Pardon our dust (and assorted non-working tabs)!

I’m working on a full revamp of my website and galleries, and am pretty excited about what will be an entirely new look for this site!

In the meantime, you can find galleries for my work on my Flickr photostream.  You can still purchase and license images while we wait to unveil all-new galleries, just contact me by email at robin@robinblackphotography.com or by using the contact form–just click on the “contact” tab above.

Stay tuned–here’s a sample of some of the new work you’ll be seeing in the new galleries:

Green Understory along the Lower Lewis River in southern Washington state.

Untitled Abstract, Lower Antelope Slot Canyon

Cascade Confluence, Merced River Canyon

Abstract and Detail, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

False Hellebore, Sierra Nevada High Country

Monsoon Sunset, Alabama Hills (Eastern Sierra Nevada)

Aspens in Autumn, Eastern Sierra

Yosemite Winter Reflection

Summer Storm Over Convict Lake (Eastern Sierra Nevada)

Monochrome Dogwood Blossoms, Yosemite High Country

Check back soon!!

 

My 10 Best of 2016

Every year I start to gather this list and often pause and wonder if it’s too gimmicky or pointless–and then I immediately remind myself what a great way it is to reflect on my creative output for the year and how I got there.  2016 was an interesting year, with a lot of challenges both personal and creative.  On my photography, I simply wasn’t able to get out and shoot as much as I usually do.  In spite of that frustration, I actually feel good about the things I saw and captured this year–and that’s a welcome realization.  Getting to the list, in no particular order (click on any image to see it larger):

Aspens and Undergrowth

If you’re within earshot or reading distance of me any time from August to November, you know how much I love shooting fall color, and aspens in particular.  I think one of the reasons this subject appeals to me so much is that it demands that you stop and consider composition.  With a couple of popular exceptions, there are really no iconic, classic views in the eastern Sierra canyons in fall.  You have all the raw materials of (hopefully) great images, but you have to get inside your own head a bit to figure out what you’re looking for–and what you see.  And how to express that.  I was happy with several of my aspen pics this fall, but didn’t want to dominate the list with them and narrowed it to this one.  The undergrowth in this June Lake Loop grove had taken on a gorgeous complementary color, and created both tension and balance with the aspen leaves above them.

Aspens and Undergrowth

Aspens and Undergrowth

Avocets and Stilt, Owens Lake

My Owens Lake Project has involved a great deal of bird photography over the years, but I still seem to subconsciously gravitate to landscape-like comps (over the more portrait-esque typical wildlife images).  This past spring, I did this deliberately when I spotted this group of American Avocets (and one Black-Necked Stilt) throwing a perfect reflection on the middle of the lake.

Avocets and Stilt, Owens Lake

Avocets and Stilt, Owens Lake

Clearing Storm, Lone Pine Peak

The Lake Project also puts me in the same neighborhood as the Alabama Hills and the Whitney Crest, and I never waste a chance to spend some time photographing both.  A wildly windy storm had blown through overnight, and when I made it to this spot the clearing storm provided great and dramatic clouds over the crest.  And the crest being what it is (long and majestic), it just always seems to call for a long panoramic composition.

Clearing Storm, Lone Pine Peak

Clearing Storm, Lone Pine Peak

Intertidal Meditation (Big Sur)

This image confounded me for weeks and weeks–and then it led me to a little creative breakthrough.  I had spent a couple of hours shooting a few spots along the Big Sur coast, but instead of setting up for the usual wide-angle seascape, I just focused on the breaking surf with a long lens.  I got home, started going through my pics, and thought “well, that was dumb–why on earth did I shoot this that way?”  I’ll spare you the deep, philosophical meandering, but when I finally saw the 1:2 panoramic comp in this, I had an “aha!” moment that has morphed into my Land/Sea project (study, series, whatever).  And I just dig that blue line in the swell.

Intertidal Meditation (Big Sur)

Intertidal Meditation (Big Sur)

Last Light on Coastal Hills

This is my run-away-from-home place.  It’s the gorgeous, rolling coastal hills of west Paso Robles, easily explored from Highway 46 West.  You get killer views of Morro Rock, endless undulating hills of oak woodland, dramatic fog (when you’re lucky)–it’s just a stunning place, and great fun to photograph.  This is from late last winter, when the hills had greened up to an intense emerald and the setting sun lit up just the tops of the hills.

