My New Favorite Place

August 20, 2014 at 8:28 am (Dinosaur National Monument, fine art photography, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Night Sky, Photography) (, , , , )

Rainbow over Rainbow Park

Rainbow over Rainbow Park

I had my weekend (Mon-Tues) all planned out:  get my aging minivan serviced at the Ford place in Vernal, Utah, visit the nearby McConkie Ranch’s petroglyphs, then swing south through Nine Mile Canyon (really 70 miles long) to see more rock art.  Car muffler repaired, check.  Car engine problems – still ongoing.  (Sigh!)  Drive up Dry Fork Canyon Road north of Vernal, Utah to McConkie Ranch.  Scramble up to see a handful of unimpressive petroglyphs.  Climb a ladder over a fence to follow a trail that mysteriously ends at a gate to see the more impressive Three Kings petroglyphs.  Give up on that idea since there’s nobody to ask.  See a magnificent peregrine falcon.  Then head west and south through several miles of oil/gas fields with muscular turbo-charged diesel trucks impatient to pass on these tight turns.  Feliciana (my 2000 Ford Windstar) has already whined and complained about going down this road, and my gut instinct tells me I don’t really want to do this.  When the road turns to gravel I realize I don’t have the heart to deal with the oil field traffic for who-knows-how-many-dirt-miles.  I turn around and pick another destination from my long list of places I want to see before my job at Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado ends in six weeks.

Green River from Island Park Overlook

Green River from Island Park Overlook

I head to Rainbow Park, on the other side of Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument, Utah (yes the park spans two states).  I use the handout map the park gives out for that area and make sure I stay south so I don’t go to Jones Hole instead.  But the forks in the road before you get into the monument aren’t signed very well, so I go right where I should have gone left and then try the GPS.  Amazingly, it knew where Rainbow Park is, so I get back on the correct dirt road and soon I am treated to an amazingly beautiful landscape of rolling sage hills, and the unfamiliar fraternal twin of the Split Mountain I knew best.

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I also get to see an amazing wall of petroglyphs I’ve been lusting after – the McKee Springs panel. (More in a later blog.)  I was the only person on the road, save a rancher towing cattle, who pulled off onto his property.  It was heavenly!  Even the most desolate desert landscape comes alive in the right light, and this was indeed the right light.

There was a wall of thunderstorms to the north and the south all afternoon, but as we often see on the weather radar, Dinosaur National Monument seemed to be in a rain shadow.  Fluffy cumulus clouds decorated the cerulean sky, and as I usually do, I drove with my windows down.

The small campground at Rainbow Park was vacant.  The sites all had picturesque views of the Green River.  Sweet!  I wanted to see Island Park before the sun went down, but I only made it to the overlook.  As you can see by the photographs above, it was a stunning sight.  The Green River had emerged from the white-water canyons to a placid, meandering river valley, presided over by the northern flank of Split Mountain.

I heard voices far in the distance.  Focusing my binoculars on a likely beach, I saw a group of rafters making camp.  As the setting sun tinted the landscape maroon, I felt kind of sorry for those folks far below who couldn’t see the sun rays emanating from an obscuring cloud.

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When the dramatic light had faded I returned to the Rainbow Park campground and noticed lightning flashing to the north.  Photographs along the Green River bank were unimpressive, but then I noticed stronger flashes from the south.  I remembered the cumulus I had seen building earlier, peeking over Split Mountain.  So I went back to the Island Park overlook and made a series of images with the lightning tinting the undersides of clouds already colored pumpkin by the lights of nearby Vernal.  As you can see, the stars and a jetliner were also recorded in this 20 second exposure.

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I knew the crescent moon would rise sometime in the early morning hours, and I just kicked back my car seat and nodded off.  I woke with a start around 2:30 am, with a spotlight in my face.  The moon!

Crescent moonrise over the Green River at Island Park

Crescent moonrise over the Green River at Island Park

It conveniently ducked behind some picturesque clouds for added drama.  Wow!

I noticed my thin shadow, and took a self-portrait looking toward the lights of Vernal.

Selfie and Vernal city lights

Selfie and Vernal city lights

Split Mountain and Vernal city lights

Split Mountain and Vernal city lights

Then I set my phone’s alarm to wake me at 5:30 for the sunrise to follow behind the moon.  5:30 – a little color.  Hit snooze button.  5:45 – a little more.  Snooze.  Finally at 6:30 it was eye-popping.

Sunrise from Island Park Overlook

Sunrise from Island Park Overlook

Not only that, but I was feeling a little mist on my skin.  The sky to the west was bruised and dark.  Then it happened.  A huge rainbow stretching over…Rainbow Park!   I had to hand-stitch the lead photo to show the entire thing as my 24 mm lens could not capture it all.

Then, remembering that “the road is impassable when wet,” and reciting the mariner’s adage “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” I headed out.  The magic was gone from the landscape.  It was just another flat, gray desert canvas.  I had a hearty Denny’s breakfast in Vernal, did some grocery shopping, and then went to the park’s Cub Creek Road for more exploring.  It had been an amazing change of plans.  I’m glad I followed my instinct (and Feliciana’s!)  And I saw first hand how Rainbow Park got its name.

Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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Stars 1, Satellite 1, Meteors 0

August 13, 2014 at 7:35 am (Nature, Nature photography, Night Sky, Photography, Time-lapse)

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Satellite streaking through the stars in 15 second exposure

I went to the High Uintas in Utah (north of Vernal) to watch the Perseid meteor shower.  The moon rose an hour after sunset so I thought I might have a chance before its brilliant light washed out the visibility.   I did several hours’ worth of time lapse photographs to capture any that might streak by.  Zip.  Nada.  I did catch a satellite though.

