Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Season Room With a View: Hotel Vendome, Prescott, Arizona

[Photo: View of downtown Prescott, Arizona from second story room of historic Hotel Vendome]

The Hotel Vendome (www.vendomehotel.com) is a quiet, quaint little hotel in historic downtown Prescott, which is a small mountain city in the central Arizona highlands. 

[Photo: Hotel Vendome at Christmas, Prescott, Arizona]

Lovingly restored by its present owners, the Vendome was built in 1917 and so is one of the oldest buildings in Prescott, a town with a very colorful Wild West history. Cowboy silent film star Tom Mix used to stay at the hotel for a year at a time while making some of his films. 

[Photo: Christmas light display on Courthouse Square, Prescott]
Courthouse Plaza (universally called Courthouse Square by locals) gets decked out in a dazzling light display during the holidays, to help cement Prescott's claim as "Arizona's Christmas Capital". 

[Photo: Yavapai County Courthouse with Christmas lights, Prescott, Arizona]

At an elevation of 5,300 feet / 1,615 meters, Prescott is a "mile high city" off the beaten track of the Interstate highways, midway between the desert city of Phoenix and the high country of Flagstaff. 

Prints and photo products are available on my Fine Art America sales website:

© Copyright 2012 Stephen J. Krieg

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Moonrise, Arizona

Some rain today in the Prescott Valley of central Arizona. Wonderful mix of storm clouds and blue sky. 

As evening approached, the light became golden. Being several days before Full, the moon was above the mountains to the east. The sunset lit up the clouds around it.

This is an instance in which a larger, closer looking moon shot would have lost the contribution of the pink clouds against the dark blue sky.

Yavapai County, Arizona

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Arizona Mountain Christmas Tree

Along the winding curves of Highway 89A between Jerome and the Prescott Valley in Arizona's central highlands is this lone juniper tree growing along the side of the road. With the sharp curves and competing views of the slopes of Mingus Mountain, the tree can be easy to miss. 

I had been driving up the mountain from the Prescott Valley on a relatively balmy late December day, so I was in shorts and sandals. Passersby did a double take over a photographer in shorts, then the Christmas tree, in the middle of nowhere.

It has a wide variety of very nice Christmas decorations, some with lights (nowhere to plug them in on this lonely stretch of road on the Prescott National Forest, though!).

One recent addition in March 2012 was contributed by a family from Australia that was traveling around the western U.S.

Seemingly this has been an ongoing collaborative effort. There is a blog post with a picture of it from 2009, with a comment claiming to have seen it ten years before then. 

Mingus Mountain Scenic Road, Highway 89A, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Lights, Courthouse Square

[Photo: Christmas Lights display, Prescott, Arizona]
Yavapai County Courthouse, Prescott, Arizona. First snow of the winter season adds greatly to the festivity of the holiday season. Besides the courthouse itself, the elm trees on the square are wrapped with colorful strings of lights.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snowy Shrub Live Oak, Prescott National Forest

[Photo: Shrub Live Oak in snow and frost]
The morning after the first major winter storm was clear and cold. The clouds had moved on, bringing a frozen but beautiful start to the day on the Prescott National Forest in central Arizona. 

Wading through the snow, I photographed subjects distant and close. In this photo, the sun had cleared the hills to the east, to light up the branches and foliage of a shrub live oak bush. 

Prescott National Forest, Prescott, Arizona

Friday, December 14, 2012

First Trace of Snow, Prescott

[Photo: Downtown Prescott, with Thumb Butte in the distance]

The first major winter storm of the 2012 season rolled in to northern Arizona from the northwest yesterday. During the night, rain turned to snow, sticking everywhere but downtown proper.

The locals love it: beauty without hazardous driving, unless you venture up in the mountains above town. Precipitation is much appreciated in a dry land, especially after the dry autumn of 2012.

Prescott, Yavapai County, central Arizona

- See my Grand Canyon Photography Blog -

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Willow Leaves, Granite Creek

Mid December along the Granite Dam Trail in the Granite Dells just north of Prescott, Arizona.

The last autumn leaves of the willows along Granite Creek lie on the water's surface, the gentle current arranging them into patterns.

A serene morning along the trail, no other hikers around.

