The Aurora Dances Over Mountains
I've been to Iceland three times now and every trip has been absolutely amazing. My first trip was during the summer and we saw more waterfalls and beautiful scenes than I could possible count. I drove around the entire island and saw as much as I could, but some things that I had wanted to see in Iceland just weren't possible in the summer. I had to go back in the winter if I wanted to see ice-caves and the northern lights!
So go back I did ... with Willie, Alan and Rebecca. We spent 10 days at the end of February and early March exploring Iceland in the winter. During the trip we were treated to 2 (and a half) beautiful nights of northern lights! On our first night the sky was crystal clear and the 4 of us saw the lights for the very first time. None of us wanted to go to bed because we were so mesmerized!
We had spent a good portion of the day scouting locations for photographing the aurora and as soon as we finished dinner we raced to this spot. We learned what people mean when they say that the lights "danced" across the sky. At one point the lights twisted and turned into the shape of a heart - love was definitely in the air!
Nikon D800 w/Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8:
32mm, f/2.8, 4.0 sec, ISO 800
Sunset over the Painted Hills
Tuba City, Arizona
Of all the places I’ve traveled for photography my most common destination is the Southwest. In particular Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. There’s something about the beautiful red rock, the way the wind has carved the sandstone or formed gigantic hoodoo’s, the giant vistas and the stunning monsoonal sunsets.
My first southwest trip in 2014 took Willie and I all over Northern Arizona. We started out on the southern border of Utah, explored the area around Page, and eventually made our way to Tuba City and the Painted Hills. It was our second night shooting this location and Willie and I had high hopes that the monsoon clouds would stick around for our sunset shoot — something they had not done the night before.
We arrived early and noticed a stunning section of rolling hills: layers of various red rock with small mountains in the background. The clouds were perfectly aligned, if only they’d stay put. When the clouds burst into reds and oranges we both knew we were witnessing something special. After photographing the scene we both ran off in different directions, hoping to find another composition before the sky faded. I found this curve in the silstone and knew it would make a great photo. By the time I got Willie’s attention the color in the clouds had already begun to fade. This is a cloud I’ll never forget!
Nikon D800 w/Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8:
17mm, f/14, 4.0 sec, ISO 100
Milky Way over Ancient Bristlecone Pine
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
The Ancient Bristlecones are some of the oldest living organisms on the earth and they almost look dead. They just have gnarled, twisted, barely leafed branches all over. I’ve always wanted to visit their forest in the Eastern Sierras and in July I finally got to see them with my own eyes!
After driving all day, Willie and I arrived at the Patriarch Grove knowing from experience that most likely sunset was going to go from really hopeful to a total dud. Sure enough, it did, the clouds fizzled and we switched into Milky Way mode.
The tree we had initially found wasn’t facing the right direction for the Milky Way and Willie went off to explore. That’s when he had the idea that the Milky Way might fit perfectly between its branches. I pulled up the “Sky Guide” app on my iPhone and sure enough, at 1am, the Milky Way lined up, almost as if the branches were spearing the Milky Way. I also loved how a little bit of clouds stuck around to catch the glow from the city of Bishop, hiding in the background.
This photo is dedicated to Jeff Swanson, a fellow photographer and overall great guy, who sold me the lens I use for my milky way photos (including this one) but lost his battle with cancer. I'll always think of you when I'm out with my camera playing under the stars.
Nikon D800 w/Bower 24mm f/1.4 ED UMC:
24mm f/2.2, 20 sec, ISO 1600