Looking at the West: return to blogging

170617_Blue Mtn road UT-02

Over the past few years I stopped publishing this blog. Just let it go. Not because I did not enjoy building it up but because it got to a point where it seemed like what is the purpose? Most other photography blogs I was exposed to were thinly veiled attempts to sell workshops or gear review and training sites. It felt as if photography as it exists on the web was only about selling gizmos. I could not find good content from photographers that interested me. That made me reconsider why I was doing it myself. In that confusion it became easier to just switch to Instagram and stop trying to write blog entries. After all it is more fun and interesting to just go out on adventures and take photos than to sit at a computer and write. After years and stops and starts on that platform I feel like it’s becoming just a huge space for advertising and self promotional content, plus the photos are too small. The end result is after I have liked about a 50 things I don’t feel any connection to what I just saw nor have I learned anything new. Maybe it’s time to get back to blogging. With a huge backload of images from  adventures over the last few years I’m planing on restarting the blog and posting with some consistency. The photo above is from earlier this year (2017) from a trip I made to Dinosaur National Monument, a place where I have had the great opportunity to work the last 2 summers as part of a team of researchers. I’ll get to what we were doing later but lets just say this is my happy place. The photo has all the elements of my adventures, interesting and rugged landscape, remote and rugged road and an epic view. Speaking of the view the river in the distance is the mighty Green River and it has just come out of Split Mountain located just to the right. In the distance are the Unitas, one of the few East-West trending ranges in North America and also the northern border of the Colorado Plateau.

Almost Ghost Town: Thompson Springs, Utah

Above: Almost a ghost town, Thompson Springs, Utah. I have spent a lot of time looking at this humble little house making up little stories about what happened here. This little house from another time with it’s yard clearly defined from the larger surrounding. A power pole that marks the location like it was a road side casualty. Not generally a fan of the photo cliche’ of dilapidated buildings or “Ruin Porn” I usually pass these structures by and leave them to other photographers. Something about this one…

Above: Abandoned structures in Thompson Springs. Would love to find an image of what was once here. Building on the left looks like it was used for some sort of agricultural storage. Look closely at the space between the buildings. A sealed (at one time) passage. The structure on the right looks like two buildings sharing a common front. The left one had a door and a window, the right one a door and two windows. The doors are tricky. Was the original door between the windows and then at some later time when the two fronts became one the door moved to the center and old door locations filled in? I’m probably to respectful for my own good as a I honor privet property and only shoot from the road. Next time I’m down there I’ll have to find someone who knows.

Above: Almost ghost town. Classic abandoned house next to the Desert Moon Hotel (actually a small trailer park for temporary workers that live out of campers parked there. And the Hotel is for sale if anyone is interested.

Above: Detail of the doorway mystery.

Above: Shadow portrait at the Thompson Springs Diner. The diner is pretty boring both inside and out. I thought this was the best photo for the location. Thompson Springs has a few other buildings including a Hotel with about 20 rooms (all with the doors open and full of trash and graffiti) The train depot (abandoned) and a few occupied residences. Someday I’ll return and photograph them as I’d like to meet the residents of this almost ghost town. I’m sure there are some interesting folks there.

Below: Backside of my favorite house in Thompson Springs.






No Town Utah: Floy

In Southern Utah on the way to Moab from SLC there is a stretch of lonely lumps that the highway passes. Interesting little piles of earth away from the Book Cliffs out in the middle of nowhere. Usually one passes them by at a high rate of speed for they are on I-70 between Green River and Crescent Junction and if you are going to Moab, well you are almost there, why stop. Same can be said of the return north from Moab, we just started the drive and have hours to go, why stop. Recently I had the opportunity to make the drive to Moab by myself and managed to make the 4 hour trip last 8 hours due to lots of stopping and looking around. Well worth it if you are so inclined. On a map the area pictured is called Floy. It’s not a small town or a ghost town it is a “no town” sometimes known as a Ranch Exit (no services).

The classic cliché photograph of the open road is one I’ll never tire of. Should you take the ranch exit at Floy this is the road you will be traveling on as you go west to Green River. After a few miles of rough road you will wonder why you are taking slow a desolate alternate route when a much smoother and nice road is just a mile to the South. For starters you can stop just about anywhere. The time I spent out there the only other vehicles I saw were a pair of adventure motorcyclist. Stop and look around, take pictures, think about stuff, look for animals, whatever. When these pictures were taken it was pushing 100 degrees and the place was like an oven. Sunscreen, wide brim hat and long sleeve linen shirt are all recommended. In the 30 minutes or so that I was out in the sun my aluminum tripod legs and camera became hot to the touch and I downed a liter of water. This two lane road with minimal upkeep reminded me of being a youth in the 1970’s and traveling great distances in a VW Bug with the windows down, arm hanging out and hot as heck. Traveling in the air-conditioned and window tinted vehicles of today sometimes feels like cheating. I can imagine what it was like traveling these roads in an old Packard or other late 40’s car would have been like. I have nothing against the modern highways but it is the roads less traveled (paved or dirt) that are the most enjoyable for me.

The West Hills in Northern Utah

The West Hills of Northern Utah

The West Hills are just north of Tremonton, Utah and cradled by I15 and I84. The gorgeous rolling hills have many photographic possibilities. I’m glad that I live close to this area and look forward to visiting then in different seasons. The route I took was 30 west out of Logan to Riverside and then up north toward Plymouth and then west again toward Nucore Steel. From there the road changes to compressed gravel and you enter Johnson Canyon. The canyon is basically a route through the gently rolling hills, nothing like Logan Canyon or anything in Southern Utah. The area is a Cooperative Wildlife Management Area with No Trespassing signs about every 100 yards, must be a popular hunting area. After a short drive you arrive in Whites Valley. At the only intersection you choices are head West to go to the Let The Good Times Fly Hunting Club or head South and end up at Exit 32 (Ranch Exit, no services) on I84. At that this point I could have gone south on I84 toward Tremonten and then back to Cache Valley via Riverton or Brigham City. I chose to back track to get a second look at Nucore Steel and drive a road that two old guys I talked to earlier in the day suggested. That road is Short Divide and it crosses Gunsight Peak on the north end of Cache Valley. From that road there are some good views of the Wellsville Mountains. I was lucky that the road was open as it is listed as closed winters and it was clear most of the way. A few stretches that get no direct light had some serious ice to contend with. I’ll defiantly be back when it warms up. This area has some hiking possibilities.

Camera: Leica M8 w/ Zeiss zm 50/2

©2011 Andrew McAllister (text and images)

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.

The big drive

Our route from Akron to Logan with stops in Denver and SLC.

Plains near Ovid Colorado.

Though passing by a good number of landscapes on our journey west from Ohio it was not until Colorado that I actually pulled off the highway and broke out a proper camera for a quick snap.

After a day in Denver and Estes Park we continued west via US40 through spectacular mountain valleys and eventually the high plains of western Colorado.

Obligatory shot from the center of the road.