When we were in Sedona a couple of weeks ago, I drove to the Page Springs Sanctuary in search of birds to photograph. Arizona is the winter home to many species that summer in Canada and I enjoyed seeing a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) during my visit to the river near the springs.
It was mid-morning and they were not active. They were perched over the river deep in the tangled branches of the huge trees. This yawn was the most action that I saw while I watched them. Didn’t bother me, they were great to see resting in this quiet forest.
Rain has been a rare commodity in northern Arizona for the last couple of months. When clouds started to roll in from the north while we were down there people were hopeful that they would drop some of their precipitation before moving on. The rain did come eventually and the evening before I hiked along the airport trail to watch the storm’s approach.
I was content to watch the blues and greys in the sky deepen with night coming. However, a break in the clouds to the west allowed for some color to break through and I turned my attention out over West Sedona’s forested cityscape.
There was an uneven stream of traffic passing below me towards the airport and the lookouts around the mesa. Long exposures of cars driving up and down the road to the airport seemed to work well with this sunset.
The afternoon I spent at Red Rock Crossing was a fun trek along Oak Creek but when the shadows lengthened, I trotted back to where I could have a view of Cathedral Rock. It’s an iconic location and with the evening light moving into deep reds I was enthralled by her beautiful cliffs and spires.
After a couple minutes of splashing around, the red color disappeared quickly, leaving pink clouds above and darkening rock below. It did not take very long for the stars to start standing out against evening’s blanket. A beautiful evening in Sedona, Arizona.
… Not in Alberta though. Bobbi and I were in Sedona, Arizona last week and we learned that there was one species of Hummingbird that stays in the area through the winter. In the spring and summer, there can be up to 14 different types of Hummingbirds there but only the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) will spend the full year.
I went to the Red Rock State Park where I had been told a couple of these birds had staked out the feeder put out by the park staff as their territory. Tucked off to the side of the visitor center, they have a sheltered garden with native trees surrounding a few benches and various bird feeders catering to those who overwinter nearby. The Hummingbird feeder is in a slightly unusual position beside an exit door and close to the large bay windows of smoked glass. I suppose it allows people to stand close to the window on the inside and watch these speedy fellows at close range. I liked the clean background afforded by the opaque window so it suited my purposes.
I believe there were two individuals that I saw but they never appeared at the same time so it could have been one, two or more as I’m not familiar with this species and could easily mistake the unique number observed. Regardless, I was entranced by their iridescent feathers, the speed and precision of these birds as I always am with Hummingbirds. It will be several months until they return to my home so it was a treat to spend some time with them last week.
Winter in Sedona is a relative term. I spent the morning scrambling over the odd icy patch but was in shorts for most of the day. It can snow here but only a few times a year. Coming from Canada’s frozen lands, I find this part of Arizona’s version of this season very appealing. I hiked around for much of the day and ended up at Red Rock Crossing in the afternoon. Cathedral Rock is a siren’s call for artists and I spent hours enjoying the views across Oak Creek and up to the red rocks. I love the colour palette with the gray branches of the dormant trees, the colourful rocks above and below with the yellow grasses providing a nice bridge to tie them together. A beautiful place to spend time.
That went by quick. Seems like things are speeding up and 2012 went by in a flash. I reviewed a large set of landscapes from the past year and it was fun to recall those moments. But, I was a little surprised that a year has gone by since I pulled together a list of my favourites from 2011. I suppose I have little control over how quickly time rolls – I will just continue to try to stuff as much into it as we go. Before I move with my camera forward into 2013, here are some images of mine that stood out for me from 2012.
The mountains in the Albertan parts of the Rockies pulled me close many times over the year. I really enjoyed photographing Mount Kidd from a new location in the fall. Above, the reflecting pools along Highway 40 just past Wedge Pond were a new place for me. And I enjoyed a couple of mornings down along the shoreline of Wedge Pond with the image below resulting from one beautiful morning.
I also was pleased with the images I put together from Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Jasper as well. The photograph of Lake Louise’s canoe cabin is subtle and is a vein of imagery that I am continuing to work in.
The view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the top of the rock moraine at the near side of Moraine Lake is spectacular – particularly the alpen glow in the morning. This summer I went up in the evening and was rewarded with a different, and equally beautiful, look at sunset.
This hoar-frost on branches stretching out of a small pool in the marsh west of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff provided for a nice abstract composition.
I spend a fair amount of time photographing wildlife and landscapes on the prairie. The storms in the summer can be incredible but the clouds this winter have been really inspiring. In the photograph below I watched a dragon form and stretch towards the east to meet the sun. Beautiful colours and great to let imagination have the reins.
Before the snow flew, I was working to photograph the warm autumn sunrises on the fields. When I had these horses approach as the sun cleared the horizon, the image really came together.
The sunrise photography extended west in Bragg Creek and the image below was made along the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22X) just east of the town.
In the summer I joined Bobbi on a journey to Sedona in Arizona. It was my first visit and is a place I was excited to return to as soon as I had returned home. The variety of landscapes in the Coconino National Forest and the time to hike into a few places were great luxuries I enjoyed on the trip.
