In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Yellowstone Aurora

Aurora borealis reflected in a thermal pool, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

Aurora borealis reflected in a thermal pool, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming. 20mm, 10 seconds at f/1.8, ISO 6400. I would typically use a little longer shutter speed for night photos like this, but the aurora was moving and changing quite quickly, so a longer exposure would have caused the pillars to blur and smear together.

Claudia and I are back in Yellowstone. We had such a great time here last year we had to return.

And we’re glad we did. We’ve experienced many memorable moments so far, but the clear highlight was seeing and photographing the aurora borealis (aka Northern Lights) early Sunday morning.

We surely wouldn’t have done this if it weren’t for our friends David Kingham and Jennifer Renwick. Jennifer and David are both wonderful photographers, and know Yellowstone inside out. Before Claudia and I arrived in Yellowstone they saw and photographed an aurora one night. It wasn’t the most intense aurora, but it was something.


Into the High Sierra: A Memorable Morning

Morning rainbow over a high-country lake, Sierra Nevada, CA, USA

Morning rainbow over a high-country lake, Sierra Nevada, California. A stitched panorama captured the brief rainstorm and rainbow that appeared at this spectacular lake. (Unfortunately panoramas look rather small here on the blog, but you can click on the image to see it larger.)

A few days after the big deluge on our trip into the Sierra high country, the creek near our camp settled down enough to allow us to cross it, which opened up some new terrain to explore.

Claudia, Franka Gabler and I decided to get up early one morning and hike to a nearby lake for sunrise. The distance wasn’t far, but involved two creek crossings, plus a steep ascent. Sunrise would be just after 6:00 a.m., but we left at 4:30 to give ourselves plenty of time.


Join Me at the Out of Olympic Photo Conference!


I’m thrilled to be joining the Out of Chicago team once again for a photography conference – this time in Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula. This will be an in-person event taking place next May 7-11, 2023.

I’m looking forward to photographing this beautiful place, with lush, moss-draped rain forests, wild coastal beaches, and rugged sea stacks. And I’ll be joining a wonderful cast of instructors: Nick Page, Charlotte Gibb, Sean Bagshaw, Sarah Marino, Anna Morgan, Joseph Rossbach, Kurt Budliger, TJ Thorne, Anna Morgan, Mark Denney, Benjamin Williamson, and Eric Bennett.


Into the High Sierra: After the Storm

Rocky tarn at sunrise, Sierra Nevada, CA, USA

Rocky tarn at sunrise, Sierra Nevada, California

After all the rain and flooding on the first two days of our pack trip into the high Sierra, the third day brought clear skies and sunshine – and an opportunity to dry our wet clothes, sleeping bags, and anything else that had gotten damp.

It threatened to rain almost every afternoon thereafter, but never did. All we got was a brief shower one morning (more about that in a later post). But we did see lots of interesting clouds. And the deluge on our first day filled all the creeks, cascades, and tarns. Everything seemed lush and vibrant – more like June, or early July, than August.


Into the High Sierra

Mist, peaks, and creek at sunset, Sierra Nevada, CA, USA

Mist, peaks, and creek at sunset, Sierra Nevada, California. I made this photograph on our second evening in camp, as the rain finally stopped, and we were treated to a wonderful sunset (see the last two photos below).

Long before the Oak Fire, Claudia and I had planned to go on a trip into the Sierra backcountry with some photographer friends. We would be using mules to transport our gear into a remote campsite, staying for six nights, and making day hikes to nearby photo locations.

The fire threatened to disrupt those plans, but once we were able to return home, and our power was restored, it seemed possible that we could make the trip. It meant we had to pack rather hurriedly, but it was doable, and seemed like the perfect getaway.

It turned out to be quite an adventure. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the mountains on our first day, and soon after we set up camp that afternoon an intense thunderstorm developed overhead. We all huddled in our tents, pummeled by torrential rain and hail, while lightning struck all around us.


Creating Composition Out of Chaos Webinar


This Friday I’ll be joining the Out of Chicago team for a live webinar called Creating Composition Out of Chaos. My fellow panelists include some of my favorite photographers, like Charlotte Gibb, Sean Bagshaw, Anna Morgan, TJ Thorne, Sarah Marino, and Kurt Budliger. We’re sharing how we were able to create a compelling landscape or intimate scene composition when challenged by a chaotic environment. Register below to join us live and be notified when the recording is available.