See the stars move through the sky – 50 minutes in 22 seconds

Dusk settles on Spirit Lake, the stars appear, then the moonlight tints the lake and trees onshore.

Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Rain Showers and Sunbeams

August 9, 2014 at 6:57 am (Dinosaur National Monument, fine art photography, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , )

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Monsoon season in the Southwest brings an ever-changing skyscape as pop-up storms build, wring themselves dry, and scoot off into the sunset.  The light after a desert storm is brilliant and clean, and it enticed me to an east-facing overlook on the side of Plug Hat Butte in Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.

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The day’s last hour created sunbeams amid the rain showers, shifting patterns no photographer can resist.  This tableau played out to the southwest, while to the east was a line of billowing clouds that looked as if they would unfurl into anvils.  I set up my tripod and began a time-lapse sequence, hoping to witness the birth of a thunderhead.

While the camera click-clicked every 5 seconds, I aimed my point-and-shoot at the showers and sunbeams.

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The cloud sequence took an hour, but I was always busy with the sunbeams.  Then the cottony cumulus drifting over the valley below were doused with the sunset brush.  That series will be the next post.  In the meantime, enjoy the rain showers and sunbeams.

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Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs available here.

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hummingbird

August 6, 2014 at 7:08 am (Bird photography, Colorado birds, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds) (, )

Rufous Hummingbirds - a mating pair, or dueling males?

Rufous Hummingbirds – a mating pair, or dueling males?

When I heard what sounded like a hummingbird singing, I went to the back porch with my camera and found two rufous hummingbirds locked in an aerial battle.  Although some of these photographs aren’t sharp, it shows the Ninja-like dance before they dropped to the ground, still locked together.

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At first I thought it was a mating pair, even though their nesting season should be over, and they don’t nest in Colorado.  Furthermore, they are supposed to be migrating south, not in the breeding mode.

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So perhaps they were adult and juvenile males fighting for dominance.  After consulting the Peterson’s “Hummingbirds of North America” I still can’t tell.  The tail feathers appear like a male’s, but the throat is more like a female’s.  Maybe one of my blog readers will know?  The time of year supports the idea of two males.

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As for the singing I thought I heard, the book says rufous hummers don’t sing.  I dunno.  Perhaps it was another bird I heard, but whoever it was caught my attention, and I was able to witness this interesting little pas de deux.

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After they separated, the adult male kept searching for his amour/foe.  Then he took his perch on the clothesline to resume defending his little feeder from all comers.  Soon they will all continue their journey south to Mexico to spend the winter, and perhaps then the resident black-chinned and broad-tailed hummers will be able to feed in peace.

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Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs available here.

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

 

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Lightning, Stars, and a Meteor

August 5, 2014 at 4:04 am (Dinosaur National Monument, fine art photography, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , , , )

Lightning, stars, and a meteor

Lightning, stars, and a meteor

I’m one of those people that generally wakes once in the night and can’t fall immediately back asleep.  I also like to check the night sky while I’m up, and when I saw that there were several lightning storms in the distance, I drove 8 miles north to a good viewpoint.

 

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In an arid land, such lightning storms usually mean wildfires.  But for now, it was pure drama.  This storm to the northwest was so far away I could hear no thunder.  I didn’t even see the meteor until I edited the photographs.

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However, when I got to my home in Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, I was admiring the Milky Way above me when a perfect meteor streak crossed my view.  Unfortunately I was not photographing it at the time.  It is likely one of the Perseids, which will peak in just a few days.

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Now I’m going to make some hot buttered cinnamon toast and sneak back into bed.  Unless, that is, the storms to the south get close enough for another go at it!

Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs available here.

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

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Wild Horses of Pilot Butte, Wyoming

August 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm (Photography, Wild Horses of the Southwest) (, , , )

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View of Green River, Wyoming from Pilot Butte

View of Green River, Wyoming from Pilot Butte

 

View of Green River, Wyoming from Pilot Butte

View of Green River, Wyoming from Pilot Butte

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Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs available here.

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

Join my Facebook Page

Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

 

 

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Bully Ninjas – the Tiny Rufous Hummingbird

July 31, 2014 at 7:00 am (Bird photography, Colorado, Colorado birds, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds) (, )

Rufous Hummingbird male

Rufous Hummingbird male

A fellow ranger and I were discussing the constant quarreling at the hummingbird feeders by the newly arrived rufous hummingbirds.  Emily said they reminded her of the fighters in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”  They can fly so fast you can’t keep track of where they’ve gone.  Or they can hover in a slow motion attack.  She said she calls them “bully Ninjas” – although I think she used another adjective that was more creative.  Wish I had written it down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ground Squirrel Eats Snakeskin – True Story!

July 30, 2014 at 7:00 am (Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Golden-mantled ground squirrel eating cast-off snakeskin

Golden-mantled ground squirrel eating cast-off snakeskin

I was taken aback when I saw this golden-mantled ground squirrel in Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado drag off a discarded snakeskin and then start eating it! Read the rest of this entry »

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White-lined Sphinx Moth

July 29, 2014 at 9:23 am (Butterflies, Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

White-lined Sphinx Moth and thistle

White-lined Sphinx Moth and Thistle

This large and gorgeous moth is also known as the hummingbird moth.  There are several types of “hummingbird” or “hawk” moths – in Maine I photographed the Hummingbird Clearwing which is also a sphinx moth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fossil Butte National Monument

July 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm (Bird photography, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , , )

Fossil Butte

Fossil Butte

When I took a mini-vacation recently, I had a change of plans when the birding area I wanted to visit had already raised its avian families for the year.  So I headed back home via Wyoming and the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.  I figured the little Fossil Butte National Monument would be a quick look-see, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I found to enjoy there. Read the rest of this entry »

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