Lori Carey Photography

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Camping under the Milky Way in Panamint Valley

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my friends, fans, clients and sponsors! You've all helped make 2016 a wonderful year of adventure for me. I greatly appreciate your friendship, support and inspiration. and wish you all the best in 2017!

ABOUT THE IMAGE: I've had many people comment that they thought this photo was done with Photoshop. It was, in a way, but not the way they thought. It's not separate elements composited onto a shot of the Milky Way (a "fake" shot), this is our camp exactly as it looked during our Thanksgiving week trip. It would be impossible to properly expose this scene in one frame. It required three frames - it typically requires a 20-30 second exposure for the Milky Way. A long exposure would overexpose the tent, so I shot another frame exposed properly just for the tent, and yet another (actually several until I thought I had a good frame) to light the Jeep. I didn't have my lighting kit, so I used a flashlight to light the Jeep. My Jeep is silver so it doesn't take much to light it and I needed to keep that exposure short, but it's hard to avoid a hot spot when using a flashlight. I then layered the three frames in Photoshop and "masked in" each properly exposed element to get the look I wanted. If I was doing this for a commercial shoot I would've taken more frames of the Jeep so I could really take my time and light all of the Jeep evenly, but this was just a spur-of-the-moment shot done with limited gear. I also used Photoshop to clone out the extension cord running from the tent to an inverter in my Jeep. So yes there is a bit of Photoshop magic, but it's a very real scene. And it's a good example of why I tell beginning photographers that learning to see the light and understand it is the key to moving your photography to the next level. In order to shoot an image like this, you need to pre-visualize the final image and understand how to handle the exposure and lighting for each element in the scene.

I don't usually shoot the Milky Way this time of year. I don't even bother to look for it. The galactic core - the bright and colorful part of the Milky Way- isn't visible in the Northern Hemisphere from November until late February, so it's not nearly as spectacular as it is during the summer. But it still is something to see! My husband joined me on a few Milky Way shoots this summer and picked up a few things, and he was the first to notice it. We didn't have a campfire so there was no ambient light to ruin our night vision, and the moon didn't rise until many hours later. The lights were already strung on the tent (using duct tape!) in hopes of a beautiful desert sunset that never happened. It was an exceptionally clear night, and this is the first time I've noticed the Milky Way in an autumn/winter desert night sky. As soon as we spotted it, I grabbed my camera and and tripod and started shooting. It was just a stroke of luck that the Milky Way happened to be positioned directly behind my tent and Jeep.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Living the Life

Rainbow in Johnson Canyon, Death Valley National Park

When I read other blogs about outdoor adventure, I'm always impressed at how they make things that I take for granted seem so daring and adventurous. I remember one guy spent three blog posts describing the night he spent in a cabin in the Mojave, filled with fear of noises in the night and hantavirus. I had been to the cabin and I couldn't stop laughing at how he described defeating what he was sure was his certain death. The thing is, he sucked me in and I kept reading, even though I thought his worries were ridiculous.

My articles in DrivingLine don't leave any room for embellishment, as it is I struggle to stay within my word count limit just to give basic information about the trail. The real stories are always left out. I write some awesome stories and poems in my head as I huddle over a campfire trying to warm my bones, staring at the stars or waiting for the sun to bless me with it's amazing warmth. I suppose I should put those thoughts down on paper while I'm still out in the field and feeling the emotions, after all I have pens and notebooks stashed in my backpack, my camera bags, and my Jeep. But the idea of writing - working - at the end of the day ruins the idea of just "being" for me. I think it's important to just enjoy the moment once in a while, especially for me because what used to be my time to relax has evolved into my time to work, and my days in the field are long and tiring. Once in a while I need to put everything down, let it go, and remember why I first fell in love with being wet, bleeding, too cold or too hot, dirty, and exhausted in the middle of nowhere where every decision could mean life or death.

Sometimes I think about what I could to make it really come to life. I'd love to live-feed from the trail but I never have an internet or cell phone connection.

