Special. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Special.

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I’ve only been practicing photography for a couple years. In that time I’ve always assumed that subjects, composition, and conditions outweighed the importance of light. In some cases that can still be true for me, but even the littlest amount of light can make a scene truly special. This image spans across two days. In areas of Zion’s east side, patches of ice can be found tucked between the boulders of the washes in the winter months. Those patches tend to fade as more of the water and ice seeps into the sand or simply melts and evaporates on a hotter day. I arrived to a section of the main wash on a chilly day that has the more rare attribute of a pool at a certain bend. The pool was fairly iced over, and the intricacies in the ice patterns were supported by delicate fallen leaves here and there. One leaf in particular caught my eye, a golden oak that bent upwards from the center as the tip and stem were fused into the ice. I sat at that pool for a few hours trying to find the best composition, and eventually found exactly what I wanted. It was such a beautiful scene, I knew that I had to make sure that I got it right before it all vanished.

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The next day I arrived to an even colder east side. I returned to the same exact composition to see how it transformed over night. The ice took on a more singular pattern with less variation thanks to the freeze, and the oak leaf still sat frozen in place. Even more special was the morning light creeping into the scene. Golden reflected light from the sandstone opposite me kissed the surface of the oak leaf, and made me realize what I was missing. It wasn’t the composition, conditions, patterns, or subjects that defined the moment; just the simplicity of a tiny bit of light.
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Foundation. _ Upstate New York _ April 2021

Foundation.

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Anthony Bourdain’s death strangely affected me. I had just come into work at National Geographic in June of 2018 when a co-worker mentioned that Bourdain killed himself. Since I was a kid I watched him on No Reservations and more recently on Parts Unknown, and I always loved his no-nonsense way of writing and pure voice to whatever opinion he wanted to air out. Having spent most of my appendicitis sprawled out pitifully on the couch watching Bourdain, I would often relate his television presence to the pain I felt then. At the time it didn’t occur to me how much his death meant to me, just another person making a choice for themselves. Soon though, Bourdain’s choice became another piece in the foundation of my mental health. It became a sort of therapy for me rewatching the same episodes where it was evident that his mental health began to take a turn, and how that turn resembled my own. Whether it be Bourdain’s death, the sandstone of Zion, a great blue heron, or a leaf imbedded in some ice; I’m a person that tries to find meaning and connections in anything. It gives me some focus.

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My partner and I explored a quaint little spot in Upstate New York that boasts a rather impressive heron rookery nestled in the forest. I returned the next day hoping for more stormy and rainy conditions to give a bit more atmosphere to the photos, but the skies laid dormant. The morning was quiet and calm, and about 20-30 herons would complete a cycle of gathering various twigs for their nests soon shifting their efforts to retrieving food for their partners. A combination of these three nests made for a nice composition, and just as a heron landed on the foremost nest, twig in beak, I hit the shutter. A simple frame of foundations being built, and an initial composition I hope to build upon with future visits. Herons piecing together their lives slowly but surely, just as I’m trying to.
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Layers. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Layers.

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I’ve had my eye on this subject for some time. This obvious little tree stands in a small concealed nook in Zion’s east side just a short walk from the road. After watching this tree through the seasons, it was difficult to determine what conditions would let this subject shine. Nothing about the scene seemed to allow the tree to stand out, so it slowly started to leave my mind with only the occasional glance from time to time. One snowy day I decided to focus on the higher elevations of the east side because spring was fast approaching. I wanted to find one last composition that would finish off the wintry conditions in the Zion area. I drove back and forth along the road keeping my eye out for anything, and sure enough this bookmarked subject seemed to fit what I was looking for.

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I parked off and headed out into the wet heavy snow. As well as shooting the scene, I thought the snowfall might make for a good test of the weather sealing on the new camera. The tree had a layer of snow which delicately frosted the top and added a nice contrast against the more desert environment of the nook. Setting up the tripod and popping on a long lens only brought more and more elements within the scene to my attention. I began to notice the gorgeous textures in the background of warm sandstone that almost appeared cel shaded thanks to the soft light, a harsh crack that led right down the frame into the small tree, and the unique feel that the long exposure of falling snow layered onto the scene. Soon I realized that what I had been missing this whole time was layers. The various elements and how they worked within the scene allowed for a pleasing composition full of movement that taught me a good lesson. Often layers of elements can bring everything together in the end rather than one element trying to stand on its own.
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Freeze. _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Freeze.
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The beauty of Kolob is that it’s a 15 minute drive from where I live, and in winter, timing is everything. On clear days when direct light is dominant, all I ever want to do is make the 1 hour trip to Zion's main canyon. Unfortunately, by the time I get there after a day of work I’m tethered by fading reflected light as the day ends. Kolob has the characteristics of Zion, but with a different atmosphere. The sandstone walls tend to be a bit more pink, exploration is more constricted, and conditions don’t quite work the same in the higher elevations of the canyons. It’s a difficult place to photograph.
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It was a below freezing day, so I decided to take the hike along Taylor Creek in search of ice formations. The creek was frozen over and I don’t own crampons, so the going was slow and slippery. At various points along the creek I would stop and focus in on the elegance of ice. It’s almost as if nature is stopping time long enough for someone to pass by and notice the graceful frozen movement. I made my way further into the frigid canyon, and eventually the ice simply stopped. The creek began to look much like it did in summer or fall the higher I went. The creek’s nature was opposite to what I would’ve guessed in terms of elevation. I turned around and saw that the reflected light from the sandstone walls was also fading. I passed a bend on the journey back and noticed on the creek about 20 feet down was this stunning scene. To me, the scene resembled a small but vast canyon of ice carved and formed by what created it. I utilized a sculpture of ice in the lower right to help anchor the abstraction, but truly the reflected light did all the work for me. Warm tones from the sandstone and cool tones from the blue sky clashed against the brilliance of the shimmering ice, and all I had to do was frame up and hit the shutter. A lovely moment where, much like ice, time seemed to freeze.

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Proud. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Proud.

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I’ve heard a few photographers talk about the concept of dwelling on what they believe is their best work. About a year ago I shot a photo that I call “Self”. It’s an image of a Great Blue Heron that I shot in Zion at a spot that I call Heron Bend on the Virgin River. To me, that image defines the individuality, adaptation, and lonesome state that the Great Blue Heron represents; while personifying my bad mental state at the time. That image held onto my mind for a long time, and I never believed I would take an image that made me as happy and proud of myself as that one did.

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Anytime I find myself in Zion’s main canyon, I always stop to check in on the many spots that the heron might be. On this day, I saw the vibrant blue back of the heron perched on a slab of sandstone at Heron Bend. I popped on my waders and crossed the Virgin. Slowly much like the heron wades, I approached making sure each of my movements were subtle and precise. The heron allowed me within 10-15 feet of its presence. The sandstone wall to the north caught the direct sunlight, and provided an ethereal warm backdrop for any pose the heron might strike. Eventually the heron became so relaxed it took its eye off me and shot a majestic gaze to the west. A gust of wind caught the heron’s feathers from behind, and I took the shot. I couldn’t help but think that this heron knows who I am after my many visits, and that I am no threat to the life it’s living. Finally, I came away with an image that made me proud of myself again, and the work I’ve put into Zion this past year. I left the heron as the sun faded from the canyon, and thanked it for always being there for me.
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Expectations. _ Rochester, New York _ May 2021

Expectations.

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As of late, especially at the time I’m writing this, photography is taking a lot out of me. Not necessarily the practice of it, don’t get me wrong I’m obsessed with it in a good way, but rather the expectations I put on myself and of those within the photography community around me. I get lost in my own expectations of photos I’ve taken that I deem wonderful and meaningful, but when those same photos aren’t equally appreciated by others, I lose sight of what I’m doing. It’s a bit sad that this is what it’s come to, and I know I have to move away from this feeling. I’m an open book at this point; I’ve been telling you and the social media void out there my darkest moments, constant failures, and broken promises for a couple years now. A very small part of me almost misses the doubt and depression turning over into 2019. Back then all it was about was understanding, practicing, and embracing the sheer love for photography in the outdoors while my mind tried to eat itself. Hopefully I can return to the beginnings of what made me fall in love with all of this in the first place, minus the broken brain of course.
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Now to this image taken on a foggy morning that filled me with absolute giddiness, and provided a much needed break from wildlife to explore the more quiet scenes. I ran around a field bathed in fog and the low visibility allowed for a few lone subjects to shine, but off in the distance I saw this more complex composition. A stand of oaks sat at the edge of the forest with gorgeous golden bloom dancing between them. I framed up on three main characters as the fog added a tinge of separation from the dark forest beyond. All in all it was a fulfilling woodland moment that gave my mind some peace. If you’ve made it to the end of this, I want to say thank you. Despite my misguided expectations for my images, often your commitment to the words matter more to me than your enjoyment of the image; I appreciate you. 

Imagined. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Imagined.

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This is a photo I’ve wanted for some time. For me, a lot of photography is based on capturing natural moments whenever I happen to notice them, but occasionally I obsess on a certain subject and have to wait for the right moment to shoot it. Every time I drove through Zion’s main canyon, I’d look up to this pine tree full of character teetering on the edge of a sandstone wall. On a clear day, an even higher sandstone wall in the background extends upwards behind the pine which muddles the isolation of the tree and makes the scene fall flat. Each time I’d imagine the ideal conditions, and each time the current conditions were inadequate. Finally, on a drizzly spring day the conditions were perfect. Low cloud grazed the top of the cliffs giving an ethereal mood which isolated the pine, and the rain allowed for gorgeous saturated warm tones in the sandstone. A touch of interest was added by a small waterfall cascading down the wall, and all in all it added up to the scene that I had imagined.

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This was a roadside shot. An obvious subject stood out among the chaotic landscape only because conditions allowed it to. I felt relief to finally hit the shutter on this scene that’s been in the corner of my mind for so long. Like many of the subjects scattered along the sandstone walls of this scenic drive, they’re true potential is hidden until an atmosphere can be created for them. Soaked from the downpour I walked back to my car, glad to have had a wonderful moment that I’ve imagined for quite awhile.
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Failings. _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ September 2019

Failings.
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Panoramas are difficult for me. Not only identifying when to shoot them, but also actively changing the way I see single subjects to include the bigger picture. I generally opt for intimacy over grandeur in a photo, and then provide the context via the story in words that will hopefully support the image in the end. Panos are like a visual novel; they tell the story of multiple subjects across a massive photo, but details tend to get lost among the vast landscape. I’ve only shot three panos before, all three at Cedar Breaks strangely. I guess the amphitheater of deep orange hoodoos bordered by haunting spruces lends itself well to a panoramic view.
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I shot this scene this past Sunday. I arrived at sunrise to a spot on the edge of the amphitheater that is seldom visited. Another thing I struggle with are sunrises, because I’ve never successfully shot one. This morning was a bit different due to the smoke of the small Chessman Ridge Fire lingering across the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness. I looked at the scene before me and pinpointed everything I wanted to keep within the frame, remembering to shoot wider than I thought I need. The smoke added an element of direction throughout, and needed depth and separation for the chaotic scene. The sunrise didn’t amount to much, but to me the soft light of the fading blue hour kept everything balanced.
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I’m terrible at shooting good light. It’s one of my many failings in photography. I love reflected light more than anything, but I constantly fail at shooting even that. I rely on conditions and luck to inspire and motivate me. Photography is a tough learning process, but it’s always worth the experience of beautiful moments in nature.

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Signature. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Signature.

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Some places leave such an impression, it’s hard to imagine who I’d be without them. I had the day off and got an early start up SR-14 to take the long way to Zion. I knew the light in Zion was going to be hit and miss until the later afternoon when the cloud would clear up, so I took my time. I enjoyed a sunrise atop the frigid Markagunt Plateau, continued through the atmospheric conditions around Highway 89, and eventually landed in Zion’s east side. The cloud was thick overhead but that allowed ice that would normally melt, due to direct morning sunlight, to be present. I shot a small scene of scattered maple leaves, but I ultimately felt indifferent about the moment. I continued to scour the washes of the east side until the clear day was dominant. The tricky part of finding ice is knowing what areas are heavily shadowed, yet still experience hot enough temperatures for melt. I stumbled upon this scene of interesting movement. A single maple leaf suspended in ice that seemed to carve its own path much like a signature; the east side signing its own beautiful work.

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I decided to stay with the scene for a while, and watch how the light affected the area. I soon packed up and continued to mosey through the washes eventually finding my way into the main canyon for even more exploration of new places. The signature reminded me of how much Zion means to me. It’s a place that’s so easy to see superficially, and disregard it’s deeper potential. I’m thankful to have found Zion when mind was wounded and vulnerable. I let it’s details to seep in and embed into my mind. Zion is home.
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Lesser. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Lesser.

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On the second full day in Zion for fall color this year I started to figure out what my issue was with the trip; the popularity of the main wash. With the main canyon shuttle requiring tickets to ride, the east side became the only alternative that people could trample over and destroy. Fortunately those same people tend to be the lazy visitors that don’t fancy exploration. As hard as people find it to believe when I tell them; it’s really easy to get away from the crowds in Zion. The main wash also had a deficit in fall color this year. Certain areas boasted gorgeous vibrant tones, but the vast majority of the leaves fell to rotten and brown. I decided late in the afternoon that I’d skip the color and head up into the highlands of the east side. The climb is often a straight up and slippery journey into silence with a tinge of an unsettling feeling. You won’t find footprints, litter, or vandalism here, just the quiet lesser traveled fringes of the park. A truly wild feeling place. As I gained elevation, I visualized the many scenes in this area that I’ve scouted before. Close to the summit I noticed far to the west that the sandstone wall was catching gorgeous reflected light as expected. My eyes fixed to a lone juniper surrounded by desert varnish staining the walls. I moved in closer and found that this scene was extremely cluttered, and that I would need to tweak and perfect the frame in order to avoid distractions.

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Back and forth I moved to find the perfect spot to plant my tripod. It came down to inches, but finally I settled on a position. I framed up and fell in love with the details in the scene. A vibrant juniper caught in reflected light surround by familiar flora friends in the form of a small manzanita and a small yucca. A classic scene which shows the character of Zion, but not a single bit of fall color. Some scenes and subjects defy seasons, and the best places to find those scenes are in the lesser travelled areas.
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Stare. _ Rochester, New York _ January 2021

Stare.

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This was one of those ridiculous moments where I kept asking myself, is this really happening? Am I seriously watching a fox feast on the carcass of a buck at this close of a distance in the middle of a city? And fortunately it wasn’t just a dream, it was actually happening. A couple days prior to this moment I scouted a different side of an area that I’ve visited a few times. I stumbled upon a small fox darting silently across the forest floor which in turn taught me new ways of approaching wildlife. Not only did I find the fox, but also the carcass of a buck sat at a bend in a nearby creek. On this visit I put two and two together and figured the fox must be grabbing the relatively fresh meat off the bones. After a few hours of searching and waiting among the snowy landscape I decided the fox didn’t want to be seen, and I walked back to the car. I took one last glance back to the area where the carcass lay and sure enough I saw the fox trotting through the tree line for a bite to eat.

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Sound is the enemy in situations like this. The snap of a twig or the crunch of leaf could destroy a moment with wildlife, and send them running away frightened. Luckily the pitter patter of the falling snow muffled my footsteps, and the elevation I had above the creek kept me out of sight. I crept as slow and as calculated as I possibly could to the bank of the creek, and finally the fox came into view maybe 30 or so feet away. At first the fox did not hear my shutter as it chomped away at the meat, but soon it looked up at me and I took the shot. Once I knew I had an image, I put the camera down and we just stared at each other for a few seconds. The fox gracefully moved away from the carcass and slowly walked back into the forest. That brief moment of a simple stare will stay with me forever.
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Listen. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Listen.

