night

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

Toadstool and Milky Way, Sioux County

A cold night, well spent.

The Print: Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Moonrise, Mesa Arch

Some prints just want to be difficult. This is one.

I made this image after four years of planning: a full moon at perigee and rising as close to the end of the blue hour as possible; an arch in Canyonlands National Park or Arches National Park which provided a miles-long and layered view toward the Lasal Mountains in the distance. Oh, and clear weather and a January night. No big deal, right? Except it happens only once every eight or nine years with all the elements in order.

And yet, everything came together on January 16, 2014. The moon. The stars. The snow. And the arch.

But such an image is very, very difficult to master, and I spent months–MONTHS–fighting with its substantial dynamic range and challenging colors. Why the problem? The arch is red, and to show its natural color, needs a white balance temperature of 7000 Kelvin at night. The stars? 4000 Kelvin. And that was just the start.

But nearly a year later and after a lost grand prize in a show (for a failed version of the print), I reached my breaking point. “Trash it, reshoot it, or figure it out,” said I.

So I trashed it and started over. And figured it out.

And so here is Moonrise, Mesa Arch, an edition of 50. I hope you find it inspiring, for I certainly did while shooting it.

Night Storm, Wyoming High Plains

Night Storm, Wyoming High Plains

Night Storm, Wyoming High Plains

Harbinger of much-needed moisture for the shortgrass of the remote ranching country of eastern Wyoming’s High Plains, a 2 a.m. thunderstorm’s lightning strike softly illuminates the contours of the land. Such storms spelled problems for ranchers in the past, turning back roads into greasy, impassable swamps, but with the bittersweet boom of the new oil and gas bonanza has also come newly improved roads that provide a never-before-seen ease of access to the backcountry for residents.

Such thoughts never occurred to me until those same roads allowed me to get home on Saturday after the rains turned the Lusker Ranch road into, well…soup.

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

Mesa Arch Moonrise, Canyonlands

It had been a magical evening: Clouds on the horizon had allowed a perfect rosy-pink light to illuminate Mesa Arch, while snow on the distant Lasal Mountains had created just the right amount of contrast.

And then a nearly-full moon rose on the horizon, wispy clouds moved through the frame, and the stars came out.

A magical evening, indeed.

Deserted Homestead, San Luis Valley

 

Abandoned Homestead, San Luis Valley

Abandoned Homestead, San Luis Valley

I came upon this homestead as evening moved into night, the clouds of a passing storm moving off to the east. The loneliness of the stark-white walls against the deepening dark, the distant peaks, and the dry desert left the thoughts of humankind’s relationship with the dry places of the world on my mind for many miles.

Moon, Clouds and Drifting Smoke, Chaffee County

Moon, Clouds and Drifting Smoke, Chaffee County

Moon, Clouds and Drifting Smoke, Chaffee County

Fires were vicious this summer in southern Colorado, and when that happens, many photographers go to the fire. I waited until a full moon rose and clouds passed by our cabin late one night, and in the deep dark light of the midnight sun, the smoke from the Three Forks fire made eerie waves as it moved in southwesterly wind.

UPDATE: “Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo” at NatGeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

UPDATE: YourShot at National Geographic has selected “Vince Connolly” as its assignment feature image for its website. See it here.

Original Post Text:

There are a lot of nice people in the world, and a good deal of them tend to congregate at rodeos. Vince Connelly is one of those people, and what’s more, all three of his sons rode at Pleasanton in multiple events.

The night had drawn on, and in the late August night, the lights, flags and shadows that accompanied the deepening dark gave Vince a mystical quality as he waited for the bullriding, the last event of the evening.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Tree and Stars, Sand Creek Badlands

Friday, I posted a golden hour image of this same tree, from the same spot. I waited two hours for the brilliant blanket of evening stars, uncorrupted by any city lights (the nearest town, Crawford, is only 800 people, and it’s 12 miles; the next closest town of 7,000 is 45 miles to the east), to make the background for this image. I illuminated the tree with an LED high-intensity spotlight, and after about 20 or 30 tries, produced this image.