"Maybe I should do videos. Video is really big right now." I mused out loud one day. My husband asked how much a good video camera would cost, and I shook my head. Good video is an art all on its own, and there's no way I could juggle serious videography in addition to still photography at the pace we've been covering, especially since I'm usually climbing up rocks and sliding down slopes, braving the elements as he relaxes behind the wheel of my warm and cozy Jeep. I don't even have enough time to do all of the still photography I want to do, which breaks my heart some days. We have to stay on the move and cover a lot of ground if I hope to make the trip profitable, there's no time to wait around for the light to change.

On our last trip I started using my phone to shoot some short video clips, thinking maybe eventually I could accumulate enough clips to do something with them. I'm the kind of photographer who practically never thinks to use her phone to take a photo (and when I do, it's pure crap because I can't see the screen in the sun), so actually remembering to dig it out once in a while was a really big accomplishment for me. (Note to self: my dSLRs are perfectly capable of shooting video, they are already in my hand, and would produce much better quality than my phone!).

I was hoping to have a relaxing holiday out in the desert and not put so much pressure on myself during our recent extended Thanksgiving trip, but I ended up pushing hard and working non-stop, bell to bell every day. We had been running trails for several days with base camp set up in Panamint Valley on the edge of the dry lake. The overnight temperature hovered around 25° F every night and wild burros tormented us with loud braying all night long.

Wild burro in Panamint Valley

It had been an amazing trip so far, but I was cold and tired and in need of a shower when I woke up before dawn to another bitter morning. We had completed the trails we set out to do and reached the "Where now?" portion of our journey on Saturday morning. Bill started a small campfire to take the edge off of the brutal cold and I put water on to boil for coffee (our water was only partially frozen. That's why we switched from a metal jerry can to a plastic one for water - we learned the hard way several years ago). We debated heading home and relaxing for the rest of the holiday weekend, a small part of me dreaming about that hot shower, but Bill wanted to do a trail in Death Valley that we read about in one of my books. I showed him on the map that it wasn't as close as he thought, Death Valley is huge and the trail head was about 120 miles away by pavement. There was a chance of rain in the forecast and I thought maybe it would be better to save that trail for our next trip. He was determined and it didn't really take much effort to convince me.

I spent the early morning hours with my camera, cursing at the fact that I never think to grab gloves before I head out from camp. It's unbelievable how cold a hunk of metal gets after a 25° degree night. It stings like a b*tch and I could only hold it for a few minutes at a time. I wondered if I was going to get frostbite on my fingers. After a quick breakfast we packed up camp, loaded up the Jeep, and set out for the other side of the mountains. We took our time and did some sightseeing along the way since we rarely see the areas along the paved road. Death Valley proper, in the tourist areas, was a complete mob scene. We stopped at Furnace Creek so I could pick up a new map and book and I was overwhelmed by the noise and the chaos. I couldn't wait to return to the back country. It's hard to readjust to civilization after spending time in the solitude of nature.

The trail didn't meet the expectations that our guide book built up, and we were getting restless. The sun was getting low in the sky and we knew it was time to start thinking about where to settle in for the night. I chose Johnson Canyon because it was nearby and the trip to Hungry Bill's Ranch would make a good article, so we started heading toward the mountains. And then BAM! a storm blew in. The sky darkened, the wind started raging and we could see a sandstorm creating total whiteout in the valley not far from us. We raced toward the mountains hoping to find shelter but the trail was rough going and it seemed like it was taking forever to travel a few miles up the alluvial fan.

A storm blows in at sunset in Death Valley National Park

We crested a rise and discovered another couple packing up their vehicle. We stopped to make sure they were okay, and they told us they had decided to head to town because conditions were too bad. They offered us their spot, but we thought it was too exposed and decided to keep going. When we reached the point where the trail drops into the mouth of the canyon, we eyed the angry storm clouds and realized that it wouldn't be a smart idea to camp down in the narrow canyon. I didn't want to be awakened in the middle of the night by my Jeep being washed away in a flash flood, especially if I was inside of it. We found a flat spot on high rocky ground to park for the night. We weren't happy about how open and exposed it was, but it would have to do.