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The day was clear with intermittent high cloud, so it was beautiful weather for Zion. My mental state was doing well for the most part, it’s easy for me to feel okay in Zion once I’m exploring for compositions. I returned to this slot canyon on the east side that I visited once before. It’s a fun slot to climb and squeeze through, and once you hit this point, it’s absolutely silent and calm. This area of the slot is my stopping point, because the water is generally too high for me to get past. This time around the water had a thin layer of ice on the top. While I wanted to see if I could head in further, I didn’t want to risk the dangers of ice as well as ruining the scene for another photographer.
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I decided to enjoy a cup of coffee on a nearby ledge and just relax and breathe. I looked up to see this gorgeous pine centered on the sandstone cliff. The warm reflected light from the sandstone to the north lit up this cliff and created beautiful contrast against the darkness of the slot. I positioned my tripod precariously with one leg against the slot wall, and the other two legs on thin ice. I knew I wanted a ND grad filter to retain the blown out sky when exposing for the slot, but the ice was cracking and I had to move fast. I opted for a bracketed exposure 3 stops either side to retain everything and save time. Bracketing takes three photos; one properly exposed, one three stops darker, and one three stops lighter. A quick blend together, and there’ll be a single image with more wiggle room to work with the exposure.
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I made my way out of the slot and felt grateful to have had that moment in quiet nature. I appreciate quiet. I tend to sit back and listen, rather than add noise. Luckily nature is the same way, I guess we listen to each other listen.  
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Home. _ Rochester, New York _ October 2020

Home.

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I’m glad my first shot of fall color of this year is from Rochester. Very soon I’ll be headed back to Utah for a photography trip in Zion, and honestly I’m having a bit of anxiety about it. It’s the same feeling I felt back in May when I returned to Southern Utah after spending the month of April with my partner here in Rochester. I think my big issue with Utah is culturally rather than nature-wise. Obviously Utah is one of the best places on earth for nature and I’m admittedly addicted to Zion, but I struggle with the conservative mindset out there. New York has shown me how decent and caring people can be. Luckily when I head back for fall color the only people I’ll see are my wonderful family, and a few familiar photographers wandering around Zion. Now to this photo, Mendon Ponds is a place I’ve visited twice. Once in the heat of summer surrounded by overgrown greenery, and the second this recent crisp fall morning. The day was rainy and cold, and I ran around the city all morning chasing fall color. Eventually I wound up at the ponds and I came across this scene from a popular spot.

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Initially I thought the tree was caught in a dual color, but after looking at it in post I found that it’s actually two separate maples with each of their colors entwined. I loved how the gold and red tones clashed together in front the dark forest. I’ve been in Rochester with my partner for a little over three months now, and it already feels like home. Here’s to the future in this new place, and I’ll be visiting my red rocks in Zion soon.
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Discover. _ Rochester, New York _ June 2021

Discover.

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Photography has been therapy for me, and while I will never discount actual therapy and its overwhelming benefits for so many, I do believe in the power of consistency and distraction. Nowadays my mental health is decent for the most part, and photography still quiets the demons from time to time. I was never one to care about sunrises which not only stemmed from my beginnings in the monotony that is Milky Way photography, but also the constant exploration of Zion which was best to photograph during midday hours on a clear day. A broken mind plus Zion after work everyday equaled a somewhat healed mind, but also in time showed me that beautiful things can still be discovered between the brief light at the start and end of a day. Nevertheless we’re in Rochester now, and I see a sunrise often as most mornings are now the free time.

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I arrived at a certain spot that looks over the massive sea-like Lake Ontario just as the sun was about the poke out for the day. This lake always tricks me into thinking I’m looking out towards an ocean. A soft breeze and calm waters made for a pleasant way to start the day, and I really wasn’t expecting anything from the morning. Soon a great blue heron swooped into a rocky outcrop looking for a hearty breakfast. The sun was rising fast, and the next few minutes would be a game of shuffling inches left and right in order to line up everything in the frame. Warm and cool tones mingled wonderfully alongside simple contrast of a dramatic sun and silhouette; a scene of movement within a frame . A quaint moment of discovery reminding me to appreciate these brief periods of light when I witness them.
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Better. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Better.

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One hour. That’s all it took to fill one trash bag at some busier sections of the washes in Zion’s east side. I had the day off and I decided that the best use of the day, in this dreary awful summer season, would be to do a little clean up around the place I love most. I started the day by following some fresh tracks of a mountain lion and a cub that I believe walked through the wash the night before. There’s something so exciting about heading deep into a canyon alongside the tracks of something so dangerous. The canyon will eventually dead end, and turning around only amplifies that the journey back is where anything could happen. Luckily, the lions are nocturnal, so there’s not too much risk in the day.
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After that adventure, I headed out to the busy sections to do some clean up. Some highlight litter items included: a tire rim, a flip flop, underwear, and many many wet wipes covered in human poop. One by one, all the litter went into the bag. As I picked up this litter I was interrupted by a group of seemingly outdoorsy people blasting music from their parked van shouting at me mockingly, “OH YOU’RE SO COOL” over and over and over again. I got made fun of for picking up trash. It was such a bizarre moment, it was hard to believe it was actually happening. It makes me wonder if that’s the mindset people have behind picking up trash in the outdoors; that we’re just trying to look cool.
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All I’m trying to do is leave this place, that has done so much for me and my mental health, a little bit better than I found it. It’s the least I can do. I set up this simple scene of what I found. I spelled out Zion on a gorgeous slab of sandstone with a bit of the trash to show the impact of careless littering. Every scrap of garbage that is left severely taints the beauty that this place took so much time to create. Leave it better than you found it, please.
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Bittersweet. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2020

Bittersweet.

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This moment filled me with sadness, but also with the understanding that eventually everything beautiful must come to an end. I woke up at about 2:30am on a clear day to head into Zion and get my parking space in line to enter the Main Canyon. With the shuttles down to promote social distancing, this is pretty much the only way to drive past The Grotto up canyon for the day. The rangers truly do an amazing job keeping the crowds at bay and preventing the park from being destroyed by vehicles. I knew this was going to most likely be my last visit to the main canyon for awhile. I’ll be moving to Rochester, New York in a few days to live with my partner and start a new chapter. While I am incredibly excited to experience a new place with someone I love, it’s hard to leave the place that I believe created who I am now. For the past year and a half I’ve probably spent the day in Zion at least 300 of those days. Every time I visit Zion it always fills me with joy, and reminds me of memories both pleasant and painful.

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I took my usual stroll along the Virgin not particularly looking for anything, but rather simply taking it all in. I passed by an area that I’ve failed at shooting before and noticed a small grouping of cottonwood leaves suspended on water above some moss. The leaves took on a mixture of gorgeous pastel tones due to the decay and the moss was pitch black underneath which amplified the contrast. Bugs both living and dead were strewn about the leaves, and tadpoles danced over the sand below the water. The scene much like the day felt bittersweet; it was beautiful, but the inevitability of time made the moment difficult both emotionally and mentally. I spent a good hour with the scene, and thanked it for being there if only just for a brief moment in time. I continued my walk listening to the river and reminiscing on all the memories I’ve had in Zion.
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Distance. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Distance.

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There’s something unique about a spring morning in Zion’s main canyon. It’s a rare thing to experience by convenience of a car this time of year, but those are the times we live in at this moment and for a good reason. The season brings not only a change to the surroundings, but also to the atmosphere. The symphony of bird melodies almost outweighs the roar of the melt rushing down the Virgin. A soft light glows through the low cloud caressing the cliffs and peaks as the canyon wakes up for the day. I went to my usual spot at heron bend looking for my friend. The heron was probably off getting busy in this mating season, but other feather friends bounced between the cottonwoods. A pair of flickers grew increasingly interested in me. They would quickly ascend and just as quickly descend the bark either looking for a home or a meal. I snagged a quick shot of one perched on a cottonwood dotted with lichen, posed against a rosy pink sandstone wall. The hazy sunlight backlit its feathers and summed up a simple moment to remember a beautiful quiet morning.

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I do photography to distance myself from people and civilization, and become closer to wildlife like this flicker and the natural world around it. Shying away from people and taking photos is more of a natural isolation for me, but I do wonder if exploring the outdoors alone is okay to be doing in these times. While I tend to always practice social distancing in the less traveled places of Zion, I still want to be doing the right thing.
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Ghosts. _ Letchworth State Park, New York _ January 2021

Ghosts.

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Ice is what I love to photograph most. That love has spawned from countless winter days spent in the washes of Zion’s east side searching for intricate details nestled between the boulders at my feet. Ice is a condition that’s impossible to chase or expect. It’s a beautiful phenomenon of nature that does exactly what it wants to do on it’s own time, you just have to stumble upon it when it’s ready. For me, it’s something about the brief lifespan of ice that I find so special. In one moment it’s frozen in time, but within minutes, hours, or overnight it’ll fade away like a ghost. I found my way into Letchworth on a cold quiet morning, and I had the upper falls to myself. The stone walls were plastered with layers upon layers of ice acting almost as acoustics for the roaring falls. I scanned the walls knowing I wouldn’t be able to work any compositions out of the falling water. I tried my hardest framing a long impressive arch of icicles, but in the end it felt as if I was forcing something that wasn’t possible. Soon my eyes fixed on a small vignette as I moved further north.

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A family portrait of haunting silhouettes, or at least that’s what I see. I centered on a dominant figure in the sea of apparitions; the moment felt like observing an old tintype of a forgotten family. Shape, texture, and muted tones of a single fleeting condition all combined to create a tapestry of characters. The icicles had such wonderful movement splayed out and weaving from the bottom of the frame upward and inward. In time these ghosts will fade, but I’m glad I was able to spend a moment with them in their short lifespan.
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Momma. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Momma.

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When I set out on this recent trip to shoot fall color in Zion, I knew that I needed to find a scene that represented my mother in some way. Her birthday occurred during this week-long trip, and I knew the scene I wanted to shoot for her needed to have fall color in it as well as being shot within the park. Luckily, I was able to find something that I think truly captures exactly who she is as a person. Zion is a place that I often relate to my mom, I think that relation mainly comes from the countless childhood trips to the park and Springdale when we first moved to Southern Utah. Despite my indifference to Zion as a kid, I knew it was a special place to my mom. It wasn’t until these past couple of years that I also saw what was so special about this place. It was my third full day on the trip, and after a rough start I knew I needed to come away with a scene that actually contained some fall color. The morning was fairly hazy due to the wildfires, but the afternoon allowed for clearer skies and better reflected light. I visited a section of the main wash that had a gorgeous long stand of red maples lining the boulders, and soon I stumbled upon this stunning scene. A dominant ponderosa surrounded by a wealth of vibrant red maples. The texture of the bark caught some wonderful ambient side light, and the warm tones mixed with it beautifully. A simple frame that combined all of the elements to put focus on the individual pine. As I waited a couple hours for the right warm light, I watched the afternoon sun creep up the sandstone walls. A quiet and needed moment.

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My momma is an unbelievably caring, thoughtful, strong, and multi-talented woman who will stop at nothing to make sure you’re loved and taken care of like family. I saw her as this pine surrounded with beauty straight away, and as it would happen I took this photo on her birthday. I love you momma, and thank you for showing me what’s beautiful about Zion.
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Parallels. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Parallels.

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Photography is a beautiful practice because sometimes I only have a vague knowledge what I’m shooting. The abstract nature of a subject can mesmerize with textures and color, and all I can do is gravitate to it and search for a composition. Some subjects draw parallels to each other either in oddly comparable contrasts, similarities to other phenomena in nature, or in what subjects can represent.

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I spent an afternoon in Zion’s main canyon not looking for anything in particular, but mainly just wandering around. My wander took me to a special area where a very certain spot has a unique characteristic. Among the reeds in the marshy spot lies a small pocket of blue water. While water is often characterized by being blue, this water has the addition of oil on the surface which doubles its traits with help from the light of the day. I set up my tripod gingerly around the pocket as to not disturb the fragile oil. A small boulder sat partially submerged, and I thought it acted as a nice subject to anchor the abstraction. The reflected light from the massive sandstone wall opposite me lit up the edges of the boulder and warmed the scene altogether. I noticed quickly the parallels this oil shared with ice. Both delicate, fleeting, and similar in look and form. Some of you that viewed my behind-the-scenes on this shot saw its similarities to ice as well. Oil has such a dramatic duality to it. It can either represent the most careless human destruction of nature, or in its naturally occurring form which I can only assume is nourishing to the environment around it. This bizarre subject showed me how closely elements of nature are related to each other, and how not everything is what it seems.
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Support. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Support.

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I shot this scene this past Wednesday. The day was beautifully clear until some hazy high altitude cloud moved in late afternoon. I decided I’d hit up Zion’s east side in search of intricate dried mud throughout the slots and washes. I made my way to a slot that retains water the longest in hopes of fresh mud to work with. I was surprised to arrive to water in the slots as if it rained recently, but I don’t believe that Zion has seen rain in weeks. I pushed on hoping the slots were dry enough to move through, but soon my boots became cocooned in heavy wet mud.

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Eventually I hit an area that resembled quicksand, and I knew it was time to head back out and take a game trail above the slot. In time, I descended into an untouched playground of crunchy, partially dried mud. I slowly stumbled my way over the boulders watching my feet for anything that stood out. Near the end of the slot, or as far as I could go, I noticed this little scene of twisted muddy characters among the boulders.
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I opted for this composition due to the elaborate floral pattern of mud upon the large blue tinted stone. A bit of reflected light helped warm the scene, and added depth. I initially filled the frame with only the large stone, but it felt tight and in need of room to breathe so I gradually included more of the mud elements on the stones surrounding into the frame. All of these elements helped support the the large stone, yet all had their own unique movement to them as well. To me, the elements balanced each other nicely. I’m always appreciative of any amount of support, I think it’s essential to continuing any art form. It inspires me, motivates me, and often gives me room the breathe as well. Photography in any form is difficult, yet anyone can press a button and capture something beautiful. It’s a strange contradiction I face every time I think about photography and my place in it. It’s easy to get discouraged, but in time support remedies the negativity.
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Lit. _ Las Vegas, Nevada _ November 2017

Lit.

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Las Vegas is an underestimated place when it comes to the outdoors. Often people reduce the city to the lights, the gambling, and the soul that it lacks; but the outdoors are all around. Valley of Fire is less than an hour up the I-15, and vast mountain ranges intermixed with calming deserts border the chaos of Vegas. One place in particular is the Black Mountain Trail right outside Henderson to the southeast. A brutal incline up dark lava rock while the haunting Joshua trees watch over characterize the trail. I've never actually done the hike in full, but it instantly became a favorite for me. Each trudge up brought me about halfway where I would turn around and see this powerful view.

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On this day in particular I saw a healthy amount of hazy high cloud painted across the sky to the west. I knew if I just waited a few hours until sunset, the sky would light up and show the true hidden beauty of the Las Vegas area. I set up a simple composition of a small Joshua tree isolated among the short brush. Rolling hills of lava rock smacked right into a distant range of peaks, and sure enough the sky lit up. To me, the moment perfectly defined what I see in the area around Vegas. When a place is reduced to its superficial look is when the most potential is hidden in plain sight. 

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Bridge. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Bridge.
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This scene has been a thorn in my side for most of the fall season. Initially in the planning stages of fall, I wanted to find a scene where fall color and dried intricate mud clashed. A bridge image that brought summer and fall together, what I shot then versus what I was shooting now. I found this maple in Zion’s east side as it was turning early in the season and decided I’d keep my eye on it. The mud below had deep cracks and I knew I wanted to utilize that in some other way, but I wasn’t sure how. At the start of peak color I visited with my partner to try and make a composition, but I was still unsure how to make it work. My first dedicated day of shooting fall color I framed up a 1x1 and felt okay with it, but overall disappointed. The light that day was diluted through high cloud so the contrast fell through a bit. The biggest problem I found was the lack of a main subject. I had pretty much given up until I visited a bit after peak.
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The red leaves lost a bit of vibrancy, but I loved how the cracks in the mud caught the fallen leaves. I framed up a 4x5 vertical and found a semblance of a main subject in the mass of color. The light that day was ideal, and I simply waited until just reflected light filled the scene. This scene took many attempts, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. A simple image of what anchored me in summer, and what challenged me in fall.

