Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Rock Blast III: Mud

The impetus for this particular trip to the Black Rock was paying a visit to the proprietors of Black Rock Mud, an upstart beauty product company headquartered in Gerlach. They harvest like-no-other-mud-on-earth-mud from the geothermal oddities on their property, condition it, package it, and distribute it to spas all around the world.

Gray gold

Their operations are most modest; family-run, simple, and functional. It's cool to see behind the scenes of a company that's targeting the bizarro world of high-end beauty products, which is about as removed from a rural Nevada family as one could imagine.

Product testing

Award-winning packaging; plant it and add water

They even won an international award for their environmentally-friendly packaging: paper with wildflower seeds embedded in it. It would probably be cost-prohibitive to plant your entire garden with these boxes, though :)

Big thanks to Shelly for her hospitality and for showing us around, too!

We're halfway through posts from this trip; you greedy vampires will probably like what I've got in the hopper for next week...


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Black Rock Blast II: Gyrfalcons

One thing we didn't know about our visit to Black Rock Mud is that their property is also home to a falconry operation of sorts. These gyrfalcons were bred and born in Reno, then whisked away to Gerlach to mature, learn the ways of the world, and then be sold to their new owners all over the globe.

So many sharp parts

The whiter the pricier

This particular batch of gyrfalcons was roughly 50 days old, and they were just learning to fly. Some could only hop around, some could fly for a minute before getting tired or screwing up, and most of them could glide just above the ground where the boundary layer provides a nice buffer to the laws of physics.

Close enough, thanks

They're vulnerable when they can't fly too well; the coyotes know this and stalk them though the sagebrush as they hop around. Alberto spends a good bit of time chasing them around in the sage to get them back to the open field where they're safer. Also on their side are the salukis, gorgeous dogs that coexist peacefully with the falcons. And relentlessly kill coyotes.

Air weapon

They seem to be social beasts, congregating in the shade of their big roost/house/whatever it is. They had 19 falcons at the time, and they were all spoken for; pre-sold to clients (mostly in the Middle East where they're prized possessions) for 50k-100kUSD apiece. Call me crazy, but that's a lot of cash to lay out for a bird.


Had we been there a scant few weeks later, they'd have been flying like old pros and we may have been able to witness more of what makes them the amazing predators that they are, but it was also pretty cool to be able to get close to them when they were just learning the ropes.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Black Rock Blast I: Fly Geyser

A couple (few?) months ago, we got invited to tag along on a different kind of trip to the Black Rock Desert. If you're one of my seven regular readers, you may recall that we rather enjoy visiting the Black Rock every now and then when there AREN'T 60,000 of our closest friends out there, and this was an excellent opportunity to do so. What made this trip different is that we'd be visiting the operations of Black Rock Mud, and that we'd get treated with a trip to the storied Fly Geyser. What we didn't know is that we'd be able to escape to the deep playa, always a treat, and that we'd see some other stuff we had no reason to anticipate.

I'll be boring you for the next couple weeks with the photos from this trip, so buckle up, buttercups. In this first installment, we'll visit Fly Geyser.

We'd been invited on this trip by Riley's parents, which unfortunately meant that Riley would be there too, and of course I mean that in the nicest possible way. His presence was offset by a large collection of awesome people, so all was well. On the first evening, our large group was escorted to Fly Geyser, located on private property and zealously protected by its owners. And for good reason.

The geyser graced the pages of National Geographic a few years ago (can't seem to find out when exactly), and while it was certainly known prior to that, that photo put it on the world map. It's not a purely natural feature, as it was created when an artesian well was tapped many moons ago. However, past that spark provided by man, it has naturally grown into the spectacular feature as it's seen today. The water spewing forth is extraordinarily mineral-laden, and the colors are thanks to the combination of the minerals themselves and the various algae etc. that grow on the formation.

On the way out

After caravanning out there, we are escorted through the gates and into the private paradise by Black Rock Mud's Shelly and resident scientist Alberto. Save for a few geology lessons and an obligatory swim in the hot springs there, we are kids in the proverbial candy store and are rather difficult to distract from the task at hand.

First look

Stormy Nevada backdrop

The geyser is constantly changing and evolving. It grows, crumbles, gets vandalized, morphs, and shifts. Thus, it's never quite the same as anybody else has seen it, but it always bears a close resemblance. It even creates little mineral eggs, pearl-like in the pools beneath the spray. Each egg starts from a seed and gets tumbled around in the mineral-rich pools until it grows to about the size of a US quarter.

Pots o' gold

Mineral detail

We brave the smelly spray for our up-close looks, taking care not to damage any of the delicate structures. I didn't manage a proper photo of it, but I find an entombed dragonfly on a vertical wall below one of the pools and marvel at the circumstances that must have led to its demise (actually, it's barely visible in the first photo of the geyser above).

The light improves...

Every slight shift in wind swirls the steam around and blows the spray in a different direction. It's changing by the minute, and faces and structures that have been obscured by steam for an hour reveal themselves to be intricate beyond imagination. And of course, as night approaches, it became inevitable that the strobes will come out to play :)

...and dusk falls

I'm under no delusion that these are the finest photos that have ever been made of Fly Geyser, but I'm in no place to complain about having the opportunity to see this...thing...while it's healthy and whole. Many thanks to Shelly for taking us out and sharing the radness with us!

Holy cow.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

AZ Part 20: Erratic Flight Path

And finally, a parting shot from our short but oh-so-sweet trip to Page.