The wind was blowing at 50+mph and there was no way we would be able to set up a tent. It was about to get dark, and we had no choice but to sleep in the Jeep. It's not the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last time, but the front seats of the Jeep aren't very comfortable and it's not much fun. I wasn't looking forward to settling in for such a long night. It gets dark way too early this time of year. That's not a problem when I can fill my time with night photography or enjoying a camp fire, but twelve hours squished in the front seat of a Jeep is a long, long night. It's even longer when the Jeep is rocking back and forth, buffeted by gale force winds.

It's a lot harder for a woman to pee in 50 mile an hour winds than it is for a man, especially when there are no rocks or trees around and the wind is swirling in all directions.

I needed hot coffee before I could bring myself to settle in. While Bill kindly unpacked half the Jeep to dig out the camp stove, some sandwiches and our sleeping bags, I decided to use my phone to shoot a quick video explaining what was going on for all of the people who always tell me that I'm "living the life" haha! I could hardly stay on my feet, and you can barely hear my breathless voice trying to shout over the wind. I was trying to explain that we were setting up for the night near the mouth of Johnson Canyon because a storm was blowing in, and that I wasn't looking forward to spending the night in the Jeep, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Subconsciously I may have been thinking to leave some evidence behind in case we perished and people wondered what the hell we were thinking being out there in those conditions! Even though the video wasn't the best quality, I posted it on my personal Facebook page when I got home. I was honestly surprised at the reaction to it. Despite the poor quality of the video, people who have never spent time in the Mojave and experienced the winds were amazed, and I'm sure the Death Valley scenery, or what you could see of it through the blowing sand, helped too. So despite the fact that it doesn't meet my "professional standards", I'm sharing it here.

I used one of my big tires as a wind block so I could boil water for my coffee. We settled in with our sandwiches and a movie on my Kindle while the last light died from the sky, and we pretended that we were at the drive-in theater. A hour or so later the sand storm engulfed us. We turned on all of the Jeep lights and watched in amazement. I tried filming it from inside the Jeep but by then it was pitch dark and even eight lights from Jeep couldn't penetrate the darkness and sand enough for my phone. Soon we we were napping on and off out of boredom, and when the wind suddenly died around 10pm it woke us both. Bill used the opportunity for a bio break, while I decided it wasn't worth trying to untangle myself from my sleeping bag. The reprieve didn't last long; a few minutes later the wind started up again and didn't stop until the morning. Our only saving grace was that temperature was reasonable and it didn't rain. We both managed to get a few hours of restless sleep.

The next morning the sky still looked threatening but the wind had died down to a manageable level. After a quick breakfast of leftover cornbread and coffee, we followed the trail into the canyon and made it all the way to the end at Wilson Spring before it started raining. Rather than make the mile and half hike to Hungry Bill's Ranch we decided it was time to get out of the canyon. I can't say it often enough, you do not want to be in a canyon when there is a chance of a flash flood. As we were making our way back down the rocky trail, we spotted the rainbow behind us.

We tried to race the rain home but it caught up to us while we were on Harry Wade heading toward Baker and it was brutal. We stopped at Denny's for a hearty breakfast and some much needed coffee. Other travelers hiding out from the storm told us that the Cajon Pass was treacherous ice and snow. If they closed the pass we would have a tough time finding a route home, but I was not looking forward to driving over the pass in those conditions either. I don't think we got over 10mph for the first 100 miles of the ride home, and the Cajon Pass had melted by the time we reached it well after dark.

Jeep outside Johnson Canyon during windstorm, Death Valley National Park

AFTER THOUGHTS: I know this is a long blog post, but a Twitter conversation I had with a friend right while I was working on this post seemed relevant. I had thought to make this part a follow-up post, but you know me - it would be months before I found the time to hit the "Publish" button and by then the point would be lost. My apologies to the tl:dr crowd, I know that attention spans are shrinking and sadly few people are interested in taking the time to read any more. I'm a voracious reader, so I can't relate. Consider this a bonus - a two-for-one post.

My friend and I were discussing an article by a female social media "rock star" involved in the outdoor industry. The article was a long whiny rant about how fake it all is, she pretends to be having a great time but the truth is that most of the time she is cold, scared, tired, hungry or something else. She said she spends 99% of the time crying because she's so miserable. Crying! The comment section cheered her on. I cannot believe how many people agreed that they were only pretending to have a good time but were actually miserable and crying. I wanted to smack her, and then smack her again because I felt it portrayed outdoor women in a bad light.

