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

Which way, Mom

I was blessed to be with my mom Monday. She died peacefully at age 92 shortly after sunrise. I can't imagine how much I will miss her.

The next morning, I was thinking of going for a sunrise walk on the beach, but decided to go to a place where I see lots of wildlife. One thing I've never seen at the wetlands is deer. That morning, I was blessed with a doe and her fawn walking in the new light. As I turned, a Great Blue Heron flew to her nest to feed her chicks which were nearly her size. Some images below.

Last night my wife, daughter and I decided to walk the beach under the full moon. As we were getting ready to leave we saw a turtle emerging from the surf a couple hundred feet away to go up the dunes to lay her eggs. As we watched her, another came up out of the waves about half the distance closer. We turned around, and another was coming up a couple hundred feet behind us. As we were watching those, silently from up the dune line another came down from her nest and walked a few feet behind us, returning to the ocean. That experience lives in our memories, and not in any pictures.

 

Walking with mom

Walking with mom

Feeding the children

Feeding the children

Hoh, Hoh, the headless photographer

On June 29, 1938, Congress created Olympic National Park in Washington. One of the major wonders of the park is the temperate rain forests between the Pacific and the Olympic Mountains. I was hiking in the Hoh rain forest early one April, and no one else was on the trail as I walked deep into the forest.

Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest

I heard a woodpecker and stepped off the trail to follow the sound. One of my favorite birds, the Pileated Woodpecker was building a nest in a trunk.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

I then heard someone coming down the trail. As I looked, a man and a young girl were coming up the trail. The man was carrying a tripod--a kindred spirit. Then I noticed there was head on the top of the tripod--a human head.

The nearest town of any size is Forks, WA, and as fans of the Twilight series know, the area around Forks is inhabited by vampires and werewolves. And I had thought that was a work of fiction. I wasn't so sure now.

As the man got closer, I could see the head on the tripod was of a mannequin. I felt a little bit better. Just a little. The man said he and his daughter were out for walk, and the tripod head was holding stereo sound recording equipment. Gordon Hempton was an Emmy winning sound recordist and I've since purchased many of his remarkable recordings of the sounds of nature. He collects sound. He said just up the trail was a place he calls One Square Inch of Silence, which may be the place most free of human noise in the U.S. His book of the title of that place is part of his activism as an acoustic ecologist to help preserve the natural soundscape in National Parks. Here's an interview of him by Krista Tippett: https://onbeing.org/programs/gordon-hempton-silence-and-the-presence-of-everything/

In the interview, about 12 minutes in, he includes a recording of the remarkable sound of a winter wren. Here's an image of one of those little fellows I saw -- and listened to -- on my hike that day.

Winter Wren, Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA

Winter Wren, Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA

100, 101, 102

I travel Illinois for work, and occasionally practice in different courthouses. Sometimes, I would take a picture of an interesting, historic courthouse. About six years ago, I began a personal project to get images of courthouses from all 102 counties. I'd usually only add one or two counties on my way to or from a meeting. I was stuck at 98 counties for quite a while. A trip to visit friends in Galena last month helped me knock off the two counties in the extreme northwest part of the state. Last week I checked off number 100: Henry County courthouse in Cambridge.

Henry County Courthouse, Cambridge, Illinois

And then 101: Mercer County courthouse in Aledo.

Mercer County courthouse, Aledo, Illinois

And finally Wednesday, number 102: White County courthouse in Carmi:

White County Courthouse, Carmi, Illinois

I got a fitting historical bonus in Carmi to conclude the project. Down the block from the courthouse is the Robinson-Stewart House, one of the oldest in the state. Originally, a log house built in 1814 (with some of the logs showing on the side), it served as the county court until 1828. It was later owned by John Robinson, who was a state Supreme Court justice.

Robinson-Stewart house, Carmi, Illinois

Citizen Action

This is an image of Pectol's Pyramid on the Hickman Bridge trail in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Teacher and businessman Ephraim Pectol and Wayne County High School principal Joseph Hickman organized community members to protect the local natural features they called Wayne Wonderland. They raised money to hire a photographer to capture the wonders. Pectol showed the images to President Roosevelt who issued an executive order to create Capitol Reef National Monument in 1937. In 1971 Congress designated it a National Park.

For the first time since the Antiquities Act was passed in 1906, a president is now seeking to eliminate protections to our heritage that his predecessors ordered. Comments and petitions need to be submitted before July 10, 2017.

Pectrol's Pyramid from Hickman Natural Bridge trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Pectrol's Pyramid from Hickman Natural Bridge trail, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah