Travels and Stories

Canyon Color

Oak and maples, southern Utah, USA

Oak and maples, southern Utah. Wandering down a wash, I came around a bend and immediately noticed this patch of color. But color is never enough by itself; you have to find a way to organize that color into a cohesive composition. Luckily the yellow gambel oak provided a clear focal point to build a composition around. I used a long lens (168mm) to isolate the most interesting parts of the scene, and compress the branches into patterns of color. 168mm, 3 seconds at f/16, ISO 100, focus-stacked with Helicon Focus.

Claudia and I have had a busy autumn. We went to Yellowstone in early September, then made our way to Colorado and Utah in October, and just got back from the Oregon Coast yesterday.

I’ve made a lot of photographs, so it’s been a challenge to edit and process them all, and put them into cohesive groups. But looking back, one group of images that stands out to me is this one, of autumn color in the canyons of southern Utah.

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Wolf Memories

Misty sunrise, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

Misty sunrise, Yellowstone



I usually talk about photography as an art form – a way to express yourself and your vision, and to communicate with others through this wonderful medium.

But photographs also have an amazing ability to evoke memories. Sometimes a well-executed image made by someone else will resonate with us because it stirs a memory of a past event in our lives.

Naturally though, photographs from our own lives can be even more powerful in evoking memories from our past. Most of us have had the experience of looking through old family photos, and suddenly having a vivid recollection of an event we hadn’t thought about in years. It doesn’t matter if the images themselves are mediocre; they still have tremendous power to stir recollections.

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Blue Mist

People in the blue mist, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

People in the blue mist, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone

Thermal areas in Yellowstone are often quite colorful. Bacteria form extensive mats in shades of orange, red, yellow, and green, while deep pools become vivid blue, or blue-green.

Viewed from the distance on a sunny day, the steam rising from these pools can look blue, or blue-green, as sunlight hits the water and bounces up into the mist. Sometimes the mist along the edge of a pool turns orange, reflecting the color from one of those bacterial mats.

The grandaddy of these pools is Grand Prismatic Spring. Driving past Grand Prismatic Spring on a sunny day you can see vivid blue and orange mist rising from the pool – an amazing, surreal sight.

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The Swan

Trumpeter swan, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

Trumpeter Swan, on our first morning in Yellowstone

On our first morning in Yellowstone, as we were driving back to our campsite, Claudia and I spotted a trumpeter swan along the Firehole River. Claudia pulled into a turnout, while I jumped out of the car, grabbed my camera and 100-400mm zoom, and walked back along the river toward the swan. Our friends Charlotte and Gary Gibb soon pulled into the turnout behind Claudia.

I wasn’t sure, at first, how skittish the swan might be, so I approached cautiously. But I needn’t have worried, as it soon became apparent that the swan was completely unafraid of people. It was feeding along the opposite bank of the river, with messy logs and branches behind it. Then it swam right toward me, stopped in the middle of the river (with a perfect dark background behind it), flapped its wings, and settled down to start preening. Claudia, Charlotte, and Gary witnessed this from the turnout and insisted that the swan was performing for me, but I think it was just random coincidence.

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Yellowstone’s Dynamic Landscape

Steaming earth, Yellowstone NP, WY, USA

Steaming earth, Yellowstone National Park

Last spring I did a presentation for Out of Chicago Live called The Dynamic Landscape. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile, because I realized that I view the landscape not as something fixed and immutable, but as as a living, breathing, constantly changing organism.

And that view heavily influences my photography. I respond to the changes around me with my feet, my eyes, and my camera as I adapt to light, weather, and other conditions.

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Oregon Badlands

Late-afternoon light, Oregon badlands

Late-afternoon light, Oregon badlands

Claudia and I are in the middle of a long camping trip. We started in Oregon, then moved to Idaho, and for the last ten nights we’ve been in Yellowstone.

One of our stops was in the badlands of eastern Oregon. These badlands encompass a small area, but they’re colorful, and full of beautiful patterns. I love patterns, as you probably know, so I was like a kid in a candy store, finding new compositions everywhere I looked. I used telephoto lenses almost exclusively, picking designs out of the sculpted earth.

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