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Return. _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ February 2019

Return.

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I captured this scene yesterday. The day was mostly clear with some clouds dotting the sky here and there. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to accomplish photography wise, and in turn that affected how I felt mentally. I thought maybe a sunset shot somewhere, but I knew I needed a break from Zion. I decided that I needed some dunes in the hope of shooting something simple, or maybe something with contrast to help my mind. 

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I arrived to snow covered dunes, with the occasional patch of coral pink sand. It was a completely different environment to what I knew from previous visits. I thought it would be best to avoid the patchy and partially melted areas in favor of more pure snow scenes. I headed to a gnarled tree I’ve shot before, and I fell in love with the shadow play that was going on. I was so surprised that the scene was untouched by footprints and tracks. The low sun casted light on the dune that caused a beautiful curve of shadow to fall on the tree. The composition was practically gift wrapped for me, all I had to do was set up and press the button. Even though I rushed around like a maniac chasing the light, the simplicity and contrast calmed my mind down.
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I titled a previous photograph of this tree “Progress”. I believe shooting the same subject in a different way is an interesting way of showing progression. Returning to locations benefit me by showing all the potential that one subject can have. It might not be something completely new, but to me return visits can be refreshing.

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Environment. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Environment.

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I biked into Zion early on a clear morning when I wasn’t expecting much, but my eyes were open for anything. Fall color was fading quick, and I knew I wanted to do my usual walking route between Big Bend and Temple of Sinawava in search of remaining color. Upon arriving to the quiet Bend I looked up and noticed a dark blot high up on the cliffs of sandstone. I framed up my long lens and I soon knew exactly what was looking at. 1K is the new condor fledgling that is a first for Zion after a few unfortunate nesting tragedies in the past years. I’ve watched this condor grow over the past few months and even witnessed its supposed first flight. 1K is already a behemoth with a 10 foot wingspan, and I overheard it has even surpassed its parents in size. The young condor was bathed in reflected light from the wall to the west, and cool tones from the clear sky above. But the most important thing to me was the environment surrounding 1K. The sandstone plinth that the condor was perched on had a lovely texture dotted with lichen. The wall behind was covered in desert varnish and had a gorgeous half arch that framed 1K beautifully.

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For me, wildlife photography has become less of a exercise in my proximity to an animal, and more of figuring out how best to compose the animal in its environment. Even though an up close shot of this rare bird would be breathtaking, it was a delight to spend a quiet moment in 1K’s presence.
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Counter. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Counter.

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This is my first, and might just be my last, image of the Zion glow in The Narrows. The glow is the result of direct sunlight bouncing off the sandstone into the dark bends below, creating an ethereal warm light. Wading through Virgin started at 8am. The next 2 1/2 hours were spent on a linear path as the current pushed against me, and the boulders beneath the water grew increasingly more slippery. Like many visits before, I had a blast hiking the popular trail. Unlike those many prior visits though, this time I was looking for compositions. I hit a stopping point before the backcountry where my hip waders were simply not tall enough to keep out the high waters. I turned around, and at about 10:45am I ran into this bend where the warm glow lit up the walls further down canyon. I framed up, set my simple composition, and pressed the shutter. Not necessarily a gift-wrapped scene, but rather knowing exactly what the gift is with no surprise.

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This shot is counter to what I care about in photography and the outdoors. I tend to favor intimacy, assumed originality, and the smaller scene often deemed insignificant. The Narrows is none of these things. To me, It’s a place based on grandeur, and the allure of the epic and the awe-inspiring. I’m sure I’m not the only photographer to shoot this scene in this exact same spot at 10:45 on a winter morning, and I feel that’s the same for every scene found in this glorious feat of nature. Photographers have been shooting these massive walls for a many years, with little to no deviation from the linear path. Despite my moaning, I did enjoy the movement and feeling in the scene. I swallowed my meaningless pride for a few minutes and appreciated the power of light and the strength of water. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy the hike, and save the imagination for the less traveled places.
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Persistence. _ Rochester, New York _ January 2021

Persistence.

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Seconds, minutes, and hours all amounting to the hope of coming away with something in the end; waiting for a scene to wake up. It could be a wait for an animal’s movements, some light to break through, or weather conditions to move in. The constant thing on my mind is the question of worth. Will it be worth it in the end to wait? Often I come away with nothing, and often that alone pushes me to keep trying again and again. Up early, out the door, in the same position as yesterday hoping that today’s the day it’ll happen. I’ve visited this tree countless times, it sits alone in a vast area of tall reeds on the edge of a local park. I checked the weather and saw a storm moving in from the north. Heavy wet snow was set to arrive early morning, but the timeframe was hit or miss. I woke up at the crack of dawn and made my way to the scene. I arrived to a pitter patter of snow hitting the landscape while the overcast sky didn’t appear to be getting ready for much. I sat in my car just staring at the tree. An hour passed, then two. I started the car and rounded the area, hoping my impatience would cause something to fall from the sky above. I parked one last time and sat looking at the tree from a distance, it had been three hours of waiting at this point.

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Soon the snow fell heavily and fast. The area around me was succumbed by a cold fog from the surrounding snowstorm. I hopped out of the car and changed my initial composition entirely, just focusing on the tree among the frigid landscape. I grasped for contrast and hunted for a proper focus of the tree in the whiteout before the entire tree was swallowed whole by the storm. Three hours of waiting that amounted to a split second exposure. For me, photography is about persistence. Obsessing over a subject until it can truly shine in a rare moment. Luckily, I finally came away with an image of a subject I’ve obsessed over for some time.
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Cycles. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Cycles.

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The day was warm and crystal clear. It was a much needed day off, as my mental health has been extra shot lately. I took the long way around to the east side of Zion. I stopped at River Rock for coffee and editing then headed east on SR-59 to 89 via the Coral Pink Sand Dunes backway. The east side is so beautifully quiet at the moment with the SR-9 switchback closure. Passing cars are more of a rarity, the wildlife are relaxed and more present throughout the washes and highlands, the silence is deafening.

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I spent a brief moment maneuvering through a slot checking on spring bloom. It was nice to be able to juxtapose the winter landscape I know well with the spring color overtaking. I made my way out of the slot and came across a small group of bighorn. Two ewes and a lamb living their lives and munching on the spring vegetation. The road divided the lamb from the ewes, and the lamb sat atop a stack of sandstone. I opted for this composition due to the warm light backlighting the lamb. The yucca and sandstone elements encompassed the lamb, and created a lovely moment I can never forget. I’ve been thinking a lot about cycles with the changing seasons. Things change and return in some similar form for some similar interval of time, that’s obvious, but I’m just feeling it more than I thought it would. Nature’s changing, I’m slowly changing, but mentally I’m in a minor sway. Just slight back and forth movements, happy here, defeated there. I need something that invokes a true change in myself.
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As I was writing this an incredible man who talked of his travels around the world and work with the peace corps approached me and said, “if you stay alive long enough, stuff will happen to you”. I thanked him for the stories, but I don’t think he’ll ever know how much I needed to hear those words right now.

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Relation. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ June 2019

Relation.

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The day was crystal clear and hot in Zion. I wanted to keep the day simple by putting more of a focus on wildlife, but my eyes were glued to the slots. In the past few weeks there have been scattered storms over the east side of Zion. Normally these slots are fairly inaccessible for days after a good amount of rain. Luckily, the scorching clear days dried up the slots quickly and made for some gorgeous cracked mud. I made my way into a slot that I’ve shot many compositions around, and this time it was transformed. The entire floor was covered with a delicate yet rough texture bathed in warm reflected light bouncing off the sandstone walls.

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I slowly moseyed around the slot watching my feet and focusing on identifying patterns. After a good hour of looking, I came across this scene of what I believe is an aspen leaf caressed in a twirl of mud. The scene looked so perfect I figured another photographer must’ve placed it recently. I checked the area around the scene and I couldn’t find any footprints which leads me to believe that this leaf fell naturally. What I love most about cracked dried mud is its direct relation to frozen mud and ice that occurs in winter. It’s a delicate condition that is present occasionally, and in time will fade. There’s a unique elegance to the shapes and patterns, and it’s a joy to have a condition in summer that brings me back to the superior beauty of winter.
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Unfortunately the day was tarnished a bit. After I shot this scene I did find new vandalism on the walls of the slot. People are disgusting, and truly are the worst thing for nature. Explore carefully, and leave it better. Full stop. No sense in harming a place that took so much time to create its beauty, and is only trying to continue to exist without destructive defacement.

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Isolation. _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Isolation.

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It was a cold, almost wintry day across Southern Utah which is a little strange for the middle of May. I decided to head up Cedar Canyon into the mountains in hopes for some fog or a whiteout. I passed this tree in a meadow near Cedar Breaks that I’ve had my eye on for a few months now. The reason I couldn’t get to this tree until now was due to the massive snow banks on either side of the road throughout the winter into early spring. The banks can easily reach over 10 feet on SR-14 and pullouts are rarely plowed until later in the season due to snow drifts. Access to subjects in this area during inclement weather is slim to none, but luckily the banks were low enough that day to park and explore. 

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I trudged across the meadow through the knee high snow until I stood face to face with the tree. The weather was brutal. It was a pure whiteout, and the snow was battering me with help from the heavy gusts of winds. In the moment I felt isolated, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a safe way. As rough as the conditions were, standing with that tree gave me a calm feeling. The visibility was so low to the point where just this tree and I stood surrounded by the colorless atmosphere. To me, isolation is part and parcel in photography and exploring around often leads to the feeling of isolation. For me, it’s never a bad thing to be alone in nature, because I never feel alone. I tend to feel more alone around people. I left the tree and trudged back to my car as the visibility cleared and the area felt more crowded. I felt thankful to have had a moment of isolation with a subject I’ve wanted to visit for some time.

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Drawn. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Drawn.

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Some subjects don’t reveal themselves immediately, but often show a glimpse of future potential. I visited a corridor of the main wash in Zion’s east side that struggled with fall color this year, but tends to offer more intimacy. The area of the wash is dominated by maples and towering pines with walls of weaving sandstone. The feeling between the walls is cozy and welcoming, and often bighorn and hawks find shelter in this area. On a prior visit to the area, I was drawn to a large slab of stone that has a unique cool tone that compliments its stunning texture among the landscape of warm tones. I took record shots that day, but I knew it required more of a main subject to anchor the abstraction. Upon this later visit, I found that some fallen leaves had also found shelter on a shelf protruding from the slab. A single golden elm leaf surrounded by rusty oak leaves. The wind was blustery that day so I knew the scene could disappear any second. As expected after a few initial shots, one of the oak leaves fell from the shelf but caught in the nook slightly below. Another moment of nature frozen in time just long enough for me to capture. 

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I never thought this shot would amount to anything. It’d just be imported and deleted as most experimental shots go. This shot has turned out to be one of my favorite images of fall color this year. To me, being drawn to this simple subject with lovely texture paid off. I’m glad I visited this old friend again.

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Unassuming. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Unassuming.

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I’m terrible at planning photos. That’s probably why I’m awful at shooting sunrise and sunset, and why I’m often drawn to places like Zion that shine during the middle of the day on a crystal clear day. It’s a combination of a lack of skill and motivation on my part, but I tend to enjoy subjects that are often hidden in plain sight that don’t necessarily require decent light. Zion is a goldmine for subjects like this, and is a helpful place for photographers like me trying to practice and learn.

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I ventured into Zion’s east side after a huge storm and an crisp overnight freeze. The ice laid across the floor of the main wash like stained glass. Elegant textures and patterns in the ice teamed with transparency that allowed a glimpse into the ground below. It was a freeze that I’ve never quite seen before, something ethereal and all its own. The sand below seemed preserved by the ice, mummified behind the shimmering brilliance. Oddly, my eyes focused on relatively unassuming main subject. An oblong mass of sand sat poking out of the ice. The mass of sand appeared to be conducting the ribbons of ice much like a symphony. Various groups of ribbons were seemingly in tempo with the direction of the sand as it unified the patterns. The scene spoke volumes to me, and I spent a good amount of time tweaking the composition inch by inch. I’m lucky to have a place like Zion so close to home as I practice photography. Nothing truly needs to be planned when visiting Zion, and images can be made anywhere at anytime. Subjects can come from the strangest of places, and often the ones on the ground below will surprise the most.

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Intersect. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Intersect.

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My last day on the fall trip to Zion. It was a bittersweet and crisp morning much like my last day in Zion before I moved away from Southern Utah to Upstate New York. I biked into the main canyon and spent the morning saying goodbye as a storm quickly moved in. The cloud overhead would switch the light from strong reflected to dull in an instant, so I mainly spent the time breathing in the landscape around me. There’s nothing quite like walking alongside the Virgin as the towering sandstone walls give a cozy, warm feeling. This was a tough trip from the start. I craved shooting the vibrant fall color, but I also wanted to embrace the quiet and shoot more muted scenes away from the hustle and bustle of the park. Soon the storm blocked all light, and cast a dreary mood over the main canyon. I made my way up into the higher elevations to say goodbye to the east side, and see if any color was left after the roaring winds. I parked off at a corridor of the main wash that I know well and moseyed over the boulders poking out of the sea of fallen leaves. I passed by this scene that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. I never knew how to make it work because it almost seemed too abstract, but after this trip I knew exactly what it was trying to tell me. Vibrant red maple and sandstone; a simple frame of intersection that showed the stark contrast between these two in the landscape, and how I struggled with each subject during this week.

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Fall color and the muted landscape of Zion clashed for me on this trip. I always felt like I wanted to embrace one when I embraced the other with each image I took. I waited patiently for the strong gusts of wind to subside, hoping the leaves could hold on for just one last time. Finally a break in the wind, and I hit the shutter. In the end this became my final image of the trip. I left Zion that day knowing I’ll be back soon, but ready to be back home with my partner in New York.
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Follow. _ Duck Creek, Utah _ May 2019

Follow.

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The day was moody and stormy in the mountains, and my mental state was rocky in the morning. I felt I needed to just take a drive and decompress. I passed Duck Creek and spotted the Night Heron from the side of the road. When the weather moves in, wildlife tend to be more present. I’m not sure if the dark, dreary landscape emphasizes their presence, or if they stay low to avoid the conditions. I parked and carefully moved in on the spot where I saw heron, but from about 50 feet away the heron spotted me and took off to the west. I decided to follow it by staying close to the creek. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the advantage of the road elevation to help spot it. Any time I got within its range of sight, the shy heron flew to a further bend down the creek. 

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Eventually, I made my way to a boggy open area at a wide bend of the creek, thinking the heron might’ve perched there. I stood there scanning the tree lines for a few minutes and finally decided to call it quits. I turned around and started up a small hill of lava rock when all of the sudden behind me I heard a loud sound. I turned to see the heron perched in a drenched aspen about 10 feet away. I flipped my settings to manual with a silent continuous shutter in hopes to keep the heron calm. It perched there for about 5 minutes keeping its eye on me, but I felt it didn’t feel threatened by my presence. I opted for this composition due to the contrast of the heron against the dark surroundings. The heron’s blood red eye pierced through, and to me the subtle rain added a nice bit of texture. The moment was a beautiful happenstance.
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Wildlife requires a bit of following. Never with the intention of scaring the animal, but rather to approach them calmly and keep them relaxed. All I can do is hope that my slow patterns of movement don’t startle, and encourage the animal to live its life as usual. I’m glad this time around the Night Heron decided to follow me when my mind needed it most.

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Movement. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Movement.

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The weather was a mix of heavy rain and snow with persistent low cloud across Zion. I started my day in the main canyon, but soon payed for that mistake. The shuttle system is already rough for photography, but it’s worse in heavy rain. I took my soaking wet self back to Canyon Junction, hopped in the car, and made my way up to the east side. The initial snow of the higher elevations soon turned into lighter rain with partly cloudy skies. It was a pleasant shift of conditions that made the east side a little more calm.

