New Work

Longing for the Limelight: Let’s return to the lone tree theme. Here’s a local oak in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills leafing out for spring, and getting a touch of the last light of sunset. The rolling green hills are so pleasant right now, and looking at them is extra nice for all the time spent indoors. –Arastradero Preserve, California

Few Footholds: Clouds Rest is hit by last light year round much like El Capitan gets first light year round. An impressive array of trees on the top of Washington Column get the best view of the show in one of the few comfortable places to stand in this image.–Yosemite National Park, California

Looking Down on Creation: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t have to join the irresponsibly crowded beaches to have a good view of the ocean! There had been interesting weather all day with hail and storm clouds, and after a quick drive up, we were greeted with crepuscular rays and a few stray hikers (who were easy to stay at least six feet away from). Spring looks like it’s here with all the green. –Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, California

Poise: Saplings in snowy areas have rough childhoods. This cedar was knocked sideways, but it will right itself and grow upwards thanks to auxins– hormones that cause plants to grow against gravity and towards light. In the meantime, however, it will pose like a dancer. –Yosemite National Park, California

Desert Snow Line: The desert doesn’t see much snow, but when it does, it’s all the more beautiful. It doesn’t look like much from here, but it was at least a foot at 11,000 feet, and the bristlecone pines at the top will get their annual water supply when it melts. Centuries of erosion from the snow melt carrying sediment produce the alluvial fan seen in the foothills. –Death Valley National Park, California

Alone with My Shadow: Lone trees fit with the COVID-19 pandemic. This one had caught my eye a few months before this image was taken, and the shadow separation from sunset light was right this time. This tree’s lifeline can be seen by the lichen that follows the path of water down the granite. –Yosemite National Park, California

Alone in the Canyon: The repeating hoodoos of Bryce Canyon encapsulate its iconic look, but all parks have smaller stories to tell. The erosion off this slope gives a characteristic pattern that I’ve seen in many places, and this pine tree carved out its place in the world. Erosion will eventually expose its roots and wash it away, but not before dropping its own seeds deeper into the canyon. –Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Dressed for Winter: Snow hasn’t stuck to Yosemite Valley much this winter, but when it did, it still evoked some kind of strange hybrid of cycling excitement and peace. These seem to be feelings at odds with one another, but it’s similar to when a sunset seems to be shuttering and opens back up with renewed vigor. Anyone know the feeling? –Yosemite National Park, California

Fire Barrel: The Valley of Fire isn’t far from Las Vegas, but the energy is vastly different between the two locales. Vegas strips me of energy rapidly, but I could spend days wandering with interest in the Valley of Fire. The red sandstone is incredibly vibrant and the Leconte barrel cactus subspecies has a much larger circumference than the California variety. –Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Weathering Wall: The last time we went to Bryce Canyon, it was eleven years ago and raining with high winds. This trip gave pretty spectacular lenticular clouds off of the nearby Wasatch Range, and dry cold weather. Earth’s Shadow crept across these clouds as the sky above kept the warm colors of sunset. Seeing evidence of progressive weathering of the orange-pink rock has me wanting to take some geology courses, though I’ll just enjoy the show for now. –Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sculpted by Storms: Finding solitude in nature can sometimes be difficult when limited by weekday responsibilities, but this slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante had few people going through it. I suppose the location discouraged others since most of the travel was creeping sideways while hand-carrying a backpack and tripod behind me. We didn’t make it very far through since pausing to set up and take an image was time consuming. Imagining the water weathering this section of sandstone just a little bit more than neighboring sections to form the nascent slot canyon and picturing the progress over the the centuries brings my mind’s eye peace. –Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah

Mourning a Friend: A trip down to a slot canyon following Fiftymile Mountain covered in snow, a small patch of iron rich sandstone, and some tough bunch grasses a sense of the place. This cracked bed apparently got enough water for one of the plants, but not the others. Or they are bunch grasses with hardy roots beneath the surface. –Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah

Cold Shoulder: The moon has captivated our species for so long that it’s difficult to conceptualize an Earth without its partner. Though it is unlikely to ever leave Earth’s orbit, it will continue to drift farther and farther from us. The future inhabitants of Earth will still pay the moon attention as it slips away, but on this day Half Dome looks as though it is ignoring the moon. –Yosemite National Park, California

The Blues of a Spent Day: Fresh snow on the Yosemite Valley floor on a three day weekend is always enough to summon me. I felt revitalized despite lack of sleep, and the blue light with mist around Ahwahnee Meadow was a reward to end the day. It’s easy for me to spend a lazy day indoors, doing nothing of noted value, and being filled with regret at the end of the day. However, a day spent in nature is never accompanied with that nagging feeling that I could have done more. –Yosemite National Park, California

