A drive to Swan Lake, Idaho

August 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This past Monday I finally had some free time mid-morning to take another Cache Valley Views drive. The air in Logan was still quite hazy from wildfires burning in California, Oregon, and Washington so I decided to drive north on Highway 91 where the sky appeared to be clearer. I also took the opportunity to bring along my new Sony 18mm – 105mm G zoom lens on my Sony A6000 camera. It is the sharpest lens I own now and I'm still getting used to it.


Driving into Preston, Idaho the first scene that caught my eye was an antique store just off the highway that's decorated with the store's name creatively painted on the building wall. The shot was a bit out of reach across the highway for me to use the 18-105mm lens so I switched to the Sony 55mm – 210mm telephoto zoom. This lens, with the A6000's crop factor, is the equivalent of 80mm – 320mm giving it quite a reach.


Preston, Idaho


Driving just a block further down the highway I spotted a huge mound of wheat piled up on a black asphalt pad. The shapes and strong bold colors created a very graphic image. Putting back on the 18mm – 105mm lens I knew the best images would come by putting the sun behind me and shooting into the clear blue sky.


Preston, Idaho


Leaving Preston via Highway 91 if you keep driving north you'll eventually reach Interstate 15 and then Pocatello, Idaho. You find along this stretch of road many abandoned gas stations, motels, and other businesses that closed up once the Interstate bypassed them. This one time filling station in Winder, Idaho caught my eye with its clean lines and white-washed walls. A perfect subject for a black and white photograph.


Winder, Idaho


Driving further north I reached Swan Lake, Idaho. Located here is a gas station and convenience store, Thomas Merc that's still in business. Whether or not the name is really Thomas Mercantile or just “Merc” I'm unsure. It's amazing to me that in such a sparsely settled area along such a lightly traveled highway this store remains open. Good for them. I love the classic one-of-a-kind look of these stations built before today's gas stations which have the same corporate mandated design no matter where you are in the country.


Swan Lake, Idaho


Across the highway from the gas station in Swan Lake is a grain silo apparently no longer in use. The shape reminded me of a rocket ship poised for launch into the blue sky. The rectangular grain elevator the spacecraft and the surrounding cylindrical silos the booster rockets.


Swan Lake, Idaho


Finishing taking pictures in Swan Lake it was time for me to head back home to pick up my daughter from school. But I need to return again to finish my drive further north along Highway 91 until it connects with I-15. I want to visit the still operating Downata Hot Springs resort, and the small towns of Downey and Virginia, Idaho. I'm sure along the road I'll be able to find even more amazing photo opportunities.

Outdoor Photography Contest

August 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This week our local newspaper, the Logan Herald Journal is having an outdoor photography contest. There are two categories, scenic and wildlife. Two winners will be chosen for each category, one selected by the Herald Journal staff and one select by voting as the peoples choice. Winners will be published in the newspaper and supposedly there are other prizes though none are specifically listed. I've entered two photographs in the scenic category.


The first image I entered is a photograph I took two years ago at Bear Lake. It's of an abandoned cabin just off U.S. Highway 89 south of St. Charles, Idaho. I was attracted to this lonely structure one bright August afternoon seeing it set in the midst of horizontal bands of color created by a background of a brilliant blue sky, blue-brown mountains, aqua blue water, and a green grassy field. I took the picture hand-held with my Panasonic Lumix LX-7 an awesome high quality point and shoot camera. The settings for the image were ISO 100, at a 500th of a second, f5.6, and at a focal length in 35mm equivalence of about 50mm.


Taken at Bear Lake, Idaho.


My second submission for the contest I took this past December on a gray and very overcast day. It's a photograph of a plowed farm field that I came upon beside Idaho State Highway 36 a few miles northeast of Preston, Idaho. Along the horizon line are old farm outbuildings and a tractor. I loved the way the sun was sending out long streaming rays of light through the few holes in the overhead cloud cover to illuminate the scene. I took the picture with my Sony NEX-6 camera using one of my old Nikon series E lenses (the 50mm I believe) mounted with an adapter. The settings for the image were ISO 100, at a 500th of a second, f11 (I think), and at a focal length in 35mm equivalence of about 75mm. I converted the photograph to black-and-white in post-processing.


