Jun 022017
 
Arizona_Grand Canyon National Park_01162_c

“The Yin to My Yang” || Abstract rock pattern formed by calcite in the Supai Formation in the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available! Click on photo to order)

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

While rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago while leading my Women’s Photography Retreat, immense landscape scenes certainly live up to its name. However, I found the little things as equally fascinating…especially the bizarre patterns in a rock overhang at our lunch stop on the first day of our trip.

My rafting group last year stopped at this same spot, and upon seeing this rock overhang for the first time, I literally lost my marbles. All of them. I had never seen anything like it!

I made some images then, but could not settle my enthusiasm into making any sort of meaningful expressions in the limited time we had here. (I guess, technically, the photos I did make were representative of how I felt, which was nonsensically spastic… :D )

When our guides for this year’s trip asked my input as to where we should stop for lunch, I pleaded with them to take our group to this unnamed location, one, so I could show the participants on my trip this amazing occurrence in the Supai Formation, and two, so I could see how my vision and approach changed from last year.

Although I experienced the same immense excitement for this subject (I still lost my marbles…), I felt more at ease seeing my “old friend” while walking along the ledge and pointing out different curious patterns with my group. Then, together, we started to make order out of chaos…not with our cameras, but with our minds and eyes first.

We talked through visual language-light, shape, balance, color, etc.-and their individual effects on expressing emotions. We shared why “this” shape grabbed our attention more than “that” shape nearby. We discussed what that line was contributing to the scene. Most importantly, we walked through what we liked about a possible composition, what we didn’t, and how we might approach with a camera. We spent a healthy amount of time simply visualizing and responding in our own ways, then photographed.

The above photo titled, “The Yin to My Yang” is one of several I created in this process.

We spent even less time here than my first trip, but yet, I felt I made better images (and think my participants did as well) because we stopped to patiently and mindfully notice and appreciate the scene first instead of randomly blasting away in “spray-and-pray mode.”

Jul 012016
 
Grand Serenity

“Grand Serenity” || The rising sun illuminates unnamed cliffs along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on the photo to order)

When I used to work as a project manager for Intel, I occasionally heard the advice from upper management, “Don’t confuse effort with results.”

Initially, it seemed like pretty harsh advice as my dedicated team worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to help bring a new software application to life for our internal customers.  Didn’t our managers (and customers) appreciate our tireless efforts?

Most of them did, yes; but it did not replace their expectations that the software application eventually had to function without “bugs” (flaws/issues), as designed and delivered on (or before) the date our team promised. Anyone who has been involved in software engineering knows this sometimes involves project teams displaying impressive feats of strength and willpower equivalent to Superman moving the Earth…

Although I left the corporate life behind over nine years ago, I see this playing out all too often in the outdoor photography world.  As photographers vie for attention on social media channels and elsewhere, this notion of traveling to unknown foreign lands, enduring unforgiving conditions, and torturing oneself to “get the shot” has overshadowed the value of an artist’s ability to observe, feel, and visually express their individual connection with the land.

Don’t get me wrong; as wondering and wandering photographers explore the Great Outdoors, fascinating adventure stories do tend to emerge. And sometimes you need to push and challenge yourself to experience a place to the fullest extent.  In fact, famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that the mental state of “flow”—when you feel like you are “in the zone,” and that leads to increased happiness and creativity—occurs when a person concentrates on an important and challenging activity that requires some level of skill.

But just because you walked 17 miles in Class 4 terrain on the side of a mountain while hobbling on a broken foot through the middle of the night in grizzly bear country during the worst summertime blizzard in recorded history does not automatically guarantee that you “nailed it.”

Don’t confuse effort with results.

Maybe you did.  Maybe this harrowing experience was so real, rich, and personal that you made a hundred images that were meaningful to you.  Awesome.  The expressive images you created resulted from you wholeheartedly feeling the fear of the darkness, the cold snowflakes seeping through your leg cast, and the wind burning exposed parts of your skin, though, not because you merely survived the grand adventure.

