Sunday, September 30, 2012


Caboose, Laramie
(Click any image to view larger version)

Paint weathers in surprising ways and, like many photographers, I find myself occasionally getting caught up in the world of micro-patterns.  This is not a unique impulse--a quick look at flickr will reveal many photos of paint abstracts--but it can still be fun sometimes.  And there's no particular need for fantastic light, you don't have to get up at 5 a.m., and once you find a good spot, you don't even have to move very far.  The photos here are a few of my favorite abstracts.

Train paint, Laramie.

Train paint, Laramie (currently in the UW Art Museum traveling exhibit)

Train paint, Laramie

Xishuangbanna, China

Bitter Creek, Wyoming

Shibaoshan, Yunnan, China

Shibaoshan, Yunnan, China (I was told later that the poster warns of the dangers of STDs)

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico.  Sometimes the work of street artists becomes abstract.

And one of my favorites--not abstract but with a lot of potential to get that way.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canyoneering: Davis Gulch

The 50-mile cliffs from above Davis Gulch, Escalante River Drainage.

Next weekend I head for the San Rafael Swell to meet good friends for one of my twice-annual canyoneering weekends.  As I get organized, I realize that I never finished writing about our last trip, in May, that culminated in a trip down Davis Gulch, which drains into the Escalante River where Lake Powell has flooded its lower reaches.

The technical part of the Davis descent is short and easy, so not very notable from a canyoneering perspective, but for me it's been a Holy Grail, a trip I've wanted to make ever since reading about Everett Ruess'es 1934 disappearance.  A small corral in Davis near his last known camp was found, but he never was.

Recently, the writer David Roberts obsessed on trying to solve the mystery, and wrote famously in National Geographic Adventure about a grave on the Comb Ridge that seemed to fit, but was later proven to hold someone else's bones.  Roberts published a book, Finding Everett Ruess, that explores the mystery.

For me, and for lots of us that find the desert southwest compelling, Ruess'es own writings, compiled in a book called Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty, was something of a sacred text that captured the lure of the canyons.  In many ways Ruess, a young man when he disappeared, wrote in that gushy way that passionate twenty-somethings often write, but he did so eloquently, and he put is boots to the ground and lived the life--traveling alone for months with only his mules for company.  Perhaps he disappeared into some narrow slot canyon that has yet to see a second descent.

If you're interested in Davis, drop in from about mile 52 on the Hole-in-the-Rock road out of Escalante, where it crosses the Davis drainage before it becomes a canyon.  Almost immediately it deepens and narrows but is never extreme, and the downclimbing is mostly easy.  We were able to get all the way down with no rappels, though we helped each other in spots.  The narrows emerge into the lower reaches of Davis--a long and arduous, but beautiful hike through a narrow canyon choked with wetlands and even beaver-sign.  Farther down-canyon than you think, an exit leads up an old cattle trail to a long slog across the flats back to your starting point. There is a manufactured escape (see moki photo below) soon after the narrows on the west (left) side of the canyon, but we weren't willing to solo it and didn't have enough rope or gear to protect it.  If I were to do the canyoneering part again, I'd bring gear and climb out.  As always, Tom's Canyoneering website has all the details (thanks!).

Entering Davis Gulch

Jim Akers.  Early downclimbing.

Don Reyes.  Davis narrows

Larry Scritchfield.  Mud avoidance stemming.

Jane, Jim, Don.  Davis.  

Lunch at the end of the technical section.

White man moki steps.  Too exposed to solo, and besides, we wanted to see the rest of the canyon.

Beaver in the desert.  

Lower Davis Gulch.

Lower Davis.

Lower Davis.

Lots of water.  Lower Davis is essentially a narrow wetland pinched between sandstone walls.  

Lower Davis.

The exit ramp.  An old cattle trail.

Larry Scritchfield.  Davis camp.

Cell service at mile above Davis Gulch.  What would Everett Ruess have thought?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Portraits

Bei at the Blair-Wallis area near Laramie.
(Click to view larger)

I love taking portraits, but I don't do it often enough because mostly I go out shooting in remote places by myself.  This fall I'm shooting a few Senior Portraits--a tradition that has emerged since I was in high school back in the Middle Ages.  It's a big deal for high school seniors now to get formal or not-so-formal outdoor portraits taken.  I did a couple last year and am doing a couple this year, but I'm too busy with school to shoot many.  I won't post them because I didn't ask permission to plaster them on the internet, but I did go up to Blair last night to take some photos of Bei while the leaves are so nice.  Tomorrow I'm heading to the Snowies with a senior to shoot some portraits with Medicine Bow Peak in the background. That will be fun.  

Photo geek information:  Since I only have one strobe, that's what I'm using here.  Manual exposure for background, SB800 through white umbrella camera left, TTL, thin clouds or shade are best.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Fence and Himalayan Mountains, Wenhai Lake, Yunnan, China
(Click images to view larger)

In big, open landscapes like we have in Wyoming, fences and rivers are often the only boundaries that catch the eye as well as the cows that wear trails along them. From a photographic perspective, they are lines that lure a viewer's eye into an otherwise open scene.  But fences are often collections of objects and materials that reflect local culture.  In China, I found wooden fences woven into exquisite patterns, but still practical enough to keep the yaks out of the vegetables.   In Wyoming, discarded drilling casing and cable gets dragged into fence lines by hard-working ranch hands. Barbed-wire has become a symbol of the West.  In Mexico, fences are an opportunity for working people to decorate their small, brightly-colored stucco houses tucked between bigger houses in big cities.  Cemetery fences are constructed with care, a last show of respect for the dead worldwide.  Laramie, where I live, has its share of wrought iron fences, beautifully crafted and sometimes found in unexpected places engulfed in weeds.  These fences speak to a time when the status of the houses they surround was higher.  

Drilling pipe in fence, Lamont, Wyoming

Woven fence, Wenhai Lake, Yunnan, China

Picket fence, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Fence, Hawk Springs, Wyoming

Fence, Oaxaca, Mexico

Iron fence, 1st Street, Laramie, Wyoming

Old fencing material, Van Tassel Road, Eastern Wyoming

Fence with blowing snow, Laramie Basin, Wyoming

Drilling cable coral, Adobe Town, Wyoming

Fence remnant, Chalk Mountain, Wyoming

Fence and snow, Laramie Basin, Wyoming

Tumbleweed in fence, Laramie Basin, Wyoming

Fence with fog and frost, Laramie Basin, Wyoming

Antler fence tightener, Adobe Town, Wyoming

Cemetery gate, Upper Green River Valley, Wyoming

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Driving around

Abandoned trailer north of Laramie.

I've photographed around Laramie for so long that sometimes it's hard for me to get myself out to drive around with my camera, but whenever I do I have fun.  Last weekend I took a break from class preparation to head up to Bosler the back way--on a dirt road that parallels the highway.  It's a classic Laramie Basin drive with wide open grasslands split by the Laramie River and punctuated by a few ranches, some cows and antelope, and a few old trailers.  I've photographed some of this before of course, but every trip is a little different--sometimes because of different light and sometimes just because you're in a different mood.  

Fenceline, Laramie Basin.  I'll post just on fences soon.

Rabbitbrush and trailer, Laramie Basin

Abandoned trailer near Bosler

Trailer detail, Bosler

Abandoned trailer and prairie, Bosler