January 30th, 2013
Here are some of my favorite Southwest Landscape Images--I hope you enjoy them
Be sure and look at the New Mexico Landscape group
new mexico landscape art
January 22nd, 2013
Iím in a frantic race to see, feel and photograph as much of the American Southwest as I can, as fast as I can. Whatís the hurry? Well, Iím old and getting older, for one thing. But the other thingóthe really big thingóis that all this beauty and grandeur is pretty much doomed. Okay, the rocks will survive. But the biosphere, including the human population, is in deep trouble. Without water, this place is just sand and rock. A few things can survive, but nothing like the diverse flora and fauna thatís presently here. Every year the spring melt out comes a little earlier. Thatís not helping farmers and itís not helping wildlife.
Hereís a link to Climate Central with a brief discussion of the national temperature trend. Itís disturbing.
The southwest has always been prone to droughts. Thatís what ended the Chaco Canyon Anasazi civilization about 900 years ago. As the population of the southwest has increased, the region has become more and more vulnerable to periodic droughts. And, if climate models are to be believed (and I think they are), weíre headed into a period of prolongedómaybe permanentódrought. For the last two years skiing in New Mexico has been pretty awful. This is at least partly due to the extended La NiŮa that weíve been experiencing. But in recent years, the El NiŮo-La NiŮa cycle appears to have increased its frequency. Whether this is a real trend or just random noise is open to debate. But this is about a lot more than just my urge to go downhill way too fast for my own, or anyone elseís safety. That snow pack is our water supply. When it melts slowly more of it seeps into the aquifer to replace some of the water we remove for drinking, irrigation and watering the stupid lawns we shouldnít have here in the first place. When thereís too little of it, and it melts too fast and too early, and it just runs off and either evaporates or flows down the river.
Climate change deniers can huff and puff, but the whole world, and the American Southwest in particular, is endangered. Thatís not just my opinion. For what itís worth, I used to teach a course in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington and I hold degrees in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering. That doesnít make me a climatologist, but Iím pretty familiar with the arguments and the data. The folks you should be listening to are Dr. James Hansen of NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, and the equivalent bodies of EVERY DEVELOPED NATION IN THE WORLD. The only real controversy is the one created by people whose paychecks depend on us doing nothing. They make the same arguments and, in some cases, are the exact same people who testified to congress that evidence linking smoking to cancer was "Junk Science."
January 14th, 2013
Here's another of my favorite images. This oneís of a massive storm over Dead Horse Point. I made this image during a road trip in October of last year. I love Canyonlands. You can stay on the roads and see some amazing stuff. Or you can carry yourself into the back country and see some even more amazing stuff. I went there intending to get a good image of sunrise at Mesa Arch and an image of False Kiva. Iím all in favor of a little bad weather, especially when Iím trying to make an image in a really popular spot like Mesa Arch. In good weather, youíll have to fight for a place to put your tripod. And all youíll get for your trouble is the same picture two million other photographers have of the place. Thatís neither interesting nor profitable. Iíd rather get something unique. A UFO hovering over Mesa Arch would be great but, so far, no luck with that.
We camped at the Willow Flat Campground. Itís pretty niceóa bit over-civilized for my tastesóbut pretty nice. If you go there make sure you arrive before 8:00 am. There are only twelve sites and they go fast. The camping fee is $10 a night; cheaper than a motel and a lot more convenient if you want to catch the sunrise. Make sure you bring a water container. Thereís no water at the campground, but you can fill up at the visitor center. I usually carry a five-gallon carboy that works well for this sort of trip. And I like to carry water in the truck anyway just in case a radiator hose gives out.
After setting up our campsite, we hiked up Aztec Butte and then out to False Kiva. Both were worthwhile although I wish I could have hauled a six-foot ladder out to False Kiva. Thatís about the only way I can think of to get anything approaching a unique perspective on the place. Itís kind of cramped and you donít have a lot of degrees of freedom.
