Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Home for me has always been in upstate NY in the Finger Lakes region. I lived there for 62 years working, raising a family and enjoying summers on the lakes. It is an area that has seen very little change over the years when compared to other locations in the country. To me, that is the special charm of the area. It has a rich history of wine making, and vineyards cover the hillsides to supply grapes to the numerous wineries located around all of the lakes. Many of the farms are owned by the Amish who can be seen working the fields with their team of horses. It is a place that is surround by quiet countrysides, friendly hard working people, and quaint small towns, Even though I moved away two years ago, it is still my home.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shenandoah Skyline Parkway

We decided to take a trip back home to upstate N.Y. this week. In our travels north we took a drive on the Shenandoah Skyline Parkway in the state of Virginia. It is a National park that travels a 105 mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We parked our RV at a Walmart in Waynesboro Va. and took our car along the twisting mountain road. The day started out warm but as we drove to the high elevation of the mountain a cold front blew in with 50mph winds and the temperature dropped to 40*. Dressed in only shorts and tees shirts we didn't venture out too far from the car. It was a fun drive and I was able to make one photograph despite the cold temperatures and strong gusty winds.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mammatus Clouds

I was fortunate to have photographed some Mammatus clouds over Death Valley during an approaching storm. Mammatus clouds are a distinct cloud formations hanging down from the cloud base appearing as either smooth or bumpy pouches. Mammatus clouds develop when moist air sinks into dry air due to a powerful downdraft.

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Light

One thing that always amazed me about photographing the dunes in Death Valley, is how quickly they change visually in the matter of moments. This image was taken just a short time before the sun came up.  A few moments later this scene appeared completely different looking with the first traces of sun striking the dunes. You learn to think and move quickly with the fast changing light you will encounter at sunrise while photographing the dunes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sunrise on the dunes

The early morning light is what I enjoy when photographing the sand dunes in Death Valley. I have found that the first few minutes after the sun rise is the best for a sharp edge detail on the dunes. My hike into the dunes usually starts well before sunrise in order to get into a location that has the dunes I am looking for. It would appear when seeing the sunrise on the dunes that it is a very contrasty condition.  But when taking a meter reading from the sunlit side of the dune to the shadow side, it can be as little as three to four stops of light difference. It depends on the amount of light being reflected back into the shadows from an adjacent dune. In the days when I used film to photograph the dunes I would use a red filter and extend my development time to increase the contrast in the negative to achieve the desired look I wanted in my final print. With digital imaging I now control the amount of contrast in the scene in my post processing of the image. Visualization of the scene is key to the success of the final image, whether you are currently using film or have moved to digital for you photography.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

During our travels in Death Valley we came upon a scenic ride through the desert landscape. It is called Twenty Mule Team Canyon. It is an easy canyon to visit and we were surprised that it is over looked as a park attraction by many of the visitors. The few of times we visited the canyon we had it all to ourselves. We would arrive before sunrise to capture all the texture of the landscape and then spend the day hiking the rugged terrain.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Death Valley's Fury

While in Death Valley we camped for two weeks in Stovepipe Wells to be near the sand dunes.
Each morning I would get up at 5 a.m. to get my coffee and be parked near the dunes around 6 a.m. One of the last mornings at the dunes I had decided to take a long walk across the Devil's Cornfield and visit a new group of dunes in an area that is rarely visited. I started my hike in under darkness and got to the first set of dunes just as the first traces of light came into the sky. It was a quiet morning as I walked into a group of nice size dunes, and could see that no one had been in the area recently. I assembled my equipment and composed an area I knew would look nice when the first shaft of sunlight would hit the dunes. I started to notice a slight breeze as the sun was coming up and almost without warning a storm force wind blew in and I quickly made one or two exposures. I realized this wasn't good for me or my equipment and started packing up as quickly as possible to get out.  The sand was blowing into my eyes as I struggled with my equipment. I turned to find my direction out of the dunes and realized I couldn't see much of anything.  I determined my direction of travel was directly into the strong winds. I pulled my hat down over my entire face and held onto it with one hand while my other hand covered my nose and mouth. The only reference I had to find my way back to the road was the sunlight at my feet. I knew that I had come in from the east and I just started walking in the direction of the rising sun while looking straight down. The wind was very strong and it was three steps forward and two back while trying to navigate in the deep sand of the dunes. It seemed like an endless hike back to the highway and my car. Finally my feet found the blacktop and I had to guess in which direction my car was. I started down the road and luckily came to my car within a mile or so. The storm continued blow at gale force winds for two day and kept us holed up in our RV.  What started out as just another simple hike into the dunes at sunrise soon became a life threatening event. Death Valley got its name for a very good reason. It is a land that can very gentle and then at the next moment can turn deadly.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Use discipline, even if Elvis happens to walk by

I spent my early years of photography studying the work of Ansel Adams, as most serious Black and White photographers did.  There wasn't the internet at the time to research his images or the locations he photographed in. I would spend countless hours at the public library reading and learning all I could about his magical images and the foreign looking lands he made them in. I would sit and dream about such places and how one day I too would seek these places out for my own, and stand in the empty wilderness I had seen in his pictures. Death Valley Ca. is a place we have camped numerous times in recent years. We had always camped near Stovepipe Wells the far western area of the park to be near the sand dunes, but on our last trip we decide to stay near Furnace Creek to be more centrally located.  This image was made at Zabriskie Point, an area that I hadn't photographed at sunrise in our previous trips. I took off before dawn one morning with Ansel's image in my head. Thinking about being in the empty wilderness at first light just like I dreamt of doing so many years ago. I reached my destination and found I was not alone. There were photographers standing elbow to elbow across the horizon firing away with their motor drive cameras at the first signs of a sunrise in an empty sky. I stood in shock at the sight. I thought maybe I am missing something really big, like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Big Foot all walking together. I turned away and saw this image in the opposite direction. I put on a long zoom lens and made the image before this unique cloud formation vanished. I looked back over my shoulder as I was leaving and I could still hear the motor drive cameras burning away. I made one image that morning and it turned out to be the one had I dreamt about all those years before.

Ansel Adams   -
Death Valley    -
Zabriskie Point -