Category Archives: Utah

Cloudcatcher & Stargazer

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Occasional summoner of Weather. Dreamer – struggling mightily with reality.

Clouds are nearby friends in the sky, the stars are faraway beacons of hope. Surreal and otherworldly, ingredients of dreams but real. This may get a mite esoteric and peculiar, bear with me on this mind trip. During the day there is nothing quite like clouds that will catch my eye. At night it is the stars calling me leaving me gazing deep into the universe, back in time and lost in dreams. Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer.

Clouds are a key subject in my photos, I could shoot nothing but clouds all day. I am convinced they are alive. Clouds catch my eye and I run around looking for a foreground subject. Occasionally I feel I have magic powers and can summon the clouds and the weather. Certainly, in USA I had so much good luck with the light and the clouds it surely cannot be a coincidence. Example, I really only shot at Grand Canyon for 3 hours but managed to first summon a huge snow storm for dramatic storm shots, then move the storm out of the way just in time for a sunset. I summoned a sand storm in White Sands. Last year I was able to summon rain in the Namibia desert, extremely rare. All in a days work. Here is an example of clouds I summoned in Arches, Utah, a great dramatic snow storm:

Clouds - Arches - blog

The stars always bring me hope. Hope of space travel and life on other planets. Hope for the future of our self destructive race. A pitch black night allows me to leave the Earth and fly away to other galaxies. The Saint Agustin plains and Very Large Array in New Mexico offered the perfect launch platform and a billion stars to capture:

Stars - VLA - blog

Finally, my home city of Copenhagen in Denmark has more bland and less dramatic weather but is occasionally still home to fantastic clouds. I present an oldie from 2006, a sunset in late autumn. I remember this day well, stressed out from my then fulltime IT job I sat fatigued and zombie-like at Lake Peblinge observing a forthcoming sunset seemingly holding few promises. It was bone-rattling cold, and I felt like going home. Slowly this ‘spine’ of clouds formed and lit up like in a dream. The sky was a burning lava magenta for about 20 minutes and I have never again witnessed anything like it here. On this day, Copenhagen was a tropical town and I promise this is what it looked like:

Fiery sunset Lake Peblinge -blog

Cloudcatcher. Stargazer. Dreamer. Reality?

PS. Two awesome cloud videos for you fellow cloudcatchers: Joe Taylor and Edvard Brun.

I’ve gone to look for America

Stealing titles as I often do, this one is of course Simon & Garfunkel aptly describing this post. Like a lot of people, I grew up with American movies and TV shows and I was excited to finally land on American soil back in March. In many ways it was exactly what I expected, in many ways it was nothing like I expected. I drove some 8,000 miles or 12,500 kilometers through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These are just a few of my observations, boils down to: Mindblowing landscapes, stay clear of most cities, and stop putting cheese on everything!

The landscapes.

It is impossible not to have been subjected to a lot of the American Southwest landscape through TV, movies and countless photographers having already shot what is probably the world’s most photographed landscapes. No matter. The Southwest landscapes still floored me speechless every day for two months and I just scratched the surface of what is available. Here’s a quick developed preview of a panorama from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, such a dramatic place. Driving through the wide open spaces of the Southwest with the ipod in the car stereo grooving and the feeling of freedom my drug of choice, then stopping anywhere I like to shoot images are my fondest memories of this trip. I am so in love with the American landscapes, I must return many times. Look at these clouds by the way, I seemed to attract amazing light on a lot of days in America.

canyonlands - blog

The cities.

las vegas - blogBeing no fan of cities, the only larger cities I visited very briefly were LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas. San Francisco was quite different and felt European, with a great atmosphere, many small streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. Apart from SF I find the American cities I visited were quite depressing, usually just an ugly main street with too many fast food places, motels and malls killing all local charm. To the right is my home for 1 night in Vegas and I regret wasting a night in Vegas. It is as horrible as you think, worse actually and I lost all faith in humanity for a few days. I regained it in Beatty and Death Valley, Nevada…

The towns.

What I loved were the small towns. My rule quickly became: town should be so small there isn’t even a traffic light nor a McDonald’s. I might not wish to live there, but loved staying in places like Magdalena in New Mexico, Mexican Hat in Utah or Beatty in Nevada. Here is the great and dusty main street in Beatty, right next to Death Valley, actually if this town had an ocean and a beach I could live here:

Beatty - blog

The small towns have atmosphere and character. People are friendly, down to earth and talkative and wear cowboy hats, smile and say "howdy" to you with a thick accent. They wave as you walk around the town. The local diner is an actual locally owned true diner, no chain fast food hell. The diner serves great food complete with coffee and cake, portions even larger than the enourmous belt buckles the cowboys proudly display. Tumbleweeds tumble across the roads, rusty doors and gates play in the wind. John Wayne strides down the street. Local newspaper tells of upcoming events complete with arm-wrestling competitions and the chance to win a riffle! And in Beatty there was a large sale of used army ammonition boxes (still trying to figure that one out, what do you use them for?). My kinda place.