Taken Northeast of Preston, Idaho.


I submitted my abandoned cabin landscape because it is one of my personal favorites, capturing for me the essence of driving alongside Bear Lake on a summer afternoon. The black-and-white image of the plowed farm field is another personal favorite, but I also selected it for the contest because none of the other photos people were submitting were B&W. I thought it might be different enough to capture the attention of the Herald Journal newspaper staff. Surprisingly though, the black-and-white photograph is the one most of my friends are voting for. The contest winners will be selected in about 6 days. I hope I win but I'm glad that I've at least given it a try as a way of starting to get my work noticed.

A trip to St. George, Utah

July 30, 2015  •  1 Comment

Last week we went to St. George, Utah. It was a family vacation and so opportunities for landscape photography had to work around the family schedule. However, it was great for Karen and I to get away with two of our daughters and two grand-daughters.


The first evening in St. George the sky was blanketed with beautiful clouds as the sun set behind the mountains and mesas around the small city. The sunset wasn't one of those with Kodachrome like colors but there were dramatic shades of light and dark in the clouds of which I processed some as black and white photographs.


Taken from a hilltop in the south part of St. George looking west.


The next day when I finally got away in the morning the sky was still filled with puffy white clouds and so I left St. George and drove north on Highway 18. Stopping at the overlook into Snow Canyon State Park just off the highway I photographed looking down into the park from above. The biggest challenge was that since I was shooting near mid-day the heat and haze in the atmosphere made it difficult to take what photographers call “tack-sharp” images.


Taken north of St. George near the Snow Canyon overlook.


I wanted at some point to actually drive through Snow Canyon but with our family activities it never worked out so I'll save that destination for our next trip to St. George. The canyon really is a scenic wonder with rock formations, cliffs, and trails every bit as interesting as you get in some of the larger national parks in southern Utah. It's just much smaller in scale.


Taken at the Snow Canyon overlook off Highway 18 north of St. George, Utah.


A couple days later I decided to take some pictures downtown and photographed the St. George Tabernacle building in some beautifully warm morning light. I love the simple but enduring architecture of these historic pioneer buildings where generations of Mormons have gathered to hear their General Authorities speak to them.


St. George Tabernacle in the morning light.


Driving west from St. George just a couple of miles is Santa Clara, Utah where I visited the historic home of Jacob Hamlin an early explorer, missionary, pioneer settler, and church leader in southern Utah. Arriving right after the site opened for visitors and it being a weekday morning I was the only one there. The Mormon Church missionaries who care for the building and do tours not only showed me whatever I wanted to see but also allowed me to set up my tripod inside to take low-light photographs of some of the rooms arranged as the family had once used them. As a side note, one of my great-great grandfathers, Dudley Leavitt was a good friend and traveling companion of Jacob Hamlin's in southern Utah and it was neat to think at some time he may have also visited this same home.


Taken in Santa Clara, Utah.



Interior of Jacob Hamlin's home in Santa Clara, Utah.



Interior of Jacob Hamlin's home in Santa Clara, Utah.



Taken outside the Jacob Hamlin home in Santa Clara, Utah.


Vacations away from home of course usually aren't long enough but it was a real pleasure to be with some of my family for nearly a week and to photograph another beautiful Utah valley.

Around Smithfield Utah

July 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This past Friday time was short, so during the morning I just drove north a few miles to Smithfield, Utah and took some pictures in and outside this pretty little city.


Going over to Forrester Acres, the wonderful recreation area on the west side of the city, I noticed an old weathered barn and outbuilding just outside of the complex. The rough texture of the outbuilding with its corrugated roof gleaming in the bright morning, and the geometric shapes of the fences had just the kind of strong contrast that makes for a good black and white photograph. Since it was set back some from the road I set up my tripod and took the picture with my 55mm to 210mm telephoto zoom lens set to about 150mm.


Taken in Smithfield, Utah at the corner of 100 North and 400 West.


