Falcon 9 Nebula
Sprout of Life
The Flame of Anor
Guardian of the Blood Moon
Spirit of the Caldera - Fairytale
Sunrise on Fire
Glowworms - Candelarva
A Sword of Fire and Ice
Ascending Canyon Light
Attempted Murder at Canby's Cross
Specter, by Sterling Ruby
Burnt and Yellow
Crater Lake Eclipse
Devil's Cornfield Sprouts
Eiffel Fairy Dust
End of the Road
Glowworms - Meteor Grotto
All-Seeing Red Eye
Grampians Golden Field
Headless Pink Angel
Ketchum Creek Falls
Memories For Sale
Meteor Crater Observatory Ruins
Mexican Hat Arch
Mieles de Fuego
Mud Blob Collection
Sand Fire Power Lines
Spirit of the Caldera - Fumarole
Spray of Butterflies
The Gates of Argonath
Thomas Fire - Embers
Tule Lake Minimalism
Tule Lake Sunrise With A Thousand Ducks
Venus Transit at the Pier
Yellow Brick Road
Falcon 9 NebulaThe SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivers the SAOCOM 1A satellite to orbit. In a single long exposure, the ascent, second stage, boostback and re-entry burns are shown. From Santa Ynez Peak, California. I watched the launch from Santa Ynez peak, about 40 miles from the base. It was spectacular, the fog lit up and quickly the horizon turned red. After the second stage deployed, the Falcon 9 drew spirals of light in the sky and a massive cyan and magenta cloud formed. It looked as if we we staring into a nebula, with two bright eyes staring back. The descent back to base was fiery and almost blinding, while the payload left behind a trail that looked like a distant comet. This was my first time shooting a launch, and it won't be my last.
Ancient OneAncient bristlecone pine witnesses yet another sunset, isolated on the cliffside where it has resided for thousands of years, at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California. This famous 3000+ year old tree at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has been photographed countless times, but I found a new angle by shooting with the telephoto and extender at 800mm, from very far away. Mt. Williamson looms behind it, warmed by the last glow of sunset. This photo has become one of my personal favorites. It's a clean composition, of an interesting subject, with a new perspective and, during a moment where the light and the climate where ideal for the photo. It also took planning: I snapped a similar photo the day before, and though it was very good I knew I could do better, so the next day I planned my composition changes and camera settings before returning, to minimize any chance of mistakes.
SentinelBacklit by the moon, a tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) holds as still as a dead tree, on the side of the road at Wilsons Promontory, Australia. This was an amazing moment, driving out of Wilsons Promontory at night. The frogmouth flew off to the side, and since there was no traffic, we stopped right in the middle of the road, and had enough time to change lenses, set up the tripod, and get lots of long exposures of this beautiful bird, lining it up perfectly behind the moon. I couldn't believe how cooperative this bird was. It remained still enough to get long exposures of over a second, while still changing its pose from time to time to give me new compositions as I adjusted the camera to the moon's quickly shifting motion.
Sprout of LifeGrand Prize Winner: "American Forests - Forests In Focus 2017." A minuscule sprout grows on a mossy mound nested inside an old bonsai tree, at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, California. This impossibly tiny plant was inside an actual miniature bonsai tree, and the light was so seductive that I had to jump a fence to get close for a macro pic. I got yelled at by security, but I got the photo. The little plant has ambitions to be one of those large trees some day, maybe even as large as that bonsai who was kindly hosting it.
IcarusA fireman and two deer watch as the hills are set ablaze during the La Tuna Fire, which burned 7,194 acres in the Verdugo Mountains of Los Angeles County in 2017. I didn't know there were deer in this scene when I took this photo (there are two in there, one barely visible in the shadows), I was too transfixed by the flames, trying to capture the right moment with the tiny firefighter. It was spectacular and terrifying. So much can burn so quickly.
The Flame of AnorA sun pillar (a light phenomenon caused by sunlight refracting on the falling snow) lights up the clouds in a fiery iridescence, and engulfs a crooked and delicate tower of tufa. Mono Lake, California. It was magical to be at Mono Lake with falling snow, while the sun shone brightly under the clouds. Sparks of snow flew everywhere, and the odd light angle created a gorgeous sun pillar, while the clouds turned to rainbows. One thing none of my photos captured was the motion: the flow of snow falling and the twinkling and vanishing of detail is impossible to catch in still images.
Griffith HornsWaxing crescent moon suspended in a beam of light sets over the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. It's much harder to plan moon positions than sun positions for super telephoto shots. The sun transitions rather evenly day by day, it'll be just a tiny bit off to one side the next day, pretty predictable, but the moon jumps around a lot more. It's also much harder to avoid camera shake, due to the longer exposures with low light. Even with a tripod, 90% of my shots were not sharp enough. But one sharp shot is enough.
Guardian of the Blood MoonDuring the “super blood moon” eclipse of 2015, an ancient whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) embraces the moon. Taken at the Watchman Peak Trail, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. There was a wild flock of photographers at Crater Lake for the eclipse. I got some wide shots too, but I wanted something a bit different from what everyone else was getting, so I focused my attention on this old pine. This now endangered species can live to over 1,200 years, and their numbers are quickly diminishing due to invasive, conifer-killing beetles.
MorannonA sand tufa portal opens towards the gray dunes of Mono Lake, California. This is one of the most exquisite sand tufa formations, menacing and unsound. It rests on smooth, unperturbed sand dunes. Despite how peaceful and still this scene looks, I had a really hard time taking this photo due to strong winds, and sand shooting through my eyeballs, I could barely open my eyes to focus. The closer you get to the ground to get these low angles, the worse the sandblasting gets.
Golden BisonSurrounded by a moving herd of bison, I tried focusing on one large male that was walking toward the sunset, which was especially colorful due to nearby forest fires. I let the sun shine straight into the lens, washing the whole frame into a golden light.