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I scouted around for a few compositions, and eventually landed on this small waterfall that only occurs in rain or snow melt. I opted for this composition due to the movement. The carved, saturated sandstone leading into the ribbon of white flowing water summed up the day in Zion quite well. I utilized a polarizer to take away the glare from the wet stone, as well as a 6 stop ND to slow down the shutter speed. To me, the scene lended itself so well to a 16x9 crop rather than my normal 4x5. I tend to shoot everything in 4x5 because of the pressures of real estate on Instagram and the algorithm. It’s something I need to move away from in order to get the most out of every composition I find. Less than a minute later the scene was gone. The sandstone dried up and harsh shadows took over. The weather moved on just like I’ll have to.

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Something. _ Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Something.

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Kolob Canyons is a unique place that’s difficult to photograph. The landscape is reminiscent of a mixture of Zion’s main canyon and east side, but something all its own. The short scenic drive gives a superficial view of what’s possible through exploration. For a few months now I’ve visited a smaller canyon about 10 times, and each time I’ve failed to come away with anything. To me, the hike into the smaller canyon is the most quintessential Southern Utah hike. The southwestern landscape soon turns into a rather cozy atmosphere between pink sandstone walls. This year, fall color in Kolob was strange. The lower elevations saw fall color first and the higher spots in the back of the canyons seemed to fade without much color at all. I took yet another hike into the smaller canyon way past peak color just to enjoy nature and look around. At the crest of the hike the trail dips down into a meadow area before leveling out for the rest of the hike. The golden tall grass of the meadow drew me in and caused me to look upwards to the stands of maples near the north wall. The maples had such vibrant color, but we’re on their last legs. As if they were all that was left of fall color in Kolob.

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I followed a game trail up to the maples and found this fallen withered pine surrounded in color high up in a nook. The extreme pink reflected light from the sandstone walls felt a lot like being in Circus Circus, but it added a pleasant cooler warm tone to the scene. I opted for an aperture to f2.8 to really throw the background out of focus and make it seem like there was more color in the somewhat sparse scene. After feeling much like this broken pine visit after visit, I finally came away with something from Kolob.

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Time. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Time.

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The day was mostly cloudy with on and off snow, and occasional sun. My mind was doing okay throughout the day. I think even the idea of getting outside helps me mentally. I initially tried to head up Cedar Canyon into the Ashdown Gorge Area to catch some snowy conditions, but I felt so uninspired to do photography. I think it might be because I just don’t find the mountains nearest me beautiful in the winter. So I headed right down the road to Zion, my second home. I was walking through a wash on the east side that I know well. The smell of pine is so potent throughout this wash, it calms me down so much to just walk, breathe in the pine, and listen to the ice crack below my feet. 

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I opted for this composition due to the ice and small snow covered boulders leading right into the large pine and sandstone wall. The snow transformed the scene by simplifying it and creating more depth. The large pine in this image is the entrance to another side wash that I love to explore a little more each time I visit.
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I finished this scene by sitting on a nearby boulder sipping coffee, and listening to the wind howl through the canyon. As I sat there I thought about the immense root structure of this large pine. It looked so complex and time consuming. It made me realize that the time it takes for everything to form is what leads me to believe that nature is the most important thing in this world. The partially melted ice blew off the trees above me mimicking the sound of a light rain. It was a pleasant, calming moment I took for myself to appreciate how nature works.

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Transparency. _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ May 2019

Transparency.

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It was a strange day in terms of weather as well as my mental health. I initially shot rainy conditions in Zion’s east side, but eventually moved on to the snowy passes near Cedar Breaks in search of satisfaction. That was the thing, I left Zion that day unsatisfied. I shot three compositions that I’ve shot before, just this time in different conditions. I felt something from that outing that I hadn’t experienced before, and that held onto my mind for days afterwards. Almost like an irrational, premature defeat even though I went outdoors that day and came away with something.

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That feeling pushed me into the mountains to try and salvage an amount of joy from the day. I weaved through the meadow areas of SR-14 and came across this tree near the summit marker. This tree is non-existent most of winter and spring due to an extra 5-10 feet of snow suffocating it. The bent, frosted nature of the tree as if it froze crawling across the snow grasping for anything among the whiteout spoke volumes to me in that moment.
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I have trouble talking to people about my depression, but apparently I have no problem being transparent through the images I take and share with the story behind it. There’s a certain honesty to myself that subjects and compositions unlock, and being able to share that with you helps me all the more. Photography is powerful, and is a remedy that I constantly require for my mind. I opted for this composition because I saw myself.

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Joy. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Joy.

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The day was rainy with persistent low cloud, and my mental health was struggling for the day mainly because I was craving sun. The weather report for the first few days of the week called for snowy conditions in Zion. Even though my mind wanted sun, I couldn’t resist shooting the conditions. I arrived to rain and low cloud throughout the park. The higher elevations were dusted with snow which contrasted beautifully with the wet sandstone of the lower elevations. I decided I would drive the length of the main canyon and keep my eye out for compositions

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I made my way past Big Bend and headed to the last bend before the Temple of Sinawava. I looked up to the sheer walls to see this lone tree sat against the glistening sandstone. I fell in love with the color and texture of the scene. I parked, planted my tripod at the side of the road, and set up my composition when I noticed the small waterfall in the background. The waterfall in this location only occurs with rain and snow melt, and I thought it would add context to my initial composition. I did not think to use a polarizing filter for this scene. A polarizer takes the glare off wet subjects, and adds more saturation. I feel as though the subtraction of glare would’ve caused the tree to be lost. That being said, I should’ve at least given a polarizer a shot. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to deal with the joyous time of trying to keep a wet filter dry.
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I finished my time in the quiet park driving around, sipping coffee, and munching on a cookie. It was a beautiful day full of rainy conditions and calming moments. Even when all my mind wants is sun to be happy, it’s still a joy to be out in nature no matter the weather.

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Muted. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Muted.

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This isn’t the photo I necessarily wanted to start off this trip with, but I feel it’s the one that needs to start it off. Fall 2020 in Zion for me was more about finding quiet than finding photos. I wanted silence and something I knew well so I could simply exist in it for a short while. A lot of this trip consisted of avoiding people and remembering why Zion is special and important to me. The foundation of my newfound decent mental health is mainly thanks to this place comforting me by distracting me. I spent plenty of time in the main canyon and the east side on this trip looking for fall color, but what I mainly found was muted scenes full of character which focused on subject’s connection to the many different forms of Zion’s landscapes around them. Each scene seemed to have it’s own season, and wasn’t based entirely in fall color. None of the photos from this trip came easy, and each have their story rooted in what they represent to me.

This scene was found in a small corridor of the east side’s main wash. A delicate golden oak leaf sits at the base of a miniature ridge along a beautiful sandstone face of cool tones and abstract designs. In this moment I needed a scene like this, the day was a rocky start to the trip and I craved something simple. I felt like I was trying to force scenes all morning, but when I walked by and noticed this perfectly fallen leaf, I knew I found something special. I set up my tripod gingerly, taking my time in order to almost waste the afternoon tweaking and obsessing over each compositional element. I knew that this scene would have much to offer in the future as more and more leaves fell, and that every breeze would wipe the scene clean. Each crack in the sandstone passed by gorgeous pops of orange oxidation of some sort. A continuous line reminiscent of a human figure stood in the lower half of the frame, and large dots much like stars dangled above the leaf. The moment felt needed and sure. I packed up my gear and thanked the scene for being there as I always do. I walked the long journey back knowing that many more scenes like this wait in the silence.
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Context. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2018

Context.

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I rarely talk about the photos I take. Most people enjoy a picture, but I think some people enjoy a story. While it’s definitely not a groundbreaking story, I think context surrounding photos can be calming and nice. It’s something I want to do more of.

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It was a clear day, and I drove up and down the main canyon chasing a composition of side light casting on a cottonwood tree with a background of sandstone in shadow. I kept missing the light because it moves so fast in the canyon, and I don’t know Zion well enough. I decided to park the car and head across the river for potentially a more intimate scene, and as I crossed, a small herd of deer popped up their heads to see what’s going on. The wildlife in Zion is comfortable with human traffic for the most part, and they live their lives among the popular hikes and sights. I walked with them as they made their way deeper into the canyon, and finally snapped a shot of one that loved to pose for the camera.

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This is not the image I went to Zion for that day, yet this image speaks for the experience of photography rather than the final image to me. The experience is what matters, and I wouldn’t have experienced that moment if it wasn’t for the excuse of being out which is the camera. An image I’m happy with is really just a bonus.

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Most photography for me is done alone in my own company, but when I needed it most, I was able to spend a brief moment with quiet good company in a cozy canyon.

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Spark. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Spark.

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Ever have one of those days when a dull mood falls over you? It’s not necessarily a sad mood, but more of a pensive one. I arrived to a chilly Zion main canyon where a minor frost enveloped the landscape. It was completely silent apart from the roaring Virgin, and the sun had yet to cast upon the sandstone walls. I photographed some frost covered leaves around the Big Bend area, but soon I moved further up canyon in search for anything different. After a couple hours of searching and wandering, I found nothing. The day seemed to mimic my dull mood. I headed out of the main canyon and up the switchbacks into the east side. I was surprised to catch a glimpse of ice in the washes. It was about 40 degrees that day, but I assume the minor frost had caused a flash freeze in the washes. I dropped into the ice and boulders and looked for patterns and textures, but ultimately the ice was too minimal and spotty to photograph. I only had a couple hours of light left, and still a dullness that I couldn’t seem to shake.
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I headed back down into the main canyon hoping that I might be able to find an old friend. Sure enough the heron was perched in a common spot on a cottonwood branch. When approaching the heron I like to move like the heron wades, deliberate and slow as molasses. Eventually the heron took a brief flight to a sandstone plinth, and I knew I had an interesting composition. I had to shoot through foliage in order for the composition to work, but I enjoyed how the blurred nature gave the scene a painterly feel. I’m glad in the last moments of the day, a spark of excitement and creativity from an old friend healed my dull mood.

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Re-focus. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Re-focus.

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It was a clear, cold day in Zion. My mind was doing okay for the most part, but for the past week I feel as if I was stuck in a photography rut. I’ve been going out regularly trying to capture the snowy conditions in Zion and the mountains closest to my home, but ultimately I failed at producing images I was happy with. While the point of what I do is to appreciate moments in nature and practice photography, it’s still difficult to deal with consistent disappointment in myself and the images I’m taking.

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So I decided I needed to re-focus. Since there was melting snow in Zion and temperatures were frigid, I figured taking a crack at some shots of ice would benefit me. To me, photographing icy conditions is a test in delicate composition and movement. It forces me to slow down and look intimately into what makes nature beautiful. The east side of Zion was still snow covered with heavy slush in the washes, and the main canyon didn’t have much in the way of ice either. I decided I’d stop off at Pine Creek near Canyon Junction. The water was rushing down the creek from the melt, but the temperatures are generally colder in this area from the lack of sun allowing the formation of stunning ice designs.
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I opted for this composition mainly due to the bells of ice in the upper left of the image. They stood out in the chaotic scene and led my eye to the ice covered boulder to the right of the image. Luckily my shutter speed was slow enough to capture the movement of the water tying all of the elements together. After leaving this scene, my mind felt at ease and closer to re-focusing on what I do through exploration in the outdoors. Sometimes all it takes is practicing something a little different to remember what I know to be me.

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Carving. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ May 2019

Carving: Intention

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The day had what seemed like a perpetual storm over the east side of Zion. I decided to head into the park and keep my eye out for waterfalls and saturated rock while checking on compositions I’ve shot in the past. Ever since I printed my series on this past winter in Zion, there was one image that didn’t fit with the rest. “Carving” was the title of that image, and it focused on how Zion was becoming a habit for me, and how I couldn’t seem to get enough of Zion’s beauty and natural calming powers on me. It’s my mental happy place. “Carving” fell short on the series’ intention of intimate scenes in conditions that don’t always exist. This image is the same composition as “Carving” just this time with saturated rock to help emphasize the sweeping line of sandstone leading into the weathered pine. The fact that every time I come to Zion I’m carving out a simple moment for myself; much like how Zion was carved by simple things like water, ice, and wind.

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I feel it’s important to emphasize the intimacy rather than the grandeur of Zion. The vistas of this place are a stunning collection of monolithic towers that catch the eyes and hearts of people that visit, but the details are what keep me coming back. I’m having trouble with spring/summer in Zion. The east side lacks character without ice and snow covered washes, and the main canyon’s allure disappears behind walls of green cottonwood and the zoo of people.
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Winter will be a welcome sight, and I haven’t even shot Zion in fall color before. For now this place will be saved for rainy conditions until the colder months arrive. I can’t recommend winter in Zion enough to people, there’s a certain solemn silence to it. If you can find the time, make the trip to see Zion in its bare, quiet form. It might capture you as well.

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Moments. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ April 2019

Moments.

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I remember the day was gorgeous, warm, and clear. The east side of park was quiet because the switchbacks of SR-9 were still closed. That day was a day where I moseyed through some washes and slots checking in on the spring bloom, and enjoying the peace. Eventually, I ran into a small group of 3 bighorn and I spent most of the time with the lamb. It was a moment of silence where time seemed to stand still.

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I took another shot of this lamb which I posted a few weeks back, but I had this other shot as well. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about posting a similar shot from the same day, but I really enjoyed this image. This was more of a hero shot of the lamb compared to the more relaxed shot. I now realize that one photo doesn’t have to encapsulate an entire experience or a whole day. To me, photography is nothing but a collection of captured moments and experiences. Those moments and experiences can’t be accurately defined in a simple 2 dimensional representation, so I do hope to convey some of the emotion I felt at the time through words however little they may mean to people.
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The warm backlight casted on the lamb with a background of yucca and sandstone. I took the shot and felt comforted by the stunning desert elements that filled the frame.
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I left the lamb and headed out of the park with a big grin on my face. Not necessarily because of any photo might have gotten, but for the memory of the presence, warmth, and silence of the day that I can never forget.

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Emulate. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Emulate. 

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After a disappointing day of attempting to shoot fall color in the east side of Zion, I decided that the next day should be spent exploring areas I hadn’t been to yet for fall color. I entered a part of the main wash that was quiet and peaceful, and shot a scene that included a fallen giant in the form of a broken tree surrounded in fall color. The light that day wasn’t phenomenal, but the mostly overcast sky day did lend itself well to the fall color around the east side. I made my way out of the wash and drove to an area of the wash that was dominated with red maples. The wind had bursts of strength so I knew that any of the red leaves could go at any moment. The disappointment I felt the day before made me want to shift back to the basics.
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Two years ago I shot a fall color scene up Cedar Canyon that I titled “Cracks”. The photo featured a branch of a maple fracturing into a frame full of color. It was a simple photograph, but it felt powerful to me. I decided it’d be best to focus on the intimacy of trees and hone in on the movement of branches, emulating the image I took years ago. Straight away I found this branch poking out of a gorgeous amount of vibrant red. I set up my tripod, put on a long lens, and took the shot. The disappointment I felt from the day before seemed to fade away. A simple, basic, and lovely moment.

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Guidelines. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Guidelines.

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Photography treads a fine line between following guidelines and breaking rules. Ice seems to be one of those subjects where guidelines are often stressed by photographers for quality. Perfect leveling, focus stacking, and critical composition are among the recommended directions; but I decided to follow what I saw even though it might mean a little quality loss. I headed into Zion’s east side a couple days after a heavy rain and snow storm. I figured the washes would have something to offer in terms of ice abstracts, but I was surprised by the beauty in the recent freeze. The ice was delicate, almost feathered across the floor of sand and boulders. I made my way to an area that sees little if not zero sun in winter. The section of wash is characterized mainly by an occasional waterfall in heavy wet conditions, but ice formations flourish after a good storm. I finished shooting a scene of a mass of sand within ice patterns, then made my way further west. The ice patches were chaotic and overwhelming, but ice tends to cultivate order within small areas.
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I rounded a bend and my eyes immediately shot to a patch of sublime texture and patterns. Straight away I found a main subject that was reminiscent of a gnarled tree or vine twisted within a hot air balloon shaped mass. The mass was protected by an almost planetary ring structure. The patterns surrounding the ring supported yet allowed separation with their various jagged shapes. Beneath the ice lay a warm toned boulder giving a bit more depth and tying the whole scene together. I shot at the wonky angle I first saw it at, and did away with focus stacking in order to show definition in the scene. I shot the scene as I saw it, throwing away all guidelines in favor of celebrating the wonderful work of nature.

