Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Photographer’s Guide to Third Party Batteries


Camera technology is one of the fastest evolving in the electronics industry, and that evolutionary growth is paralleled by advances in camera power supply as well. With this guide from Adorama jogging our nostalgic memories, it was just over 10 years ago when electronically powered cameras such as early-generation digital point-and-shoots and instant film winders used low-discharge alkaline AA batteries. Nowadays, high-tech DSLRS and CSCs with their LCD displays, complex circuitry, built-in flashguns, and digital viewfinders are so power-hungry that it takes a lot of juice to keep these high-drain beasts going and going and going.

With all the selfie-taking, vlogging, and travel photography we put our digital cameras through, we expect to replace or recharge our batteries way more often than any of our other gadgets, except our smartphones. That’s why serious photography enthusiasts always have a few backup batteries or power supplies on hand to ensure they never miss out on that perfect shot. 

You’ve Got the Power

If you often find yourself with drained camera batteries and running to the nearest convenience store to grab a pack of non-rechargeables just when the sun is setting perfectly over the beach, spare yourself the trouble and get some high-quality rechargeable batteries instead.

When choosing replacement AA cells for your camera, not all of them are created equally. While you definitely won’t go wrong with buying an original manufacturerLithium-Ion (Li-ion) replacement battery pack compatible with your camera brand, it is notoriously expensive. This is why many photographers rely on cheaper, third-party alternatives.    


Whether you stick with originals or save money with third-party batteries, photography pros all agree that if you do decide to go with third-party backups, be discerning about what brand you choose, and especially where you purchase them from. Also browse reviews on both the brand and seller to see whether previous customers have had any problems.

Meanwhile, check out these premium third-party brands recommended by the experts:

Third Party Li-ion Replacement Battery Pack

Price: $4.99-$59.99 | Compatible Brands: Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Samsung | Capacity: 600mAh to 3600mAh | Output Voltage: 2.5V to 12.6V | Watt Hours: 2.3Wh to 14.8Wh 


One of the most favored third-party brands by photographers, Watson is compatible with most cameras, has fairly good build quality, has fast charge times, and has a comparable number of shots per charge. The biggest draw of this brand, however, is cost, averaging only half that of the original. Adorama has one for $22.

Rechargable LSD NiMH AA Backup

Powerex Imedion 
Price: $12.63 to $18.94 | Compatible Brands: Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Samsung | Capacity: 2400mAh | Output Voltage: 1.5V |


Powerex Imedion LSD (low self-discharge) batteries come-pre-charged and claims up to 1,000 recharge cycles, full-storage capacity for up to one year, and up to 1600 shots per charge.

Sanyo eneloop 
Price: $12.09 to $40.34 | Compatible Brands: Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Samsung | Capacity: 2100mAh | Output Voltage: 1.2V |


The pioneer in LSD NiMH batteries, eneloop by Sanyo has a cycle lifespan of 2,100 charges and claims to hold 70% of its capacity even after 10 years (unused). It has a low temperature rating of -4 degrees F (excellent for winter use) and is good for up to 1,500 shots on one full charge. It also has no memory effect.

Non-rechargable Lithium Backup

Energizer Advanced and Ultimate Lithium 
Price: $12.46 to $12.69 | Compatible Brands: Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Samsung | Capacity: 750mAh to 1200mAh | Output Voltage: 1.5V |


In cases where even your rechargeable backups run out (e.g., extended power blackouts) and you have no choice but to pick up emergency cells, these Lithium (not to be confused with rechargeable Lithium-ion) AA batteries are available at any retail establishment. Their only advantages over rechargables are the ability to be stored between 15 and 20 years (unused), light weight, and reliability in lower freezing temperatures than any other kind of battery (-40°F). 

Other external battery sources to consider for your camera include battery grips that come with extra shutter buttons or mode dials for easier handling in portrait mode and increased maximum continuous shooting rate; and dedicated flash power packs to conserve your camera’s internal battery.


Photography Equipment For Sale

I’ve got some photography gear to clear out of the closet as it’s no longer in use.  Quoted prices do not include shipping unless otherwise specified.  See below for details:

Studio Lights & Equipment

(2) (2) Paul C. Buff White Lightning X800 Studio Lights
(2) Paul C. Buff White Lightning X1600 Studio Lights

All four units are in perfect working condition and include all standard accessories including reflector, protective shipping cover, carrying bag, sync and power cords, etc.