After that, we photographed the sunset from the Green River Overlook, went back to camp and grilled a steak. Not a bad day. I took some night sky images and hit the sack, intending to get up early for sunrise at Mesa Arch. Sometime in the middle of the night the storm for hell blew in. But I got up early, leaving my wife to sleep in. Mesa Arch is only minutes away. I drove there and sat in the parking lot waiting for the lightning to stop. At least I had the place to myself. As soon as I thought it was half-way safe, I hustled down to the arch hoping against all reason that the sky would clear and give me a beautiful sunrise. It didnít happen. But I did get a Not-Your-Standard-Mesa-Arch image. Itís not one Iím putting on the site because I donít think itíd sell, but I kind of like it. Afterwards, I went back to the campground and found my lovely wife up and moving. She told me that sheíd been awakened by a big downdraft that had just about crushed the tent. I wasnít too worried; weíd been through some pretty good storms in that tent and had every confidence in it. The weather still stank, so we took off in the truck looking for things to do without being struck by lightning or washed away. We ended up driving back to Moab and having lunch. On our way back to Canyonlands, we stopped at Dead Horse State Park. Iíd never been there and I really wanted a good image of the Dead Horse Point. As you can see, the weather was still pretty wild; the river looked like tomato soup from all the runoff. After fiddling around looking for a good composition, I settled on this one, making a two-image panorama. The clouds were moving pretty fast, so I had to be quick to get two images with the same sky. Itís not the classic Dead Horse Point shot, but that was sort of the point of the exercise.
From there it was only a short drive back to Willow Flat. Unfortunately, our tent was FUBAR. One pole (6061 T6 aluminum, I think) was shattered and another one was bent. The broken end had ripped up the fly and the whole thing was in a big heap. Some kind person had tied a rock to it to keep it from blowing away. We were relieved that our sleeping bags were relatively dry, but there was no possible way to fix the tent. So I wadded it up and put it in a conveniently located trash can and we drove off looking for a hotel room. Not exactly the perfect end to our trip. Now Iím waiting for a sale at REI.
January 3rd, 2013
Hi, and welcome to my Landscape Photography site. I hope youíll enjoy my images as much as I enjoy creating them. Before I discuss how and why I created these images, Iíll tell you a little about myself.
Iíve spent most of my adult life as an engineer in the semiconductor industry. My formal education consists of a B.S. in Chemistry, an M.S. in Chemical Engineering and a PhD in Environmental engineering. The Post hole Digger I acquired in vain attempt to get out of the semiconductor business. I hate being indoors and working in a clean room is about as indoors as you can get without being in a crypt. Unfortunately, by the time I finished it, I was too old and too typecast to get any kind of job actually doing Environmental Engineering. Instead, I taught it as an adjunct for three years. I enjoyed teaching a lot, but despaired of ever getting a full-time teaching job (age!). Eventually, I was lured away from teaching (and Dallas) for yet another semiconductor job in Albuquerque. Throughout my time in Dallas (decades), Iíd made annual escapes to Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, to backpack and climb. And I always had a camera and usually a monstrously heavy tripod. Most of my early attempts were less than spectacular. At the time, I blamed it on cheap equipment. In retrospect, I think itís just plain hard to make good landscape images when youíre doing something else.
Living in Albuquerque gave me a lot more access to photo-worthy subjects. The job, unfortunately, turned out to be not so good. Iíd been pretty careful with my money, so the decision to hang up my slide rule (yeah, Iím that old) wasnít all that painful. After investing some of that hard-earned money in some high-end equipment, I set out to create the best landscape images of the Southwest that I could manage. Youíll find some of them here. Starting out, Iíve made a lot of pilgrimages to classic locations. While theyíre beautiful, going forward, Iíll be spending more of my time off of the beaten path looking for original compositions. Thereís only so many ways to photograph Delicate Arch. And convincing people to stop doing the YMCA dance underneath it for five minutes so I can click the shutter is probably more of a challenge than my engineering-level tact and diplomacy can handle. I hope youíll check in from time to time let me know if you see something you like.
I said that I wanted to discuss some of my images. Iíll start out with this one: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/longs-peak-from-chasm-lake-alan-vance-ley.html
Longs Peak is a classic Colorado climb and one heck of a beautiful mountain. A couple of years ago I was staying at the Colorado Mountain School dorm after backpacking through the Maroon Bells wilderness and really wrenching my back. I wanted to capture Longs at sunrise reflecting in Chasm Lake and I thought that the hike would do my back some good. So I set out at three in the morning with a moderate amount of equipment and a tripod. This should have been an easy hike followed by a triumphant capture and an easy hike out to a good breakfast. Unfortunately, I failed to ask the guides at the climbing school about condition of the trail. About halfway up, the trail turned into beaten-down, frozen over snow that was about as slippery as owl-poop. And my micro-spikes were back in Albuquerque. By the time I finally got to Chasm Lake, the sun was up and it was clear there would be no reflections on the lake. After a bunch of head scratching, I settled on this composition and headed out. I managed to get back in time for lunch. The next day my back was in agony and I stupidly went for a guided climb on lumpy ridge. It didnít turn out to be one of the highlights of my climbing career, but thanks to a very capable guide, I lived to flail again. And while this isnít the image I set out to make, I ended up liking is so much that have big framed print of it in the middle of my living room.