Open Choices, Indicated Path: Some recent rain and snow summoned me to Death Valley. The mud cracks keep calling to me, and this new rivulet (it wasn’t there in November) made a nice leading line and some smoother cracks around it. The desert offers so much to choose from in every direction, but there’s usually a clear path if you know what to look for. It might not take you where you’d like, but you can always change course. –Death Valley National Park, California

The Value of Weeping: Our first trip down this slot canyon found rich textures and this section had water weeping out of the sandstone. As the sun was close to setting a shaft of light hit the stream of water –Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah

Rising Salt: A flooded Badwater Basin is always a treat, but it coincided with a setting waning crescent moon that lit the mountains. –Death Valley National Park, California

Lunar Bryce: The alien looking hoodoos of Bryce Canyon have an extra charm by moonlight. The storm clouds were moving in and out of blocking the light of the moon, and this was a brief opening in the clouds. –Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Beneath the Mirror: Reflection opportunities in Death Valley aren’t too common, so exploration of the temporary state of Badwater was rewarding. As the water evaporates, the salt crusts will rise and make their characteristic polygon shapes. I got to share this space with a nice Spanish man who had been driving around California and the southwest. He said this sunset was the most spectacular thing he got to see.–Death Valley National Park, California

Their Daily Bread: The last light of the day rolls over its subjects so early at the winter solstice that it seems premature. At about 4:15 these trees below the face of Half Dome were struck with golden light, but it was hard to spot from so far away. For all of the feasts that we eat during the holidays, it is a time of slim pickings for the plants and animals of the natural world.–Yosemite National Park, California

Tears Dry from the Dawn Wall: The promise of a storm and a long absence from Yosemite Valley necessitated a quick trip. I’ve been to this spot quite a number of times for sunrise without worthy results, so the usual hike before dawn was familiar. When I arrived at a clear vantage point, the wet granite began to swirl with clouds in anticipation of the sun, and the touch of light as the sun cleared the south rim made the story.–Yosemite National Park, California

With Teeth: With quite a number of small storm systems, Yosemite has remained wet, and icicles abound in the park for those willing to look. The problem is finding a pleasing arrangement that fits. The vivid green of the moss combined with this even spacing at an angle hit the sweet spot for me.–Yosemite National Park, California

Pebble Imprint:One of the advantages of returning to locations over and over again is urging my eye out of a rut. I’ve been to this spot that I could describe large swaths of it from memory. However, the small details can peak out more, and the reflection of this conifer reflected in the Merced River and the focus on the rocks beneath water give this classic look a different texture. –Yosemite National Park, California

The Messenger God:The Transit of Mercury coincided with sunrise on November 11, and some local valley oaks. It wasn’t visible to us without the aid of a long telephoto lens, but it was satisfying to see three distinct distances from in one direction: the trees, Mercury, and the sun. —Ed R Levin County Park, California

Change Flows Along: Creeks are usually teeming with distracting elements because there is so much life, but a nice cottonwood growing on the shore above this microwaterfall did nicely to simplify the scene. The banner snow year also gave Rock Creek a better than average flow for the season. The leaves of the tree will likely return next year, but the slow grind of water on rock and soil will alter this spot bit by bit.–Inyo National Forest, California

Incandescent Filaments: As animals we tend to discount the relatively slow reactions of plants to their environment, but here we see phototropism (growth towards light) on full display. These aspen wasted no time in trying to reach the canopy to obtain more light, and have grown spindly trunks as a result. The fall colors contrast with their pine competitors who have the momentary energy advantage of holding onto their leaves year round.–Inyo National Forest, California

Baked: We spent a few days devoted to mud cracks in Death Valley, focusing on the washes below the Amargosa Range. Winter storms leave rivulets that form interesting patterns and deposit all kinds of objects, both natural and man-made. Though it isn’t the hottest place on earth in November, evidence of all that summertime baking abounds. —Death Valley National Park, California

One Way Through: A colorful sunset and gossamer strand clouds require imagination, but the human brain is capable of finding meaning. This small hole in the clouds glowed blue in contrast to the strong orange light cast by the setting sun. —Baylands Nature Preserve, California

Light Agitation: A light breeze and some reflected light is all it takes for ripples to emerge. —Baylands Nature Preserve, California

