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The Tulip Frenzy, 2018

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica SL and Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 with 10X ND Filter

We missed the peak.  Which is what happens when you choose to go away for a week during the period when the Tulip Frenzy might emerge.  God, what a joy it is to see these friends, even if they are past their prime.

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We can’t account for our love of tulips.  Maybe it’s because their advent signals spring in earnest.  The ephemeral appearance.  Their individuality. How they’re a metaphor for financial excess.  The joy they bring to all. Whatever it is, we’re glad they’re here.  Even as by next week they’ll be gone.

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In The Grand Staircase

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 6, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica SL with Vario-Elmarit 24-90.

The Grand Staircase is, in geologic and geographic terms, that rising series of canyons from the Grand Canyon in the south up through the Colorado Plateau, including Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  In political terms, it most quickly brings to mind Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, under assault by Trump and Zinke and Utah politicians who wish to diminish and despoil its fragile beauty.  In spiritual terms, it’s Red Rock Country, Abbey Country, the most sublime — and fragile — place in the U.S.  Here are some recent images from a journey to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and the Grand Canyon, laid out the way our journey took us.  Abbey was talking about Arches National Park, northeast of this region, when he declared it the most beautiful place on Earth.  To us, though, all of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona’s Red Rock country fits this bill.

The journey begins in Zion under flat light, continues through Bryce Canyon on a sunny day, heads through the magical slot canyon known as Buckskin Gulch in Vermillion Cliffs, and finishes under mostly grey, flat light in the Grand Canyon.  The images at the end were as the sun went down in Grand Canyon.  Enjoy the journey.

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One Year On: The Women’s March Returns to Washington

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica M10 with 35mm Summilux

It was 365 days ago that the horror of the Trump presidency was offset by the half million protestors who took to DC’s streets on a grey winter day when all seemed otherwise gloomy.  The wounds of the election had not yet healed, and we had no idea — honestly, no idea — just how awful Trump’s first year in office would be. The fact that so many women, and so many men, came out to protest him was a small, necessary tonic for our pain.

And then the demonstrations kept coming — the spontaneous demonstrations against the Muslim Ban, the planned marches we marked on our calendar and planned our weekends around, from the March for Science in April to the March for Puerto Rico in October.  There have been so many marches, in fact, that we created a gallery of images entitled “Washington Demonstrations In The Age of Trump.” Honestly, these demonstrations, these opportunities to express our profound disapproval of the dotard in the White House, were — aside from being able to canvas in Virginia, to cheer the night Alabama went blue — the only relief we have had, it seems, in this long year since the inauguration.  And happily, today in DC and around the country, crowds came out again to protest after a heinous week that was the capstone to a horrid year.

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Once again the crowds were joyous, despite it all.  And we were out there once again with our Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux.  Now, if you don’t care about Leicas, just scroll down to the pictures.  But this was also the one-year anniversary of our having a Leica M10, essentially the 4th generation of Leica’s digital rangefinder built on the frame of the Leica M, using the greatest collection of lenses in photography.  After one year using the M10 in these marches (we used our SL only once, during the March for Science, in a downpour), we can report that it is the best Leica M of all time, a workhorse, a reliable and intuitive camera.  Going out with it to capture the demonstrations against Trump has been one of the best things about a horrific year.  Enjoy the rest of these snaps from today.

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Scenes From The 2017 High Heel Race

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica Monochrom and 50mm Noctilux or 35mm Summicron v. IV (no flash, BTW)

The High Heel Race in Washington’s Dupont Circle is a spectacle of joy.  Taking place the Tuesday before Halloween, the 30-year old tradition has evolved to being as much for families as for anyone looking for a walk on the wild side.  It ranks up there with the Funk Parade as an event we enjoy photographing.  After a season of taking pictures at events protesting Trump, all joyous but with an undertone of seriousness, this year’s event was pure delight.

