Thursday, December 24, 2020

                                                                                              Red Hills Desert Garden

I've been so spoiled to be able to photograph the Christmas lights on Temple Square every year!! Nothing quite compares to that experience! Since I couldn't go this year, my heart hasn't been in shooting the lights, but I talked myself into going to the Red Hills Desert Gardens tonight anyway. I always try to look for new compositions or different perspectives than common scenes one usually sees or that I've photographed numerous times. Here's the best I came up with. P.S. Here's a hint for shooting Christmas lights. Shoot during twilight or the blue hour. Many times lights are photographed looking up and when it is dark you end up with a boring black sky. (Unless you do something fancy like combine photos and replace the sky with a Milky Way photo.) But if you go just after the Christmas lights come on while there is still color in the sky, you will have a more colorful and interesting composition.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween in Emery, Utah



A little Photoshop work to put a monster, (photo taken at the Weta Lab in New Zealand), in a photo of an old church and full moon taken in Emery, Utah.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Fall 2020


Taken on the back road from Kolob Reservoir to Cedar City.  This was not a great year for brilliant color in the southern Utah mountains, but there were a few glimpses.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Late Bloomer


                                                                                                            Late Bloomer

I hate to say goodbye to the flower season!

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah


                                                                      Bridal Veil Falls, Utah

As much as I love living in Southern Utah, I do miss the beautiful landscapes up north, especially the abundance of colorful autumn leaves. This is Bridal Veil Falls, just a short distance from my former home.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Snow Canyon Sunset


Snow Canyon Sunset

This is my favorite place to photograph in Snow Canyon.  It was a beautiful way to end the day!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Autumn Aspens


                                                                                                   Kolob Reservoir, Utah

There was not much color left in this area but I managed to find one composition that  showed some leaves still on the trees.

Since I couldn't shoot many leaves on the trees then my only other option was to photograph them on the ground.  This scene was directly behind me from the top view.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Magenta Sunrise at Snow Canyon


Sunrise at Snow Canyon

Sunrise at Snow Canyon. On this morning, the 'blue hour' turned magenta just before sunrise. These magical cliffs change to different hues of oranges and reds depending on the weather, the position of the sun, the time of day and the season. They say, if you want to take beautiful landscape photos, take your camera to beautiful places! Lucky for me, this vantage point is a 10 minute drive. My home is just on the other side of these beautiful cliffs.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020



                                                  BRAXTON JEFFREY LARSEN

Despite all the challenges and problems of this year, we have one beautiful highlight to remember.  Tyler and Ashley had their first child and gave us our 15th grandchild, (13th grandson), on September 29, 2020.  We are so thrilled for them!  He is adorable and perfect in every way!!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cedar Breaks, Utah Sunset

                                   Cedar Breaks, Utah

Wait for it....wait for it....wait for it....and Ta Da, there it is!!! Last evening I drove up to Cedar Breaks, scouted out a location, set my camera on a tripod, and waited in anticipation to see if I would get a good sunset shot. Time goes by and the sky looks promising with a few clouds, and haze from all the many forest fires. But when sunset came, there was only a brief hint of pinkish glow and then it was gone, leaving the landscape a dull, uninteresting brown. And then starts the debate in my head about whether to stay longer or leave quickly while it is still light enough to make it back to my car without tripping and falling. (I forgot to bring a flashlight or my phone.) I can't count how many times I've made the decision to stay longer, and how many times I've been rewarded long after sunset with a dazzling sky that lights up the landscape just long enough for me to get a shot like this.
Technical Commentary:
I am amazed at how sophisticated camera technology and photo software editing programs have become!  (Especially great for technically challenged photogs like myself!)  Just a few years ago, landscape photographers would have to make a significant effort to produce an image like this, one that would not blow out the bright sky, or lose all the detail in the dark foreground.  He would have to compensate for the camera's INability to record the range of light to dark that the human eye can naturally see.  Many years ago I would have used a split level neutral density filter to darken the sky and balance the light.  In more recent years I would bracket several different exposures in my camera, (one shot exposed for the sky, one for the midground, one for the foreground, etc.), then combine them on the computer.  Then came HDR programs which automatically combined numerous exposures, (often with questionable or unnatural results).  Once in a while, but rarely today do I need to use these methods to get results I am pleased with.  
For this shot I used a tripod and set my camera to shot RAW and JPG and bracket three different exposures with every click.  I used a wide angle lens and my settings were 800 iso, f/20, 1 sec.  In LR I chose the middle RAW exposure, then decreased exposure in the sky with the 'Highlights' slider and increased exposure on the landscape with the 'Shadows' slider until I was happy with the results.  This was enough to balance the light in the bright sky and the dark landscape.  That's it!  I did make a few other adjustments, but did not change the color, or increase the saturation or decrease noise.  (P.S.  I also attribute a lot of the results with shots like this to the amazing capabilities of my Fuji X-T2.)       