Winter Solstice Mask: It’s been awhile since the sun has been out in full force. We’re at a solar minimum, the winter solstice, and it has been cloudy for quite awhile in the Bay Area. This is the result of a cloudy sunrise, a solar filter, a supertelephoto lens, and the bright spot behind altocumulus clouds. It’s good to know that the sun is still there. —Mountain View, California

Tranquil Heart: After a banner snow year in 2019, Mount Shasta was still showing plenty of snow in July. This small lake gives clear views to the east and minimal wind at sunset gave a clear reflection of the shapely clouds. There weren’t even any mosquitoes to dull the peacefulness of the view.–Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

The Gold Rush Takes a Turn: The number of creeks and streams in Yosemite are unfathomable. Exploring the different ways that they catch light, stream down the mountain, and change from season to season would take several lifetimes of observation. This one is a special in how it reflects gold at its edges. –Yosemite National Park, California

Crashing Wave: Gem Lake doesn’t have high peaks surrounding it, but it does have a contingent of interesting trees if you look for them. In the early afternoon a massive cloud bank parked itself to the north of our campsite. As the hours passed, it didn’t move, but the wind shaped it into the more and more interesting patterns of a Sierra Wave. The sunset color didn’t look like it would happen, but after ten minutes of resistance, the red turned on like a switch.–Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Pause for a Drink: Horse Head Rock is one of the oldest rock structures in Australia at 500 million years old. All of the characteristics of the area remind one of the California coast in reverse. The sun rises over the ocean and sets over the cliffs, but the rocks, water color, marine layer, and surrounding cliffs are all reminiscent of Big Sur. –Sapphire Coast, NSW Australia

Fresh Smile: The road to Devils Postpile opened during the busiest time in the summer, yet we were among the only people there in the evening. Just us and the swarming mosquitoes. This section of the wall looks relatively fresh with the broken columns joining the talus pile. The geology makes for a beautiful story for those willing to observe. A reminder of this is necessary when one reflects on the history of the area. The first idea for the postpile was to blow up the entire structure and dam the river for mining interests.–Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Resilient Perennial: The White Mountains of California are not named for their snow since they oftentimes don’t get very much. The Sierra gets the lion’s share of precipitation, but in 2019 the Whites were uniformly blanketed. This group of arrowroot flowers will wait, buried in snow, to emerge from the ground as soon as the thaw comes. A glorious display of flowers attracts pollinators to aid in reproduction. They will gather as much sunlight as possible to store energy for the winter only to repeat the process once winter grips the mountains once again. –Inyo National Forest, California

Ice Crown: The spires and crags of the Sierra Crest leave one in awe. As the light dances over the peaks in silence, it gives a sensation of the volume being turned up, but only faint sounds of the forest can be heard. Experiencing one sunrise is never enough for the calm it instills.–Inyo National Forest, California

Marmot Among the Wallflowers: This marmot had probably recently come out of hibernation at Thousand Island Lake to stock up on calories after nearly seven months. It was very interested in our campsite, but it skirted around us to this patch of sanddune wallflowers. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Nocturnal Frozen Islands: Thousand Island Lake touts Mount Ritter to its south and Mount Davis to its west, and many small islands within its bounds. A waning crescent moon was rising just below a massive cloud, so this light only lasted about 10 minutes. The core of the Milky Way coincided with Ritter during this brief window. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Pearlescent Postpile: I’d been planning this image for months, but needed to be local during the correct moon phase. The last light of the moon is similar to sunset light since bluer wavelengths are filtered out. The way Devils Postpile suddenly materializes from its average pine forest surroundings is surprising to visitors, and this feeling is amplified in the night.–Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Pool on a Lake: Chaos is apparent as energy returns to the mountains, since the ice does not melt evenly. This aquamarine pool sat on the surface ice of Thousand Island Lake as the shoreline ice thinned. The red glow of first light touched Ritter in stark contrast. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Australian Sky: The Australian night sky is disorienting to a resident of the northern hemisphere. The core of the Milky Way has always been near the horizon for me, but in Australia it is much higher in the sky. Australia Rock reminds one irresistibly of the shape of the continent itself. The high milky way and Australia Rock together give one a strong sense of place. –Narooma, NSW Australia

Strata: A steady stream of fast moving cirrus clouds ripped through the sky and left us with blue skies in a matter of two hours. The crags slowly being eroded by freeze-thaw cycle can stand for an entire human life, but are no more permanent than the clouds that move overhead. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Wetland Layers: Tule Lake has altered and shifted west even as the human history of the area with terrible treatment of the Native Modoc people, and the harshest Japanese concentration camp in the country. The landscape does not tell of these horrors. –Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California

