As I drove south from UT into AZ I wondered when I would start to see the Saguaro cactus. for some reason I thought they would be rather rare when I did get into their area. How silly of me! Sometime north of Phoenix I started to see them, lots of them and I was thrilled. I was headed to a small town SW of Phoenix where a good friend & her husband had moved to from NJ. What a change for them and their dogs. Their hacienda sits on the side of a small mountain and above it stand a handsome Saguaro.
They live close to the Sonoran Desert Nat. Monument so we made a couple of trips there, the first time I got some lovely sunset images and on the way back to the house we spotted a rattlesnake in the road. First time I’ve seen one out west and it quickly went into the brush.
We went back another night with her husband, it isn’t wise to venture out into the country there without backup. It was a perfect night for the Milky Way. I didn’t do any light painting, the light on the cactus is caused by light from the Phoenix area being reflected off the smog or haze. Next time I visit we hope to get a bit further away from the ambient light.
Another day they took me to the top of South Mountain where we could look down on Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and other places. There isn’t much open space between the places at all, rather like the megalopolis from Newark to Boston.
One night Jo Ann and a good friend of hers took me to The Road Runner for a totally different sort of atmosphere. It’s a bar with a bull riding arena out back and Saturday nights there is bull riding. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, after that we moved to the stands and got our seats. There were 8 riders and only one stayed on for the required 8 seconds. I took my small point & shoot camera and with the low lighting it wasn’t very good for any action shots.
Seeing the desert and various cactus whetted my appetite to return and do more exploring in the Southwest.
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I had two very clear nights while staying at Horsethief campground outside Moab, UT. Needless to say I spent some time in Arches NP. The Milky Way was glorious and while not in the best location to get some of the arches below it the rock formations made nice foregrounds.
From Moab I headed south for a couple of nights at Goosenecks SP near Mexican Hat, UT. This is near Valley of the Gods, a BLM area with several monuments to equal some found in Monument Valley. The area is ideal for night photography but that also makes it a bit daunting. I did venture a couple miles in and got a nice image with not only some clouds on the horizon being lit up by lightning but a very nice meteor.
After a few more shots in the same location I headed back to the trailer, it was just too remote and isolated for me on my own.
I left Gros Ventre campground at 7 am with early sun lighting up the aspens and cottonwoods. While the light on the trees was beautiful I could see dark sky ahead. Got in
to the rain within 50 miles of Jackson and it was wet from then on until I stopped.
I stopped at the Walmart in Vernal UT for the night, along with 6 other RVs. Up and on the road early the next morning, taking rt. 191 south. Once past Duschene it
goes through a long narrow valley and up over a pass. There are a couple of very old log cabins in the valley, some oil wells and range cattle.
I stopped to talk the dogs for a few minutes and took a photo of some snow on the top edge.
Little did I know that was only a hint of what I was to travel in. Thank heavens it was a clear and sunny day. I got up and over the pass (over 9100′) safely with
temps in the very low 30s. It was obvious the road had been plowed earlier that morning.
Once over the pass and down a bit the road dried out and I got into dryer desert country. The rest of the trip down to Moab was uneventful and I got a nice site in a BLM campground.
Have to include this image of some of the fire damage. This was taken just north of Grand Tetons NP but the fires extended down into the park. The fires in Yellowstone were as close to the road in places, too. A friend in Jackson said they don’t expect the fires to be totally out until they get some good snow coverage….
Tuesday morning I met up with a fellow photographer I’d met at Bosque del Apache and he
Milky Way over String Lake and the Tetons
kindly showed me one of his favorite locations in the area along with lots of tips about other places to go for wildlife. He also suggested I try String Lake for some night images. That night was wonderfully clear and the images I got are special.
Wednesday was full of moose. After feeding and walking the dogs I spotted a young bull in the area behind the trailer so I grabbed the camera and tripod. One of the fellows already out there said the big bull was laid down nearby. As I carefully went across the area I spotted another young bull and two cows. Wow, all the ingredients for action there! The moose spend a lot of time laid down with little
Young bull moose tempting fate
action going on but eventually the big bull did a good job of chasing one of the young bulls away, the other one left on its own. Another cow joined the other 2 and all the animals laid down, again. After 4 hours I quit and went back to the trailer for some food and to get some stuff done. Later I went back out and found the big bull and 3 cows laid down with one of the young bulls still close by. Eventually he wandered right over near the others and the big bull chased him up into the campground. I wasn’t in a good spot for any of the chasing shots, but managed to get a few other images.
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Heading back to the trailer after some shopping in town I saw folks hanging around a campsite…..naturally I slowed down to see what the attraction was. There in the shade was a bull moose and close by was a cow, also taking her ease. Since I had my camera in the truck I pulled into an empty campsite and got my gear out. The people who had the campsite were not there so I walked to the back of their trailer and used it as a blind.
I had nothing planned and figured I could wait them out. Eventually she got up and after a bit he did, too. He was definitely interested in her and slowly tried to work it out with her. For us bystanders it appeared to be a very slow and rather indecisive process but so very interesting to see the interaction. We can only assume they decided an audience wasn’t what they wanted. They moved a short way across the field and then laid down again. All told I think I watched them over 4 hours before I gave up and went back to the trailer to feed the dogs. They’re probably still around somewhere close by so maybe I’ll see them again.
Sunset over the Tetons
A colorful sunset over the Tetons is always a delight. After spending a long time at the riverside hoping to see some moose I gave up, threw the camera gear in the truck and headed out since it looked like there might be a good sunset. Turns out the gamble paid off!
I was up very early the next morning and caught the sunrise lighting up the Tetons and then happened on some bison that were still frosty from the cold night. While driving around or
being stopped I’ve also seen two foxes and two coyotes.
The night of the full moon it was very clear so I headed out to see what a couple of places
Full moon light on the barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons and Big Dipper
looked like in the moonlight. First stop was the iconic barn on Mormon Row with the Tetons behind it.
After that I went to another spot on a hunch. On a good day the
Full moon light at Schwabacher’s Landing with Tetons and Big Dipper
Tetons are reflected in the river and I thought if things came together right the moonlit Tetons would be reflected in the river. Sure enough, they were!
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The Tetons are a favorite area of mine, the mountains so majestic and the animals fascinating. When I arrived at Gros Ventre campground the moon was waxing, giving lots of moonlight so the first night I arrived I went out for a few evening shots.
Big Dipper over the Tetons
Didn’t get much, but did see a fox that stopped within 15′ of me and heard an elk bugling in the night. A fellow camper told me where to find some beaver so I visited their pond and I’ve spent many hours watching moose.
The campground is along the Gros Ventre River, a great place for moose. Watching their interactions is fascinating to me. One of the spots seems to be a hangout for a cow, her calf and a young bull. So far he doesn’t seem to be impressing the cow very much.
The young bull needs a new line…..
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