Moab

In mid-March, along with a group of fellow camera club members, I travelled to Moab, Utah. People often refer to the whole area surrounding the city as simply “Moab”. In actual fact, two separate National Parks lie within short driving distances from the city. The closest, just outside the city, is Arches National Park. A little longer drive gets you to Canyonlands National Park.

During our stay we visited both parks.

We spread our drive to Moab over two days. On the first day we stopped for a few hours at Valley of Fire State Park just north of Las Vegas. Here we spent most of our time in the area of the “Fire Wave” waiting for sunset. The Fire Wave itself is a pretty interesting rock formation that does resemble ocean waves. And with the right light at sunset it looks pretty spectacular.

Fire Wave

For me, perhaps more interesting than the Fire Wave though, was the colorful rock formations and patterns in the area. Here is a sampling:

After sunset we were treated to some pretty amazing colors in the sky. In the photo below, it really looks like the hill is on fire.

The next day, after driving through a blizzard north of St. George, UT, we arrived in Moab in mid afternoon. Our late afternoon and sunset location that day was Balanced Rock in Arches National Park.

Balanced Rock

In the two images below, you can really see how the late afternoon sun turns the rock formations in the park a beautiful red color. The image on the left, of rock formations with the La Sal Mountains in the background, was taken later in the afternoon but before the sun got too low on the horizon. The image on the right, of some different formations but still looking towards the La Sal Mountains, was taken with the sun low on the horizon.

One of the main reasons people visit Moab is to see the arches. Most of the well known arches are in Arches National Park: however, one of the most popular, Mesa Arch, is in Canyonlands National Park. If you want to find crowds of people, just visit the arches. Most are within a fairly short walk from a parking lot. Delicate Arch requires a bit more effort with a 3 mile round trip hike. Of that, getting to the arch involves 1.5 miles of pretty much constant climb (480 vertical feet). As well, since sunset is most popular with this arch, coming back down in the dark can be a bit tricky if you aren’t watching your footing.

Turret Arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Broken Arch, Arches National Park
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Aside from the arches, there is lots to see and photograph in the area. I loved the countless misshapen junipers with their textured bark and green foliage, often contrasting with red rocks or sand.

In addition, there is no shortage of grand vistas to photograph. A couple of the spots we visited were Dead Horse Point and Green River Outlook, both in Canyonlands.

Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands NP
Cleopatra’s Chair (white rock formation), Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP

In the short time we were there, we only scratched the surface of what there is to do and see in these two national parks. If you are a hiker or have a four wheel drive vehicle, the opportunities are endless.

If you are new to my blog, or haven’t yet visited my photo gallery, please drop in by clicking on the “Photo Gallery” tab at the top of the page or just go to neilmillerphotography.com. I will shortly be updating it with my favourite images from the winter months, so check back regularly. Or even better, while you are there, sign up for my newsletter. I won’t bombard you with emails: only a quarterly newsletter outlining recent updates.

And I always welcome your comments on either my blog or my photo gallery.

Posted in Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Sur 2022

Big Sur 2022

This winter I payed my second visit to the Big Sur section of the California Coast, although to be truthful, it was the first time actually getting up to Big Sur. My previous trip, in 2017 (wow, can’t believe it was 5 years ago) was affected by rain and mudslides. As a result I spent my time exploring from Moro Bay to Ragged Point. You can read about that trip in my earlier post, “Best laid plans“.

On this trip I stayed in the heart of the Big Sur area, at the Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It is an older property but very nicely kept up. The rooms, located in cabins, are uphill from the main lodge. Accommodation is very basic with no TV, phone or internet. Cell reception is spotty. Their website makes all this clear so you know before you go. With that said, the rooms are very comfortable and clean.

My first morning started before dawn with a drive up to photograph Point Sur Lighthouse. It was pretty cloudy and misty so there was no real sunrise. Still, I think I got a pretty nice shot.

Point Sur Lighthouse

As I was packing up to leave, the mist turned to light rain. A few minutes later it stopped and a beautiful rainbow appeared. I had to scramble to get down the road a bit to capture this image. The rainbow was already starting to fade when I got to a spot where it lined up with the lighthouse.