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The Found Abstract Art Of Yellowstone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 28, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica SL and Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 ASPH

If you visit Yellowstone National Park and drive up the eastern side of its crazy-eight loop, the world is precise, rectilinear, even as it is, of course, wildly gorgeous and gorgeously wild.  A gorge in fact, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, shows how the park got its name, and if you are a photographer, you are drawn to take certain pictures, year after year, each time reveling in the precision and sharpness of your lens capturing every facet of the rock faces in the plummet to the water.

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Ah, but after you’ve spent time crossing Dunraven Pass and seeing the movement of the animals in the Lamar Valley, when after a day or so it is time to head back down the west side of the park, things get weirder.  This is the land of the fumarole, of the geyser, a steaming, smoking remnant of the volcano underneath your feet. You leave the world where the sharpness of your lens is what matters and enter a place where the art that’s thrust before you everywhere you turn has become unmoored from familiar geometry.

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Once you’re in the Norris Geyser Basin, you are in a completely unfamiliar place, mystical in many ways.  And before you know it, you’re surrounded by pure abstraction and found art.

Yellowstone AbstractYellowstone is sublime, an environment worthy of Rilke.  As you work your way further down its western road, it becomes nothing short of magical.  The herds of bison you’ve seen earlier in the day seem as far away as the grid pattern of Manhattan. Things get very strange.  And found art, nature’s Jackson Pollacks, is everywhere you look.

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Fountain Paint Pot, a perennial stop on our visits there, is different every time, the bacteria pools a completely different color then when last you were there.  Which makes sense, since they’re piping hot and exist in a fierce environment.

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You begin to wonder how the surface of the Earth would look as a giant photograph hung on a large living room wall.

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By the time you get to Grand Prismatic Spring, you know that no human could possibly compete with the caldera of Yellowstone in creating non-representational beauty.

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The Earth is a beautiful place, but the Lower Geyser Basin is more than simply beautiful.  It is, in its own way, terrifying, even as you marvel at it, jaw agape.

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Lurking behind the question of how nature determined its design is, of course, the world’s greatest mystery.  Where did this come from? How did it happen to be here?  Answer that and millions will follow your words down the centuries.

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And when you leave, and head back to your safe existence, you do so determined to come back to this repository of glorious natural art.  And you do so, year after year, like visiting the Louvre, or in this case, Nature’s MOMA.

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For more images of Greater Yellowstone in color, go here.  And if you’d prefer black and white, go here.

The Center Of The Line Of Totality

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 21, 2017 by johnbuckley100

Eclipse T Frenzy-11All images Leica SL and Various-Elmarit-SL 24-90 ASPH

We’d started planning on being in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the total solar eclipse more  than two years ago.  The Path of Totality was to take a diagonal line from Portland, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, but its path across the Tetons made this most beautiful of Western destinations pure catnip, and we knew we had to be there.  As the day approached, and with expectations in Jackson — a town of 10,000 — for Woodstock-like crowds, there was anxiety about where to be, and how to get there.  With the first contact beginning at 10:16 AM, and the Totality — that minute or so when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from our sight — expected at 11:34 AM, we left our house at 6:30 AM for what ordinarily would be a 15-minute drive across the valley.  We wanted to be as close to the center line as we could get, and of course we weren’t alone.

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Traffic came to a complete stop heading north from town, and since the one thing we dreaded most was being stuck on the highway during the eclipse, we contemplated turning around. After all, the sky is big and we had a perfect view from home across the Snake River.  But it was a temporary stoppage, and we were soon walking toward a bluff above the Gros Ventre River from where we would take it all in.

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People were already setting up along the ridge line by 7:15 AM, three hours before first contact.  While the sky to the West was clear, there were clouds around the sun as it rose to the East.

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Cars stretched back for a mile or more from the bluff where we set down our gear and seating, and enough food to last a day.  We often find our way on a summer’s evening to precisely this stretch of road, as along the river, there’s often an assemblage of male moose, and on  a warm night, as the Moon comes up over the Sleeping Indian — one of Jackson Hole’s visual landmark’s, a rock formation more properly called Sheep Mountain, resembling an Indian chief in headdress reclining — it’s as pretty a place to be as there is in the West.  But it was odd to be here in the morning, and in a crowd.

