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

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.

Adams Canyon Pano

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:

Ogden Pano

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

Snow White and the Huntsville

Today all in all has been a pretty solid day. I got the chance to get out and shoot some winter photos which seemed like and ended up being a lot of fun. There is definitely a trick to it I am still working on to ensure everything isn’t just white, but I ended up with a few shots that I kind of enjoyed.

A lot of photographers will tell you how important it is that you shoot at certain times of day or in certain seasons to get the right look you want on your photos. They weren’t kidding! The overall feel of the area I was in today was drastically different than the last time I had been, which was around the middle of summer. What was once a pleasant (although not terribly interesting) stream, had become quite a bit more beautiful and serene with the addition of six inches of fresh powder:

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Snowy Stream

The second photo makes me want a ND filter even more than I already did. Not that I necessarily need to have that silky look to the water in my photos (in most cases I prefer not having it), but in this specific example I think the image would have worked a lot better with it. Maybe I’m just being picky though.

On top of some neat shots of the stream I managed to get a small glimpse of the sun on an otherwise cloudy day and I thought it made for a rather cool, albeit desolate looking image of the dead trees not far past the trail head:

Dead Trees

I also thought it was rather interesting that amongst all the brown and white there was a little spot of red. One plant had not yet thrown in the towel and opted to take its winter nap yet. This is not entirely unbelievable given that it didn’t start snowing here till last week and we stayed mostly in the 60s till then. Nonetheless, I admire its resolve and hope it keeps up the good fight. Not like those other quitter plants that rolled up last month before it even got cold. Pfft, losers.

And of course, last but not least, the reason for the title. I primarily went out to try and get a shot of one of the smaller neighboring towns for a contest over on Viewbug and ended up with a simple but nice shot of the town of Huntsville (or at least part of it anyways):

Snow White and the Huntsville

I like that it has the somewhat classic “little winter town” look, as it reminds me of a painting that hung up in my parents house the whole time I was growing up of a small cottage on a snowy road. Simple and peaceful.

Aside from that, I have not much going on in the near future as my work schedule looks to be hectic enough to prevent me from getting out for the next 6-8 days. Hopefully I can wheel another Sunday/Monday weekend and get both time to shoot and time to play with the kiddo. Best kind of weekend indeed. Till next time, Thanks for reading!
-D

In Search of Cellular Telephone Service

I got the chance to do an awesome hike the other day and am super pumped about it even in hindsight. As I have mentioned in previous posts I had a goal of getting out to Antelope Island to snap some photos and I got to do just that. While I was there, I happened to get a wild hair across my ass and take a hike. I did not however, read the signage at the trail-head. It ended up being a little over 3 miles each way and on an approximately 45 degree incline going up to the top of Frary Peak. The trip took about three hours to the top and was pretty miserable at some points. Once I got to the top however, the view was stunning. I managed to snap some pretty cool pictures from the peak including a panorama of the western side of the lake. I even happened upon what looked like a cell tower (in which I posted to IG that I still couldn’t get sprint cell service while sitting under it).

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From the top of Frary

I am a little bummed with how my panorama came out, given that for some reason, Photoshop keeps putting this vortex-like blur in the middle of the image. It’s really only noticeable if you’re viewing it at the full 6000×4000 resolution, but since I know it’s there, it bugs me.

Before I move on to the rest of this, I do wanna take a second and toot my horn a little. I am not in good shape. At all. I smoke, I drink whisky, I live a mostly sedentary lifestyle with a job I do sitting down. However, I love to hike. I want to hike more. It’s exceptionally difficult however. There were a couple of points in which I thought about turning back while on this hike. I wondered if I would have enough time to get it done and still be back so my wife could get to work on time. I worried I would miss out on the opportunity to snap some photos from other parts of the island. I realized pretty quick each time I stopped to take a breather, that I was only thinking these things, because I didn’t think I could actually make it. It was steep, My legs burned, my chest hurt, the list goes on. But I told myself around the 2/3 mark, that: No excuses, I’m this far, and no matter how much it sucks, I will make it to the top and snap some awesome shots from the peak. Then I did just that. While the distance traveled wasn’t a lot by any means (I’ve done longer hikes since moving to Utah), You do pick up 2200 feet in elevation, and you do it pretty quickly. I am proud of myself for not heading back to the bottom early. I’m stoked I made the top. I also have decided that I am going to make a real attempt to get in good enough shape that next summer I can climb both Ben Lomond, and Mt Ogden. It’s gonna be a weekend trip in both cases, but it is also gonna be awesome and I am excited to snap some pictures from the top of each!

 

Anyhoo, back to the picture stuff. Once I got back down from the peak (which took about half an hour as I spent the whole time unintentionally sprinting due to the steepness) I rested for a few minutes and chatted with some other hikers who pointed that the Bison were on the move a little south of our location and were getting close to the road. Excited for another opportunity to get out and shoot some of them up close, I said goodbye and moved on. I’ve almost always had a fascination with Bison/Buffalo although aside from their tasty meat I’m not so sure why. I think they a fun to photograph because they are to some extent both large and fairly lazy (which makes getting close a lot easier). I suppose there is a degree of majesty in them as well. But I won’t get all tree-huggy here.

