Tourists and other photographers crowd around me in front of this smallish arch and wait quietly in the dark, some of us for many hours. Finally, we notice a faint glow on the horizon, and then the rim of the sun peaks up from behind the distant mountains. Immediately the underside of Mesa Arch turns a brilliant fiery red. Within a few minutes a slice of sun creeps far enough over the mountains to cast a soft hazy light that silhouettes the canyon and pinnacles below. And finally, the sun makes a grand entrance and bursts into view, its light rays revealing the beautiful hues of oranges, corals, reds, rusts and browns in this awesome landscape. I love living in Utah!
A few days ago I spent a couple of peaceful hours at the new Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point. Butterflies are often hard to photograph for the obvious reasons. They move quickly, they blend in with flowers and foliage, they're small and have tiny patterns, etc. Below I've posted some of my favorite shots from the day along with some tips about taking better photos of these beautiful creatures.
1. First and foremost, be patient and plan to spend a lot of time just observing and waiting.
2. Plan on taking hundreds, if not thousands of photos to get a few that you like and are in focus.
3. Use any lens you have, however, for the photos below, I used a telephoto lens.
4. Look for a monochromatic background that coordinates and/or contrasts with the colors in the butterfly to make an interesting composition.
5. Fill the frame with the butterfly, (zoom or crop), to show intricate shapes, colors and textures.
6. Try to isolate the butterfly a good distance from the background and surrounding foliage to make it stand out.
7. Coordinate the colors of the butterfly with a color in the background for a pleasing composition.
8. Create a small depth of field that blurs the background so the butterfly is not competing with other objects surrounding it or behind it. (Small f number.)
9. Often we view butterflies from above, looking down as they sit on flowers or foliage. Find different points of view, like this one that shows antennae and profile of head.
10. Look for unique compositions that will be eye catching and interesting.
My goal was to make the butterfly in each of the above photos the focal point and subject of the images. Below is an example of a photo that is alright but did not meet my goal This is more of an environmental nature shot where the scene is as important as the butterfly. It is not as impactful if the subject is the butterfly.
I was in front of the temple
waiting and hoping for a pretty sunset, and looked behind me and saw
this amazing rainbow. I was disappointed it wasn't over the temple.
Then I realized if I hurried around to take a shot in the opposite
direction from the back of the temple, I might see the rainbow. Sure
enough, it was even more intense and beautiful! I don't think I've ever
taken a photo of a temple with a rainbow.
And I love to find interesting ways to photograph and
present them to show off their beauty, color and unique qualities. This
time of year I have to get my 'flower fix' in before they disappear
until next year.....at least in my little corner of the world.
Bokeh: In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality,
size, shape, and intensity, of the blur in out-of-focus parts of an
image, that is produced by the lens hitting a light source. Bokeh has
been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of
light". Avoiding compositions that will include bokeh, or looking for
compositions that will purposely create bokeh, depends on the personal
preference of the photographer.
I needed a break from the desert heat of summer, and I knew just where
to go. When we left St. George, the temperature was 105 degrees,
(elevation around 2800 feet), and we ended up in Cedar Breaks National
Monument where the temperature was 65 degrees (elevation over 10,000
feet). A 40 degree temperature change in a little over an hour's drive!
Plus I get to see beautiful scenes like this! I love this little
corner of Utah!!
Modern cameras and sophisticated editing programs make it possible to
take photos in harsh, afternoon sunshine like this. Soft focus,
contrast and shadows adjustments needed on these bright, backlit
My mom loved flowers and our backyard in California was always
overflowing with many varieties of them. Usually Mom liked to keep
flowers alive and growing outside, with one exception. At dinnertime,
when we would always sit down and eat together as a family, she would
pick one flower, usually a hibiscus, camellia or gardenia, and float it
in a small bowl of water for a simple, yet lovely, table decoration.
Sometimes the little things a mother does become a wonderful family
sego lily was chosen as the official state flower of Utah because of
its natural beauty and historic significance. The soft, bulbous root
was collected and eaten in the mid 1800's by early Mormon pioneers
during a crop-devouring plague of crickets.
For those not familiar with Tuacahn, it is an outside amphitheater tucked in this beautiful canyon where they present live performances all summer. Tonight's production was 'The Little Mermaid'
"And I'm proud to be an American Where at least I know I'm free And I won't forget the men who died Who gave that right to me And I'd gladly stand up next to you And defend Her still today 'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God Bless the U.S.A. --Lee Greenwood
like wild rhubarb surrounded by a sea of delicate desert wildflowers
Nature/landscape photographers are always searching for that
knock-your-socks-off epic scene with stunning sunsets, towering cliffs
or magnificent waterfalls. I am too! Images like that attract lots of
attention, especially on social media. But I also try hard not to lose
my personal perspective and the joy I feel in appreciating the beauty
of the small and less dramatic vignettes in nature that I look for and
At this time of year, one can see these beautiful fields right from the freeway. A few years ago, when I took this photo, it was possible to wander through the fields for free, but now you have to pay a fee.
Taken at an exotic tropical island??? Actually, a motel parking lot
near Disneyland! Another example of finding beauty hidden in plain
sight. Bird of Paradise flowers were everywhere, but I happened to
notice a shaft of soft morning light spotlighting this one flower,
turning it into something beautiful.