Buyer will also receive light stands for three lights, fabric background with stand, miscellaneous reflectors/umbrellas and a few small accessories if picked up in Moab.

Not willing to sell individually and would prefer pick up in Moab but will consider shipping if buyer pays shipping expenses.


Acratech GP Ballhead w/ Lever Clamp & Level

This is a new-in-box, never used Acratech GP Ballhead w/ lever clamp & level.  It’s the same model I’ve been using for years and can be used as a leveling head for panoramas or as a standard ballhead.

Acratech Ultimate Ballhead w/ Knob Clamp, Detent Pin & Level
$200.00 (Retails for $320)

This is a new-in-box, never used Acratech Ultimate Ballhead with a left side main control knob.

Black Rapid RS-Sport Sling Camera Strap

This is a new-in-box, never used Black Rapid RS-Sport Sling Camera Strap.

Black Rapid RS DR-1 Sling Camera Strap
$50.00 (Retails for $135.00)

This is a new-in-box, never used Black Rapid DR-1 Sling Camera Strap designed to allow the user to comfortably carry two cameras, one on each side of the body.  The model name is now “Double” but it is the same product.

Fotopro M-5 Mini Tripod
$50.00 (Retails for $115.00)

This is a new-in-box, never used Fotopro M-5 Mini Tripod.  I won it in a contest but don’t have any use for it.  It’s a very compact but sturdy tripod ideal for travelers who don’t have much room in luggage.

Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Case$15.00

This is a used but in great condition Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Case.  Fits many small, mirrorless cameras and point and shoots.  Includes shoulder strap with quick release buckles.

Clik Elite ProBody SLR Chest Pack
$40.00 (Retails for $90, if you can find it)

This is a used but in great condition Clik Elite ProBody SLR Chest Pack with harness.  I carried a Canon 5D MKIII w/ battery grip and an attached 24-105mm lens with this pack and it fit perfectly.  It was also quite comfortable.  I’ve switched to a smaller chest pack since my new Sony gear is considerably more compact.  It looks like Clik Elite has discontinued this product so it will be difficult to find.

Please contact me via email if you’re interested in any of these items.  My email is bret (at) bretedge (dot) com.


Eight Things I Love About Being a Nature Photographer

Dramatic storm light pierces through clouds to illuminate a formation known as The Castle above Sulphur Creek in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

Dramatic storm light pierces through clouds to illuminate a formation known as The Castle above Sulphur Creek in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. (Bret Edge)

Being nature photographers gives us access to things most people will never see and experiences many will never understand.  A brief exchange about such things with two other photographers on twitter led me to ponder on this for a while.  I came up with eight things I love about being a nature photographer.  I know there are more, and I’m sure you’ll all have some excellent additions to the list.

1. Seeing the natural world around me in a more intimate way than those whose eyes don’t appreciate the nuances of light, texture, shadow and form.
2. Sunrises and sunsets in the mountains, canyons and deserts.  Nuff said.
3. Being able to share the visual beauty of those sunrises and sunsets with those who weren’t able to enjoy the moment with me.
4. Getting excited when I hear a good storm is headed my way.
5. Sitting alone, in the middle of the most beautiful nowhere anyone has ever seen, watching shadows lengthen and waiting for those few glorious moments when the light is just right for making an image.
6. Knowing where and when to find the best wildflowers, the best fall colors, the best waterfalls, the best mountain views, the best alpine lakes, the best wildlife, the best…ah, you get the point.
7. Meeting all the really amazing people I never would have met if I hadn’t been addicted to nature photography.
8. All the amazing places I’ve been that I wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t on the prowl for new and exciting locations to photograph.

So, there’s my list.  I’d love to hear some things you love about being a nature photographer.  List ‘em in the comments below!

To Make a Photograph…Or Not?

As nature photographers it is often our goal to seek out unspoiled wilderness and pristine subjects to share with the world through our imagery.  Many of us like to think that in doing so we are helping to create awareness for these areas and potentially increasing conservation efforts.  Is it possible, though, that our images have exactly the opposite effect?  Could it be that our photographs increase traffic, which in turn raises the environmental impact upon an area?  If so, is that a reason not to make an image or at least, not to share that image with the world?

These are questions to which I don’t have the answer.  I ask them now as a result of events I experienced last year upon discovering a small Native American ruin in Arches National Park that even the rangers didn’t know existed.