See my NaturalMoment YouTube channel of nature videos, too.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Along the Trail in Zion

Day hikers watch a National Park Service crew maintain a section of the West Rim Trail, high above the floor of Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park, Utah

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sunrise Colors, Pittman Valley

Intense dawn colors in the east over the San Francisco Peaks, from Pittman Valley between Parks and Williams, Arizona.

As usual, it's the positioning of the clouds above the horizon that determines how the colors will be. The clouds reflect the rays of the yet-unrisen sun. If there are no clouds, the colors will be greatly subdued. Too many clouds and the colors will be cut off. 

In this image, some ponds in the foreground added a powerful reflection accent.

Also see my Grand Canyon Photography Blog, and my YouTube channel

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sunset Light, Antelope Hills

Early December "golden hour"  evening light on two of the old cinder cone volcanoes that are collectively called the Antelope Hills. These are on the Babbitt Ranches north of the San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff, in northern Arizona.

The summer's grasses and forbs have long since turned straw yellow, warming up nicely with the low angle of the sun. Some nice clouds accented the trademark Arizona blue sky.

Also see my Grand Canyon Photography Blog!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Late Fall

Early Snow Traces, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Near Silverton in the southwest Colorado high country, I was in search of autumn photos. October is kind of late for the highest country, but the traces of the first snows accented the parts of the mountains where the sun didn't reach in the warmest part of they day.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D. Lens: Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The (Full) Serenity Prayer

Sunrise Colors and San Francisco Peaks, Pittman Valley, Northern Arizona

God, grant us the... 

Serenity to accept things we cannot change, 

Courage to change the things we can, and the 

Wisdom to know the difference 

Patience for the things that take time 

Appreciation for all that we have, and 

Tolerance for those with different struggles 

Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the 

Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the 

Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless. 

-- Reinhold Niebuhr

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rainbow Sunflowers, Flagstaff

Sunflowers and double rainbow, Flagstaff, northern Arizona
Monsoon season continues unabated here in northern Arizona. Sun and clouds and rain showers. The wildflowers are loving it. Smokey Bear is loving it (fire danger down to Moderate or less). I'm loving it.

This evening on my way home, a giant double rainbow appeared to the east of Interstate 17. I was able to maneuver myself into a spot on the edge of a convenience store parking lot where I could put some sunflowers in the foreground.

Flagstaff, Arizona.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Arizona Meadow Daisies

Daisies in a mountain meadow, Coconino County, Arizona
August, 2012: Much of the U.S. is suffering from one of the worst droughts in memory.

Meanwhile, it's been wet in northern Arizona, of all places! Our late summertime monsoon season is in full swing, and we have been getting soaked with rain showers almost every day. Our springtime was typically sunny, windy, and dry, and the wildfire danger gradually raised to the Very High rating, prompting a ban on campfires. Even charcoal in grills. We went a near-record 65 straight days without precipitation after the snow melted. 

Finally, the monsoon season began. The moisture arrived from the Pacific Ocean, the clouds started to build each morning, and rain showers began. Blessed rain. Visitors from back East were puzzled to come to Arizona to be dodging rain storms and lightning. Sometimes hail, too. 

In this photo, I was exploring a small mountain meadow near Flagstaff, where I live. The daisies were in bloom, and the rich green grass of the meadow along the fringes of a small pond made for a vibrant background.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Arizona Monsoon Rainbow, Flagstaff

Double rainbow, clearing rain shower, Canyoneers river rafting office, Flagstaff, Arizona
(click on image for larger version)
We are presently in the heart of our late summer "monsoon" thunderstorm season here in northern Arizona. Moisture from the Pacific Ocean comes inland, and our hot weather and ample sunshine combine to form thunderhead clouds, which can cause very localized rain showers. 

Besides being the primary source of the Southwest's summertime precipitation, it's also a gorgeous time for photographers and nature lovers. Arizona blue sky, dramatic cumulus and thunderhead clouds, rain curtains, and sunshine can sometimes be seen all at once. Grass and other ground plants sprout, greening the forests and rangeland. 

And the rain showers usually are brief, though sometimes intense. They are what flash floods can be borne of.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Highway 89 Monsoon Afternoon

Northern Arizona. North of Flagstaff, north of Cameron. Echo Cliffs on the right.