Most of the rest of that day and the next morning were spent in search of seascapes. A problem with much of this coastline is that you are looking down at the water from some height, which does affect the perspective in your photo. There are a few areas, though, where you can get down close to or at water level.

In these images I wanted to capture the power and motion of the waves. In the first one, I like the addition of the two gulls in the foreground.

The following series is a bit more abstract presentation. I tried to give a sense of motion in these images.

There are a few waterfalls along this section of coast. Pfeiffer Falls is located at the end of a nice little hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It didn’t have a lot of water flowing but was still pretty. McWay Falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is one of only two waterfalls on the California Coast that flows directly into the ocean. I caught some gorgeous late afternoon light on the falls.

Pfeiffer Falls
McWay Falls

The final image above was just a little waterfall I found on a hike down to a beach.

On one of the beaches I visited, I found an incredible display of little sand trees or sand feathers, depending on how you look at them. These are patterns in the sand left behind as a wave recedes. I have seen them on other beaches but this particular beach probably had one of the best displays I’ve found. I easily spent about an hour and a half photographing them, and could have stayed longer.

Of course not visit to the Big Sur area would be complete without a shot of Bixby Bridge. As there are probably tens of thousands of photos of it in existence, I didn’t spend a lot of time there. It is an impressive structure, but I was more interested in the other “stuff” I found.

Bixby Bridge

This part of the California Coast definitely warrants a return visit!

If you are new to my blog, or haven’t yet visited my photo gallery, please drop in by clicking on the “Photo Gallery” tab at the top of the page or just go to neilmillerphotography.com. I will shortly be updating it with my favourite images from the winter months, so check back regularly. Or even better, while you are there sign up for my newsletter. I won’t bombard you with emails, only a quarterly newsletter outlining recent updates.

And I always welcome your comments on either my blog or my photo gallery.

Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Photography, Seascapes, Travel, waterfalls | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joshua Tree NP 0222

My last trip to Joshua Tree National Park this winter began early morning, just as the sun was starting to light up the sky. Getting up early for the hour and a half drive to get into some of the locations I like to shoot for sunrise is never a hardship.

The image above was taken as sunrise was approaching. I loved the color on the horizon. I also liked the simplicity of the single tree and the pile of rock, both so representative of the park. Like most of my early morning photos, this was a three image exposure blend. I’ve talked about this technique before. Three separate images, one normal exposure, one dark exposure for the sky and a third lighter exposure for the foreground, are blended together so the shadows don’t get too dark and the sky doesn’t end up blown out.

As the sun rose above the horizon, it started to light up the tops of the distant hills.

As the sun rose higher, it started to peek through gaps in the boulders, giving a warm glow to the Joshua Trees.

The shadowy distant hills provide a nice backdrop to the warm golden tones of the grass and the green leaves of the Joshua Trees in the image below.

While far from an award-winning photo, the sunlight snaking between the boulders and zig zagging through the through the grasses, caught my eye and I just had to take the shot.

This was my last visit to JTNP for this winter, but it was not my last California adventure. I did a trip to Big Sur and to Moab, which I will talk about in future posts.

Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Death Valley 2022

At the end of January I participated in a photography workshop in Death Valley National Park. The workshop, run by the Out of Chicago group and called the Out of Death Valley workshop involved about 100 participants and 16 to 18 professional photographer instructors. Participants were divided into groups of 8 to 10, and each morning and afternoon went out with different instructors. The workshop was a great experience and helped me look at Death Valley in slightly different ways than I had before.

A number of the instructors that our group was paired up with were more into “small scene” photography as opposed to grand vistas. Over the last year or so, I have been gravitating more toward small scenes, even if at times I wasn’t fully aware of it. This workshop came at a perfect time, I feel, on my photographic journey.

The first morning we were shooting the octagonal salt formations at Badwater Basin. While it was fun and I experimented with a lot of stuff, when I got back and looked at my images on the computer, there weren’t any that particularly turned my crank. On the way out, though, I caught this cute little tree that kind of looks like a Bonsai.