Last Light on Coastal Hills

Last Light on Coastal Hills

Monochrome Chapel

This little chapel, sitting all by itself on a hilltop near Shandon, California, is a subject I’ve had my eye on for a while, just waiting for good light, good conditions.  On my way home from a trip to Paso Robles, I passed this late in the afternoon as rain clouds threatened.  I don’t do many black and white conversions, but I love the drama it provides on this image.

Monochrome Chapel

Monochrome Chapel

Mt. Whitney Sunset Sunburst

There are some perspectives on the Whitney crest that you only get if you’re down on the lakebed at Owens Lake.  I try to be mindful of this when I’m shooting at the lake, and look over my shoulder often.  That’s exactly what happened on this evening as I was photographing birds with my 150-600mm lens–I had just enough time to swing around and get a few shots off, and went with the telephoto take you see here before the sunburst created by the setting sun disappeared.  Shooting at that focal length, I again went with a panoramic crop to emphasize the drama of the peaks.

Mt. Whitney Sunset Sunburst

Mt. Whitney Sunset Sunburst

Sunrise, Bitterwater Road

As I so often do lately, I was on my way into Paso Robles very early one morning and saw conditions shaping up for a foggy, hazy, dramatic sunrise–and it was going to look perfect down one of my favorite backroads.  It did not disappoint.

Sunrise, Bitterwater Road

Sunrise, Bitterwater Road

Sycamore and Lupine, Central Coast

One of the images in Land/Sea, this little spot in a transitional zone of chaparral/oak woodland is a reliably great location for fragrant lupine during wildflower season.  This panoramic crop allowed me to isolate the hard, gnarly sycamore limbs against the soft green below.  And the light was pretty nice, too.

Sycanore and Lupine, Central Coast

Sycanore and Lupine, Central Coast

Vineyard Abstract

I have a new documentary project just underway on a Year in the Life of Wine.  After heavy October rains, this vineyard had a burst of second growth–something that is not wanted (and killed off not long after by the first hard frost).  But as unwanted as the second growth was, it was certainly strangely beautiful.  I loved the way the backlit new leaf growth looked–almost like fireflies against the hard, dark lines of the vines and the green of the new cover crop below.

Vineyard Abstract

Vineyard Abstract

2016 was, I feel now, a better year for me photographically than I would have admitted just a few months ago.  I’m excited about shooting new things, revisiting old favorites and simply getting outside more often in 2017.  Happy new year!

Holiday Print Sale!

For the first time ever, I am offering a selection of my most popular images at a GREAT sale price through the end of 2016.  You can choose from two sizes, professionally mounted and matted to 16″x20″ (finished size including the mat) or 11″x14″ (finished size including the mat).  There are 10 portrait (vertical) images to choose from, and 10 landscape (horizontal) images.  The samples below have a white mat, but you may choose from either white or black single mats.

I’ve chosen these sizes because you can easily find pre-made frames in both of these sizes, which makes framing super easy.  They make great gifts, or just pick up a couple to hang on your own wall.  Price for any of these images in 16″x20″ is $75, inclusive of shipping.  The 11″x14″ matted prints are $60, also inclusive of shipping.  This is the best price I’ve ever offered on these (click on individual images to see larger).

View the available images below.  When making payment, list the image title(s) you want and the color mat you want in the dialog box on PayPal.  I will confirm by email, and provide tracking information as soon as it ships.  Thanks & happy holidays!