I could tell that my friend didn't understand why the article upset me so much, especially the gender connection (my friend is a man). Maybe he even thought I was exactly what she meant about women not supporting each other. But here's the thing - Mother Nature is a merciless bitch, she seduces you with her beauty and then when you least expect it she smacks you upside the head to remind you of her power. If you spend a lot of time in outdoor pursuits, especially in remote locations, there are times when things are going to happen, when you are going to be too cold, too hot, hungry and thirsty, so tired you don't know how to go on, you might get injured, and sometimes you might be afraid you that could actually die (once so far, a valuable lesson learned about dehydration a long time ago). It comes with the territory, get used to it. Most of us who spend a lot of time in the wilderness thrive on the challenge of overcoming the difficulties. That's what gives us stories to tell. If you are completely miserable every time you're out there and find that you are always crying, maybe being an outdoor adventure social media rock star isn't a good fit for you. The truth is, this woman is not an outdoor adventurer, she's a Digital Media Manager at a ski magazine who found social media popularity by posting photos of herself doing outdoor activities that apparently make her miserable. She became popular because she's attractive. Look, I get it that outdoor adventure women are very trendy in marketing right now, but if you don't really embrace the outdoor lifestyle you are just a model, not a role model. And in all honesty, companies disappoint me when they use this type of content marketing to try to appeal to "real" outdoor adventure women because we see right through it. There's a big difference between being a marketing prop and being an outdoor adventure woman. We want authenticity, not glamour.

Autumn cottonwood trees at Wilson Spring in Johnson Canyon, Death Valley National Park

She then went on to claim that we're ALL lying about how much fun we're having. There are a lot of real women doing real outdoor adventure who love every minute of it, that is why they do it. I know this because many are my friends. It angers me that one woman claims we are all just pretending to have fun and people cheer for her honesty. It's not glamorous. It's hard work, especially if you're trying to make a living from it. It's dirty. We don't always look cute on Instagram. One of the hardest things for me to learn in the beginning was that my friends would still accept me when I'm not wearing make-up and no matter how bad my hair looks after four days without a shower. But a lot of us really are having a great time even in rough conditions and we don't have to pretend. We'd rather be toughing it out in the worst that Mother Nature can throw our way than be stuck inside a cubicle staring out the window.

And since I'm often contacted by men who want my advice on how to get their wives outdoors and make it fun and comfortable for them, articles written by women that proclaim we are all lying about having fun and that we often cry because we're so miserable don't make it any easier.

I shared my favorite saying on my Facebook post and a friend told me it should be my be my motto. Maybe she meant my business motto, because it's certainly my personal motto.

The only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is your attitude!

I also mentioned on Facebook how lucky I was that my husband has the same "roll with it" attitude that I do, because if either of us were the type to get whiny (or God forbid, start crying) when things don't go our way, our adventures would be miserable. Dealing with whiners makes everyone miserable, and it could be dangerous because the whiner is focused on themselves instead of dealing with the situation at hand. I don't spend much time around whiners.

I didn't realize how ingrained this attitude had become in me until The Waterfall Incident. In a soon-to-be-published article about hiking Surprise Canyon I mention slipping on the rocks while climbing back down the seven waterfalls. There was this huge, slick, round slab of granite, maybe eight or so feet tall. I had successfully climbed up the boulder, but while attempting a graceful slide back down I slipped and landed hard on my butt in the stream. As if that wasn't bad enough, when I tried to get my feet under me I again slipped on the wet rocks and landed on my back, soaked from head to toe. I burst out laughing and laid there while first making sure my camera was okay (it was on my Spyder Pro Holster and if the camera or lens took a hit, there was no sign of it), then mentally checking to see how badly I was hurt (just my pride, thank you). As my husband came running over to see if I was okay, I heard him explain to our friend that when I laugh hysterically it means that I'm seriously injured! I realized that it's true, I do laugh when I'm badly hurt. Guess he hasn't yet caught on that when I'm really injured, I also curse like a sailor in between the bouts of hysterical laughter. If I'm only laughing and not cursing, I'm okay.