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Essential. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2019

Essential.

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The day had a lot of high cloud, but light did poke through occasionally. I had lunch and coffee at a bend in the river near the Temple of Sinawava, and took time to relax my mind. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to accomplish photography wise for the day, but I knew I at least wanted to wade through the river in search of wildlife. I made my way closer to the entrance of The Narrows, but with no real intent to enter. I’ve never done The Narrows in winter, and I thought my simple hip waders probably wouldn’t do the trick. Visitors hiking The Narrows in the winter are usually outfitted in neon waterproof jumpsuits, a bandolier of lights, and an iconic wooden walking stick. Despite my seemingly underprepared self, I still felt compelled to head in.

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The water levels were low and currents were calm. Many of the towering sandstone walls had a shell of beautiful blue ice. Massive shimmering icicles draped over the cliffs, and descended down into the Virgin. The gorgeous environment I was walking through seemed unreal. I passed several bends, and eventually stumbled upon this scene of a giant ice formation clinging to an edge on the wall. The ice was glowing with an ethereal atmosphere of mist surrounding it. I knew immediately that I had found my subject. I carefully positioned my tripod in the rushing water, set up my composition, and took the shot.
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Even though I wasn’t as geared up and safe as the other visitors I came across in The Narrows, I still got away with the bare essentials. I saw about 10 people on the hike compared to the unbearable zoo of hundreds in the summer. It was a pleasant spur-of-the-moment decision that offered me a breathtaking, quiet view of nature at its finest.

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Reward. _ Duck Creek, Utah _ April 2019

Reward.

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The day was fairly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms in the more mountainous areas of Southern Utah. I made my way up Cedar Canyon to 89 and then onto the 9 that leads to the east side of Zion. I was almost to the east entrance when I made the decision to turn back. Zion was just partly cloudy, and I thought it best to stick to the shooting the conditions in the higher elevations. I drove all the way back the way I came until I hit Duck Creek Pond. I looked up to the sky and saw no ospreys, hawks, or eagles. I knew something would eventually come to catch a meal, so I set up my tripod and waited.

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In time, two ospreys showed up. The first caught a fish within 20 minutes and took off back to the nest, but the second was less lucky. After close to 45 minutes the second osprey made its catch, but competition flew in from the east. A bald eagle twice the size of the osprey swooped in and challenged the osprey for the fish. They fought high and fast into the sky until the osprey finally dropped the fish and the bald eagle scooped it up. Luckily, I was able to grab this shot just before the fight. I loved the movement in the osprey and the way the fish looked caught in the talons. Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid the sky but the cloudy conditions did allow for some nice contrast against the osprey.
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I enjoy shooting wildlife more than anything else, it has more of a thrill to it than the relaxing realm of landscape photography. Wildlife is difficult, but incredibly rewarding even if no shot is captured. The experience alone is worth every moment. It was rough to see the osprey lose its hard earned meal, but I’m glad the bald eagle got a reward in the end. Nature can be ruthless, but there’s a reason for everything that happens.

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Final. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Final.

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Winter is over. It has been difficult, and defeating to watch this mild season simply pass by. I’ve had a few images that I’ve been proud of, but ultimately I feel as if it was only a taste of what’s possible given healthy frigid conditions. I went to Zion’s east side on a day when it seemed like I’d have to say goodbye to the ice. The day was warm and the freeze was minimal at best. I tracked down the remaining ice to a small corridor of the main wash in full shadow. The moment felt solemn and sure, which I can only assume is much like idling next to a deathbed in the final moments. I spent a couple hours with the delicate patterns scattered among the boulders. I searched and searched until finally I found a more complex and affirming scene to end the season on. Two decaying leaves, one of maple, and the other I have no idea of locked in two separate freezes. One freeze glassed over the boulders beneath, and the other freeze atop acted as a conduit throughout the frame. The brilliant blue tint of the upper freeze allowed for only glimpses into the skin of the leaves below. It was a scene I had been waiting for, and I didn’t even know it. A wonderful final moment.
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It’s been tough to slog through the long summer months, rush through the fall color on a schedule, and end on a shell of what winter could’ve been. In the end though, I know I’ve tried my very best despite how disappointed I am in myself. I’m grateful for the randomness of nature, and the understanding that seasons come and go. I’m already biding my time until the temperatures drop again.

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Elevation. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ November 2019

Elevation.

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Last winter I spent almost every other day in Zion’s main canyon. Often I’d drive in and have some coffee and lunch before exploring around the last few bends in the river deep up the canyon before the start of The Narrows. Along the river on those last few bends is this massive cottonwood which stands out due to its dominant presence. I passed it everyday and I always wondered how I could make a composition out of it. Recently, I rode my bike into Zion early on a clear morning. I spent some time with the baby condor 1K at Big Bend before searching for the last bit of fall color left further up canyon. I stumbled upon a hillside covered in maple stands with vibrant fall color that was starting to fade. The issue with shooting fall color in the main canyon is elevation. It’s difficult to get level with the tree line in order to make the color more appealing for a photograph. I decided to climb the loose hillside via a game trail and try to make something out of the maples. I scrambled up as far as I could go, but the higher I went the less fall color was present. I looked back towards the canyon and saw the cottonwood in peak golden color. The landscape around the cottonwood was soft and muted. As if the cottonwood was the only tree to not be reduced to its skeletal winter bones.
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The direct morning light was slowly falling into the canyon, and I knew it would ruin the scene altogether. I framed up a simple composition that allowed the cottonwood to arc into the soft landscape and the reflected light from the sandstone wall opposite me backlit everything warmly. After all this time, all I needed was a bit of elevation to finally make a composition out of this beautiful giant.

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Access. _ Navajo Lake, Utah _ December 2019

Access.

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The most difficult part of winter photography is access. The simplicity of snow, barren subjects, and extreme conditions make winter the best season to shoot in my eyes. Unfortunately, those elements are often restricted and impossible to reach because they are actively affecting the environment with their beauty.
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I headed up the mountains on a day where low cloud was moving fast, and occasionally cutting off the direct sunlight. The plows were out shifting the snow from a few areas, but ultimately SR-14 was basically two lanes with 5-10 feet of snow on either side. I kept searching for anywhere to pull off, but the height of the snow was too much for my little car. My eyes were fixated on the snow around the Navajo Lake and Duck Creek areas. Mounds of pure white rose over the landscape of what is normally harsh lava rock looking much like dunes in the desert. The direct light was catching the mounds beautifully, and I knew I had to find a way to get to them. I parked in a recently plowed section around Navajo Lake and took a 1/2 mile walk to the mounds. The snow banks to the mounds were about 4-5 feet tall, so I had to trudge through waist to chest high snow to get to a ridge where I could stand. The light was fading flat fast, but to me it somewhat helped the mounds take on a more ethereal look. I made a prominent mound in the lower right my main subject, and let the others fall to abstract texture. The moment was cold and quiet surrounded by haunting aspens, and it felt delightful. I just have to remember that when access seems impossible in winter, there could be a way right around the corner.

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Force. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Force.

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I went to Zion in rainy conditions with the intention of shooting compositions of saturated landscapes, or maybe some moody conditions. I decided that I wanted to stick to the east side, and avoid the main canyon shuttle during the downpour. While the shuttle is great for parking congestion in the canyon, it’s not necessarily photography friendly. Hauling a bunch of gear in wet conditions with less options for stops isn’t the most ideal. I made my way up the switchbacks of SR-9 past the Mt. Carmel Tunnel into the east side. The carved sandstone glistened in the soft light poking through the layers of grey rain cloud.

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I had lunch and coffee near the east entrance, then doubled back to the tunnel keeping my eyes out for anything interesting. I stopped at this waterfall that only occurs in rain or snow melt. I wanted to capture the movement of the waterfall without capturing the waterfall in full. I also wanted to show the beauty and vivid color of the carved sandstone. I opted for this composition due to the small bush in the upper left. This little bush was being battered by rushing water, yet it held its ground like it has done for many years in these conditions. I popped on a landscape polarizer to take a bit of glare off the wet stone, as well as a 6 stop ND to slow down my shutter speed in order to show the movement of the water.
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Water is forceful. Zion was carved by it, and is continuing to be influenced by it. I shot this scene a day before a landslide knocked out part of SR-9. It’ll be a couple months at least before the road repairs are finished, but nature will do what nature does best. While this little bush might be standing up to the forces of nature for now, not everything holds forever.

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Self. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2019

Self.

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The Great Blue Heron to many is a symbol of the self. It represents the ideas of independence and self-determination alongside the ability to adapt and progress. Lately, I’ve been photographing this gorgeous bird in Zion, and lately I’ve been trying to focus more on my own individual happiness. This heron’s movement is slow and deliberate whether perched on a cottonwood or wading through the Virgin River. It has a majestic yet solemn nature to it, and its presence fills me with appreciation for myself when I need it most.
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It was a sunny, beautiful day and my mental state was calm. I relaxed with some coffee and lunch on a boulder around the bend in the Temple of Sinawava area where this heron is often perched. I made my way to the riverbank and saw the heron in one of its usual spots. I made my way closer and closer and felt as if the heron remembered me in a way. I planted my tripod on a boulder about 15 feet away from the heron and set up this composition. I opted for this composition because I love the way the sandstone walls catch the direct sunlight. To me, the light clears up the muddled landscape of the background and adds depth. I mainly wanted to try and get the closest shot I could without making the heron uncomfortable, and I feel that this was the prime distance for both of us.

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Since stumbling upon this heron the first time I always felt as if there was a reason I kept finding it. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that more and more everyday. I think I found this heron to understand the importance of retaining my identity, and to care for myself. Much like this heron, I’m adapting to my surroundings and progressing in my individual happinesses. It’s important to be myself, and care for myself.

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Outliers. _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ March 2020

Outliers.

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Motivation for me feels dependent on what the weather is doing, and often the conditions that weather presents helps certain subjects stand out among the common landscape. To me, photography seems to happen in steps of importance; conditions exist which leads to finding a semblance of a strong subject, I attempt to build a composition, and then maybe a tinge of light will bring it all together in the end. While it’s nice to have the time and patience to carefully set up a composition, the thrill and occasional risk that conditions can present is addicting. I headed up into the higher elevations of SR-14, at a summit marker around about 10,000 feet is a place where fog, whiteout, and blizzard conditions hit the hardest. The day prior was a day full of risk and treacherous decisions on my part, but I felt compelled to head back into the frigid unknown to see what I could find. I snowshoed downward into a meadow area and settled myself on the edge of the tree line. A few characters functioned as outliers from the tree line. Haunting clusters of spruces, lonesome torn trunks, and young saplings are among the detached subjects from the hub of green bordering the sea of white. Subjects like these help define the alpine area of these high elevation meadows. The desolate nature of winter.
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I decided upon a composition centering a mix of subjects. A group of three fingerlike gnarled spruces fractured into the atmosphere about twenty feet high and peeking between them was a small young spruce. Immediately the trees were personified to me as something small finding their way through a tall crowd trying to get a peek of the world. The trees embraced their personality as the fog blew in and out, and the moment felt quaint and needed. I rely on outliers like this group, because I like to bring attention to subjects deemed meaningless and insignificant. Underdogs and outliers need their moment in the spotlight every now and then, they’re just waiting to be noticed.

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Structure. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Structure.

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Looking for details in nature is a tricky task. Often, it’s entirely based on what catches the eye with what feels like no skill involved at all. The most important thing I’ve learned shooting details is that everything can be beautiful, but not everything that is beautiful has a composition. It was a chilly morning in Zion’s east side, and I had only about an hour to shoot an area covered in ice before the direct sunlight filled in and melted everything. The common theme of the day seemed to be oak leaves. I shot three separate scenes each with a single oak leaf anchoring the each of the abstractions. Two of the scenes ultimately failed in post, but this one stuck with me. A golden oak leaf partially fused in the center of a series of circuitous lines, various freezes, and a small bubble dotting the corner like punctuation. The scene was simple, but the intricate structure of the combined elements was too charming to pass up. Ambient light from the blue sky filled in and wrapped the chilly moment among the sandstone up nicely.
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I appreciate the structure in scenes of ice most. There’s no guessing how ice will form. It’s all based on water, temperature, and what catches the eye. The way the freezing has to form precisely in order to work, and yet has to completely fade away in order to create something new. The way a small oak leaf perfectly centers itself and fuses into the abstraction. It’s an unbelievably delicate process that changes structure constantly during a short window of time, simply waiting to be noticed.

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Growing. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Growing.

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The day had on and off showers with a gorgeous soft glow throughout Zion’s east side. I scouted a few compositions for later dates with better conditions, but the bulk of the day was spent with a large group of bighorn. The group was gathered around a popular bend, and instantly became an attraction for visitors. Rightfully so because the group had about 7 baby bighorn clacking their little hooves upon the sandstone slabs. I’ve never seen so many baby bighorn in one spot, so I decided it’d be best to stay close and try to observe their behavior. I stayed with them for about 2 hours watching them relax, munch on vegetation, and grow slowly.
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I opted for this composition mainly due to the background of soft, crumbly sandstone. To me, the two babies had such beautiful movement and shape to them. They stood out, yet blended in so well. The whole experience with these bighorn made me look at myself and my growth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I’m a phenomenal photographer by any means. I don’t believe I’ll ever think that of myself, but I do believe I’m becoming more consistent. It’s that consistency that is directly affecting my technical camera knowledge, as well as my ability to spot subjects and compositions. Much like these bighorn, I’m growing slowly. Hopefully on the right path.

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Rush. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Rush.

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The morning started just as everyday on this fall trip; an early rise into a pitch black Zion. I parked halfway up the switchbacks to the east side for a bit of coffee while I watched the Towers of the Virgin in the distance begin to appear with twilight. Soon after the park began to wake up, I packed up with no real plan for the morning. I drove to the start of a more remote location in the higher elevations, and met up with some company. It was hard to tell if the haze from the wildfires would be hit or miss on this day as the morning light slowly descended down the sandstone. After some deliberation I started the uphill scramble hoping that it wasn’t too late of a start. The main thing against me apart from the fast approaching light was that I didn’t even scout the scene up close. A couple days prior I noticed a simple dance between a juniper and the wonderful sandstone ripples supporting it in the background from about a half mile away. Between me and the scene was a long chasm, and I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to cross it. With 30+ pounds on the back of my unfit body I ran across the sandstone as fast as I could. Every other step was a slip, but eventually I rounded the end of the chasm and booked it to the scene. I ripped off my pack, slammed down my tripod, framed up a simple comp, and dialed in some basic settings that might work. The light just barely graced the tree when I hit the shutter.

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Morning light, sandstone waves, and a strong juniper. I looked at the back of the camera and fell in love with how a bit of light graced the tree. I caught my breath and thanked the scene for being there. While rushing to a scene can be difficult, it’s worth it in the end even if no photo comes from it. Luckily after this rush, I came away with a photo that defined the trip.
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Vulnerable. _ Duck Creek, Utah _ March 2019

Vulnerable.

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It was partly cloudy to the north and more overcast weather to the south, so I avoided Zion. Plus with SR-9 closed, there’s no access to the east side. I decided I’d head up Cedar Canyon to Duck Creek Pond, with my main focus on Highway 89 to try and find some wildlife. Just as I was passing the pond I noticed a large bird that looked like a Great Blue Heron from afar. I parked, grabbed my camera, and moved in closer to see white feathers on the bird’s head which can only mean one thing for this area.

