Pointedtip Mariposa Lily, Bob Marshall Wilderness (Photo, Sigma DP2)


Pointedtip Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Sigma DP2, ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/160 sec.

This post is dedicated to my wife Stephanie because her favorite types of photos that I bring back from my trips are those of wildflowers, and the lily is unique because of its ability to retain its beauty in spite of having to grow in the harsh conditions of an arid, rocky forest. The Mariposa Lily is also known as the Madonna of the Rocks, after da Vinci’s famous painting depicting the maternal care of the human race in the midst of earthly turmoil.

The Pointedtip Mariposa (some lazier flower guys call them “Pointed Mariposas” and Patterson may even classify this one as a Cat’s Ear) is one of the most beautiful flowers in Montana because the season in which they look really good is pretty short, only a couple of weeks in late June and early July (no relationship here to my wife, FYI, her growing/beauty season is longer). They’re mostly found in drier, forested valleys that see a bit of sunshine to the forest floor. I’ve seen them only in NW Montana – in the Bob Marshall Complex and the Swan Range, along with the Sawtooths in Idaho and the Pasayten in Washington.

Don’t let those little dark spots scare you off – they’re not bugs, but the nectar glands.

The bulbs are edible, meaty, and probably pretty nutritious. They’re OK raw, and taste like a potato. They’re awfully good when they are briefly boiled, and exceptional stuffed into the belly cavity of a cutthroat trout caught in the same stream that flows below the higher banks where you’ll find the flowers in partial shade of conifers. They’re even better soaked in salt, then roasted in tin foil in the coals of a wilderness cookfire. The petals are less flavorful but make for pretty salads, and the flowerbuds are sweet, and wonderful, like an avalanche lily but more filling. Eat them in mid-June, before the flowers open up.

House Rock Rapids, Gallatin River (Photo, Sigma DP2s)

House Rock, June 2010

Sigma DP2s, ISO 50, f/6.3, 1/8 sec.

There are three approaches to action photography.

The first approach taken by most users of “consumer grade point-and-shoot cameras” is that of holding down the shutter button while you point the camera at approximately the right spot while you follow the subject.

The second approach taken by most users of DSLRs, is that of holding down the shutter button while you point the camera at approximately the right spot while you follow the subject.

The difference between these two approaches is that the point-and-shoot user ends up with four bad frames and the DSLR user ends up with ten bad frames.

The third approach treats the scene with respect, immerses oneself in it, and pretends that the only photo you’re going to take is the last one you’re ever going to take, so make it good.

I’ve watched countless boaters float the Gallatin River’s House Rock Rapid in the past 17 years. Having packrafted it myself numerous times, I know its ins and outs and bumps and splashes.

So when I was driving down the canyon last week, and saw some boaters coming through, I knew exactly what I wanted to capture: all of them looking downstream and hopefully, with a little splash coming over the boat. I took a few frames to get the exposure correct, set the shutter speed to 1/8 sec., and got ready to pan.

Before the boat hit the top of the rapids, I started panning at the boat speed, which is a little slower than the water speed, waited for the boat to enter the upstream third of my frame, waited for the boat to enter the rapid, then waited for everyone to look downstream, then clicked.

I like shooting this on a camera with an optical viewfinder, and with both eyes open. I use the little Sigma VF-21 viewfinder on my DP2s, but wished I had the far better Voigtlander 40mm viewfinder, which offers greater eye relief and more visible frame lines when both eyes are open.

I got lucky with the scared guy in the back of the boat. Right before I started panning, he lost his paddle. You can’t plan these things better!

I just wish I could zoom in to see his knuckles.

A Photo From My Last Space Mission (Sigma DP2s)

Surface of Planet X

Sigma DP2s, ISO 50, f/8, 8.0 secs.

“Here’s a photo of a new planet from my last space mission.”

I would love to be able to say that someday but I have to be realistic, because these sorts of missions are a little more expensive than what I can get sponsorship for from the likes of, say, GoLite or the Astronaut Ice Cream Shop, and then there’s the whole logistical problem of trying to send the photo back to Twitter in planetary systems with limited satellite coverage, etc.

So for now, I’ll settle for illusions.

I’ve walked past this hot spring in Yellowstone National Park dozens of times, but last weekend was the first time where everything clicked: soft light during the evening of a severely rainy day while I was carrying a camera capable of capturing its color and smoothing its bubbles, with a tripod, and a few key filters.

I’ve been experimenting with an interesting setup with the Sigma DP2s lately in an effort to eke out as much image quality as possible with as little post-processing (computer time) as possible, and this image is one of the first satisfactory results of those efforts:

I’m using the Lensmate 52mm filter adapter on the Sigma DP2s with a Singh-Ray LB Color Combo Polarizer and a Heliopan 3-stop ND filter. All of this is mounted to a Gitzo 1541 tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-25 ball head. I use a cheap hotel shower cap for rain protection while I’m composing and adjusting settings, and a tiny viscose towel to sponge off the little drops of water that accumulate on the filters during rain, right before the snap. A Photon Microlight allows me to see the buttons on the camera when the light fades. On this trip, I also carried a Micro Four Thirds camera (Panasonic GF1) to take side by side shots that reminded me why I love the Foveon sensor and abhor the MFT format for landscapes, which makes me spend more time in front of the computer for lesser results for uglier prints.

The only post processing I did on this image was a small bit of contrast adjustment, and a little bit of burning along the top to create the illusion of a space horizon. The rest is handled in camera by the Sigma DP2s, and delivered in its exceptional RAW files.

Breakup, Yellowstone Lake (Sigma DP2s)


Breakup, Yellowstone Lake: May 28, 2010

Sigma DP2s

This is about the time of year when the Chukchi Sea begins to break up along the shores of Kotzebue.

It coincides with breakup on our version of an arctic ocean, Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest alpine lake in the United States.

That forest on the opposite shore in the photo above, really isn’t on the opposite shore. It’s an island. The opposite shore is way, way, way out there. Here’s a shot of the opposite shore:


Opposite Shores, Yellowstone Lake

Sigma DP2s

The Bacterial Beauty of Yellowstone (Sigma DP2s)

Thermophiles, Yellowstone National Park

Sigma DP2s, ISO 50, f/14, 1.3 sec.

What you see in the photo is not the result of a science fair experiment.

It’s one of the reasons our family loves Yellowstone, and it’s part of why we are spending the holiday weekend here instead of going to a KOA.

This particular formation is spooky because it changes every time we see it – it has personality.