This week I managed to clear my calendar for an overnight trip up to Grand Teton National Park for some autumn photography. Unfortunately, every other tourist was thinking the same thing! As a result, the only affordable accommodation was actually between GTNP and YNP in a transition area known as John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. There, I stayed in a one-room cabin at Flagg Ranch. With no heat or electricity, I found it challenging when I woke up at 5:15am to 24o F (about -4o C). Regardless, saw some beautiful light and landscapes while there.
This morning I took a drive down through the northern portion of the Marsh Creek Valley. I started at Inkom and head south along the creek, then cut over to Arimo and up to McCammon for breakfast. There was a fair amount of smoky haze from regional wildfires that actually gave the images a very warm saturation.
Last night one of my students, Jacob, and I went up to Market Lake Wildlife Refuge near Roberts, Idaho. We hadn’t heard about the wildfire near North Butte over near Menan, but it was putting up a considerable amount of smoke. Thunderstorms were brewing to our northwest up in Montana and the lighting became quite the show later in the evening. The clouds cooperated and moved out of the way once it got dark enough to start shooting (it didn’t get dark until after 11pm!). The Milky Way was pretty spectacular as well. Being a wildlife refuge, we had hundreds of birds buzzing us all evening, including what looked like Glossy Ibises. The bugs were pretty annoying as well!!
Looking east towards Rexburg and Sugar City, Idaho.
Saturday night I went out with five current ISU students and one alum for some astro-landscape photography. For this trip, we went south of Pocatello down to Hawkins Reservoir. Absolutely clear skies, good temps, and low winds (after the sun went down), coupled with some great meteorites made for the start of a pleasant evening. Of course, I brought my camp stove and we had home-made chili and on of the students brought some great cornbread. Great feast!
However, stuff happens, and around 11pm three rather drunk young men nearly drove their pick-up truck into the lake right next to us! After getting the truck out of the water (boat landing), they proceeded to bring all their fishing gear, loud voices, and high explosive fireworks out on the end of the dock that was about 50′ from us. Suddenly, one of the fellows lit the fireworks, which shot about 100′ straight above us and exploded with a boom that shook the entire valley. Needless to say, the campers across the way were not happy! After a long exchange of loud, vociferous profanities, we packed up and left for home. In the composite star-trail shot below, you can see their truck headlights coming towards us on the highway, followed by the firework explosion in the upper right corner of the shot.
This past New Year’s Eve, I had the pleasure of doing a photo day-trip with Dr. Charles (Chuck) Peterson, our resident herpetologist here at Idaho State University. The day was clear and cold as we started along the east face of the Portneuf Range. When we stopped to photograph the steam coming off the Portneuf River, the temps where hovering around 4F or about -16C. We worked our way over to Soda Springs to see the geyser, but just missed it. Lots of ice though! Eventually, we ended up in western Wyoming and stopped in Afton for lunch at Heggs Grill & Steakhouse. I was really looking forward to a fat, juicy burger, but to our surprise, our waitress told us during the winter they only served “breakfast” all day! Odd. Chuck had pancakes bigger than his head and I continued my quest to find the best biscuits and gravy! Reminds me when I lived in Wisconsin and the first time I tried to order iced tea during the winter I was told it was “out of season”. Strange customs. Anyway, we continued our photo excursion by continuing south, crossing over Salt River Pass and then swinging back west into Idaho. An excellent day out shooting with a fellow photographer!
Dr. Chuck Peterson photographing along the Portneuf River with hoarfrost and temp @ 4F.
Dr. Chuck Peterson sets up shots along Portneuf River.
In November, I went out to Craters of the Moon National Monument with several of my photo students. The monument has been designated an International Dark Sky Park and the night we were there was on a new moon. That was one of the “darkest” experiences I have ever had, with the exception being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when I was in the Navy.
Star trails at Craters of the Moon National Monument and International Dark Sky Park.
The first week of October I drove to southern New Mexico to research and photograph tourists’ activities related to the birth of the atomic era. Specifically, twice a year in April and October, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) opens the Trinity Site to the public for a one-day visit. Trinity Site is ground zero for the Manhattan Project’s first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945. Less than a month later atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Trinity Site is located near the Jornada del Muerto desert (Journey of the Dead Man) and in the Tularosa Basin, just northwest of Alamogordo.
Having lived part of my childhood in the mountains east of Alamogordo, I felt it important to visit WSRM to try to better understand where my father worked during the late 1950s. After visiting the WSRM Museum and Missile Park, I did gain some insights into his life and work. For example, I did not realize WSRM was originally established near the end of WWII, in part, for reverse engineering the Nazi V-2 rocket with Germany’s top rocket scientist, Dr. Wehner von Braun. My father’s work overlapped with von Bruan’s for the next decade as my father worked on the Mercury and Gemini manned space programs.
Needless to say, it was an interesting and tiring 5-day road trip, which included three out of four nights camping (two nights were in Mesa Verda National Park).
Professor Kavanagh conducting video interviews for her documentary project “Atomic Tourist: Trinity” at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, October 7, 2017.
TBDC Protestors outside Trinity/MSMR Gate. Tina Cordova (center with black hat) is co-founder of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.
Members of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) protesting outside Trinity Site during open house on October 7, 2017.
While out on a field trip with my photo class, I came across some more colorful beehives in Caribou County, Idaho. On the way back, we encountered a young bull moose in the road. He eventually wondered into the adjacent field and I snapped a quick shot through the window.
This past May, I had the opportunity to visit Sweden to make a presentation about my photographic research at the international Geomedia 2017 conference. The conference was held at Karlstad University in the town of Karlstad. Lovely city located about halfway between Stockholm and Oslo, Norway. We had the opportunity to ride both high-speed trains and slower, vintage Cold War era trains between Karlstad and Stockholm. While in Stockholm, we did get to visit Gamla Stan or the old Stockholm. This portion of the city dates back to the 13th century, around 1252 CE. Just as a side note, my ancestral family name originates in this part of Scandinavia. Maybe there’s some deep genetic root that made me feel so comfortable and “at home” in Sweden!
Alley leading to square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.
Sandbäcksgatan Bridge over the Klarälven River in Värmland County, Sweden. View from hotel room.
View across the Klarälven River in Karlstad, Sweden
Last month after attending a conference in Sweden, we flew south to Sicily to celebrate 30 years of marriage. Sicily feels like you are stepping back in time, yet there certainly is modernization all about. Especially wind and solar farms. While there we visited four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Valley of the Temples near Agrigento, the Greek Theatre and Roman Ampitheatre in the Latomie area of Syracuse, the Roman Villa del Casale (famous tile mosaics) near Piazza Armerina, and Mount Etna (great winery and vineyard at Gambino‘s). We also visited Taormina just a few days before the G7 global conference. As a retired military member, we tapped some of our benefits and stayed in very nice lodging at NATO Village, which is part of Sigonella Naval Air Station. Below are a few samples of some of the historical places visited. More images to come on the food and flora of the area!
Temple of Hera at Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, SI, Italy.
The staircase of St. Mary in Caltagirone, SI, Italy, lined with potted flowers to create floral design when viewed from the bottom looking up. Each riser of staircase is lined with handmade ceramic tiles made in the city. This city is known for its ceramics.