Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunny Tenaya

After a night with all 7 of us crammed into the cabin (wasn't really a cram), we were ready to spend some more time in Yosemite's great outdoors. Under normal circumstances, one of us may have concocted some epic mission of exhaustion to go on, but nobody was really feeling like doing anything too strenuous.

To the beach at Tenaya!

Girls and paddleboards

Of course, our lazy day is still filled with paddleboarding, swimming, and rockclimbing (for the able-bodied), but we're not running from sunup to sundown or anything like that. Lazy day, indeed.

Totally didn't pay to enter the Park

Riley and Erin and Matt veered off to do some more climbing on Polly Dome, so the rest of us held down the fort at the beach. The higher they climbed, the more prominent became the thunderheads to the east, but it was still a banner summer day at the lake.

Zo-Zo has her own boat

TJaye takes it all in

I managed to swim about two-thirds of the way across the lake (and back, thanks), sans wetsuit, and it was about as rejuvenating experience as I could have asked for. Cool water, warm sun, clear skies...good life.

Yay, swimming doesn't hurt my stupid foot

Well, the thunderheads kept building. By the time our climbers descended from the top of the route (safely), the first drops were just beginning to fall. By the time they made it back to the beach, we were reaching full Time to Clear Out mode, and by the time we shuttled all our gear back to the car, we were embroiled in a thunderstorm of biblical proportions. Like, not even funny how hard it blew, rained, hailed, and generally just punished the earth with its fury. Once I was soaked (took about six seconds), I kinda enjoyed being in it. Nowhere to hide!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Polly Dome

A couple months ago, we blasted south to Yosemite for a couple nights to help our friend Matt celebrate his, um, thirtieth birthday.

Instead of stumbling from forgettable pub to forgettable pub, we recreated in the High Sierra amongst granite, trees, and lakes. And drank some wine.

TJaye booked us a cabin at the Tioga Pass Resort, a place I've always driven by while both wondering what it was like and envying the lucky few who have used it as a winter base camp in otherwise barely-accessible terrain.

Birthday boy

After depositing our stuff at the cabin, we popped over the summit and into the park for a quick evening on the side of a cliff. Also accompanying us were Riley and Erin, so there was critical mass for some rockclimbing fun.


I was still nursing my stupid broken foot, and while hiking up to the base of the climb went OK, it took all of about 5 feet of climbing to realize that continuing would Not Be OK, so I retreated and used a glass of wine to help me lick my wounds.

Thus, with nearly everyone else climbing, Murphy and I babysat Zoe and watched the daylight wane from Polly Dome high above Tenaya Lake. There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Naked hippie far below

The tannest Murphy has ever been

Sir Maclean, Esquire


Thus began a couple fun days in the park; I've got a few more posts to share so hang tight, vampires.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Biggest Little Smoky

As previously noted, one minor upside to the catastrophic destruction that comes standard with big wildfires is a-maz-ing photo light. Here are a few from a smoky sunset in Reno during the Rim Fire this past summer.

Couldn't resist bringing the big lens out...or exploiting Murphy as a model.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Keep Tahoe Smoky

Back in August, there was a gigantic wildfire in the greater Yosemite neighborhood that was hugely destructive, largely because it was burning in terrain that was too difficult to access. One of the firefighting techniques employed was to actually let the fire burn up into the High Sierra granite where it would run out of fuel.

It makes me deeply happy that there are still places in this civilized country that haven't yet been overrun by civilization to the point that fires like this one are merely a part of our history. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that they wreak all sorts of havoc, and they impact entire ecosystems, not to mention nearby (or not so nearby) towns and cities.

The Rim Fire was responsible for thick smoke blanketing Reno for a few weeks, and it got pretty old pretty fast. Curiously, our air quality was on par with a nice day in Beijing, which is a sobering thought on several counts.

All that being said, smoke makes for amazing light for photos. These two are from a quick jaunt to Incline one evening prior to a Shakespeare play at Sand Harbor. The show must go on!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Peerless Mural

Reno has seen a stunning rebirth in the form of street art in the past few years, and there's a fairly small crew of artists that's responsible for gracing the walls of the city with their vision and talent.

Just up the street from our place in Midtown is a mural that was created this summer by Erik Burke. It's on the wall of one of Reno's institutions; the Peerless Cleaners building. There's a neat writeup on the project that's worth a read, and I took it upon myself to make a couple photos that featured the awesome spinning sign at night.

I guessed that the sign would look cool, and I was right (12 seconds for a full rotation). Running a tilt-shift lens and a big strobe in the darkness garnered some strange looks from the bar-goers headed past, but at least it was a friendly crowd. There's a pretty amazing amount of hidden detail in the mural that's not apparent if you're across the street, so it's definitely worth a closer look.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


These are a few photos resulting from a banner Reno evening spent staring through a Big Lens at some Big Clouds.





The light didn't last very long, but it sure was sweet.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Basque Food Coma

I love Nevada small towns. Inevitably, some of them grow into bigger towns, but they're still pretty cool places. I lived in Minden for a summer when I was in college, and it's always had a place in my heart since then. In addition to sitting in the pointy shadow of Jobs Peak, it's the closest stitch of civilization to Kirkwood, and it's the kind of place where you can leave your doors unlocked.

