Rockhouding inside the mosquito vortex

Last weekend I took the kiddo out for a hike to get her out of the house as we were both starting to go crazy. For those unaware, my daughter is quite the little rock-hound and has begun amassing quite the little collection of rocks (and seashells) in her room. So anytime I offer to take her outdoors, the first question is always: “Can we look for rocks and shells?” to which the reply is always “Of course!”

Now that we live in Alabama, the shells portion is not likely going to be a thing when we’re out hiking, unlike Utah where you could find all sorts of things up on the mountain trails. Since most of Utah was underwater until somewhat recently (geologically speaking) seashells and neat rocks can be found most anywhere. I’m not entirely sure about the landscape of Alabama just yet, but prior to the hike I found out there are some cool rocks to be found along the rivers/streams here.

So we set out to the Hays Nature Preserve, which provided (or so I was hoping) two main things: First, some hiking trails so I could get some exercise (and burn off some of the energy on the kiddo); and second, a shady place with a bunch of rocks she can pick through.

Luckily, we got both. She managed to find some cool Blue Quartz and some Onyx. I managed to score some pretty sweet photos of the swamps and the “World Championship Tupelo trees”:

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Aside from those, I snapped some more shots of the swamplands and a pretty neat bridge that connected the trailheads to the biking trails:

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Minus the hundred(s) of mosquito’s we had to fend off on the couple hours we were out there, even though we were both smothered in OFF! repellent, it was an excellent trip. I’m quite looking forward to hitting up some of the other trails in the area.

This one, as well as the next few posts, is going to be a short one as I’m going to be working on moving these into a more video-blog style format. However, since I’ve never done anything with video, there is a lot of research and learning I am working on currently. So be sure to follow me on FB and Twitter as that will be where the posts are going. I’ll work on getting them uploaded here as well once I figure out that mess too. As always — Thanks for reading!
-D

Battling the weather for new hiking trails

Since we’ve moved to Huntsville, the weather here has been anything but predictable. As it turns out, we’re in Northern Alabama’s monsoon season and so the rains will be coming and going throughout the day for a few more weeks. What that means for me, is trying to plan a trip out to photograph stuff is damn near impossible. Just the other day I got everything ready to head out the door and in the time it took me to put on shoes, a thunderstorm had rolled in and dropped about 3 inches of rain on us.

Not to be entirely deterred, I decided to get out and do something regardless of the rain situation. So last week I drove up to Monte Sano state park and drove around a bit looking for a trail to hike on. The first one I stopped at, I got rained out of about 75 feet into the trail as the random sprinkling turned into a torrential downpour much faster than I was expecting. I was about to just pack it in and head home, but as I got back towards the front of the park, the clouds parted and I was given a second chance. It’s a good thing I took it as well! I ended up on a short trail that led me to a tucked away Japanese tea house and garden. The rain did come again while I was exploring, but the little tea house provided plenty of shelter for me to wait it out. Here’s some shots I got of that:

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All in all, it’s a wonderful little place and I fully intend to spend much more time there. Next time I’ll probably even take the Yoga mat with me and have a quiet and relaxing afternoon to myself.

On my way out of the trail and back towards the car, I noticed it started raining again, but not on top of me like before. This time it was dry over my head and downpouring about 100 feet into the woods behind me. So I stopped and snapped a few shots of that in a fun little panorama:

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The weird haze you see across the middle of the image is actually just the rain as the sun punches through the trees to hit it. It made for this interesting mist look and I’m happy with how it turned out.

If you’re curious what the weather looks like, I made it a point to bring my camera on our last little family outing into downtown so we could show our kiddo the park downtown (and let her feed the Koi fish). Within five minutes of arriving we were met with this:

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It rained so hard that in about five minutes it raised the water level of the pond from about 3 inches under the lip to flowing up over the top. After that nice five minute rain break, the clouds parted and the rest of the day proceeded as if it never happened. If I hadn’t spent the last four years in Utah watching it go from 55 to snowing to 60 to 35 and raining over the course of 4 hours, this might have shocked me. I am getting used to temperamental weather though, and as long as I can find a source of rain ponchos, I won’t let the weather keep me down!

That’s it for this round. On a more administrative note, I updated the portfolio pages (links at the top) and will be fixing the online store to add in newer products and adjust prices. So stay tuned for more stuff and as always, thanks for reading!
-D

A busy week of decent shots

Last week the kiddo got the chance to spend some time with her Great Grand Parents which meant I had some free time to get out and shoot some photos and my wife got some time to relax by herself. All good things.

