Nature

When Lightning Strikes

I’ve not been very successful in capturing lightnings. However, this year I managed to shoot a few!

I shot this last weekend. It was only a 2-second shot and I managed to catch 3 strikes. I call it my lucky strikes!

The image below is a 15-second shot captured in April.

I guess I will have more opportunities to practise shooting as Singapore has one of the highest lightning activity with about an average of 171 thunderstorm days (days when thunder is heard) recorded annually. Can’t wait for November which has an average of 20 thunder days! http://www.weather.gov.sg/wip/web/home/lightning

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Blue Moon at Monument Valley

A once in a blue moon event! A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month, and it is doubly rare that this December it falls on New Year’s eve. I was at Monument Valley to shoot this rare occasion. I was out at sunset and waited for the moon to rise over the horizon. As this was the first time I tried shooting a moonrise, it was quite an experience. I had to shoot at one place, and then every minute or so I had to move about 3 feet down to follow the moon’s path over the Mittens. I had to do this shoot-move-shoot sequence many times over the course of an hour or so. You can call it “chasing for the moon”!:-) Yes, it was cold to be out shooting with temperatures in the 20s (deg F), but what a way to end the old year and welcome the new.

Peace, happiness to all in 2010!

Arizona Perspective III – Paria Plateau

It was a cold early December start at 4 a.m. for a 2-hour drive into the back country to the Paria Wilderness. It snowed the night before so the wilderness was layered with fresh snow. I was thrilled even though it meant braving the cold freezing temperature. I had seen photos of the Paria Plateau but nothing prepared me for what I was going to see at first hand.

The access road to South Coyote Buttes area is known for its deep sand and many vehicles have been stuck especially during the summer season. Since it was winter and the ground was frozen, we had no problems. Even then, driving the road (if you can call it a road) in the dark can be quite challenging. But Charly, from Overland Canyon Tours, knew the area like the back of his hand. We made it to South Coyote Buttes without any mishaps although there was a harrowing moment when Charly had to skilfully negotiate the SUV between huge boulders that had fallen on the narrow House Rock Valley Road and the cliff edge.

Nevertheless, we made it to South Coyote Buttes with plenty of time to spare to catch the first light on the Cottonwood Tepees.

I hiked into the Paria Wilderness, braving almost zero degree temperatures and wind chill. I was awe-struck with the swirling, twisted red sandstone that contrasted with the white snow. At times, it seemed eerie with the blowing wind and snow flurries dancing across the deserted bizarre landscape. No words can adequately describe this wild land. This is raw nature at its best!

Later at midday, Charly drove to another breathtaking location – White Pocket. Carved by wind and water, the whole area is a mosaic of colorful swirling sandstone, checkered board rocks, hexagonal bedrock that is almost brainlike – an amazing cacophony of rock shapes, patterns and colors! Photographer Gary Ladd aptly described the area as preposterously photogenic. For me, it is simply out of this world!

Charly Moore, the guide of the day, is quite a character. A tattoo artist and owner of the outfitter company, Charly has an intimate knowledge of and is passionate about the area. For the day trip, Charly did not provide just a brown bag lunch. He prepared a delicious spread of tuna salad, pumpernickel bread, cheese, lunch meat, green apples, and piping hot chocolate. Quite a gourmet meal for dinning in the outback! I can’t wait to sample Charly’s fillet mignon which is on his menu for an overnight camping trip.:-)

The only thing that spoiled an otherwise perfect day in the Paria Wilderness was seeing the pristine area dotted with black lumps. Can you guess what they were?

Yes, there were dung…cow dung all over! It seems that the authorities have allowed free range cattle to roam the area. Ironically, the area is protected and restricted to limited visits by people (read about the permits here) which I feel is the right thing to do as the area is very fragile should be kept in its pristine condition for many generations to enjoy its beauty. But who is going to pick up after the cattle? Some cow sense!

We stayed until the earth shadow appeared on the horizon and the low winter sun cast its last light. I was reluctant to leave this extraordinary place.

In his book, Arizona, photographer David Muench noted that “we need wild places where we will not see houses, cars, fences, signs, bullet casings, or even trails. We need places where there is no trace of human interference, because these places will then serve as a standard. We need these places because they cleanse us. Whatever pressures and frustrations we have in our lives in the cities, we can lose them out there. When we walk in beauty, all the garbage in our lives disappears.”

This was exactly how I felt after spending a day walking the Paria Plateau. I was so absorbed in its immense beauty that time stood still and all my cares of the moment went away. What a wild, timeless and spiritual place!

More Fall Colors

I was one of the hundreds of “leaf peepers” who descended on Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona at the end of October when the fall colors were at its peak. At popular trails like West Fork, the car park was full by 9am and many had to park 1-2 miles along the scenic Oak Creek Road.

There was much to stop for and stare, and shoot while walking along the 3 mile marked trail. Here are some of the highlights:

The best photo spot of the day was by the creek. It was a perfect day with overcast sky and still air to shoot the reflection of the canyon wall and trees. You can stay put at this one spot and shoot different compositions, try out different focal lengths and angles. The only challenge is that you have to wait patiently for people to boulder hop across the creek at the far end, and on crowded weekends, it can be quite a wait.

Photographing fall foliage can be a challenge as one has to find good compositions with a pleasing bokeh. If there is a breeze, the fluttering leaves can be an issue for shutter speeds and exposures. On hindsight, a day trip was too short to cover all of West Fork’s fall colors. With the shorter daylight in the canyon, I never made it to the end of the 3 mile trail. But then, there is always next year… 🙂

Final fall impressions.

Looking For Fall Colors in Arizona

Will there still be color? The weather forecast for the day was not promising, 25-30 mph winds and a 30% chance of precipitation. After two years of not-so-successful attempts to capture the elusive Fall in Arizona, I decided to take the gamble and hit the road.

By mid-morning, as the San Francisco Peaks appeared on the horizon, I excitedly looked for any hint of yellow on the slopes. The weather was clear with patches of white clouds in the blue sky. As the car made its way winding towards Lockett Meadow, I was greeted with more than just a splash of gold. The aspen trees were shimmering in the sun, cloaked in their full Autumn splendor!

In the middle of the shoot, it turned dark and chilly and snow flurries began to fall. Fortunately, it was short lived. In the late afternoon, I took the back road to Hart Prairie to catch the last rays of the day.

Unlike Lockett Meadow which was busy with campers and visitors, Fall in the Prairie was quieter and more introspective.

By dusk, the mist blanketed Autumn’s display and it’s time to pack and head home. Fall seldom stays for long in Arizona, and her visit is often short and fickle. Will this be the last of my search for Fall and her colors? Or is it just the beginning?