Aloha and welcome back.
Before we continue with the list of images I want to share with you the best locations I encountered during this year's adventures:
Finding My Way on the Hop Valley Trail, Zion NP, Utah
After hiking Observation Point in the morning I went to the much less visited Kolob Canyon area of Zion NP in the afternoon, looking for quiet, solitude and sunset. I had to wait out a storm, but eventually I found all three along the Hop Valley Trail.
I spent a couple of mornings and evenings in Devil's Garden, wandering through the hoodoos in this very pleasant park like section of the vast (but shrinking!) Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Just outside of the charming town of Escalante, about 20 miles off Hole in the Rock Road lies Devil's Garden. Light was good at sunrise and exceptional just before sunset. I imagine night sky and star photos would be excellent here as well. I visited during the full moon and only tried a few star pics from my campsite, which surprisingly enough turned out well. So yeah, definitely hit this place on a new moon and be prepared to be Wowed! For sure.
Lines (Mesquite Sand Dunes), Death Valley National Park, California
Raw. Intense. Windy. Hot. Dry. Harsh. Beautiful. Huge. Death Valley NP is an unforgiving landscape. Immense in scale and challenge. We visited mid May and knew that we were on the cusp of enjoyment and suffering and fell on the latter. We arrived in a desert wind storm and somehow managed to set up campsite in a stinging wind. Then the heat and overall dryness set in on our adventure to the Race Track-- that playa in the middle of nowhere where the rocks move-- and absolutely zapped us of our strength. Out of season, Death Valley is no joke. Highlights to be seen again one winter are: Zabriske Point, Badwater Basin, and the Mesquite Sand Dunes.
I found this little raptor while looking for desert big horn sheep in the eastern section of Zion NP. Moral of the story-- you never know what you will find so be ready and open to all things.
A Landscape to Challenge Your World View, White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
White Pocket is a world class photo destination. You could spend hour upon hour wandering through this surreal landscape of boiling rock and color. I say boiling rock because it appears as if the stone and rock surface of the landscape is liquid or molten, moving through the desert in lines and streams of color. This is a crazy beautiful place. High clearance 4WD is a must as it is a 2 hour drive over thick sand and desert dirt roads to White Pocket.
Sublime, Sequoia National Park, California
Have I told you before? I love these trees! 300 feet high. 26 feet in diameter. So perfect in their proportions they look absolutely normal. Completely in harmony with their surroundings. I. Love. These. Trees. They are simply sublime.
The Moon and the Box, Box Wilderness, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah
My trip to Utah coincided with the full moon and the moon became my travel companion. I came to know it high in the sky at night, lighting the interior of my tent and casting a bluish hue over the night landscape. In the mornings, I would follow her low on the horizon, trying to bring her into the camera's view. Nature is a gentle Muse.
Brainwaves, White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
More wildness from White Pocket. I was entranced by these sections of "Brain Rock." Rolling stone hills that, yes, resemble brains lying to fry in the desert heat. You've seen the commercial-- This is your brain on drugs-- well, this is your brain on White Pocket.
I originally planned to travel to Yellowstone and the Tetons this fall, but changed my trip to southern Utah due to the extensive wild fires and smoke that Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon were experiencing all summer and well into the fall. The whole point of the trip was to photograph wildlife so I was pretty bummed about the change, but cheered up when I found out that there were quite a few desert big horn sheep in Zion NP. In Zion, I spent three days looking for these majestic animals and had a few sightings, but really got lucky on the evening of the third day. I ran into two herds around Checkerboard Mesa in east Zion. This is my favorite photo from the encounter and my favorite from my 2017 southwest adventures.
Starry Night and Yosemite Flow, Yosemite NP, California
To be honest I could have put 5 "favorites" from Yosemite onto this list, but rather than do that I chose one to represent the beauty that I found in this incredible national park. We photographed a lot at night and felt that we had the park to ourselves. There were no crowds. No cars. No busses buzzing around. But the park was still so amazingly photogenic. I photographed moonbows in Yosemite Falls; the flashing lights from climbers' head lamps as they moved up the face of the incomparable El Capitan; and one night I photographed the graceful flow of Yosemite Falls under a starry night in the most beautiful place I have ever seen.