We planned well in advance for our trip to Toroweap Overlook, part of the North Rim Grand Canyon.
Toroweap (Tu-weep to the Paiute Indian) refers to ‘the earth’, and translates appropriately to ‘dry & barren’. It’s hard to imagine this long rough rocky 61-mile dirt road through sagebrush and salt bush can open up to something so enormous, vast, and beautiful.
As the Colorado River winds through the bottom of the canyon, the steep walls stretch out to the sky with abundant rock formations.
We got the camping permits 6 months in advance, as required, estimating that the end of March would be less crowded and have best potential for rainy weather and clouds, and not be too hot.
Truth be known, we hit the mark. We hoped for clouds and clouds we got. In fact, we got so many clouds that over the course of 3 nights and 3 days (that’s 6 sunset / sunrise shoots), we only saw the sun once.
Outside of that one time, the sun was behind a dense cloud bank and never made an appearance. And unfortunately, it never even lit up the sky.
While I was disappointed, it was a gorgeous spot to watch the sun rise over coffee, and end the evening watching it set (hoping the light would come).
Call ’em what you will – sun star, sunburst, starburst, sunray, or just plain fun.
I love doing sunstars. A sunburst adds a dimension to any photograph and point of interest.
I am often complemented at my use of adding sunrays with a a star filter, program, or app. The truth is, sun bursts are very easy to do in camera. No apps required.
All one needs is a wide angle focal point and small aperture. I love my Canon 16mm, set at f/11 for these great results. Sometimes you have to take a number of photos to get the sun poking through the trees just right.
You may have to split a tree to showcase the sunburst, rather than just looking directly at it with full intensity.
But, it’s an easy thing to do, at sunrise, sunset, or even mid day.
As with any photograph – look ahead, look behind, look all around, and look up. Sometimes the best things are just ahead of us.
After the long drive along the bumpy dirt road to get to the creek, there are several ‘entry’ points for one to ramble down the hill to walk along the creek. We have been a number of times over the years, and enjoy the serenity of the water gushing over the rocks.
It makes a wonderful place for a picnic to relax and let your troubles wash away. (I know, I know, if only it were that simple.) It does though provide a peaceful respite from our hectic lives.
We did notice that Fossil Creek has become very overgrown and ‘scrubby’. In taking photographs, I had a hard time cutting the clutter out of my pix. You may notice that all these photos are tight knit to the horizon with no sky. That’s because the horizon above the water was tangled and busy.
Sometimes you just have to cut the clutter from our vantage point.
I remember when I used to visit my husband’s folks in Morman Lake, AZ. They would be all excited to share ‘their’ elk with us. With a binoculars in hand, if you squinted real hard, you could see the little dots of elk crossing in front of the fire house, about 1/4 mile away.
John’s mom still remembers fondly how close they got to see the elk. I laugh.
If she had any idea of how close we see the elk today!
You know you are retired when you start doing Bison Workshops for fun! The first thing I learned, is they are not actually Buffalo… all American ‘buffalo’ are actually Bison.
There are two herds being re-introduced into Arizona that are direct descendants of original bison that roamed the plains in the 1800’s before their virtual extinction. One is in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is a growing herd. The other is managed by the AZGFD at Raymond Wilderness Area outside of Flagstaff.
We learned how to identify the boys from the girls. Beside the obvious, the boys have a more thick curly fur on their foreheads, and their horns curl in.
We were told that these big guys were a relatively young herd, and none more than 3 years old. I can only imagine them when they ‘grow up’.
We got this amazing opportunity to literally see them up close and personal… and it was a real thrill…. one that I would do again in a heartbeat.
Thanks to Mike and Deanna for joining us on this fun adventure.
I thought I had seen it all… at least most of the animals there were to see. (Though I still have never seen that elusive mountain lion.) The other day we even got the opportunity to see a Ringtail Cat. Which was super cool. I didn’t get a photo, alas… they are nocturnal. I felt fortunate enough just to see this odd little weasel-like creature with a raccoon-ish big stripped tail bigger than his body. (You can see a photo of him here… https://kritterspaw.com/2018/10/30/ring-tale/). But I digress.
The other day, we were outside and this ‘swarm’ of white birds was circling overhead. They settled in the tree in our front yard! Moreover, they stayed!
I’m guessing they were migrating from here to there… where ever the here and there are. But in transit, they needed a rest, and found a good spot right here! Wow!
I can tell you, I got little else done that day!!!
So, they appear to be Great White Egrets… while they are ‘common’ birds…. they certainly aren’t common in our front yard here in the mountains. So I was delighted to have them find rest at our home.
They were here… then they were gone.
I was happy to entertain them… or moreover, have them provide my entertainment, albeit for a short respite.
There are so many things to remember when trying to make a good photograph. I recently talked about Keep It Clean, and reducing clutter in a photo. Another important consideration is Shade and Light.
In the photo above, it’s easy to see the large disparity between exposures – intense shade and shadows in the water, and blown highlights in the sky and trees. To make the photo successful, I could have done an HDR to take multiple photos with the proper exposure for each separate condition (Shadow & Highlights), and them merged them later.
Or, using the light that I had, I could cut out the blown highlights in camera, and turned my attention to where the light was more even and exposed for the shadows just by looking down. Cutting out the highlights yielded a more interesting and focused composition.
Remember… mind the Shade & Light, when composing that pic.
Fall colors had me ga-ga like a little kid with a new toy, wandering around snapping shots of all the beauty everywhere I looked. But when I got home and looked at my photos, I got a lot of ‘scraggle’, like that below.
While I tried to be aware of all my photography rules: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, I pulled out contrasting yellow leaf color against dark trunks and green backgrounds. But what I got was ‘scraggle’… busy, busy, busy. Somehow when running around snapping the photos I didn’t see the little twigs that added clutter and distraction.
Instead, I should have been keeping it CLEAN, by pulling out singular subjects and isolating them for a more interesting and uncluttered shot.
The shots I took that CUT THE CLUTTER, took the prize and won my favor and the viewer’s eye.
We had already scheduled a trip to check out how fall colors were coming along when we got 6″ of fresh heavy snow. The cold snap helped the colors along, bringing out brilliant reds in the maples, and golden yellows among the oaks.
The ground was covered with a blanket of fallen color on the fresh white snow. It was a thing of beauty to walk among nature and all her glory.
We even found these fresh bear tracks leading through the forest, who surely must have been enjoying the cool weather and the awesome environment we were witnessing.