Eclipse T Frenzy-14Our assembled team was ready, and we willed away the clouds that might have obscured our view.

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At 10:16, with Eclipse glasses on, we could just begin to see the Moon cover up a portion of the upper right side of the Sun.  Within twenty minutes, as the Sun rose higher in the sky and the Earth rotated, the Moon could be seen as an object clearly closer to us than the Sun, creating the visceral sense that the Moon was somehow pressing itself between the Sun and us.  If you think about the odds of the moon being precisely the size that it could blot out the sun from our view, the miracle of what was to occur, the transcendence of the event, loomed large.

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It began getting chillier as the Moon covered up more of the Sun.  The light got flatter — we’d expected something like the ordinary course of the Golden Hour occurring, but in some ways it was the opposite, as color — and light — was bleached from the sky, not intensified as it normally is before sunset.  The Solar Eclipse app we’d downloaded let us know that the Eclipse was now just 15 minutes away and we braced to notice the changes to our visual environment as the disk of the Moon ultimately completely blotted out the Sun.

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The light took on what only can be described as an unearthly glow.  I have never seen light with that hue or quality.

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It began getting darker fast.  I turned around and now could see above me the Moon completely centered on the face of the Sun.  The Eclipse glasses were no longer needed.

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It was now not quite nighttime, but very dark all around us.  I decided it was dark enough that I could take a picture of the Totality above.

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It is a camera’s job to inject as much light as possible into an image, and the shot above has been further lightened a bit to showcase the effect of the Eclipse on the Wyoming landscape.  Time was now moving very fast, and the promised two minutes of Totality seemed to be going by in an instant.  Between trying to take pictures, viewing the Totality without the glasses, having to put the glasses on when the Sun’s light shot out from the right side of the Moon as it now began moving away from its position covering the Sun’s face, everything seemed to be moving very fast.  And still we we were able to stare right at the Totality, and take in an event that live is so much more powerful than a photograph can convey.

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Within moments, the day had begun all over again, and there was a second sunrise.  Or at least the Tetons were once more glowing from the return of the Sun.

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Very soon, it began getting fully light again.  The temperature having dropped precipitously as the Sun was being halved by the Moon, it once again began to get warm. Giddy from the experience, we circled one another in fellowship, in shared experience, immediately regretful we’d not been able to fully absorb what was happening in the all-too-brief time in which it was happening.  Experience again became familiar.  We were exultant, and because we’re human, regretful: why had this experience, so fast upon us after years’ anticipation, gone again so quickly?

We will spend the rest of our life remembering what it looked like during that brief moment, when by naked eye, we saw the Moon fully within the circle of the Sun behind it. We wish we could say time stood still, but it doesn’t, it roars on by, leaving us changed, and with memories.

If You Like Moose — And Who Doesn’t? — You’ll Love This Story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 8, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All  images taken with the Leica SL

Last summer, my wife and I returned from an overnight trip to Yellowstone to find these guys hanging out around the house.  They looked a little guilty, like thieves caught eating our trees.  Which of course they were.

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Once we got into the house, we actually were stuck there, because we couldn’t sneak out for dinner without worrying about whether we were disturbing the moose mama and her young calves.

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She had two young ones with her, and after a while we were able to get out for dinner.  We saw them in the neighborhood over the few weeks of summer we are able to sneak away to Wyoming.  The young ones got bigger before our very eyes.

By the time we came back for winter skiing, the mama moose was there, but where were the young ones?

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It was a brutal winter, with high snow drifts.  And while the mama was comfortable around the house, we worried for the calves.

Until yesterday, we came home and found these guys.

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Last year’s calf is now a mama, with a moosekin of her own.  We don’t know where the grandma is, nor what happened to the current mama’s sibling.  But we are so glad to see this third generation of moose arrive, and look forward to next year when, we hope, this young calf comes back with her offspring.

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