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Dawn’s Early Light

Dawn’s Early Light, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

It’s always a challenge an hour before sunrise figuring out whether or not it’s worth shooting and what location is going to produce some wonderful photographs. It was cloudy today – very cloudy, with a good chance of socked in overcast. But there was enough of a break that I felt it was worthwhile. It turned out to be a bonanza of opportunities!

It’s just a short drive up through Deer Valley Resort to Empire Pass and on to Guardsman. This time of year sunset is late – around 7:30 a.m. So there are always bike being unloaded from cars for the ridge ride.

Today I started at Empire Pass, scaring away a pair of deer hunters in a pickup. Shooting was good – very good. But it would get even better. Leaving Empire I passed another photographer with two tripods setup shooting south. The sky to the west over Guardsman looked especially inviting.

I stopped at four or five different locations, all producing great shots. But all of a sudden I turned around and looked east. The sun was piercing through the clouds shooting a bullet of light to Earth.

After shooting some closeup verticals of a single ray, the sky all of a sudden lit up with a series of sun rays.

The key to the photographs, though, is HDR – high dynamic range. This photograph is actually a series of three shots, each one exposure stop apart. It’s a simple HDR, processed with Photomatix, that worked very well – capturing the brilliance of unlit golden leaves with the menacing dark sky.


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Driving the Beartooth

Clouds over the Beartooth, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Red Lodge hadn’t been in our plan. Neither was the Beartooth. But as we left Teddy Roosevelt National Park for Custer Battlefield National Monument, my Facebook friends (yes, I was online) changed my mind. We headed to Red Lodge for the night and the trip over the Beartooth. Snow was not something we had in mind!

The Beartooth Highway is an amazing road. Charles Kuralt called it “America’s Most Beautiful Road.” It was not really on our radar. But it is now – one of the most breathtaking 62 miles we’ve ever driven.

Arriving in foggy Red Lodge at sunset, the Beartooth was bedecked in clouds. “Not sure it will be open,” said the front desk manager. Snow was falling in August and the plows were out. At the summit, a full mile above the Montana border village, heavy snow was falling.

We hit the Beartooth at 8 a.m., twisting and turning up the switchbacks. The sun was breaking in and out of clouds, just starting to light the tips of the peaks straddling the Wyoming-Montana line. It was cold – mid 30s – as we made our way to the summit.

Just as friends had said, it took forever – stopping for photographs at nearly every turn. Turn by turn it became more and more spectacular. The sun touched into mountain valleys, while starting to bathe the peaks in morning light.

It was the first light to touch the 4-6 inches of fresh snow, blanketing wildflowers and covering a moonscape of rock at the 10,947 foot West Summit.

Dropping over the summit to the Cooke City side, we encountered the first traffic from the west including motorcycles that had to scramble for lodging when snow kept them from the crossing the evening prior.

The descent into Yellowstone was bittersweet. The scenery turned from breaktaking above-the-treeline skyscapes to heavily forested mountainsides.

The small collection of buildings in Cooke City marked the end of the Beartooth and the beginning of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, with buffalo at every turn.

I imagine that every time you drive the Beartooth you are greeted with new scenes. And one thing’s for sure, once you drive it you’ll be counting the days to your next drive.


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Bee on Final Approach

Bee on Final Approach, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Our Tour de Heartland has landed us in Wisconsin, with an entirely new set of weather and wildlife from our native Utah. While, yes, we are the beehive state, there’s a bit more pollinating to be done in the Midwest.

Today’s journey took us to Token Creek Park outside Madison. It’s a wonderful preserve that was initially built about the year I left town in 1977. It was my first trip, although mom and dad went out there often.

Our short hike took us along Token Creek (named for an Indian Taukanee) through amazing vegetation ripe with monarchs and other flying creatures.

This particular set of wildflowers was brilliantly lighted against a dark backdrop – perfect for a closeup photo. But what I hadn’t planned on was the bee activity.

While I have an entire set of great photographs, this shot of the bee on final approach was special.

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Paddlewheeler on the Rock River

Paddlewheeler on the Rock River, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

It was a long day for Tour de Heartland, starting at 6 a.m. in Kansas City, then an eventful nine hour drive to Dixon, IL for Brandon and Charlotte’s wedding reception, then two hours to Madison. To make it a perfect day, we took the scenic route.

