Ancestral homes

The Antiquities Act became law in 1906 in significant part to protect ancient American archaeologic sites as well as vast natural areas such as Grand Canyon. The Act gives presidents power to designate and protect these national treasures as National Monuments. Navajo National Monument was created in 1909 by President Howard Taft to protect these remote ruins from further destruction by vandals and souvenir hunters.

The red rocks that make up the geography of this area reflect their color back up to the clouds.

Navajo National Monument, Arizona

Navajo National Monument, Arizona

Betatakin cliff dwelling and Keet Seel are two major protected sites in the monument. The surrounding protection also prohibits mineral exploration and extraction. President Trump's removal of similar protection from most of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante National Monuments this week allow mineral extraction such as fracking which results in increased seismic activity which will destroy nearby ruins.

The pinyon pine nuts were a significant part of the ancient culture that lived here. When we visited, the nuts were ripe. Just outside the park, many people were harvesting in the pinyon forests surrounding the area.

Pinyon pine

Pinyon pine

Unfortunately, our short visit did not allow us to reserve a ranger led hike in Betatakin as the people in this image were enjoying.

Betatakin alcove hike

Betatakin alcove hike

Monumental Vistas

Monument Valley in Navajo Nation on the Arizona-Utah border is iconic as any location in the Southwest U.S. From early Westerns to Forrest Gump to car commercials today, the buttes serve as classic backgrounds of the West. I'd never been to this remote area, but several years ago, I got a shot from a plane window.

Monument Valley at 30,000 feet

Monument Valley at 30,000 feet

Sentinel Mesa in the top right is in Utah. Immediately below that in the right center, in Arizona, is West Mitten, Merrick Butte and East Mitten.

West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

East Mitten Butte

East Mitten Butte

The Tribal Park visitor center provides a terrace on John Wayne's Viewpoint of West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte. In the aerial shot above, the white visitor center building is in the upper center next to the large mesa. Two years ago, I ran into a man in a wheelchair in Chicago who said he was an extra in several John Wayne movies. He sure looked as though he could've been.

John Wayne's Point, Monument Valley

John Wayne's Point, Monument Valley

Unlike the red sandstone of the buttes, Algathla Peak is a volcanic plug--the eroded igneous rock that's left from an ancient volcano. It is easy to feel why it is sacred to the Navajos.

Algathla Peak, El Capitan, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Algathla Peak, El Capitan, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Just north of Monument Valley is Bears Ears National Monument, protected by President Obama. For the first time ever, it is expected that on Monday a president will remove the protections of National Monument land reducing the size of Bears Ears Monument by 85%. This will place thousands of ancient archaeologic sites at risk, make native holy sites vulnerable and open the land to mineral exploitation. http://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2017/11/30/report-trump-to-cut-crucial-landscapes-out-of-grand-staircase-and-bears-ears/

Capitol experience

Capitol Reef National Park has remarkable sandstone features. Cathedral Valley road requires four wheel drive to get through the rough road, but we gave up before trying to cross a wash that was flowing from the previous night's rain. Here's a view of Temple of the Sun monolith on the left side.

Cathedral Valley Road view

Cathedral Valley Road view

Cottonwoods grow along the Fremont River that bisects the park and provide a nice foreground for the sandstone features.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Mormons settled along the Fremont River in the 19th century and planted fruit groves and named the community Fruita. The Park Service maintains the groves and you can pick fruit to eat, and after a hike get some incredible fruit pies to eat and enjoy the view. This trail rises above Fruita and leads to a massive hanging canyon.

Cohab Canyon trail above Fruita

Cohab Canyon trail above Fruita

Rural Utah Autumn

Autumn in the Wasatch mountains in Utah really surprised me for the lovely rural scenes and dramatic color. Since there wasn't much fall color in Illinois this year, I'm still living off this majestic color.

Aspen ridgeline

Aspen ridgeline

Plenty of ranchland and horses.

Autumn horses

Autumn horses

Plenty of active and abandoned barns along the roadways.

Sunrise Utah Route 16

Sunrise Utah Route 16

Northern Harriers and other raptors searched the ranchlands.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Magical arrival

It is unfair to describe a hike in the Wyoming wild to be mundane, but a trail up a rise at Fossil Butte National Monument was lovely and peaceful, but not especially photographic. A ranger described some wildlife I might see, and I really wanted to photograph a badger. But no luck. The wind was fierce and darkness was coming on, so I needed to get back to the car.

Then I turned, and on the ridge of the butte were some bull elks silhouetted against the sky. Then I could see dozens, no hundreds, of elk in the shadows of the hills. As I got to the car, I was able to get this image of the sun setting.

Sunset, Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

Sunset, Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

As it got dark, the elk were bugling and crying out and you could hear the bulls battling with antlers clanging together. It darkened and the sounds seemed to get louder as the stars got brighter.

