April 16, 2013

The View From Here - February 2013


Hills, Zabriski Point. Death Valley. 2013.

by Stephen Johnson

Journey of Remarkable Light and Form

The last few weeks have given me the pleasure of witnessing some truly remarkable light. Spending some time at the beach, on our way to our Death Valley workshop, in the park itself, coming up the eastern Sierra and then a quick trip to Yosemite, all within the last few weeks.


Spectral Breakout on Lenticular Cloudbank. Dawn Lone Pine on the Eastern Sierra. 2013

Death Valley was a reminder of the beauty of desert and the wonder of it as a place. This year brought some rain, beautiful light and skies that frankly will take some time to sort out, there are so many photographs I am looking at with interest.

On our way home from Death Valley, we stayed over at Lone Pine to see the moonset on the eastern Sierra crest. The moon setting at dawn was wonderful, even if a bit cold. But behind us to the east, a lenticular cloud had formed that I turned a 600mm lens toward, very near the rising sun.

At first glace, zooming in on the cloud bank was dramatic. Unexpectedly, a wonderous rainbow like spectral breakout was suddenly visiable around the cloud. It jumped out at me, quite unbelievably. My first thought was that the color ring was some artifact of the long optic pointing so near the rising sun. Then, as we looked closer, with only our eyes, we could barely make out the exact same color breakout on the cloud's edge. Although visible in the photograph, the effect pales in comparison to seeing the real thing.


Radio Telescopes along Owens River. Owens Valley Radio Observatory. Big Pine. 2013.

Driving up the eastern Sierra in the Owens Valley, through Lone Pine and past Manzanar, we noticed some satellite dishes on the east side of the valley.  One of our Death Valley Workshop students mentioned a radio observatory on the east side, and we appeared to have found it.

We took the first way in, though it felt like a back way. We followed a dirt road across the desert leading us up to the Owens River, just opposite the telescopes. It was an unusual mix of form with the winter desert brush, cottonwood trees, river cutting through and the space age construct plucked down in the landscape.


Highway 395 above Conway Summit near Mono Lake. 2013

The following weekend we couldn't resist a quick trip to Yosemite. It's only a little beyond a planned trip to see my sweet 85 year old mother, which made it good loop of love and beauty. As is almost always the case about Yosemite, I was treated to scenes I never imagined and a slightly deeper understanding of this so familiar place, enrichening my mind and heart.


Tree and Mist. Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite. 2013.

The waterfalls and bellowing mist from them are always part of my delight in Yosemite. In fact, falling water is almost synonymous with Yosemite Valley. When mixed with ice and cold, it can be almost other worldly and surprizing. Part of the delight in wandering the planet with a camera is just such surprize, even in places we think we know well.


Snow Dune. Yosemite Falls. 2013.

The sheets of misty water draping over a dune of ice at the base of Upper Yosemite Falls was amazing to watch. The pattern changed with every moment, leading to many stills, and some very graceful video.


Ribbon Falls Rainbow. Yosemite. 2013.

In looking though the photographs made last weekend, when we did the short swing through Yosemite, it made me particularly grateful for our Yosemite in Winter workshop coming right up. I'm anxious to go back and spend a few days. I know many of the people coming to the workshop and a few days spent with some fine people in such a special place sounds really good.


Full Moon Setting over Eastern Sierra. HDR with Canon 1Ds III and 600mm lens. 2013.


Moonring and Jupiter over Paso Robles. 2013.

Along the Coast

A recent trip to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, brought another set of ongoing curiousities renewed. The Reserve is one of my local haunts here on the north peninsula coast near San Francisco. The extreme of compelling visuals I found those few weeks ago drew me deeply into a diversity of natural form. From the brilliantly lit cliffs above the tide pools to the oh so blue sky through the trees, and the intricate alien form of tide pool life, particularly the anemones. I was entranced.


Cliffside. Fitzgerald Reserve. 2013

There are some places that keep drawing you back, some out of convenience because they are nearby, and some you go to great lengths for. This stretch of coast, from San Francisco south to Santa Cruz, remains a road of refuge and heart engagement for me.

The Highway One Coastal Journey Workshop April 20-21 seemed worth a mention with these photographs that have stayed with me these last few weeks.



Anemone. Fitzgerald Reserve. 2013

dv woorkshop

Death Valley Workshop 2013 Group Photo. Titus Canyon, Death Valley.

Our workshop Group Photo from Death Valley this year captured a moment of delight that in some ways summed up the wonderful light we had all day exploring Tutius Canyon, the road in from Nevada and wonderful Red Pass. We were contantly reaching for superlatives to describe what we were seeing, and feeling a heartfelt gratutude at being able to witness such beauty with the excitement at having a chance to photograph.

We didn't get everyone in the photo, but thanks to Fiona for capturing these wonderful expressions.

Irresistable Motion

Snow Dune Video. Yosemite Falls. 2013. Canon 1Dx, 600mm lens Stabilzed with YouTube Filter.

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