Written in the Mountains: The exposed rock outcroppings that are too steep to hold snow appear to me to be letters arranged in a language I do not know, but can still intuitively grasp. This group below Mount Ritter stands above the Jackson Pollock like spread of Thousand Island. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Coastal Pinnacles: The Pinnacles on the coast of New South Wales are a beautiful feature made of iron rich sedimentary rock, and it is of further interest because it is so near the ocean. With kangaroo prints in the sand, and banksia flowers on ground this truly felt like a foreign place. –Ben Boyd National Park, NSW Australia

Edge of the World: The aquamarine water, the quality of rock, the marine layer, and the atmospherics of the Sapphire Coast reminds one irresistibly of Big Sur, California. These anti-crepuscular rays stretched opposite the descending sun, and reached an apparent vanishing point at the horizon. –Sapphire Coast, NSW Australia

A While Yet Until Spring: Minaret Vista is only a mile and a half from the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge, but it still has the air of open wilderness. Over the Memorial Day weekend it snowed at the higher elevations and extended an already snow-laden winter. This was the morning after the storm cleared, and the sun rising revealed the Minarets freshly covered in snow to the west. –Inyo National Forest, California

Quenching the Columns: The basaltic columns at the Bombo Headlands meeting the ocean’s waves made for a different experience than what I’m used to at Devils Postpile. The shedding columns end up swallowed by the sea, and the edges are much smoother. I expected the sound of a sizzle as the rising sun gave the columns a blush as the waves continued their steady assault. –Bombo Headland Quarry Geological Site, NSW Australia

Hydra: The glacial polish left behind on the granite leaves interesting patterns for those who look down. –Yosemite National Park, California

Gravity and Water: Looking for patterns in the rock and water flow is difficult. The downward curve of the near rock is mirrored above it, as the seemingly never-ending flow of water cascades over both formations.–Yosemite National Park, California

Making a Point: Human nature leads us to point out whatever is interesting or important, and these wallflowers seem to be making a point about Mount Ritter. No other flowers around Thousand Island Lake appeared to be blooming so shortly after the snow melt, so they stood out in the difficult environment. This fragile ecosystem is in danger of collapse as extinctions may soon begin to mount. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Event Horizon: The soft white sand curves of the Eureka Dunes will draw you in, and the shadows can be deep when direct light is lost. It is as comfortable and simple as falling into as a routine or pattern in day-to-day life.–Death Valley National Park, California

Bracing for the Storm: The junipers and granite around hot creek stand above volcanism beneath the surface. Magma chambers feed super-heated water up to the creek bed from below, but the dramatic weather patterns of the mountain ranges in eastern California roil above. This forming cumulonimbus cloud was pouring rain down on the White Mountains as the sunset light touched it. –Inyo National Forest, California

The High Cost of Mating: These beavertail pricklypear were at about 1,000 feet, but overlook Death Valley itself. The slow collection and careful rationing of water makes photosynthesis and energy production a trial, yet the extravagant colors, sweet nectar, and production of untold quantities of pollen are still worth it for the chance to reproduce. As humans, we can probably relate. —Death Valley National Park, California

I Am at Home: The Eureka Dune Evening Primrose was put on the endangered species list due to the popularity of off-roading and other destructive acts popular in the last fifty years. Having a place to call home is important and this primrose has nowhere else where it grows. The primrose is unassuming and doesn’t seem very interesting until spring when the blossoms appear in a range of light pink to white. Fortunately, regulation has brought a resurgence of the endemic species of Eureka Valley, and the primrose been moved from the endangered list to threatened. —Death Valley National Park, California

Like-Minded: These hillside daisies have most of their resources put towards reproduction, and the strong lines of the carved mountain join them.–Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Beauty from Poverty: The carpet of wildflowers is the biggest draw to Carrizo Plain, but sometimes there’s a story at the edges of the extravagant. This pair of phacelia growing out of the mud cracks at the edge of a huge patch of thriving wildflowers spoke volumes. —Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Prevailing Wisdom: The mountains of Carrizo Plain are annually awash in yellows, purples, oranges, and greens. The dominant yellow hillside daisies here meet with the purple phacelia in what appears to us as staggering beauty, but is really a competition for space and survival. —Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Falling into a Rut: Even though water is hard to come by in Death Valley, it still makes its presence known with potholes, alluvial fan, and dry lake beds. This small pothole may eventually make a small ecosystem when filled with water. As time goes on, the paths we take will become more worn and difficult to change.–Death Valley National Park, California