Mt. Tom Moonset

Mt. Tom Moonset

House on Fire, Utah

House on Fire, Utah

Half-Bare Aspens, Bishop Canyon

Half-Bare Aspens, Bishop Canyon

Autumn Storm Over Sierra Crest

Autumn Storm Over Sierra Crest

Monsoon Sea Stack

Monsoon Sea Stack

Stoermy Moeraki Sunrise

Stoermy Moeraki Sunrise

Winter Flow (Yosemite National Park)

Winter Flow (Yosemite National Park)

Winter Sunrise, Gates of the Valley

Winter Sunrise, Gates of the Valley

Winter Sunset, El Matador Beach

Winter Sunset, El Matador Beach

Zig-Zag Aspens, Bishop Canyon

Zig-Zag Aspens, Bishop Canyon

Wave Peek (Coyote Buttes North)

Wave Peek (Coyote Buttes North)

Autumn Sunrise, Convict Lake

Autumn Sunrise, Convict Lake

Precipice and Fog

Precipice and Fog

Stormy Winter Light, Owens Valley

Stormy Winter Light, Owens Valley

Sunset, Mono Lake

Sunset, Mono Lake

Criss-Cross Dunes, White Sands

Criss-Cross Dunes, White Sands

aspens-with-sunstar

Aspens With Sunstar

She Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Bodie Cabin)

She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Bodie Cabin)

Canyon Watcher (Lower Antelope Canyon)

Canyon Watcher (Lower Antelope Canyon)

2017 Calendars are Here!

I thought I’d change things up a bit this year and offer not one, but THREE calendar styles to choose from.

three-coversThe first (cover pictured on the left) is the kind I’ve traditionally done each year–an 11″x17″, with equal-sized photos and monthly calendar, with seasonally appropriate images.

calendar-displayI’ve also finally done a solely black & white calendar, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but this is the first one I’ve been pleased with enough that I’m offering it for sale.  This one is also 11″x17″, but features a larger photo.

previewAnd in perhaps a bit of personal indulgence, I’m also offering an all-aspen calendar.  This one’s a bit smaller at 8″x10″, and has the same large vertical image display that the black & white calendar does.

previewThese are all spiral-bound across the top, and printed on premium quality cardstock.  Price for the 11″x17″ calendars is $29.50 + $6.00 shipping.  Price for the 8″x10″ all-aspen calendar is $23.00 + $6.00 shipping.  Shipping discount if you purchase multiple calendars ($6.00 for shipping, total, no matter how many you purchase).

To pick up one of these lovelies, please send payment via PayPal to robin@robinblackphotography.

New ideas, new projects, and learning to trust the creative instinct

As you may recall my grousing in a couple of previous blog posts, it’s been a challenging couple of years for me, photographically speaking (and as a result, my blog posts have dwindled much more than they should have).  Circumstances sharply curtailed my ability to go out and shoot, even in relatively nearby locations; simultaneously, I was feeling an almost overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with what I was shooting.  I was stuck and frustrated.

But, as circumstances usually do, things smoothed out a bit eventually.  As I was gearing up to resume more frequent photography trips earlier this year, I spent a great deal of time taking a good, long look at my work of the last two years.  The quality of my work wasn’t really off or in decline, but it was different in a way that didn’t make sense to me.  I looked at library after library of image files trying to figure out why I’d photographed the things I did, and the way I did.  I needed to get inside my own head.

There wasn’t a single “aha” moment, but it was close.  More accurately, I kind of distilled what I was seeing in my work and concluded that I seemed to be gravitating to two specific landscapes–shorelines and California hillsides.

Okay.  I’ve always enjoyed shooting those areas, but why was I so drawn to it now?  I actually turned down a few chances to shoot more dramatically iconic spots–even a trip or two to Yosemite when I concluded I just felt no desire to go there, right then–choosing instead to head for the central coast for those hills and shorelines.  If you know me at all, the oddness of that is obvious.

So I kept thinking about those two landscapes.  With very few exceptions, they’re not showy landscapes–no big icons, no noticeable focal feature to chase–although they’re certainly beautiful places.  But they can be difficult to photograph in a way that results in a compelling image.

Poppies and Oaks, Tehachapi Foothills

Poppies and Oaks, Tehachapi Foothills

As to the appeal of those places?  The hills to which I refer are almost entirely chaparral ecosystems or transitional ecosystems where chaparral eases into oak woodland or forest areas or even high desert.  Chaparral, a name fully evocative of the West, is almost entirely and solely a California ecosystem.  Parts of it touch southern Oregon and Baja, but chaparral covers more acreage in California than any other ecosystem, and hosts an impressive number of critical species of plant and animal life, much of it unique to California.  Curiously, chaparral is also one of if not the most unloved ecosystems in California, because it’s dense, and scrubby, and is often (and often incorrectly) considered a fire hazard.