In the evening we photographed mud cracks. They were kind of mesmerizing, looking at patterns and seeing shapes in them. They were kind of like a huge Rorschach test. Can you see the elephant head in this one? Or maybe a lobster? Or maybe … ?

The image below was taken just after sunset at the Mesquite Sand Dunes. It was shot from some distance, looking down on the dunes using a telephoto lens. By isolating a small section of the dunes you get some interesting patterns with the dunes catching some of the pink reflections from the sky. The shrub provides a bit of an anchor point. To me, the dunes look like peaks of whipped cream or perhaps a meringue.

Believe it or not, there is water in Death Valley. We were very fortunate to enjoy a beautiful sunrise at Salt Creek, as the following photos will show.

Zabriskie Point is a popular spot with photographers. Rather than doing the traditional shots of Manly Beacon (which I have photographed before), I spent my time photographing the interesting rock formations and amazing colors.

The inclusion of people in the shots gives a sense of scale to these formations, such as with the photographer in the first image below and the couple in the second image.

This particular valley almost looks like it has a river flowing through it.

Just when we thought that sunset was going to be somewhat ho-hum, the sky burst into beautiful “flames”.

Early morning on our final day found us at Dantes View. If you are willing to risk substantially colder temperatures and blustery winds, this outlook provides an incredible view over Badwater Basin and the Panamint Mountains. Sunrise can be quite spectacular.

In this image, I love the layers and the early morning colors.

In the next two images, I really liked how the first rays of sunlight lit up the ridgelines of the hills.

One might think that the photo below shows ocean waves washing up on a beach. The white is actually salt deposits in Badwater Basin. I liked how Badwater Road on the right mimics the curves of the salt deposits.

This was my third visit to Death Valley. I have to say that, more so than my previous trips, this workshop really opened my eyes to the vast range of photographic opportunities in this National Park.

Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pioneertown Revisited

With friends visiting over Christmas, we thought a visit to Pioneertown was in order. I have written about Pioneertown in previous posts as it is just a fun place to go.

The town was originally built in the 1940’s by a group of actors and members of the musical group The Sons of the Pioneers, for whom the town was named. Actors such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were involved. It was designed to be a permanent old west movie set complete with services for film crews and actors such as a motel and dining room. Over 50 movies and a number of TV series were filmed here including The Cisco Kid and Judge Roy Bean.

Located a few miles north of Yucca Valley, the town is now a popular tourist attraction as well as a good place to ride a horse. In fact, automobiles are not allowed on Mane Street, but horses are welcome.

As I strolled along Mane Street I photographed whatever caught my attention. Later, when I post-processed the images I finished them all off with the same antique look.

Our visit would not be complete without lunch at Pappy and Harriets where we have always had great food and cold beer. Since our last time in Pioneertown, the Red Dog Saloon has opened for dining. One of these days we will have to check it out!

Here is a selection of the images I took on my stroll down Mane Street. Click on any image to see an enlarged version.

If you would like to see more of my photography, I invite you to click the “Photo Gallery” tab above or go to neilmillerphotography.com. While there, sign up for my quarterly newsletter to be informed of new additions to the gallery.

Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Photography, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Back to JTNP

Just before Christmas I made another trip up to Joshua Tree National Park. As is my normal custom, I arrived nearly an hour before sunrise, giving me time to scout around for a suitable composition. As the sky started to lighten, I found a composition I liked, featuring Joshua Trees silhouetted against the sky. I never get tired of the endless shapes of Joshua Trees: every one is different. Soon I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise lighting up the sky.

It was a cool, crisp morning, so the warmth of the sun as it rose above the horizon was welcomed. As it rose higher in the sky, the sun kissed this Joshua Tree with its warm glow.

After enjoying the beauty of the start to another day, I set off to do a little exploring. One thing that is always fun is looking for shapes in the rock formations that remind you of something. This morning I found two. The first looks like a dog, the second looks like a sliced loaf of bread.

Occasionally you come across old mining equipment or vehicles that have been left for eternity in the desert. This old truck definitely needs some TLC!