Sand storm in Death Valley

So maybe I am a hard, mean person without a nurturing bone in my body and I show little support for women (or men) who whine and cry, but if you ever get stuck in a tough situation out in the wild you're going to want me on your team, because even though my hair will be a mess, I won't be wearing makeup, and I might have a rip in my pants because I fell down a waterfall, I'm the one who is going to make it fun and we're going to have awesome stories to tell.

Unless you whine, and then I might smack you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

DrivingLine Articles

Jeep Wrangler on Bird Spring Pass trail
It's been a while since I've posted an update on my articles published on Nitto Tire's DrivingLine, most of which are trail reviews. Frankly I've been putting too much focus on generating content for DrivingLine and not paying enough attention to the rest of my business. That is biting me in the ass in more ways than one so my goal for 2017 is to find a better balance. We've been to many beautiful and interesting places in 2016, and I have lots of stories and beautiful photos to share that don't fit into the DrivingLine format. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you going forward.

I also decided a while back to stop shooting off road motorsports. Young kids half my age are taking great images for half of what I charge to walk out the door. It's not worth my time and effort to pursue it, and I won't work 18 hour days hiking up and down waterfalls for peanuts, money that barely covers my gas expense. If the business model works for other photographers, more power to them.

If you haven't been following my adventures on DrivingLine, here are the articles that have been published since I last updated the Published Articles section of my website (which I apparently haven't updated since 2014). Now that I look at it, I think it's about time I start organizing my trail reviews by geographical area. Actually I think it's about time I start working on a book.

Jeep Wrangler on Berdoo Canyon trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Trail Reviews
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - Inspiration Wash and Fonts Point
Exploring the El Paso Mountains
Black Canyon and Scouts Cove
Inscription Canyon and Rainbow Basin
Grapevine Canyon Trail - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Surviving the Nadeau Trail
Holidays Hunting for the Kopper King Mine
Last Ride for 2015 - The Bendire Canyon Trail
Exploring the Mine Wash Trail - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Fissure Mountain: The Original Hammer Trail
Bird Spring Pass Trail
Dove Spring Pass Trail
Counting Jeeps on the Sheep Spring Trail
Stranger Than Fiction: The Trona Pinnacles
Mangled Metal and Windy Memories on the Grass Valley Trail
The Tortoise and The Jeep: Koehn Lake Trail Hunt
Geology Touring in Joshua Tree National Park
Berdoo Canyon Trail Review - Joshua Tree National Park
Mining for History in the Mojave Desert's Kessler Peak Trail
Volcanic Wheeling in the Mojave: Aiken Mine Trail Review
Wheeling at Death Valley Mine Trail

Jeep Wrangler on Geology Tour Road, Joshua Tree National Park

2015 Tiera del Sol Desert Safari
SDJC Urban Poker Run Draws a Full House
2015 KMC Wheels Summer Jeep Bash
2015 Lucas Oil Offroad Expo
'Wheeling With Sol: The 54th Annual Desert Safari
2016 KMC Jeep Bash: Long Beach Invasion
2016 Off Road Expo: Where Trucks Are King

Jeep Debuts Seven New Vehicles at Easter Jeep Safari
It's a Jeep Thing
Ten Reasons To Take Your Top Off on National Go Topless Day
7 Great Android Apps for Your Off Road Adventures
8 Great iOS Apps for Your Off Road Adventures
Why Body on Frame Off Road Vehicles Matter
Off Road Basics: Axle Articulation - Got Flex?
Creative License - Some of our Favorite Vanity Plates
Nine Ways to Ensure Fire Safety While Off-Roading
Upgrading to a Genesis Off-Road Dual Battery Kit
Custom Jeep Storage Solutions
6 Ways Geocaching Can Improve Your Off Road Navigation Skills
Ten Tips for Surviving Desert 'Wheeling
Great Campfire Meals: Pie Iron Recipes
Trail Finder: Tips for Planning Your Next Off Road Adventure
Barbie Jeep Racing: the KOH Race You Didn't Hear About!
Pack Mule: How to Fit Overland Essentials in a Compact 4x4
Go Topless: It's a Jeep Thing
Two To Travel: A Wrangler with Serious Trail Tales - write-up on my Jeep build
Snorkeling In The Desert: Get Your Jeep Breathing Better
Putting OPTIMA's Digital Chargers to the Test
Trail Testing the Magellan eXplorist TRX7 Off Road GPS