I was off exploring a vast wilderness of slickrock well away from the roads and crowds and iconic locations within the park.  While scrambling around I quite literally stumbled upon a small granary tucked into a secluded alcove.  Unlike most granaries in the Moab area, which are crumbling into decay, this one was nearly perfect.  Mud mortar still held together red sandstone rocks comprising the walls and every stone was in place – not one had fallen.  A large black widow web covered the small opening, glistening in the mid-day sun.  I shined a headlamp through the portal, revealing several small, dried corn cobs scattered about the dirt floor.  Imagine the thrill!  I immediately extracted my camera from its pack and began working the scene until I was satisfied that I’d created a portrait worthy of this neat little ruin.  I quickly packed up my gear and headed back to my truck, anxious to download the images and share my bounty with friends, strangers and the rest of the world on a few internet photography forums I frequent.

I made a pit stop at the visitor center to inquire about the ruin.  I showed the photos to several rangers, none of whom were aware of it’s existence.  What a jewel I had found!  Out the door I went, still in a hurry to show off my latest find.

At home I downloaded photos and chose the best image to post online.  Within a week of posting the photo I received no less than a dozen emails from other photographers asking me to disclose the location.  I had no intent of telling anyone where to find the ruin.  Not because I wanted to keep it to myself.  Rather, I have seen how other ruins have become, well…ruined, when their location is published and oft-visited by hikers and photographers.  I didn’t want the same to happen to this perfect little granary, perched high on a cliff overlooking a beautiful canyon.

I began to feel a bit disgusted with myself.  Did I post the photo for an ego boost, a sort of “look what I found and you didn’t”?  Was my photo going to be the reason for the demise of the granary now that people knew it was out there, waiting to be discovered?

I decided then and there that occasions arise when maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t make an image.  Or, at the very least, if we choose to press the shutter button we don’t do so with the intent of creating a photograph for public consumption.  Perhaps it is best to let some images live in our memory or on our hard drive, waiting to be rediscovered only by us.

Are there times we should choose to put away the camera or just not share an image with the world?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “comments” section below.

Moments and Memories

Squaretop Mountain Reflecting in Green River at Sunset, Wyoming

Squaretop Mountain reflects in the Green River at sunset as an afternoon storm clears in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming.

Last summer my family and I packed up our travel trailer and headed north to Wyoming.  We had no plan, no itinerary.  Only a few vague ideas and a whole mess of maps and guidebooks.  We wandered through Dinosaur National Monument and then followed a lonely highway across rolling hills that eventually gave way to the Wind River Mountains, a range easily equal to the Tetons in rugged beauty but without the national park crowds.  The Winds, as they’re known to locals, invite exploration.  Dirt roads penetrate flanks of the range from the east and west, winding through fragrant sagebrush meadows and climbing higher past stands of aspen trees to alpine lakes and frigid mountain streams.  In summer, colorful wildflowers dot the landscape below skies that begin each day clear and blue before afternoon thunderstorms arrive with dramatic ferocity.

We followed a dirt road a few miles before stumbling across an idyllic campsite.  A warm creek fed by a nearby hot spring cascaded over ledges before emptying into the Green River, itself surrounded by grassy meadows so green they looked fake.  We parked the trailer next to a fire ring left behind by previous campers and continued up the increasingly corrugated road to Green River Lakes.  According to my topographic map, granite peaks rose dramatically above the lakes and would certainly create interesting opportunities for photography.

Almost to the lakes I spotted a calm section of the river just below the road with views of Squaretop Mountain and other nearby peaks catching late afternoon storm light.  My own personal philosophy for landscape photography holds that one should never pass a sure thing for a maybe thing.  This was a sure thing.  I parked the truck and scrambled down to the river’s edge, all giddy with excitement at the scene before me.  My wife chased our son around in a futile effort to prevent him from taking an unintentional dip in the river.  I hurriedly set up my tripod and used my borrowed Nikon D800 (thanks!) to make the image you see above.

I discovered the photo again recently while digging through my archives.  Upon seeing it, I was immediately transported back to that moment, swatting at mosquitoes in the chill evening air, listening to my son laughing and, eventually, splashing in the river, the happy sound of a solid shutter click.  That’s the great thing about photographs.  They allow us to remember those all-too-rare special moments in time when nothing of the outside world is of concern.  No bills to pay, no errands to run – leaving us to relish the enjoyment of time well-spent.

