It is about time to bring our southwest trip to a close. Beginning in Phoenix (Arizona Birding), we made our way to the Grand Canyon (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), then Zion National Park (Shroud over Zion), and finally arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. Except for gale-force winds, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to welcome us to this geological wonderland! Some fresh snow from the previous night lingered, while the clouds were working their way in an easterly direction. The biting wind-chill kept many of the tourists at bay, so those of us that braved the day were rewarded with a peaceful visit. As astounding as the hoodoos, cliffs and weathered mountainsides were, the cloud formations were amazing, and really enhanced the breathtaking landscapes. Unfortunately the images posted below don’t do justice to the scenes, but if you haven’t yet visited Bryce Canyon, they might at least give you some encouragement to make it a destination on your bucket list. All of the images will open to a larger format if you click on them.
The first four images are the result of High Dynamic Range (HDR) composites, which I often utilize for scenes with a lot of contrast. In many ways, HDR helps photos look more like what our eyes see, which a single photographic exposure cannot create. However, this same technique can also be used to add some artistic flair, which you may particularly notice in the second image.
As mentioned previously, the clouds from the departing storm system really made this an awesome time to visit Bryce Canyon. Because we see clouds so often, we may take them for granted most of the time. If we do actually think about them, oftentimes our thoughts will relate to impending weather. I’d like to propose that clouds can, and should, take on a more profound meaning, serving as a call to action and a reminder of a promise made. Clouds are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, sometimes literally and other-times metaphorically. Three of these instances I’d like to briefly call to mind.
In the Gospel of Mark, after ministering to the multitude for several days, Jesus spends a little quiet time high on a mountain with Peter, James and John. For a short while Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, prompting some intrepidation on the part of the disciples, when; And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). God used a cloud as a vehicle to get the attention of the believers, so they would focus, listen and hear the words of Christ.
Let’s jump ahead a little to the Book of Acts. Just to set the stage, Christ had already been crucified, risen from the dead, and was wrapping up forty days of ministering about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Jesus shares some important final words with the Apostles, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Again, a cloud was used as an apparent door through which Christ entered as He ascended to Heaven to join the Father.
Finally, consider what we should expect upon Christ’s return to earth, as He promised to do. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17). This isn’t going to be a quiet affair! Indeed, I think it is going to be a grand reunion, of sorts, where all those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will be joined together with Him. And where is the reception hall? It is in the clouds! And from that point on, we will be with the Lord always!
Putting these three sets of Scripture together, we can see the clouds as 1) a reminder to focus on Him and abide by His instruction for our lives, 2) a doorway to Heaven which Christ used when He departed, and 3) that same door is where we will enter into eternal communion with Him upon Christ’s final return. So, the next time you see some clouds and think it might rain, perhaps you’ll consider some other things that those clouds might portend!
Well, our short trip came to a rather abrupt end, at least in terms of climate change. We departed sunny California on Sunday with 70 degrees weather, and woke up Monday morning in beautiful Fernley, Nevada, where it was 19 degrees and light snow! The remainder of the trip home was relatively uneventful, which is usually a good thing when I’m driving (and some would say miraculous, considering how I drive!). The past several posts on His Creation have featured a number of the landscapes and wildlife from our trip, but I still have a few more to share that didn’t seem to fit the other topics.
Whenever I am fortunate enough to photograph something that is rarely seen, I get pretty excited. And, because I mostly photograph wildlife, particularly birds, when I get am image of a seldom seen critter, it is really exciting. I was blessed with the opportunity to get some shots of a Greater Roadrunner. Now this isn’t the most attractive bird in the world, but perhaps having grown up with the Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner Show gave this bird a special place in my heart. It also may have something to do with a vivid memory I have of my brother and I chasing one of these birds through a sagebrush covered hill, actually thinking we might catch it! Thinking back, we probably looked the part of Wile E. Coyote to anyone who might have been watching us.
In our neck of the woods we have a lot of Magpies, and for many years I thought all Magpies were the same. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized that here in the Rocky Mountains, we have Black-billed Magpies, but Yellow-billed Magpies reside on the west coast. So, after chasing several uncooperative subjects around, I finally found one that seemed to enjoy posing for a portrait.
I find it humorous that some critters are considered pests when they are in your yard or farmland, but when you see the same animals in a park or at the beach, they take on a different significance. Over the years I have spent hundreds of hours and untold cases of ammunition in attempts to reduce ground squirrel populations from the farms and ranches I’ve worked on. Yet now I find myself shooting them with the camera!