South of the Arizona Strip, still. Not for long, though. We're continuing north.

Monsoon thunderstorm season in Arizona. Moisture from the Pacific Ocean synergizing with the blue Arizona sky.

Desert meets sky in late summer.

You might also be interested in my Grand Canyon Photography blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baby Acorns, Northern Arizona

Gambel Oak foliage and acorns, July 26
Tiny, growing acorns on a Gambel Oak tree in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Looks like this fall's acorn crop is coming along quite nicely. One of the beautiful, subtle joys of summer in the forest.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dusk Cloud Colors, Flagstaff

Sunset time in northern Arizona. Summertime sunset time. 

I notice the pinks set against the clearing blue sky, and walk outside with my camera, searching for a composition. The Ponderosa pine trees in silhouette frame the rosy pink clouds nicely.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cloud Light, Flagstaff, Arizona

Clouds lit up by the bright Arizona sunlight. Clouds blocking the sun, creating ephemeral shadows on the mountain slopes.

San Francisco Peaks, northern Arizona.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take It Easy

Beautiful, wistful artwork depicting the legendary pickup-driving woman that inspired the Jackson Browne (the song ultimately completed by Glenn Frey of the Eagles), Standin' On the Corner Park, downtown Winslow, Arizona.

Standin' On the Corner in Winslow, Arizona

Standin' on the Corner Park, downtown Winslow, Arizona

Winslow, Arizona is a dusty little old town in northern Arizona with a (briefly) glorious past and an uncertain future. 

It was quite the famous little stop along the railroad in its glory days. A luxury hotel stayed in by the movie stars of the day.

No more. Amtrak, the modern passenger train, still stops there, while the other freight trains roar on by. But signs of resurrection occur. Most notably the restoration of La Posada, which is quite the hotel/restaurant. Beautiful. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Northern Arizona Monsoon Season Approaches

Thunderhead cloud and Ponderosa pines, Flagstaff, Arizona
It's monsoon thunderstorm season here in northern Arizona, but with it being a La Nina weather pattern year, it's still dry. Far too dry. Extreme forest fires danger, but so far nothing like what's happened recently on the Colorado Front Range. 

This week there has at least been enough moisture inland from the Pacific Ocean to return some cumulus clouds, thunderheads, and very widely scattered showers. I love the clear blue Arizona sky, but cumulus clouds and t-heads accent it so beautifully.

Flagstaff, Arizona (where 85F is "hot"). 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

River Rafts at Lees Ferry

Lees Ferry, Colorado River, Arizona
Professional river guides for Canyoneers finish rigging their river rafts at Lees Ferry on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. In the morning they will take passengers on another run down the river through Grand Canyon.

Lees Ferry is one of the most scenic locations in the American Southwest. As sunset time nears, the light gets even better, the colors more saturated. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Red Rocks and Mountain Tops, Utah

Arches National Park and La Sal Mountain Range, Utah
Red rock sandstone spire, compressed across the distance to the snowy La Sal Mountains. From west of Moab, Utah, to east of it.

Arches National Park, Utah.

Footprints in the Red Sand, Arches

Red sand footprints, Arches National Park
Lots of footprints in the sand between the fins. Sandals and tennis shoes. 

How much do you want to bet that most, if not all, wanted to go barefoot here?

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

Fins "L" Sunlight, Arches National Park

"L" sunlight, Arches
Into the fins, the vertical, highly eroded, mesmerizing walls and spires of red sandstone in Arches.

In this photo, I had a tough time balancing the extreme contrast between the deep, soft shadows and the gash of sunlight tearing through a gap in the fins to the right. The "L" of sunlight seemed to reflect off the sandstone at the base of the fin.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah

Into the Fins, Arches

Arches National Park, Utah
On the trail to Sandstone Arch, I enter a tiny portion of the vast sandstone fins. 

Cool in the vertical stone shadows, with soft diffused light and bright blue sky and sunlight streaks above. Peaceful, mesmerizing. 

All but impossible to portray photographically. Thus, especially intriguing.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

Edge of the Furnace, Arches

Arches National Park, Utah
The Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park is an uplifted, eroded seam of red sandstone. 