Rolling HuesLone hiker explores a surreal landscape of wildflowers in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, during the superbloom of 2016. There is no way to showcase the scale of the flower-covered hills, but the lone hiker in this purple hill at least gives some sense of how vast the space is. We passed by his parked minivan some moments later, and I left a note with my contact info, so I was able to show him these images days later when I received an email from him. This was shot from our truck, using the telephoto lens. If I had used a wide angle, the hiker wouldn't have filled a single pixel.
Cerin AmrothFalling snow sparkles in the morning light over a small tufa mound, which sits in a golden field by the shore of Mono Lake, California. The morning I took this photo was surreal. The sun was breaking through the horizon, and the falling crystals of snow were tiny and perfect, falling quietly and floating with no wind. The fresh sunlight paired with the dried grass made for a perfectly golden scene. I let the sun shine into my lens, creating some flares that further enhanced the golden colors. The glow on top of the tufa in this photo is one of these lens flares, just perfectly lined up to it.
Spirit of the Caldera - FairytaleAt the end of a cold day, a bull elk rests next to the warm steam of the fumaroles at the West Thumb Geyser Basin of the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I followed the elk for about an hour, careful to keep him against the setting sun, and with the steaming fumaroles behind him, until he finally went to rest. I used no filters, instead, I removed my lens hood and held my lens close enough to touch the pine needles in front of me, causing a natural green/brown vignette and soft focus.
420lbs LiftMongolian World Sumo Champion Byamba lifts all 420lbs of USA's Kelly Gneiting, and slams him onto the ground, during the 2013 US Sumo Open.
RavenousA spectral haze from nearby forest fires settled around the travertine terraces. I set up to take photos of the skeletal tree, when an almost impossibly perfect raven walked straight into the frame, and briefly held his sepulchral silhouette.
Miss MoiréA woman with an exemplary collection of contrasting patterns sits pointedly at the Bolsa Chica State Beach, California. Unaware of my presence, Miss Moiré sits on a bench, summoning her pinstriped, zebra-patterned, polka-dotted, speckled, halftone powers.
EdorasYoung wild horse walks in front of a large mound of tufa (porous rock formations composed of calcium carbonate) while being observed by a dark bird, at Mono Lake, California. The shifting clouds in the Eastern Sierra sometimes line up to create entirely surreal lighting situations. In this case, a yellow beam of light hit the lighter-colored sands in the far distance while the rest of the landscape was under a soft, purplish bounce light. It created an artificial horizon, and worked just right with the pale yellow color of the young horse. The bird was just extra, feels like an omen. Rather than going to the main south or north tufa formations during our Memorial Day Weekend trip (areas which were even more packed with tourist than usual) we took a dirt road around Mono Lake towards the more inaccessible and less-known tufa in the south-east. To our surprise, a team of horses was roaming around the area. I ditched the idea of setting up for landscape shots and instead stalked the horses to capture something unique. Tufa with horses is something I had never seen before, it was a much more interesting take than tufa against a pretty sunset. Luckily I had my rubber boots, so I could hike around the deeper marsh areas and thick reeds to find the best angles.
RazorwoodShattered bristlecone pine sets up a pike defense against the incoming cavalry, at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California. This image was more of an afterthought, I snapped it while walking around because the pointy shapes caught my eye, but I didn't expect it to work well in a composition. I found that simply by cropping with a tilted horizon line I was able to balance the image, and that there was a lot of cloud detail to recover that I hadn't expected to find. Color was completely unnecessary and distracting.
Sunrise on Fire
OzymandiasTowers of sand tufa (porous rock formations composed of calcium carbonate) lean in a fragile balance at Mono Lake, California. On this particular trip to Mono Lake, we spent a long Thanksgiving weekend with my parents and got to wake up early for sunrise and then be back at the lake for sunset. The goal was to see snow, the forecast said it'd be snowing and raining the whole weekend, but nothing happened. There was a bit of snow left when we arrived, but by the morning most of it had melted, and then it entirely vanished a day later. I still need to get some good tufa photos in the snow, maybe some frozen rain, and hopefully the pogonip fog that sometimes coats the shore.
Moth Trails4 seconds of moths spiraling pointlessly around a street light at a car dealer in Richfield, Utah. I love these moments during road trips where you say "uhm, could you turn around? There were moths around a light in that car dealer and we should take pics." Being able to stop for whatever nonsense, even late at night, makes the experience of photography so rewarding. I tried many different settings, including up to 30 second exposures, but in the end the wider aperture and shorter exposure worked best, while 30 seconds looked too soft and evened out. Glad I got some lens flares here too.
Glowworms - CandelarvaCradled in a cave of ferns and moss, a delicate chandelier of light is lit by a patient glowworm, in Melba Gully, Great Otway National Park, Australia. This series was taken at Melba Gully (a rainforest walk in the Great Otway National Park) and at the Glowworm Tunnel (an abandoned train tunnel in the Wollemi National Park, near the Blue Mountains). The glowworms are fly larvae from a fungus gnat from the Keroplatidae family. This species is tiny, the worm about 1 cm, the gooey web cave they build around 3 cm wide or so. The larvae build a structure composed of a horizontal mucous tube suspended by a network of threads attached to rocks, bark or soil. They can turn around in the tube and move back and forth. They build snares, much like spiderwebs, decorated by sticky droplets that glow in the blue light emitted by their tails, attracting small insects. The species pictured in this series is Arachnocampa richardsae.
LichensA collage of vibrant lichens and mosses from the fjords and mountains of Norway. I took a whole series of lichen photos, trying to emphasize the variety in colors and textures, and searching for abstract compositions. The landscape up in the mountains is so bizarre! Once you get over the tree line, where all you see are lichens and boulders, it's completely alien, especially if you are walking inside a cloud. One thing that surprised me is how thick the lichens and mosses get. They are like are cushions, I saw some up to 6 inches thick, soft and plushy like down pillows. And some seem squishy but when touched they are brittle and sharp. I decided to put this series together as a single image, which made for quite a huge file. This is 16,000 x 16,000 pixels, the biggest file I've worked with to this day. It could be printed as a 8x8 feet wall at 150dpi and look super sharp from way up close.