On my little hike, I stopped at the ruins of an old house. I believe the house at one time belonged Worth Bagley, a neighbor to Bill Keys. It would be an understatement to say that the two men did not get along! The animosity escalated when Bagley blocked the road access that Keys used to get to his Wall Street Mill, claiming that the road ran across his land. Keys refused to accept that he had no right to use the road and the whole thing came to a head in mid-1943 with a gunfight. After shooting Bagley dead, Keys turned himself in, claiming he had shot Bagley in self defense and that Bagley had shot at him first. After what many hold was a somewhat rigged trial, Keys was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin Prison. Earlier in his life, Keys had made the acquaintance of a lawyer by the name of Earl Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. When Gardner heard of Keys imprisonment he championed the case for his parole. Eventually he convinced the courts that Keys had been wrongfully convicted. Bill Keys was given a full parole and freed from prison in 1948.

The window in the ruins of Bagley’s old house nicely frames this Joshua Tree and the pile of boulders beyond it.

I concluded my visit with this beautiful view of Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California. While it may be warm down in the desert, the peak is usually capped with snow during the winter months.

Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Desert Botanical Garden

Recently I had an opportunity to visit Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs. The garden features cactus, succulents and other plants found in various desert environments.

The garden has an interesting history. According to their website it was created by “Chester ‘Cactus Slim’ Moorten and his wife, Patricia. Cactus Slim was an original Keystone Cop and a stand-in for Howard Hughes. He developed tuberculosis on a film set and recovered in Cottonwood Springs, near Joshua Tree, where he panned for gold and collected beautiful cactuses. He learned mining was hard work and selling prickly plants paid better.

In search of more customers, Chester came to Palm Springs in 1938, met Patricia, who also had an interest in succulents, and they bought the property, which became Moorten Botanical Garden, from renowned nature and desert photographer Stephen Willard.” (http://www.moortenbotanicalgarden.com/about-moortens/ )

While there, I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours practicing small scene/abstract photography. Hopefully you enjoy the following images. As always, I welcome any comments.

For more of my images, please visit my gallery by clicking the “Photo Gallery” tab above. I will shortly be adding several photos taken this past Fall, so while there, sign up for my newsletter to be notified when they are added.

Posted in California, Nature, Photography, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to JTNP

Two weeks after returning to our second home in California, after the “Covid year absense”, I returned to Joshua Tree National Park for the first time in about two years.

An early start, at 4:00 am, ensured that I got to my chosen destination well before sunrise. When I got there I discovered that I had forgotten my headlamp. Fortunately, I had a flashlight in my camera bag so was able to light my way as I searched for a suitable composition. It’s always nice to be able to see a cactus before you step on it as you navigate your way through the desert in the dark.

I soon found a composition I liked. A boulder formation had a bit of a window through which I could see a bit of sky. The boulders were nicely framed by two Joshua Trees. A path through low growth leads your eye to the rock formation. My hope was that if the sky caught a bit of color as the sun came up, that you would see a bit of it through the “window”. And, as you can see from the photo below, the sky did not disappoint.

A beautiful sunrise in JTNP
Posted in California, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Colors 2022

About a month ago I went camping in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, just south of Hinton, Alberta. For many years, this area has been one of the coal mining regions on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. There are still a few operational mines and lots of evidence of the history of the area. The only remaining town in the area is Cadomin. I had never been to the area so it seemed like a good time to go do a bit of exploring and look for Fall colors.

There was no difficulty finding Fall colors, although in Alberta, the colors consist of mainly yellow and orange. Occasionally one finds patches of red brush to add a bit more color, but we certainly don’t get the range of rich colors experienced on the East coast.

Click on image to see full size.

Aside from photographing larger landscapes, on this trip I also enjoyed spending time walking about making images of smaller scenes that caught my eye.

Click on image to see full size.

One interesting location I came across was the Mountain Park Cemetery, which is at the highest elevation of any cemetery in Canada. The huge coal deposits in the area were discovered in 1895. The Mountain Park Coal Company was established in 1914 and a railway was constructed from Hinton to the mine and newly developed town of Mountain Park. At its peak, the once thriving town had a population of about 1500. Falling demand for coal resulted in the closure of the mine in 1950 and the town was soon abandoned. All that remains today are the remnants of a few foundations and the cemetery. In 1997 a group of volunteers, comprised of former town residents, family and friends, restored the overgrown cemetery. It continues to be maintained by volunteers.

