JHP Newsletter - 2009, No. 1, 5 January
Happy New Year! We had a very busy October, November, and December, and have enjoyed some down time over the holidays in the Denver area.
Travel: New Mexico and Arizona
We spent most of the second half of October and early November in New Mexico, mostly doing office work. At Rockhound State Park, NM, there was abundant bird life and we just had to get out and shoot. There was a cactus wren building a nest in a yucca bush right outside our window, flocks of Gambel's and scaled quail running around, and even a cooperative male Pyrrhuloxia (below left). These cardinal-like birds are found in the southwest, and I had never heard of the species before.
1/350 sec, f8, ISO 640
Tucson, Arizona, USA
(at 400 mm), 1/750 sec, f11, ISO 400
Tucson, Arizona, USA
1/90 sec, f11, ISO 800
We left New Mexico in early November and headed to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It was my first time there, and Jan had been there many years ago. It's a fantastic place, and "museum" is an odd name for the facility. It's more like a botanical garden with paths meandering through the desert environment with tags to identify the various species of plants. But it's also like a zoo because there are several outdoor, natural-looking enclosures for species like Mexican wolf, desert bighorn, river otter, and coati, and indoor enclosures for reptiles and arachnids. The most exciting part of our visit were the raptor free-flight demonstrations. They had two demonstrations per day out in part of the open desert area of the facility. The afternoon program featured four Harris's hawks being flown simultaneously (above center)! Most hawks are solitary, but Harris's hawks are social. Another highlight were the raptors that docents held at various times throughout the facility. We were able to get great portrait shots of a Harris's hawk, barn owl, and a western screech-owl (above right).
Travel: Salton Sea, California
In mid November, we went to the Salton Sea in southern California and met up with Maureen, one of Jan's birding photographer friends, near the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, and she showed us around. The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell and breach an Imperial Valley dike. It took nearly two years to control the Colorado River’s flow into the formerly dry Salton Sink and stop the flooding. There is no outflow from the sea as it's about 220 ft below sea level (Badwater in Death Valley is the lowest place in North America at 282 ft below sea level.), and it's currently saltier than the Pacific Ocean but not as salty as the Great Salt Lake. Shore birds love the new environment as do migratory water birds, so it's a great place to shoot birds. While we were there, we had great opportunities to shoot brown and American white pelican (below left); western, Clark's, and eared grebe; snowy and great egret; great blue heron, and even some burrowing owl (below right) that nest among the irrigation trenches for the fields.
1/1500 sec, f11, ISO 320
1/1000 sec, f8, ISO 200
Travel: East of the Sierra, California
We spent three wonderful days at Mono Lake in early December with fairly cooperative weather. There was light fog on the first morning and nice clouds on the next two mornings. Some of my favorite shots at Mono Lake were taken on our last morning there (below left).
1/15 sec, f11, ISO 100
(at 24 mm), 20 sec, f16, ISO 100
(at 150 mm), 1/30 sec, f11, ISO 100
Then we headed down to the Alabama Hills to the west of Lone Pine. It was a new destination for both of us, and it was our favorite stop in California. The Alabama Hills are comprised of weathered granite rock formations, including several hundred natural arches! While you might not know the area by name, you might recognize the scenery because "The Lone Ranger" and more than a hundred movies were shot there. The area is also famous as the approach to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental US at 14,494 ft, and we had a good view of the mountain from our campground. One of the famous shots of the area is of Mt. Whitney framed by Mobius Arch, but I preferred the view through Mobius Arch to the east, especially in the warm pre-dawn light (above center).
On our way out of California, we stopped in Death Valley National Park, another new destination for Jan. We were there for the largest full moon in several years, and were able to get some interesting shots of it. My favorite image is of Artists Palette (above right), an area with rock/dirt that has several different colors.
Travel: Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada, probably doesn't conjure up nature photography opportunities, but we stopped there in mid December to visit Maureen (of the Salton Sea) who lives there and who gave us a tour of various shooting locations in the area. We got great shots of Redheads (below left) at Veterans Park in Boulder City and Gambel's quail (below right) at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Henderson. We also visited the Desert National Wildlife Range and the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area. We'll have to return in the spring or fall to take better advantage of the great shooting opportunities.
1/750 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/750 sec, f8, ISO 400
Travel: Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah
We left Las Vegas in mid December as it was beginning to snow (yes, it's true!) and made it to Zion National Park, another first for Jan, to see it covered with fresh snow — a first for me. We had fun shooting the fresh snow on the canyon walls (below left), but the overcast skies really limited shooting opportunities.
Some of our most exciting shooting opportunities came at Bryce Canyon National Park, another new destination for Jan. It was foggy at Sunrise Point on our first morning there, and it created some very unique shooting opportunities. The lone tree below center is at the edge of the canyon, and it was covered with hoarfrost. As the sun came up and started to burn off the fog, it created a wonderful orange glow (below right).
(at 400 mm), 1/8 sec, f11, ISO 100
(at 32 mm), 0.3sec, f11, ISO 100
(at 70 mm), 1/125 sec, f11, ISO 100
Take care and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com