Because the weather was still cold and snowy at Zion National Park, wildlife was pretty scarce during our visit. We saw a few birds that were not particularly photo-worthy, but we did spot a Pacific Wren, which is another first-time sighting for me. This little guy was flitting around the Virgin River as we hiked upstream to the Narrows.
I consider myself truly blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy and experience so much of God’s wonderful creation. My routine travels take me to many wonderful and awesome places, some so unique that the camera can’t do justice in representing their grandeur. Over the course of last week’s trip, we crossed the Continental Divide several time, wandered through parts of Zion National Park at roughly 8000 feet elevation, and walked the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. We experienced beautiful, warm sunny days, fog-laden mountain passes and wind-driven snowstorms. As amazing and incredible as all this is, the pinnacle of the week was coming home. While we live in a nice home, surrounded by timber in a beautiful part of Montana, the excitement about coming home has nothing to do with those things. It is all about getting back to a place where I belong, because I am wanted there, loved there, and there is place for me to occupy. Coming home is always the best part, and I think it is just an inkling of how great it will be to finally go home to God’s kingdom. Just think for a minute about what we have to look forward to; “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.”(John 14:1-3) Sounds like a great place to spend eternity, does it not? Everyone of us has the option of taking up residence in His house, we only need to find the way. Fortunately we have been given the map to get there by the greatest Guide of all, Jesus Christ; “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) If you don’t know Christ, and if you haven’t asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will never find the way.
- Some things just don’t fit! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
Over the past year, I have made a number of panorama images by stitching together several frames. If they are included in a regular post, they don’t show very well because the width is restricted by the sidebar. In order to display them in a better format, I’ve created a new Panorama Gallery, under the Before the Mountains gallery. While they still don’t show as wide as I’d like them to, I think this is the best I can do for now. If you click on the images, you will view them in a larger format. Presently there are six panoramic images, including the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Zion National Park in Utah, Red Mountain near Dubois, Wyoming, and three from last summer’s trip to Ireland; The Burren, rural countryside from County Cork, and suburban view along the western reach of the Ring of Kerry.
More photographs should be added to the gallery in the near future, and I hope you enjoy the residents.
In the midst of extensive travel last week, my daughter, Leah, and I made a detour to Zion National Park in southern Utah. Being our first-ever visit to the park, we didn’t really know what we would see in the course of our short excursion. Snow fell the night before, and the sky remained very cloudy. While shooting conditions were not great, through the magic of HDR technology, the images actually came out fairly well. Our first stop was the Kolob Canyon area. (As always, click on individual pictures to see a larger image.)
The conditions at the Kolob area were a little too muddy and snow covered to consider taking a hike, so we continued on to the interior of the park and drove to the parking lot at the base of the Temple of Sinawava. From there, we hiked the Riverside Trail up to the Narrows of the Virgin River. Along the way a portion of the cliff adjacent to the trail broke loose, but Leah cheated death by holding off the massive rock!
When the weather improves and I have a little more time, a return trip to Zion National Park will definitely be on my “to do” list. The rock formations and brilliant shades of red are truly amazing. After returning from this trip, I looked up the meaning and history of the word, Zion. Originally it was simply the name of a specific mountain near Jerusalem, Mount Zion, but subsequently it was used as a Biblical metonym for Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem, and for the world to come in God’s Kingdom. Isaiah 28:16 states, Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” This foundation refers to God’s promises as manifest in His written word and in His son, Christ Jesus. He is a foundation of God’s laying; a tried stone, a trying stone, a touch-stone, that shall distinguish between true and counterfeit (Matthew Henry Unabridged).
Last week I rambled through the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, continuing down to northeast Utah. Time and weather joined forces to combat successfully against my camera-time, so I only got a few images from the trip. The terrain through much of that geography is really amazing, and going through the Wind River Canyon south of Thermopolis is always a treat. After traveling south through Rock Springs and crossing into Utah, the landscape provides visual delight, with rugged rock formations adjacent to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Throughout this journey, there are many mountains, hills and bluffs displaying varying shades of red, from very pale pastel pinks to deep crimson reds. In the midst of the journey, near Lander, WY, I stopped along Red Canyon to try to get a representation that would do justice to the actual scene. I think I captured a couple angles well, yet it isn’t quite like being there!