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Bald Eagles are more active further south at the moment as they avoid colder temperatures to the north. Late February to early March is a perfect time to spot them in this area of Utah. I trudged slowly through thigh high snow to the edge of the pond about 30 feet from the eagle. The pond’s floor was entirely moss covered quicksand, so there was no option to get closer. At one point my foot broke through the thin ice at the edge into the sand. It’s a slow and terrifying thing to start sinking in quicksand, especially because I always try to save my gear before myself.
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I opted for this composition due to the simplicity of the scene. The sun broke through a bit of cloud, and the eagle stood on thin shimmering ice at the edge of gorgeous blue water. Nothing particularly clashed texturally or color-wise with the eagle, and to me that emphasized the eagle all the more. I did capture some in-flight shots of the eagle, but they seem a bit too painterly against the blueness of the sky that day. To me, there’s a certain vulnerability to birds relaxing on the ground. They seem fearless and relatively protected from threats when in-flight. I too was vulnerable that day due to my inexperience capturing wildlife, as well as putting myself the dangerous situation of ice and quicksand. Despite the vulnerability of us both, it still felt comforting to be in the presence of this majestic bird.

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Navigating. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2019

Navigating.

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It was a perfectly clear, warm day in Zion and I decided to hit up the east side for some exploration. I parked and made my way into a wash that appears from above the road to be inaccessible. Sheer sandstone walls are connected only by a narrow wash that is cluttered with cottonwoods and pines. Most visitors just drive right on by. Once down in the wash, it’s a pleasant hike to a rather cozy set of slots. Each of the slots had a floor of quicksand, and at one point I thought I might have to turn back due to steep walls and slick ridges. I pushed on up the muddy ridge, and descended into this carved area of sweeping rose colored sandstone. It was a place that seemed so unique to the east side, yet all the elements made it familiar and defined its beauty.

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I opted for this composition due to the two stones anchoring the waves of sandstone. A bit of reflected light from the wall directly to the east added a bit more warmth and depth to the scene. To me, the stones seemed as if they were navigating the extraordinary terrain just as I was. Exploring the less traveled areas and stumbling upon something that freezes the senses for a moment, and injects the mind with awe.

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Elements. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Elements.

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After the first half of the day spent in The Narrows I emerged into Zion’s main canyon feeling somewhat solemn. I seem to always feel this way along the riverside walk trail, and I think it’s mainly due to the amount of people I pass. Often I’ll just continue wading through the river to my parked car at the Temple of Sinawava just to avoid the human traffic; and their incessant questions of “how much further is it?”, and “is it worth it?”. Of course it’s worth it, it’s almost as if the being in the outdoors is some miserable chore for them.
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I made my way up the switchbacks of SR-9 into the quieter high elevations of the east side. The temperature that day was in the low 50s, so I thought it’d be best to just explore new areas. I parked off and scrambled down into the main wash. I was about to cross over the boulders and ascend up the sandstone highlands when I noticed the ice patches scattered on the wash floor. The particular area I was in doesn’t see much sun in the winter, so the ice was untouched and full of character. I scanned the mesmerizing circuitous lines and found an anchor in the form of an icy mass. The mass acted as a hub for the lines, and showed the activity of the scene as it froze. I placed my tripod gingerly atop a sandstone slab, and worked the shimmering composition of cool tones and patterns. A beautiful intimate moment that allowed the iffy experience of The Narrows at the start of the day to simply fade away. This is not a grand and iconic scene, but rather a glimpse into the elements that carve and create those grand scenes. A smaller world of natural details that allow the bigger world to exist.

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Retain. _ Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah _ July 2019

Retain.

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The night was relatively clear with the occasional cloud here and there. I decided to take advantage of the clear night by heading into the higher elevations for some Milky Way shots. I made my way up to Cedar Breaks, a dark sky monument right up Cedar Canyon, and found myself at this scene that I scouted earlier in the week. Astrophotography is what got me into photography about 3-ish years ago, but I’ve moved away from it recently. Nowadays, I care more for the intimate scenes that focus on the details, as well as wildlife which is naturally intimate. Astro tends to be more focused on the vista, and the details tend to fall behind the grandeur of the galaxy. The way I do photography has shifted, but I want to retain my roots.
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I opted for this composition due to the lovely movement in the branches of the gnarled tree. They twist and curl into the night sky, almost resembling cracks fracturing into the frame. It was difficult to find a composition that didn’t require a wider shot that filled the frame with useless pitch black foreground. Luckily, I was able to stumble upon the simplicity of just a tree and the cosmos.
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I stood in the darkness staring at the billions of stars, and it brought me back to why astrophotography is special to me. It dwarfs me. It truly makes me feel as if everything we do in life doesn’t really matter, which in all honesty, it doesn’t. Everything is meaningless, but we make the most of our little lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same amount of giddiness that captured me when I started in astro, but it was nice to explore the roots again.

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Giddy. _ Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Utah _ January 2019

Giddy.

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It was a strange day mentally and weather wise. The day was clear, cold, and exhausting for my mind. I felt I needed Zion, but I was unmotivated to make the journey that day. I needed a more immediate route to the outdoors in order to calm down. I decided to head up the canyon that leads into the mountains closest to me. I wanted to explore the back ways hoping to find a way to enter the locations I generally shoot from spring to fall. I failed to find a back way as I found that all the roads into the locations were closed for the winter. I was disappointed, but still happy with the time I spent out exploring and learning from it. As well as that, my mind found peace from the simple journey made into the outdoors.

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As I made my way down the canyon back home, I stumbled upon this scene. Fast moving low cloud heading south across the Cedar Breaks area towards the back side of Zion. I had never seen conditions like this in this area. The day was crystal clear, but this random cloud spawned from what I can only assume was the blistering cold of the day. The setting sun casted this gorgeous golden light on the moving cloud. It was such a special and stunning moment to enjoy. I set up a quick, simple composition to include all the elements that made the moment beautiful to me. I opted for a 10 stop ND due to the fact I was shooting into direct sunlight. The 10 stop, much like putting sunglasses on your lens, stops a lot of light from hitting the camera sensor offering long exposures in bright light. It also allows for movement of water or cloud to look more ethereal.
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Photography generally works best through planning out shots and taking the time to scout locations. I do love the random moments like this though. It brings out the giddiness in me. It’s that giddiness that got me into photography initially, and still continues to motivate and inspire me to keep going.

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Start. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2019

Start. 

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Fall color has been elusive to me. I mean it’s been present obviously, but it’s been overwhelming to the point of frustration. For the past three weeks fall color has dominated the higher elevations. I’ve raced around the mountains trying to make compostions anywhere, but ultimately I failed to find anything that I was happy to shoot. Everything that was beautiful caught my eye, but not everything that is beautiful can be a composition. I guess I was just waiting for Zion to enter the season.
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I think fall color happens like an earthquake. It has an potent epicenter that slowly ripples out to the fringes. Sure water, temperature, and daylight play their random parts; but I think it’s more calculated than that. I shot this scene a couple of days ago. I headed to an area of the east side that I believe is the epicenter of fall color this year. Red maples dominate the edges of the washes, and fallen leaves are dotted in between the boulders. On bends a bit further away from the epicenter, green still remains the superior color with fall color nowhere to be seen. I came across this half red half gone maple among a background of dark green, and I knew that this vibrant red could be gone the next day. I framed the maple around a cluster of yucca and a partially turned bush to the left, as well as a foreground of boulders in the wash and the sweeping lines in the sandstone slab. And as usual in Zion, a tinge of reflected light gave the scene a bit of depth.
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So this is my first fall color shot, to me it’s simple and calm. It’s been a discouraging start, but stumbling upon this composition helped me see how fall color should be photographed. It’s about photographing a fleeting condition while retaining the concept of intimacy and exclusion. Even in this extremely short condition, slow and steady wins the race.

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Lonesome. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Lonesome.

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I find myself drawn to the withered spruces dotting the higher elevation meadow areas of the Markagunt Plateau. Small clusters are scattered here and there, and they face the worse conditions winter can throw at the region. Characterized by their haunting presence, these gnarled remnants materialize and just as quickly fade away when conditions roll through. I took a stroll through a meadow that often sees a heavy frost that can plaster the tree line in thick white ice. The conditions weren’t that heavy, but far in the distance I saw this cluster faintly through the fog. I trudged through the quiet landscape and stood face to face with the wooden remains. The side facing south was covered in stunning frost, but the side facing north had the contrast and the composition that I required. I wanted to separate the individual trunks just enough to retain the coziness but also maintain order; it was a matter of me shifting inches to the left and right. I stood there in the cold for a moment and appreciated the minimal atmosphere around me.
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The lonesome, isolating nature of winter is what I find so addicting. Every other season seems too chaotic, overgrown, and busy from both the overwhelming human and natural elements. Maybe I’m drawn to these solitary subjects because they don’t seem so alone when I’m with them, and neither do I in their company.

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Complexities. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

Complexities.

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As the season of ice comes to a close, to say it has been a mild winter would be an understatement. While I’ve tried to make the most of the delicate ice across Zion, I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment in myself for how I’ve covered the season photographically. I’ve loved the simplicity in the abstracts that ice can create, but I’ve been craving a composition full of complexities. Something where a problem presents itself and I have to work out a solution. The compositions I’ve been making have felt quaint and straightforward, yet full of possibilities. It’s difficult not to feel that I’ve missed the big picture.
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It was a relatively warm day in Zion’s east side and the ice was minimal. I walked a corridor of the main wash where the sandstone walls tower over the boulders. Sunlight is blocked which allows for a nice sustained freeze as each day passes. I stumbled upon a wonderful scene that was as simple as they come. A single crack of ice caressing the edges of a single oak leaf fused into the hazy freeze. One dying season gently bordering an even older decaying season. The negative space surrounding the lone leaf and line allowed for disassociation from the chaotic landscape around, and a bit of reflected light from the west kissed the delicate leaf. There was nothing complex in this scene, and as thrilled as I was to find a composition within the bleak day, I felt it was a hollow victory. Some photos don’t necessarily make me feel happy to shoot, but I think it’s important to show the images that evoke emotion in myself. However the moment might make me feel, it’s vital to me to show some progress.

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Process. _ Cedar Mountain, Utah _ October 2019

Process.

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In the past weeks of fall color, Cedar Mountain has become a fallback location when all else fails. It’s an area with a huge variety of trees which causes a rainbow of color to coat the mountainside. Every tree seems to be on a different timeline. I visited a spot over a two week period of time to watch the tree line transform. The spot is dominated by oaks and maples, with aspens dotting the black cliffs above. Every time I visited this spot I would park on a small gravel patch a couple hundred feet away. Each time I would pass this small but mighty oak at the edge of the road watching and waiting for the best possible color. Visit after visit, the leaves would be a different hue but never quite right. Direct light hits this mountain until the sun sets on the horizon, so in order for the scene to work I needed to wait for the last moment of daylight to fade away. A couple days ago I made a visit, and the scene was exactly how wanted it. A golden oak supported by a deep red maple behind. Blue light from the sky gave a cool tone to the tops of the branches cracking in and out of the scene, and a kiss of light casted onto the vivid colors making for a lovely moment.
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I opted for a 16x9 vertical crop which is becoming a theme of mine for fall color. I feel as if the skinny and tall crop best suits the movement in intimate shots of trees.
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I loved the process of this shot. Noticing the texture of the bark poking out of the overgrown greenery weeks ago, and finally being able to shoot the full transformation after consistent watching. Even though I was doing absolutely nothing to affect the transformation, I felt as if I was molding the scene over time. A single glance can find potential, and time can help bring it to life.

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Relaxed. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ July 2019

Relaxed.

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The day was crystal clear and hot until some high altitude haze or possibly smoke from a nearby fire moved in a diluted the direct light. I spent about 3 hours in a slot that I know well in search of mud. This slot is more unique then the rest in the east side as it has a slight overhang of sandstone much like the Subway in The Narrows, but much less dramatic. This overhang is difficult to deal with because it’s hard to tell how the reflected light is going to bounce off the walls. The ground of the slot was completely covered in crunchy mud and the light was soft but it still warmly lit everything.
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Most of the cracked mud on the ground had an under layer of soil which appeared too coarse and not delicate enough. Soon my eyes focused on the layer of sandstone below the overhang. It had these holes carved by water and time. I found this stone in one of the holes and I knew I found my subject. I opted for this composition due to the sandstone swirl leading to and almost caressing the stone. The dappled cracked mud added a lovely bit of texture to the negative space surrounding the stone. All in all the scene felt pleasant and soft, but still reliant on the qualities of the mud to add interest.
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On the cliffs above me a group of bighorn were keeping me company by simply munching on vegetation and relaxing in the shade. The entire outing felt very chill and relaxed with no overwhelming moments. It’s amazing what a little shade on a hot day can do. 
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Quaint. _ Red Canyon, Utah _ February 2019

Quaint.

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The day was perfectly clear and on the warmer side. My mental state struggled heavily in the morning, and it was difficult for me to remain motivated and inspired. I started out in Zion, but made the quick decision to leave due to a lot of little things going wrong. I made my way to Highway 89 and headed north towards Bryce Canyon right down the road. My main goal was to shoot one of the many bald eagles in the area. On this stretch of highway it’s easy to spot a few, but difficult to capture them. While I did grab a quick shot of one, I still want more practice on their behavior and movement.

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I made the turn for Highway 12 towards Bryce but stopped in the Red Canyon area instead. Towering hoodoos, unique miniature arches, and deep red sandstone formations make up the area. While the area is small, it is chock-full of stunning nature. Red Canyon is a place that seems like it should be part of Bryce, but for some reason isn’t. I climbed a steep cliffside to this formation, and loved how the light casted through. I opted for this composition due to the simplicity of the scene. The snow covered the distractions, and emphasized the sandstone formation. It was a quiet, peaceful moment where it felt as though time stood still. Even though the day began with difficulties mentally, it ended on a better note with quaint natural company.

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Shifts. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Shifts.

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Ice is a delicate condition that is based on shifts in movement. For both the water during the freeze and the photographer that notices it; these shifts are essential in forming a result. Each small shift of mere inches can provide a new composition and more possibilities. This scene was about 3 feet or so from another composition of a golden oak leaf fused in the ice that took a couple days to shoot. The ice in this scene sits on a pool of water at a bend in the main wash of Zion’s east side. Above the ice sits a sandstone slab that makes for a perfect platform for tripod placement. The area is sunken in and quaint, allowing only a minute amount of light to reach the pool. The ripples of ice had such beautiful character, and the reflected light from the sandstone areas above warmed the scene in whole. I decided to focus in on a group of various warm tone leaves that seemed to be caught in the reverberations of the ripples. The leaves and the ice fought for subject dominance, but in the end I tried my best to find a middle ground in the abstraction.
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I spent a few hours at the bend moving no more than 10 feet in any direction. My eyes were racing around the ice trying to exhaust all compositional potential before the light left. The time at the pool felt like a test. Angles, placement, and elevation all played into the various compositions that were available. Each composition seemed like following the steps of an equation knowing there’s no real answer in the end. But I guess that’s the beauty of photography; no objective solutions, just subjective interpretation.

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Notion. _ Upstate New York _ June 2021

Notion.

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These herons are changing me more and more with each visit. They’re changing the notion of what wildlife photography is to me. The idea that proximity to an animal isn’t necessarily the most important element, but rather the careful composition of how they live their lives. Admittedly the great blue heron is my favorite animal to watch and photograph, but this area continues to teach me how to approach them differently. Ever since I befriended a great blue between the cozy sandstone walls of Zion, I’ve been trying to nail down what I find so beautiful about them. It wasn’t until these recent visits that I fully figured it out. Movement and form; the way they simply exist is graceful. Absolutely majestic in flight, yet solemn and stoic at rest. I think it’s important to celebrate their grace.
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Another early morning in the good company of these feathered friends. This time around it was a bit louder than usual due to the younglings yapping for food among the nests. The parents would switch off from nest defense to meal hunting each time another returned with food to upchuck for the babies. I had my eye set on this specific nest waiting for the proper moment to capture a graceful landing. After a good hour a parent finally returned, and I hit the shutter. A simple silhouette layered upon a calm sky as the sun rose. Upon close inspection the beaks of two fledglings can be seen darted upwards from the nest toward the parent. Waiting for food, and maybe even understanding what they’ll be capable of one day. 

