Winter Birds of Red Butte Garden

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Last Sunday while at the Red Butte Garden annual holiday open house, I abandoned my booth for a couple of forays out into the wintery garden in hopes of seeing and photographing birds. To my surprise I saw nine different species of birds within about twenty minutes.

I'm guessing that the gardens create a rare concentration of winter food, based on my experience that bird sightings in the Salt Lake City foothills are infrequent this time of year. At least, I haven't seen that kind of variety of birds in one place at one time in any of the other locations I've gone looking this time of year.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Pfeifferhorn Sunrise

Pfeifferhorn Sunrise, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah

This image accompanied my third blog post ever, back on February 1st, 2009. It was also my second most visited post at the time I switched to the new website. Sadly I’ve lost the original text and the comments. The image is from July 2006. It’s another view from another summer, from the summit of the Pfeifferhorn, this time at sunrise.

The original text described the situation: I had come to the alpine ridge prepared to spend the night in hopes of taking advantage of two golden hour photo sessions. My intent was to spend the night on the unnamed peak just west of the Pfeifferhorn and photograph the imposing west face of the Pfeifferhorn at sunset. After about five hours of hiking with a full pack, I realized I hadn’t given myself enough time to reach that unnamed summit, and decided to stay put on top of the Pfeifferhorn to photograph the sunset.

A bit later I decided to stay put for the night.  Not a great place to camp, barely enough room for one body to lie flat without being jabbed by rocks, but I didn’t want to pick my way off the summit cone by headlamp, and I did want to be able to just roll out of my one-man shelter to photograph the sunrise. It was a lousy night sleep as the wind howled and I worried about the flashes of lightning I’d seen to the west, over the Oquirrhs, before turning in.

As it turned out, the night’s weather blew in a lot of clouds which made the sunrise much more colorful than the previous night’s sunset. I was glad I had made the effort to treat myself to two edge of day photo sessions, high in the Lone Peak Wilderness. My original post had a great closing line. I wish I could remember it, something about finding unique photographic perspectives on mountain summits. The effort always seems to be rewarded.

Zion Portal

Left Fork, Zion National Park, Utah

This fluted sandstone chamber, carved by eons of flashfloods, is in the Left Fork of North Creek, in Zion National Park, Utah. It’s hard to judge its size without any references in the frame, on the screen it looks as if it may be two feet high instead of closer to twenty. But, that doesn’t take away from the beauty or mystery of this image.

This is the subway terminus. It’s the end of the line for hikers coming up canyon to the Subway, and the last notable obstacle to overcome on the top-down route. When approaching from above, the stream just disappears into a crack in the canyon floor where two massive sandstone blocks abut, and it’s hard to even get a sense of this chamber.  

Weathered trunk sections of fallen pine trees from the slopes above have washed down canyon and been wedged into the skylight of this room by the same forces that carved it. One of these logs provides a stepping stone as you’re forced into crossing from one broad sandstone ledge to another, as they both pinch off and abruptly end at a twenty foot fall, and the whole canyon swings ninety degrees toward the north. It’s time to get the rope out again and descend into the Subway.

The Left Fork of North Creek has to be one of the worlds’ classic hikes. The route from the top down requires some preparation as well as a certain amount of strength and endurance, and a backcountry permit from the park. Most people find it strenuous and challenging, so it helps to go with someone who knows the way. It’s definitely a canyoneering adventure you’ll never forget. Every time I’ve hiked this route, I’ve felt a slight knot in my stomach, a nervous appreciation for the canyon’s indifference to life and death and its rugged remoteness.  

Colorado Plateau Cuts

As I’ve been pulling galleries of images together for the website, I’ve had two goals in mind, showing the widest range of subjects and locations, while at the same time only showing my most compelling images. It’s been a fun and challenging exercise. At times I’ve opted for variety over intensity, knowing the best of what’s been cut will eventually find a home here.

 Most of the galleries on my website contain sixteen images, because during the development of the website I realized sixteen was the maximum number of images I could pay attention to. Twelve is probably a better number, really – less is more. I’m sure my galleries would be stronger if I cut the four weakest images, but I have so many images to share and sometimes it’s hard for me to predict which images will have the most impact with the largest number of people.

I’ve been continuing to tinker with my galleries, in order to make them as powerful as possible. The two images included with this post were cut from my Colorado Plateau Gallery when I realized that two of my favorites hadn’t been included. What do you think? Did I cut the right images? Which images would you have cut?