Mountain Park Cemetery

As mentioned above, there is still mining taking place in the area. Just south of Cadomin is Lehigh Cement which is mining limestone. The rock is blasted off the mountain and dumped into a shaft inside the mountain. The limestone is crushed and stored within the mountain until it is loaded onto rail cars for shipment.

Lehigh Cement

North of Cadomin, on the road to Hinton, is the Luscar Coal Mine.

Luscar Coal

On my drive back to Hinton, I happened upon a little stream and waterfall that just capped off my 3-day visit.

Visit my Photo Galleries at NeilMillerPhotography.com

Posted in Alberta, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography, waterfalls | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

David Thompson Country

A few weeks ago I spent an enjoyable 3 days photographing in David Thompson Country with my friend and photographer David Buzzeo ( Buzzeophotography.com )

David Thompson Country is located in west central Alberta, basically along Highway 11 west of Rocky Mountain House. It is named for fur trader and cartographer David Thompson. I have posted about two previous visits on my blog: last January when I was attempting to photograph ice bubbles … Day Trippin’ , and three years ago when I went backpacking in the area … Backpacking Trip .

Crescent Falls

Our trip started off with a visit to Crescent Falls on the Bighorn River. I had camped here in the Spring of 2018 and took the photo to the left of the falls.

Our plan was to photograph the falls from below. We finally found a very steep path that would take us down into Bighorn Gorge. We were able to hike along the river for a ways but it eventually became clear that we were going to have to wade back and forth across the river a couple of times. With lots of interesting shots along the portion of the river that was fairly easily accessible to us, we decided not to go all the way to the falls.

The two images below are of a couple of the little waterfalls we encountered as we hiked along the river.

At one point, I became fascinated with light reflections on the water. Colored light reflecting off the walls of the gorge combined with the color of the river and the rocky bed created some beautiful, abstract color patterns as shown in the following images.

In fact, three of them would make a nice triptych. What do you think?

Later in the afternoon we set up camp at the Fish Lake campground. My wife and I had camped here a couple of times back in the ’80’s when we had a little tent trailer. I was happy to see that the campground is still just as nice as it was back then.

Having a friend along on this camping trip inspired me to be a little more creative with the meal menus than I typically am when camping on my own. Dinner was Basil Chicken Pasta and salad. The pasta was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast omelet, we struck off to hike up to Siffleur Falls. This was a new hike for me, although David has done it several times in the past. It is a reasonably easy 14 km return hike although with a camera bag and tripod on my back it took a bit of effort. While the falls at the top are spectacular, the scenery along the way made for some beautiful stops.

That evening we drove into Nordegg for sunset. On previous visits, David had found quite a few old miner’s cabins on the edge of town (Nordegg is an old coal-mining town). Unfortunately it appears they have almost all been torn down to make way for a new development. There was still one old cabin, or possibly a store given it’s false front, that we were able to photograph.

For our final morning we headed west to the intersection of Highway 11 and the Banff-Jasper Highway (Hwy 93) for a hike to the Howse Pass outlook. Our hike was broken into two parts. About a kilometer and a half into the hike we came to a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. We spent some worthwhile time here exploring and photographing the area.

Another 1.5 km or so brings you to the Howse Pass Outlook. The view was spectacular although the extremely strong wind made keeping the tripod steady a bit of a challenge. Howse Pass through the mountains was a route between the Saskatchewan River and the Columbia River used by First Nations People and fur traders.

Following the hike, and lunch back in the parking lot, we set off for home. Our route took us back along Lake Abraham so we stopped for a few final images.

My thanks to David Buzzeo for sharing his knowledge of the area. It was a great 3 days!

To view more of my images, please visit my website NeilMillerPhotography.com – just click the “Photo Gallery” tab at the top of the page to go directly to my other site. While there, please sign up for my quarterly newsletter to be advised about new images added to my galleries.

Posted in Alberta, Hiking, Landscape Photography, Nature, Photography, waterfalls | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment