Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Costa Rican Tree Frog

About four days into a family vacation in Costa Rica, I grabbed my camera, jumped in the car and headed out alone.  I was told the dirt road ended at the river and that some good photography might be found at the end of it, especially birds, and someone mentioned something about a frog farm.

I set off and drove to the end of the road finding a house set back a ways at the very end of the road and on the opposite side I wanted to explore.  I began searching the trees for birds. There was a Macaw high up in the canopy and I was trying to get a clear view of it when a man came over from the house. He spoke no English and I spoke so Spanish. But he knew what I was there for – good images – and he had just the subject.

In his hand he held a little Green Costa Rican Tree Frog. As he approached the little frog leapt out of his hand landing on my face just above my cheek and quickly snuggled into my eye socket. I spontaneously handed the camera to the man and he graciously snapped some images. Our journey together had begun.

As I learned later this man had started a frog farm with plans to export frogs to foreign markets. I was told that in Costa Rica you must demonstrate your business is viable for a period of five years in order to gain approval from the government. For some reason he did not receive the approval, so he turned all of his frogs loose.

As he showed me around his farm, which had exotic plants and several outdoor ponds where he was raising beautiful tropical fish, he pointed out frogs hiding in the dense undergrowth. Without his pointing them out I would never have seen them.

Sometimes when I am out with my camera I believe it acts like a divining rod for me, pointing the way for me to meeting new people, new scenes, new adventures. All of them treasures.  I will always have fond memories of this man, his friendliness, and his frogs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Return to Antelope Canyon

It had been a year since my first visit to Upper Antelope Canyon. That visit was too brief and too many other folks in the canyon at the same time. This time I was determined to linger a bit. I planned a trip that would include my birthday and made my way this time to Lower Antelope Canyon.

The earliest I could get into the canyon was 8 a.m. as that is when it opened.  I was there and ready well before 8. I was the first visitor of the day and the guide took me to the far, lower end of the canyon to enter. I descended to the canyon floor. Alone. Completely alone. . . in Antelope Canyon. . . on my birthday. . . and I could stay all day!

Lower Antelope Canyon, like Upper Antelope, is a slot canyon.  Slot canyons are narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, having been carved out by periodic flood waters. These are places that need to be visited more than once because it takes some experience to begin seeing the canyon the way your camera will see it. What looks unremarkable to the naked eye comes alive through the camera lens. It is only after seeing, photographing and then examining the images that I began to recognize these subtleties.  This is one of my favorite images, I call it Heart Of The Canyon.  It reminds me of that place within ourselves where we find the Peace of God.

There is so much to capture here.  Shapes, textures, hues and tones.  The canyon walls are  constantly changing as the light inside the canyon changes.  I have visited this canyon twice now and feel like I am just barely getting to know it.

Many people come here in search of light shafts.  As the sun reaches its mid day height in the sky it shines down into the canyon through openings at the top forming shafts of light.  When the shafts show up in the canyon they capture your full attention.  This alcove was one of my favorite places in Lower antelope.  To the left of the light shaft behind that rock is a little ledge where one can sit in quiet contemplation.

This canyon,  located underground, allows us the privilege of visiting with the inner natural beauty of the earth.  It reminds me of those people in my life who have allowed me the privilege of knowing their inner beauty. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It Brings Me To My Knees

Over the years, sunrise has become my favorite time of the day.  I remember back to the first time that I really, REALLY, experienced a sunrise. It was some years ago just outside the little town of Escalante in Southern Utah.

I had the good fortune to be able to witness these sunrises every morning across the street from the house where we were staying. Awakening in the pre-dawn hours, quietly making a cup of coffee (some might argue with the “quietly” part), I would slip out the front door and cross the street to the edge of the open expanse that lay beyond.  Placing my coffee cup on a fencepost, my camera on the tripod, I would stand in darkness waiting for the first light to makes its appearance.

Glowing In Brilliant Saturated Colors

It is the evolution from the darkness when there is very little you can see, to the beginning of twilight as forms begin to emerge and birds begin their songs, followed by the gradual imperceptible transition of the light, right up to the moment when the first beams touch the very tops of mountains and mesas, then down lighting the tops of trees, and finally washing over shrubs and grass. By now the whole landscape seems to be glowing in brilliant saturated colors.  And then it is over, much too soon.  But knowing there will be another opportunity at sunset and yet another the next morning fills me with excitement.