The week in question started last Saturday when my buddy Collin and I decided to try and go shoot some wildlife at one of the various birding spots. Unfortunately, they had decided to close and lock the gates early, so we had ended up driving there for nothing. After some humming and hawing, we ran a few errands and then I got convinced to do a midnight hike up Adams Canyon. Normally, I really enjoy the hike as it’s quite scenic and the stream is a great relaxer. However, it was dark and I was in flip-flops. Thusly, I was not in any way ready for this. In hindsight I’m glad he talked me into it as we got to the top and shot some long exposures of the waterfall with the stars in the background. Here’s the shot I ended up with:

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I tried fidgeting with it to see if I could post in a Milky Way trail behind the waterfall, but none of those images looked very good so I decided to stick with the original.

On Wednesday, I was invited out for an impromptu photo walk as a buddy of mine Zach Leroy (IG: @zacharyleroy) was wanting to get some iconic Ogden shots for his upcoming gallery for next month’s FFAS (First Friday Art Stroll). I always enjoy following him around as he has an extremely unusual perspective by which he sees normal or boring things. I’d recommend check out his Instagram as there is a real sense of art in the mundane objects he shoots. I do think these excursions make me a substantially better photographer. Of course the trip wasn’t just watching someone else snap pictures, I managed to get a few myself. I was pretty happy with most of the keepers. Since I have been trying to work on my HDR skills a little more, I opted to shoot things that would push me more that way. My favorite shot of the evening ended up being the little coffee stop on the corner of Washington and 25th:

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I also managed to get a few decent shots around sunset (which was the entire point of the trip) one of which had a funky painted van, and the other a nice shot of the Well’s Fargo building:

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Aside from those, we stopped on 24th to snap a couple of pictures and swap IG follows with a few kids who were out skateboarding in the area. I’ve always liked snapping photos of skateboarding as the action shots are always super dramatic. If you catch someone mid trick (whether they land it or not) they always look like a bad-ass. Example:

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The week wrapped up yesterday as Collin and I went out to snatch some more sunset shots from a place I visited a few years ago by accident with my buddy Trevor. Unfortunately, the mountains ran in such a way that we didn’t get the sunset hitting the valley we were in like I was hoping. We did however get to pet a couple of beautiful and sweet horses, which was nice.

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Unlike with most photos where I really waver back and forth on whether or not to go black and white, this one was obvious from the start. Going Monochrome here just adds so much more texture and drama. I really loved this shot (even if it kind of looks like there’s a horse-centipede going on in the back).

Since we knew early on the valley was going to be a bust, we moved on as quick as we could in hopes to catch a sunset. The sky was cloudy and it was raining in various parts of the Wasatch front so we figured the sky would be exploding with color if we could just get high enough on the mountain to look out west. We ended up missing it by about 10-15 minutes, but we know where to head to next time. I did manage to get one more pretty solid HDR shots, and a couple mediocre ones. Here’s how those came out:

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I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep the bottom two in color. I’m not even entirely sure how much I like them. But, I figure I’d post them here and see what everyone else though and if they stink I can always dump them later.

It felt really good to be able to get out and shoot more this last week as prior to this, the last time I got to take a photo of something was around the 4th of July, and that is much too long to go without being outside and roaming about. I think that will do it for this one. As always, until next time– Thanks for reading!
-D

Me Time + Charity Work = Awesomest Week Ever!

This last week managed to be eventful for a couple of reasons. Monday I called into work and opted to take a personal day so I could get out and have some much needed nature time. For the last month or so the weather has been sunny and 60+ degrees during the week and cold, windy, and rainy on the weekends. Knowing full well that Monday was going to be beautiful and it really was. I opted then, after a short search, to find a new hike to take since I had plenty of time to do so. After grabbing some breakfast and moseying about, I left for the Hidden Valley.

I had read online that the trail was pretty well hidden and that there weren’t markers to tell you when to turn off. Since the Hidden Valley hike is connected Indian Head Trail, I manged to accidentally hike about 2/3rd’s of the trail before doubling back and finding the right turnoff. On the bright side though, I happened to detour off to a small rock outcropping and get a decent shot of the Ogden Canyon:

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Once I got back to the right turnoff, I was fortunate enough to run into a group of other hikers who were headed to the same place. It was kind of nice having some people to chat with along the way as the hike up was grueling and long. It was however, totally worth it. I managed a few pretty cool shots along the trail including this one:

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Once I got to the top of the mountain range, there is a short drop back down into a gorgeous wooded valley that sits between the front and back peaks of the Wasatch. Also the payoff at the end is not only a view of the mountain that was peeking out through the trees, but some really neat rock stacking piles that hikers have added to over the years.