This personal and emotional connection with your journey and with your environment drives the creation of unique images—and you can accomplish this in your backyard under sunny skies, in Iceland under a glorious sunset, and everywhere in between.  It matters not where you are standing but rather how you make the most of what you are standing in front of by incorporating your skills, intimate knowledge, and background.

Maybe you didn’t bring home any images.  Awesome.  Was the experience meaningful to you?  Did you have fun?  Mission accomplished.

To drive the point home, I made the image above from our Fossil camp (river mile ~125.5) while on our raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  Before dawn, I casually strolled about 100 yards on a gorgeous sandy horseshoe-shaped beach to reach this point on the river.  I waded across a small riffle and sat on a boulder waiting for the rising sun to illuminate the deep canyon walls in the distance.  I inhaled my surroundings.  I felt at peace and at home after four days on the river.  I felt like each new day unfolded exciting mysteries of geology, history, and adventure.  I felt the constant shifts between flat water and roaring rapids.

I intentionally composed to show this serenity, this mystery of light, and the balance of the two water energies.  Then I snapped my frame.

With a cup of delicious coffee in one hand (and cable release in the other, of course).  In 80-degree weather with a light cool breeze.  While still in my pajamas.  While waiting for our amazing guides to finish cooking up made-to-order Eggs Benedict for our group’s breakfast.  One can only imagine the immensity of the tragic conditions I endured.

But really, I should not confuse effort with results…

Jun 162016
 

“Of Glory and Beauty” || Cliffs along the Colorado River near mile 54 (just south of Nankoweap ruins) soak up the day’s last light in the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

My mom and I recently had the fortunate chance to spend eight days rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for the first time while on a private trip with 14 dear and new friends with Hatch River Expeditions.  Commonly used words to describe the trip like “epic,” “best trip of my life,” and “life-changing” all fall short of how I feel about my time in the canyon’s warm (literally and figuratively!!) embrace.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it was so far beyond epic!  I loved it so much, I’ve already booked another trip down for May 2017!

I have 4000+ images and ~128GB of GoPro video footage to sort through, plus pages and pages of notes I scribbled in my journal, from our trip so more pics and stories are sure to follow as I start to shake the sand out of everything.

However, to give you a taste of how exhilarating–and at times, downright hilarious–our trip was, I put together this three-minute video of our run through the famous Lava Falls, the river’s most difficult rapid (albeit short).  It’s rated a Class 10 on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult and dangerous.

In the short clip, Wendy Gunn, her son Troy, and I are riding in the “bathtub” (the front of the motorized raft), so we had front-row seats as the action unfolded.  Boy, did we get a mouthful!  And man, did we have a blast!

Take a peek at the video below to experience (and for those who have been down the river, perhaps re-live your ride) Lava Falls without getting wet like we did!

(Note: we spewed a few expletives during the ride, so you may not want to play this at full volume at work…)

Jan 032015
 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s hoping your 2015 has started off with a bang and ends up being your best year yet!

Almost every time I ask my Dad casually, “How’s it going?” he responds immediately with delight, “Living the dream!”  And I always nod back in agreement, “Yes, Dad, we sure are!” As we flip the calendar to another year and begin to reflect on all that was, I can’t help but smile about all that is: I’m living my dream.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping CD player, 2014 goes into the books as my most successful, most productive, and most thrilling year to date (I know, I know, I say this every year…but it’s true!!).  In my 7th year as a full time freelance photographer and writer, I increased focus on the places and subjects I love most, fulfilled aspirations for writing another book (and donating to a great cause), established new editorial connections, and thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with dear friends while meeting amazing new people in a multitude of speaking engagements and photography workshops.

I recognize, with certainty, that I would not be able to life this phenomenally fulfilling life if it were not for your continued support. Words can hardly express how grateful I am not just today, but rather every day, for your help, encouragement, friendship, and laughs along this journey.  Thank you!