Trogon GreensMale Amazonian trogon (Trogon ramonianus) showcases his shimmering back feathers in the Amazonian rainforest of Alta Floresta, Brazil. Trogons are ancient and mysterious creatures. They move as if in slow motion, observing everything with robotic and meticulous head twists. This male trogon perched on a branch next to our observation tower, the green of the forest was no match for his iridescent green feathers.
Melbourne AbstractscapeFour distinctive skyscrapers compete for attention in an abstract cityscape in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Skyscrapers in Melbourne have a huge variety of colors and styles. I took this pic from the park in front of the library. I know which building is in front of which, but my brain still has a hard time accepting it.
A Sword of Fire and IceAn icy lake reflects a piercing shaft of light from the morning sun, with its disc clearly delineated thanks to the thick fog of Tule Lake, California. The constantly-moving fog created weird light conditions, in this case the sun shone through a temporary slit below the fog, creating a streak on the ice, while at the same time the fog above the slit was holding just the right density, revealing the sun's disk. The colors were odd, the golden rays filtered out in the fog and turned gray and eerie, tinting the shadows and creating a monochrome landscape.
Ascending Canyon LightA beam of light pierces through the tight canyon and hits the sand below, bouncing warmth around the tight walls of Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona. The perfect light in this narrow canyon only lasts about 15 minutes or so, so it is harder to get good images than it may seem. The best feature is not the direct light, but the bounced orange light shooting up from the sand back into the walls, making the canyon walls glow from below and saturating the colors even more.
Attempted Murder at Canby's CrossShrouded by fog, two ravens perch on Canby's Cross, a memorial on the spot where General Canby was killed, in the Lava Beds National Monument, California. A historical landmark on the spot of General Canby's killing, by a shot from Captain Jack of the Modocs, who was later hanged. I found no monuments for murdered Modocs nearby.
Beamed RockDuring a 6 hour hike inside the tapering canyons of The Narrows, a beam of light placed itself symmetrically behind a massive boulder. The turbid, brown water bounced the intense, golden light into the canyon wall, making it seem like it was lit from the inside.
BiomimeticsJuxtaposed to a reflected penguin, a woman wearing black and white searches for information in one of the terminals of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris My favorite shot from Paris, great contrast, color, and juxtaposition. I was on the interior balcony of the museum, and saw the lady playing with the touch screen controls. As I moved by, the reflection of the penguin from a lower level appeared. I quickly sat on the floor lining up the reflection into the darker shape, locked my lens hood between the balcony's bars to avoid shake, and took two shots before the lady moved away. The shifting hues of the museum lights gave a nice set of complimentary colors.
Blood CrossThe Getty Villa is a great location to find compositions with reflections and transparencies. This cross, over a deep blood red floor, stood out to me as soon as I entered the room. The reflection of the windows looked like claw marks of a giant beast trying to escape.
Flower DevourerChestnut-eared aracari (Pteroglossus castanotis) devours flowers at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve, Brazil. This was our first morning in the Pantanal, I woke up and walked outside where I spotted this gorgeous aracari, very close to our room. He methodically devoured about a dozen of the flowers, and then left.
Specter, by Sterling RubyAn orange monolith sits in the desert, lit by flashlights, moonlight, and the blinking lights of nearby Windmills. An installation by Sterling Ruby for DesertX 2019, at Whitewater, California. We spent a weekend hunting for installations spread around the Coachella Valley for the DesertX open art exhibit. We arrived at "Specter", the orange shipping container by Sterling Ruby, late at night. It didn't have the fluorescent effect that it's supposed to have with daylight, but being there at night with no one around made it more ghostly. I experimented with light painting in different ways. This combination of a flashlight almost to the surface with the wavy streak from running around with my headlamp had the most interesting effect. The red lights reflected on it are from windmills far on the opposite side of the valley.
Burnt and YellowNew aspen trees grow among the charred remains of the previous forest, near the Grand Canyon's North Rim, Arizona. This area had a fascinating contrast of yellow and black, and the gray sky made it even more striking. A blue sky would've detracted from the intense saturation of the yellows. The clouds were low and moving fast, so I waited until one cast a shadow that broke up the solid yellow area into more dynamic bands.
Jupiter TwilightA hazy gray sky partially obscures a Jovian sunset, seen from an observation tower in the Amazonian rainforest of Alta Floresta, Brazil. We watched the sun set from above the tall canopies of Alta Floresta, near the Cristalino River. The sky was lightly fogged and muted, so I color balanced the image to emphasize a purely gray sky, to contrast against the saturated sun. The equal brightnesses with the extreme differences in saturation makes the sun shimmer.
Catacombs ArmyA wall stretches down a curved corridor, made from a small collection of the over 6 million skeletons that inhabit The Catacombs of Paris, France. They don't allow tripods at The Catacombs, and I wanted to shoot at f/11 to get a sharper foreground, which meant a very long exposure. I gathered a little pile of pebbles on the ground, rested the camera on them, and got my sharp 8 second exposure that way. The artificial lights make it hard to find good spots, I prefer it when the light is diffused, indirect, more natural. Finding foreground elements is really tough, this was one of few curved walls that allowed this sort of foreground/background play.
Cinnamon BearA black bear takes a breath of fresh air among the flowers, and stares up towards the sun, at the Glacier National Park.
PetroglyphedA raven (Corvus corax) and his twin shadow glide over an immense sandstone wall adorned with stripes of desert varnish, at the White House Ruins of Canyon de Chelly, Navajo Nation. I spent most of my time down at the ruins taking pictures of birds. The alcoves and enormous sheer cliffs made for a great background of colors and lines. I chased a kestrel around as he hunted, and also saw two golden eagles being chased by the ravens. This was my favorite image of those walls. I have others of multiple ravens with even more shadows and with colorful backgrounds, but the simplicity of this one made it much more striking.