Simple Joys

Jackson Biking on Rusty Spur Trail

My son, Jackson Edge, rides a section of the Rusty Spur trail at Bar M near Moab, Utah.

Earlier this year my wife and I won a GoPro Hero 3+ in an online contest.  The little camera sat in a box on a shelf in my office until a couple days ago, when I finally removed it from its packaging, charged it and read enough of the instruction manual to get started.

Today I took my 5 year old son, Jackson, mountain biking on a singletrack trail near our home.  We’d ridden the trail numerous times before.  I knew that Jackson enjoyed speeding up and racing through one particular curved section of the trail, trying his hardest to kick up a “turkey tail.”  What’s a turkey tail, you ask?  It’s a rooster tail.  But when you’re a kid and your favorite movie is Free Birds, it’s a turkey tail.  So, I mounted our new GoPro on a chest harness and we set out for our ride.

As we approached the curve I pressed the shutter button and the GoPro started taking photos every half second.  Jackson and I sped through the curve and, upon exit, Jackson loudly proclaimed “I crushed it, Dad!”  We stopped and high-fived, shared a small bag of jelly beans and then cranked our way through the rest of the trail.

Back at home I flipped through all the images and found myself smiling wide when I got to this one.  There was Jackson, a tiny little turkey tail spraying off his rear tire.  It was a proud Dad moment, to be sure.  Perhaps even more important, though, was the realization that I’d made an image for the simple joy of it.  Not to print large and hang in my gallery.  Not to sell to an outdoor magazine or some tourism agency.  Just to have a photograph to help me remember and cherish a wonderful morning riding bikes with my best friend.

Bear Therapy in the Tetons

Grizzly bear #760 walks through a wildflower filled meadow in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Grizzly bear #760 walks through a wildflower filled meadow in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

I’ve had an odd relationship with bears for all of my adult life.  Living in the Sonoran Desert during the formative years of my hiking and backpacking career it was common to cross paths with rattlesnakes.  Consequently, I respected the venomous creatures but harbored little to no fear of them.  Bears, on the other hand, were the thing of nightmares.  They were malicious creatures intent on dragging me out of my tent for a late night snack.  It wasn’t a matter of “if” it would happen, it was “when.”  My fear paralyzed me to the point that one night, while car camping in Flagstaff with an ex-girlfriend, I left our tent after hours of sleeplessness to lock myself in our truck.

Always on-guard with bear spray in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming.

Always on-guard with bear spray in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming.

I knew I wasn’t being rational.  I knew there wasn’t a bear in the woods somewhere that had heard through the grapevine about a tasty little dude in Phoenix.  I read every book I could get my hands on that dispensed bear safety wisdom.  It didn’t help.  Mind you, I’d never actually seen a wild bear.  But that didn’t matter.  Bears were put on earth to eat me and that was that.

Then, in 2000, on my first trip to Grand Teton National Park, I shared a trail with a bear.  Five bears, actually.  Five beautiful black bears who would forever change my relationship with the ursine world.  That same ex-girlfriend and I were hiking to Amphitheater Lake when two young women came around a bend in the trail, their eyes as wide as Frisbees, and breathlessly told us that a mama bear and two cubs were just up the hill.  They wasted no time passing us and continuing down the trail, in the opposite direction of the bear family.  I unholstered my bear spray, clicked off the safety and started slowly walking up the trail.

I saw the sow first.  She was standing dead center in the middle of the trail.  She slowly turned her head to look at us and her expression made it clear that we’d come close enough.  Only 50 yards stood between me and the most beautiful animal I’d ever seen.  We slowly backed away and when the bear was comfortable enough with our distance, she averted her gaze.  Just then, two little cubs wobbled out of the brush and gathered around Mom.  We watched the bears walk the trail uphill for a short distance and then disappear into woods.

I stood there in silence.  Neither of us spoke.  I holstered the bear spray and after some time, a few minutes perhaps, we resumed our upward trek.  Two switchbacks later we saw another bear throwing large clumps of earth as it dug for grubs or possibly roots.  It was right next to the trail, even closer than the first bears.  We stopped at our switchback and hikers coming downhill queued up at the one just above us.  We waited and waited and waited for the bear to finish digging.  Eventually, it did and we passed a dozen or so hikers headed downhill, all of whom had massive grins stretched across their faces.