Beyond all that, though, it's got WAY better Basque food than Reno does, even though Reno's is no slouch. As such, Murphy and I blasted down for dinner a few weeks ago and spent some time walking around after our meal to delay the onset of the meat and garlic coma.

Fix things here

Wash away your troubles here

Feed thyself here

My biggest memory from my summer in the Carson Valley was a remarkable feeling of calm every day. It was the first time I'd been anywhere for an extended period where it felt like my blood pressure dropped simply by virtue of being there. Been on the hunt for that ever since :)


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Black Rock Blast VI: Darkness Envelops

The glorious darkness afforded us by locating ourselves in the Black Rock Desert was about to be put to damn good use. I had done just enough research to realize that we'd be graced with a big moonrise that could be placed strategically with the geographical features at our disposal. So with a metric fuckton of camera gear and at least two-thirds of our group being at least moderately interested in photo fun, we planned to stay past dark to enjoy the show.

With the memories of the prior night's pre-moonrise glow fresh in my mind, I sat back for a bit and just enjoyed where we were. As the minutes ticked by, though, I got anxious and spent some time wandering around scouting locations and fiddling with gear. As the show progressed, more and more stars came out to play, and then the Milky Way became apparent in all her glory.

Milky Way and impending moonrise

Not long thereafter, the familiar moonglow appeared on the eastern horizon, and it brightened gradually until the moon burst forth. Fortunately, I had done my math well.

Two moons

Just chillin'

Well-sated, we packed up, piled back into the truck, and began the brutal first leg of the trip back to camp. The detour we took to avoid the wet sections of playa was barely passable as a dirt road, and we were all thoroughly rattled by the time we hit the smooth playa. The relative silence and smoothness of this surface was a real trip at midnight; I recall being mesmerized by the flat horizon and inability to really sense that we were blasting along at 60mph. Upon reaching camp after a long evening and a longer day, we fell into the hot springs for a bedtime dip and crashed hard.

These 3 photos, which are fairly special to me, conclude what I've got to share from this trip to the Black Rock. It's a pretty unreal place and it holds a unique place in my heart. I can safely say that I know of no other place that tickles me quite like this.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Black Rock Blast V: Deep Playa Beckons

We treated ourselves with a trip out to a special spot deep in the playa, far away from the bustling metropolis of Gerlach. However, doing so necessitated a recon mission to observe the condition of the playa where we'd need to be traveling through/around. We'd had enough recent precipitation to make me unwilling to just blindly drive right down the middle, and it's a good thing we checked.

Happy dog at our recon spot

From our vantage point high above the playa surface (it doesn't take much to see a lot), we elected to avoid the direct route and picked a safer alternative; getting stuck out there would be a most unpleasant proposition. Thus satisfied with our research, we headed back to camp and prepared for our late-afternoon departure to the depths.

Quick inspection

We had a big crew, which is always more difficult to herd, and our circuitous route proved to be slow going, so we didn't have time to swim at the hot springs along the way, as we were fairly invested in getting to our chosen spot before the light got good.

Zee arteest

Fortunately, we made it, beat up from the rough playa-bordering "road" and frazzled by the fast-moving sun's relentless pursuit. Breathing deep in the clear air, we relaxed and settled into the evening's plans, which were entirely comprised of cocktails and photos.

Diving orb

Group selfie

Lonely puff

Veil chases sunset

We kicked around, wandered, and reveled in every last moment of the desert's end-of-day routine, a thoroughly rejuvenating experience. As the veil of darkness rose from the east and chased the western show out of the sky, chucked our stuff in the truck, and made a minor relocation. You see, I'd done some research, and I had plans for the next few hours...the afternoon and evening were only the beginning...


Monday, November 4, 2013

Black Rock Blast IV: Golden Lining

The Black Rock Desert is one of the darkest places in the United States. Don't believe me? Figure it out for yourself here. It's gleefully devoid of light pollution, and it's graced with clear skies more often than not. As such, the atmosphere provides unusual and exciting stimuli on a regular basis. A friend saw aurora borealis there this past winter, for example, and the desert is far further south than most places where aurorae are visible.

Set the scene

So we were kind of screwing around at camp one in the evening, enjoying our right-there hot springs and watching it get dark, just a normal kinda stormy Nevada desert evening. And then IT happened. By "IT," I mean the faintest glow on the eastern horizon that would be totally lost in the noise in a place not graced with this kind of darkness.

I'd seen this before out here, so I knew that the smartest thing to do was to put my beer down, grab my camera and tripod, and get to work. As the minutes passed, the glow grew faintly, and the camera has the bonus of being able to record things that the eyes don't really pick up on, so the level of stoke rose quickly. The clouds and the light changed by the second, so one moment could be so-so and the next moment could be monumental.

Yup, those are stars poking through

Fire approaches

This pre-moonrise show starts far earlier out here than anywhere else I've ever seen, and it gets grander and grander until the moon finally arrives. The different layers of clouds mixed with the diffuse reflected light from the moon just does ridiculous things, and it's a pretty fantastic spectacle. The clouds light up copper-gold, the sky still has enough color in it to do the blue thing, and the stars are bright enough to poke through.

For context, Gerlach

The moon's presence keeps the clouds doing awesome things, but it's impossible to expose properly for both. I kind of dig these next two, but the moonless ones are the ones that really rev me up.

Oh hi there

Gold and gray

So, um, yeah, I like these, and I hope you do too. More radness in the hopper.


Past Detritus