Trail Option: A personal geography of landscape and place...

Photography — Blog Projects — Field Journals

Recon at Carson Pass, CA

2018.08.12 — The smoke had cleared a bit at StoneHeart, so it was time to see how things were at the altitude of Carson Pass.

Sunrise and Smoke: An Early Morning Decision

Landscape photography typically involves planning, at least for me.

Tufa and Smoke at Mono Lake, CA

It was time to take advantage of a break in the work routine. The summer monsoons had recently encroached on the Pine Nut Mountains above StoneHeart, so maybe there would be some dramatic clouds and lightning to chase. Or, the exhausting California fires would continue to pour smoke onto the eastern Sierra, creating another saturated sunset.

I checked my radar apps all afternoon but the bright red blobs of the past few days were absent, and only a few yellow-level squalls bloomed momentarily and then scurried away in the afternoon heat.

Memorial Day at Skunk Harbor, Lake Tahoe, NV

The extended cycle of low-pressure storm systems, that seemed to continually rotate across the Great Basin, has ended momentarily. And, of course, after a few weeks of dramatic skies, morning and night, I get a break to get out on a short landscape...

A Photo and Geo Recon, Grass Valley, NV

I have an on-going project in Grass Valley, Nevada, so I’m feeling good that I could get on the road today, on schedule, and into the Basin. Of course, a potent spring storm arrived overnight and the rain was steady as I left for the office, camp trailer in tow. The storm cleared during the day, but a gusty wind remained, not letting up as forecast.

Carson River Morning

Up early for a quick trip out to the Carson River. The river is swollen with early run-off, but the morning hold a winter chill and little promise of photographer’s light. Dez and I wandered the banks where I first tried to capture some images of the setting moon.

Black Rock Desert Recon

The Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada is the epitome of expansive space as its vast playa, the remnant lakebed of pluvial Lake Lahontan, rolls off the horizon in all directions. I have been wandering and researching this awesome landscape since the 1980s.

Stillness at Walker Lake, NV

I approached Walker Lake from the south at sunset, good timing after a long day’s drive. I have traversed this highway many times and spent some time on the lake, but I had never seen the glass-like stillness of this large remnant of pluvial Lake Lahontan. Amazed, I decided I needed a break from the windshield and turned off Highway 93 at Sportsmans Beach. I found the boat-ram perched far above the lake, even after the very wet winter. I considered setting up on the roadways of the camp and picnic ground overlooking the lake,

Seascape Photography is Difficult — Stinson Beach, CA

An open beach on a calm morning is basically a simple pattern generator. No big breaks, just repeated wave-sets, steady and calming. The sun had just cleared the headlands, getting first-light on the foam. 1/100 sec, f/11, ISO 100; Canon 80D, 18-135mm....

Deep Freeze at Bridgeport Reservoir, CA

Inversion fog forms misty strata above Bridgeport Reservoir. A seven-shot panorama of the Sawtooth Range, Sierra Nevada. Focused on the structure to emphasize the softness of the frosty background. 1/500 sec, f/5, ISO 200; Canon 80D, 18-135 mm.  ...

Iceland Day 9: Vestrahorn Gray

After the brilliance of Jökulsárlón, the morning seemed extra dark as clouds settled and the sky threatened rain.

Iceland Day 8: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach

It looked like we had a couple days of good weather ahead and we planned to take full advantage. Although I had no real reason to, given the late sunrise, I was still getting up early, brewing some coffee in the lobby, backing up my remaining SD card, and loading...

Iceland Day 7: Vik to Vestrahorn

It’s a drive day. Forecasts called for a good twenty-four hours or so before the next storm, so the plan was to position ourselves further east along the South Coast, setting a base to explore the region as conditions change. I was up early to pack. I have a pretty...

Iceland Day 6: Moving to South Coast

For now, we drive through almost perfect golden-hour light—the golden hour that lasts all day here. At first it was a bit frustrating, as back-lit storm clouds danced in the volcanic mountains. But we committed to the goal of the South Coast, the good weather and aurora forecasts pulling us onward.