Rest. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Rest.

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While I do see the beauty in being able to get out and photograph everyday in Southern Utah, I also see the worth in taking a break. I’ve just gotten back from a trip to the east coast where I spent some wonderful, much needed time with my partner. Before the trip I found myself photographically blind, and in need of a reset. Winter conditions consistently snuffed out, ice was hit and miss, and nothing particularly inspired me. The day after the trip I went to Zion and visited some of my usual spots. I found my old pal heron relaxing in the tall grass, and spent some time shooting a dipper cleaning itself among the Virgin bathed in reflected light. I wandered to the Big Bend area and noticed ice resting at the river’s edge among the boulders. I searched around and quickly saw a small but powerful curved crack weaving through a patch of ice. I looked closer and found that the crack beautifully grazed the edges of a boulder beneath. The boulder was dominant but also hidden under what appeared to be a re-freeze that caused a dull layer of white to coat the boulder. I framed up and fell in love with the movement in the little scene below my feet.
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The intimacy of Zion and Southern Utah in general is intoxicating, but I think it’s important to take a step back for a moment and rest every now and then. I’m lucky to have this unbelievable area around me for now, but there’s no sense in crippling imagination because of access. Nature can refresh itself and provide opportunity, I just need to simply take the occasional rest to help me see its potential.

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Company. _ Rochester, New York _ October 2020

Company.

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Most of the time I photograph alone in quiet nature, but on those rare occasions I might stumble into another photographer and have some company for a shoot. I’m a fairly anxious and awkward person socially, so I feel it’s best to keep to myself when I know other photographers are around. That and I just feel that I might ruin their experience in the outdoors with my presence. I drove out to Durand lake, Eastman lake, and Lake Ontario which are all conveniently located next to each other on a chilly cloudy fall morning. I had no plan other than to mosey around the lakes, but the sunrise that morning was catching the clouds beautifully. I noticed further west down the sand someone was approaching me, and soon I began to recognize the familiar face. Fred is a fellow photographer around the Rochester area who mostly shoots portraiture, but with the virus he has taken it upon himself to practice wildlife and nature photography as what he calls his “pandemic project”. I’ve met Fred a couple of times around the lake before, and he’s quite talented in wildlife photography. That morning he explained to me how the cormorants move across the sky from east to west as the light gets stronger. Thousands of cormorants move in groups creating faint lines of black streaking the sky ever so slightly. Fred also explained that the light hitting the clouds that morning was reminiscent of how the painter Maxfield Parrish illustrated his clouds. Soft pastel warm tones with full definition in the clouds. I noticed this prominent cloud poking out from a lower bank, and waited for the right group of birds to pass by. A simple photo of a simple morning occurrence.
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With proper social distance, Fred and I shot together for about an hour. We parted ways to our respective trails around the lakes, knowing we’d probably run into each other again. I’m not the best socially, but I’m learning to appreciate what company can do for my photography. 

View. _ Upstate New York _ June 2021

View.

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There are few times when imagining the possibilities of conditions actually pans out for me. Now I’m a big believer in luck and consistency over skill and planning, because I feel like nature is more random than any amount of plan can account for. That being said, planning does give a sense of preparation that feels reassuring. My process generally relies on stumbling upon scenes when they’re ready to be found, pointing my lens in a direction, and pressing buttons on the camera hoping everything will work out in the end. To me, a camera is a nice excuse to wake up early and experience those rare feeling moments that others tend not to witness. This location in particular has been a testament to the idea of luck, but the occasional early morning plan doesn’t necessarily hurt.
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I woke up with the allure of herons, slender sticks, and thick fog bouncing around my mind. The weather report called for heavy low cloud at a certain spot close to where I live, so I hit the road early. Arriving in darkness, I moseyed through the dark forest until the tree line opened up a clear view out towards the snoozing herons high up. The fog was immense, creating a haunting atmosphere that beautifully defined the lanky remnants of the gnarled trees. The blue hour was approaching fast so I composed a collection of trees with one small nest at the edge of the frame. Two herons had awoken within the nest waiting for a parent to return; one looking off into the fog, one taking a peek over the edge. I hit the shutter. A quiet moment that felt like both the young herons and I were seeing a rarer view of the world around us. A view that’s dependent on what nature wants to do, and getting out of bed to check it out. 

Crave. _ Rochester, New York _ May 2021

Crave.

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Moments like this don’t happen very often. I’m not talking about a lone tree out in a field surrounded by fog which happens quite often and is very well photographed, but rather the absolute giddiness of running around a field succumbed by fleeting condition. Having that pure focus on photography and being drunk on problem solving, creativity, and possibilities around every corner. I felt like I was stuck in a photography rut for weeks before this morning. The daily routine is often: wake up early, fail to find any wildlife, go to work, rinse and repeat. I craved a semblance of grounding myself in an area and challenging myself to find images. Luckily when the conditions are this good, images tend to make themselves.
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Driving up to a field north of where I live, I crested a small hill and found a rather barren field made lush by the thick fog draped over it. The dew at my feet felt comforting and known. There’s just something about dew on grass that makes memories of moments out in nature more potent for me, almost as if it’s a little extra element adding to an already calm and quaint morning. I ran around the field and into the nearby forest getting lost in the beauty around me for a few hours. Far in the distance I noticed this tree dotted among the other various lone trees, and I wondered how I missed it. I approached and found that it had wonderful movement in its shape. I framed up allowing for ample negative space of fog to let the tree breathe. The scene felt very Northern California to me; something about the shape of the tree limbs, and how the soft light and bright shadows mingled together, graced by the simplicity of a bit of fog. A moment that served as a reminder of some other faint memory or location, nevertheless I appreciated satisfying the photography crave. 

Disrupted. _ Rochester, New York _ March 2021

Disrupted.

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Whether it be the presence of wildlife or another photographer, there are those moments when I’m not alone photographing and those moments can be pleasant or they can be awful. It was a crisp clear Sunday morning, and I thought I’d make my way to location close to Rochester that boasts the title of a specific bird within it’s name. I wasn’t planning on seeing that certain bird that morning, but rather to visit the lakefront in hopes of capturing a photo of an elusive fox that lives among the shore. After I hit the shore, with no sight of the fox I sauntered on back to the wooded area that borders the lake, eyes fixed to the spruces above. After a few steps into the tree line, I stumbled upon a rather large Barred Owl roosting among the branches, dozing off after a presumably busy night. I took some initial shots of the owl, and I decided to quietly and carefully extend the tripod to see if I could snag a low ISO shot of the stunning bird. Just around a bend in the trail I heard footsteps approaching. An older woman with some expensive photo gear darts close to me demanding that I show her where the owl is. “I CAN’T SEE IT!”, she kept shouting at me over and over, eventually she got sight of the owl and decided to try to disrupt it with loud noises and harsh movements in order to get a photo of it looking at her. Needless to say I was disgusted with her behavior, and I packed away angry and upset with that entire moment.
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I returned two days later to find the owl snoozing on a branch of a beautiful pastel pink pine as snow began to fall softly. Finally alone and at distance from the beautiful bird I spent a good hour in it’s presence. In and out of dozing it gazed toward a sound of a squirrel off in the distance and I came away with this photo. The outside world is wildlife’s home, not ours. Disrupting them is not worth any photo, be patient and wait with them. Humans do enough damage already. Leave it better, please. 

Distract. _ Rochester, New York _ May 2021

Distract.

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I feel like I’m reminded of my depression through every photo I take, despite how calm my mind is nowadays. Maybe I’m looking into each composition far too much or I find meaning way too easily. It’s something I try to run away from every time I see it. I never liked the person I was when my mind went dark, and I treated everyone around me horribly. I’d escape into Zion or the mountains back home in Southern Utah and selfishly try to heal my mind as people close to me were hurt by my actions, or hurt by my silence. I’ll always regret how I felt and how my hollow excuse of a broken mind affected the people I love most. I’ll always be grateful for my loved ones who stuck by me, and both photography and nature for keeping me alive by distracting me. Nevertheless, I see solemn moments that remind me of my past everywhere.
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I woke up early and made a quick weather trajectory of places surrounding an area. The point of the trajectory was to establish a idea of how potent fog would be in the area by studying the areas around it. Once I found somewhat of an epicenter of the atmospheric conditions, I headed out with pure hope that the cloud would stick around. I arrived to an open field with low visibility and various lone trees dotted around the perimeter. I set up any composition I could find in my excitement, but I kept being distracted by the same particular subject.
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The only fallen tree in the field seemed to lay down with grace among the living. I framed the melancholy character alongside a proud, healthy blooming oak and immediately I fell back into that reminder of hopelessness. I took a moment, and tried my bet to brush off what I felt. I continued on in search of anything to distract me from that feeling of emptiness and pain. Mental health and photography go hand in hand for me; that’s the very reason why I need to keep photography close to my heart and mind. 

Grounded. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Grounded.

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To me, the most important thing to remember about photography is that it’s impossible to master. It’s a constant practice where most of the time I’ll fail, and I’ll keep learning. I’m relatively new at shooting fall color, and honestly I fail quite a bit when practicing it. The one thing I can always rely on to help understand a scene is an interesting branch. When I struggle to find a place to start with fall color, I scan the vibrant leaves for movement that helps guide a frame. This scene was shot on my third full day in Zion. The sky was hazy from wildfire smoke, and the light wasn’t necessarily working for reflected light all that much. I spent the morning in the remote highlands of the east side looking for muted scenes in the landscape, and spent most of the time watching a group of bighorn live their lives among the sandstone cliffs. I still hadn’t shot a scene of fall color on the trip, and I knew in the later afternoon that I had to focus on that. I made my way to a section of the main wash that boasted a long stand of gorgeous red maples. Straight away I noticed this branch poking out of the sea of color, and I knew I had something to point my camera at. The branch caught cool tones from the ambient light above, and the leaves embraced the branch with their cozy warm tones.
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This photograph was a grounding moment. I struggled a lot at the start of this trip, and this basic composition gave me some guidance on how to approach fall color going forward. Last year I shot a similar styled shot that I titled “Emulate”. That photo much like this one allowed me to explore Zion’s color more intimately, and helped ground my mind when it needed it most. 

Vignette. _ Taughannock Falls State Park, New York _ January 2021

Vignette.

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I struggle when photographing things so abstract it’s hard to find an anchor for the scene, and Taughannock Falls was pretty much anchor-less. My partner and I decided to take our newfound go-to Upstate New York day trip to see the sights around Ithaca and Watkin’s Glen. We stopped off at Taughannock first and took a stroll along the scenic walk toward the rather impressive main fall. We scouted the fall minutes before from the overlook above and noticed the massive amount of ice surrounding the falling water and coating the walls in shimmering brilliance. The walk along the trail felt somewhat solemn for me because there was an amount of elevation around me, for a moment it had the cozy feeling of walking into a canyon in Southern Utah. In the final steps of the scenic walk the ground of the trail, dead flora, and scree heading up the walls was cemented with a thick layer of murky ice. The walk to the viewpoint of the base of the fall was beyond slippery, and we struggled to even slowly walk while clinging to the walls. The frigid spray from the fall was making it difficult to keep the lenses clean and my hands warm, and as beautiful as the area was all I could do was attempt to force compositions. My eyes kept fixating to the same subject though, and in a last ditch effort I took this shot.
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The ice clung to the sheer wall and created a shimmering tapestry of movement and character. This is not a groundbreaking shot of a waterfall, but rather a small vignette of what I found beautiful in the moment. It felt defeating trying to force compositions in such a stunning environment, but in the end the small details stood out. 

Tranquil. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ October 2020

Tranquil.

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It was a much colder morning than the previous days of the fall trip, and I felt tired of searching for fall color and finding nothing. I didn’t necessarily have a plan of where I wanted to start the day in Zion. I thought maybe a quick bike ride into the main canyon, but I knew the color was few and far between in the lower elevations. I decided I’d head to the higher elevations and try my luck in a more remote spot of the park. I ran into Ben Horne around the area, and we both were a bit concerned with the haze from the wildfires blocking the direct morning light. After a wait and much needed coffee for me, we decided to give it a shot and head out to our respective compositions. I knew my scene needed a fair amount of morning light filing in the background, but not too much as it is would overwhelm the subject, so I had to rush into position. I made it by the skin of my teeth and shot the scene with moments to spare, and it felt good to shoot it. This photo isn’t that rush, but rather that tranquil moment that often follows excitement.
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I took a moment to catch my breath after my out-of-shape shlep over the sandstone, and when I descended down into a sort of hub of the remote area I found a stunning slab below my feet. The sandstone took on various cool and warm tones in a sort of striped pattern which was reminiscent of a rainbow. The scene was quite abstract, but I thought this little bauble in the upper left gave the scene a bit of an anchor. The morning sun slowly creeped over the sandstone cliffs with complete silence apart from the caw of a crow high above. A calm moment following an adrenaline rush, such a wonderful feeling. 

Gaps. _ Rochester, New York _ September 2020

Gaps.

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I’ve been craving an intimate scene in Rochester. I feel like everything I’ve been shooting (or failing at shooting) is either a waterfall or wildlife. That’s what the summer season often brings to the table though, a supreme lack of intimate scenes thanks to the overgrown greenery dominating the landscape. I’ve been doing my rounds at Durand Lake for a few weeks now trying my best to scout compositions for the colder seasons right around the corner. This lake is a wonderful little escape from the noise and dreary urban area around Rochester. A unique characteristic that this lake provides are various carcasses of trees scattered around the edge of the lake. These carcasses are often partially submerged with their branches protruding. The haunting look to these trees is only amplified by the green algae that blooms on they lake and hides what’s underneath. While the algae may look beautiful, from what I’ve heard it’s fairly toxic to animals and humans. I passed by this tree a few times on my walks, out and back I tried to figure out how I could possibly shoot it. On this day the sky was overcast and the wind was calm. I hopped up on top of the trunk and looked down to finally understand the composition I was searching for; the simplicity in the scene that allows the mind to account for what’s missing. My mind filled in the gaps of what might be under the algae with what I imagine is under the algae. Photography after all is the art of exclusion, and seeing what the mind does when trying to understand a frame.
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I slipped and fell quite a few times off the trunk as I tried tweaking my tripod ever so slightly. After about an hour trying my best to ingest this scene, I called it quits, happy with my interpretation. I’m excited to return to this composition as the seasons change to fill in the gaps. Fallen leaves, ice, snow, and new bloom will grace this fallen giant. I’ll be by it’s side to give it a voice. 

Subdued. _ Letchworth State Park, New York _ July 2020

Subdued.

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After a trip that resulted in a more iconic shot of a place, I wanted to focus on the details on a spur of the moment trip to Letchworth. My partner and I took the 45 minute drive out, and upon entering the park found a rather long winding road following the gorge that reminded me a lot of Shenandoah National Park. Trees and overgrowth line the road creating a somewhat claustrophobic feeling, and occasionally you’ll get a look down past the cliffs into the drop below. We parked off at the lower falls to take a hike up towards the middle and high falls. The trail was simple enough, but failed to capture that wilderness feeling. Out in the West, a simple walk anywhere can take you to places that feel as if they’ve never been explored before and you are blazing a brand new trail. The East feels very explored and dominated by the infinite amount of trees, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that intimate scenes aren’t possible. We eventually made our way to the middle falls, and both of us snapped to a particular spot in the falls that seemed to have a natural composition. While the falls were raging and anything but calm, this scene felt gentle and graceful. The way the water cascaded down the unique geology of the area reminded me of a painting. One dominant fall surrounded by a symphony of supporting falls gave a subdued contrast. Soft light mixed beautifully with the shadow, and a quarter of second shutter allowed the chaos to somewhat freeze if only for a moment.
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I know this photo fails to capture the bigger picture of this massive gorge, but I believe each subdued detail that many overlook can build upon each other. In time I hope it helps show my interpretation of the landscape. 

