Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Supermoon, Classic Wall Routes, and Wildlife in Zion and Red Rock.

The time has come for me to dust of the ol' blog and start sharing photos and stories again!  I hope I didn't leave too many folks scratching their heads because of such a long delay since my last post.  Luckily, my days have been filled with the same types of adventures to new places, new routes, new people, photos, and all sorts of adventure and mis-adventure.   I am making a point to update here more often again and don't worry, I'll still have the same type-o's and confusing analogies that got so many people psyched! In short I've been hoarding images and experiences inside my mind and hard drive for some reason that I no longer understand... So, hope you're all open to let the flood gates open again!

The Supermoon photographed November 13th, 2016 just outside Zion. 

The most recent and relevant trip I just took was going to see the Supermoon over Zion with my good adventure bud Andy Reger.  We had been longing for an adventure for some time now, as Andy has been out of commission due to a shoulder injury/surgery.  Originally he was going to just "tag along" as I went to attempt a solo on a wall route.  But soon after we packed our bags and got in the car, the same vibes of our many past adventures caught up with us and it became clear we would rather adventure around Zion as a team.  It certainly felt likeit would be silly for me to enter the world-of-pain that is soloing, when I could just kick it with my friend and enjoy all the beauty that is Zion.  So thats what we did!

Our first night we rushed to our camp spot just outside of the park in hopes of catching the moonrise over the horizon. Unfortunately prior to this we were also quite hungry, which caused a pitstop at Amigo's in Springdale for the "Super Burrito".  We filled our bellies but missed the true moonrise.  Either way the moon greeted us with its wonderfully bright glow as we set up out basic camp for the night.  Soon after I got the camera gear out and was able to start shooting the Supermoon and my Super burrito digested.  Since it was later and higher in the sky it was also starting to get very bright in the lens by this point.  It was a nice surprise for me because it allowed for a faster shutter speed, and lower ISO setting, which meant that there was a possibility of capturing more detail on the moon.  I clicked away, being still and limiting all movements around the camera itself to eliminate vibrations and micro-blurs.  I'm never quite sure what specific images will be the sharpest until I view them at 100% view on a computer, so I just shoot a lot, and focus on using the best practices.  I was pleased with the results! But I am always looking for more detail and clarity in the images.  Perhaps I will rent the Canon 800mm in the future...

Nic Gunter and friend on Pitch 7 of Desert Shield. 

The next day we awoke with a very open schedule.  With no longer a time crunch of having to get up so early to starting soloing a route, my mind was free to enjoy and relax in the surroundings.  We grabbed a coffee and bite to eat, and meandered into Zion and took a quick drive around to see where our energy might take us.  Immediately we had noticed most of the classic trade routes had parties on them.  Touchstone Wall, Prodigal Sun, Desert Shield, Spaceship, Moonlight Buttress all had people on them.  Made sense to us.  The weather was beautiful, the moon would be out, and these routes are mega-classic.  I took the camera out pretty excited to once again see what kind of clarity and detail I could capture, but now of the climbing teams on these routes.  I had never tried to capture climbing with the 400mm lens that I had brought, so it was all new enough and I was pretty sure that in the daylight the challenge would be a little more predictable than at night.  I first aimed my camera up on Desert Shield 5.9 C3.  

Pitch 7 complete. Nic starts to clean the pitch. Desert Shield. 

I captured a team on of two on the headwall pitches.  These are by far the most memorable pitches on the route, and I was having flashbacks of excitement. I later found out that it was a friend up on the wall, so the small world that is climbing just got a little smaller that day! Another team of 3 was starting up the route the same day, but were about a day behind the headwall team. I captured a quick shot of them on Pitch 3 that day.  It was pretty safe to assume they were planning on bivying at the "Jungle Bivy" that night, probably in hopes of watching the moon in the canyon.  The next day before leaving I got another photo of them and their portaledge nearing the top on Pitch 8.  Looked like they had a fun time!

Another team of 3 beings Pitch 3. Desert Shield. November 14, 2016
Team of 3 on the headwall Pitch 8. November 15, 2016. 

We walked around the canyons exploring all sorts of things, but not too long without looking up at the walls.  We pretty much had the best view in the canyon for observing these teams from the ground.   Another route I took a good amount of photos of was Spaceshot 5.9 C2.  This route was in the sun, and at the time I thought that made it a little more easy to photograph and capture the same vibrant red sandstone we are used to seeing.  The team was moving a little slow but this is not uncommon for the route, and this team was also linking pitches which would help the pace in the end.  We imagined they were aiming to get to the Earth Orbit Ledge and bivy there to once again watch the moonrise in the canyon. Would be a blast! 

Team on Pitch 4 or 5 of Spaceshot. November 14, 2016

Adding some color to the shot... Spaceshot. November 14, 2016

Team on Pitch 6 on Prodigal Sun. November 14, 2016.

Lastly to share is just one images of a team on Prodigal Sun 5.7 C2 up the Angles Landing Wall.  Such a fun route and iconic wall in Zion.  I remember having a blast climbing this route with Andy in the past, but unfortunately the photos didn't really reflect the beauty of the wall, or the feeling of being up there above the Big Bend parking area and Virgin River below. Either way this team in all ninja-black seemed to be plugging away and in good pace for the summit.  Nice work!

The Streaked Wall.  One of the most awe-inspiring (for me) walls in Zion.

California Condor is the largest bird in North America and is considered critically endangered. 

As we walked around starring at the walls, we couldn't help but observe the finite details of the things we encountered along the way.  Trees, dear, butterflies, bugs, plants... I guess I could just say nature, wildlife, and everything in between.  Zion has such an awesome energy and feeling, it pulls the creativity and curiosity right out of your brain and its quite painless.  There were surprises around every corner, but I think the most exciting moment was trying to photograph the 10-point buck that we had spotted briefly and earlier in the day before it ran off into the woods.  As we walked around we had done a very novice but eager job of trying to find it again.  We walked for a good couple hours and saw many awesome things, but no deer.  It wasn't until we crossed the river and began heading back to the car that the deer emerged from right behind us.  It was a pretty serendipitous moment.  Also pretty hilarious considering how close we were but had no idea...

Clueless me. Photo: Andy Reger

We stayed in the river a while, and watched the deer walk back into the brush.  We laughed at how cool it was and how amateur it made us feel. I guess that was part of the joy. The river temperature felt nice so we kept walking down it and decided to look for a nice rock to rest and put our shoes back on.  Along this saunter up stream the deer emerged once again, but this time it walked across the river in front of us.  This was when I finally had my chance to get a good photo of a pretty unique moment.  A rewarding and unexpected experience.  I am seeing this reoccur everyday I go out to shoot photos of wildlife. Always seeing something I never expected when I didn't know what I was looking for. 

The Buck crossing the Virgin River as we walked down it. 

In the week or so before this I also went out to Red Rock Canyon in my backyard and started some of my first random explorations into "wildlife photography".  I didn't really think of it with any type of category in mind really, I just wanted to shoot and wanted to be outside.  I went to a few locations over two days and few hours and found that with patience and curiosity there is truly a lot to see in the desert environment.  Things don't always jump out at you (sometimes they do though), and being still in and observant in one location will allow you to see many things you might not have been looking for. Always a nice surprise. 

Bees, water, and leaves in Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Tarantula hunting Crayfish in a desert pool. Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Oasis - Red Rock Canyon, NV. 

Hope you all enjoy!  I am looking forward to sharing much more in the future.  Please feel free to comment, critique and share this and all future posts.  I am always open to hearing more opinions and experiences. See you out there! 

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