If you’re at all familiar with my Owens Lake Project, then you already know I’m drawn to, shall we say, difficult landscapes.  So my attraction to those rolling hills of chaparral began to make a little more sense.  To me, chaparral is beautiful.  It can be surprisingly varied in appearance.  It’s tough to photograph in a way that conveys this beauty–but that’s the kind of challenge I’m up for.

As I continued to consider what I’d been shooting, I started to like the idea of this land/sea juxtaposition.  The shoreline images, though, still stumped me a little.  I can certainly shoot a traditional, showy landscape image of a sunset at the beach–I have and do and probably always will–but I was finding myself much more interested in these kind of intimate studies of the shoreline–the intertidal zone.  The fragile area between the high tide and low tide lines.  Not only does it serve as a sort of nursery area for sea life, but it has a very primal attraction for us Homo sapiens.  This was where life for us as land mammals began, and I think because of that we have a kind of collective instinctual attraction to the place where land and sea meet.

Blue Swell, Big Sur

Blue Swell, Big Sur

The intertidal zone is also under ongoing threat because of a deadly combination of development and loss of habitat, pollution, and climate change.  The Pacific coast saw a devastating sea star die-off the last few years because of a previously unknown virus that spread like wildfire most likely because of rising ocean temperatures.  Pollution from the Pacific garbage patch and Fukushima constantly bombard our beaches, and habitat loss thanks to coastal development is pushing more and more species to the brink.  The intertidal zone is a critical ecosystem–but we’re doing a number on it right now and we need to take better care of it.

I seem always driven by narrative–it’s all wrapped up in my work over the years as a writer and journalist, and it extends to my photography.  So when I notice a pattern in my work, I pay attention.  And look for the story.

At the same time I’ve been shooting these two ecosystems, I also noticed I’ve developed a keen preference for images in a 1:2 panoramic aspect.  I don’t think there’s anything particularly deep and meaningful about this preference; for me it seems to most accurately mimic the human field of vision, which works well for me in taking in these two kinds of scenes.

That long preamble is to introduce what I’ll call my Land/Sea study.  I’m going to limit these visual studies to that 1:2 aspect ratio, and use them to build a narrative on chaparral and the intertidal zone.  This certainly won’t be what I shoot exclusively–I’m greatly enjoying photographing wildlife more now, and will always photograph “traditional” landscapes, such that they are.  But I seem to have gravitated rather naturally to this set of ecosystems, and I’m going to see what sort of body of work (and resulting narrative) it yields.  This project isn’t really even a project in any formal sense–and it’s not documentary or even photojournalistic in nature.  My goal is to show off the beauty of these two places in a way that’s perhaps a bit nontraditional.  It’s certainly a creative challenge for me, and one I look forward to.

10 Best From 2015

What a long, strange year 2015 was–and one I was glad to see go, honestly.

Various real-life crises and distractions meant I was able to do very little shooting last year–and after living with that frustration for that long, I don’t recommend a creative diet for anyone, ever.  Your art can very often be your lifeline or just your breathe of fresh air.  Give it the priority in your life it deserves, because there may come a time (or two or more) where that opportunity evades you, even if just temporarily.

Life lessons aside, I did continue to explore nature and light and my relationship with both, and these are my favorites from those explorations.

In my ongoing work on my Owens Lake Project, I spend a decent amount of time in the little town of Lone Pine, and love to visit the Alabama Hills. It was after a long day of shooting around the lake last March that I headed up to the Alabama Hills in hopes of a sunset–and indeed, there wasn’t much of one.  But about 10 minutes after “official” sunset, a warm apricot glow began to spread across the sky–I scrambled up a couple hundred feet of boulders to get this perspective that includes an impressive cottonwood tree and both Lone Pine Peak and Mt. Whitney on the horizon.

After a steely, gray day, I was surprised to see a post-sunset blush develop over the peaks of the Whitney range.