After a short drive I come to a section of road where the bison were grazing nearby. When the other hikers said near the road, they weren’t kidding. In most cases I was within 20 feet of some of them. They seemed to largely not care about my existence, which was nice.  Of the group of about 40 of them, one seemed much larger than all the others. He also grunted and huffed a lot when I was getting to close. This lead me to believe he was in charge of this group and I decided to back off a little as to not test that theory too scientifically. I did however hang around long enough that he seemed to realize I wasn’t out to bother or hurt anyone and I was able to move in near enough to him to get a couple good shots:

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All in all, I didn’t get to explore as much of the island as I had wanted. The hike took up most of the time I had that day. I am however still glad I did it and was able to still get some pretty good shots nonetheless. I have this coming Friday off and will likely get out and take some more pictures (although where, I do not yet know). So until then, thanks for reading and see you next time!

-D

New Photos and More!

I got the chance to get out and take some pictures on my last day off which was nice. On this particular trip, I didn’t really  have a plan on where I wanted to go or what I wanted to try shooting. So I just started driving and decided to pull over anytime something looked interesting. Thanks to that I managed to find some cool places like these:

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Bridge Sign

I also, got to drive out to a little town called Morgan which is primarily a farming community from the looks of it and got a nice shot of the mountains from one of the farms near the entrance to town.

Outside Morgan

From there I had the great idea to head out to Antelope Island and try to get some pictures there. Sadly I showed up with not enough time to warrant the fee to enter the park given I had to go get the kiddo from school. Nonetheless, the next day I managed to have the free time to take a short hike with the wife and after some fruitless Google searching, I came across a hike called “Birdsong trail”. According to the site the hike was supposedly fairly short and pretty easy. It wasn’t really either of those. However after the inital chunk, it got quite pretty and I even managed to stumble across this:

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As I mentioned in the previous post, I have an affinity for abandoned and run down things, so getting to check out stuff like this is always pretty sweet.

 

On the more side of things, I set up an account over on 500px, which you can find here: https://500px.com/eqphoto I would throw it up with the others, but it keeps using the same icon as the empire avenue link, and I feel that could be confusing or annoying for you guys. So until I can get that fixed, it’ll have to remain unlinked. Nonetheless, this is actually super cool because they  help you license your photos, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. And since we’re on the topic of selling photos, it is in my 60 day plan to have a page here on my blog in which I will be posting photos for sale (for those of you interested). I am still trying to figure out how to get a shopping cart system setup with WP that isn’t either A) garbage; or B) costs me a ton of fees. So keep your eyes peeled for that.

I get another day off on Wednesday, so weather permitting I plan on getting out early to the island to get some cool pictures. Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

-D

On the Aesthetics of Blurry Photographs

One of the hardest things I’ve dealt with thus far in my photography is utilizing post production. If you were to go through my images you’d see very little altering of the actual picture taken. There are two good reasons for this:

 

1) I Don’t Know How

I own a copy of Photoshop CS2 with the equivalent version of Illustrator and some nifty plugins. However I don’t really know a whole lot about what all I can do with the program which is an issue I plan on correcting very soon. Hopefully this fall I’ll be able to take a class or two on it and learn enough that I can make some adjustments to my photos aside from auto correcting out the white wash that occasionally happens. So while this is at least some part of why I don’t use a lot of post work, the more important reason however is:

2) It Feels Wrong

This may be snooty to some degree, but the idea of taking a crappy picture and turning it into something you’d see on the front page of Time or National Geographic seems like cheating. Why not just get better at using a camera and take better pictures? This isn’t to say that all people who use an editor are trash photographers, or hacks or anything of the sort. As I mentioned earlier, I use it myself (even though I’m kind of a hack at this stage). I don’t see any real issue with things like color correction, or converting an image to black and white, etc. My problem lies with the mashing together of multiple images plus legitimate graphic design level alters to those images to make them look like one clean take. Worse yet, the person who claims it was a single photo and that they made a painstaking effort to capture that “perfect shot.” No you didn’t you liar. Your effort was all in the post work to engineer that “perfect shot”. Don’t claim you somehow captured a perfect Milky Way with two eagles fighting in front of a tattered American Flag. That shit didn’t happen and you’re an asshole.

To me, what makes a picture so great is the tiny imperfections. The slight blur from a nervous hand, the animal that cut into the frame to see what you’re doing, the shocked look on someones face when they catch you trying to photograph their proposal, etc. Those things show you were there. That you had the vision and the patience to attempt to catch (or wait out) something real and capture a true moment.

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I find when trying to capture something awesome, conditions are seldom on my side. Birds don’t tend to want to sit around and wait till I get a good picture. Lizards and butterflies aren’t okay with me getting all up in their business to get a great macro shot (although there are exceptions). So sometimes a photo that seems perfect comes out a little less so because things move, or the wind blows, or you’re so excited you can’t keep your camera steady. It happens. It’s also why all of my photos will inevitably be “not perfect”. Unfortunately I don’t think that is a marketable style, so I may just have to invest in a copy of PS for dummies. Or I suppose I can always just eat my principles. Those have to have some kind of nutritional value right?

 

I guess it’s worth making clear I by no means consider myself some kind of starving artist. Or an artist for that matter. I do however have a fondness for art, and for photography. With both things, I’ve always found raw, emotional works substantially  more appealing than clean, crisp stuff. So this is really just some guys opinion. What does everyone else think? Leave a comment, let me know. Thanks for reading.

-D

 

P.S. the photo in question that sparked this post. I had a great shot and this wonderfully colorful fella just kept flying closer and closer. For whatever reason though, every picture I snapped came out just a little bit blurry. Grr. Next time, bird. Next time.

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