Temple of the Moon

Temple of the Moon

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken in at the Temple of the Moon, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, on October 11, 2016.

The Temple of the Moon in Capitol Reef is a striking rock formation: it literally looks like a church made of mud and stone that rises hundreds of feet above the desert floor. And yet on my few visits to the park I’ve had trouble photographing it. Conditions never quite aligned for me to take a noteworthy photograph of the monolith. Until a visit in 2016, that is.

My friend Julia were on a whirlwind desert camping and road trip and almost on a whim decided to buzz out to Capitol Reef. We arrived in the park in the afternoon and decided to venture out for the night to the Cathedral Valley. Despite recent rains (even some sprinkles as we drove out), the backcountry roads were in good condition -minus a wash or two here and there- and we made good time to the area.

Arriving late at night under a waxing gibbous moon we hopped out of the car to see a series of high clouds streaking across the night sky. Even better was the full halo being created in the clouds by the light of the moon. I immediately grabbed my camera equipment and went sprinting off into the desert to line up a composition which placed the moon at the apex of the tower. In order to get a good exposure with clean details I decided to shoot some longer exposures of approximately 90 seconds. The tricky part was anticipating the moon’s movement during that 90 seconds so that the average position appeared to be directly above the tower.

After a series of frustrating but fun test shots I was able to make this image, which showed the moon and its halo, as well as a secondary spire on the Temple.

See more beautiful Capitol Reef National Park photos here.

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Corrugation

Corrugation

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken near Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California, on December 3rd, 2017

While teaching a workshop in December of 2016 in Death Valley with Jim Patterson, we wrapped up our four days instruction with a final sunrise shoot at Zabriskie Point. This area is known not only for the famous features of Manly Beacon and the Manifold, but also for its incredible, tortuous, and twisting badlands. The folds of earth overlap in a mind-bending array of patterns and textures that are heaven for a photographer. After our group took their final frames and we started the short walk back to our cars I came around a bend and noticed sunlight filling up one side of a diagonal canyon. The light, shadow, and reflections made for a stunning scene so I whipped out my telephoto lens and grabbed a quick shot. But when I got home later that night I discovered I had blown the depth of field on the shot and the background was slightly blurry. I needed a redo.

So every time I visited Death Valley in 2017 I shot sunrise at Zabriskie and waited for the light to fill up this canyon the same way. But due to the changing seasons and difference in the sun angle the quality of light was never exactly the same. Until a year later. Again we were leading a workshop in Death Valley, and again our final stop was Zabriskie Point. But this time I was prepared: I knew the light would behave and I made sure I had my camera on my tripod, and the focus and depth of field dialed in exactly how it needed to be. Then it was only a matter of time till the sunlight reflected off the Zabriskie Point Badlands just how I needed it, and I snagged this photo.

See more beautiful Death Valley photos here.

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Non-Sequitur

Non-Sequitur

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken at Isla Incahuasi in the Salar de Uyuni on April 10th, 2017

“This is the weirdest place I’ve ever been.” During the few days I spent in southern Bolivia, this one phrase continually sprang to mind. This is Isla Incahuasi, an island covered with giant cactuses, sitting by itself, surrounded by thousands of square kilometers of salt.

See more beautiful Bolivia photos.

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Pot O’ Golden Sand

Pot O’ Golden Sand

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken in Death Valley National Park, California, on November 17th, 2012

Yes, it does actually rain from time to time in Death Valley.

View more beautiful Death Valley photos.

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Zebra-skie Point

Zebra-skie Point

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken from Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, on November 17th, 2012

Zabriskie Point showcases some of the most interesting textures and forms in Death Valley, especially when painted with stripes by the rising sun.

View more beautiful Death Valley photos.

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Burst of Life

Burst of Life

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken at Death Valley National Park, California on March 5th, 2016

Death Valley, despite its name, is actually a place bursting with life. Every spring wildflowers bloom throughout the park, and there is a surprising variety of plants in the different regions. In spring of 2016 that flowering life was demonstrated grandly as the previous fall’s flooding helped set the stage for a profusion of wildflowers.

View more Death Valley photos.

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Hospitable

Hospitable

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken in Death Valley National Park, California, March 5th, 2016

Just when you go and think a landscape is totally inhospitable and incapable of supporting life, something like this happens to surprise you. Just goes to show, it’s hospitable after all, given the right conditions.

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Apocalypse Wow

Apocalypse Wow

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Behind the Scenes of this Photo


Taken at Death Valley National Park , March 5th, 2016

During Death Valley’s 2016 super bloom I was driving somewhat aimlessly around the park looking for patches of flowers. Spying a good clump about 1,000 feet from the road I popped on my flip flops and padded out into the sand to check them out. Needless to say I was stoked to discover a large playa shot through with fractured chunks of mud adjacent to the flowers. After sunset the wind whipped the blue hour clouds into a fury of undulating textures and shapes and it was all I could to keep the drool from pouring out of my mouth onto the camera.

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The Briny Shallows

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Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park , November 17th, 2015

On my way home from a desert climbing trip I stopped in Death Valley National Park. I explored a remote section of the Zabriskie area badlands and found some bizarre things, including giant rocks balanced on pillars of alluvial cement, locked and gated mines from a hundred years ago, and a gigantic feature I’m calling the White Cathedral. As my explorations wound on into the afternoon more and more wispy clouds began to fill the sky. I drove to Badwater Basin and hiked out onto the playa, where shallow, residual pools of water still lay as fading evidence of October, 2015’s cataclysmic flooding. As the sun set behind the Panamint Mountains it caught the high clouds and turned them a vibrant pink which reflected vividly in the pools of water I was standing in.

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Quiet Riot

Death Valley National Park, New Zealand on March 5th, 2016

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Death Valley National Park, California, on March 5th, 2016

Many of you likely heard of the super bloom that happened in Death Valley National Park in California in spring of 2016. Back in October 2015 a massive amount of rain hit the park and prompted millions of little wildflower seeds to begin preparations for a spring fling. In March of the following year those seeds began sprouting forth in a riot of golds, purples, whites, and blues. I decided to go see the bloom for myself, and while I could try to wax poetic about how beautiful it was I think I’ll just say: it did not suck.

View more beautiful Death Valley photos.

Into the Sky

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park, on November 15th, 2012

This is not a complicated photo. There are no grandiose snow-capped mountains in the distance. There are no auroras in the sky. The composition is about as straightforward as it gets, with no twists or turns. There are no flowers, no chunks of rock, no trees. In fact, there’s very little in this photo at all: essentially just a little water and some breathtaking light. But hey, I’m a simple guy, and sometimes that’s all I need.

View more beautiful Death Valley photos.