Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

Learning from Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams made an iconic photograph of the Snake River Valley looking toward the Grand Tetons from this very spot in Jackson Hole in 1942. So, with my Sony mirrorless digital camera and the latest software, I followed the master’s lead and made this vibrant color image at sunset in late September 2018.

#sunset, #grandtetons, #snakeriver, #hdr, #lightroom, #clearnight, #jacksonhole, #rrstripod, #sonymirrorless
Four exposures merged in Adobe Lightroom created this vivid color image of the Snake River Valley and Grand Teton Range at sunset, from Ansel Adams’ lookout.

The view was even better in Adams’ day, because the Snake River made a serpentine curve leading the eye to the mountains. Today trees obscure part of the river from this lookout. It was still exciting to walk in Ansel Adams’ footsteps 76 years later.

Morning Moon in Jackson Hole

I can hear these words echo in my mind, “The Moon carries tremendous visual weight.” My photography mentors remind me to consider this when I compose a frame with the moon. I am listening. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the moon. To create balance in the composition, the other side of the frame needs some “weight.” ┬áThat’s where the Grand Teton comes in, the high peak on the right.

#moon, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #schwabacherlanding, #fallcolor, #fall, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #jacksonhole, #wyoming, #mountains, #snakeriver, #trees, #yellowandblue
While the lodgepole pine directs they eye to the full moon, the Grand Teton range cuts a jagged line in the morning sky.

This image also features a contrast of cool and warm tones. The blue and grey in the sky and mountaintops contrast the warmly lit fall color in the trees and grasses in the valley. Good morning, Jackson Hole! I’m enjoying a deep breath of your fresh air and cool Fall temperatures. It’s time for a warm cup of coffee.

 

Shooting into the Sunset

Landscape photographers understand that shooting directly into the sun, even at sunset, creates such extremes of brightness and darkness that it is difficult to make a successful image. The foreground falls into shadow, while the sky becomes impossibly bright. What to do?

Photographers planning to shoot sunset in Grand Teton National Park face this challenge every day, because all views of the mountain range face west. While today’s digital software can help brighten the shadows and darken the highlights, it ain’t easy!

One approach is to wait until the critical moment when the sun touches the edge of a tree or a mountain in the foreground. If you set your camera manually to a small f-stop such as f/22, the sunlight will refract and create a brilliant sunstar. I like this technique, as it gives punch to the scene.

#sunset, #grandtetons, #schumacherslanding, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalparks, #sunstar, #noclouds, #sky, #reflection, #stillness, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #evergreens, #howto
The Grand Tetons and the evergreens reflect in the beaver ponds of Schwabacher’s Landing as the sun sets.

Reflections in the beaver pond as well as the V shape of the trees that flank the mountains give this image a peaceful symmetry.

After this capture, I packed up my tripod and camera quickly, for soon it would be dark.