We made it to the lake and enjoyed a hiker’s lunch in the sun before heading back downhill.  Very near the spot where we’d seen the sow and cubs we again found ourselves in the company of a bear.  This bear was young, maybe two or three years old, and surprisingly small.  It was standing on the trail above a woman who was taking a break just off-trail.  She was digging through her pack, oblivious to the fact that a bear was sniffing the air only a few feet above her head.  We didn’t want to yell at her as we were afraid it would spook the bear.  Instead, we stood quietly and watched, ever hopeful we weren’t about to witness a mauling.  The bear ambled away and began munching on vegetation alongside the trail.  A trail runner coming uphill ran right by the bear, close enough to smack it on the butt if he was so inclined, and rushed past us.  The bear didn’t flinch.  Again we waited for the bear to move and again the bear was living life on his own time.  We watched as several other hikers walked right by the bear and finally decided that maybe we should do the same.  So, we did.  And the bear didn’t budge.

Those encounters must have been therapeutic.  I no longer fear bears.  I respect them.  I hold them in the highest of reverence.  But I don’t fear them.  I don’t lie awake in my tent, panicking every time the wind rustles a few leaves.  I enjoy the quiet, fleeting moments in the mountains when I and a bear occupy the same meadow.  I understand now that bears, for the most part, do not want to make a meal of me.

Melissa, Jackson and I recently spent a few days in the Tetons.  On our first afternoon in the park we found ourselves trapped in the middle of a bear jam near Oxbow Bend.  Traffic wasn’t budging so we sat in the truck and watched a grizzly bear move increasingly closer to the road.  I grabbed my camera with 70-300mm lens attached and made a few images through the open window.  Park rangers soon arrived and somehow managed to get traffic moving in both directions.  Leaving the bear behind, we passed bison and deer, elk and pronghorn, before rolling into town for dinner at the Merry Piglet.

I saw the same bear the next morning.  It was a brief encounter and at much more of a distance.  But it was quieter.  The tourists weren’t awake yet.  Only a handful of die-hard wildlife watchers lingered on the side of the road with high powered spotting scopes and lenses that cost more than my truck.  We each enjoyed our time with the bear and when he disappeared into a willow thicket, I drove off into the clarity of a summer morning.

Autumn in Canyon Country Landscape Photography Workshop

Autumn in Canyon Country Photography Workshop

I’m thrilled to announce that this year I’ll be co-leading a landscape photography workshop in Moab with my friend and fellow photographer, Jason Hatfield.  Join us October 9 – 12, 2014 for an intensive three-day workshop in some of the Southwest’s most incredible red rock scenery including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dead Horse Point State Park.  This is an exciting opportunity to learn from two passionate and experienced workshop leaders in one of the most desired locations in the U.S.


The workshop will begin on the afternoon of Thursday, October 9 with a meet and greet in the lobby of our sponsor hotel, the brand new Comfort Suites in downtown Moab.  We’ll take a few minutes to get to know one another before departing for a group dinner at a popular local restaurant.  After dinner we’ll depart for an immersive field session at sunset at an iconic location in Arches National Park.

The next two days will be a whirlwind!  On Friday we’ll awake early to make the trek up to Dead Horse Point State Park to photograph sunrise over my favorite view in the entire Moab area.  Here the Colorado River does a u-turn 2,000′ below with an endless vista of cliffs and canyons stretching as far as the eye can see!  After our field session we’ll return to town for a short break before retiring to a comfortable meeting room at a local hotel for 4 hours of hands-on digital darkroom instruction.  We’ll utilize the latest versions of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop software, as well as Nik Software plug-ins, to help workshop participants learn to “process” their RAW images for maximum impact.  An afternoon break will be followed by another field session at sunset at one of many dramatic vistas in the area.

Saturday’s schedule follows the same format as Friday’s with exciting new locations for the  morning and evening field sessions.  We’ll use some of our classroom time to do a group image critique, which is an exercise that workshop participants frequently find to be one of the most fun and valuable aspects of our time together.  Each participant will choose one or two images to share with the rest of the group.  Jason and I will lead a discussion about the images, helping each participant to understand how deconstructing a photograph leads to a deeper understanding of creating dynamic imagery.