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Lake Powell 2020



Just returned from one of our best Lake Powell houseboat trips ever! This year we had a new location, (Page AZ area), new and improved boat (Just Because), and new time of year, (July instead of October).  Everyone was able to come except Tyler and Ashley, as Ashley was too close to her due date to be that far away from home.  With 26 people ranging from ages 1 to 75, there was a lot of craziness, fun, laughter and action...skiing, wake boarding, tube riding, jet skiing, water sliding, fishing, swimming, kayaking, cliff jumping, paddle boarding, canyon exploring, game playing. And the only 'fighting' was with water balloons and squirt guns. So thankful that everyone stayed healthy and safe! And so blessed to have a family who enjoys being together. Even 'Mother Nature' smiled on us with this incredible view. One day at sunset, a brief storm front quickly passed over us but stalled over the cliffs at the end of the bay leaving this glorious rainbow that seemed to last forever. It was a perfect ending to a perfect vacation!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Snow Canyon, Utah

A Geologist's Dream!
I love my little corner of the world. Snow Canyon is a geologist's dream, with exposed layers of red and white sedimentary Navajo Sandstone layered with black volcanic basalt lava flows, dating back as far as 190 million years.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Desert Sunset at Kayenta, Utah

Desert sunsets in Kayenta, Utah can be so beautiful, but also deceiving, as it looks like I'm far away from civilization. In reality, this is a community of desert homes that sit on very large lots. When I shoot here, I always look for angles that don't show the houses. Additionally in this case, I'm standing just off a road in a new section being developed, and on my right just out of the frame, sits a big construction truck!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Cactus Bloom Drama

Don't believe photographers who say you shouldn't bother to take photos in the middle of the day because of poor lighting. There are always exceptions to the 'rule'. Joel Sartore, (long time NatGeo photographer), said, "There are 2 rules in photography. No. 1: there are no rules. No. 2: refer to Rule No. 1. (This photo was take midday. Blooms were in front of a wall. The position of the camera in relation to the sun created beautiful back lighting on the flowers and put the background wall in deep shade, creating a high contrast, dramatic scene.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sunshine, Wind, Yellow Wildflowers!

Windy day, narrow depth of field, bright sun, fun and artsy result!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dragonfly - Red Cliffs Desert Garden

Second time in a couple of weeks I've actually shot something alive and moving, and have it in focus! (A record for me!) Just before sunset the light was amazingly warm and made this dragonfly brilliant, showing the amazing detail in its wings.   This shot is straight out of the camera as a jpg image, camera set to Velvia simulation. Did not increase saturation or vibrancy in post processing. Here's the back story: I went to the Red Cliffs Desert Garden shortly before sunset yesterday and sat down on a bench. I looked across the path and 6 to 10 of these red dragonflies were going crazy on a bush. I immediately put a telephoto lens on my camera, and from the comfort of the bench took all the time I needed to fire off a ton of shots. The dragonflies were so in love with that bush that I could have spent an hour sitting there shooting. So after taking a gazillion shots, I was able to get a couple that were actually in focus.

Desert Bird of Paradise, Ocotillo

 Desert Bird of Paradise
Two of my favorite desert plants.  Both were taken on different days at or after sunset, and in the same area, with Red Mountain in the background background.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Darn Photo Bomber!

 A Beautiful Desert Morning!

If there is ever something alive and moving in my pictures it's usually a mistake and I don't realize I have a photo bomber until I look at it on the computer!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Cactus Drama

Cactus Drama

Another 'drive by shooting' in my neighborhood. I wait every year for the ONE day when most all the buds on this cactus are in full bloom at the same time.

(For those interested, this cactus sits in a pot next to the east side of a neighbor's house. My best shot is in the late afternoon when the sun hits the tops of the blooms and makes them glow while the wall in the background is in deep shade making dramatic lighting.)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Snapshot Shooter or Image Creator

Are You a Snapshot Shooter or a Photo Image Creator?

Whichever you are, if your photos are pleasing to you, that's what matters most!  
(Unless, of course, your photography is a business and you want to sell your photos.  Then what pleases the client matters most!)