The "fiery" part of its name comes from warm, low sunlight glowing off the red sandstone cliffs, hoodoos and pillars at sunset. Meanwhile, through the day, the innumerable vertical fins of red stone create deep, cool shadows. And, apparently, a maze of places to walk and become lost. Literally. So the area is restricted to exploration in the presence of one of the park rangers. 

In this photo, the sandstone fins form an exquisite foreground for the expansive sweep of the high desert valleys, on to the snowy La Sal mountain range on the far horizon.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prickly Pear Blossoms

Prickly Pear Cactus Blossoms, Coconino National Forest, northern Arizona
You know it's finally summer at 7,000 feet in the cool mountain pine forests of northern Arizona when the prickly pear cactus plants blossom.

There aren't many of them up here in the Ponderosa forest. It must be at the very upper edge of their natural range. So, when I found these few, it was all the more special. I visit them at this time each year. Mid June. 

Coconino National Forest, north of Flagstaff, Arizona

Monday, June 11, 2012

Edge of the Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona

View from the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center on the Sitgreaves National Forest in Northern Arizona.

The Mogollon Rim is a massive 250-mile long escarpment that forms the southern end of the Coconino Plateau south of Flagstaff and north of Payson and Sedona. 

The highway below is State Route 260, coming up from Payson. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forest Fern, Evening Light

Fern, evening light, Coconino National Forest, Arizona [click on photo for larger version]
Nature is my cathedral, my church. Appreciation, respect, and humility are my religion.

This is from my campsite last evening on the Coconino National Forest and the Coconino Plateau, at about 7,500 feet in northern Arizona. A fern lit up by the low afternoon sunlight slipping between the Ponderosa pine trees. 

No neighbors except the birds and whatever four legged animals were around but did not make themselves apparent. 

No visitors except two Forest Service guys making sure I was not going to violate the ban on campfires, because the springtime woods have been so typically dry. "And don't leave any food outside the vehicle. There are bears here, and they're always hungry." That much I knew, but I appreciated the reminder. 

Followed by a peaceful night of the breeze whispering in the pines and aspens, then the rising half moon and the stars. Peaceful, soothing night. In the cathedral.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Real Cow Riding Cowboy

Rancher training cow for parade riding, western Colorado

While browsing through some of my favorite old black and white photos, I came across this one and have decided to tell the interesting and fun story behind it.

It was 1978 or 1979 and I was working for the Colorado State Forest Service as a forester on a Dutch Elm Disease control demonstration project. That effort took me to several far corners of the state, one of them being Grand Junction, not far from the Utah border.

One hot summer day as I was driving on Interstate 70 across arid western Colorado toward Grand Junction, I became very drowsy with the length of the drive and the heat, so decided to exit the freeway so I could get some ice cream or coffee or something to perk me up.

It was at this little backwater town (I mean that in the best way, I'm a country boy, after all), and on the corner was this rancher sitting on a cow. Not on a horse, a cow. I said to my co-worker, "I've got to get a photo of this." I'm not much of a people photographer, but this was too good to pass up. My curiosity was killing me.

So I walked over and asked the smiling old man if I could take his picture. "Sure", he said. I did. 

Then I asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I ride cows in parades." You do? "Everybody rides horses, so instead I ride cows. People get a real kick out of it. This one is young, so I'm breaking her in by sitting here with the traffic going by, so she gets used to it."

I still love this photo because of the composition, with the cow looking off sleepily to the side, the shadows, (even the pattern of the cow's urine on the ground), the handsome, kindly face of the rancher, the old car, highway, hills and clouds in the distance.

It's also my hope that in this day of Internet connectedness somebody who knew this wonderful man will contact me about it. It could turn out to become a treasured family memento, from out of the blue.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sandstone Patterns, Zion National Park

Hiking up the switchbacks of the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park, I was taken by the patterns of these red-gold sandstone layers, the curving vertical cracks, and the soft reflected light. 

Zion National Park is located in Southwest Utah, near the edge of the Colorado Plateau. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jewel Rock, Red Mountain

"Jewel Rock", upheld by pinnacles in the amphitheater at Red Mountain
Erosion is the process wherein beautiful things are created as they fall apart.

The amphitheater at Red Mountain on the Coconino National Forest northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona is a perfect example. 