Iceland Day 5.5: Aurora at Black Church

Icelandic photo tours and workshops promise* aurora. There is always an asterisk, only Nick and Thor deliver aurora

Day 5: The Light Begins

The van was stuck. We walked from the hotel in the blue light of pre-dawn mid-morning to find Thor shoveling and sweeping a deep, wind-blown drift from the half-buried van. Even four-wheel drive would not get it out and the wind was howling, the piles getting deeper....

Iceland Days 3 & 4: A slow build to Snaefellsnes

The storm arrived. Northwest winds of up to 50 m/s (about 110 mph) shut down roads and local gusts pummeled the hotel window. We decided today’s Vogar adventure consisted of a walk to a convenience store and then waiting for the nice folks at Gamla Pósthúsið to open for dinner. I highly recommend this unassuming, excellent dinner house; it is perfectly located across the quiet street fronting Hotel Vogar.

Iceland Day 2: A coming storm

Boarding a plane on any airline, it’s hard to tell one flight from another. It’s the same rows of seats, banging of carry-on, and hoarding of overhead bins. But when that first intercom announcement hits my ears in a foreign language, I know this plane ride is different. This happens every time; I perk up and relax in the same moment. It’s time travel. I’ll jump out somewhere else, in some other time zone, and things will be slightly beyond my control. In fact, call me strange, I love airports and planes. They are possibilities.

Icelandic Winter Adventure: A Photography Workshop

Invest in yourself – sage and true advice if there ever was any. So rather than believing the next new piece of gear was going to spark some hidden creativity, I decided to travel for a landscape photography workshop. But what workshop? 

Advantage of Windshield Time

Argenta Rim 2004 — I drive a lot. It is part of the job and, for me, one of the pleasures of my vocation; it seems to be a highlight of my avocations too.

Seascape Photography is Difficult — Stinson Beach, CA

An open beach on a calm morning is basically a simple pattern generator. No big breaks, just repeated wave-sets, steady and calming. The sun had just cleared the headlands, getting first-light on the foam. 1/100 sec, f/11, ISO 100; Canon 80D, 18-135mm....

Deep Freeze at Bridgeport Reservoir, CA

Inversion fog forms misty strata above Bridgeport Reservoir. A seven-shot panorama of the Sawtooth Range, Sierra Nevada. Focused on the structure to emphasize the softness of the frosty background. 1/500 sec, f/5, ISO 200; Canon 80D, 18-135 mm.  ...

Oh, I can process images? — An Odd Start

It is difficult to imagine, over a year later, not processing images, letting JPEG settings baked into whatever digital camera I was using dictate the photographic output. It has long been so cool to have immediate access to images, accepting that they looked “good enough”…

2019 LightOpt Project

Remnant Pines — An Island on a Mountainside.

An island of Jeffrey Pines, alone in an alcove of the Pine Nut Mountains, is visible from the comfort of my front porch. It rises over a sea of sagebrush and sometimes punctuates a seasonal snowfield below the broad spine of a seemingly barren mountain ridge. The contrast of the small stand of pines in the open space of the range draws my daily gaze. I have watched fires run around it, lightning and lenticulars dance above it, and deer seek refuge in it. Otherwise it stands alone, protected by its distance from well-used roads. My goal is to get to know this island of remnant pines, documenting its life and light through the seasons.

Field Journals -- Geoarchaeology and the Geometry of Landscapes

Archaeologists ask questions about the technology and culture of people, past and present, to better understand changes in human adaptation and lifestyles  across time and space. And yet, archaeological observations wrestle with geological problems. People leave traces of their passage on and in landforms shaped by natural processes–the dynamic landscape influences and alters people’s behavior, and continues to alter and mask the materials and patterns left behind. We must understand these processes, along with the climatic and environmental conditions driving them, before we can find answers in the sample of artifacts and features we are fortunate to encounter and document.

This is the realm and discipline of geoarchaeology–using geological methods to document and evaluate the landform processes that influence archaeological site formation, alteration, preservation, and discovery. My goal, through photography, blogging, and occasional short videos, is to provide some background and simple tutorials on geoarchaeological methods, landform descriptions, and general case studies.

I have had the good fortune of a long geoarchaeological journey in the Great Basin, and beyond. It is time to expand on that journey, encouraging everyone to share in the wonder and respect for the people, places, and processes of Earth’s natural landscape.