Further. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ May 2020 

Further.

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It’s pretty rare to be able to visit Zion’s main canyon via car this time of year, but those are the times we live in at the moment. Being able to scope out scenes roadside in the later spring season allows for more potential among the landscape. This composition was from a scene that I scouted days before I shot it, and the wait was for a new piece of gear to arrive that perfectly suits how I like to approach photography. I entered Zion’s main canyon on a clear, hot day and made my way to this scene hours before I could shoot it. A powerful tree stands tall among a background of sandstone surrounded by the classic Zion elements like playful cacti, golden grass, and scattered remnants from the walls towering above. A boulder dotted with lichen anchored the composition, and everything worked together wonderfully. I set up my tripod and stood before the scene tweaking my composition ever so slightly over those few hours in order to separate the tree from the surrounding foliage. I watched the shadow enter from the west and the reflected light bouncing off the walls from the east take over. A continuous breeze flowed through the scene, and made me appreciate the fact that I still shoot digital. The scene had beautiful depth and tones to it, and soon I realized in that moment that I had found one of my favorite scenes that I’ve shot in Zion.
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Resolution is often discouraged in favor of other bells and whistles in cameras, but how I practice photography is based in resolution and patience. I crop every image I take, print heavily, and opt for slower and more calming scenes based in intimacy and detail. I purchased a 5 year old 50 megapixel Canon 5DS for cheap and realized quickly that it was one of the best purchases that I’ve made for myself and my work. While a camera is nothing more than a camera, plenty of time spent in the field had made me realized what could propel the way I do photography further. Here’s to the future. 

Familiar. _ Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah _ May 2020

Familiar.

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Coral Pink is a place that I often forget about. It’s an odd gem hidden within the chaotic desert southwest near Zion, and it can offer more minimalist possibilities for photography in Utah. The unfortunate flip side to the beauty of Coral Pink is the lack of protection for the actual dunes within the park. While the area is bisected for human travel and vehicle travel, reckless OHVs control and mob the dune area which in turn seems to have destroyed a lot of potential in the landscape. A powerful tool that this place utilizes is contrast. Harsh light and deep shadows dance together across the warm sand, and can lead to unique compositions. This tree has become a familiar subject that has come to define these dunes for me. This withered and gnarled husk of wood stands tall nestled within a cozy nook of sand, only to be manipulated by the changing daylight. On this day I arrived mid-morning after a disappointing wildlife shoot in the higher elevations of Markagunt Plateau. I trudged through the sands noting the angle of the sun and how the dark clashed with the light. Ripples in the sand created mesmerizing textures and patterns that kept distracting me from more dominant subjects. I crested a large dune and saw my old wooden friend in the distance being hit by some gorgeous side light. I framed up a simple half and half vertical shot that allowed the faint ripples in the sand to add a bit of interest to the foreground. The moment felt needed and intimate.
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To me, this tree means more to the location of Coral Pink than the dunes themselves. I think this tree personifies the power of erosion and the destruction that has been happening to this land over time. This is my third shot of this tree, and I can’t help but think that there’s a reason I keep coming back to it. Even the most familiar things can still be surprising. 

See. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ March 2020

See.

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Zion’s monolithic sandstone walls are full of grandeur. They are a primary reason to visit the main canyon because they dwarf with their history and stun with their allure. The reason I love Zion for photography is because I think it is the best place to learn how to see. To me, the main canyon teaches the importance of light, and the east side teaches the importance of patience. It’s easy to get lost in the grandeur, but Zion’s intimacy is it’s true hidden potential. I headed into Zion’s main canyon in the last hours of a stormy day. The sandstone walls shimmered with saturated warm tones, and the misty cloud hung below the cliffs. I started deep in the main canyon around Big Bend shooting the ethereal mood draped over the higher elevations. Eventually the sun started to break through and I knew I only had a small amount of time until the conditions left for good. I started up the switchbacks to the east side, but noticed a wonderful waterfall cascading down the cliffs far to the west. I was unsure if I had the reach to be able to photograph it, but I decided to park off and give it a shot. I popped on my long lens, and realized it wasn’t enough. I threw on an extender and finally that allowed me to see this distant intimate scene up close. The cascade was fading as the storm clouds dispersed, but I loved how the white water moved through the frame and interacted with the cool and warm tones of the sandstone. Dotted green with various trees and plants, the wall showed yet another glimpse into Zion’s calming beauty.
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I’m as grateful for photography as I am for Zion. One teaches me how to see with help from the other that allows me to see. Little vignettes in the landscape can be hidden in distance, but with a little help they can have their moment to shine. 

Revisit. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ February 2020

Revisit.

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Like many photographers at this time, I’m going through some back catalog of various failures, tweaked compositions, and test shots. After perusing many SD cards, I came across this alternate composition of a special scene I shot this past winter that I aptly titled “Special”. At the time I think I discarded this comp in favor of the more complex intimate comp. Little did I know how pleasant the simpler shot was. I remember this scene was a two day shoot. The first day was spent scouting the washes of Zion’s east side for ice tucked between the boulders. At certain bends of the main wash deep pools of water form, freeze, and allow for detailed rings to pattern around the surface. I stumbled upon one of these pools, but found that the freeze was scattered and a bit too melted for any worthy shots. I thought I’d return the next morning and see what happened overnight. The next morning was crisp and frigid and I returned to a gorgeous singular freeze at the pool. The morning light crept into the east side and brought with it some golden reflected light from the sandstone slabs opposite the scene. The reflected light kissed the surface of a single oak leaf fused into the ice, and made for a nice contrast of cool and warm tones. The tip and stem of the leaf were frozen into the ice causing the leaf to bend delicately upward in the center. A simple frame of gentle light and soft shadows that benefits from a bit of compression.
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After finding this shot, I think it’s important to take a second look at what you might’ve missed. I certainly would’ve let this fade into memory if it wasn’t for this ample time in isolation. I’m glad I was able to revisit this moment if only in memory and photos. I’m excited for the time when I can mosey through Zion again, until then past photos allow me to explore the park. 

Communication. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Communication.

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I like the idea of a simple language imprinted on these delicate scenes trying to reach out and say something, but it’s beauty as always overshadows the volume. This photo is from a moment in Zion’s east side over a year ago. I revisited this photo time and time again trying to work out what I felt about it. Morse Code, Braille, petroglyphs; each time I looked at this I couldn’t help but envision a different form of communication. Now obviously snow melts, water freezes, and ice is formed with colder temperatures creating abstract patterns; nothing more than nature doing what it does best to keep the world spinning. It’s just the idea that ice can be a method of relaying information that provides a more fantastical/far-fetched thought of the possibilities in the natural world. Crisp morning air graced the east side of Zion, and I was on the hunt for these fleeting scenes on the ground beneath my feet. After a rushed moment to shoot another scene of ice before the morning light took it, I rounded a bend in the main wash that sees less sunshine in the winter months. The river of boulders soon transformed into a long wide wave of sandstone with a small strip of sand in the center. A thin layer of ice sat atop the sand, and created stunning works of art every few feet. A humble little golden oak leaf was fused into a series of dots and lines of bubbles in the cool toned ice, grasping for the possibility of communication.
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In the silence of the morning, I stood there shivering among the ice and cold stone below me. That’s what the morning was; quiet. The occasional rush and work to frame up scenes was only interrupted by the gaps of complete silence in between. Nothing more than the stillness of the park waking up, apart from the scene below me trying it’s best to speak. A solemn place with so much history and an ample amount patience to create it. A Zion I knew well, and loved well. 

Alternate. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ December 2019

Alternate.

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Going further through my back catalog, I’ve noticed the occasional alternate composition sandwiched between a few of the ones I’ve been happy with. I especially remember the dilemma I had going back and forth with this image and very similar image I called “Spark”. This image had the emotion of the moment that I wanted to convey, but “Spark” had a more exciting and intriguing feeling. I remember it was a dull day in terms of weather and subjects which seemed to mimic my mood. I had been running around Zion’s main canyon, eventually finding my way to the east side all the while coming away with nothing. I descended the switchbacks of SR-9 toward the main canyon feeling a bit defeated and tired. I thought I’d give one last look at heron bend to see if I could find an old friend. I often use heron bend as a last resort when all else fails, and sure enough my pal was in the area. I shot through foliage in order to get a composition of the heron perched on a sandstone plinth. I spent so much time watching and waiting, the weary heron felt relaxed with me and decided to take a snooze. I took the shot, and quickly fell in love with the atmosphere around the drowsy heron. The darkness of the landscape was only slightly lifted by withered remnants of cottonwood and fall color. A wonderful serene moment with my sleepy friend that provided me with a sense of calm then, and still does now.
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At the time, I felt as worn out from running around as this gorgeous bird did from its normal life. This alternate photo serves as a reminder to myself to not favor the more exciting photo over the photo that conveyed the emotion of the moment and the day. It’s interesting to feel pressure to post photos based on what I think people might like more, but I’m glad I finally saw the importance behind this shot and what it means to me. 

Fleeting. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Fleeting.

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I shot this image in Zion long ago. The east side was just waking up for the morning, and it was looking to be a beautiful clear day. I felt pretty relaxed heading into the park via the east entrance, knowing exactly where I wanted to explore for ice before the sun had a chance to take it all. The main wash was dappled with small areas of a thin layer of ice caught between the boulders. I rounded a bend and for a moment I stood there just appreciating the calm, quiet park that I knew and loved so well. I stumbled upon this wonderful little scene on the ground beneath my feet that was defined by it’s stunning movement. A grouping of leaves caught in layers upon layers of lines imprinted in the freeze weaving through the frame. I had no idea how to make a composition work then, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I glanced to my right and immediately lost any semblance of calm I had. The morning light was within feet of the scene at my feet, and it was approaching fast. Every second I was losing shadow to the light, and I had to move quickly if I was to come away with anything. I threw down my bag, grabbed the long lens, planted my tripod, and picked a frame that might work. I took one photo and just like that, the morning light intruded and the ice began to fade away. Just a single photo.

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I took me a year to have a second look at this image, and now I have a better understanding of what I found beautiful about it. To me, the moment defined how fleeting a condition like ice can truly be. It’s not about planning or expectations, but rather finding something when it’s ready to be found. 

Potential. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ September 2019

Potential.

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Summer has been a struggle. Minimal conditions and absent wildlife make for a drought in possibilities, not to mention the zoo of people and overgrown greenery hiding the intimate subjects. Thankfully, summer is on its way out. I went to Zion this past Thursday to check up on how the fall color was coming along. I started the day by visiting a side wash that I explored a bit on a prior visit, but I couldn’t fully remember its potential. I made it to the area I turned around at before, but this time I continued to climb higher into the wash. Eventually, after some risky scrambling onto high sandy cliffs, I was forced to turn around at a wall of boulders too massive to climb. The exploration felt needed, but in the end the wash was sparse in photo potential.
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I exited back into the main wash and moseyed around looking for delicate dried mud. I found a fallen leaf caught in some nice patterns, and even a good amount of reflected light filled the shadows of the scene. I shot it, but I was unsure about the composition in whole. I decided to move on around a few more bends of the wash. Eventually, I came to another side wash that was more of a hidden nook shrouded in trees and brush. I trudged through the sand until I hit this fallen tree. The tree was gnarled and withered from time, and the classic Zion light bathed the grain in cool tones from the clear sky above and warm tones from the reflected light off the sand below. I was fixated on the patterns that led into the main knots on the trunk, lost in the abstract beauty. I soon realized I stumbled upon one of those rare timeless subjects that can be photographed during any season in Zion, all it required was the correct light. Fall color will grasp Zion soon, and while I’m excited, I’m also nervous to shoot a condition so fleeting for my first real time in the place I love the most. This summer season has built up a lot of potential for fall color, hopefully I can capture all it has to offer. 

Parallels part/2. _ Zion National Park, Utah _ January 2020

Parallels part/2

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Some subjects cause such an abstraction, it’s hard to tell what the story is. After spending some time photographing a small dipper in reflected light further up canyon, I decided to move down canyon as the daylight faded. I decided to check in at a particular spot special to me that I’ve shot before. This location has a large amount of naturally occurring oil in a small area of water. The day was fairly chilly, but even with the temperature, I was still surprised to stumble upon the frozen scene. The natural oil and ice took on a brilliant blue color with help from the clear sky above. I utilized a small boulder poking slightly out of the ice to anchor the abstraction. The warmth of the boulder and the cool of the oily ice contrasted so beautifully, all I had to do was frame up and press the shutter.
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This is a scene I’ve shot recently, just with a somewhat different composition and feel. I titled that photo “Parallels” due to the the scene’s resemblance to other natural wonders like ice, and the dramatic duality oil plays in nature. This shot seemed to follow that same theme by resembling, to me at least, the beauty of the cosmos. Layers upon layers of stars shimmering represented by the speckled oil in the ice, and a planetary mass represented by the warm boulder. It was a small moment in a grand place that resembled a much bigger universe out there. I stood for a bit lost in thought, packed up my gear, and moved on to see what else I could see. 

Embrace. _ Markagunt Plateau, Utah _ February 2019

Embrace.

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It took me a while to feel alright with this photo. My hesitation might stem from the unbelievably perfect conditions I was given, and me simply snapshotting everything that looked beautiful. I headed up Cedar Canyon to the Bristlecone Pine Trail. The area was enveloped in a thick frost and surrounded in fog. Almost as if it was a completely different planet. My tripod had froze due to my own fault of not taking the best care of it, so it was handheld shooting for me. Luckily, snow is bright so shorter shutter speeds were possible and a tripod wasn’t completely necessary.
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I snowshoed around the meadow area to the north of the trail. It was bitterly cold and the high winds brought temperatures barely into the negatives. I made my way through the tree lines, and the scenery presented itself to me in little vignettes. Subjects would pop into view as I walked toward them then gradually disappear back into the fog. I opted to shoot this group of trees because of how they appeared to be embracing. Almost as if it was routine for them to stay close to each other in order to make it through the conditions that have affected them for countless years.
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Despite the cold and wind, it was such a calming and peaceful experience to listen to the wind howl and the trees creak while I walked through the snow. Much like these trees, I embraced the conditions and felt comfortable in the fact that I was continuing to learn how to capture moments like this one.  

Tools. _ Rochester, New York _ February 2021

Tools.

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I bought a ladder just to get this image. It was either invest in a ladder or a drone, and to be fair, a ladder is far cheaper and much less of an annoyance to nature than a drone. I first spotted this tree during one of my initial outings around Rochester back in the heat of summer. At the time these bones that sat atop the lake were a natural place to find a wealth of herons scattered among the branches, but I knew it could shine even brighter in winter. On my second scouting trip, the day was bitterly cold. The lake was completely frozen over with a plump layer of powder atop, and I knew the wintry conditions wouldn’t last long as hotter temperatures approached. I had one big problem though; the 15 foot stump of the fallen tree’s root structure was far too tall and crumbly to climb safely. I would have to find a way to ascend the stump, because elevation would be the only way this subject could stand apart from the area around it. The next morning I woke up early, bought a cheap ladder from a store, and made my way to the scene. People gawked at me as they drove by, but I couldn’t let how foolish I looked stop what I had imagined shooting for so long. Tripod placement wasn’t possible and the view was cluttered by twigs. I gently encouraged the twigs out of the way with a few nearby logs, and handheld a composition with unsure footing on my shaky ladder.
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A frame of contrast and movement. Dark branches sprawled across the bright white layer of snow and disappeared beneath the surface. To be honest I did remove quite a bit of fox tracks and scattered leaves in the edit, but that’s what photography is all about; excluding what you don’t like. After all, photography is the art of exclusion. I’m glad I made a spur of the moment decision to invest in a tool that could allow me to capture what I had imagined. 
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