Out of my comfort zone with fall color

Fall color, Blacksmith Fork Canyon in Northern Utah

I have a history with looking up in my photography that started a dozen or so years ago when my friend Jason Byers encouraged me to get closer and exaggerate the perspective of Cleveland skyscrapers. As a result my approach to large objects has always had two competing views. One that says step as far back as necessary to make absolutely sure the perspective is correct and the other that says get too close and look up. To get the perspective correct I use a tilt and shift lens when possible and correct perspective in photoshop for images taken with non PC lenses. For years I have been very comfortable with the way I see the world and what I want to photograph in it. Lately I have been experimenting with selective focus via tilting the lens as a way to creatively stretch they way I look at things. The images in this post a outside of my comfort zone photographically in two ways, one being that I don’t shoot fall color landscapes. They have not been of interest until I moved to Utah and I’m still not sure what I think beyond the color. The second thing that takes me out of my comfort zone is the play of focus. The lens tilt makes things look as if the are miniature and is best accomplished by looking down on the subject. However with the above shot I am clearly looking up. I enjoy the confusion that it causes. The western landscapes is huge and are always photographed to emphasize the size. However this stretch of mine is forcing these huge thing to appear way smaller than they are and thus subvert their western-ness.

Below is a more traditional angle of view using the tilt effect. Most photographers are aware that these effects can be accomplished in newer versions of Photoshop and many iOS apps however I personally would recommend using the lens itself. There is something about committing to the focus area you are interested in and locking that in the RAW file that gives the stretch impact. The lenses are available to rent from Borrow Lenses dot com and Lens Rentals dot com. 

Fall color, Logan Canyon in Northern Utah

Northern Utah: Fall Color

Fall color is in full swing here in Utah. Hope everyone is out enjoying it, I know I am. Last year I missed most of it due to travel so this is my first real Utah fall. It is amazing! In the coming weeks I’ll be posting more fall color, images from the Tetons, another Moab trip and an entirely new series. Hope to get things caught up before it starts snowing. Have fun exploring your world!

Exploring high places: Logan Peak Summer 2012

After a year living in Logan I had the opportunity to drive up to Logan Peak (elevation 9710) this past June with my friend Carston and wow, what a drive it is. As with most drives in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest all but a few sections can be handled with a normal all wheel drive car and competent driver. In this case we passed a Honda Element (not high clearance vehicle) a mile or so from the top and it really was not until the last 100 yard that I had to put the Xterra into 4-wheel low. If you live in the area you should give it a visit sometime. The fastest route is via Logan Canyon and Right Hand Fork. From there go up Crowley Canyon (Forest Route 047) at the junction go west on 052. The next major turn is at White Bedground Camp with the way to Logan Peak well marked (Forest Route 168). This stretch of road goes through a really nice and well developed Aspen grove, has some fun switchbacks and a nice climb at the end where there is a parking area. At this point you will stay left on a nicely graded section of road, not the steep and rocky side trail to the right. The trail stays relatively flat until the last turn onto Forest Route 042. A mile or so later you will be there. This last section I would not attempt in a normal street clearance vehicle as there is a short rocky section that may stop you and the last section before the radio tower that will stop you for sure, plus it would be a pain in the ass to back out. The roads in the area close November 15 or earlier depending on winter weather.

Above: View from the top looking East. The road is Forest Route 042. As a side note the day we drove up there was a race and the road was packed with runners and mountain bikers.

Above: Last bits of snow hanging on.

Above: Looking North West from Logan Peak June 2012. These photos give an idea of the place and I would consider them location scout shots. The views would really be stunning on a cool fall morning at first light. I guess that means I have a return trip in the coming months. Yeah! One final note, access to Logan Peak via Providence Canyon was closed as of June 2012 to vehicles (Impassable). If you plan on visiting via that route check with the ranger station to confirm that Forest Route 090 is open.

Exploring high places: Willard Peak

Above: Willard Peak from Willard Basin. About an hour drive from the start of the trail, almost to Inspiration Point. I first drove this on a whim last summer and had no idea how cool the view from the top was. I’m so happy to live near such amazing places.

Above: Almost to the top, looking down toward I-15 and the northern end of the Great Salt Lake. Smoke from wildfires have made theses views impossible this August.

Above: From Inspiration Point looking down toward Ogden. Amazing view with no hiking required.

Above: Looking at Mountain Goats on Willard Peak.


First Snow

After months of sunshine finally Northern Utah had a few days of rain and clouds in the forecast. A storm coming up from the south decided to bring some cold temperatures and snow at higher elevations. As it started late Wednesday I took a quick drive up Green Canyon (I’m based in Cache Valley) to see what was happening at the higher elevations with regard to weather and road conditions. The next afternoon as the cloud cover started to pull back a bit I could see that indeed elevations above 6000 had snow cover. I decided to head out to Blacksmith Fork Canyon and see how the snow was mixing with the fall color and the cliff faces. I found a few good spots to photograph along the way toward Hardware Ranch. About half way there the clouds and cliff faces were looking good near the Left Hand Fork of Blacksmith Fork Canyon. I decided to check it out and maybe go as far as the old ranger station that I had photographed this past summer.