The water is amazingly high in the Midwest. We took a beautiful route for sunset from Dixon to Rockford along the Rock River. Sadly, our timing was a bit off as most of it was post-sunset. So when we initially passed this paddlewheeler, I didn’t even stop.

But young Naomi kept talking about how nice the clouds looked in the sunset afterglow. So I spun the Audi Q5 around and went back, just in time to catch this paddlewheeler lazily strolling upstream with the clouds in the backdrop.

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Wild Sunflowers in the Storm

Wild Sunflowers in the Storm, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

This was an amazing evening last August in Silver Creek near Park City, Utah. Sadly, when I returned that evening, I just wasn’t excited about my photographs. In fact, I didn’t even process a single shot. I just stumbled across the photographs looking for another rainbow shot and had a different perspective. Turns out to be a pretty good shoot after all.

The scene is actually just a few hundred meters from our home, looking somewhat to the south just before sunset. The rainbow is splitting the dark sky from a blustery white cloud, with the sun painting the yellow of the wild sunflowers.

One of the challenges with the shot was the light was getting low and the wind was howling. This frame was f5.3 at 1/30th of a second. Somehow the flowers are reasonably sharp.

You can also visit this photograph’s home and leave a comment on Flickr.

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Tom Kelly Gallery Opening Thursday

Tom Kelly Photos at Starbucks Gallery, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Well, it isn’t the Kimball Art Center but it probably gets just as much traffic. I’m proud to have five photographs on display this summer at the Park City Starbucks (Park Avenue). Stop by and take a look.

Thursday (July 1) I’ll have an informal opening from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Stop by and buy a coffee from barista Carolyn and enjoy some time with friends. We should have a nice group. Checkout the invitation on Facebook.!/event.php?eid=131525536879324&index=1

The photographs include a variety of Utah scenics. You can view the entire gallery at the link below.

Lavender Fields is a wonderful shot of brilliant purple lavender in Mona, Utah, just south of Provo. Check it out this July.

Albion Basin Wildflowers is a colorful photograph of brilliant yellow flowers last August at Alta.

Moon Over the Clouds is one of those really rare photographs of a stunning full moon rising over clouds bathed in sunset glow, taken here in Silver Creek near Park City on an August evening.

Sunset Over the Pond features a magnificent sky, taken on a springtime pond near Park City this past May.

And every Utah show needs some redrock. Window on Turret Arch is a quintessential Moab shot from Arches National Park.

Each of the 10×15 prints is mounted in an 18×22 black frame and are available for sale.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look. Whenever you do, please ask the barista for my business card! I’m proud to share them with my Park City friends this summer.

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Follow the Light

Puffy white clouds race over South Window in Arches National Park. (c) 2010 Tom Kelly

It was a stormy Thursday in Moab. Photographer Jack Dykinga referred to it as the kind of day when you’re going to get your greatest shots or no shots at all. In Arches today, we went from selective blue skies to raging sleet and snow within minutes. Such is life in the desert.

The Moab Photo Symposium kicked off today with a keynote from Dykinga who was inspirational in telling us to personalize the place and photograph what we felt. His slides told a story of what each one meant to him at that particular time.

I have a special connection, of sorts, to Dykinga. While I was a fledgling young newspaper photographer in Madison, WI in the early ’70s, he was winning the 1971 Pulitzer for feature photography while at the Chicago Sun-Times. He led his presentation with poignant black and white images showing gripping scenes inside mental hospitals in Illinois.

As a newspaper photographer, his images brought change. Nearly 40 years later, he is still bringing change – making us all more aware of our planet’s majestic beauty through his still photographs.

I never set out to advocate change as a newspaper photographer – just to take good pictures. I relished every assignment. My pictures told a story. And while sports was my forte, the two most vivid memories of photographs I have were quite different. One was a deputy fire chief standing in the burned out doorway of a home where several children died – an intensely sad look on his face. The other was the huge smile of an eight-year-old cancer victim as he walked around with his IV. I’ve always wondered if he made it.

Dykinga gave up the news gig to tell a different story, moving west and focusing on a different type of social consciousness. He’s made his mark as one of the world’s foremost landscape photographers, forsaking his Nikon F’s and hauling heavy view cameras and tripods to tell the world’s story.

A few months ago, Dykinga and some fellow photographers went to Patagonia in Chile on their own dime to document an amazing Rio Baker river valley that was in jeopardy of being dammed and submerged – remnants of the Pinochet era. His pictures told the story.