After taking a few more pictures in the city I drove west on 100 North which is also State Route 218. After a few miles I turned north and reached Coleman Road. Coming off of Coleman road is a gravel farm road that winds west with alfalfa fields on the north side and some marsh and pasture lands to the south. Stopping on a bit of a rise I saw these amazing blindingly white clouds billowing up above the Bear River Mountains to the east. The image was taken again with my 55mm to 210mm lenses on the tripod right about 55mm. I used a polarizing filter on the lens to increase the contrast and darken the sky.


Taken outside Smithfield, Utah looking east towards the Bear River Mountains.


Driving just a little further down this gravel farm road I saw four mules congregated together next to the road at about the highest point of their pasture. Three of the mules took no interest in me at all but one watched my every move. I put my 16mm wide angle lens on the camera which allowed me to set up my tripod just a few feet from my curious friend to take his photograph along with his very disinterested companions. One of the things I enjoy about this valley is its diversity of farm animals. Besides horses, draft horses, mules, cows, and chickens, people in the valley also raise llamas, alpacas, reindeer, sheep, goats, miniature goats, trout, and more.


Taken in the fields east of Smithfield, Utah.


Once more a morning exploring Cache Valley, even it was only a few miles from home, led to a fun time and the discovery of some new and worthwhile Cache Valley views.


Technical note: the camera I used for these photographs was my Sony A6000 mirror-less camera. Since it has an APS-C sensor, which is somewhat smaller than a 35mm full-frame sensor, you need to multiply the lens focal lengths by a factor of 1.5X. This means that my 55mm to 210mm zoom lens would be equivalent to about a 90mm to 305mm zoom lenses on a full-frame 35mm camera body. And my 16mm wide-angle lens would be about 24mm on a full-frame camera.

Clouds after the storm

July 09, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Yesterday morning the sky was filled with clouds from the rain we had during the night. So after breakfast I headed out to take some pictures. Seeing large billowy clouds to the south I headed that way. It has been quite some time since I've been out around Nibley and Hyrum in south Cache Valley but I was sure I could find some unobstructed views down that way. I drove south on Main Street which in Providence becomes Highway 165. When I reached Nibley I drove west a few blocks and then turned south on 640 West. Success. I my views of the mountains to the south were stunning and I could see clouds, dark with rain, hanging over the mountains at the south end of the valley. Pulling off on a small gravel road on the west side of 640 West I stopped and took pictures of the landscape framing the image with glowing stalks of wheat growing alongside the little road.


Taken near Nibley, Utah beside 640 West looking south.​


Next, I turned around and looked to the north where I saw more clouds low in the sky like a gray blanket over the open fields.


Taken near Nibley, Utah beside 640 West looking north.​


Beside the fence where I took the above picture was a fast running irrigation ditch. I love the way the wild weeds, wayward farm plants, and isolated clumps of trees grow along the sides of these small streams. To me these little scenes form what the photographer Eliot Porter termed, “intimate landscapes.” The perfect description for what I found along the side this farm access road.


Taken near Nibley, Utah beside 640 West looking west.​


I got back into my car and then drove south just a little further and turned off onto another gravel road just across the railroad tracks on the east side of 640 West. In the distance to the southeast I could see more clouds billowing high above the mountains that form the eastern wall for the valley. The subject was really the clouds so I just included the tops of the mountains for context and tried to capture the amazing sky. While processing this image black and white seemed the most effective way to reproduce the many shades of gray within the mass of clouds above the mountains. I love black and white photography. When I first started taking photographs seriously as a young adult I learned how to develop black and white film and make my own prints with an enlarger. Now with digital cameras any photograph can be processed in either color or black and white. The key to a beautiful black and white image in my opinion is a scene where the color is unimportant and that has a full range of contrast between the shadows and the highlights.


Taken near Nibley, Utah beside 640 West looking southeast.​


As I am writing in “Cache Valley Views" this morning I am wondering more about the direction I should go with this blog. My original intent has been to first, document the wonderful landscapes, objects, and on occasions people here in the valley. Second, to express my feelings about what I'm seeing and photographing. And third, to show others places they can go and visit for themselves so that they can experience firsthand the beauty there is all around us in this amazing region.


Some people however have mentioned that I might also want talk more about how I took the photographs I'm posting. Things like equipment, settings, and maybe even post-processing. I'm going to think more about that but if anyone reading this blog would like to comment either for or against this idea I would love you to read what you have to say.


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