In celebration of the close of 2014, I’d like to share my favorite 15 photographs from last year.  Here goes, in chronological order:

1. “Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (January 1, 2014)
As so many photographs I had previously seen of Mono Lake promised, my first visit to see the tufas here did not disappoint.  Given my ever-growing passion (obsession?) for bubbles, I was more drawn to the air bubbles rising from decaying algae along the shoreline than the iconic rock formations!

Ethereal Decay

“Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

2. “Rock On!” near Page, Arizona (January 9, 2014)
Of all the rock formations in the desert southwest, I have an affinity for the cracked brown Dakota Group sandstone found around the Page area in Arizona and southern Utah.  Although I had made an image of these rocks near Studhorse Point with my large format 4×5 camera years ago, I continued to develop visualizations for new compositions in this special spot.  After multiple attempts, all the elements came together on a cold morning in January, resulting in this image I call “Rock On!”

“Rock On,” near Page, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

3. “Sailors Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 12, 2014)
After getting a delicious taste of winter in Acadia National Park as the park’s first winter Artist-in-Residence (my third residency) in February 2013, I could not wait to pack all the clothes in my closet and return to experience the snow and ice again.  During my fortunate second winter visit in February 2014, West Pond Cove quickly became one of my favorite places to photograph the fleeting ice at low tide at sunset.

Sailor's Delight at West Pond Cove, Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine

“Sailor’s Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

4. “A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 28, 2014)
To celebrate the anniversary of my personal Independence Day (also known as my escape from Corporate America and the start of my 7th year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer), I snowshoed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  Expecting epic winter views at the top, I packed my wide-angle and telephoto lenses, leaving my macro lens behind in an attempt to lighten my load for the 8-plus mile round-trip haul.  When I made it to the summit, I was shocked to see a Mecca of ice bubbles in the parking lot!  I needed my macro lens!  GAH!  Fortunately, I remembered to pack my extension tubes, which I used on my 24-105mm lens to create this composition.

A Frozen Universe

“A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

5. “A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (April 24, 2014)
Arizona’s spring wildflower bloom panned out to be a bit of a bust, but with what little rain we did get, the cactus enjoyed and put on a beautiful show.  Thanks to the recommendations from a couple of volunteers at Tohono Chul Park, I found this regal, night-blooming echinopsis cactus showing off in the early morning light.

A Single Triumph of Summer

“A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

6. “Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (June 13, 2014)
After completing a presentation/book signing tour through Colorado this summer, my parents and I decided to stop at the Grand Sand Dunes National Park for our first visit.  Although we only had a short amount of time to enjoy the park, we learned enough about it to know we’ll be back soon.  I wanted to make an image that shared the expansive nature of this landscape, so I chose to create a panoramic image stitched from 11 vertical frames.

Sequential Erosion

“Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

7. “The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (July 1, 2014)
My first (and very short) visit to Toroweap Overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon did not go exactly according to plan. In fact, it ended up costing me an additional $281 and four beers!  (Read about the entire adventure on my blog post, “My $281 (and Four Beer) Trip to Toroweap.”)  Following a nerve-wracking drive, I finally reached the rim with five minutes to spare before sundown and hastily composed this scene.  The trip – and scenery – was certainly unforgettable.

The Storm Within

“The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

8. “Where the Winds Blow,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (July 8, 2014)
In 2014, I had the great fortune of spending a month’s worth of time (over multiple trips) in my beloved state of Oregon.  Although the summer months draw hoards of visitors to the entire scenic coastline, gale force winds and threatening skies kept beachcombers away from this stretch of beach, leaving me to enjoy the windswept, ephemeral sand patterns in the late afternoon in joyous solitude.

Where the Wind Blows

“Where the Wind Blows,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

9. “Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (July 20, 2014)
En route home from my 22-day summer Pacific Northwest tour, I stopped at Sparks Lake to camp overnight.  Going into late afternoon, the thick clouds indicated sunset might be a grey one.  But for a few minutes after sunset, the sky surprisingly exploded into magical color.