Crater Lake EclipseWizard Island sits awash in a strange color palette or orange and purple during the “super blood moon” eclipse of 2015, seen from a location near the Lightning Springs Picnic Area, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. I found my perfect spot at Crater Lake for the super blood moon eclipse, and planted myself there hours before the event. I was totally isolated on the tip of that protruding rock, waiting with the cold, the wind, and the changing sounds of birds. This spot by the Lightning Springs Picnic Area has outstanding views.
Rosella HaloCrimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) opens its beak, framed by a bokeh halo of sunlight shining through leaves, at the Tidal Overlook Circuit of Wilsons Promontory, Australia. I was following a group of rosellas at the Tidal Overlook Circuit, near Whale Rock. This guy flew off to a nearby branch, so I quickly moved to frame him with a bokeh halo, created by the sun shining behind trees. The trickier part of this photo was the small amount of time I had to get ready, and since my focus point was in the center, I had to first focus on the head, then reframe, then snap the photo. Better settings would've made it easier, but when you only have a few seconds to react, you make use of whatever quick options you have.
IsenmoutheLight erupts in the sky over the intricate sand tufa of Mono Lake, California. Whenever I try and set up for a good sunset or sunrise composition at Mono Lake, things just never work as I plan them. The sky is unpredictable, and in order to line up elements in the ground and sky I have to keep mobile and react quickly to the shifting clouds. I had set up for the "perfect" horizontal sunset shot, aiming west, but had to forget that whole setup when this cloud lit up towards the north east, almost straight above.
Devil's Cornfield SproutsAmong the endless sands of the Devil's Cornfield of Death Valley, these new sprouts were breaking through the crust and lifting shards of sand as if they were trapdoors.
Dry ReflectionA tree sits over crackled caps of fossilized sand dunes, seeing its reflection on a tiny plant growing from the sand, at White Pocket, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona. There's a tree in White Pocket, the most contrasting shape among the hardened, ancient sand dunes. There is a little pool of water that gets surreal reflections of this tree, but I found this dry mirroring in the sand equally interesting. The vertical crack completed the effect by aligning the two subjects.
Robin HunterA vibrant eastern yellow robin (Eopsaltria australis) captures an insect for lunch, at the Tidal Overlook Circuit, Wilsons Promontory, Australia. They were really hard to shoot! The robins moved too fast and didn't want to be near me or my camera. I had my cam settings ready and waited for it to give me a split second where it stood still. I got this shot, and then he moved on. I was very lucky to catch it with the bug in its beak.
Eiffel Fairy DustEiffel Tower on a long and shaky exposure during the nightly show that repeats every hour from sundown to 1:00 am, in Paris. Since the strobing white lights blinked at unimaginable speeds, I was able to shake the camera around extremely fast in my hands during a 1 second exposure, and make everything blurry except for the bright flashes. I tried this a billion times during and embarrassing public display. I picked the photo that had the best circular shakes and looked the most like fairy dust. This take also caught a dynamic lens flare from a street lamp.
EmergeA fallen tree emerges from the low fog that blankets the Cristalino River every morning in the Amazonian rainforest of Alta Floresta, Brazil. We got up very early every day to head to our hikes. Since you can only move around in boats for the majority of the areas, our journey always started with a brief trip through the foggy Cristalino River. The fog is dense, but vanishes quickly once the direct sunlight hits it.
End of the RoadBright flags mark the end of the road as the highway is closed for the winter, at the North Cascades National Park, Washington. We knew we would not be able to drive all the way through the North Cascades Highway, but on a gray and snowy day an untouched road with fresh snow is too beautiful to pass. The end of the road was highlighted by flags of the most surreal orange color, with the highway markings lightly visible underneath the translucent, thin layer of fresh snow.
Enslaved FamilyDespite the indispensable job zoos are responsible for, I find it hard to look at the caged animals without feeling sad for their trapped existence. I caught this moment, with the chimpanzee's clenched fist behind bars, while the baby was cuddled in his sleep.
Eye SlitSunset in Lamar Valley. A herd of bison approached us and I stayed still until they were close enough to get a close up of the sparkling light over the slitted eye.
Fern StreamA refreshing creek flows smoothly in a cove of ferns near Watson Falls, North Umpqua River Basin, Oregon. I took this pic on the hike to Watson Falls, by the 138 freeway. The main falls were a bit dry, but the stream below was very beautiful and created a cove of ferns and silky water. I let the exposure linger for half a second, to record the softness of the flow.
Flaming FoliageA fiery cluster of slender trees stands out among the greenery, over a creek near Haukeli, Norway. Fall colors were everywhere in Norway, but they were usually very dense orange-browns and it was hard to find many bright yellows and reds among them, other than in isolated trees. We were driving near Haukeli and from the road we spotted this cluster of trees. We did a u-turn, found a spot to park and I ran over on the side of the freeway to get a good vantage point. I was lucky to find one spot where the view was clear and with nothing blocking in the foreground, there was no way to move around since a deep ditch with a creek was right in front of me.
Framed PastWindow in an abandoned construction site looks like a painting on a wall, as it frames the overgrown and decaying landscape outside, in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay. We befriended a security guard, who let us take some photos at the IPS complex that was abandoned back in 1995, before construction was completed. In one of the forgotten rooms, I noticed how a window framed the scene outside as if it were a picture hanging on a wall. I pushed the lens distortion to give us a feeling of falling into the photo.
Glowworms - Meteor GrottoLike a meteoric rain, stocky droplets of mucous from a glowworm sparkle suspended in a miniature cavern, in Melba Gully, Great Otway National Park, Australia. This series was taken at Melba Gully (a rainforest walk in the Great Otway National Park) and at the Glowworm Tunnel (an abandoned train tunnel in the Wollemi National Park, near the Blue Mountains). The glowworms are fly larvae from a fungus gnat from the Keroplatidae family. This species is tiny, the worm about 1 cm, the gooey web cave they build around 3 cm wide or so. The larvae build a structure composed of a horizontal mucous tube suspended by a network of threads attached to rocks, bark or soil. They can turn around in the tube and move back and forth. They build snares, much like spiderwebs, decorated by sticky droplets that glow in the blue light emitted by their tails, attracting small insects. The species pictured in this series is Arachnocampa richardsae.