Road conditions were generally ok for the weather. A little sloppy in areas but those spots were few and there were a few ranchers working in the area with much larger vehicles and trailers so I figured the roads were acceptable. Stoping for photographic opportunities and the occasional group of cattle in the road we made it to the old ranger station in good time. After a few shots I decided to go to up to the junction of Herd Hollow and see how that was. At this point the the roads were in good condition, compacted dirt and gravel mix with larger rocks here and there and not sticky at all. Now this area is listed on some maps as a 4×4 road and on a ShoShone Trail map from the Forest service it is listed as most difficult but not ATV only. I decided to give it a go, soon I came to a sign saying that the road was not suitable for passenger cars 6 miles ahead. Since the Nissan Xterra has higher clearance than a passenger car we kept going. Now this road passes two springs and runs along the base of Boulder Mtn. ending at the junction of trail 3 (Shoshone trail map) which is rated easiest. If we could make it to the junction and the steep hill out of the canyon was passable this could be a round trip to Hardware Ranch. But was not to be the case this time.

A few miles up the road I came to a point where it looked like trouble could be ahead. I got out and walked the road for a bit and it appeared that no full size vehicle had bee through there in some time. The good part of the road had been used for ATV “cars” that have a sightly larger wheel base than an ATV but smaller than a truck. The trail had a steep bank on the left side that a truck could drive on without tipping and the right side had pretty thick cover of vegetation. Now this part was technically doable albeit with some major scratching on the right. The situation as I saw it was there was no way I was going to back out of this spot should the road be not passible up ahead as the sign at the trailhead had suggested. It was just me and my dog Mirabelle, and there was nothing she could do to help in a situation should one arise. Had I been traveling with another vehicle or at least another person experienced in off highway driving maybe I could do it. Oh yeah and it was starting to snow again. Time to back out of here and stay on a more defined and better maintained road. We had seen plenty of gorgeous fall color and snow caped cliffs, had a nice drive and we not looking to do any camping do to getting stuck.

Back at the junction of Herd Hollow Rd. I had a decision to make. Either head back on the Left Hand Fork which I knew was solid or take Herd Hollow and end up in Logan Canyon. So the plan was to take Herd Hollow as far as we could and if passible end up at some nice locations to get shots of the snow and fall color. A short distance up the road and past the first cattle gate I came up to another truck. That’s good news. Some one else on the road should we get stuck and track to gage the road condition. Now I’m new to 4 wheeling and this was going to be the first time I heard the slipping indicator in the Xterra. The first sticky spot was just a dozen yards long so it was a bit of a warning of how the Xterra would handle these sections of the road. When on sold ground I stopped to take a few shots of the landscape and the road and pressed on. By the time we made it to the junction of roads to Logan Peak and Old Ephram’s we had driven a few more of these really slick sections. Not quite white knuckle but definitely not a casual drive. Having the tracks of the truck in front of me as a guide of where to go and where not to go was helpful on this first trip through the mud. I kept the truck moving a good speed so not to sink or loose grip but just fast enough to keep it under control. I wanted to make it though wile doing minimal damage to the road. I’m not a fan of people that just blast through these areas just to get the truck muddy and mess up the road. I also did not want to drive off the road surface and make the road wider than necessary.

The road down from the junction to Logan Canyon was well maintained and uneventful. A nice change and appreciated. From there we headed toward Tony Grove taking plenty of stops along the way to photograph the landscape covered with a thin layer of snow. Though this subject matter has been done before by many photographers it is such a nice visual that I just give in and go for it. Overall this first snowfall and our journey to look at it was a success. New places, experiences, appreciations and few good images along the way to remind and inspire more exploration of Northern Utah this winter.

Green canyon

Sheep being driven up Green Canyon to their summer grazing area. Around 1000 adults, close to 2500 counting the little ones. Needless to say there was a bit of a traffic jam. Fun to watch for someone like myself who has not seen this before. They kind of smelled.


Drive on the Left Hand Fork

Came across this unused ranger station last week when driving up Left Hand Fork off of Blacksmith Fork Canyon. The canyon is just a few miles from our new place in Logan Utah. The feeling I got from this little building did not mesh with the color that came out of the camera. I decided to alter the image to convey the mood I felt when I was there. Increasing the contrast, slight desaturation and a cooler color balance overall. Those changes emphasize the depth of the canyon and the isolation of the location.

A trip to Salt Lake City from Logan

In the spirit of adventure and exploration my wife and I decided to take a scenic drive to SLC from Logan. Looking at maps and guide books we decided to drive some of the back roads and if possible avoid I15 or I80 as much as possible. We decided to take Main St. south out of Cache Valley through Nibley, Paradise and Avon and then connect to South Canyon Rd. (Rt.162) and cross through Cache National Forest to the town of Liberty.

From there we would drive around Pine View Reservoir and stop by the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville. As one would expect it is a very quite and peaceful place. We purchased some honey that the monks sell and had a nice little chat with the man in the shop who said we had been at the monastery for 60 years. To bad they don’t make or sell Trappist beer as the grounds would make a nice place to relax and enjoy a bottle and contemplate the landscape.Leaving Huntsville south on Trappers Loop Rd. (167) toward the Town of Mountain Green. This road had spectacular views of De Moisy Peak and the area around the Snowbasin ski resort. From Mountain Green we followed I84 on a road aptly named Old Highway Rd. to Morgan where we continued south on Rt. 66 (not the Rt.66 as we are about 1000 miles north of it) into East Canyon with a few stops at East Canyon Reservoir. Next we had to drive over Big Mountain and then make the decent to Parlays Canyon where we would pick up I80 and continue into SLC.