The Wild West near Joshua Tree National Park

Black and White photographs feel timeless, don’t they? Looking at a black and white image of a scene from the olden days seems right to me. When we visited Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park, I found some old style buildings like this Feed Store. As I stood on the dirt road, I admired the low evening sun shining from the right on this big Joshua Tree and the wood barn.

As I processed this image, I emulated the look of an infared light photograph by darkening the sky. The foliage was naturally bright from the sunlight. A really good black and white image includes a simple and balanced composition, bold shapes and interesting textures. This image checked all the boxes for me.

#wildwest, #pioneertown, #joshuatree, #joshuatreenationalpark, #socal, #thingstodo, #barn, #blackandwhite, #infared, #photography, #travelphotography, #sonyalpha
Scene from Pioneertown near Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoy the shapes and textures in this black and white rendering.

If you arrive in Pioneertown in the late afternoon as we did, you can enjoy dinner and the unique ambiance of the iconic restaurant Pappy and Harriet’s, but you will need a reservation.

Spanish Moss at Sunset

I remember the first time I saw Spanish Moss on my first trip to Florida. I think I was in seventh grade, and I was amazed. It looks kind of spooky hanging from the trees.

#spanishmoss, #thesouth, #sunset, #evenightlight, #light, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #landscape, #nature, #naturephotography, #firstimpression, #florida, #naplesflorida
Spanish moss lit by the setting sun in Naples, Florida. If you grew up in the northern states, this sight will surprise you.

My delighted first impression still colors my thoughts when I observe this lacy plant hanging from tree branches. I especially like to see it in early morning or evening light when it looks like a chandelier.

Learning Your Tropical Plants

My first thought of a name for this brilliant bloom was “fireworks,” but I wasn’t far off. This splash of color drew me close at the Naples Botanical Garden. It’s a Starburst bush / Clerodendrum quadriloculare. I was not finding it under searches for “fireworks flower” or “tropical plants,” but my friend Erika, a gifted gardener, led me to its proper name. The Starburst bush is native to New Guinea and the Philippines. No wonder it thrives in the tropical climate of Naples, Florida in the “Garden with Latitude.”

#starburst, #fireworks, #tropical, #light, #garden, #gardening, #naplesfl, #botanical, #botanicalgarden, #flower, #pinkandgreen, #pinkflower, #macrophotography, #naturephotography, #outdoorphotography, #nikon, #phillipines
The Starburst bush, clerodendrum quadriloculare, looks vibrant in the late afternoon light at Naples Botanical Garden, photographed in February 2020.

In doing my botanical research, I was tempted to order some seeds and plants, but I don’t currently have access to a garden or gardening tools. I’m hoping my desire to dig and plant will still burn when I return to my home in Pennsylvania.

Discovery Channel Drama

While I treasure a close-up of each species of bird in its exquisite detail, and I get excited about a more rare capture of a bird in flight, the trifecta of wildlife photography thrills for me is to witness a drama between animals — the rare sighting that leaps beyond good color, detail and composition to tell a story.

Such was my luck late one afternoon on Sanibel Island in February. So far the visit to J.D. Ding Darling Nature Preserve had been pretty uneventful, and I was apologizing to my friend Mary who accompanied me. We had planned our trip to coincide with low tide to observe the large birds feeding, but few white pelicans or roseate spoonbills were in sight.

Here is how the action unfolded: We set up my tripod between the road and the water’s edge to observe for awhile when a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron emerged from the brush. About 4 onlookers pointed and whispered to each other as it paused in the gentle afternoon light. At Ding Darling, most bird watchers are quiet and respectful of wildlife.)

This heron took graceful giant strides, and within a few minutes, it had grabbed a crab in its beak and held it up in the light right in front of us. I had to adjust my 150-600mm zoom lens to 400mm to see the entire bird in the frame, and I could not believe my luck with the beautiful light and the chance to witness the scene.

#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #nightheron, #birdphotography, #bird, #nature, #naturephotography, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #outdoorphotography, #florida, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #crab, #predatore, #prey, #closeup,
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron catches a crab in evening light on Sanibel Island, FL. 2020

We quietly contained our amazement (oh my God!) as the heron shook and stabbed the crab til its legs and claws came off and the prey was manageable to go down the hatch, right in front of us. I have numerous photos of this drama, and I will share them with you in the next few blog posts.

I’m now grateful that I saved this series of wildlife photos for this quiet time we are all experiencing now. Please share this blog with your friends who may enjoy it too.

Blue Hour at Lake Louise

Making this long exposure (1.6 seconds) of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada after sunset inspired me to read about the blue hour.

While the scene was quite dark to the naked eye, a long exposure made while the Sony camera rests motionless on a tripod allows the sensor to collect all the blue light present at dusk, or nautical twilight.

A scientist named Chappuis discovered that the ozone layer absorbs ultra violet light, and after sunset this Chappuis absorption has a significant effect on the color of the sky. I’m going to have to learn more about light wavelengths to understand this in depth.

As a photographer, I will remember the soft and soothing effect of this blue hour. Some artists enjoy photographing city scapes featuring yellow incandescent light during the blue hour. Have you tried it?

A Blanket of Color

#sunset, #clouds, #light, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalparks, #light, #color, #landscape
The setting sun turned the blanket of clouds vivid shades of orange and pink in Grand Teton National Park, September 23, 2018.

While the sun’s brilliant orb slipped behind the Grand Tetons, the clouds reflected the orange glow of sunset. That evening the clouds took on a rippled texture as well as a misty, ethereal quality.  We could feel the temperature fall. The light show was brief. Soon it would be dark.

Lupines in Evening Light

It’s amazing how a warm ray of evening light can make a garden look special. That ray of light is even sweeter after a day of heavy rain.

#lupines, #light, #garden, #june, #may, #purple, #pennsylvania, #sewickley, #flowers, #nature
Purple Lupines have withstood the heavy rain and stand out amid the lush greenery in the evening light.

Lupines are one of my favorite flowers. They bloom in Western Pennsylvania in late May and early June. I enjoyed photographing them in New Zealand in December. The seasons are reversed Down Under!

Beyond the Horizon

Last evening I went down to the beach to watch the sunset, and nearly an hour after the sunset the sky gave me a gift.  Two bright blue light beams cut through the rosy western sky and they lingered for about 15 minutes, giving me plenty of time to pause my dinner, steady my camera on the railing and take a half second exposure of this special scene.

#sky, #light, #crepuscular, #blue, #horizon, #sunset, #florida
Crepuscular rays of light from beyond the horizon

I guessed that the blue rays were caused by clouds beyond the horizon blocking the rosy twilight, and my photography mentor Gary Hart said he thought that was the case. Today, I had another thought about this unusual sight.

 

These are tough days for our family, as my father’s health is in rapid decline and our hearts are heavy, knowing he will leave us any day now.  I just witnessed stunning light beams from beyond the horizon. There could be a message of comfort and hope from a place beyond my sight. I believe so.