Western landscape

Last Night Outing of the Year with ISU Photo Students

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.

 

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New Year’s Eve Day-trip

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!

Atomic Road Trip

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).

Yellowstone Conference

So I’m currently attending the Yellowstone Studies Center Consortium annual conference in West Yellowstone, Montana. Perfect time of year with fall colors, snow, and mild temps! Here’s a few shots from the trip.

Lewiston and Montana Trip

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the LCSC Center for Arts & History in Lewiston, Idaho. I was an invited lecturer to kick off their three-month exhibition on photographic history of their region. The exhibition is titled: Stories We See—Early Photography of the Valley.  My research has examined Idaho’s first lady photographer, Mrs. Amelia Strang, who had her commercial studio in Lewiston during the mid-1860s. She is a centerpiece in my upcoming book on women photographers of the Pacific Northwest during the 19th century.

The trip took me through the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, along the Lochsa River, which I did fish on the morning of my return. Next, I ventured down the Bitterroot Valley into Idaho and followed the Salmon River and spent the night at the Syringa Lodge in Salmon. To finish out the trip, I continued south to Challis and then through the Big Lost River Valley to MacKay and then home. Lots of great autumn colors, dramatic clouds, and snow along the mountain peaks.

Went Up the Mountain

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.

Photo Roadtripping in YNP & GTP

Last week I had the opportunity to take some ISU (Idaho State University) photo and video students to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for a photography roadtrip. And, by design, two of my close friends (Robert Breshears and Tom Mitchell) from the photography department at the University of Central Missouri, were there at the same time with several of their students. It was a great rendezvous of kindred photographic spirits!  Our combined students had an opportunity to exchange ideas, photograph together, and for some, enjoy bison and elk burgers in Gardiner, Montana at “The Corral“. For our group, we stayed at the Yellowstone Studies Center, which is part of the West Yellowstone Economic Council and is located in West Yellowstone, Montana. This is a great resource for universities when they bring students to Yellowstone National Park for their research and creative activities. Here’s some shots from our week at YNP and GTP!

Archaeology and Photography

This past week I was able to spend several days at the Idaho State University Anthropology Department’s archeology field school over in west-central Idaho. Archeology site director, Dr. Andy Speer and his students were very accommodating in letting me poke around shooting stills and videos, along with capturing sound bites. Hopefully a nice documentary will come out of all this and will help future summer archeology field schools.

The field school/archeology dig site was in the Sweet Ola Valley on a private 1700 acre ranch located in the Boise National Forest. What an incredible view! The area is rich in history and more documentaries are there if I just had the time to keep digging!

The first night there, I couldn’t work on my astro-landscape work due to thunderstorms that kept rolling up the valley. Night two was crystal clear but I was too exhausted to stay up! The following night started off favorable, but then clouds kept scudding right though my field of view, but I at least captured one interesting image.

Here’s a few still photos from the documentary project. Enjoy!