Category Archives: Weather

One of my favorite topics — beware the wall cloud!

FST II : Day Ten – Home

Cold, cold, cold this morning. And again, watching the weather, we realized that we were only about 100 miles ahead of the storm. Needless to say, we got on our horse early, and started driving before sunrise.

The farther east we got, the foggier it got. And the temperature continued dropping, well below freezing. It was then that I looked at my side mirror, and saw the ice.

The fog was freezing to the Acadia as we plowed ahead. The roads felt ok, so I continued driving, knowing what lay behind us. The sun came up, the temps warmed, and the ice began falling off the car, all of which was good news.

The rest of the way was pretty uneventful, with us getting home after about 630 miles of driving today. And by crossing that distance, we avoided the storm (for now), and got into much warmer air.

We travelled 3087 miles on this journey, didn’t hardly see any meteors from the Leonids, and were chased out of the west by the weather. Yeah, so the trip was a little shorter, but man, I had fun!

FST II : Day Four – Southern Utah Loop

After a slow start this morning, we decided to make a loop around the area — about 150 miles — visiting Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat and Natural Bridges National Monument.

Valley of the Gods was billed as a smaller version of Monument Valley, and it lived up to it. Plenty of red rocks catching plenty of sunlight… and clouds, but more on that later. We toured around the area, along a 17 mile road that went from gravel to rutted and back again. Frankly, the Acadia did well with the unimproved road.

However, I had a little less sure footing. Early in the drive, we stopped to take some photos, and I climbed atop a little knoll to grab some images. When I came back down, the rocks shifted, and I tumbled pretty well down the hill. The good news was that I tucked the camera (and my noggin), and rolled pretty well into a three point landing — my left hand, my right knee and my right hip. 🙂 Nothing bad, but some pretty good bumps and bruises. I’ll survive.

Once we were done with Valley of the Gods, we zipped down to Mexican Hat for a little lunch, before heading up the road to Natural Bridges National Monument. To get there, we had to travel across Moki Dugway, which is a crazy unpaved road with tremendous switchbacks, no railing and terrific views. Remember those clouds I mentioned earlier? As we started up the road, the clouds began to produce a little bit of rain, and after turning a corner, we saw a tremendous vista with a wonderful rainbow! It was absolutely stunning. We found a place to pull over, and snapped quite a few images. Way cool.

When we got to the top of the hill, we started getting into colder weather, and some rain from the clouds we’d spotted from down in the valley. And then the snow came. Yep, snow. In fact, a snowstorm. The flakes were huge, and coming down with a vengeance. It snowed on us for about 45 minutes, right up to the entrance to Natural Bridges NM.

Natural Bridges was great, and definitely out of the way. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were the only people there today. We got our parks passport stamped, and took the nine mile drive through the park. Nice drive, and the bridges were nice to see from the overlooks. In theory, we coulda hiked down to some of them, but with me having already put myself down a hill today, I figured I didn’t need to tempt fate.

From the park, we headed toward Blanding. This was pretty much a big ol’ downhill drive, leading to the base of Comb Ridge. Comb Ridge must run dozens of miles, and was catching the sun just right. We found a place to stop at the base of the ridge, and shot down the length of it. With the fading sunlight, it was simply amazing.

By the time we got back to Bluff, we’d been on the road for almost seven hours, and some of the best photography and weirdest weather I’ve seen in quite some time!

RMH II : Recap

After almost 2300 miles of driving, we got home earlier today. This was an amazing trip, although it crossed far too few days on the calendar. There is so much to see out there, and so much yet to discover in the park and the area around Fraser. And with Beck’s brother’s generous lending of the condo, I’m certain I’ll be back up there once or twice next year. I liked seeing the area in a couple of different climates and stages of season. It gave a real perspective from which to enjoy the changes nature imposes on the area.

The only thing that was disappointing was the weather. While the locals were loving the warm temperatures, I went up there to find cold weather after a sweltering summer in St. Louis. And yet, four days out of the last ten, Denver set record highs (in the 90s), with the temperatures in the region running about 20 degrees higher than average. And no snow. I wanted to see some high altitude snow, but with temps at 12,000′ still in the mid-60s, it just wasn’t to be. Maybe next time!

Yes, this was a good break, and a great warm-up for our trip to the desert in November, where we’ll spend two weeks enjoying the Four Corners area. I haven’t even gotten the Colorado dirt off my shoes yet, and I’m already gearing up for the next journey.

Nope, there’s no wanderlust in me!

Project 365 : Bud Ice

After the snow Friday, we were left with a fleeting winter wonderland this morning. At sunrise, I took my Canon 7D and MP-E 65/2.8 macro lens out into the snow to see what I could see.

The gentle constructs of the snow and ice were still just clinging to our forsythia bush, and really attracted my attention. Along the top edge of the thin branches were really cool little ice constructs that were beginning to fall off due to the slight wind and the sun’s peeking from behind the clouds. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time before this ice was gone, so I shot a series of shots — handheld! — with this mammoth lens on the front of the camera.

