Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

    Browsing Posts in Landscapes

    Dead Horse Point State Park has a couple of things working against it. First, the name. Who wants to go to a park full of dead horses? According to legend, the naming of the place is derived from incidents involving actual dead horses, so if you were thinking maybe they named it after some equine-shaped rock formation, you can let go of those happy thoughts! Read about it here in the park brochure. Maybe Utah State Parks ought to engage a public relations firm to consider a rebranding. Second, Dead Horse Point State Park is frequently overshadowed by its two National Park big brothers in the Moab, Utah vicinity: Arches and Canyonlands.

    If ever you are in the area, do not let these facts prevent you from seeing Dead Horse Point. Alison and I were there last October and were so glad that we took the time to visit. The panoramic image featured in this post was captured at dawn from the Dead Horse Point Overlook, a spot perched on the rim of a vast canyon carved by the twisting Colorado River 2000 feet below, with views of the sheer rugged cliffs of Canyonlands National Park in the distance.

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    The jagged, rocky ridge known as "The Dyke", located in northwest Montrose County Colorado, is flanked by one of the world's largest aspen groves. In late September, 2016, the changing aspens created an explosion of color.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 90 mm, 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 100

    After talking about it for many years, Alison and I finally visited Colorado this autumn to see the aspens show off their fall foliage. We have made many trips to California’s Eastern Sierra in the fall, and while there are some beautiful aspens to be found there, nothing quite prepared us for the glory of Colorado at its colorful peak. We spent the better part of two weeks in Southwest Colorado searching for beautiful vistas and trying be in the right places when the trees were at their best.

    We had tried to visit the spot where this picture was taken a week earlier but were deterred by an early-season snowstorm that made the road unsafe to drive. Luckily, the weather and the intervening week provided the perfect conditions for the trees to reach their peak. A few late-to-turn green aspens and some uncommon orange-red aspens added depth and structure to the blazing yellow hillside and had us standing in awe at this beautiful sight.

    Don’t forget to click on the image above to view a larger (and higher-resolution) version of the photo.

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    Spring Has Sprung


    The rolling, oak-covered hills of the Diablo Range form a scenic backdrop for the burst of color provided by California poppies in bloom.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 24 mm, 1/40 sec at f/14, ISO 200


    Actually, spring got an early start in our area as these photos can attest. In early March I had come across some online reports of promising wildflower sightings in Pacheco State Park, so Alison and I decided to take a quick day trip to see for ourselves. We were not disappointed.

    A reminder: you can click any image to see a larger (higher-res) version.


    California poppies decorate a hillside below a lone oak tree at Pacheco State Park.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 25 mm, 1/50 sec at f/14, ISO 200


    We wound up hiking farther than we had intended, and I tired myself out carrying my camera backpack for the first time in a while, but after seeing the landscape awash in the brilliant hues of spring flowers, we both agreed that it was well worth it.


    Multiple wildflower species were blooming in early March, 2016 at Pacheco State Park.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 34 mm, 1/100 sec at f/11, ISO 200



    Wind turbines and spring wildflowers create an interesting juxtaposition between nature's beauty and man's imprint on the landscape.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 45 mm, 1/40 sec at f/14, ISO 200

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    The silhouetted branches of a long-dead tree and a distant sand dune near Dead Vlei combine to create an engaging abstract composition.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 200 mm, 1/100 sec at f/10, ISO 200

    I created this post’s featured image on my second of two mornings at Dead Vlei, in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park. Having tried my hand at some iconic Dead Vlei photos the first morning, I felt I had a chance to experiment a bit on the second.

    The contrast between the Vlei’s shaded dead trees and the sunlit dune west of the Vlei was extreme. Therefore, properly exposing for the bright sand would render the trees nearly black — in silhouette, that is. I just needed to find the right tree and to position the camera so that the jagged outlines of the branches formed a pleasing abstract composition. This picture is one of my favorite attempts at doing just that.

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    Dead Vlei


    Though these trees at Dead Vlei are belived to have died at least 500 years ago, they remain upright today, resisting decay in the hyper-dry climate of Namibia's Namib-Naukluft National Park.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 180 mm, 1/125 sec at f/11, ISO 200

    Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest conservation area in Africa, and for many visitors its main attraction is an area commonly known as “Sossusvlei” famous for its plethora of towering, reddish sand dunes. Within Sossusvlei is a magical spot called Dead Vlei, which is nestled between the giant dunes and is characterized by a flat, white, clay pan and a forest of dark tree “skeletons”. According to Wikipedia, Deadvlei means “dead marsh” (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes).

    Standing in the middle of a bone-dry desert, the last thing Dead Vlei reminded me of was a marsh! Yet centuries ago flood waters from the Tsauchab river left behind sediments that created the pan, and provided sufficient water for many camel thorn trees to grow. Since then, changes to the climate, perhaps in conjunction with the build up of the sand dunes, severely curtailed the amount of water reaching the vlei and caused the trees to die. While the die-off is estimated to have occurred 500-600 years ago, the rate of decay in this arid desert is so slow that the trees remain standing to this day.