All-Seeing Red EyeAn eye in the sky flares down warm light into a tight wall of sandstone at Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona. I got the photographer’s pass so that I wouldn’t have to hurry following a guide around, allowing me to take my time. And then I saw the all-seeing red eye of Sauron, or perhaps the Illuminati, or Randall Flagg, or Horus, or whoever. The stratified, sensual shapes in the canyon make it almost impossible to take a boring photograph, but it’s sometimes hard to get one that emphasizes clarity over chaos.
Golem SoupA composite of the endless forms most beautiful that evolve from the bubbling mud of the Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This is a composite of a bunch of images taken in succession, in an interval of just a few minutes. I held my composition tight on a very active area of the mud pot, and hit the shutter whenever I felt a big blob about to erupt. Then I merged the best moments from these shots into a single image, creating a landscape of alien creatures.
Grampians Golden FieldField of canary-grass grows underneath a clean blue sky, and the southern ends of the towering sandstone mountains of the Grampians National Park, Australia. We were on our way to Bryan Swamp, a little detour before entering the Grampians National Park, when we came upon this endless golden field. It was extremely hot outside, but we decided to stop the car and join the grasshoppers outside. A few minutes after taking this photo, wispy clouds showed up, but I liked this super simple and graphic version of the pic the most.
Gray WavesChaos of sandstone waves create a disorienting painting of curves and shadows at Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona. The light patterns and curved shapes are so abstract in Antelope Canyon, that sometimes the concept of up or down seems meaningless, the rocks are but a frozen crashing wave twirling around you.
Fiery LandingTwo great blue herons (Ardea herodias) meet at their nest, safely built away from predators in the middle of the Salton Sea, California. I kept my eye on this nest for a while, waiting for the great blue heron nesting it it to strike a nice pose, but was instead greeted by a second heron coming home for the evening. I love shooting against the reflecting sun, because the light is strong enough for fast speed shooting and I can get very delicate frames full of feathery details.
Headless Pink AngelA headless statue contemplates the Steps To Christ inside one of the many bizarre shrines in Salvation Mountain, California. When I entered this small room, sunlight was hitting the wall to my right and bouncing back softly onto the statue, casting a golden glow everywhere. The pink book with the image of Jesus made for an interesting punch of color, mimicking the splattered blob of pink that I placed where the statue's head would've been.
Heddal CrossThe Heddal stave church, constructed in the early 13th century, sits under a stormy sky, surrounded by tombstones, in Heddal, Norway. We saw 7 or so stave churches during our trip, named by their specific type of timber framing construction. I wanted a unique angle for the Heddal church. After walking around for a while, I went behind the rock walls and found this corner that let me frame one of the tombstone crosses and the entrance to the left. By letting my camera sit on the rock wall I was able to get a multiple exposure HDR and get some details in the stormy skies, while still keeping a low contrast image overall.
Hovering DragonShooting swift dragonflies which hover only briefly before abruptly moving away was a challenge. I tired my shoulders holding the telephoto up and darting it back and forth with quick manual focus pulls. Luckily, it was a bright and sunny day at Trout Lake, and I was able to freeze the wings in mid-air.
Hue ThresholdWe took a trip to Bishop on the 395 freeway to see the display of fall colors. By North Lake, near Aspendell, the colors were vibrant and varied, and the white aspen tree trunks were reflecting the blue from the sky.
Immaculate InfestationMy mom's nativity scenes have always been unusual. On the year of this photo, we decorated it with an infestation of cicada husks. This picture consisted of multiple images hand-lit by a flashlight, and then combined into one final additive-mode composite to get the extreme lighting effects.
Iridescent FogMoon halo shines a full spectrum of light next to the colorful night lights by the water tower of Tule Lake, California. We were out for a night of shooting in the dark and fog once more, passing by the town of Tule Lake. We stopped on the main road when seeing this sight. I loved the variety of street light colors in this area, and the moon surrounded by all of the colors at once. It's impossible to shoot this without blowing out the whites and crunching the blacks, so I took 3 long exposures (half a second to three seconds) and had the HDR merge take care of mixing for a proper dynamic range.
Ketchum Creek FallsNew snow settles over the trees in the higher elevations while the water of Ketchum Creek Falls flows down into Gorge Lake, in the North Cascades National Park, Washington. We had to turn around as the snow began to fall at the higher elevations of the North Cascades Highway, we couldn't make through all the way. Once on the lower elevations, the snow storm above could be seen as a layer of fog covering the pine forest. We stopped at this waterfall right on the side of the road. The transition from snow to green trees to bare rocks was interesting and diverse.
Liquid SnowPast sunset, the white crystals that form the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs reflect the soft light of the darkening sky. At Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I enjoy shooting in this area past sunset, the area is deserted from tourists, the light is soft and creamy, and the warm steam diffuses the colors even further, creating a milky landscape of boiling waters.
ManzanarA memorial for those who suffered the injustice of a concentration camp in US soil. The monument’s Japanese Kanji characters read, “Soul Consoling Tower” on the front and “Erected by the Manzanar Japanese, August 1943” on the back.
Memories For SaleA mirror opens a portal into a forgotten memory at the Mauerpark flea market, Berlin. One of my favorite shots from the trip. We were at the busy flea market in Mauerpark on a warm Saturday afternoon. I saw the woman reflected in the hanging mirror, so I hung around the far end of the antiques table and waited for a good shot.
Meteor Crater Observatory RuinsFramed between two distant mesas, the ruins of the old Meteor Crater Observatory slowly erodes into the desert landscape near Winslow, Arizona. This observatory was opened right on the old Route 66 in the 1930's, where you could pay 25 cents to look at the meteor crater through their telescope. It was abandoned in the 1950's. The ruins seem like a castle, a strange apparition in the middle of the desert. By using a super telephoto lens, I was able to frame this ancient building with two distant mesas that shared complementary shapes.
