provided some reach into the scene, which eliminated foreground distractions and simplified the composition. The final image is a compromise between my desire to fill the frame with glowing rock and my desire to convey the expansiveness of the scene.

Reflected light is some of the most beautiful light there is. Similar to low-angle sunrise or sunset light, yet more subtle, softer. Under the right conditions rock glows as if lit from within (red rock looks particularly fiery). In order to capture this kind of light a tripod is a must, even if I had pushed my ISO to 6400, my shutter speed would still have been 1/6 of a second - way to slow to hand-hold. The tripod is one of the most cumbersome, least glamorous tools in photography, and one of the most important to the landscape photographer.

Best of 2014

Here is a meticulously edited selection of my favorite photos from 2014. These are the images I created in 2014 with the most impact, the most emotion, and in several cases the most color.

They represent the best moments in the best places I made it to last year and the times I was most effective in communicating a sense of place and the drama of the moment.

Of course, now I'm wondering, how do these images stack up against the best of 2013, or against my all-time greatest hits? Are any of these images strong enough to stand the test of time?

"Best of All Time" sounds like another ten week editing project. Hopefully I can publish something else in the meantime.

Best of 2013

That's not a typo. These really are my best images from 2013. I've been doing a lot of editing recently and thought, before I bring out the best of 2014, I'll go back to the recap I missed.

I ended up with a few more than the customary ten or twelve images only because I couldn't stand cutting what I considered to be weaker images in favor of images that have all ready appeared on this blog. I do believe less is more, but I couldn't help myself. I decided on an even mix of all ready been published on this blog and never before seen images.

It's a fun challenge to distill an entire year of images down to a handful of selects. It can also be a bit disappointing; I thought I had more and better images. I'd love to know what anyone else thought about this collection. Which are the four weakest images? Which are the strongest?

Red Butte Garden Annual Holiday Open House

Bonsai Rock Twilight, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Please join me at the Red Butte Garden Annual Holiday Open House, Saturday and Sunday, December 6th and 7th, from 10am till 5pm. Admission to the gardens is free on these two days and you can shop for unique Christmas gifts from a select group of local artists, with 30% of the proceeds going to support Red Butte Garden. I'll be offering a wide range of photographic prints from note cards and small matted prints to large framed photographs and stretched canvases, as well as my unique photo transfers on stone, paper, wood, and metal. I'm excited to show some new work (like the image above) from a July excursion to Lake Tahoe.

All Days Are Not Created Equal

Dry Creek from the Alpine Ridge, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

Late Light Breaks Through to Embellish White Baldy, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

The Pfeifferhorn Looms in the Distance as Fog Envelops the Scene, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

I didn’t set out to go to the Pfeifferhorn. At home in the morning, looking towards Lone Peak and Upper Bells Canyon and seeing low clouds pushing down on the mountains, I knew I wanted to get high in the mountains. So I decided to head for Upper Red Pine Lake. I could just imagine the lake shrouded in fog, edged by ghostly tree silhouettes.

The entire way up through the forest I kept thinking, “I’m going to miss it, by the time I get there the fog is going to be gone, this whole day is going to clear up and there’s going to be nothing left but blue skies and sunshine”. When I got to Red Pine Lake I realized the image in my mind was not a reality, the clouds and fog were only occasionally reaching below the ridgeline, but the peaks were in the clouds.

After an obligatory photo session and a lunch break at Upper Red Pine Lake, I started for the ridge. Again those same thoughts swirled in my mind as I plodded towards the ridge,” I’m going to miss it”, and “the clouds, the fog, the mist are going to completely dissipate by the time I get there”. Well, this time my fears were unfounded and once I reached the ridge I was in the ethereal zone.

The rest of the day became one long photo session as I made my way to the Pfeifferhorn, spent over an hour on the summit, and began to descend the headwall back into Red Pine Canyon after the last red light of the evening danced across the top of White Baldy. It was a long hike in the dark back to the trailhead, all the way from Upper Red Pine Lake. It was worth it.

Even though my feet hurt and I was hungry, I was buoyed by thoughts of how amazing this day had been and how fortunate I was to be able to spend the day photographing an absolutely stunning location in the kind of conditions I dream about as a landscape photographer. I also couldn’t help but think that all days are not created equal.

One truism of landscape photography that I try to live by is, never judge a day by the weather, get out in the landscape anyway. Subjects abound and there’s always some way to make a meaningful photograph, no matter what the weather is doing. Still, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trade a day like this for at least a few blue sky days.

View from the Top of the Pfeifferhorn, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah


Wilderness 50

Sunset, Upper Red Pine Lake, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

I'm honored to be one of 50 photographers chosen to be part of the Wilderness 50 Exhibit which opened September 3rd at the Natural History Museum of Utah on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. 50 photographs by 50 photographers were chosen from over fourteen hundred photographs submitted by four judges; Tom Till, James Kay, Stephen Trimble, and Rosalie Winard. The show is a commemoration of the signing of the Wilderness Act as well as a celebration of the beauty and diversity of Utah's wildlands, and runs thru December 14th in the Sky Gallery on the museum's top floor.

Downtown SLC Farmers Market

Zen Tree (Pigment Transfer to Board), Lake Mary, Wasatch National Forest, Utah

After six years as a full season Arts and Crafts vendor in the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers Market, this season I've gone to part time. I'm at the market every other Saturday. Come check out my huge selection of one of a kind, hand made, transfer prints. These are the dates you can find me at the market: August 16, August 30, September 13, September 27, October 11, and October 25.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California

Pfeiffer Arch, Big Sur, California

Big Sur is one of my favorite photography destinations and Pfeiffer Beach is at the top of my list of specific locations. Located two miles off Highway 1 down the winding one lane Sycamore Canyon Road, Pfeiffer Beach is not to be missed. Although this may not be the ideal beach for a picnic due to the near constant wind, the scenic beauty can't be beat. This is a day use only area with a $5 entry fee. I did find it annoying that although this is a National Forest beach it's managed by a private company that collects the fees and therefore the Interagency Federal Lands Pass is not honored, however it's well worth the $5 investment.

Sunset is the prime time to visit. Photographically, November thru February are the best months to visit. At this time of year the sun sets further south and lines up with the arch. The other advantage to visiting at this time of year is that clear skies and sunsets are more likely, during warmer months inland heat draws the fog into the coast. The first time I visited was in September and although it was still incredibly dramatic it was so foggy you couldn't even tell where the sun was in the sky, it just eventually got dark, without any golden light.

If the conditions look promising and you want to try to photograph the arch, with the spray of waves crashing through it lit-up by the setting sun, be sure to arrive a little early. The effect is most distinct from about an hour before sunset to about a half hour before sunset. During that last half hour of the day, when most people seem to arrive, the sun is all ready too low on the horizon to really give the mystical effect seen a little bit earlier.

Sunset, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California

Pfeiffer Beach Twilight, Big Sur, California