Monday, August 1, 2016

Milky Way and Dusty Skies at Joshua Tree National Park

Milky Way in Joshua Tree National Park

I took four people out to Joshua Tree National Park to teach them how to shoot the Milky Way Saturday night. I was originally thinking to do a "Girls Night Out Under the Stars" with some adventurous Jeep friends and I posted an invite on my Facebook page, but the timing didn't work out for most people and I had guys asking to come, so we ended up doing a couples thing and I actually managed to convince my husband to join me in the desert in the middle of summer. The spouses had company while the shooters were busy, and I think it worked out really well. When we were finished shooting, we grabbed a few hours of sleep right there under the stars before heading home.

The galactic core of the galaxy is directly facing the earth this time of year, so if you want the best Milky Way photos this is the time of year. Saturday night/Sunday morning the moon was just a tiny thumbnail, it didn't rise until 2:57am and was only 12.1% illuminated; perfect for shooting the Milky Way. But as all outdoor photographers know, sometimes conditions don't work in your favor. As we were heading out to the park, when we crested the mountains and dropped into Riverside, the sky turned a dull gray and visibility was practically non-existent. We could barely make out the mountains. At first I thought it might be due to one of the wildfires raging in California, but as we continued toward Joshua Tree it only got worse and it didn't smell like smoke. I couldn't figure out what was going on - it didn't seem to be smog (and I've never seen smog that heavy way out in the desert, and although it was low to the ground it didn't seem to be fog either. I couldn't figure out what was going on because I had never seen anything like it.

It wasn't until I got home the next day that I learned from The Press-Enterprise it was due to a storm in Arizona -

"Across portions of the Inland area Saturday, the sky was filled with a smoky, grayish haze and many residents were scratching their heads and wondering why.So what caused the sky to look this way? National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria said you can blame a powerful storm in Arizona. He said the storm — which moved in over Arizona Friday night — not only produced rain and lightning there, it also kicked up lots of dust. That dust was then carried by down draft winds and pushed west as the storm moved west. It made its way across Yuma, into the Coachella Valley, through the Banning Pass and the rest of the Inland area. The storm eventually traveled into Baja California and dissipated. It didn't deposit any rainfall in Southern California on its way out -- just the dust, National Weather Service officials said.

Gregoria said it's a rare occurrence to have such dusty skies."

The view from Keys View during a dust storm event. Joshua Tree National Park

Just how bad was it? Here's the view from Keys View - above is how it looked on Saturday and below is from a previous trip on clear day. Normally you could see the San Andreas Fault, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio, and on really clear days you can see all the way past the Salton Sea into Mexico.

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park

I knew that there was a monsoon blowing into Arizona, but it wasn't supposed to reach this area until Monday. Who knew that a storm in the next state could have such a drastic affect on us? We were hoping the wind would blow it out by sunset, and although much of it had dissipated by evening there was still a lot of low-level haze and the Milky Way, although visible, couldn't be seen in all of its glory. Disappointing for sure after we had all driven several hours, but we're all outdoors people who would still enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars even if it was a bust for the photographers. Knowing that the camera sees more light than our eyes do, I decided we would give it a try anyway, and as I had hoped my camera picked it up much better than I thought it would. We had a lot of fun shooting for several hours, playing around with some light painting, and enjoying the desert.

I did use much heavier processing than I normally would on the photo above in order to bring out the galactic center. That's always a judgement call and up to your own personal style. I usually prefer a more natural look, and I remember when everyone was shocked a few years ago when several photography heavy-weights were disqualified from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest due to excessive processing of the Milky Way. When post-processing an image I always keep in mind the intended audience and usage of the image when deciding how far to go. I love creating art but I also pride myself on doing spot-on documentary work. You can really see how hazy it was from all of the dust in the air. The ambient light from Palm Springs doesn't bother me much as it helps emphasize the silhouette of the rock formation. I've only processed one Milky Way shot so far; I shot material for several DrivingLine articles while I was in J Tree and as soon as I get those articles put together I'll come back to my Milky Way photos.