Here's what I would consider before answering the above question, using flower photography as my example, since that's what I'm mostly shooting right now.  If I were a Snapshot Shooter and saw a brightly colored Claret Cup cactus in full bloom that attracted my attention, I would probably pull out my camera or phone, bend over the plant, snap a shot, then upload it to my Instagram account.

Snapshot Shooters are especially suited for photo genres such as photo journalism, street photography and animal or sports photography, as well as other situations where quick thinking and fast action are necessary to capture a fleeting moment in time, when the action is more important than having the ideal composition, lighting or camera settings!  When Snapshot Shooters 'see' a potential photo opportunity, they take the shot without hesitation.

On the other hand, if I considered myself a Photo Image Creator and saw that same cactus, I would take some time to study it, think about how I could make that cactus look beautiful and interesting, and maybe a bit more unique from all the other Claret Cup cactus photos I'm seeing right now.  I would want something different than a straight downward shot that would show part of the boring rocks and dirt surrounding the plant, or a macro like I've done so many times in the past.

I do consider myself a Photo Image Creator, for the most part.  I'll try to describe how I ended up with this image.  This cactus caught my eye, but it was sitting right by the road at the entrance of a subdivision, in an unattractive location.   When something in nature attracts my attention, I always ask myself, "Is there a picture here worth taking and creating" and try to visualize  a composition before picking up my camera.  As I walked around this cactus I noticed a clump of yellow flowers with green foliage a few yards away across the pavement.  Seeing cactus blooms along with bright green foliage in a photograph is not as common as seeing cactus in a natural desert setting, so I thought this might make an interesting background.  I visualized positioning my camera low and shooting horizontally to capture a side view of the blooms in the foreground against the green background with pops of yellow flowers, while hiding the road that was in between the two.  I could adjust my camera settings to blur the background so only the foreground blooms were in focus, or I could choose settings that would allow everything to be in focus.  That decision is a personal preference and there is no right or wrong answer.  (I tend to lean toward 'busy' compositions with interesting, softly blurred backgrounds.)

Then I had to consider the lighting, which was not good, as the late afternoon sun was very intense, creating deep shadows underneath and on one side of the plant.  I found an angle to point my camera partially toward the sun that lit up the tops of the flowers with no shadows, creating beautiful back lighting that made the colors pop, while hiding the dark shadows below.  (In addition, I could intensify the colors and reduce sun glare and hot spots by using a polarizing filter on my lens.)

I knew that by moving my camera just slightly in various directions, being careful to keep the sun just outside the frame, I might find a position where I could see a stream of sun flare, sun rays and/or beautiful bokeh that is created when the sun hits the lens in a certain way.  (Technical explanations are for another discussion.)  Including sun flare, sun bursts, bokeh, or other sunlight effects in a composition is a personal preference.  Some like it, some don't.  I love it!
The beauty of digital photography is there is instant feedback as to whether you have taken the image you have in your mind or in your 'mind's eye', but even so, things often look different when viewed at full resolution on a big computer screen.  So to have the best chance of ending up with an image I will like, I always bracket three different exposures, which my camera does automatically, as well as showing me whether or not I have parts that are 'blown out' or too dark for detail.  I also take numerous shots experimenting with different camera settings and compositions.

Back home on the computer I choose my favorite shot, then decide whether to edit a little or a lot.  I can crop and lightly tweak color, exposure, etc., or I can let my creativity run wild and end up with the floral fantasy I see in my 'mind's eye'.

Even though it is a joy to take a beautiful photo of a beautiful subject, set in perfect lighting, (when this happens), I often find it more challenging and rewarding to be outdoors taking photos while other photographers are waiting for better lighting or weather conditions, or to look for compositions others may miss, or to show the beauty of less flashy subjects in nature, or to capture and present a common subject in a unique or interesting way.

All of this sounds like a lot of effort for one simple picture.  But with my first few thousand flower shots behind me, I can now spot a possible composition within a scene pretty quickly.  For me, the fun and challenge of photography is combining what my eyes see, with how my camera reproduces what I see, with what my mind reproduces on the computer screen, and to ultimately end up with an image that is interesting, artistic and pleasing to me! It's a wonderful bonus if others enjoy it too!    



Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Spring Cactus - 2020

The Siler Pincushion Cactus is a federally listed endangered plant and only grows in a small region on the Utah, Arizona border. The blossoms are small, about an inch, or around the size of a quarter.
View from Black Rock Road overlooking I-15 freeway.  The morning light creating a beautiful backlit desert scene.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday 2020

His is Risen!  