“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing… They shall see the glory of the Lord, The excellency of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)
Often the desert is thought of as a lifeless and barren wasteland, with little, if any, redeeming value. Yet it can flourish with amazing floral displays and teeming animal populations when nourished with a little moisture. Similarly, our lives are like a desolate wilderness in darkness until we receive the Gospel. Then, suddenly, we have a great and joyful light that allows us to blossom and produce fruit for the Christ’s kingdom. When we ask Jesus to enter our heart and direct our life, His grace makes our soul, which was a barren wilderness, rejoice in joy.
Last month I had the opportunity to travel through southern Utah and northern Arizona, catching the desert alive with cactus blossoms and an abundance of of bird activity. Having spent very little time in the desert southwest, combined with my aversion to hot climates, my mental picture of the desert country has always made it out to be a bleak and uninviting place – certainly not a place I would have put high on a list of places I’d want to tour. But after a very short business meeting brought me there last November, I saw very intriguing landscapes and wildlife I had never before seen. So when another business trip last month had me returning to the same area, I arranged to spend a few extra days in the area and investigate the region a little with a camera. All totaled, I had about a day and a half of “extra” time in the Phoenix area, so I split it up between the Tonto National Forest/Saguaro Lake, the Desert Botanical Garden, and the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. Each of these places offered a great diversity of God’s creations to enjoy and photograph, and His timing for my visit couldn’t have been better – the weather was mild, plants were blooming and the birds were active. Below are a few images from the trip.
For a larger collection, including shots taken on the rest of the trip through Idaho, Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park, make sure to visit The Rejoicing Desert gallery. There you will find images of the desert landscape and plants, a few reptiles and amphibians, and a bunch of birds, including: White Winged Dove, Curve Billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, Verdin, Gambel’s Quail, Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Great Egret, Green Heron, Yellow Headed Blackbird, European Starling, American White Pelican, Long Billed Dowitcher, Harrier and possibly a few others.
There are a lot of different critters that I hope to someday photograph. This isn’t a race for me, and I can patiently wait for the opportunities when they arise. I enjoy shooting images of the same White Breasted Nuthatches in our woods that I have photographed over and over again. Each shoot is different– different lighting, different background, different pose of the bird, and likely different camera settings. While I may never do anything with the extra images of the same bird, the opportunity affords me a little more practice and enjoyment of watching wildlife. Now and then I will have a specific target animal on my mind that I’d like to capture on camera, and in the past several months – once on a business trip to Utah with Alesia, and another time on a recent Sunday morning trek to church – I verbalized my desire to do so. On the Utah trip last June, I mentioned to Alesia that if we had the opportunity to photograph a moose, the entire trip would be worth lugging my camera equipment around. During the second day of meetings at Park City we had a several hour block of time to ourselves, so we took a short drive toward Heber City, just to see what was there. As we were headed south on Highway 40 and crossed the Provo River below Jordanelle Reservoir, Alesia spotted a Bull Moose browsing through the vegetation along the river. A most agreeable subject, he allowed me to take a number of pictures as he worked his way through the willows.
On a recent Sunday morning I announced to my family that I’d sure like to get a Porcupine photographed. When we lived near Musselshell, porcupine sightings were fairly common, but I hadn’t seen one for a number of years. About 45 minutes later, as we were headed out to Musselshell for church, Lauren spotted a porcupine in a small tree not far from the highway. I jumped out of the pickup and proceeded to get several shots of this timid creature. While the lighting wasn’t great and the setting wasn’t perfect, it was a fun opportunity that added to my animal image portfolio.
These couple instances of answered requests were almost comical because my verbal request was so quickly met. And because I don’t hold a lot of stock in coincidence, to me, these were opportunities that the Lord took to remind me that He is there to furnish our needs. It would be a rare day that I would pray for something trivial like a request to photograph a particular subject, but He asks us to bring all things to Him; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). This is actually a lesson that my children taught me when they were very young. I had always brought the big, vastly important requests to the Lord in prayer, not wanting to waste His time with small, inconsequential things. Our girls brought everything to Him in prayer, big things, little things and sometimes silly things – or at least that is how it seemed to me at the time. But they had it right because our Father in Heaven wants us to depend on Him and rely on His grace to supply our needs.
Matthew 7:7 reads, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” We seem to make this much more complicated than it really is. The system He has set up is pretty simple, we just need to keep our lives in His will, and be obedient to His commands. At times the answers He gives to our requests may not be what we had in mind, but they are what He has determined to be best for us. When just need to have the faith and confidence that He knows what He is doing.