In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Photographing the Olympic Peninsula

Sun setting in a temperate rainforest, Olympic NP, WA, USA

Sun setting in a temperate rainforest, Olympic NP, Washington

After our Death Valley workshop, wildflower odysseys, and quick trip to Tucson for the NANPA Summit, Claudia and I flew up to Seattle and drove to the Olympic Peninsula for the Out of Olympic photography conference.

That was such a fun event, with a great group of participants, and wonderful instructors. It was great to meet or reconnect with so many good people. And, as usual, the conference was really well organized by Chris Smith and his Out of Chicago team.


Wildflower Odysseys

Desert candles above a flower-filled arroyo, Central Coast ranges, California, USA

Desert candles above a flower-filled arroyo, Coast Ranges, California

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind. We did a night-photography workshop in Death Valley in mid-April, which was really fun, with some great conditions. In early May I spoke at the NANPA Summit in Tucson, then immediately after that Claudia and I flew up to Washington for the Out of Olympic photography conference. Both those events were also lots of fun. We got to meet many wonderful people, connect with old friends, and photograph the beautiful rainforests and beaches of the Olympic Peninsula.

But meanwhile, all the winter rains in California had spawned an exceptional spring wildflower bloom, which we definitely wanted to see. So from early March to late April, sandwiched around our Death Valley workshop, and juggled with other events and projects, Claudia and I traveled to Antelope Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and various locations in California’s Central Coast ranges.


Lightroom’s Powerful New Denoise Tool

Lightroom’s Powerful New Denoise Tool

Adobe released major updates for Lightroom and Camera Raw last week (version 12.3 for Lightroom Classic, 6.3 for the cloud version or Lightroom, and 15.3 for Adobe Camera Raw). Lightroom Classic now has Curves in the Masking Panel, which I’ve been hoping to see for a long time. But I’ll talk about that later, because to me the most exciting news is the new AI-powered Denoise tool.

I’ve used most of the noise-reduction tools out there, but the new Denoise function in Lightroom and Camera Raw has quickly become my favorite. It’s not perfect, and it has limitations, but it’s performed minor miracles on some of my noisiest, most troublesome photos.


Hope to See You at the NANPA Summit

Swirling dogwood blossoms, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Swirling dogwood blossoms, Yosemite

I hope to see some of you at the NANPA Summit in Tucson next month! The dates are May 4-6. I’ll be accepting NANPA’s Fine Art in Nature Photography Award (a great honor!), and giving a keynote presentation on the 4th. I have to fly up to Washington the next day for the Out of Olympic conference, but I hope I get the chance to say hi to some of you on the 4th.

There’s still time to register for the NANPA Summit, and it promises to be a great event. I’ve always enjoyed participating in these summits in the past, as there are lots of great speakers and events, and it’s a wonderful place to network and meet other like-minded people. This year’s speakers include Wendy Shattil, Daniel J. Cox, Gabby Salazar, Adam Schallau, Dave Showalter, and Greg Johnson. Quite a lineup!


Rock Candy

Pool in a slot canyon, Valley of Fire SP, NV, USA

Pool in a slot canyon, Valley of Fire SP, Nevada. Recent rains had filled this colorful little slot canyon with water.

After our wintry visit to Zion, Claudia and I opted to head for the warmer lands of Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Valley of Fire has sandstone and red rocks, but the rocks are different from anything I’ve seen in Utah. Some are rusty red, full of holes and small arches. Other areas have amazing, multi-colored layers of pastel hues – yellow, purple, orange, and pink.

I didn’t expect to create moody, dramatic images in a place like Valley of Fire. If an opportunity for something like that presented itself, then sure, I’d take advantage of it, but that wasn’t why I went there. It was more about exercising my eye for color and design in a rocky playground, which for me is tons of fun. And isn’t that why we do photography – because it’s fun? It doesn’t have to be super serious all the time.


Zion in Winter

Cottonwood in snow, Zion NP, UT, USA

Cottonwood in snow, Zion NP, Utah

After escaping Mariposa’s snowmageddon, and spending a few days in Death Valley, Claudia and I decided to head for Zion. I’d never photographed Zion with snow, and snow was in the forecast. Well maybe. We drove there on a Monday, and it looked like some higher elevations could get a dusting of snow Monday night, followed by a more substantial storm, with colder temps, on Tuesday night. The question was whether it would be cold enough to snow on the floor of Zion Canyon. That seemed iffy, but odds were decent enough to make it worth trying.

We arrived just before sunset on Monday, with enough time to drive up into Zion Canyon before dark. While we’ve been to this park many times, it had been a long time since we’d visited the main Zion Canyon, because most of the year it’s only accessible by shuttle bus, which isn’t very conducive to photography. But during the winter (outside of holidays) you can drive in. And it was great to be back. It’s such a spectacular place.


Moonset, Death Valley

Clouds lit by the setting moon, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Clouds lit by the setting moon, Death Valley NP, California

The night after the rainstorm cleared during our recent visit to Death Valley, the half-full moon was due to set around midnight, and I thought there might be an opportunity to photograph an interesting moonset if the clouds lingered.

Claudia and I ate dinner at our campsite, slept for about an hour, then I got up and checked the weather. Things looked promising, with clouds, but not too many. So we headed to a spot looking over the badlands toward the lowering moon.


Escaping the Snow

Snowy mountain above salt flats, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Snowy mountain above salt flats, Death Valley NP, California

I love winter, and I love snow. But when Claudia and I learned that our house might get two or more feet of snow during the last weekend of February we knew things might get difficult.

We’ve lived in our house in Mariposa since 2005, and several times have received eight inches of snow, and once even got ten inches. Our road and driveway don’t get plowed, and feature a couple of steep hills, but with high clearance and four-wheel-drive we can get in and out with eight or ten inches of snow. But not more than that. With two feet of snow we’d be stuck for awhile.


Poconip Fog

Frosted cottonwood, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Frosted cottonwood, Mono Lake, California

In winter, Mono Lake sometimes gets socked in with fog. Locally it’s called “poconip” fog, though it’s more widely known in parts of the western U.S. as “pogonip” fog (an English corruption of a Paiute word).

The Mono Basin can get quite cold in winter. But Mono Lake never freezes, due to its high concentrations of salt. So on cold nights relatively warm, moist air rises off the surface of the lake, meets that colder surrounding air, cools, and the moisture (water vapor) condenses into microscopic water droplets, forming a low-level cloud – in other words, fog.


Today Only: Free Replay of Expressive Night Photography


For today only, the National Parks at Night folks are offering a free replay of my presentation from last year’s Night Photo Summit, called Expressive Night Photography.

This presentation is all about the limitless opportunities night photography offers for creative exploration. At night, the darkness makes it easy to override what little light exists to add your own; it’s like having a dark, blank canvas to paint onto. And you can find more varieties of natural light at night than during the day, opening up further creative possibilities. In this presentation I explore the many creative paths that dark skies offer, take a look back at my own nighttime photography journey, and discuss how you can use night photography to communicate your vision of the world in unique and expressive ways.