After a steely, gray day, I was surprised to see a post-sunset blush develop over the peaks of the Whitney range.

On yet another trip to Owens Lake, I was down on the lakebed photographing some of the new habitats being constructed, and glanced behind me in time to notice this lovely, soft light touching Lone Pine Peak and leaving everything around it in shadow.  There are views of the Sierra that can only be had from the lakebed, and this is one of them–a view that emphasizes the dramatic, steep escarpment of the eastern Sierra.

Stormy winter light throws the eastern Sierra into shadow and mist.

Stormy winter light throws the eastern Sierra into shadow and mist.

I stayed mostly close to home in 2015, and the upside of that was spending more time with some of my favorite places.  In this case, the coastal hills above the seaside village of Cambria.  The inland hills of coastal California seem like a well-kept secret; it’s not photographed to the extent that more familiar places in the state are, but it hosts some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever find.

Golden sunset light illuminates a field of lupine in the California coastal hills.

Golden sunset light illuminates a field of lupine in the California coastal hills.

I end almost every year wondering why I don’t spend more time at El Matador beach above Malibu–it’s a gorgeous spot, and offers some of the best sea stacks you’ll get on the southern end of the state.  Fortunately, I did get out this summer and decided on a super wide-angle portrait of that massive sea arch, leaving the last sunset light to illuminate it from behind.  I (and many other photographers) tend to focus on parts of the stack, using the portals to frame the seascape just beyond–but I really love the way it crouches on the sand like some great hulking beast when you take a few steps back.

A pink sunset glow illuminates one of the great sea arches at El Matador beach, illuminates its multiple portals.

A pink sunset glow illuminates one of the great sea arches at El Matador beach, illuminates its multiple portals.

I like it when pictures tell stories.  In most cases, I think that’s any photograph’s most important job.  And that’s why this photo is one of my favorites not just from 2015, but from my entire time shooting the eastern Sierra.  The slopes stretching out from my feet are covered in the high-desert sagebrush and rabbitbrush, a colorful grove of aspens follows along McGee Creek, and the towering peaks of the Sierra rise up from the back of the canyon.  In one photo, you see the multiple ecosystems that give the eastern Sierra its unique beauty meeting and diverging.

Sage-covered slops of McGee Canyon stretch back to the soaring granite peaks of the eastern Sierra.

Sage-covered slops of McGee Canyon stretch back to the soaring granite peaks of the eastern Sierra.

Autumn as a transition into winter is one of my favorite photographic subjects.  As much time as I spend shooting among the aspen groves, I occasionally remember to look down–the canyon floor often displays some of the most interesting color and detail.  In this case, newly fallen yellow aspens leaves mingle with dried and twisted juniper and granite stones flecked with black and little bits of color.

The remains of autumn scatter across the floor of Bishop Canyon.

The remains of autumn scatter across the floor of Bishop Canyon.

My obsession with aspens is no secret, and it’s something I always look forward to photographing.  The more time I spend with them, the more I try to photograph them in different ways–different stages of color, of bare-ness, and in varying light.  This grove caught my eye as I began my initial exploration of Bishop Canyon’s south fork this fall, and I came back the following morning to photograph it in shadow and using a long lens.  I’m delighted with the result.

Mostly bare aspens above Survey's Meadow show off their delicate bones.

Mostly bare aspens above Survey’s Meadow show off their delicate bones.

Perhaps the only thing I look forward to more than I do fall color is winter–and snow–in Yosemite Valley.  We’ve had precious little snow the last few years, so getting to be there for TWO snow dumps in the valley at the end of the year was an immense treat.  On Thanksgiving morning the clearing storm created a lot of ground fog in the valley, and by mid-morning it was in fierce competition with the rising sun.  The result?  Ever-shifting and otherworldly misty, glowing bodies of light along the river’s shore.  It was magical.

Shifting fog and sunlight created moving, glowing bodies of mist along the Merced River after a winter storm.

Shifting fog and sunlight created moving, glowing bodies of mist along the Merced River after a winter storm.