Psychedelic Sunset Surprise

“Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

10. “What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine (August 6, 2014)
During my August visit to Acadia National Park, I convinced my Mom to take a formal lesson with me from Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Frenchman Bay near Bar Harbor.  I slung my camera (secured tightly in a EWA waterproof bag) over my shoulder, in case a photogenic moment occurred during our lesson (and my Mom’s first time atop a board).  Thanks to a clearing storm, we paddled across the perfectly still and serene sea beneath rainbows and moody skies.  With much pride for my Mom’s infectious adventurous spirit, I couldn’t resist snapping this peaceful moment of her soaking in her experience.

What's SUP, Mom?

“What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine

 

11. “The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
Thanks to a nomination by my good friend and amazing photographer, Floris van Breugel, I participated in the “Black and White Challenge” that ran wild on Facebook this year.  In preparing for the five-day project, I dug up various color photographs I thought might be more successful with a monochromatic treatment, including this one of a spider’s web at Schoodic Point.  To read how I created this image and why I chose to convert it to black and white, head to my recent my blog post, “Day 3:  The Black and White Challenge:  The Network.”

The Network

“The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

12. “Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
I could stand along the Acadian coastline for all of eternity and never tire of the awe and wonder this magical place offers.  Sometimes it’s stormy and fiesty; sometimes it’s quiet and tranquil.  But every time – including this past August – my soul sings in the reverie.

Schoodic Serenity

“Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

13. “What Lies Ahead?” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 17, 2014)
Thankfully, no government shutdown (like in October 2013) prevented me from helping not one, but two, photography workshop groups enjoy and photograph the autumnal beauty of Acadia National Park this past October!  I created this image of the boardwalk on the Jesup Trail during the second trip (read more about it on my blog post, “Persistence Pays Off:  October 2014 CMS Photography’s Acadia Workshop“).

What Lies Ahead

“What Lies Ahead,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

14. “Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (October 25, 2014)
Immediately after my three-week stay in Acadia, I headed to southern Utah to connect with my good friends Guy Tal, Bruce Hucko, and Michael Gordon for a few days in the desert.  I also had the fortunate chance to meet and spend time with Charles Cramer and Dan Mitchell on the same outing.  In between the many laughs, we explored some of the magnificent canyons found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  And I’m pretty sure between the six of us, we photographed every inch of cracked mud along the way!  When I saw this collection on the side of a sandstone wall, I immediately thought it looked like the blocks from the video game “Tetris.”  After snapping a few frames, at Bruce’s urging, Bruce and I switched cameras and challenged each other to change something about the others composition.  He zoomed my arrangement out a little wider than I had originally composed – and I liked it!  So Bruce gets a little extra credit for helping me perfect my vision.

Mud Tetris

“Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

15. “Winter Greetings” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (December 19, 2014)
I snuck in a few extra days along the Oregon coast before visiting with my in-laws in Montana for the holidays.  For four straight days, it relentlessly poured (as it’s prone to do during winter in Oregon).  I became so accustomed to the rain tap dancing on top of my camper that when all went suddenly silent in the early morning hours of day 3, I rushed out of bed and headed to the coast with my camera in hand to Cape Lookout.   The storm surge prevented me from walking along the beach, but I found a trail that hugged the coast that provided outstanding views of ephemeral waterfalls pouring into the stormy seas.

Winter Greetings

“Winter Greetings,” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

For additional inspiration to kick off the year, head over to Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project where he’s posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2014.  This is my third year participating – see my collections from 2012 and 2013.

As the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above suggests, my wish for you is that every day you’re on this planet – in photography and in life – is the best day of your year.