Mexican Hat ArchThe balanced rock known as Mexican Hat emerges through the falling snow, at Mexican Hat, Utah. It was snowing hard when we drove by Mexican Hat, and the rock wasn't visible from the road. As we approached, the silhouette revealed itself slowly. I found a complementary natural curve that flowed well with the background, creating a clean arc across the image. The snow offered a sense of scale and distance.
JörmungandrA 350 feet long metal serpent slithers under the light of the Pleiades. This sculpture by Ricardo Breceda inhabits the desert road of Borrego Springs, California. I tried some light painting during a 30 second exposure, walked around the sculpture aiming my headlamp at it, then placed some extra strokes of light here and there. The full body and tail are there, but too distant, dark, and small to see. Going to Borrego Springs feels like hunting for Pokémon. The sculptures by Ricardo Breceda are scattered all over, some right by the main road, some in the middle of nowhere, and one can't help but go visit each one of them and try to see them all.
Paramount SpecterSpectral apparition of a child soldier carrying a Nerf crossbow, shot through the window of a western church movie set at Paramount Ranch, California. A group of kids were playing a capture the flag Nerf battle, the church was the spawning base of this kid, who was patrolling around the building a bit bored since all the action was in the middle of the battlefield. The dirty window added a diffuse glow. The far background and the reflected background are both sharp, leaving the kid in the middle soft and ghostly.
Mieles de Fuego
Milk BowlCapturing exploding mud bubbles took a lot of patience, fast reflexes, and a faster shutter speed. I was aiming for violent, jagged monsters of mud, but my favorite pic ended up being this simple, elegant bowl, underneath a lonely, hovering droplet.
Moon EaterWaxing crescent moon inside the metallic, piercing bite of Breceda's Eagle. This sculpture by Ricardo Breceda inhabits a desert road in Borrego Springs, California. I had to embrace the noise in this image, I needed a really high ISO of 6400 to get things sharp with the telephoto at f/16. I was looking for an original angle of this sculpture, since I've seen in photographed many times before. Few people care to take out a telephoto at night, it's a nightmare to use even with a tripod, so I gave it a shot. I had a ton of blurry images, but the ones that turned out sharp became some of my favorites from this trip. Going to Borrego Springs feels like hunting for Pokémon. The sculptures by Ricardo Breceda are scattered all over, some right by the main road, some in the middle of nowhere, and one can't help but go visit each one of them and try to see them all.
Bristlecone DiveDiving from an ancient bristlecone pine, a mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides) lets its translucent wings shine in front of a bright sky, at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California. I took notice of the spots the bluebirds frequented, so I set to find a composition using this elderly log, which is likely several thousand years old. The wood is from a dead tree, sitting on top of a rocky hillside 10,000 feet above sea level. I waited uncomfortably for the birds to return, sitting on the cold, sharp rocks. Several of them came by, males and females, briefly pausing on top of the log and taking off in different directions. I kept my aperture sharp, since I did not not in which direction they would fly off, and I wanted to get a sharp picture in mid-air.
Mud Blob CollectionAfter hundreds and hundreds of shots of mud in one day, I picked this diverse sample of portraits as my favorites. Sometimes I enjoy the simplicity of the shapes, while other times it's all about the chaos.
Nuclear BadlandsLoaded with bright LEDs, thousands of ATVs and RVs light up the desert's night sky, in this long exposure view from Font's Point, looking towards the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, California. 40 minute exposure from Font's Point in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Despite this area being great for dark skies, due to the massive amount of off-roaders there for Thanksgiving, the landscape was covered in clouds of dust and not as dark as it should've been. There were thousands of RVs and ATVs with bright LEDs all around the landscape. This shot was stupidly overexposed, I set the ISO too high for star trails, but I ended up liking the apocalyptic look it took. No tripod! The tripod would've vibrated too much over 40 minutes, so I left the cam on a rock at the edge of the cliff. The rock didn't move.
Cirith UngolTiny sand tufa towers, only about one foot tall, display their intricate, organic shapes under the starscape of Mono Lake, California. This is another experiment with the very soft FD lens, creating a milky blur that feels almost underwater. The light pollution was hitting the low haze, and just minutes after this that turned to a dim fog that obscured the stars entirely, and I had to stop shooting. I like the very soft feel of this lens, but it's extremely hard to find something to shoot, since every element needs to be on the same plane or they get blurry too fast. Something 5 inches behind would lose all detail.
Peephole PortalAs sunlight passes through a peephole, different wavelengths refract at different angles, and through a long and shaky exposure reveal a prismatic rainbow in the air. At a Motel 6 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The door’s peephole refracted a circular rainbow on the far wall of our cheap hotel room. I positioned the camera over the vibrant beam, and with a long, intentionally shaky exposure, I was able to capture a multi-colored streak passing through the ephemeral prism.
Pine SlugTwisted through thousands of years, a bristlecone pine rises its gnarly branches towards a stormy sky, at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California. This tree was on the road to the Patriarch Grove, on the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. The grove was inaccessible due to snow, but we got half-way there and found an area with dozens of gnarly trees and some fresh, untouched snow. Some can see a creepy face on the side of this tree, to me it looks more like a demonic slug.
Broken WheelA massive wheel of tufa (calcium carbonate deposits from the last ice age) sits shattered under the Milky Way, next to the dry Winnemucca Lake, Nevada. North-west Nevada is covered with wonders from the bottom of the ancient Lahontan Lake, which 13,000 years ago was so large that it went from California to Oregon. Only smaller remnant lakes are left nowadays, such as Pyramid Lake, and lots of dry lakebeds like the Black Rock desert playa and Winnemucca Lake. Tufa are spread everywhere in these locations. They are much larger than the Mono Lake tufa, and they grew in huge spherical shapes instead of slender towers. When the mushroom-shaped formations broke, they revealed their internal structure, looking like broken wheels.
