Landscape Photography

I don't know what to write about

Sometimes writer’s block can be just as bad as a creative block. For me this often happens when I come home with some awesome images I want to share with everyone, but don’t have a cohesive story to tell. I spent the last week in Moab, Utah (one of my top 3 favorite places in the United States), and experienced more stormy weather, and some serious heat for May. I slept out of the back of our SUV and didn’t eat much, ran into some friends from North Carolina, and genuinely roughed it for a little while. I woke up early to get to my photo locations and stayed up late to make sure I captured the last bits of light as they faded over the horizon, but I still feel as though I don’t have much of a story to go with these images.

So…

I’ll let the photographs do the talking.

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

Capturing Canyonlands

I spent the last few days chasing light and dodging lightning in Canyonlands National Park.

As I hiked around the Needles District, the ever present pop-up thunderstorm made exploring the wide open spaces a challenge. Despite those pesky storms, I managed to find a few good windows when the light was at its best.

For a few years now I have wanted to capture the essence of the desert in Utah, but every time I came home with images, I felt they fell short. So with perfect wildflower conditions this season, I have made it a point to seek out the best wildflower pockets around Utah, and attempt to capture the elusive desert image. I captured the below image as the final moments of sunset caught a low hanging rain cloud just above the cliffs of Indian Creek. I had scouted a runoff wash earlier and found a composition I believed would make for a beautiful sunset if the light began to go nuts. As usual, that composition didn’t work out, but luckily just down the wash, another fishhook cactus was in bloom and I was able to compose a composition before the light disappeared ( a matter of 3 minutes).

_MG_8078.jpg

Many people think of deserts as arid wastelands, and while some certainly are, most are incredibly diverse and dynamic landscapes. My wife captured 38 different species of wildflowers on her phone over a 4 day period. I managed to capture one. But to me this one image is the culmination of a lot of preparation and research, lack of creature comforts (i.e. showers, toilets, beds), time and calorie consuming leg work. Any more images I capture of the phenomenal display of desert wildflowers this year will only be icing on the cake.

Speaking of cake,

check out the smooth glazing on this geyser formation near the Green River. At sunset the waters change a myriad of different hues thanks to reflected light from the sky.

The finely layered pools of the geyser allow for endless intimate compositions. I could have spent multiple days exploring the 60 foot area picking out detail after detail. Here is a more traditional landscape image of the location. You can see the finely tiered layers as they rise towards the geyser.

_MG_7841.jpg

After I was done playing in the pools I headed to the Needles District and sought out the first image in this post.

_MG_7883-Pano.jpg
_MG_7888.jpg
_MG_7939.jpg
_MG_7952.jpg

Once in the Needles District, I hiked out to Chesler Park to get closer to the unique formations. Although the light wasn’t perfect, I managed to come away with a few good shots that I am proud of, including one panorama from right after a heavy downpour as the sun set behind the clouds.

_MG_7979.jpg
_MG_7993.jpg
_MG_8247.jpg
_MG_8222.jpg
_MG_8195.jpg
_MG_8273-Pano.jpg

Needing to get back to civilization before someone mistook me for a new species of desert primate, I reluctantly packed up my belongings (now coated with a layer of red earth) and began the trek back to Salt Lake City. I made a few stops along the way. One to an arch near Moab which is now all over the internet, a roadside petroglyph, and another lesser known location (which will remain anonymous) that required some decent rock crawling and low gears.

_MG_8321.jpg
_MG_8327.jpg
_MG_8342-2.jpg

What A Trip!! I think I returned home with quite a few keepers. Im heading to Arches next, to continue my wildflower search, so check back next Tuesday (21st) for a trip report.

All images © Andrew Lockwood 2019

Falling For Fall: A look at my fall images from 2019 thus far.

Every year after the wildflowers disappear from the mountain basins, I find myself scrambling to stay creative through the remaining Summer months. So when Fall comes around, I am usually overly anxious to explore as many locations as possible in the brief window when the colors change. This year was no exception, and I’ve been keeping busy up in the wild country. I’ve managed to capture quite a few beautiful images and some even made the last minute cuts into my annual Calendar, which is available here.

Light is fickle and oftentimes fleeting.