Keep shooting!
~Colleen

 

Aug 042014
 
Remote Possibilities

“Remote Possibilities” at the Toroweap Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

My buddies and fellow photographers, Guy Tal and Bruce Hucko, and I made a deal.  We were to meet in Torrey at 2:00 pm on a Thursday for a multi-day wandering together to discuss the future of the Moab Photo Symposium (it’s a GO for 2015! Mark your calendars for April 30 – May 2!).

After agreeing to these arrangements, I did some math.  I would need to leave my home in Chandler at about 4:00 am in order to make the 550-mile, 9-hour run (plus an hour time change in Utah) within the set deadline.  Not being a morning person, if I am getting up at that hour, I would really like to have a camera in one hand and an encouraging cup of black tea in the other.

With that, I pondered leaving on Wednesday and making an overnight stop at a scenic location en route.  Plenty of spots entered my thoughts, but one stuck in my mind:  Toroweap along the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Despite it being high on my photographic “to see” list for years, I had never been to this iconic place before.  Most people shy away from this remote location in July due to the scorching 100-degree-plus temperatures.  However, the promise of solitude made it the perfect choice for me for a quick stopover.  I could photograph at sunset and then again sunrise before getting back on the road no later than 6:30 am to reach Torrey on time.  On paper, it seemed like a lot of driving to sneak in such a short stay.  Nonetheless, I simply wanted to finally see Toroweap with my own eyes.  Now was the time.

After suggesting to Guy and Bruce that I would be making the trek from Toroweap, and apologizing in advanced for potentially arriving late, I received a quick response:  For every half hour I was late, I would owe them each a beer.  Fair enough, deal.

On Wednesday morning, I set out to northern Arizona packed for a 22-day road trip- and ample cans of local brews, you know,  just in case.  (One can never be too prepared, right?)  After an uneventful six-hour drive (one that included a stop at Jacob Lake Inn for a requisite and divine Cookie in a Cloud), I turned down the dirt road to Toroweap and said aloud to no one, “Here we go!”

Despite warnings about difficult driving conditions, I felt as if I was driving on the dirt Autobahn for the first 45 miles or so when compared to other backcountry roads I had driven before (like Alstrom Point above Lake Powell and the Racetrack in Death Valley National Park).  As each uranium mine semi-truck, and presumably other visitors, whizzed by me from the opposite direction, I felt solitude on the canyon’s rim coming closer.  When I spotted an SUV turn onto “my” road from the Colorado City route, slight disappointment kicked in, as I knew they too were heading to Toroweap (there are only so many roads out there).  On the bright side, if I had any trouble along the way, they would eventually run to me as they retraced their steps.

As I approached the national park boundary,  I heard a sudden “DING-DING-DING!”  A message popped up on my truck’s dash:  Right rear tire: low air pressure.  Slowing down from 20 mph, my eyes widened as I studied the monitor as the air pressure plummeted: 70 psi to 60 to 55 to 43 to 24.  I never saw or heard the culprit, but the hissing sound became abruptly and painfully loud, as I my emotions spilled, “Oh no. No. No. NONONONONONO!  Not here, not now!  Wake up, bad dream!”  I swore at myself for acting overconfident on the first part of the trip:  karma will always find you, I reminded myself.

I had never changed a tire before in my life.  My husband, Craig, and I talked just earlier this year about practicing in the comforts of our driveway, but that plan had not yet come to fruition.  Too late now.

I realize I am not the first person on the planet to ever change a tire.  But the prospect of learning how to do it on my own while solidly 55 miles away from civilization as mammatus clouds collected overhead and thunder rumbled down the valley, well, it made me sick to my stomach.

Hands shaking, I nervously opened the glove box to remove the stiff instruction manual for the first time since we bought the truck last year.  I was slightly relieved to find step-by-step instructions with illustrations.  As I stepped out of the truck, I muttered, “Here we go.”