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The stack in the top photo is about five and a half feet tall whereas the bottom one is about three feet tall. Of course, like a good hiker and art lover I made sure to add a rock to each pile, snap a few more photos and head out. I would have likely stayed a little longer, but it was starting to rain, and I was in shorts and a t-shirt and thusly not prepared for that. I stopped for one more photo op on the way down to catch a shot of the storm rolling into Ogden from the mountains:

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After recovering from a small cold I caught and pushing through a long week of work, I got to participate in my second adventure of the week: The Utah Firefighters Calendar!

This is exactly what you think it is, and it’s entirely a volunteer based project. My buddy Ben Sant, who also shot last years calendar invited me along to assist him and learn some lighting as well as how to pose models, who were in this case, shredded shirtless Firefighters. The project, which will put out the calendar later this year was done through donations of time and labor, and the sale of the calendars goes to the American Cancer Society. For those who know me, I’m a sucker for a good cause and love the opportunity to give back to a community anyway I can. While I can’t post any full on shots of the gentlemen who are in the calendar I am able to show off a few behind the scenes photos of the shoot, which will hopefully tease you all enough to go out and buy one! If you’re interested in learning more about the project you can check the facebook page here, or if you want to buy one of last years calendars now (and a new one later this year), you can order those through the website Here! You can also search the hashtags ‪#‎fightcanerwithmuscle‬ ‪#‎utahfirefightercalendar

Now for a couple shots:

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On a final note for this post, I finally got around to uploading a few more things into the store front, so If you’d like to order some prints (I can assure you I’d love you forever if you did!), be sure to click the image in the top right corner of the page! Also, I added some more shots to my 500px portfolio which you can see here. If you want to order a print that isn’t in the store, shoot me a message on any of my various networks and let me know, and I’ll get it uploaded for you.

Well that’s all for this one. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Pulling out all the (f)stops

Thankfully, yesterday I was able to get out and shoot some photos again. It’s been a couple of weeks (thus the lack of blog posts) due to a very hectic schedule on both mine and my wife’s part. Nonetheless, it felt great to get out and do some hiking and I opted to try one I hadn’t done before. So I charged my camera and headed out to the Layton area to explore Adam’s Canyon.

This hike was both gorgeous and grueling, taking me just a little over three hours to finish. The hike portion felt a lot like when I attempted Indian Head trail a few years back. There is a series of switchbacks at the start where you pick up a majority of your elevation. It also was similar to Waterfall Canyon in that the payoff for completing this 4 mile (round-trip) hike is a decently sized, albeit not quite as big, 40 foot waterfall at the end. I figured this would be a great place to try and work on pulling water again since you hike along a pretty fast-paced river the whole way. Best of all there were at least a couple of points throughout the hike where you had a few drop offs on the river to make for some great shots, like so:

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The Last shot of the above group was probably my favorite of the three. There is a small bridge that crosses over the river at around the 75% mark of the hike and the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous.

Of course, what good would I be if I didn’t provide a shot of the payoff at the end of the hike. I have mixed feelings about it for a couple of reasons:

1) I had managed to keep myself (especially my feet) dry the entire way up to the top. Except that in order to see the actual waterfall you have to tread through the river thus wasting all that effort and subsequently making for a soggy and sloppy hike back down.

2) The waterfall while wonderful, isn’t near the size and scope of the one at Waterfall Canyon, and as such will always feel a little lackluster given that the hike to get to it is substantially more difficult and time consuming.

3) On the positive side, the water was exceptionally cold and refreshing, and I managed to run into a trio of awesome humans who had made the hike for the purpose of cleaning up garbage along the trail. I chatted with them for a little bit, but didn’t think to get their names, so if you happen to know them, give them a big hug and another thank you from me!

Anyways, here’s the money shot:
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and here’s a shot of the three lovely souls who help take care of our trails:
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With all that said, I want to take a quick second as an aside to this to say something.

If the burden of carrying the extra 3-5 grams of weight that your snack wrappers, ziploc bags, or empty water bottles is too much for you to bear, then you should not only skip hiking altogether, but you should probably stop breathing all of out air, you filthy lazy slobs. Please, do us a favor and stay home, where you can be free to lie about in your own filth like the garbage monster you truly are. /End Rant

Now, where was I? Oh yes! Hiking.

All in all I was pretty happy with most of the shots I got and I feel like I am definitely getting better at the silky water thing. I also managed to snap a panorama on my way out right as the sun started setting which I’m pretty happy with as well.