From the very beginning in the relative darkness all the way to when the sun is fully up and the colors have become less intense, I am taking images.  In the early years I would experiment during these shoots with different settings to see the different effects I would get.  Now I have pretty much developed a routine and know the basic settings I will shoot with, varying them somewhat depending on the light and the subject.

Invariably these morning sunrises bring me to my knees.  They are so beautiful, and each sunrise presents differently from all the ones before it.  They fill me with such joy that I often catch myself laughing and talking out loud in words of praise.  I am so blessed and full of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to be present, to witness, and to know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Walk In The Dark

There is about a three-quarters full moon with no clouds. Stars are bright. Jan, my wife, is asleep in the motel. I’m standing next to my car, finishing a cup of hotel coffee, in the parking lot of Horseshoe Bend, just down the road from Page, Arizona. I’m the only one here and I love it! I can see pretty good by the light of the moon so I decide to leave my flashlight behind. 

Camera gear in my backpack, tripod in hand I start up the sandy slope toward Horseshoe Bend. I scouted it the day before as far as the top of this first hill, so I have an idea of what is ahead. But I have never been down the other side to the Colorado River’s edge. Horseshoe bend is just that, a big horseshoe like bend in the Colorado River, very picturesque and popular with tourists. I love being in these kinds of places when there is no one else around. I’ll have it that way for sure this morning.

I take my time, careful not to fall in any holes along the way. Actually it is a pretty good trail and I don’t have much to worry about. It’s the edge of the canyon that will give me pause.   It is a long way to the bottom.

Distraction Does Wonders For Abating Fears

By the time I reach the canyon edge light is just beginning to show. This is the part that I live for: being in a beautiful place in the dark and witnessing the emergence of the day. The sounds, the smells, and the awakening of the landscape. I never know just how it is going to show up: will there be clouds, will the wind cooperate, can I find a good perspective and capture the light at it’s very best?  I start shooting near the edge with some trepidation because I do not particularly like high places, but within minutes I’m right on the edge shooting away. There is nothing but me, the scene in front of me and my camera.  Distraction does wonders for abating fears.

No clouds. Shucks.  But what a beautiful beginning to another day in Paradise.

For the Photographer:

This is one shot with a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 lens at 16mm.  Polarizer, tripod and cable release. Had there been some interest in the sky I would have switched to my 24-70 lens, shot in portrait and stitched them together.  That way I would have been able to include the clouds and not short change the canyon scene.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Special Place: False Kiva in Canyon Lands

There is a place in Canyon Lands, Utah that is one of my all time favorites. Like so many places I’ve been I first learned of it through images published in photography magazines and on line. When I first saw a picture of it I knew it was a place I just had to visit. I began searching for its location and how to get there. Much to my surprise there were no maps showing the route into it. I did discover it is located high up on a canyon wall in an isolated area of Canyon Lands National Park in Utah. And I learned that it is a Class II Archeological Site, still being excavated and studied.

This location is called False Kiva, and it dates back to the 1200’s.  It was believed until recently to belong to the Anastasi Indians. More recently the thinking is the site belonged to the Pueblo Indians, likewise of the same period of time. The Park authority does not permit the printing of maps showing its location because of its archeological status. So finding it is quite and adventure in itself.

Hidden On The Canyon Face

The day I went there I had been traveling all day, with very little sleep the night before. Upon arrival in Moab all I wanted was a couple hours of rest. But, alas, there were clouds in the sky, presenting a perfect condition for photographing the False Kiva! Knowing that I couldn’t rest. So off I went, and what a great adventure it was!

The False Kiva is completely hidden. It is located high up on the wall of the canyon and out of sight  from anywhere on the route to get there. When one hikes into the canyon, they must pass under the kiva, walk past it, then double back and hike up higher on the canyon face. It is not until you step into the kiva that you finally see it! And oh what a site it is.


If you have the opportunity to visit the False Kiva, come prepared to spend some time in deep contemplation. I know of no other place like it.

For the Photographer:

The Kiva is an alcove. This image was taken from the very back of the alcove looking out over Canyon Lands. As you can see, a bright sunny day would make capturing this shot difficult, requiring a graduated neutral density filter and/or bracketed shots. As it was, with the cloud cover the shot was much more manageable. Canon 5D Mk III, on a tripod, focal length of 16mm, aperture f/22, taken in the late afternoon.