As the distant sky crackled, I dropped the spare from underneath the truck.  Checking the first step off the list gave me some hope…and an idea.  I decided to photograph a time-lapse sequence to document this momentous occasion in my life on the road.  Taking a short break from tire-changing, I positioned my camera and wide-angle lens on a tripod with an intervolumeter set to fire every five seconds.  (And now in my first ever attempt at putting together a time-lapse – lots to learn there! – you too can laugh at the hilarity that ensued condensed in four and a half minutes…).

For almost an hour (unbeknownst to me in the field, but confirmed via timestamp from my photographs), I danced around to figure out where the jack was, how to unscrew the bolts, and reattach the rim facade to secure the spare onto my truck.  As time passed, the storm darkened the sky and brought the thunder closer (each time thunder boomed, I looked up to judge how far away the cell was, which you’ll see in the timelapse).

As I started to pack the jack up, a white truck approached mine.  Its driver stuck his head out the window and asked, “Are you OK? Do you need help?”

“I’m not sure,” I responded as I approached his vehicle and noticed – with intense relief – the familiar national park patch on his sleeve.  “I’ve just successfully changed my first tire and now I’m not sure what to do.”

He declared as he got out of his truck, “I’ve been watching you from the ranger station just over there [less than a mile down the road] and thought you had been here too long to be taking photos of the sign.”

I explained I was heading to Toroweap, but with no spare tire and the most challenging part of the road ahead, I shared that I was contemplating heading back to Kanab immediately.  I absolutely must be in Torrey, Utah by 2 pm tomorrow afternoon!

He studied the two-inch gash in my tread and, without hesitation, suggested he had plugs at the ranger station.  “I might be able to fix this,” he said enthusiastically as he dumped my lame tire into the back of his truck.  “Finish up here and drive down to the station.  We’ll see what we can do.”

Larry Forster, a volunteer with the NPS, and I chatted at the ranger station while he kept shoving plugs in my tire.  Sudsy water showed, though, that I had likely split some of the grooves in the tire as well.  I kept thinking to myself, “This must have been one hell of a rock (that I never saw).”

As a part of the conversation, I revealed to him my occupation as a photographer and writer, which prompted him to suggest, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier.  You go on to the overlook.  I can work on the tire some more.  You can pick it up on the way out tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” I replied with much trepidation.

“You gotta see it.  You’ve come this far.  There’s no use turning back now,” Larry encouraged.

After a bit more convincing, I took a deep breath and said, “OK, if you don’t see me back here by 7:00 a.m., come get me!”

I anxiously crept along the now high-clearance four-wheel drive track, taking almost an hour and a half to travel the remaining and mere 6.3 miles (it’s entirely possible I could have walked the same length in less time).  Upon reaching the end of the road, I parked, grabbed my photography gear, and sprinted to the edge.  I reached the rim and made my first image of the canyon at 7:46 p.m.  The sun dropped below the horizon and the canyon into shadow at 7:51 p.m.   I stood above the abyss until I could not see it anymore, partly to soak in as much as I could, and partly to delay driving the extremely rough 0.9-mile drive back to the campground.

A thirty-minute crawl landed me in a campsite, directly next to the same car I had been disappointed to see ahead of me earlier in the afternoon.  I was too wound up to make new friends with the five German gentleman – the only other group in camp – but their presence alone brought a sense of calm over me.

My 4 a.m. alarm buzzed seemingly immediately after I laid my head down on the pillow.  Beneath a star-filled sky, I returned to the overlook to enjoy the scene in a new light.  As I set-up my composition in the twilight, I heard two voices approaching, one distinctively female.  How could that be?

The pair casually walked up to the rim and said a cheery, “Good morning!” in a British accent.  Though our pleasant exchange, I learned they had abandoned their two-wheel drive sedan “somewhere along the road” and walked through a good portion of the night without headlamps or flashlights (under a sliver of a crescent moon) so they could arrive in time for sunrise.  And they did so with 15 minutes to spare.  Impressive.

The sun’s morning rays bathed the canyon in rich, warm light, exposing new cracks and crannies in the geological wonder I hadn’t seen the night before.  It’s cliché to say about a cliché place, but I’ll say it anyway: words can hardly describe the grandeur rolled out in front of me.   At that moment, I knew Larry was right.  I had to see this.

Within my mere 10-hour stay (way too brief to fully absorb and appreciate the scene), I recorded 96 frames total, four of which I will keep, even though I frantically composed them all and they are not anything anyone has not already produced or seen from this spot.  Here’s the thing, it wasn’t (nor is it ever) about “snagging” photographs.  Actually, I couldn’t have cared less about making an image other than to document that I had reached my destination.  I simply wanted to stand at the edge of the canyon, breathe the fresh air, and marvel at Mother Nature’s work.  I smiled and thanked Larry silently in my head.  I saw it, and it made me feel alive.

With my 2 p.m. deadline looming in the back of my mind, I packed up my equipment and searched for the couple from London.  When I found them, I offered them a ride back to their vehicle, which was no doubt along the route back to the ranger station.  They enthusiastically accepted.

Tire Plugs

Six tire plugs later…

The travel bug had bitten these two youngsters, Natalie and Hansa (I hope I’m spelling his name correctly!), much in the way it had munched me.  Both had once taken on unfulfilling jobs, only to leave and then gain what they valued most: time.  And in that time, the chance see the world.  In their multi-week stay thus far, they had seen more sights in the United States than most Americans see in their lifetime.  They were already making plans to take on temporary jobs back home to save just enough money to enable their return.  As I pulled next to their car (about three miles from the overlook), we agreed, so much to see, so little time.

With Natalie and Hansa following me, I arrived at the ranger station at 6:50 a.m. to meet Larry and reclaim my tire.  The tails of six plugs spewed from my tire like a jester’s hat.  Larry lifted it into the front seat of my car and assured me I would have no trouble using it as a spare on the way back to Kanab, if needed.  I couldn’t thank him enough.  After well-wishes and heartfelt goodbyes to Larry, Natalie, and Hansa, I returned to Kanab where the good people at Ramsay’s promoted my original spare into full time service on my truck and sold me a new spare.

The cost?  $281 and an extra hour, or four beers for my friends, Guy and Bruce.  A worthy price to pay for such an adventure.  After all, as the proverb goes, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

The Storm Within

“The Storm Within” at the Toroweap Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

Apr 232013
 
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Photograph copyright Takashi Okuda

Many people take the images of rocks reflecting the light from the setting sun in the Grand Canyon. However, I have not seen a good picture of the Grand Canyon with the red sky at sunset. I wanted to photograph the Grand Canyon with a beautiful sunset.

When you photograph nature, preparations are important. To see a good sunset, I check the weather forecast everyday throughout the week. According to the forecast, Thursday would be sunny and Friday would be a little cloudy. Actually, you cannot see the good sunset on sunny days. The cloud reflects red color light and people can see that. I decided to go to the Grand Canyon on Friday. I arrived at the Grandview Point in Grand Canyon one hour before the sunset. There was a thin cloud in the sky. It was the best cloud to make a red sky at sunset.When I arrived, the sunlight was shining on the rocks. The color of the rocks was getting red as the sun set. Many visitors left after they took pictures of the red rocks. However, I knew the time to photograph had not come. Twenty minutes after the sunset, the sky changed to deep red and orange.The gradation of orange, red, purple and blue colors and the magnificent view of the Grand Canyon made me excited. I started taking pictures.

I decided to use HDR to capture the ground and sky. The sky was too bright compared to the ground during the sunset. I also wanted to make a panorama picture to express the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. I fixed my camera on my tripod vertically and set my camera to manual mode. I used f/18 to get a deep depth of field and to make an HDR image and set the camera to the bracketing mode. The basic shutter speed was 1/1.3 seconds and I took five pictures with different shutter speeds. They were 1/1.3, 1/5, 1/2, 1.6 and 3 seconds. I rotated my tripod head horizontally to make the panoramic picture. I took picture six different pictures to make the panorama. Therefore, I got thirty pictures to make one overall image. After I did that twice, the sky got dark. I just had two chances to photograph the beautiful sunset. Then, I got back to my room to edit my pictures. I used the software, Photomatix to process the HDR. I wanted pictures with high saturation. After I made one HDR picture, I saved the setting to apply it to the other pictures. As a result, I got six HDR pictures with the same brightness and saturation. I merged the six pictures in Photoshop. I cropped the picture to the rectangular shape and finally, I put the unsharp mask on the picture.

About the Photographer:
I am Takashi Okuda. I am a university student of Northern Arizona University. I am from Hiroshima, Japan. I studied film in the vocational school in Tokyo.At the time, some of my friends took photography. This promoted my start in photography. After I started studying in the U.S., I changed my major to Artand Photography. I like to take landscape images. Especially, I am working on HDR and Panorama pictures. They are new techniques in the photography world. That makes my pictures different. I would like to introduce beautiful views in the United States and Japan to many people.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction on our April 15 post at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/introducing-the-nau-photography-students-behind-the-image-guest-blogger-project.

Jan 022013
 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy 2013 Everyone!  A new year means a blank canvas on which to create new friendships, opportunities, and achievements!  I hope you each have big dreams in mind, and perhaps even more importantly, I hope you follow them relentlessly and passionately so they all come true for you in the new year.  After all, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” right?

Whew, what a year 2012 was for CMS Photography!  Last year will go down as our busiest, most successful, and by far the most exciting year to date, with many countless “thank you’s” owed to you, as I could not do what I do without your continued support!  I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring, creative, and enthusiastic people.

Some major highlights for us from last year include (in no particular order):

And just when you think you can’t have any more wild fun, 2013 shows up!

Going into our sixth year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer, I couldn’t be any more pumped for the year to come, not just because of all the travel planned and the new projects we’ll announce throughout the year, but all the great times and awesome learning opportunities we’ll share together, whether that be during our upcoming Workshops and Presentations or simply out in the field sharing some light and good laughs.

But, before we start running down the 2013 street like a bat outta hell, though, I’d like to share my favorite 13 (a lucky number for the new year!) photos in celebration of a joyful 2012.  For more inspiration, be sure to also head over to Jim Goldstein’s Blog, hes posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2012 for his “Blog Project: Your Best Photos from 2012.

Here goes:

1.  Winter’s Serenade, Death Valley National Park, California (January 2012)

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Cottonball Marsh area along Salt Creek in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)


2.  Walk the Line, Death Valley National Park, California (February 2012)

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Cracked mud and stones in the Panamint Dry Lake in Death Valley National Park, California, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

3. Sunrise at Boulder Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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er Beach and the Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

4.  Bunchberry Dogwood, Acadia National Park, Maine (June 2012)

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Bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis) at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

5.  The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona (June 2012)

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The Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei rock formations in Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

6.  The Colorado River Flexing its Muscle, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (June 2012)

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The sandstone cliffs of Marble Canyon reflect into waves in the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

7.  The RCMP Musical Ride, 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (July 2012)

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Abstract view of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Musical Ride during Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

8.  Reach for the Sky, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (August 2012)

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Abstract sky pool pattern in Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

9.  Autumn on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (September 2012)

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Gambel oak line the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

10.  Autumn Regeneration, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona (September 2012)

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Abstract view of a regenerating burned forest during autumn in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

11.  Mother Nature’s Ice Cream, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona (October 2012)

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Striated bentonite clay beds in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order)

12.  Spell of the Sea, The Big Island, Hawai’i (November 2012)

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Waves and volcanic rock along the Puna Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

13.  Winter Solstice Eve, Canyonlands National Park, Utah (December 2012)

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Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Thank you for stopping by the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” blog!  Let’s all make 2013 a year to remember!

~Colleen

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