Thursday, March 26, 2015

Badlands afternoon....

I was lucky enough to see the sun rise and spent the morning making images of the spectacular badlands. Along with beautiful morning light, gorgeous clouds accented the intricate and eroded landscape.

After exploring various rock formations and waiting for the sun to come out from behind the clouds, eventually I lost the good light. I drove to the visitor center and transferred the morning's photos from my camera onto my computer, and backed them up to an external hard drive.
By the time I was done it was the middle of the day and it would be a couple of hours before I'd have more pleasing afternoon light. So I drove to a Subway sandwich shop in Wall South Dakota and got a veggie sub for lunch.
Then I drove back into the park and took the Sage Creek Rim road about five miles to a prairie dog town.
I watched the prairie dogs as I ate my lunch and drank some water. I noticed the clouds and made a few images of the road and sky.
Then it was time to head back through the park and make the best of the afternoon light.
A couple of bighorn sheep ewes were grazing near the road.
I stopped to photograph the road cutting through the badlands.
There wasn't much traffic on Sunday afternoon so standing and lying on the road was no problem.
The light just kept getting better as you can see in this picture of the yellow mounds.
The shadows were getting long and the rocks seemed to glow with color.
As the sun moved towards the horizon I had to work fast in order to capture the shadows and shapes on the golden rock.
Everywhere I looked were views more beautiful than the last and I was rich with choices.
Just smile and shoot.
It wasn't long before clouds obscured the sun and I lost the light. I knew where some bighorn sheep had been earlier and drove there hoping I would be able to silhouette them against a colorful sky.
The sheep were pretty far away and the color in the sky was muted but I made a few images anyway.
I held out a little hope that the sun would break through and light some clouds. Just after the sun set I came around a corner and was able to capture this last image.

The weather was 55 degrees and sunny, the wind was blowing all day and there were male meadowlarks singing everyplace I went. I couldn't think of a better place or way to spend a March afternoon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I didn't give up. Almost twenty years ago I made several images of wild horses silhouetted against an orange sky in western North Dakota.
I really liked how those pictures looked and every time I was out there I'd try to put wild horses against a colorful sky.
It didn't happen.
For almost twenty years I tried and failed to create any similar images.
But I never gave up.
And two days ago I did the unlikely. I was in Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota at sunrise and I made these images of wild horses.
I first approached a group of three horses on a ridge. By keeping them between me and the sun and placing the colorful sky behind them I got the silhouettes.
Once they walked around the hill and out of the light I focused on two horses standing in a shade filled valley below.
I slowly approached and was lucky they didn't mind me being there. By laying flat on the frost covered ground and quietly moving around I was able to isolate the horses with the rising sun behind them.
I only had about five minutes before the two horses I was with started looking up the hill towards the other horses.
I heard a horse running towards us.
I kept shooting and was glad I did. I only had a few seconds before the stallion that was one of the three horses on the hill came thundering down. He lowered and snaked his head letting the mare and yearling I was photographing know it was time to go. He snorted, circled them, and started moving them up the hill towards the other two horses in his band.
This last image is of the stallion posturing for my benefit, just before he chased his mares away.
My odds weren't good and the likelihood of any of this happening was almost none. But I persisted, and the unlikely happened on Monday in western North Dakota.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ice Caves II.....

More from Monday on the ice at Lake Superior. The Mainland Ice caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin.

It was just a matter of walking along the shore, climbing into ice caves, composing the photos and pressing the shutter button. With so much natural beauty and interesting colors and shapes it was hard to go wrong.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ice caves.....

The ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore were only officially open for 9 days this year.

The Park Service closed them to the public just after sunset on Monday and estimated more than 36,000 people had visited over those nine days.
I got there Monday at 1pm and the weather was perfect; sunny, blue sky, and forty degrees.
After a mile walk over the frozen surface of Lake Superior I reached the first of the ice caves.
The light was good, the ice formations and caves were impressive, and there were quite a few people out there.
I started working along the shore, crawling into various ice caves and searching for interesting compositions.
Due to the warm temperature there was several inches of water on top of the ice near the shoreline.
My boots and pants were soaking wet, but it was warm enough that it didn't really matter.
Everywhere I looked were beautiful views. Distinct ice formations, against a blue sky.
The orange of the sandstone cliffs contrasted beautifully with the white snow and blue sky.
The sound of dripping water from the melting ice and snow was constant as I continued making photos.
I had a smile on my face as I explored and shot and explored some more. I couldn't think of anywhere else I would have rather been.
I made more than 1000 images over the seven hours I was on the ice.
What a super day.