Cathedral Rock is an iconic subject and it deserves its high standing with artists. Our first day in Sedona we walked along the river to the base of the rock and watched the shadows climb up the red rock. On a hot afternoon, I escaped to the West Fork Trail which meanders up the Oak Creek Canyon. The calm water, lush forest and red rock made many bends in the creek picture worthy and this was my favourite from a productive hike. And there were wonderful butterflies flitting around in one meadow of flowers too.
One of the evenings, I went out to the top of a mesa and photographed the night sky. It was a bit remote so I had the trees, the stars and a few strange sounds in the desert night all to myself. That was another side to Sedona that I was very happy to have experienced.
There were a few other nightscape photo outings through the year but the highlight was photographing the Northern Lights in October. I had missed several good Aurora nights through the summer so I was excited when I got to watch them rolling down from the north for almost two hours.
Later in October I was in Jasper on a wildlife photography trip. The animals were the focus of the week spent driving and hiking along the Icefields Parkway and around Jasper but this gentle scene where snow had just blanketed the valley along the Athabasca River demanded to be photographed (despite some good-natured heckling from my companions).
And in late November our family headed to Kaua’i the northernmost of the populated Hawaiian islands. Time dripped by and we had a great vacation. I had almost too much fun photographing creatures above, on and under the water and those are the images that first came to mind when I was looking back at our visit. However, once I worked through the catalog over the Christmas break, I realized that the landscape images from this year’s trip to the island were solid additions to my Hawaii portfolio.
We stayed a stone’s throw from Nukoli’i Beach on the east shore so the sun rose directly in front of us each morning. I spent a few mornings down on the beach photographing what the ocean delivered with morning sun.
The warm light following the sunrise provided beautiful illumination on the beach and through the waves. One of those places that is easy to spend a whole day shooting, painting or playing at.
We covered a lot of ground during our time in Kaua’i and one of the favourite places for seals, snorkelling, swimming, waves to watch and coastline views was Ke’e Beach on the northern edge of the Na Pali Coast. The last night in Kaua’i we spent at Ke’e and at one point there was a rainbow over the beach when I looked to the east and the mists and violent waves of the Na Pali in winter to the southwest.
A couple of days earlier, the spray kicked up from the waves hitting the rocks rolled up the forested mountainsides to create another magical scene.
An amazing lightning storm over the Hanalei Valley provided the last image for this collection. The rain held off for almost three hours before forcing me into my car and back to the apartment.
Hiking along the West Fork Trail in the Coconino National Forest in June was a nice break from the heat of Sedona’s red rock landscape. This trail winds up Oak Creek which streams down a long canyon which is both deep and narrow allowing it to provide shade through much of the day and creates a cool oasis to enjoy. I had some great landscape image opportunities during my walk which made it a great outing for me.
At one turn in the path, I came across a large flight of butterflies feeding at a large patch of wildflowers. The orange and black wings stood in sharp contrast to the flowers and the dark foliage.
My daughter loves butterflies and moths so I was happy to spend a few minutes to capture a few images she might like. One of many nice surprises along this casual path through the rocks.
A simple photograph of a lovely flower in the hills near Sedona.
The yellow blossom from the deep purple cactus were a surprising pairing for me. It was these complementary colours which drew me in and I worked with the shaded hedge in the background to isolate these two elements.
I enjoyed experiencing some of Sedona’s mystical places and the spiritual moments that have drawn ancient cultures and continues to pull people.
This trip was too short to really dive in but this photograph of the sun in the forest on the West Fork Trail near Sedona suggested something of the experience.
I went for a hike in late afternoon along the West Fork Trail which starts a few miles north of Sedona. The trail follows Oak Creek as it runs against the contours of the steep Oak Creek Canyon walls. These steep walls keep the heat found in Sedona at this time of year at bay and I found it to be a really nice temperature for a walk. The trail itself is fairly level all the way up to the very last stretch so it was less a hike and more of a walk. The forest with patches of wildflowers, many types of lush trees, birdsong and chittering insects was very enjoyable. I spent a couple of hours on the trail, stopping to photograph a small outpost of butterflies, reflections of the scenery in pools formed in the shallows of slabs of red rock and everything else that caught my eye. I saw this beautiful overhang of rock drawing the eye out to the greenery along the trail on my way up but it was a bit too bright for the image I had in mind. When I came back that way on my back down, the light had cooperated and I was able to create what I was looking for.
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
Bobbi and I are in Sedona, Arizona for a few days this week. We drove into the town yesterday and went exploring down at the Red Rock Crossing for a couple of hours until nightfall. I haven’t been here before so Bobbi is in the role of guide and I am the happy follower.
We went to this location which is split by Oak Creek. The cool waters drew a number of small groups and families offering respite from the 42°C (108°F) heat of the day. We hiked along the riverside trails and photographed reflections in the water, the towering red rocks that backstop the area as well as a couple of lizards. A beautiful place to escape the heat.
What makes this place a destination for landscape photographers are the views of Cathedral Rock and the opportunity to work with its reflections in the creek. At sunset the last sunlight of the day makes the rocks glow. Last night did not disappoint and I had a wonderful time playing with the elements at hand.