Milky Way, Fossil Butte National Monument

Milky Way, Fossil Butte National Monument

Here is some audio from my camera. Not great recording, but it will give a sense of the night sounds of the elk. At about 12 and 15 seconds are the indistinct sounds of antlers coliding.

Walls

Capitol Reef National Park in south central Utah is a long, narrow park encompassing a 100 mile long wrinkle in the earth (a monocline). It is nearly impossible to cross -- why early European-American settlers called it a reef, like an uncrossable ocean barrier. The Fremont River trickles through and sustained the Fremont Culture beginning about 500 CE. They left petroglyphs on canyon walls.

Fremont culture petroglyphs

Fremont culture petroglyphs

Some current residents keep watch along the wall.

Sagebrush lizard

Sagebrush lizard

Utah Highway 24 is the only way across the Park today, but pioneers brought their wagons through Capitol gorge, a narrow path between steep canyon walls.

Capitol Gorge Trail

Capitol Gorge Trail

Capitol Gorge still has remnants of the early electric lines that were strung through this access, and pioneers and later travelers added their names in the walls next to ancient petroglyphs.

Pioneer Register

Pioneer Register

These markings, too, have their current protector.

Scorpion

Scorpion

We left the red rock walls of the Park at Panorama Point watching the sun set and the moon rise.

Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Bucolic

Bucolic: origin from the Greek boukolos, cowherd or herdsman.

Driving in the Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake City was a revelation. I never expected flaming autumn colors. Or open range. With cowboys and dogs herding sheep along the road, and then around a corner more cowboys with cattle in the middle of the road.

Heading back to Salt Lake City on the state highway, I saw a little dirt road beckoning, and a quick exit led to a scene I won't forget.

Autumn in the Wasatch Mountains

Autumn in the Wasatch Mountains

After soaking in the wide grandeur, it was time to capture some details.

Aspen

Aspen

Twin firs

Twin firs

Utah Pastoral

Utah Pastoral

And I was readying to leave, the cows circled for a pleasant composition. A very fortunate detour.

Wasatch bucolic

Wasatch bucolic

Arches National Park

This park holds the world's largest concentration of natural arches. Landscape Arch is the longest. A football field could fit underneath it. The day started overcast, rainy and sleeting.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

There were lots of Ravens in Utah, and I really wanted a picture. So this fellow accommodated me and came by for a visit while we sitting and enjoying the view of Delicate Arch. This is the arch depicted on Utah license plates. Blue sky was starting to peek through.

Raven and Delicate Arch

Raven and Delicate Arch

My favorite, though, was Double Arch.

Double Arch

Double Arch

Three arches are in this sunset scene of the Windows section of the park under the snowy LaSal mountains. It's easy to see the one arch on the left. The two in the center are a bit of a challenge to spot.

Windows, Arches National Park, Utah

Windows, Arches National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah is one of the most remote locations in the U.S.. However, I had to wait for a bus load of Chinese tourists to finish their group photo before getting an image of on of its iconic locations: Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Then it was time to peer over the edge.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The northern part of the Park, between the Colorado and Green Rivers is called Island in the Sky and provides vast vistas.

Grand Point, Canyonlands

Grand Point, Canyonlands

A few morning clouds lingered in the canyon of the Green River.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Aliens on the border

Saguaro National Park is in the Sonora Desert just north of the Arizona border with Mexico. I drove into the western unit of the park near sunset. It is an alien world.

Here's a prickypear cactus with its arms open wide to welcome you. You may not wish to return the embrace.

Pricklypear

Pricklypear

If that didn't get your attention, continuing the welcome is Jumping Cholla.

backlit cholla

backlit cholla

Time for a close encounter with Barrel cactus. You can see one behind the prickly pear above.

Barrel cactus

Barrel cactus

After sunset, rich colors fill the sky and Tucson mountains.

Dusk in Tucson Mountain District, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Dusk in Tucson Mountain District, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

The ancient rulers of this land, the Saguaro cactus, great the night and the rising moon.

Giant Saguaro and tiny moon

Giant Saguaro and tiny moon

Fall Forward

The trees are changing here and some promising color seems to be on the way. Here's hoping some Midwest scenes such as these this year.

Bear Head Lake, MN

Bear Head Lake, MN

Devils Lake, WI

Devils Lake, WI

Eagle Cliff, Starved Rock State Park, IL

Eagle Cliff, Starved Rock State Park, IL

Iowa Farm

Iowa Farm

Cosmos

Mid-September in Illinois often brings foggy mornings. This year, the fog arrived today. I managed a quick walk to a nearby park looking for some images of trees in fog. However, the flowers were wonderful in the soft light, so I took them instead.

Sometimes the Cosmos cannot be ignored.

White Cosmos in the autumn

White Cosmos in the autumn

Purple Cosmos, Wilder Park

Purple Cosmos, Wilder Park

Looking out to sea

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Florida and the Caribbean looking out to sea and worried about what awaits.