When an opportunity for the perfect conditions arise, it is important that you are ready with your camera. This past week we had rain move into the area that settled on the mountains just before sunrise. It provided me with the opportunity to photograph Mount Timpanogos and the fall color surrounding the mountain in all its glory. So at 3am I headed out from my apartment in Salt Lake City, and made the journey into the Timpanogos Backcountry, down a long gravel road, and along a deer path with nothing more than the light of my headlamp to guide my way (I had discovered the location on Google Earth [an app that I continually promote], while searching for unique perspectives of common landmarks). I came across the clearing and was extremely happy to find the aspens in peak color (the only mystery while using google earth). Because I had arrived with plenty of time to explore, I fussed over my composition for the next 40 minutes as blue hour slowly crept by. I finally fixed my camera to my tripod in the location I deemed best, and waited for the sun to crest the horizon and light the scene in front of me. About 5 minutes from sunrise I knew I was in for a treat as the clouds left of my composition were slowly changing a deep purple. I knew that if the horizon stayed clear for the next few moments, that the high peak of Timpanogos would catch the morning light and turn a brilliant red. The only other factor was the incredible amount of wind that morning. Because it was a storm front moving in, there was an immense amount of wind whipping the young aspen trees around making it impossible to make them sharp. I got lucky and got a few seconds of calm right as the sun crested and captured one of my best photographs to date.

The Might of Morning  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

The Might of Morning

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The image above is the culmination of 6 hours of planning, 2 hours of fumbling through the dark and cold, and 1/3 of a second in the eternity of time.

Fall was off to a good start, and I wasn’t sure if I could top the image above, so I headed into the forest to capture the more intimate side of fall. As the sun rose higher into the sky I was making my way deeper into the wilderness in search of a magical forest of gold. Around an hour or so into my wanderings I came across the forest I had been looking for and methodically began planning my image. The storm clouds were being held at bay by the mighty mountains, and I had perfect weather to create another lasting image.

Golden Hour  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Golden Hour

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

I’ve been searching for this image for four years. I always manage to take good images of fall color, but the elusive aspen forest has always been a step ahead of me. To say I was ecstatic when I found this composition would be an understatement. Finally, I found the image I had envisioned so long ago.

I returned the way I had come, and got back to my vehicle with a great feeling of accomplishment. It was now 10:00 am and in the time most people take to start their morning, I had already hiked 5 miles and created two portfolio worthy images. It was a good day.

After a few days of rain, I returned to the woods with my wife in search of more! I was struck with Fall fever and all I could think about was the next location and the woodland compositions yet to be captured. We scoured the hillsides along an old mountain road and I came up with an image that had I been alone, I would not have gotten.

The Art of Wandering  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

The Art of Wandering

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

Selective focus and a shallow depth of field can enhance a photograph’s story. By focusing on the trees in front, and allowing Anna (my wife) to be out of focus, the image tells a story of a person wandering through a dense forest in search of something. If I had allowed for everything to be in focus, the story would become muddled and the subject would be unclear.

Farther along the road we came across an opening as a light drizzle began to fall. Using my zoom lens I isolated the road in front of us as it wound uphill out of sight, and allowed the fall color to vignette the road.

A Path Less Traveled  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

A Path Less Traveled

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The light rainfall helped saturate the fall color, making it even more vibrant, while the dense cloud cover helped balance the image’s shadows and highlights. As we continued on, the weather began to get less and less inviting, so we decided to make for the car. I took one more image that day, a closeup of a single aspen tree with a maple sapling surrounding its trunk.

Aspen and Maple  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Aspen and Maple

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

While Guardsman Pass was shut down for construction, we ventured out along the Mill D Canyon and came across a location of tall standing aspen trees that allowed for a composition looking directly into the sun. I couldn’t resist taking this photograph as it practically fell into may lap. A combination of careful planning and a bit of luck went into this image.

Under Aspen Canopies  © Andrew Lockwood 2018

Under Aspen Canopies

© Andrew Lockwood 2018

The key to a good forest image is to find a figurative pathway leading through the scene. The sunlight on the forest floor in this image creates a path through the forest that leads directly to the beautiful rays of sun that are bursting through the aspens.

I am headed to Moab this week in search of Fall in the desert regions of Utah. Check back next week to see if I was successful, or if the weather shut me out!!

Chasing Fall Continued... Part 2

An epic sunrise, the right time at the wrong place, 30+ hound dogs, and a little surprise.

I arose at 3:00am ready to take on the world, checked my weather app (high clouds, YAY!) made a pot of coffee, and headed out the door to a location I had not been to. Looking Glass Rock is a stone monolith that juts out of the surrounding mountains creating a unique bubble like appearance to the otherwise tree covered mountains. I arrived early to where I believed I wanted to photograph Looking Glass when the sun arose. I could barely make out the monolith through the darkness as I set up my tripod. The sun was due to come up in 45 minutes, but there was no sign of light. Then all of a sudden the sky lit up and the scene in front of me became illuminated.

IMG_7926.jpg

I was in the wrong spot. In my excitement I had passed up my turn out and ended up on the opposite side of Looking Glass facing directly into the sunrise. As photographers shooting directly into sunrise is not ideal (with a few exceptions). We much prefer side lit images with well balanced light. Shooting directly into the sun negates a polarizing filter and also creates a dynamic range hard to capture in such low light. To make matters worse, a group of hunters had pulled up near me and were releasing there hounds into the forest. Some 30+ hound dogs were howling and running around me anxious to get on the trace. They ran off into the woods and could be heard for the next hour. Regardless of this interruption to my otherwise calm morning, I still managed to capture a few wonderful images of the incredible sunrise that occurred. Since I had missed my location I decided to stay put and not try to rush to a different spot. I noticed some beautiful scenes beginning to manifest themselves so instead of photographing the giant stone monolith, I began looking around me for more unique compositions. 

