ECLIPSEDECLIPSED  Joshua Tree National Park, California

At 7:01 pm, February 21, 2008, the shadow of the Earth covered the moon entirely, and the moon was in total eclipse.  An hour earlier, my sister Melissa and I realized we were lost in the rocky wilds of Joshua Tree National Park – with no food or water, in the dark, soaking wet from rain – on an evening that would dip to temperatures in the 30’s.

How did this happen?

Much easier than you might expect.

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1.  Be willing to miss Happy Hour and dinner at a popular dinnertime.

  • Most people seem to eat dinner around sunset.  If you’re an outdoor landscape photographer, you’re not sitting at this table.  Happy Hour…fuhgeddaboudit!  Dinner and drinks both have to come later, after dark, and after the nights shooting.

2.  Be willing to wake up earlier than you’d ever consider otherwise.

  • Most people I personally prefer to sleep in to reasonable hours like 7 or 8am (or, even 9am on occasion), but when you are driven to get dynamic images with Sweet Light, there are times when you have to get up at 0′ Dark Early – times that begin with a 4 !?!  Yes, I know…it sounds inhumane, but all is soon forgotten when the magical morning light begins – mixed with your 1/2 sleep stupor, a feeling of harmonious bliss can take you over for a righteous and pure morning Happy Hour that leaves you feeling peachy all day.  (Afternoon nap may be required.)

3.  Be willing to struggle, suffer, and otherwise torture yourself.

  • Unless you find satisfaction in only making images alongside the edge of the road or parking lot, the same images anyone else can easily make, then as an outdoor landscape photographer, you’re going to have to suffer at the hand of nature.  You will have to spend many hours in the elements, hiking and climbing and waiting in the hot or the cold or the wet, all the while quieting your mind which can get extremely noisy during these uncomfortable times.  Fortunately, most of us who choose this photographic path do so because we love nature, whether punishing or not.  I always feel that the more one pushes up against the comfort zones of the ego, the more of a gem there is to be found – especially while in the stillness of nature.

This past weekend, myself and a couple of friends decided to push up against these comfort zones and hike from close to sea-level to 8,000 feet over a course of 17 miles and 48 hours – UP! the Kaupo Gap and through the Haleakala Crater of Maui.  I carried 50 pounds of weight which in addition to all my camping gear, included my camera and lens, filters and a tripod, with hopes of being able to make an image or two along the way.  As it turned out, not much success in the way of an image for my limited edition collection on this journey, but there was still a gem there to be found, shining amongst the struggles and efforts required to make it through this demanding hike.

Here is a video/slideshow I made of the trip:



Most people think of ice when they think of a glacier, but let me tell you, there’s a lot more to it than that!  There’s ice, rock and SLUDGE!  For lack of a better word, yes, I’ll call it sludge.  It’s a thick, grey mud-like substance that was almost the end of me! These glaciers are awe-inspiring.  The type of beauty that the eyes don’t tire of looking at…like a sunset, you just stare at them with wonder and in awe of their beauty, their power.  But I have found a dark side to her – this living, moving beast that carves these huge valleys and turn rock into a powdery ash.  It’s this powdery ash-like substance that, with water, makes the vicious and evil sludge!

I arrived at the Matanuska Glacier a couple of hours north of Anchorage.  Awesome!  What a great first place to set up camp and enjoy this vast and powerful landscape. In the morning, I ventured out to get closer to the ice, following the raging grey waters that were pouring out from the underbelly of this gigantic ice cube, Mother Natures refrigerator, and the SOURCE of raging rivers.  WOW.  Reaching a dead end that was a deep crevasse, I cut around and had my first encounter with sludge, when I stepped and my foot quickly disappeared.  “QUICKSAND!” my mind shouted.  That first day was a slight meeting with her, but it was a week later when I returned to shoot her again did she show her dark side and try to swallow me whole.  This time I had ventured out by myself in the evening.  I had told my buddy, “If I’m not back by 10pm, send in the search party,” not realizing the possible irony.  15 minutes later I had reached a dead end, trying to work my way into the folds of the ice to get some abstract perspectives.  The landscape had already changed in a week, and suddenly I found myself surrounded.  My first step into this new enemy had me nearly waist deep…okay okay, maybe it was just over my boot closer to ankle deep, but it was freaky!  Step after step, I would sink ankle high, and even with my high top laced boots, she was trying to pry them from my innocent feet.  Had I stopped and stood there, I feel fairly certain I would keep sinking away into her abyss!  I could see the orange cones that marked the “proper trail”.  It was 200 yards away.  That became the longest 200 yards I’ve ever passed and I was really freaked.  I was sure I was going to be swallowed by sludge or the earth would crack open and swallow me whole!  After much drama unfolding in my mind, I finally made it to the trail and managed to keep my life!, and my boots (although they’ll never be the same and will never walk through this again!!) But then I arrived at the ICE.  I’m not sure this was much better…or maybe I had just completely psyched myself out, because I could so clearly visualize this cracking open and taking me to a slow and cold demise!


I spent a couple of nights out camping with family and friends this weekend at Kipahulu Campground on the South East Coast of Maui.  This is the place to camp on the Hana side of the island, and also the access point to the Seven Sacred Pools and the enchanting Bamboo Forest.  It’s an absolutely beautiful campground along an awesome and rugged coastline, but beware – it is often wet here.  This is the wet side of the island so one has to be prepared with the right equipment and the right mindset.  We all live in Lahaina where it doesn’t rain at all, so I think we were all kinda enjoying it, but the big blue tarp sure made it easier and more comfortable.

Kipahulu Campground. Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii



AN IMMORTAL MOMENT  Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra, California

This is why you have to set the alarm to 4-something and get up out of your warm sleeping bag and get out there!  It’s called Sweet Light and it is always a sight for the eyes and makes the heart giddy – or is that the  sleep deprivation?  Either way, it’s well worth waking for, even after a late night of cold-adult-beverages and the company of good friends.  Hell, you can sleep during the day when the light sucks! and if you’re a little slow (a.k.a. hungover), there’s nothing like the Sweet Light to lift you up.

We camped at Oh Ridge Campground for a couple nights which is the perfect place to stay to shoot at Mono Lake.  It overlooks the scenic June Lake and is a 20 minute drive from the campsite to the parking area at the State Natural Reserve along the north shore of Mono Lake.

I went down three times to this area over the couple days and walked away every time with shots I was happy with.  Sure, I was lucky with the stormy skies, but even with clear skies, I think you could make some compositions work here – it’s just that interesting of a place!  This image is looking west with the sunrise at my back.  Most of my efforts during this spell were with a black and white aesthetic, but for this 10 minute period, it was impossible to ignore the color version of this amazing scene.