This will indeed be a memorable Easter 2020.  Jesus Christ has been called the Prince of Peace and the Light of the World.  The world certainly needs peace and light at this time during the world wide Covid 19 virus pandemic.  Usually Christians go to their churches, chapels, meeting houses and temples to worship, but this year we will be doing it at home! 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Joshua Tree Preserve, Utah

Joshua Tree Preserve, Utah

I took this photo last night around 8 pm, just before the sun set through a lightly hazy sky. It's amazing how warm sunset light can transform an ordinary landscape into something beautiful. I drove about half an hour away from home to a remote area near the border of Utah and Arizona for this view. Even though it is still a little too early for the cactus buds to bloom out, yellow wild flowers always make me happy!

A photographer friend asked if I would tell her the settings I used to take this photo, and how I achieve focus from foreground to background.  Below is my response:

Yes, but first a disclaimer. I am impatient when it comes to learning techniques and probably know less than a forth of what my camera can do, so I hesitate giving out technical info, not because I want to keep it secret, but because this is not my strong suit, and there are many photographers on this site who will tell you there are far better settings or ways to do what I end up doing. I'm mostly motivated by composition and color so feel more confident talking about those areas. Now, about the near to far focus, first let me say, I am not hugely concerned that my landscape or nature images with great DOF are tack sharp because most people normally don't see a sweeping landscape tack sharp from the foreground to the distant mountains...unless you are 10 years old!  If distant backgrounds look too sharp, it looks unnatural to me. (Personal preference.) So if I have believable focus that pleases me, I am good. (In this case, if you were to look at the full resolution file you would see that the background cliffs are a bit soft, but when I look at the entire image, that doesn't detract.) I can usually achieve acceptable focus fairly simply. I use a good wide angle lens (10-24mm), with an f stop usually between f/16 and f/22. I tend to like the closest foreground object, like a flower, to look larger than normal, (personal preference), and I achieve this with the wide angle lens and by positioning my camera so the flower takes up a fair amount of composition 'real estate', and typically within one or two feet of where I am standing.  Where to focus is the tricky part. One rule of thumb to get maximum DOF is to set your focus point approximately 1/3 of the way into the scene. In this case, I probably focused on some of the back flowers. But this varies with every situation. It's hard to determine the focus in this shot because the wind was blowing, causing some of the flowers to be somewhat blurry. Honestly, I take many shots of a scene and experiment with various f stops and various focal points. The more shots I take, the better my chances are that one or two exposures might work! How's that for confidence! I do know there are far more sophisticated ways of achieving perfectly sharp focus foreground to background, such as focus stacking. This is where you take numerous shots, each one focusing on a different point throughout the scene, then combine them using a computer program. I'm not sure it is possible to do this without using a tripod. So far I'm too lazy to do all this! 

Friday, April 10, 2020


Iris planted in front of a stucco wall.  
Photo taken on on overcast, shadow less day with my Lensbaby soft focus lens.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Super Moon April 2020

 'When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain'

Jeff came home last evening and said "Have you seen that moon?" 
I totally forgot about the super moon so I grabbed my camera and found the best composition I could find close to home. 
I pulled off the side of the road, (behind Harmon's in Santa Clara), and used the hood of my car as a tripod.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Little Pleasures

Coming home just before sunset, I spotted this little colorful plant on Santa Clara Main Street, so I had to stop. Since I was almost laying by the side of the road to get this shot, I'm surprised somebody didn't stop to help the elderly lady who it appeared had fallen off the curb!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spring means Lilacs

Spring means the heavenly fragrance of lilacs in the air. I always look forward to these blooms, however, they are much more common in northern Utah than in the St. George area. But yesterday I spotted a small bush by the roadside and right in front of a block wall. I couldn't resist stopping to breathe deep and take a few photos.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pink & Orange

Pink Blossoms in Snow Canyon

One usually goes to Snow Canyon to enjoy a beautiful landscape of red and white cliffs, black lava flows, cacti and other desert vegetation and critters.  But there is this one flowering tree that I look forward to photographing in the Spring.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Stay Positive!

Beautiful Spring!

Stay positive! When Spring comes to your neighborhood, walk outside and commune with nature. You can 'safely' smell a flower, feel the sun on your back, listen to the buzzing bees, look up into the beautiful azure sky..... and know that God is in His heavens.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Early Spring in Ivins, Utah

Every year starting about January 1, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Spring!  This year, however, my excitement is tempered by the destruction and loss of life caused by both severe storms and the coronavirus.   Hope both end soon and we can more fully enjoy this beautiful time of year.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Snow Canyon in Winter

Snow Canyon, Utah In Winter

A great place for photography after a storm!