I switched lenses and began photographing the distant ridges, barely illuminated by the burning sky. The sunrise was incredible and the light lasted long enough to capture a few great sunrise images. 

IMG_7988.jpg
IMG_7937-HDR.jpg
IMG_8017.jpg
IMG_8037.jpg

By not running around scrambling for the image I had envisioned, I was able to capture multiple images I would not have otherwise got. This isn't always the case and I advise triple checking your plans before heading out; sometimes little mistakes can have positive results. It was a good brain exercise and kept me on my toes. After the sun had risen to a point that made the location I was at useless, I made my way to where I thought I had been earlier and found that Looking Glass was nicely side lit, revealing some wonderful fall color.

IMG_8079.jpg

Out of coffee and with a deadline to return home I headed off back towards home. I stumbled across a few hot air balloons enjoying the beautiful morning, as well as photographed the Biltmore Estate rather by accident. I saw an appealing composition and doubled back to take the image. It wasn't until I was peering through the viewfinder with my telephoto lens that I realized the stark white building amongst the forest.

IMG_8103.jpg
IMG_8133.jpg

I received a text while shooting from a fellow photographer (check his work out on instagram: @fixedlinemedia ) that there were kayakers preparing for the brutal Green River Race that takes place each year in November. I decided I had enough time to make it over to the Green River Narrows and try and catch some of the action. Little did I know that the hike in was almost as brutal as kayaking the rapids. After getting lost twice and taking a few more images (seen below), I managed to find the descent trail into the gorge. 

IMG_8155.jpg
IMG_8219.jpg
IMG_8146.jpg

As I descended into the gorge I was surprised at how steep it was. The roar of the rapids was quickly getting louder, and pretty soon I came to the rivers edge. The rapids here were enormous, and falling in without a life vest would mean certain death. I was careful to pick my way around the enormous boulders to a spot where a few kayakers were standing around discussing their lines. I politely asked if I could photograph them, and they were all psyched up to be getting their photos taken. These guys made kayaking the rapids seem easy and despite my fear of drowning to death I found myself slightly jealous I wasn't the one paddling the current. I don't photograph action sports, or sports in general often, so it was a nice change of pace from the landscapes I had been photographing earlier. Capturing the motion and the power of the water and the kayakers was a real treat, and icing on the cake to a great day.

Check back Friday to see if I made it out of the Green River Gorge to photograph my next location!

Chasing Fall

The beautiful colors of autumn last only a moment before they fade into winter. If you hesitate you could miss the opportunity to capture the show.

Over the past few weeks I have been traveling almost nonstop to different locations, trying to capture the autumnal display of the Appalachian Mountains. As is normally the case with fall photography I am exiting the season wishing I could have photographed more. This feeling arises from the understanding that during fall an almost endless supply of compositions expose themselves to the world as a seemingly normal forest bursts with color. On one occasion I spent the morning walking along the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good 3 hours, only to find that I had traveled a mere one and a half miles from where I began. I wasn't upset with this however because I captured 3 images I am extremely happy with. Each image is unique and tells its own story.

Although the good morning light disappeared by the time I returned to my vehicle I did not head home.  I noticed a good bit of cloud cover forming and decided to see what a view of my morning location looked like from an adjacent mountain. I was rewarded with this view and another image I enjoy.

IMG_7682-Pano.jpg

Staying out all day not only increases your chance of getting multiple images, it also allows you to scout new locations for future photographs. After the above image I went to Linville Gorge, a location I had been many times before but never photographed in the fall. I wanted to check out a place called "The Chimneys". The weather was turning unfavorable and my weather app was calling for rain by sunset, but I headed out under the understanding that I was at least scouting a place to return to if I could not create an image. I was able to find a unique location and I photographed it for reference to come back to under better conditions.

IMG_7720.jpg

As the clouds rolled in, the temperature began to drop and the wind picked up. Poor lighting and wind are two of landscape photographer's worst enemies. I decided to call it a day since I was in a new location and there were potentially dangerous obstacles between myself and my vehicle.  I took one final image on my way back to the car when the last few rays of light for the day peaked through the clouds.

IMG_7744.jpg

I was able to capture quite a few nice images in the 8 hours I was out in the field, and it set in motion a fall frenzy that I have been utilizing to capture the autumnal color as fall has progressed here in the Appalachian Mountains. Check back Wednesday for more fall photographic adventures. Until then I’ll be out looking for my next image. Enjoy!

IMG_7742.jpg