Don't mind me

From our dinner break near Wupatki National Monument. The Mini driver did a pretty good job of being aware, anticipating, and braking.

Well, it took 20 posts to share everything I wanted to share from this trip. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. One thing that's certain is that I've got a monumental backlog to work through, and it includes some pretty ridiculous (in my biased opinion) photos from some pretty cool places.

Onward and upward!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

AZ Part 19: In Bloom

A quickie from our trek back from Alstrom Point. These flowers are actually this disgustingly bright; no trickery involved.

Stuff grows here!

Pretty amazing to me how organisms adapt to unfavorable environments...


Monday, October 21, 2013

AZ Part 18: Alstrom Point

I suppose I needed a week off from this most glorious of side projects; sometimes writing and posting images for you vampires feels a little burdensome, and the rest of the time, it feels rewarding and passion-worthy. Or maybe I was just too busy at work. Your call.

We continued our meandering yet purposeful trek out to Alstrom Point. Perched high above the lake, the views up there are fairly ridiculous. Dramatic foreshadowing...the bag carrying my usual payload of camera gear was a little heavier than normal, though...

Almost there

Lake rock detail

Taking it all in

View west

I took the time to make yet another giganto-pano pointed to the east. I haven't linked the biggest version, or even the kinda-big version. The whole thing is something like it, I can count people walking on the beach under Gunsight Butte (upper right-center of frame)...yowch.

Lake Powell and beyond from Alstrom Point (click for bigger)

And then when Chris wandered back close enough with his camera, I asked him to make a couple photos of Ethel and me. Unbeknownst to him (and anyone else, for that matter; I greatly value the element of surprise), I prepared and deployed the aforementioned extra payload. It happened to be a lovely ring that I'd brought back with me from New Zealand several months prior. 3 relevant comments: first, it's fantastic to have excellent friends who are also excellent photographers; second, getting down on one knee with a broken foot is an awkward proposition (pun intended); and third, she said yes.

Chris beat me to press by months with his photos and account, but he's kindly allowed me to share more of his photos here.

When all else fails, find the edge of a cliff

Not too shabby

Um, ouch

So without waxing all sentimental and whatnot, we'll just call it a Good Day and leave it there.

And here's a bonus from our hobble back to the car.

Is that a really big footprint...?


Thursday, October 10, 2013


I guess it's just going to be critter week here at 1L1T World Headquarters.

See Maxx. See Maxx yawn. Yawn Maxx yawn!

Sooooo bored

Maxx is a very good dog.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Urban Predators

I thought I'd take a quick break from the onslaught of posts from Arizona to share a few photos of some other creatures. These things are so soft and fuzzy, it almost makes one forget the Death Talons and the ever-watchful gaze.

There are two owls here, peacefully occupying a well-populated Reno neighborhood.

Lock up your poodles, people.


Monday, October 7, 2013

AZ Part 17: Cold Blooded

"Cold blooded" sounds way cooler if you say it in your best Dave Chappelle/Rick James voice, by the way.

Here're four photos of two desert dwellers. The first one was a little skittish and wouldn't let me get within 20 feet. Seasoned veteran, I suppose.


No trust here

The second little fellow, however, had no such reservations. When we found him, I had an absurdly inappropriate lens on my camera for shooting critters (manual focus TS-E 90mm, in case you'd like to further comprehend the absurdity), but the car was far away and I decided to make the most of it.

Youthful exuberance

I'd inch closer, figuring that this particular distance would be his limit, and he wouldn't spook, so I'd move closer yet. I made it all the way to the lens's minimum focusing distance and he was still a willing subject.


So thanks, little dude. Your bright colors and steady nerves brightened my day :)

Can anybody ID these for me?


Thursday, October 3, 2013

AZ Part 16: Hoodoos in Gray

As we trekked toward Alstrom Point in Grover, I forced Chris to grind to a halt when we rounded a corner and were afforded a view of some nearby and stunningly colored hoodoos and rockfalls.

Well, it turns out that they looked like they were nearby, but scale does funny things in the desert, and they ended up being about half a mile away. Dumbass.

The view that suckered me in

Close and far

Murphy ponders

Unreal landscape

Lone 'doo

Chris had been insisting that we didn't need to stop there and walk so far, as there were other places nearby that were just as cool. However, nothing else we saw tickled my fancy quite like these. The exquisitely textured gray earth mixing with the oranges and reds in the rocks was just speakin' my language.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

AZ Part 15: Upward and Distant

As day wanes in the desert, temperatures approach habitable levels again and the light does all sorts of interesting things. On this particular evening, however, the wind was still a-howlin' and that put a minor damper on our outdoor festivities.

Come and go

The wind really made that photo difficult, too. 13 seconds at 800mm, paired with the wind, and also taking into account the sparse traffic...well, that one's the best, and you can still see the squigglies.

Fortunately, though, only a few minutes had to pass before the rare conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury descended to the horizon, and that was a much easier photo to make.

Special alignment

As the western light faded, I braced against the wind and stuck my camera on the tripod, pointed skyward. There was a space of a couple hours before the rising moon would brighten the sky too much, so I "worked diligently" inside while my camera did all the real work outside.

Aided by a rising moon... (click for bigger, and fair warning for 12MB download)

Another super day in the books, and we crashed hard with big aspirations for our last day in the desert.


Past Detritus