Red Mountain is a 1,000 foot tall cinder cone volcano created from a fiery crack in the earth about a million years ago. Some time later, its northeast flank blew out in another explosion, and its exposed innards have eroded into weird and wonderful pinnacles called "hoodoos".

In this photo, a harder boulder came to rest upon relatively softer material, which seem to be holding it up to the sky. It's like a diamond in its setting on a ring. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pueblo Ruins and O'Leary Peak

Box Canyon Pueblo Ruins, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
(click on photo for a larger version)

A small pueblo ruin at Box Canyon on Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona is warmed by the low early evening sunlight. 

In the far distance is the old lava dome volcano mountain named O'leary Peak.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Down the Wash, Red Mountain

Hiking down the wash from the volcanic amphitheater at Red Mountain, Coconino National Forest (click on image for a larger version)

Red Mountain on the Coconino National Forest north of Flagstaff, Arizona is a million year old, thousand foot tall cinder cone volcano. Was, that is.

The U.S. Forest Service trail that accesses the amphitheater on the east side of the mountain drops down into the wash that drains it, on the final approach. You hike right up the wash. It's not as if you're trampling any vegetation, because desert washes are so inhospitable to vegetation. Any significant rains above become flash floods, small or large. 

Besides, the steep, loose, ever-eroding volcanic soil slopes on either side could not support a trail anyway.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Afternoon Moon Over Cliffs, Red Mountain

Half Moon over Red Mountain Amphitheater Cliffs, Coconino National Forest, Arizona
(click on image for larger version)

Hiking today at Red Mountain on the Coconino National Forest north of Flagstaff, I noticed the moon almost half full, high in the afternoon sky.

That means: Full Moon is only about a week away. 

Sure enough, checking the calendar, it will occur on Monday, June 4, at 4:11 AM. So get up early to check it out, then let me know how it was. I'll still be sleeping. 

Why? Because I almost always get my best full moon landscape shots the night before Full Moon, or even two nights before. The upcoming Full Moon is a great case in point. It officially occurs at 4:11, which means that for all practical purposes it will look full on Sunday night when it rises at 19:08 (7:08 PM), near sunset time (19:36, or 7:36 PM). 

Saturday evening, two nights before official Full Moon, could well be even better, depending on what you choose to have in the foreground, such as a tall cityscape, mountain, cliff, etc. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beneath Sandstone Arch

Sandstone Arch

I love the hues that come from blue sky sunlight softly reflected off the innumerable angles of red sandstone.

Arches National Park, Utah

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

From Arches

View from Arches National Park, Utah

Wood and Sand, Arches National Park

Juniper wood in the sand, at Arches National Park, Utah.

Frosted Wood Waves, Arches National Park

Trees retain their beauty long after they've perished. As their wood decays, they can reveal beautiful patterns. 

Here a downed tree (probably a juniper) is coated with frost and dusted with red sand.

Arches National Park, Utah

Monday, May 21, 2012

Delicate Arch, the Big View

Delicate Arch Environs, Arches National Park, Utah

We've all seen countless photos of Delicate Arch, the iconic red sandstone formation that is not only the symbol of Arches National Park near Moab in southeast Utah, but even as the backdrop for the Utah license plate.

Photos of Delicate Arch are usually taken in late afternoon or at sunset time, when the sun is shining on it from the west (from the left in this scene). This photo, however, was taken in the morning, making the famous arch a silhouette, full into the glare of the early sunlight. Tough conditions.

But it shows something at least as amazing as the arch. It shows that Delicate Arch is a remnant of a huge red sandstone bowl. It's part of the lip of the bowl, and of course ever eroding. 

Notice the two couples in the scene, to give you a sense of scale.

Arches National Park, Utah.

You might also be interested in my Grand Canyon Photography blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pinnacle, Grand Canyon North Rim

Pinnacle on North Rim (click on pic for larger version)
A capstone of buff colored sandstone crests a ridge below the North Rim at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

You don't have to be a geologist to appreciate what's going on here. This landscape is constantly being worn down by erosion. Rocks falling apart, soil being built up and moved downslope. Vegetation, such as the green pinyon and juniper trees gracing the red slope with their dark green accents, adapting and growing.

Photographically, the distant canyon wall in afternoon shadow makes for a splendid dark blue background.

You might also be interested in my Grand Canyon Photography blog.