My last two “best” of the year will be one very small scene, and one very large scene (notable only because I tend to stick with more middle-distance intimate landscapes).  The same morning as the picture above was taken (Thanksgiving!), I found this tiny scene.  There were a few inches of snow on the ground, but on top of that snow was a gorgeous, glittering coat of hoar frost.  I chose a very shallow depth of field for this close up, keeping some of the frozen bits in focus, with everything around it soft and quiet.

Frozen grasses in El Capitan Meadow, covered in hoar frost.

Frozen grasses in El Capitan Meadow, covered in hoar frost.

And finally, a big, juicy icon.  I generally eschew these in recent years, and have gone out of my way NOT to include them in the last few “best of” annual reviews.  But once in a while, it’s okay to shoot an icon.  In fact, you’d be nuts not to record a scene like this if you’re fortunate to find yourself in the middle of such conditions.  Gates of the Valley is my favorite vista in all of Yosemite, and I always stop to take it in even though I rarely photograph it anymore.  I made an exception on Christmas morning, because I have never seen light this pretty in person before.  I’m already off to a good start (photographically) for the new year, and I hope you are, too.  Thank you so much for your support, and have a healthy, happy 2016!

Exquisite light and a fresh coast of snow dress up Gates of the Valley on Christmas morning.

Exquisite light and a fresh coast of snow dress up Gates of the Valley on Christmas morning.

My 10 best images from the long, strange trip that was 2014

Overall, 2014 was an odd year for me, marked by (the bad:) multiple bouts of the flu from hell, suicidal computer hardware, and (the very good:) my first fully solo exhibit of my Owens Lake Project at the world’s most awesome photography gallery, the G2 Gallery here in Venice, California.

The sum of the good and the bad meant that I did far less landscape shooting than in past years, as what limited shooting time I did have was mostly devoted to finishing work on this first phase of the lake project.  As a result, my “best of” list this year is populated by multiple shots from those outings.

In no particular order, my best (favorite) shots from 2014 (click on each image to see a larger version):

Sandstone and Fall Foliage, Zion National Park

I try each year to spend at least a few days in the great southwest landscapes of Utah and Arizona–this year, I was able to travel there in time for a little fall color in Zion valley, which was great fun.  The color range there verges on full technicolor, and I loved finding places where I could capture the color and soft texture of leaves against red rock.  This image from the eastern side of Zion is one of my favorite shots I’ve ever captured in the park.  The red foliage both complimented the color of the sandstone and offered a soft contrast against the sandstone’s rough texture (and the little bit of light touching the edges of the foliage didn’t hurt, either).

Sandstone and Fall Color, Zion High CountryAspens in Fog, Kolob Terrace (Zion National Park)

While I saw plenty of fall color in the valley and the eastern side of the park, the lesser-visited Kolob Terrace on the western edge of the park was well past its fall color display when I was there.  It was my first time exploring this part of the park, and I was instantly smitten.  It’s radically different from what most people think of when they think of Zion, and I look forward to returning next fall (hopefully during fall color).

Aspens in FogCanyon and Sky, Lower Antelope Canyon (Page, Arizona)

In addition to spending time in Zion, I was able to make a return trip to lower Antelope slot canyon just outside of Page, Arizona.  Any photographer with the slightest interest in abstracts will love this place.  I was in the canyon during the very late afternoon this time–well past time for the sought-after light shafts as the sun passes overhead, but the late day light this time made for beautiful muted colors that really emphasized the textures in the canyon walls.

Canyon and SkySunset, Mono Lake (Eastern Sierra)

Concentrating so much on my lake project meant I spent more time in my beloved Eastern Sierra Nevada this year, which is always a good thing.  Owens Lake’s “twin,” Mono Lake to the north, is one of my favorite (and most surreal) spots on the east side.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve photographed Mono Lake, which is beautiful under any conditions, but this most recent visit was the first time I’ve been fortunate to catch a colorful sunset there.

Mono Lake SunsetDormant Bracken Ferns and Granite (Tioga Road, Eastern Sierra)

The more time I spend shooting in the sierra, the more I find myself gravitating away from the obvious grand vistas and colorful sunsets or sunrises, and looking for intimate scenes that capture the essence of that place.  This scene caught my eye immediately, with the soft, feathery ferns contrasting perfectly with the hard granite wall against which they grew.  It’s simultaneously hard and soft, colorful and monochrome.