I was having to capture this at f/8 for to widen the insanely tight depth of field on this lens. Unfortunately, that also meant really long shutter speeds, which didn’t work well when magnified like this in a light breeze, so that meant cranking the 7D up to ISO 800, which gave me a handhold-able speed of 1/320th. Still, I had to put the camera in high speed continuous shooting mode to “spray and pray” for a shot where my wobbling, the wind’s blowing and the lens’ depth of field all came together at the right time. I suppose I could’ve put the camera on a tripod, and used something to clamp the branch in place, but where’s the fun in that? 🙂

In the digital darkroom, I brought the image into Photoshop CS4E, reducing noise with Nik Dfine, adding a couple of control points with Nik Viveza, and finishing it off with the Glamour Glow filter from Nik Color Efex Pro. I’m really growing to like that soft filter look in some of my nature images, and it really seemed to work for this one.

Project 365 : Ice on the Table

This morning, I awoke to the remnants of the very small snowfall we had late in the week. My favorite glass table on the deck had ice atop it, which prompted me to pull out my Canon MP-E 65/2.8 lens. The more I shoot with this lens, the more I love it… kinda. I mean, it is definitely a lens that takes a lot of practice to use well.

The biggest challenge I’m having with it is in getting the focal plane broad enough by ensuring that what I’m photographic is parallel to the film plane. Any slight angle yoinks the focal plane down to nothing. I’ve got some ideas about how to fix that… stay tuned!

Elks and Buffalo

This weekend, we’ve had great weather — 75° in early November. I’ll take that! With the great weather, Becky decided we all needed to get out and enjoy the surprisingly mild weather. She was right.

With the doors off the Jeep, and the roof down, we all piled into the Jeep and started driving. We took a quick spin through Route 66 State Park, visiting the museum and letting Sio learn about Times Beach from the museum caretaker and Becky. We learned that the bridge connecting the park to the museum is about to be torn down, rather than be repaired. That’s a shame really. It’d be a great path across the river to link cyclists and pedestrians to the gift shop on the other side. Without the bridge, the two halves of the park will be completely separated, with only two separate exits from the interstate connecting them. Bummer.

One we were through with Route 66, we drove to Lone Elk State Park. We’ve had great luck there in the past seeing both elk and bison. This was the first time we’d been to the park so late in the day — about two hours before sunset. As it ends up, we had terrific views of the bison munching away, and elk both lounging and wandering around.

When I bought the Jeep last year, I wanted to be able to have nature really close to me by being able to take the doors and roof off. Today was the first time I’d really gotten that chance… and it was glorious. I felt like I was walking right alongside the elk and bison — they were so close you could touch them, and so near you could smell them. It was such a great experience, and I believe I’ll try to hit up the park late in the day again.

Of course, once the warm weather wears off in a few days, I imagine the behavior of the critters may be different. But that’s fine — I can run without the doors or roof down to at least 40°!

Monsoon vs. The Big Green Box

Almost anyone will tell you that I like weather. I pay attention to the weather like no one I know. I’ve always done that, but I have an even heightened interest in it since I bought my Jeep last year. I like knowing when I can take the doors off, when I can take the windows out, and when I can keep the roof down. Today, the doors were off, and the windows were out. No biggie, I thought. After all, knowing about the weather is something I kinda pride myself of, which is what makes today so weird.

I had to go to SoCo this morning, and didn’t really pay any attention to the weather. We had gray skies, and nothing threatening, so I didn’t even give the skies a second thought. While in SoCo, I started hearing thunder. Again, I didn’t think much about it. I’ve driven my Jeep in the rain without the doors on in the rain, and never really thought too much of it. However, today, about ten miles from home, I encountered a moonsoon with rain blowing all the way across the interior of the Jeep. To say the least, I was totally soaked.

Becky (who wasn’t with me) and I started doing some damage control, drying the carpet (drenched), drying the seats (wet) and trying to figure out how to dry the thing out. We learned new things about the Jeep today — how to remove the rear carpet, and where the drain plugs are. And man, did the drain plugs need to be removed. Small rivers drained out of the bottom of the floorboard, and the removed carpet drained and drained.

Like Beck said, if you’re smiling when you’re driving, it was worth it. And I smiled. I smiled while I couldn’t see through my glasses and the windshield at the height of the storm front. I smiled when I aimed for the puddles on the road. And I smiled while we dissected the Jeep to help get the water out of it. I even smiled when I set up the fans in the garage to help dry the seats.

I’d still put a wet day in my Jeep up against a dry day in just about any other vehicle!


Obviously the internal heat generated by my iPhone increases the temperature by a skosh, as it only indicated flat zero! 😉

Supposedly this is the coldest air mass to hit The Lou in almost ten years… And tomorrow, it’ll be even colder. Stay tuned for the fun!

There Be Bison Here!

This morning, we awoke to a bit of a winter wonderland. Overnight, there’d been a quiet snow, only about an inch, but it sat so pretty on the surfaces of everything. With that view, I thought I needed to get out and shoot, so we headed south to Lone Elk SP.

However, the further south we got, the more the snow disappeared. What we didn’t know was that we were on the southern edge of the snow, which meant Lone Elk didn’t get much more than a dusting. That was disappointing.

The bison were out though, which made up for it. We came across about a dozen head just inside their area of the park, slowly grazing in the snowy grass. That’s when I was pounded over the head — I definitely need to get some work with dark objects against bright backgrounds, as those shots seem to reek pretty badly for me. (See the photos below.)

Ideally, one of Moose’s expeditions into the snows of Yellowstone or Yosemite would be the best place to learn these tricks — the best of all environments, no rushing to beat the melt of the snow, and folks around me that can help me learn this kind of shooting. In The Lou, it’s a real crap shoot about when a snow might come, and frequently, I’ve gotta work around work, or rush to beat the melt. A little focus could do this kid some good!