NOTES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS: It is interesting for me as a photographer, to note that our eyes take in so many details when we look at a scene. From side to side and top to bottom, there is usally a lot to look at and process. Sometimes a scene is glorious everywhere I look. Often, however, I see both pleasent and distracting objects in a scene that all vie for my attention. But when I look through the lens of a camera, point it in one direction or another, zoom in or out, I can narrow down to what I really want to focus on and enjoy looking at, without distraction. In this case, I can ignore the trampled poppies next to me, (not caused by me!), the bikes laying on the ground just out of the frame to the right, the painter and his easel to the left, and the new houses being built on the hill that would be in my photo if I had pointed my camera in a different direction.
Sometimes we have to readjust our viewpoint in some way, to really see the beauty hiding in plain sight!
NOTES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS. Learn to be flexible! Expectations can change when you are 'in the field', (in this case, literally)! I left early to capture soft morning light, but by the time I found this location the sun was above the mountain and the light was harsh. Plus, there were already photographers, painters, hikers and bikers roaming around this small area. I was not going to leave without a few shots, so I opted to shoot into the sun to back light the poppies and create an interesting sunflare. I had to take my shots in between people walking into the scene and in front of my camera!
I took this just a few minutes before 9:00 pm. Have I ever mentioned that I LOVE living in Utah, I LOVE spring in the desert, and I LOVE daylight savings time!!! (It is about 5 minutes away from home.)
NOTES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS: Color is critical in landscape and nature photography if your goal is to capture what you really see. One of many ways to make your photos more interesting with color in mind, is to find scenes that attract attention because they are "color coordinated". In other words, find compositions that have similar color shades and tones in different elements and positions in the frame.
Bleeding Hearts Lamprocapnos spectabilis or Dicentra spectabilis
"I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a grassy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a long time, and everyone
who saw it in that time has also died or moved
away and so, like so many stories, this one can't
get finished properly. Most things that are
important, have you noticed, lack a certain
neatness. More delicious, anyway is to
remember my grandmother's pleasure when
the dissolve of winter was over and the green
knobs appeared and began to rise, and to cre-
ate their many hearts. One would say she was
a simple woman, made happy by simple
things. I think this was true. And more than
once, in my long life, I have wished to be her."
I will miss these beautiful spring flowers in my garden!
One of my favorite challenges when I take photos of flowers in nature is
to find the smaller and often overlooked little gems, and then try to
show off their modest beauty in the best possible way I can. When I saw
this tiny Desert Primrose plant beside the dusty dirt road we were on, I knew it had potential!!
Hello! I haven't been around for the past several months. (Thanks to those who inquired if everything was alright.) Just too much going on, (travel, Disneyland with the grands, purchase of new house, and preparing another house to sell), that I had to put my camera away for awhile. But a couple of weeks ago I stole a few minutes just before sunset to drive into Snow Canyon for a shot of my favorite Joshua Tree. It's my favorite because of the beautiful background to show it off. This year was a Joshua Tree super bloom. A few bloom every year but most do not, then some years they have a super bloom when most all the trees in Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California bloom during the same season. The experts don't know exactly how they all know which year to bloom! P.S. Our new home is right behind the red cliffs in the distance.
This is a magical place! It surprises and delights me every time I'm
there. Having a bit of cabin fever yesterday, and needing to get away
for a few hours, I grabbed my camera and took off. Without having a
specific place to go, I found myself heading toward Zion, as I often do.
It was just about sunset when I arrived at this iconic photo op.
Every time I cross this bridge I tell myself I can't shoot this scene
one more time, yet I always do, and rarely have I been disappointed.
This time the bridge was full of photogs and visitors, as it always
is, waiting for a beautiful sunset that never happened. The sun was
hidden behind a sky full of clouds and the landscape was dark and dull.
A man visiting the park for the first time walked over to where I was
standing with my camera and tripod set up, looked at the scene, and
asked what was everyone looking at. About this time most of the
photographers were packing up to leave. Finally everyone was gone
except for four other photographers and myself. We waited and waited
and waited, and finally two gave up and left. The rest of us waited
some more as it got darker and colder. Then finally the magic happened!
It was like Mother Nature was going to reward us for our patience with
a beautiful show. Slowly Watchman Peak appeared to have a very faint
warm glow that slowly spread to the surrounding red cliffs and then
began to grow more intense. As the clouds continued to disperse
revealing blue sky, a few lingering sun rays directly hit the cliffs
turning them instantly into a neon shade of orange which lit up the
whole scene. It was lovely to behold! Another bit of magic that happens
in this place is that the Virgin river, normally a muddy river with a
dull green tinge, seems to take on the color of the sky at sunset. I
have photos where the river is green, turquoise, rosy pink, and various
shades of blue, depending on the color of the sky.Below is a photo I took of this scene before the magic happened:
.....and the much needed rains came to the deserts of southern Utah,
creating seasonal waterfalls and a misty, magical scene to enjoy and
photograph. This is 5 minutes from our southern Utah home but just out
of the frame are beautiful homes in Kayenta that have this view every
Here's a few more photos I initially ignored, taken in March of 2018, but
rethinking that they deserve a little love, if only to remember one of
our RZR (ATV) trips last year. We rode
from St. George to this remote Grand Canyon overlook. I don't remember
if it had a name, but we were in Whitmore Canyon.