Dormant Bracken Fern and GraniteAutumn, Middle Fork of Bishop Creek (Eastern Sierra)

Probably my favorite photography subject of all are the scenes found while exploring the canyons of the Eastern Sierra, especially in fall when the aspens turn yellow (and sometimes red).  It’s an almost meditative experience, and if one has a taste for intimate landscapes (as I do), I’m not sure there’s a better place on earth to be.  I spent more time this year exploring the middle fork of Bishop Creek than I previously had, and came away with this image.

Autumn, Middle Fork Bishop CreekAutumn Sunrise, Sabrina Basin (Eastern Sierra)

While I may not shoot as many grand landscapes these days, I’m still a sucker for a pretty sunrise or sunset.  The Sabrina Basin in Bishop Canyon is one of my favorite locations for such shots–I’ve been fortunate to catch some gorgeous sunsets here in past years, and this time around it was a sunrise.  There’d been a dusting of snow overnight, and the end of the passing storm that morning made for soft and softly colored light over one of my favorite “skylines” in the sierra–the Evolution Range that rises dramatically behind the basin.

Sabrina Basin SunriseTwilight, Owens Lake (Eastern Sierra)

As I’ve worked on my Owens Lake Project over the last four-plus years, I’ve come to truly love the often unexpected beauty of the place.  While it’s mostly thought of as a broken, messy wasteland, the lake can in fact be an incredibly beautiful place.  As I finished a day of shooting on and around the lake, I captured this serene vista from near the center of the lake, among the flooded grids, on a windless evening.  It was just me and countless scores of birds who call the lake home for part or all of the year, and a moment I will never forget.

Twilight, Owens LakeSpring Storm Over Keeler Dunes and the Sierra Crest

This is perhaps the most strongly narrative photo I’ve taken in all of my years shooting the lake.  This small dunefield, largely unknown (at least among photographers), is currently the biggest source of blowing dust and sand on the lake, and such an unexpected thing to find at the foot of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada.  Being able to capture both the dunes and the sierra crest as a spring storm moved over the valley is what makes this one of my favorite (and best) photos of the year.

Keeler Dunes and Sierra CrestStorm and Blowing Dust Over the Owens Lake

Captured the same day as the image above, this image shows the drama of a storm over the lake as it raises immense clouds of dust.  That storm began to rage just after sunrise, and continued into the evening, making for a long day of dramatic and beautiful weather.  I especially like the almost minimalist feel of this scene, with the dark clouds, rising dust and silhouette of the Inyo Mountains in the distance.

Storm Over Owens LakeI’m excitedly looking forward to 2015, as I move on to the next phase of my lake project, a second showing of 2014’s OLP exhibit “at home” in the Owens Valley (at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center), and I hope to get a lot more time shooting the beautiful wild places in California, the great Southwest and wherever else I can find to explore.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year!

2015 Visionary Light Calendar Now Available!

The response to last year’s calendar–after going with a different publisher who produces a very high-quality product at a much lower cost–was fantastic.  As a result, I’m using the same company again, and have been able to keep the price the same as last year’s at $16.99.  Below are preview images of each month’s featured photograph.  If you’d like to pick up another one, you can purchase them here.  You can see all the calendar images below–just click on the image to view large.

2015 Calendar Preview

2015 Calendar Preview

 

Fall arrives and makes everything better (autumnal musings).

It’s been a long, long summer here–that meant good things, like the first public showing of my Owens Lake Project at the G2 Gallery here in Los Angeles (Venice, to be precise), and not-so-good things, such as decompressing from the exhibit (and the rather intense work getting it ready), and battling a summertime bout of the flu from hell.

Middle Fork of Bishop Creek in Autumn

Middle Fork of Bishop Creek in Autumn

Autumn has long been my favorite time of year, and looking forward to fall color in the Eastern Sierra and elsewhere only makes it that much better.  I was able to make two trips to the “east side” this year, and the aspens didn’t disappoint (just click on the photos to see a larger version).