Register for the Creating Composition Out of Chaos webinar, 1 p.m. Eastern time, 10 a.m. Pacific, Friday, August 19th

I hope to see some of you there!


Oak Fire Update

The slope below it burned, but our house is still intact.

The slope below our house burned, but the house is still intact.

First, thanks so much to all of you who have sent messages since my last post. While Claudia and I don’t have time to respond to them all individually right now, rest assured that we’ve read them all, and are very grateful for all the expressions of support. Your kindness is overwhelming, and greatly appreciated.

Please know that we’re fine, and our house is fine too. We were able to get into our neighborhood on Monday to assess our property, and the house and office are intact, with no damage that we can find. The fire burned almost to the edge of the house on the north side, and the edge of the deck on the west side, but didn’t reach the other sides, nor my office/studio building. We may have lost a few trees on our property, but the shade trees near our house and deck all seem okay.


Oak Fire

Pyrocumulus cloud from the Oak Fire, Mariposa County, CA, USA, 7-23-22

Pyrocumulus cloud from the Oak Fire, Mariposa County, California, on Saturday afternoon. The dark areas near the bottom of the frame are actually black smoke.

I’ve received many messages expressing concern for Claudia and I about the Oak Fire near our home outside of Mariposa. So first, thank you all very much for your concern! Claudia and I are safe (and our four kitties too). We had to evacuate Friday night, and are staying at a friend’s house in town. Shortly after we evacuated the fire came through our neighborhood and property, but we’ve heard that our house is still standing. We also heard that fire crews worked through the night to save homes in our area, including ours, and were apparently successful in doing so, as no homes in our neighborhood have been lost as far as we can tell. We’re not out of the woods yet, but hopeful, and feeling very grateful to the firefighters for all they have done and continue to do. Some people have lost their homes in this fire, and our hearts go out to them. Fortunately no one has been injured so far.

I’d also like to express my appreciation to the volunteers from CCADT (Central California Animal Disaster Team) for taking such good care of our cats, and all the creatures in their care. This is a stressful situation for all the animals that have been abruptly moved from their homes, but most of them seem quite calm once they’ve settled into the routine at the shelter. Our cats certainly like being there a lot more than being in our cars.


NANPA Fine Art in Nature Photography Award

"Twins" - sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California, USA

“Twins” – sun breaking through fog in a redwood forest, northern California

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be receiving the Fine Art in Nature Photography Award for 2023 from the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).

The award “honors photographers who create fine art nature imagery and/or who educate/instruct other nature photographers about the techniques critical to fine art imagery.” It’s a relatively new award; the only previous recipients were Ron Rosenstock and Art Wolfe from 2021, and I’m very honored to be in such good company.

Frank Gallagher has written a blog post on NANPA’s website about the award, including some of my thoughts about how nature photographers can affect positive change. Also, along with this award I’ll be doing a keynote presentation at the NANPA Summit on May 4th, 2023.

What an honor! Thanks very much to the NANPA Awards Committee!

— Michael Frye


On the Side

Reflections in a limestone canyon, Grand Canyon NP, AZ, USA

Reflections in a limestone canyon, Grand Canyon NP, Arizona

Between the rim and the river in Grand Canyon lies a vast wilderness. A few trails traverse this region, but most of it is trail-less, and seldom visited by people. This immense, empty land contains innumerable side canyons filled with treasures to discover: waterfalls, narrow, twisting slots, fern-filled grottos, Ancestral Pueblo ruins, rock art, sculptured rock terraces, and on and on.

The easiest way to access many of these side canyons is from the river, and we got to visit some of them on our journey down the Grand Canyon in April. I wish we’d had time to explore each and every side canyon, but of course that’s not possible on a ten-day trip. In the winter of 1976 a party of six people set off from Lee’s Ferry, and pulled out 103 days later – the longest Grand Canyon rafting trip ever, as far as we know. That’s enough time to truly immerse yourself – to explore as many side canyons as you want, or just relax and enjoy a spot for awhile. I’d love to do something like that (though unfortunately the Park Service doesn’t allow trips of that length anymore).