I have several people asking me to do another "mini workshop" so I'm going to try to do another one this month. Hopefully we'll have better weather conditions!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exhibition: A Sense of Place

I'm incredibly excited that my photo is one of 35 that have been selected by juror Jane Fulton Alt for exhibition at The PhotoPlace Gallery's "A Sense of Place". I've been spending so much time lately photographing Jeeps to pay the bills while my heart is really in fine art and struggling with finding balance, and since I like to photograph strange things I find in the desert it can be hard to find a good fit for my images, so this is a great mental boost for me on many levels. I'm doubly excited because of the qualifications of the juror -

Jane Fulton Alt’s photographs explore universal issues of humanity and the non–material. She is the three-time winner of Photolucida’s Critical Mass for her Katrina and Burn portfolios, recipient of the 2007 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award, and multiple Ragdale Foundation Fellowships. She has authored two books; Look and Leave: Photographs and Stories of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward,and The Burn. Her Crude Awakening portfolio was published worldwide.
She received the Photo District News 2011 Curators Choice Award and the 2012 Humble Arts 31 Women in Art Photography award. Alt’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, New Orleans Museum of Art, De Paul University Art Museum, Southwest Museum of Photography, Beinecke Library at Yale University, Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in Oaxaca, Mexico, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and the collection of William Hunt.

The Call for Entries:
Photographs that convey a “sense of place” blend the physical characteristics of a scene, landscape or object with the mysterious essence that emerges from gradually and perhaps unconsciously inhabiting a place over time. The photograph ceases to become an objective document. Instead, it takes on a particular feeling that is invested with something that is often intangible, revealing a deeper understanding of what lies beneath the surface.

A special thanks to photographer Marc Briggs for his personal guided tour of Carrizo Plain, mostly in the rain! Marc shoots there often and he helped me feel the Sense of Place in a way that I wouldn't have discovered so quickly on my own. I hope to be able to join him out there again one day, and I can't wait to take my husband out there one day and show him around. Carrizo Plain is a large grassland where the antelope (and tule elk) still roam and it boasts some amazing landscape...mountains, forests, wildlife, petroglyphs, the San Andreas Fault and the brilliant Soda Lake (a dry lake, but not the same Soda Dry Lake of the Mojave Preserve). It's a wildlife and nature photographer's paradise, but Marc also showed me many of the old homesteads and ranches from when this was a thriving farm community.

...the funny thing is, I've been so busy with Jeeps that I haven't even finished processing all of the photos from this trip or made the gallery public on my website yet. You can view eight other images from the Carrizo Plain by clicking on the photo above, it just isn't listed in the menu. We had such weather extremes that I have one set that is dark and moody, and another that is bright and bold and colorful. I haven't decided yet whether to combine them in one gallery. I always prefer dark and moody

And don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy photographing Jeeps, off road events, and trail adventures. I love every minute of it and I'm incredibly fortunate to get paid to do it. But it does get hard sometimes when I want to remain in a location and wait for the light to change for the "perfect" photo, or take the time to set up some lights to make the exact image I want, but I have to keep moving because I have a schedule to keep. For the most part, it's "taking" photos not making them. They are both satisfying for different reasons; it's just a completely different mindset.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Western wabi-sabi

Abandoned quonset hut in the Mojave Desert, wabi-sabi

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
~ LeonardCohen, "Anthem"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mean Mojave Green

Mojave Green rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

This rattlesnake decided to get in a standoff with my Jeep the other day while we were prowling around the outskirts of the El Paso Mountain Wilderness in Kern County. The Northern Mojave Rattlesnake is more commonly known as the Mojave Green because it often is a silver-green color that allows it to blend into the creosote scrubland it inhabits. It is considered to be the most deadly of all pit vipers because its venom contains a neurotoxin in addition to a hemotoxin. The venom of a Mojave Green is estimated to be as much as 16 times more potent than that of the Western Diamondback. Immediate treatment is required if you are bitten, so you don't want to mess around with this snake.