"Be careful his bowtie is really a camera" or How to fix America and Other Nonsense. 

To my American friends, I am having a sarcastic and ironic go at you, no harm meant. My suggestions are winners though, try them out 🙂

  • Ban all fast food chains. Kills the great local diners. And public health.
  • Ban all big chain motels. Kills local colourful motels with atmosphere, replacing them with awful "fast food" motels that resemble prison blocks.
  • Better education available for all, for free. Not knowing the name of your neighbour state is just not good enough. Danish is not the same as Dutch, look it up. To the surfer dude in Monterey, Jean Claude van Damme is not Danish!
  • Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it.
  • Ban guns. Now I like to win a riffle at the local fair as much as anyone but seriously, get those guns off the streets.
  • Buy smaller cars and RVs. What do you need a pickup truck the size of a tank for unless you actually own a farm? Also it’s really intimidating to see these pick-ups in the rear view mirror, one inch from my car and threatening to simply run me over unless I move just because I obey the speed limit (most of the time hehe, my Nissan spaceship was quite fast).
  • Drastically improve your health, stop putting cheese on everything! "You want cheese on that?". "No it’s a fecking tuna sandwich, I don’t want cheese on anything! And no bloody whipped cream on my milkshake!"
  • Legs? They can be used for walking! Ban drive-ins, boost public health!
  • And why oh why are shower heads installed at roughly half the height of the average human?
  • Lastly, service everywhere is absolutely excellent, much appreciated! Yesterday I bought coffee in a cafĂ©. It was dearer than gold and service was rude. I knew I was back in Copenhagen.

A little less tech a little more art

A personal rant. Running around all these National Parks here in the US with a camera and tripod one meets and talks to a lot of other photographers. I guess as in all things life, some are great people and fascinating and inspiring…some not so much.

At Momument Valley I met 3 guys absolutely packed with very expensive gear complete with camera vests and survival gear. They couldn’t spot a composition if it was bended in neon for them so they spent all their time trying to outdo each other with gear talk boring me to tears. No, I simply do not care how much headroom RAW has nor do I care how much you are bracketing, HDR processing it, genuine fractals blowing it up etc. etc. 

It boils down to: it’s the photographer never the camera. Why are you shooting this? What are you trying to express? What made you choose that composition? How are you using the light, foreground, middle ground, background, leading lines, colours, contrast? What do you want your viewers to feel when viewing this? What are your favourite locations? The artistic not the technical side is the interesting part for me.

Monument Valley Totem Pole - blog Better post an image as well, this is what I shot while some of the gearheads in Monument Valley discussed bracketing and RAW headroom. Of course, they might have shot something much better, I hardly broke the world record for best composition (actually it’s stolen from Art Wolfe). But I at least kept quiet and enjoyed the sunrise while shooting.

Somewhat ironical this post comes right after I wrote a post on mirror lock up, purely technical – Not saying I am any better myself, just as boring! Still the next person to ask "what camera are you using" I’ll reply "Polaroid. It’s a polaroid!"

Week of Wonders

It has been a wonderful week of photography and I have been especially lucky with the light and weather. I was at Grand Canyon just as a snow storm hit. As the 3 hour storm moved on, the sun returned and the light was most special, the otherworldly storm sunlight that I love. Two days later I captured sunlight beams in the famous ‘slot canyons’ of Antelope Canyon and I caught a nice sunset at Horseshoe Bend. I spent several days at one of my dream locations, Monument Valley and the sunrise especially was fantastic but also the storm clouds the next day was something to see. On the way to Moab, Utah I experienced the great pueblo ruins ‘House on Fire’ in Mule Canyon. Then on to Arches and Canyonlands National Park, I knew little of them but they really delivered. Canyonlands is more impressive than Grand Canyon I reckon and on both days I had fantastic clouds due to snow storms. A week of wonders and the landscape here in the southwest US is simply stunning.

The weather changes so rapidly up here in Northern Arizona and in Utah. I sunbaked one day lying on some very hot rocks and two days later I chased snowstorms in Arches National Park! Today’s image is that snowstorm, the clouds were massive and gorgeous and sandstone works so well in this sort of light. Here’s a little teaser, larger stitched panorama to come:

arches snowstorm - blog

My perfect weather would be a hot tropical climate with Australian outback clouds (you know them when you see them) for sunrise. Followed by a clear sky for sun worshipping all day long! Then, energized by the sun, I should like a storm front to move in with some otherworldly light and dramatic clouds. Keep the sun exposed though so it can light up the clouds at sunset. Then, post dusk, clear the sky again for some star trail shots and keep the temperature warm all night for nighttime shooting under a full moon. Too much to ask?

Having chased snow storms for two days in Arches and Canyonlands I had my shots and could take the cold no longer. There was frost on my car this morning, now that does not work for me! So I have moved south again, to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, where it is warmer. Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite etc. coming up! I look forward to Death Valley, my kind of place and my kind of temperature.