 

Sunrise, Satellite Beach, FL

Sunrise, Satellite Beach, FL

Your angle of view

Black Skimmers are delightful to watch as they hunt for food. True to their name, they skim along the water with their lower mandible knifing the water until they get a fish to snap up, or actually the top one snapping down. This delightful day, I met a photographer who works at the Cape and we had a great day of shooting at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with some Skimmers repeatedly flying by us.

Black Skimmer fishing at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Black Skimmer fishing at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

They lose a bit of grace when standing on the beach. Black Skimmer's feathers were among those prized in the 19th Century hat craze and approached extinction.

Black Skimmers on the beach

Black Skimmers on the beach

This one is showing off the Skimmer's unusual lower mandible that is much longer than the upper one.

Black Skimmer and Royal Terns

Black Skimmer and Royal Terns

But I had no idea how knife-like their mandible is until this one scratched its head and gave a view from the top.

Black Skimmer's knife-like mandible

Black Skimmer's knife-like mandible

The flash

I hope you haven't seen too many eclipse photos to tire of them, since I have some to share. Never seeing a total eclipse, I wanted to experience totality so went to Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. I had an open spot in mind that I'd hiked to four years before in an area called Bell Smith Springs that had some open sky.

I got there early and a few photographers had set up tripods and families had set up blankets and picnics, and young kids played in the water catching crawdads.

 

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

I envisioned getting a reflection of the eclipse in the water, but realized the sun would be too high in the sky.

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Mill Branch Spring, Shawnee National Forest

Eventually about 50 people gathered in the area as the sky began to darken.

view 125253.jpg

Here's a composite of some phases of the eclipse.

 

solar eclipse Shawnee NF-363 composite.jpg

Although it had gotten quite dusky, suddenly it was as if the light switch was turned off, and the sun replaced with an odd slate blue ring. The corona seemed to spread and spread as the solar winds reached out. Later when looking at the images, I noticed the flares near the surface at about 3 and 5 o'clock in this image.

Totality. August 21, 2017

Totality. August 21, 2017

And with a flash, time started back again.

solar eclipse Shawnee NF-472.jpg

What awaits around the corner

Nothing is more important to a photographer than great light. Then once you have the light, you want a subject. Driving across West Virginia several springs ago, clouds were clearing near sunset. Then a rainbow began to form. The light was turning golden. I was moving down the highway, but no good subjects for a composition.

Then a sign for Little Beaver State Park. Potential. Speed the car in. A lake. A fisherwoman. The last light.

 

Sunset rainbow. Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia

Sunset rainbow. Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia

Summer Birds in Illinois

No need to travel far and wide, since some jewels will land nearby.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established 20 years ago from land that was once the Joliet Arsenal and is home to many birds, such as this Dickcissel and Goldfinch.

 

Dickcissel at Midewin

Dickcissel at Midewin

Goldfinch at Midewin

Goldfinch at Midewin

Morton Arboretum in Lisle has easy trails and hungry creatures such as this Oriole and Robin.

Baltimore Oriole at Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois

Baltimore Oriole at Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois

American Robin at Morton Arboretum

American Robin at Morton Arboretum

While looking at White Pelicans on the Kankakee River near Channahon, a Bluebird visited.

Bluebird at Channahon, Illinois

Bluebird at Channahon, Illinois

Looking ahead

Some friends are on difficult journeys. I can only hope to travel with them on some of the challenges as they try to see what is ahead.

Moonrise, Spessard Holland Beach, Florida

Moonrise, Spessard Holland Beach, Florida

Light, background, action

Waterbirds are wonderful subjects on their own, but they multiply their photographic potential by their settings and behavior. Fortunately, these three were out fishing in some great, morning light at Rich Grissom wetlands in Viera, Florida.

This Tri-colored heron was fishing among lily pads and moving from emerald green water to darker reflections. I preferred the emerald green but was happiest with the pose here in darker water.

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Little Blue Herons have a more elegant bearing and are shier than their Tri-colored cousin. I couldn't resist the background of pickerelweed that made this image.

Little Blue Heron in pickerelweed

Little Blue Heron in pickerelweed

The Great Blue Heron towers above the other two. As it fished in shallow water by the reeds, there was suddenly a great deal of action as its head twisted and dove under the water. However, breakfast was a bit too big and got away. Take a look at the acrobatic angle of the heron's head.

Great Blue Heron does the twist

Great Blue Heron does the twist

Raining there, not here

Summer afternoons in Florida often bring a sudden shower. It will sometimes rain on one side of the road and not the other. This scene illustrates the sometimes narrow band of rain, and the magnificent clouds that form in the subtropical air. The drainage canal is another common feature of the Florida landscape built to make land to farm and build on, sometimes with dire ecological effect.

This is taken at Moccasin Island Tract, a preserve near the St. John's River.

 

Summer Storm, Moccasin Island Tract, Florida

Summer Storm, Moccasin Island Tract, Florida