Bishop Canyon didn’t disappoint, which was a relief after yet another dry year.  There were the usual wall-to-wall yellows and golds, and a bit more fiery orange than I’ve seen there the last couple of years.

I was able to work in a little shooting time at Mono Lake with its alien tufa landscape, and was fortunate to capture a Sierra wave cloud at sunset.  The lake is showing the effects of the three-year (so far) drought, with the later level down several feet.  I think we’re all crossing our fingers for a big snow year this winter to help both the landscape and our dwindling water supply.

Mono Lake Sunset

Mono Lake Sunset

Speaking of water, last weekend I moderated a discussion panel on California’s water issues at the G2 Gallery’s Green Earth Film Festival–a now-annual event the gallery hosts that I cannot recommend highly enough.  The Muir Project’s JMT documentary “Mile, Mile & A Half” (which you may recall I reviewed last summer) opened the festival, and the rest of the weekend featured several compelling documentaries such as Dam Nation.  If you’re in the LA area, you should add this event to your calendar next year.

G2 Green Earth Film Festival

G2 Green Earth Film Festival

After wrapping up the panel, I headed back to the east side for round two of fall color shooting to catch some of the more northerly canyons.  The more I shoot in the Sierra generally, and the east side especially, the more I find myself looking for more intimate, less obvious scenes that characterize what makes that area so special.  I’ve been fascinated by the dormant bracken ferns in the Sierra since my first autumn visit to Yosemite years ago, and was immediately drawn to this small scene along the Tioga Road, showing the soft, feathery red ferns against the hard, stark granite canyon wall.  To paraphrase my favorite poet Wallace Stevens, these are the measures destined for my soul.  Autumn in the Sierra is a balm to any stressed out, weary heart.

Dormant Bracken Ferns and Granite, Tioga Roac

Dormant Bracken Ferns and Granite, Tioga Roac

For those of you in southern California, please considering joining the NANPA nature photography Meetup group.  I recently took over as co-leader/organizer of the group, and hope to see some of you in the (sometimes unexpected) wild places here in SoCal.  Our first outing was at Leo Carrillo state beach north of Malibu–our group had a great time, and I’m currently soliciting suggestions for future meetups.

I’m off to the great American southwest next week for several days to get both my red rock fix and shoot some fall color there–something I’ve wanted to do for some time now.  When I return, I hope to share some scenes from the remote wilderness in Arizona and Utah.  Until then, be well, enjoy the changing season, and do a little rain dance while you’re at it.  We need it here in California.

Things are hoppin’ in 2014!

Slow activity here on the blog usually means things are extra-busy on the photography front, and 2014 has been especially busy–and exciting!  This is just a quick update to fill you in on what I’ve been up to.

New exhibit this summer in Los Angeles

First, and most exciting and important–my conservation photography project on the Owens Lake in the Eastern Sierra is scheduled to go on exhibit at the G2 Gallery in Venice, California from June 10, 2014 through July 27, 2014.  I’ve been working on this project on and off for over four years, and it’s hugely rewarding to know that it’ll finally get a great public showing.  If you’re not familiar with Owens Lake, and even if you think you are familiar with it–please come see the exhibit and find out what a broken but beautiful and thriving place it is.

Reflection, Sierra Crest and Owens Lake

Reflection, Sierra Crest and Owens Lake

 Interview in Outdoor Photographer magazine

I also found out this morning that Outdoor Photographer magazine has published an interview it did with several landscape photographers–including me–about the essentials of landscape photography beyond that camera we hold in our hands.  There’s a lot of great info from photographers who’ve been an inspiration to me, and it’s worth checking out.

Look for more updates on the documentary project in the coming months, especially my updates (hopefully live blogging, cell reception permitting) as I do a perimeter hike of Owens Lake during spring migration.

Yes, I still shoot things

I’ve been too busy to update my galleries with recent work, unfortunately (that’s now a front-burner priority), but if you’d like to see what I’ve been seeing lately, you can always check out my photostream on Flickr, which is akin to a raw newsfeed.  I post just about everything there from portfolio-level images to pics of things I simply found interesting for one reason or another.  I’ll publish a new blog post as soon as the galleries are updated!