They are also more aggressive than Western Diamondback rattlesnakes (crotalus atrox). While other snakes will usually slither away if you give them a chance (stomping on the ground can help), the Mojave Green tends to prefer to stand its ground. This one refused to budge from the center of the trail for more than 15 minutes despite our remaining a good distance away once we spotted it. The upside is that I had more than enough time to grab a telephoto lens so I could photograph it from a safe distance. We didn't want to take a chance trying to drive over it, so we carefully chose a path around it where we would cause minimal damage to the plants.

The Mojave Green looks similar to the Western Diamondback. If it doesn't have the characteristic green color, the Mojave Green has a light stripe that extends from behind its eye to behind its jaw while on the Western Diamondback the stripe goes from behind the eye to intersect with the jaw, and the Mojave Green has 2 large scales between the supraoculars while the Western Diamondback has multiple scales, and near the tail where the diamonds fade the Mojave Green has narrow black rings that are often offset while the Western Diamondback has broad black and white rings that are fairly equal in width.

My husband had never heard a rattlesnake in the wild before. "That's not how I expected it to sound," he said. It's a buzzing sound, not unlike a large swarm of cicadas. It doesn't sound at all like a "rattle" if that's what you are expecting. You can listen to a Mojave Green rattle here on the California Herps website.

The snakes are out and about on warmer days this time of year, so be careful out there! Wear boots, watch where you're walking, and be especially careful when scrambling on rocks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

54th Annual Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

The Cheeto, Randy's Off Road
The Cheeto, Randy's Off Road

I guess it's fair to say that I took an extended hiatus from blogging, although it wasn't intentional. Writing for DrivingLine has made it a bit harder to find time to write for myself, but I think the biggest mental hurdle I need to overcome is that I don't want to post photos on my blog or upload them to my website before they are published on DrivingLine. There is nothing in my contract preventing me from doing so, but it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I would never share event photos to my social media sites either, for the same reason. By the time the photos and article are published on DrivingLine, I've already turned my attention to the next thing on my plate and and honestly just haven't been making time to go back and even upload the photos to my own site. The reality is, that doesn't help me or my business. DrivingLine has a niche audience, so I know that I've been limiting my audience when I only rely on them to get eyes on my work. And I realized that I haven't even been blogging about all of the other client work and places I've been published, which frankly is pretty stupid of me. And to top it all off, I've put very little focus on any photography outside of the off road world. I need to find a way to make all this work better for me, which probably means making up a strict schedule of days to review my work from the previous month, a schedule of social media days, a schedule for blogging...Or something like that, I'll get it figured out. So if you don't read DrivingLine, don't give up on me yet please!!

Texas Pride at the 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari
Texas Pride

I covered Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari at the beginning of the month. It was held at a new location on the Salton Sea and there wasn't an official trail run this year, so I concentrated on all of the fun at the new obstacle courses. My article on DrivingLine explains why they had to find a new venue and why the new trails weren't open in time for the event. There was a storm coming in, and the beautiful cloudy sky was a nice change from the typical solid blue sky we usually get here in Southern California. Overcast skies give a nice softbox effect with even light, none of the dreaded harsh light and bad shadows that I usually have to deal with when shooting natural light in the middle of the day in the desert. And you have to love those moody skies for some drama! The late afternoon light was so gorgeous that I really wished I could sneak away to do some personal photography. I only stayed one day this year; I had the flu and was miserable, so I went out shooting for DrivingLine in the morning and afternoon when the light was best, and I worked at the 4 Wheel To Heal booth the rest of the day.

Red Jeep on obstacle course, 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

White truck on obstacle course, 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

Without a trail run I didn't shoot nearly as many photos as I normally would at this event. Since I was sick, I shot what I needed for the article and went home. Here is a slideshow with some of the images:

Or you can view larger images in the gallery on my website. In the gallery just click on any of the images to enter the lightbox where you can view them larger.

I didn't even stick around for the fireworks show this year, which I was looking forward to seeing in the new location. My photo of their fireworks show in 2014 was used on the Tierra del Sol website to promote this year's event. Prior to the event it had a countdown clock overlayed on it, and it looked really great on mobile devices.

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari fireworks countdown clock