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!
Yesterday, I ventured up the tallest mountain immediately next to Pocatello: Kinport Peak. At just over 7,200 feet elevation, Kinport sits southwest from the city and provides an incredible view of town and also of the Snake River Plain. All of the American Falls Reservoir can clearly be viewed from that height. The purpose of risking a rough 4×4 trail with my truck (and yes, there were some “Depends” moments!) was to scout some new locations for doing some future astro-landscape photography. If I were to do some shooting up there, I might need to spend the night because that “road” back down would certainly be a nightmare in the dark! Regardless, I had a peaceful afternoon up there with no one else around. Had lunch on the tailgate of my truck while enjoying a wilderness view to the south. Colors were intense, with the Rocky Mountain Maples in deep orange-red and aspens in bright gold. The fragrance of autumn was abundant along the flat top ridge as I traveled over to Wild Mountain (some maps identify it as Wild Horse Mountain), which is where I live on its lower slopes.
After seeing many of Darren Clark‘s images from the northern reaches of southeast Idaho, I felt the need to visit the area and do some of my own shooting. I made it to the Camas National Wildlife Refuge just as the sun was rising over the Grand Tetons. What a view! Afterwards, I wondered north to Dubois, had some coffee at the gas station, then headed northeast into the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. After several miles of high desert, I neared the mountains near Kilgore and was hoping to loop over to Spencer but discovered there was no winter maintenance on the back roads. Long trip back! Eventually worked my way north into southern Montana where I had lunch. On the trip back, I cut through the lava fields heading over towards Rexburg, where the Heny’s Fork of the Snake River was very tempting….good thing I left the fly fishing gear at home!
The other day I decided to go fishing on the Portneuf River, about an hour’s drive from home. Got out there before sunrise and encountered a live skunk at my first pull-off point so I decided to go further up the river to another access area. As I pulled on my waders in the dim light of pre-dawn, the silence was broken by the raucous cawing of crows, followed by small flights of ducks and geese with their associated honking. So much for Nature being quiet! Regardless, being alone in the cold river (except for the pre-historic looking Great Blue Heron gliding above the river’s channel) casting dry flies upstream was a powerful moment of solitude to enjoy before the excitement of another semester at the university.
After a steady rain finally let up, the skies began to breakup and just as I climbed up the river’s bank I noticed this lovely rainbow that arched from one side of the mountain to the other. Unfortunately, I only had my Fujifilm X-20 retro range-finder digital camera. No ultra-wide angle lens to capture the entire view.
Eventually I drove up the road a bit and took a gravel road along Pebble Creek, where I was high enough the clouds were at my level. Here I also came across a couple of Jack Rabbits! Frankly I didn’t know they lived this far north. I’ve always encountered them in Texas or the desert southwest. Interesting.
Next, I drove along Toponce Creek, were I saw a dead badger and several wild turkeys. Here I did catch a small lively Brook Trout and promptly released it. When the fishing slowed down, I drove along the Chesterfield area where I kept coming across beehives. I was fascinated by their interesting colors. Several ranchers had these multi-colored boxes stacked in their fields. Finally I had to stop and switch roles from trout fisher to photographer! But once back in the Portneuf River in the afternoon, I landed three nice rainbow trout and released several others. Excellent way to spend the day!
Last month I had the opportunity to slip away from the university for a day and went on a photo road trip with fellow photographer, John Lowry. Our adventure began well before sunrise as we headed out to the Snake River Plain and headed northwest into the Arco Desert. First stop in the bone-chilling weather was Atomic City, a quasi-ghost town not far from the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). This entire region is an interesting mix of ancient basaltic lava flows, atomic wastelands, and current nuclear testing facilities.
My planned experiments for the day centered on the vast landscape to be photographed through my super wide-angle Rokinon 14mm/f2.8 lens. The objective was to use a 1.2 ND filter attached to the backside of the lens, which would reduce my exposures by 4 f-stops. Ultimately, the plan called for windy conditions that would allow for cloud movement during the slow exposures. Alas, the wind didn’t cooperate and the clouds stood still. Bummer. But regardless of Mother Nature’s lack of support in this endeavor, we did have a great time and created a variety of images. Enjoy!
This week my Photo Communication class and a few folks from my Advanced Photography class headed up into the Portneuf River Valley, about an hour southeast from the university, for some panoramic fieldwork. The valley was beautiful this time of year, situated between the Bannock and Portneuf mountain ranges at 5,446 feet (1,660m) elevation. Our fieldwork site was the Mormon ghost town of Chesterfield.
Situated along the Oregon Trail, Chesterfield began as a village settlement during the early 1880s. However, after the turn-of-the-century, this rural community began to suffer the effects of drought, harsh winters, and the construction of Union Pacific’s rail line a dozen miles south at Bancroft. By the late 1920s and into the ‘30s, Chesterfield continued to fail due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl affects throughout the Intermountain West.
With cameras and tripods in hand, the ISU photo students tackled their work with much enthusiasm! Dividing into small teams, they conducted photographic survey work of the old town site. Using a variety of photographic methodologies, they crafted images ranging from multiple-image panoramic landscape shots, to detailed close-up interior architectural views within abandoned structures still containing home-preserved jars of fruits and vegetables.
Late in the afternoon, we drove over to the Chesterfield Reservoir to scout future sites for nighttime astrophotography; specifically, star trails. Afterwards, we headed out of the valley to Lava Hot Springs, where we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Chuck Wagon restaurant. Below are some shots of my students engaged in their fieldwork at Chesterfield, along with a few of my interpretations of the experience.
Today (just a week after the Autumnal Equinox) we took a 20-mile scenic drive east of town that winds its way between Camelback Mountain and Chinese Peak (colloquially known as Chinks Peak, including Google Maps). Colors in the trees were incredible with plenty of red from the Maples and orange from Hawthorns and other smaller deciduous trees, scatter among the cedars and pines. What surprised me the most was seeing mountaintops already blanketed with snow! Just yesterday the nearby Scout Mountain (14 miles away), had its peak (about 8,700ft/2652m) covered in the white stuff! Here are a few shots from our afternoon outing. As a technical side note, I was shooting with my Nikon D800 with a 51-year old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 lens. It works great and has excellent qualities!
For some time I’ve noted what appeared to be very banal photos of landscapes, especially the urban or suburban. What I had been viewing was a genre as “New Topographics”, which has its roots in the 1975 landscape exhibit curated by William Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. Specifically, that show was titled “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape“. It featured work by artists such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore.
When I attended the 2008 annual conference for the SPE, I was re-introduced to Robert Adams’ seemingly straightforward B&W work during one of the many lectures. Afterwards, on reviewing my personal archive, I realized over many years I too had been shooting in a similar vein. Thus, during my recent sojourn to west Kansas, I paid homage to this genre once again and created the short “topographic” study illustrated below.
Earlier this summer I went on a photo shooting trip to Independence, Missouri with Dr. Tom Mitchell’s editorial photo class. Every time I visit the town square, I feel as though I’m in time warp back to the 1950s. And, it always feels like Black and White! Here’s a few B&Ws from that outing that visually express the nostalgia I feel for that locale.