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There were some other shots I took of the sunset itself as the clouds lent themselves to a pretty epic shoot, but my angles were either way off, or the Sun was much too blown out to be salvageable. Maybe next time I’ll get some that work.

That’s all for this time. As always, thanks for reading!
-D

Hiking the frozen Waterfall

Last week I had hear from some friends that the waterfall was frozen over around this time of year since it finally got cold to do so. The hike went while substantially more difficult do to the ice and slush, also happened to go quite a bit faster than usual. I’d wager it’s because of all the snow creating a long ramp to the top. In some places the snow was up to my waist or about three feet deep. So between sliding about or sinking into a random pit trap, I finally made it too the top where I managed to snap a few shots of the waterfall:

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While I don’t think either of the shots is perfect, I like the blues and contrast on the top one. I also like the more prominent detail of the black and white version.

Since both of these images were composites of multiple, I realized after getting home, the angle I was standing at wasn’t optimal for getting a good wide-angle shot of the whole thing. So for today’s lesson I suggest this tidbit:

Be willing to move around and shoot from different angles! By standing in the one spot, I thought I had what I needed, but alas, I was wrong. I could have likely spent a little more time up there trying a few different things, but I had plans with the wife to go see a movie and didn’t want to be stuck on the mountainside during the previews. However, I will likely get back out and try again before the winter season is officially over and spend a little more time on the next adventure.

Another positive note, is because of all the snow we’ve gotten this year, I am very excited to see the waterfall come spring/early summer. It should gushing at a rate I haven’t seen since I first moved here.

On the way back down, I did stop to try and catch a long panorama of Ogden as the mix of sunlight, clouds, and shadows was just gorgeous. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

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Sadly I haven’t shot a lot this past week aside from that trip so hopefully this week will be better for that. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Appreciating Happenstance

Earlier this week I happened to have a few days off before the holiday where I got to get out and do some hiking/take some pictures. As of late I’ve really been wanting to try and catch some cool wildlife shots in the areas around Ogden. Sadly, those haven’t worked out so well. When I didn’t have my camera with me or the right lens or whatever the case may have been, I’ve stumbled across all manner of woodland critters. However, when I’m actually prepared to take a shot, the creatures of the world seem to know that and opt to stay inside and do whatever the mammalian equivalent of “binge netflix” is.

On the bright side, I did get a couple of pictures that came together simply because of my location and a series of events well outside my control. For example, I set up to take a photo of this woodland scene off of Birdsong Trail that would eventually be an HDR image of a hiking/biking trail with a nice mix of greens and browns as the whole of the wooded area hadn’t yet turned for winter yet. As I began shooting the control images (before I start adjusting the EV) an older gentleman who has coming back from a short mountain biking ride rolled into the frame and I snapped this:

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After catching a few shots of him on his way by, I went back to work on the HDR setup. Once I got home and started review for post, I hated the way the HDR was coming out, but I noticed the shots of the guy on his bike were pretty nice. With a quick bit of post (using a homemade preset) I noticed the image was both sharp, but had a painting like feel to it. So I ended up rolling with these instead.

The other worthwhile shots I got were from wandering into a “no trespassing zone” which ran along the Ogden River heading up 12th street. After a short hike, I was sitting at the mouth of the canyon enjoying the coolness of fall and shooting in a kind of 360 degree fashion. I was just snapping off photos of anything that looked “woodsy” as I was more involved in the hike than I was in bothering to take any pictures. But, sometimes laziness pays off:

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Again this image remained sharp while still feeling like a painting. I would guess that is largely due to the lighting of the fairly overcast day, but since I wasn’t being terribly deliberate in any of my shooting that day I can only wager a guess.

On a side note, I snapped a picture on my hike back to the car as it just seemed really weird and out of place. There was a small amount of litter along the pseudo-pathway I was taking and other general signs that maybe some homeless people had taken up shelter here previously. What caught my eye however was that someone had tied a belt around the branches of a tree for seemingly no reason. I could understand if it was tied differently, it could have been for a bear bag, or to hang clothes that had been washed in the river, or something. But this looked like it was there simply just so someone who found it would be confused. So here’s a belt in a tree:

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To finish this post up, I also got to do a family portrait shoot out at Beus Pond, which came out great. Because the client is using photos as Christmas presents/cards, they’ve asked I not post them online yet. Since I’m such a nice guy, I’ve agreed and will only be posting the favorites after the holiday. However, I was asked to put up a teaser photo or two on Facebook, so I feel like I can drop those here too! What can I say, I’m hella excited for how they’ll be received!

Warning: This couple is super adorable and may cause you to Aww.

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That’s all for this one. Until next time, Thanks for reading!
-D