Sunday, December 21, 2014

Using my Bryce Canyon coupon

Every year KPCW,  our local radio station, has an auction as a fundraiser.  They get all sorts of donations and Julie and I normally find something useful to bid on.  This year I got a two night stay at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel.  It is a decent Best Western, but I am not sure where they got the idea to call it Grand.  Never the less, it is right near the entrance to the national park so I figured it would be good for a photography trip.

This is one of my favorite times of year for Bryce Canyon.  With the sun so low in the sky, the lighting can be tough, but if you get snow on the hoodoos, it can be spectacular.  I waited until southern Utah got some snow and the forecast was for mostly sunny, and headed down.  In the summer, it is busting with people.  This time of year, no one is there so reservations are a 10 seconds phone call away.

On the way there I did a quick stop in Red Canyon.  Even though this is just a tiny park along the highway, it could be easy to mistake it for a fantastic landmark.
This is the traditional view of the Bryce Canyon. The hoodoos are spectacular.  This was taken before the sun came up.  That gave it more even lighting, but you didn't get the warm glow.
Now we get the morning's warm glow, but also the very strong shadows.  Have to come back closer to summer to get the best morning shots.
There wasn't a lot of snow, but what was there was pretty.

It is hard to see all the detail, but there are so many forms of rock and types of erosion going on.
The bad news is that the weather forecasters were as erroneous as they normally are.  They forecast "mostly sunny" for a day and a half.  What that apparently meant was 3 hours of clear skies, followed by very overcast skies, followed by a storm coming in.  The red rock doesn't look as awesome in flat light, so I switched subjects, starting with some wildlife.
There were about 30 wild turkeys, running along feeding.  They kept getting close to my truck, but when they heard the shutter click they would scatter.
Then I ran across some deer, one of which was showing some real attitude. When he heard the shutter click, he ignored it completely.
The highest elevation in Bryce is about 9000 feet which is good habitat for ravens.  They are big and smart, but I think they get very bored when there are so few visitors in the park. I ran across two at different locations and each seemed happy just visiting.
Hard to tell with no real scale, but that beak is about the size of my little finger.
In addition to wildlife, I decided to take  shots of trees. Some were coated with ice from the clouds and storm the days before.
Everything on the ridge was subject to the icing and high winds simultaneously.  That generates interesting patterns and textures.
I love the star bursts in the icicles.
The trees in Bryce live a very tough life.  Trying to grow in such rough, constantly eroding soil, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters results in some very stunted trees.  This one looked like it was ready to walk off and find a nicer place to grow up.
This one has a very nice, almost manicured shape.Even so, it was growing at a 45 degree angle.

This was my favorite of the pitiful trees.  While it looks like it is barely clinging to life, the shape reminded me of a dancer.  Can't explain it.
I also found a collection of tree silhouettes to capture. This one was from Bryce Point before the sun came up.
I was challenged on the grey, very overcast day.  I found that by shooting back towards the sun, I could get some shots that looked black and white, even though they were shot in full color.
And another.
And my favorite, probably of the whole trip.  There is no post processing done here.  Just shoot straight  towards the sun with the tree in the way.  Make sure you don't look the wrong way and blind yourself.

And we end with a bit of a depressing view for someone in charge of trail repair.  How is it that the one on the bottom, probably the hardest to replace, is the one that fell out? If they don't fix it soon, there will be a big pile of them in the path.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Weird looking birds

Today we had some really odd looking birds at the feeders. This is the feeder right outside the office window.  This is a fawn, trying to pack on some pounds before the worst of winter arrives.
Then the whole family piled in, mom and the two little ones.
They are cute but I imagine they are going to consume the sunflower seeds of a thousand chickadees.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If you can't ski, elk

The skiing is pretty mediocre so far this year.  There isn't enough terrain open yet to keep it interesting.  I got a call from Chad Rexroad asking if I wanted to go hiking and trying to find elk to photograph. 

We left at 6:45 to get an early start and went  into a canyon a few miles east of Heber.  The hiking is a bit of a challenge.  You start on some road, but most of the real elevation gain (about 1600 feet) is done up the sides of steeps hills with no paths.  If you're lucky, you can follow a wildlife trail for a while.

We ended up seeing over a dozen elk, but none close enough to photograph very well.  This one is about a half mile away.  Elk are very frustrating.  Even though they are quite large, they are very timid.  In Park City, we have to let Jasper out to chase the deer out of the yard. 
 While we were out, the moon was setting behind a ridge-line.
Once we were high enough, we could see Mount Timpanogos. 
 At one point we could see 11 elk. These three were the closest, about 400 yards away.  We were trying to sneak up closer, but the snow on the ground had been through freeze-thaw cycles and every step made a huge crunch.  These were all bulls and they had pretty impressive racks.
 The scenery looking back into the town of Heber was nice.  This may be about the prettiest view I have ever had of that town.
Good exercise.  Goo scenery.  Lots of impressive elk.   Quite the morning!