On Sunday, we’ll photograph sunrise at a location not far from town.  This will allow us to return to Moab and wrap up the workshop early in the morning, giving all workshop participants the opportunity to begin traveling home at a reasonable time.

Below are a few questions I am frequently asked about my group photography workshops.  They should answer most of your questions but if not, please don’t hesitate to email me.  I’ll respond within a day or two unless I’m on the road with limited access to email.

How physically demanding is this workshop?  The longest hike we’ll do is the trek to Delicate Arch, which is 3 miles round-trip with an estimated elevation gain of 600′.  This is an optional location.  Those who don’t want or can’t make it to Delicate Arch will go with either Jason or me to another location that does not involve much physical effort.  Most of the locations we’ll visit are only a few minutes from a parking lot.

Where should I stay? We’ve negotiated a great rate for our workshop participants with Comfort Suites, the newest hotel in Moab.  Your rate is $138/night.  The hotel opens for business on June 10 and I will have information about making reservations at that time.

What gear should I bring? Rather than make assumptions about your gear, I’ll tell you what I carry every time I head out into the desert to make images.  I use a Canon 5D Mark III as my main camera and the following lenses in order of how often I use each lens: 24-105mm lens, 16-35mm lens, 70-300 mm lens, 15mm fisheye lens.  My 24-105mm lens is the workhorse and is probably used 70% of the time.  A sturdy tripod and reliable ballhead are absolutely critical.  The only filters I carry are a circular polarizer and a solid neutral density filter.

Do I need a laptop and if so, what software should I have on it for the classroom sessions? We will be using the latest versions of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as the Nik Software plug-ins.  Right now, the latest versions are Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC.

Can I bring a spouse/friend/pet iguana?  Sure, but unless they’re a registered (paid) participant we can not allow them to join us in the field or in the classroom.  Primarily, this is due to our insurance requirements.

Where is the closest airport? There is a small, regional airport just north of Moab called Canyonlands Airfield.  Many people fly into Grand Junction, CO, which is about 1.5 hours from Moab.  The closest major airport is in Salt Lake City, 3.5 hours away.

What is the weather like in October? Spring and fall are generally very temperate, although Mother Nature reserves the right to change her mind.  Most likely, we’ll experience daytime temperatures in the 50′s and 60′s and overnight temperatures in the 30′s.

Do you have all the necessary permits to legally conduct photography workshops in and around Moab? Yes!  I have permits from Dead Horse Point State Park, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management/Moab office.  Jason and I are both certified in basic first aid and CPR.  I also carry the required liability insurance.  I invite you to contact the local land management agencies to inquire about my permit status, if you’re so inclined.

Why should I take a workshop with you and Jason instead of photographer XYZ? Jason and I are passionate about helping other photographers break through creative barriers and learn to create images that meet their own, unique visions.  We will not utilize our time together to pad our own portfolios.  We’re there to work with you, not make our own images.  We’ll both bring our gear into the field but we only use it to demonstrate concepts or ideas to our workshop participants.  YOU are our #1 priority.  Every participant will receive personal attention and instruction during every field session.  Still not convinced? Take a look at my Trip Advisor page to see why former workshop clients give me a 5 star rating!

Registration is currently open.  Please visit my website to register for the Autumn in Canyon Country landscape photography workshop.


An Adventure Tyke in the Valley of Fire

Not too long ago my friend and fellow photographer/dad/outdoor dude Greg Russell wrote a touching blog post titled “Little Mentors“.  I encourage you to read his post but if you don’t have time, the general idea is that we as adults stand to learn much from spending time in nature with children.  They needn’t be your own kids but I strongly encourage you not to randomly adopt one on the trail. Kinda creepy.  At any rate, Greg’s post inspired me to write one of my own about a recent family adventure.

We spent Thanksgiving week camping, hiking and exploring in Nevada’s gorgeous Valley of Fire State Park.  It had been a while since we’d gotten out as a family for more than a few hours.  Work and other obligations have a way of invading our lives, conspiring to prevent us from spending time with those we love.  The weather was perfect and we shared the park with only a handful of other visitors.  My son, Jackson, whom we have affectionately dubbed the Adventure Tyke, is now 2 1/2 years old.  He has boundless energy and I wish it was contagious.  From the moment he wakes to the moment his blue eyes close he’s on the go, charging ahead at 110 MPH.

