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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The Untamed Waterfall

Koropuku Falls, New Zealand, March 30th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Koropuku Falls, New Zealand, March 30th, 2015

Some men hunt lions. Some hunt leopards. Some hunt buffalo, and some hunt bears. But I, my friends, hunt a creature more wild and wily then all those beasts. You see, I hunt the untamed waterfall. My quest to capture this particular beast began on dreary day where the clouds hung low and heavy in the sky, spitting and spurting rain in fitful bouts. My faithful guide indicated a rough and rugged track down which the falls had often been sighted. And so, with my coat drawn tight about me to afford some protection from the elements, I plunged into the bush. The path was narrow and grasping ferns clawed at me from all sides with their wet fingers, every brushing encounter soaking my clothes anew. After some minutes of tramping -more like constant leaping to avoid the omnipresent pools of quickmud that threatened to swallow my boots with every misplaced step- I began a steady ascent and soon saw unmistakable signs that my prey was close at hand: splashes of raw wetness on every rock and branch, the strong pungent smell of moss soaked in moisture, and most exciting and frightening of all: the low bass rumble of the falls itself. Despite the treacherous path the fluttering of my heart forced me forward and suddenly, without any warning, I saw the falls through the bush. It was just a glance but the raw power of the thing was still enough to make me shiver. I creeped forward, slowly, carefully as to not disturb the beautiful beast where she lay, fat and slumbering, after gorging herself on a recent rainfall. Sneaking around to her left I eased my camera from my satchel and fired off a quick shot. Alas! A miss! I had struck the falls but failed to hit her heart. This would require more careful aim. I found a precarious perch nestled amongst the slippery, moss covered logs which the falls had ingested and disgorged in some meal gone by. I hoped it was not a tragic omen to be standing on the bones of the fall’s previous snacks, but I cast my doubts aside as I knew it was my only chance to capture this beautiful creature. This time I took more careful aim and fired a shot I knew would strike true. Straight to her heart! A hard earned but well fought trophy!

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Captain, Klingons are Approaching

McLean Falls, New Zealand, May 12th, 2015

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at McLean Falls, New Zealand, May 12th, 2015

Plants never cease to amaze me. That some seed or spore was able to alight on this tiny precipice and put down roots is incredible. But to do it, to grow, and to flourish under the constantly onslaught of a waterfall is nothing short of astounding.

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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.

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Helter Skeletons


Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken along the Merced River near Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park on January 31st, 2015

In late January I was leading a 1-on-1 photography lesson for Holly, a client from the UK (by way of Australia). At sunset I took her to one of my favorite “secret spots” in the Valley: a bend in the Merced River that provides an amazing view and reflection of Half Dome. Since it’s a relatively unknown location there generally aren’t any other people around, but when Holly and I rolled up to the location we found about 15 other photographers perched on the banks of the river shooting the warm afternoon light splashing across Half Dome. Turns out we had stumbled across a workshop by acclaimed Yosemite photographer Michael Frye. In fact, there were so many other photographers there that the only spots on the bank with a clear view of the Dome were right in front of a downed tree in the water which was completely ruining the reflection.

Not one to let something like a tree stand in my way I took off my shoes and socks, rolled my pants up, and waded in to the chilly Merced. With a little help from a few of the folks on the bank I disengaged the tree from the river bed and guided it downstream as it floated away from the group. This opened up a whole section of riverbank to shoot from, which Holly and I were smack dab in the middle of.

The obvious shot from that location is one of Half Dome as the setting sun paints its face redder and redder. But whether it’s because I’ve been to that spot numerous times, or because my river foray had me thinking about trees, I couldn’t help but notice the pale trunks of the trees just on the opposite bank of the river. Their white bark contrasted beautifully with the darker tones of the deeper foliage, and the monochromatic intimate feel of the scene stood off strikingly from the larger, more colorful view at hand. I was also struck by the graphic quality to the scene and knew that these tree trunks would make a lovely black and white image.

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In the Moment


Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in the oak savanna near Table Mountain in Jamestown, California, on April 26th, 2014

Photographers are often preoccupied by moments. We spend our days hunting for compositions and aligning elements so that we know where to go when The Moment hits. Now this is a great way to consistently experience great beauty but I fear it also has an unintended consequence: one of taking us out of the moments we’re in right now.

After all, how can you be present in the here and now if you’re constantly thinking about what the place you’re at will look like at some other time? And even when those wonderful moments arrive it’s not unusual to spend that time thinking about what’s next. The light is great now, but what will it look like in five minutes? It’s a common affliction, though perhaps it affects me more than most.

However, on a recent shoot in the oak savanna near my house, there was no temporal displacement of my mind. I could tell that this was the defining moment of the evening and I was present with all my senses. Even after I had taken enough shots to know I had a “keeper” I just sat and watched the scene. I wasn’t thinking about other compositions, other locations, or other times. I was simply there, enjoying being in the moment.

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The Scent of Spring


Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken on top of Table Mountain near Jamestown, California in the Sierra Nevada foothills on April 9th, 2014

Table Mountain is a long extrusion of ancient basalt lava that flows through the foothills near Jamestown. Every spring water collects on its corrugated top and runs into gullies, channels, and pools that nourish the soil and lead to a profusion of wildflowers. Some of the most abundant flowers are goldfields and lupine. In certain areas the lupine bloom in vast patches, and when the wind kicks up their heady perfume fills the air with the scent of spring.

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Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Table Mountain near Jamestown, California, on April 4th, 2014

I’ve long been attracted to the dramatic scenes in nature: towering peaks and clear lakes, snow-capped mountains, cliffs, endless vistas, and the like. But living in the foothills of the Sierra is giving me a great appreciation for the subtler sweeps of nature’s brush. About 20 minutes from my house is a vast oak savanna wedged in between an ancient lava flow called Table Mountain and the New Melones Reservoir. The rolling grassy hills of this savanna are punctuated with statuesque blue and valley oaks, whose leaves turn a rich green with the coming of spring.

On an evening that held the promise of good light at sunset I visited the savanna and meandered among the trees and flowing grasses. I found a marvelous blue oak overlooking an open field to the west and as the sun dropped through a slot in the clouds I captured this photo.

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Aspen Embrace


Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in an aspen grove in Lundy Canyon, Eastern Sierra Nevada, on October 16th, 2013

There is nothing quite like standing in an aspen grove being hugged by yellow leaves while golden light pours through the air around you. If you’ve never done this you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once.

View more lovely Sierra Nevada photos in this gallery.

Forest Yoga (Downward Dogwood / Sun Salutation)


Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in a grove of dogwood trees along Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park on October 20th, 2013

On the way home from an Eastern Sierra photography workshop in late October I drove through Yosemite National Park. Having just spent the past six days on the go, I was eager to get home and hadn’t planned on stopping along the way. But as I neared the Big Oak Flat entrance station I came upon a grove of dogwoods at the peak of their fall color. The late afternoon sun was peeking through the grove as well, lighting up the beautiful trees with bursts of light. Even though I hadn’t intended to stop, the flaming dogwoods were too pretty to pass up. I found a composition I liked then waited for the sun to slip into a crack between the trees to give me this dynamic burst of light.

View more beautiful Yosemite photos here.