April Morning, Granite Lake


The snow storm had passed, the morning dawning clear and calm. I drove up to Granite Lake on the Prescott National Forest just west of town to check out the morning light.

It was perfect. Bright, clear, the deciduous trees (willows and cottonwoods) in the riparian zone along the edge of the lake leafing out. Almost nobody around. The reflection of Granite Mountain slowly undulated on the water’s surface, mesmerizing me.

Photo Location: Granite Basin Lake, Granite Basin Recreation Area, Prescott National Forest, Prescott, Yavapai County, Central Arizona Highlands.

Photo © Stephen J. Krieg | http://www.NaturalMoment.com

February (Almost) Full Moonrise


Ah, it was that special time of month again: the Full Moon.

I revolve around it. The event, I mean. I watch it build daily from New Moon, rising later and later each day, until finally it rises at sunset time. That’s why it’s full then: it’s exactly opposite the sun, reflecting its light off its otherwise dark, barren surface.

I especially like scenery photos with the moon in them. However, you have to include the moon in them while there is still enough daylight on the scene. Otherwise you have yet another boring pic of the black sky with the bright moon as a little circle in it. We sure don’t need any more of those.

So usually the best time to make moonrise photos is the day before Full Moon. Why? Because the moon rises somewhat before sunset, but is so close to Full that it still looks fantastic. You have both the moon low on the horizon, and the scene still in daylight, either with the low angle of the setting sun or the soft pastels of dusk. Such as this windmill and water tank on a ranch on the outskirts of Chino Valley, Arizona. The following evening would have the moon rising about 50 minutes later (it varies a little, but that’s a good general rule of thumb), and the scene would probably be too dark to have these nice tonal values and colors. (Also, the following night was cloudy, so this night was the night for that reason, too.)

Next time: how to use a fantastic app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris to help you plan your moonrise and moonset shots.

Photo location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Central Arizona Highlands.

And The Rain Came Down

Arizona monsoon thunderstorm and rainbowAt least it came down in one very localized area, as seen in this photo. So typical of Arizona’s “monsoon” summer thunderstorms. You’re either in one, or not. No in between.

I wasn’t in this one, which afforded me a view of it to the east, as sunset time approached. With a rainbow, no less, courtesy of the low angle of the sun through the rain curtain.

Evening sunlight and shadow splashed across the grasslands of the Central Arizona Highlands between Prescott and Chino Valley. Blue sky and more white and blue clouds in the far distance.

Life at the speed of the moment.

Sunflower Splash

Sunflower, Prescott National Forest, Arizona

Stopping to make my first photos of this season’s wild sunflowers, I found a small clump of them along one of the roads in the Prescott National Forest. The dark blue-gray storm clouds provided a perfect palette to set off the bright yellow splash of the petals.

Photo location: Prescott National Forest, east of Chino Valley, Arizona.

Sunset Radial Panorama

Arizona sunset panorama

Last night as I was approaching home, and the sunset hour, I could tell it had the makings of a spectacular one. The clouds were crazy patterned against the blue sky north of Prescott. Sometimes good looking sunset clouds move on or dissipate before the sun sets, but it didn’t look like that would happen this time. It pays to observe and be ready.

After stopping for several shots and some video, including “Grassland Skies”, I still had time to shower and wait for the sun to do its thing. Because I have a wide open western horizon in my back yard.

The clouds were not far above the horizon, rather than shutting off the sunset. So they would do their job as reflectors just after the sun had slipped below the landscape. But in this case, they also radiated out to the south, east, and north. What a killer combination of conditions. All I had to do next was watch and photograph.

As the recently departed sun’s fire lit up the clouds from below, I made a panorama series of four overlapping shots. That allowed me to merge them in Photoshop for one extremely high resolution final image, rather than taking a single super wide angle shot and cropping it heavily.

Photo Location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.