Primordial OozeA mountain of acidic mud lifts from the fog created by the bubbling mudpots in a geothermal field by the Salton Sea, California There is a very hard to access series of mudpots by the Salton Sea, they offer amazing opportunities for alien landscapes. From the right angles, the steam covers everything, and randomly reveals mounds of mud that seem like mountains coming out of the clouds.
Prismatic WaveFrom a distance, the microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich waters of the Grand Prismatic Spring are abstracted into a wavy rainbow. This is the third largest hot spring in the world, located at the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. These famous springs are so huge, that they are sometimes best appreciated from afar. Taking a small path on the hills west of the springs, one can climb high up to a spectacular vantage point, where the colors and shapes are abstracted into a painterly palette of waves and rainbows.
Prismatic WraithsThe shallow terraces from the hotsprings reflecting a group of tourists, who appear like ghosts over the shimmering surface. I took this photo with the idea of flipping it upside down later.
ProgenitorA dilapidated windmill observes the new wind turbines and power plants across the sea, at the Nationalpark Vadehavet, on Denmark's west coast. On our way south through Denmark, we didn't have too much time to stop, but we still took a few minutes to pass by this coastal park right before sunset. When I noticed this old windmill I knew I had to find an angle with the distant power plant. Luckily there was an open field right next to the road with a clear view. I would've tried a multiple exposure HDR, but that's impossible with the moving blades, so I had to settle for a bit of an overexposed sky.
Purple EclipseNear Moran Point, I set up to take pics of the annular solar eclipse. After the ring of fire was gone, the sun’s silhouette was still partially consumed while it lowered itself into the purple canyons. The complementary colors were vibrant, and short-lived.
Sand Fire Power LinesPower lines lead to the hellish conflagration caused by the Sand Fire, which burned 41,432 acres in the Santa Clarita Valley, California, in 2017. When leaving work during a regular day, I saw a smoke cloud extending from the mountains to the north. I called my husband and asked him to grab our camera equipment, which he was already doing anyway after hearing about the fire in the news. We met up in a canyon road and drove fast to the location of the fire. We took a dirt maintenance road up the mountain, picking up a friendly photographer on the path, who didn't dare take the rough road on his own, and made it to the top of the mountains to get great views of the fire. Once the fire started spreading south, we decided it was time to head back. Fire moves really fast in such windy conditions, and it was also dark and the road treacherous. We got back to the main road soon after, and saw these power lines go up in flames, along with the hills we were just standing on an hour before. The area we took this photo from burned shortly after we evacuated.
Saturn's MilkA mud bubble grows inside another exploding bubble, in a milky-teal mud pool at the Artist Paint Pots of the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Sometimes areas on the mud pots have a clear separation of the mud and water, and the water can take some beautiful pastel colors. During this afternoon, the mud was not very dense and it formed extremely delicate bubbles, that moved much faster than the usual thick ones you see in the area. These more liquid bubbles are harder to shoot, since they explode much faster and timing and shutter speed becomes extremely critical.
SymmetrySay's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) hunts for flies in the fishbone and salt-encrustred shoreline of the Salton Sea, California I chased this Phoebe around for a while, the white landscape of the shore was perfect for high-speed shooting, and also offered a nice bounce light from below. I was trying to get a good angle in which the bird was facing me instead of flying away from me. I was really lucky to get this symmetrical shot.
Skeleton BoySkeletal kid holds his mother's hand as he walks the wet cobblestone streets of Paris. It was super fun shooting after the rain, so many reflections to look for, I was mostly focused on getting reflected images on the cobblestones. This was a great moment, when I saw the kid far away I knew I had to set up for a photo right away, I stopped focusing on reflections and aimed up. Even the pattern on his mom's clothing was skeletal, the colors all match up.
Spirit of the Caldera - FumaroleAt the end of a cold day, a bull elk rests next to the warm steam of the fumaroles at the West Thumb Geyser Basin of the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I followed the elk for about an hour, careful to keep him against the setting sun, and with the steaming fumaroles behind him, until he finally went to rest. I used no filters, instead, I let the sun hit straight into the lens by removing my lens hood, and by shooting through pine needles that flared and streaked golden light into the camera, creating colorful bokeh effects.
Spray of ButterfliesAs a boat is set out to launch at the docks, hundreds of sulphur butterflies congregate in a beam of sunlight on the short of the Cristalino River in the Amazonian rainforest of Alta Floresta, Brazil. Hundreds of butterflies gathered around the muddy coast of the river, while a group of explorers was getting ready for the daily adventures. There was a strong beam of sunlight shining on the butterflies, and the tall canopy of the trees was casting a thick shadow over the shore behind them.
SpunkSymbolic fountain spray over an Abercrombie & Fitch poster at Universal City Walk.
The Gates of ArgonathThe lesser-known tufa of Mono Lake, California, called the "sand tufa," stretch up towards a stormy sky. These formation are much smaller than the prominent ones on the shore, growing only up to 3 feet tall, but also much more dynamic in shapes and textures. I took these photos from way down on the grown, the camera resting on the sand. Tufa are spires of limestone that are formed when underwater springs loaded with calcium mix with an alkaline water base, such as Mono Lake, and it precipitates as limestone shapes. Once the lake level drops, the formations are revealed and the towers cease to grow.
Sulphur SwarmSulphur butterflies swarm by the muddy waters next to the Cristalino River in the Amazonian rainforest of Alta Floresta, Brazil. I took a few hundred pics of these butterflies, I would find a good angle and hold the shutter down. I saw them after coming back from a sweaty trip, having taken countless photos in the rainforest already. Unfortunately, my memory card was close to full, so I had to keep deleting images on the fly and shooting new bursts. I like the chaos in this particular photo, and how many of the butterflies remained sharp. I wanted to compress the space and abstract the butterflies against a soft background, so I backed off as much as possible and used a super telephoto lens to get this effect.
Thomas Fire - EmbersEmbers from the Thomas Fire light up a patch of trees and brush under a pink sunset in Wills Canyon, Ojai, California. The Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in modern California history, burned approximately 281,893 acres in 2017. We were in the city of Ojai, getting distant glimpses of the uncontained fire. The sunset turned pink with all the smoke. A distant tree flared up in huge flames, leaving only these scintillating ashes behind. Catastrophic events can sometimes hold an ember of beauty in them.