    Dead Vlei’s combination of white clay, red sand, blue sky, and dark ghostly trees has created a photographers’ paradise. With the angle of the sunlight changing throughout the day (and to a lesser degree throughout the year), and wide range of possible compositions, the photographic possibilities at Dead Vlei are nearly limitless. So, while I cherished my two mornings at Dead Vlei, I hope to have the opportunity to return someday and pick up where I left off. The image in this post is one that I feel conveys the essence — and the beauty — of the place.

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    Dune 40


    One of Namib-Naukluft National Park's massive sand dunes rises above the valley floor bathed in warm late-afternoon sunlight.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 165 mm, 1/80 sec at f/10, ISO 200

    It was our first afternoon among the giant dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, and Alison and I were focused on finding the best spot to capture the beauty of the place. With their ochre hues and sinuous profiles, all of the dunes along the 35 miles stretch of road we had before us were begging to be photographed, and we were fighting the irrational desire to clone ourselves and be at many locations at once. And because the photograph I was seeking would be obtained in the last 30 minutes before the sun set, when shadows are long and the light shines in warm tones, we were under time pressure.

    The dunes in the National Park are among the tallest in the world and certain ones in particular are famous for their size and beauty. One of the landmark dunes is called Dune 45, due to the fact that it lies relatively close to the road near the 45 kilometer mileage marker. We had been told that it was the best place to go for sunset and so we went to see for ourselves. While Dune 45 is indeed beautiful, it has a parking area right at its base, and on the afternoon we were there, several tourists were climbing up the dunes spine towards its peak. I wanted to avoid any signs of man in my photograph, so we left Dune 45 in search of a more pristine subject.

    A few miles back up the road we had noticed a stunning dune that I thought had great promise, but the sun was now quite low in the sky and there was little time left to reposition. Alison drove hastily back to our “plan B” dune, which just happened to be located at the 40 kilometer marker, and I immediately jumped out of our truck with camera and tripod in hand. I had just enough time to set up my equipment, compose the photograph, and depress the shutter before “Dune 40”, as we decided to call it, began to descend into shadow. In fact, you can see a slight darkening at the foot of the dune in the above photograph, but I think that lends a bit of intrigue to the image, and it is a happy reminder of our victory in a race against the sun.

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    Ice Ice Baby


    On my recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula the wildlife (including seven species of penguins) were captivating, but the ice, in its endless variety, made a strong bid to steal the show. From smallish deep-blue icebergs in a sea of white, to miles-long tabular icebergs, the ice was more than just mesmerizing, it was downright otherworldly. The following images are but a small sample of the icy scenery I was privileged to observe and photograph.

    Remember, you may click on any of the images to see a high resolution version of it.

    A large iceberg with a delicate arch towers over the water near Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70 mm, 1/500 sec at f/10, ISO 200

    The ice found along the Antarctica Peninsula, with its near-infinite range of textures, shapes, and aqua hues, provides ample opportunities for abstract photographs.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 168 mm, 1/2000 sec at f/4, ISO 200

    A large iceberg having run aground, reveals shapes that would do a modern sculptor proud.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 200 mm, 1/2500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    A deep blue iceberg surrounded by sea ice resembles a giant-sized jewel.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 165 mm, 1/500 sec at f/9, ISO 400

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    Juvenile and adult king penguins mingle in a large breeding colony below a backdrop of tussock grass and a hanging glacier at Gold Harbour on South Georgia Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/30 sec at f/16, ISO 200
    Click photo to see high resolution version.

    The image featured in this post is one of my favorites from a landing on South Georgia Island last December. I used a telephoto lens to compress the dominant elements of the landscape into layers of varying color and texture. When standing on the shore at Gold Harbour, I could not help being struck by the awesome sight of glacial ice hanging from sheer rocky cliffs, while rivers of penguins flowed between hills covered in bright-green tussock grass. With this image, I hoped to capture the essence of the place in a semi-abstract composition of those dominant elements.

    If you’d like to read more about the effects of perspective compression, or telephoto distortion, check out this wikipedia page.

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    Angular Iceberg

    A large, angular iceberg floats off the coast of South Georgia Island as a strong storm descends.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, ISO 400

    I created this image from the starboard side deck of the M/V Ortelius as the ship rounded the southern tip of South Georgia Island into the teeth of a furious storm. When I brought the camera up to my eye, I had to steady myself against the lifeboat support structure to counteract the gusty winds that threatened to tear off my glasses and whisk away my beanie. Rarely, if ever, had I felt the power of such strong winds, but the scene unfolding before me was far too stunning to abandon in favor of shelter. A narrow beam of light had found a gap in the clouds to illuminate the iceberg while the rugged shoreline stood in the background and shockingly dark skies loomed above. I seized upon that moment to capture the photograph featured here.

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    Autumn Black Oaks

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    The changing leaves of the black oak trees in Yosemite create a rich palette of yellows, golds, and greens which, along with contrasting dark trunks, present a host of stunning photo opportunities.

    Canon 5D Mk II, 70-200mm f/2.8L at 123mm, 1/10 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    One of my favorite images from autumn 2012, this picture captures the unsung beauty of Yosemite. It’s not always about waterfalls and granite monoliths. This photograph was captured in the early morning, before any direct sunlight had made its way into the Valley, from a vantage point within El Capitan Meadow.

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