Today in Arches was one of those days where you just knew the light wouldn’t bless you. “Follow the light,” said Dykinga. Sometimes you have only a fleeting second. That’s the kind of day it was. One minute was low overcast around North and South Windows. The next minute the sky erupted in blue. A few minutes later, snow pellets were pounding the desert sand.

The beauty of photography is that time stands still. It’s an accurate reflection of that particular moment in time. It’s about that place, that time, that light and color.

Best of all, it’s a story to share.

Weather wood rests in the desert sand in Arches National Park. (c) 2010 Tom Kelly

A storm moves through the desert in Arches National Park. (c) 2010 Tom Kelly

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Holiday Boutique This Weekend

This is an exciting week as I prepare for my first show and sale. Do Dads for You Carole and I will be exhibiting at the St. Mary’s Christmas in the Meadow Holiday Boutique. It’s the 10th anniversary of what has become one of Park City’s premier holiday arts and crafts shows. I’ll be there with a wide assortment of prints including virtually everything from the Tom Kelly Photo Web site plus more. It’s a perfect time to do holiday shopping for friends and family.

While I’ve sold prints here and there, I’ve never done a show. So it’s been a busy week of scrambling to order more prints and frames and get everything in order. I’m very happy with the diversity and qualify of prints I’ll be offering. If you’ve seen some of my photos on Facebook, Flickr or my Web site, you know what to expect. And for as little as $15 you can take a print home for the holidays.

Everything in my inventory is very reasonably priced, with your choice of 5×7 photographic prints in an 8×10 mat, or fully-framed prints. My recommendation is to come early on Saturday for the best selection. Doors open at 9:00 a.m. Saturday. There’s a nominal $1.00 admission fee which goes to the St. Mary’s Food Bank. You’re welcome to toss in a few more bucks. As you can imagine, the St. Mary’s Food Bank has been hit hard in the last year and the parish has actually dipped into savings to keep providing food to those in need.

Carole will be showing knitted and felted purses, coin purses, cupcakes, baby caps, mittens, cuffs, flowers, pumpkins and much more.

You’ll undoubtedly find many more wonderful crafts with over 100 exhibitors. Come join Carole and I this weekend. It’s easy to find, just drive into Park City on SR224 to White Pine Canyon (between The Canyons and the White Barn).

St. Mary’s Christmas in the Meadow Holiday Boutique
Saturday, Nov. 21 – 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Sunday, Nov. 22 – 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

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Albion Basin

Wildflowers wave in the breeze in Albion Basin. (c) 2009 Tom Kelly

We are blessed with stunningly diverse mountain scenery here in Utah. But as powerful as the mountain peaks are at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon, peace and serenity abound every summer in Albion Basin. Each July as the Alta snowpack melts into rapidly flowing streams, a majestic carpet of color emerges from the ground creating a sea of wildflowers of every conceivable color. The purple lupin stands like fields of lavender, with the blaze red of Indian paint bruch popping through. As you scan the green mountain meadows, you often see a tint of blue maybelle or bright yellow bands of mountain sunflowers. As you hike the single track trail in lower Albion, you are surrounded with a rainbow of color just waving in the breeze. It’s wildflower time in the Wasatch.

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Lavender in the Desert

Lavender fields stretch on for acres in the shadow of Utah’s Mt. Nebo. (c) 2009 Tom Kelly

It started as a perfectly productive Saturday morning, up early and getting ready for a hike. But a Facebook alert just before departure sent us in another direction – to Mona and a lavender festival. Yes, a festival of the violet herb on a farm south of Provo.

It was just strange enough to try. We didn’t know what to expect. And we had only a vague understanding of where it was. But as we approached the small village north of Nephi on I-15, we were struck with awe. In the midst of the Utah desert were brilliant fields of green set against the lavender hue of millions of small plants. You could almost smell the freshness from the highway.

The sea of lavender stretched to the horizon, with plants all lined up in rows. Children reached down to pick a personal bouquet.

Lavender is a color you would least expect in a desert landscape. And certainly not acres and acres. It was a sight to behold, and a scene we will take in again.

If you get a chance, visit Young Living Lavender Farms.

Carole picks out a bouquet of lavender. (c) 2009 Tom Kelly

A young girl sits alone in a field of lavender. (c) 2009 Tom Kelly