On our first full day in the park we hiked the 1.5 mile loop at White Dome.  The trail passes an old movie set, climbs and descends sand dunes and passes through a short but scenic slot canyon – a highlight of the trip.  Hiking a mile and a half in as scenic a place as Valley of Fire shouldn’t take more than an hour, even with multiple stops to make photographs.  Being that Jackson is never short on energy we decided to let him start the hike under his own power.  Two and a half hours later, we were back at the trailhead with one exhausted little hiker.  He surprised us by hiking the entire loop on his own!

Of course, everything we passed was of great interest to him.  He would stop and play in the sand, pick up rocks and make me carry them, point out prickly cactus and, in the slot canyon, he announced that there was a tiger just around the corner.  Yes, a tiger. Must’ve been the rare Mojave tiger that lives only in colorful slot canyons and toddler’s imaginations.  We did see a bighorn sheep scampering over a giant mound of slickrock, which Jackson thoroughly enjoyed.

As one who came into photography in the late 90’s from a ten year “career” in endurance sports, where the entire point is to move from point A to point B as fast as possible, it goes without saying that in the last twelve years I’ve gotten slower.  Becoming a photographer caused me to slow down and look at the world differently.  I learned to appreciate the small things – a play of light, tangled branches among colorful leaves or subtle reflections in a gentle creek – all things I would have rushed past several years ago.  Becoming a Dad has slowed me down even more.  When you’re 2 1/2 and outdoors exploring nature, everything is new and interesting and deserving of a few moments of your time.  At times it can be agonizing, like when you’re running late for sunset and you’ve got to stop to thoroughly inspect the 1,000th lizard of the day.  More often than not, it’s a blast.  It brings me mountains of joy to see my son interacting with and enjoying nature.  He wears a perpetual smile when he’s outside.  As a result, I do too.

We’ve all heard the phrase “kids are sponges”.  They’re also mirrors.  Everything we do and say, they do and say.  Jackson loves nothing more than to peer through the viewfinder of my camera and to press the shutter button, usually in rapid fire succession so it sounds like a machine gun going off.  He loves it so much we bought him his own camera, which you can see in the photo above swinging from his backpack.  He points that camera at anything and everything, and I’ll be darned if some of his photos aren’t pretty freakin’ good.  I’ll never force him into anything but if his interest in photography (and motorcycling!) persevere I’ll be the proudest Dad on the planet.  In the meantime, I plan on enjoying every last second in the great outdoors with my little Adventure Tyke.

If you’re a new (or not so new) Mom or Dad who wants to adventure outdoors with your kids, but you’re not quite sure how to start, my wife runs an awesome site called Adventure Tykes filled with tips and ideas to help motivate, inspire and teach you how to get started. Check it out!

Thoughts on Image Value and Effort

Rain Fingers Above the Bonneville Desert, Utah

How often do you see photos posted in online forums or hanging in a gallery, accompanied by a description wherein the photographer recounts the miles hiked, grizzly bears fought off, violent storms encountered and years of preparation before they were finally able to create the image before you?  I see it on a regular basis.  Usually, I have no doubt about the authenticity of the story.  Other times, the claims are a bit dubious.  Regardless, a recent experience left me wondering whether the effort expended to create an image is somehow tied to the value viewers place on an image.  Is a photograph made deep into an inhospitable wilderness more inherently valuable or artistic than an image where the greatest physical effort expended was simply pressing the shutter button?

The image you see above was not photographed in a wild and remote location.  I didn’t backpack 30 miles wearing a 100 pound backpack in stinging rain with lightning crashing all around.  No, all I did was pull to the side of I-80 so my son could go pee.  I saw potential in the cracked mud, mountains and ominous sky so I casually strolled to my truck (in flip flops) where I reached in, grabbed my camera and tripod, then walked 30 feet to the very spot where this image was made.  My biggest challenge was wrangling a persistent 2 year old who was intent on peering through the viewfinder and making his own photo while I tried to nail the composition before the fast moving storm in the distance was upon us.

I posted this image on flickr and, to date, it has received 793 views, 41 favorites and 21 comments after flickr added it to the explore page.  If you’re familiar with flickr you’ll understand that 800 views is nothing compared to what truly popular images receive.  For me, it’s a bunch.  I didn’t mention that I made the photo mere feet from a busy interstate with cars and semis whizzing by at 80 MPH.  I wonder if I had, would the photo have received so many likes and comments?

What are your thoughts?