Tule Lake MinimalismMinimalist composition of sunset colors reflected over the frigid waters of Tule Lake, California. The lake area was getting too dark after sunset, and trying to get photos of birds with so little light was pointless. Since I had my telephoto on already, I looked for other interesting subjects in the areas that were still bright enough. To get this composition, I moved around to find a spot that showed a nice mix of colors and an interesting transition. I tried longer exposures too, for smoother waves, but the colors weren't as crisp and defined in those photos, I prefer the textures I got with this version.
Tule Lake Sunrise With A Thousand DucksDense flock of ducks and geese takes off from the frozen lake below and into a warm sunrise at Tule Lake, California. I was looking for precisely this shot that morning at Tule Lake. The camera ready, aimed at where the sun would rise, with thousands of ducks and geese in the water right outside of frame that could all fly at any second. I had to constantly change the exposure settings as things got brighter, reaching the limit without an ND filter by the time I took this shot, but luckily it was just enough to keep the sun properly exposed and not blown out. Unseen in the photo: thousands of other birds. Thousands upon thousands.
Venus Transit at the PierWe went to the Santa Monica Pier to watch Venus pass in front of the sun, hoping to catch a unique sunset from the beach. The theme park on the Pier was alive, full of people unsuspecting of the astronomical show that was on display next to them.
Golden StretchVisitors take a break in an endless field of California Goldfields (Lasthenia californica) in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, during the superbloom of 2016. I stood up on the edge of the truck's door to get a higher vantage point, and stalked strangers with the 100-400mm lens. The landscape was vast, unending, a lot of people simply sat down and got swallowed by the golden fields.
Wet JaguarJaguar explores the murky waters in the Pantanal as he searches for his next pray, at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve, Brazil. This was the first jaguar we saw (out of 5 on the same day!). We followed him by the side of the river while he was looking for food. He didn't catch anything, perhaps our boats scared off possible catches. I was the first to spot him, so our boat got a nice view for a bit, but soon enough other boats noticed us and approached and it became a madhouse of photographers. It's not the magical, seductive and wild experience I had imagined, there are too many people bothering the poor animals, and I was one of them and it didn't feel right. At least they are used to it, they don't seem to care at all about the boats that stop next to them.
Yellow Brick RoadA yellow brick road cuts through a hillside of wildflowers in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, during the superbloom of 2016. We found this spot while getting lost on the south end of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. We followed dirt roads, looking for a distant peak with a very golden dome of flowers. No roads on the maps seemed to lead to it, so we took random roads that looked interesting to see if we were lucky enough to find a way in. In the end, we ended up behind the peak we were searching for, on a beautiful road that followed leading to a solitary camping spot overlooking both the north and south valleys. An impressive sight, and with rocky formations very different from the silty soil you find in the plains.
Blue ChristA rusty bronze statue of Christ on top of a tombstone in the Montparnasse Cemetery of Paris. I couldn't get the camera to focus. I was shooting down towards this figure but for some reason the focus kept getting stuck. I couldn't use the viewfinder since I hat to stretch my arms up over me and blindly aim the camera down. I got the camera to focus after several tries, but I liked the out of focus version of the image the most. The splatter that looks like blood red comes from seedpods that gathered under the metal sculpture.
OrthancAn intricate sand tufa (porous rock formation composed of calcium carbonate) stands in a delicate balance against the elements at Mono Lake, California. This is so far my favorite sand tufa we discovered, the complexity of the shapes and the way it sits on the tilted mound of sand makes it look like the fossilized remnants of an ancient city's vascular system. We discovered two new areas of sand tufas by taking a 4WD sandy road on the south-east side of Mono Lake. The sand tufa are different from the regular tufa, they are much more delicate, smaller is scale, and more linear instead of blobby. They are not easy to spot, and once spotted there's a good hike in the sand to get to the different clusters. I think this cluster we found is much more intricate and iconic than the other tufas found near the touristy areas of the lake, despite being less numerous and smaller. They are nicely isolated against the sky, with clean sand beneath, and the Gigeresque patterns they spawn are entirely alien.
Dripping MooseI was walking around Fishercap Lake, where I was told that moose come to feed at dusk. I spotted two grizzly bears on the mountain across the lake, and then the bull moose showed up, slowly making his way through the shallow lake and feeding on the aquatic plants. He took his time feeding and approaching, eventually getting as close as 15 feet away from me.
Griffith DomeThe main dome of the Griffith Observatory aligns in front of the setting sun in Los Angeles, California. My first successful alignment. The haze helped, it was a bit smoggy and that made the sun darker, just enough so that I could get some detail in the city instead of it being a black silhouette. These photos take some planning, every day the position and atmospheric conditions are different. It's rare to find a good day with an alignment that happens in an accessible street or park, and where the sky is cooperating.
Amon AnwarThick snow blankets the Mono Lake Cemetery, overlooking the frigid lake with a single mound of tufa in the salty waters. Mono City, California. A few feet of pristine snow covered the cemetery that is just north of Mono Lake. I slowly dug a path forward and made it all across to the southern fence, taking some photos of the gravestones with the fresh powder over them. There is no clear view of tufa from the cemetery, they are all very far away, but with the telephoto I managed this composition. I wish I could've gotten the angel a bit clearer, but I couldn't find any other angles that included the tufa.
Petrified StreamA stream of 225-million-year-old petrified trees frozen in time over the pigmented sands of the Blue Mesa badlands, at the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. We weren't planning on going to this park during our trip, we decided on it at the last minute, and were going to drive through it rather quickly. We ended up staying there until sunset (they kick you out at sunset, which is unfortunate and idiotic). We needed more time, there's a ton to see, way too much. It's not a few fossilized trees, it's millions of them, stretching over miles. They are everywhere, you can't walk around without seeing massive fossilized trees everywhere you go.
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