Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We're full of good ideas . . .

Coinciding with the Ken Burns' documentary on the National Parks, ABC News picked the "Top Ten" parks, ranking our own favorite, Death Valley National Park - wait for it! - #1! Ranking right above Yellowstone, the first National Park! Their description follows the pic below - from Rhyolite Ghost Town (done on our last trek down there) just outside the Park's boundaries.

From ABC News:
"Death Valley National Park This might be a controversial pick for the top spot on our list. But there is a reason: Death Valley's vast size and remoteness make it feel isolated. You aren't going to trip over busloads full of tourists here. You aren't going to need to fight your way to the canyon railing to get that photo op. Some days in Death Valley, you are lucky if there are other cars on the highway with you.

Death Valley is about 140 miles long and has 3.4 million acres of desert and mountains, making it the largest national park in the contiguous United States.

It is the hottest, driest and lowest place around.

The park, about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, is best visited in the spring when wildflowers can bloom or the winter when it is cool enough to walk around. By May the valley is too hot for most visitors, yet throughout the hottest months, visitors from around the world still flock to the park. Lodging and camping are available, but only the most hardy will want to camp in the low elevations in the summer. Most summer visitors tour by car to the main points of interest along the paved roads but do little else due to the extreme heat

In July of 1913, the temperature hit a shocking 134 degrees in the valley. It hasn't been that hot since, but other days have come close. Back on July 6, 2007, it touched 129 degrees. At that point, what's the difference? The summer of 2001 came with 154 consecutive days where temperatures reached 100 degrees. And 1996 was the hottest summer on record with 40 days over 120 degrees. Wow.

But if you can stand the heat, the park is simply spectacular. The park has many different attractions, including vast sand dunes and high peaks overlooking the valley.

But the real highlight is Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, is not just the lowest place in the park, it's the lowest in North America. It's a surreal landscape of vast salt flats. Walking across it - in cooler weather - makes visitors feel like they are walking on the moon. Or at least some unearthly place.

Nearby, is the Devil's Golf Course, an immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires. The area is so serrated that it was once said that "only the devil could play golf on such rough links."

If you prefer some simpler links, the Furnace Creek Golf Course provides a more traditional game. It also happens to be the lowest in the world."

BTW, we have extended the registration period for our annual trek down to Death Valley (October 30-31, and November 1, 2009) to this coming Monday, October 5th. See below or follow this link.

(from The Nocturnes NightNews feed)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best ideas . . .

Ken Burns' best idea yet - the new PBS series, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." On most PBS stations, starting this Sunday September 27 - check local listings.

Along those lines, another good idea . . . There is still a great opportunity to photograph at night with The Nocturnes, in the California desert, coming up, October 30, 31 and November 1, 2009. This workshop will be held in the spectacular, surreal, extreme landscape of Death Valley National Park.

Badwater, Study 1, Death Valley by Tim Baskerville - from the Dream Dates series

Death Valley, at more than 3 million acres, is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States. From Telescope Peak (11,049 foot) on the west to Dante's View on the east (5,475 foot and offering a vista of nearly all of Death Valley), the park features spectacular desert scenery, unusual wildlife, and is an area of great geological, historical, and cultural interest to many. Badwater is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (282 feet below sea level). The average high temperature during the day in November is a very mild 76 degrees, followed by cooler nights at around 50 degrees!

This is the dramatic landscape we will find ourselves visiting this November, during the Full "Frost" Moon - to photograph the nocturnal beauty of Death Valley! We will photograph around Furnace Creek Ranch, and such sites as the Ghost town of Rhyolite, Zabriskie Point under the light of the full moon, and the majestic Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, near the north end of the Park.

Absolute drop-deadline to register with us AND reserve accomodations down at Furance Creek is September 30th - more info here with a registration form here.

From The [not so] Daily Nocturne

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Simply . . . transformative

"With the eyes of a child
You must come out and see
That your world’s spinning round . . ."
("Eyes of a Child" - Moody Blues, 1969)

Looking both very 'other-worldly' and a bit like a scale model of some kind of fantastic magical sculpture/structure, check out Jamey Stillings' nightwork of the Colorado River Bridge, Hoover Dam Bypass Project - at his Web site - CLICK! on Projects (at bottom of page) and then Colorado River Bridge.

From his introduction to the series: "Watching the bridge's construction, especially at night, is both magical and inspring. This series combines my photographic and aesthetic sensibilities with a reawakened sense of childhood curiosity and awe."

From The [not so] Daily Nocturne

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Log on to the Mystery Tour . . . "

The numerology of today's post (note the date) and a series of addresses, releases, and deliveries have given pause to us, here at The Nocturnes.

- Today marked the long-awaited release of "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game (see commentary below)

- Digitally remastered versions of the entire studio catlog of the Beatles were released today (after a 22-year wait). Available at your nearest Starbucks, Quiznos, Ace Hardware (the usual suspects) - oh-h and some record stores, too!

- Today Apple Computer did NOT deliver the Beatles catalog to iTunes (now iTunes 9).

- Leica formally introduced the M-9 (there's that # again!)

- President Obama delivered another 'teachable moment' (and a scolding) - no. not to elementary-school students - but to the American poeple and the foes of his Health Care Reform plan.

- Now, another "teachable moment" - from a photographic perspective. In the New York Times
coverage of "The Beatles: Rock Band" Seth Schiesel waxes pretty eloquently about the release (and not from a boomer, reverential frame of reference): " . . . no video game has ever brought more parents together with their teenage and adult children than "The Beatles: Rock Band" likely will in the months and years to come." But, our favorite obsevation by the author is this one: "Yet there is something about video games that seems to inspire true anger in some older people.Why is that? Is there still really a fear that a stylized representation of reality detracts from reality itself? In recent centuries every new technology for creating and enjoying music - the phonograph, the electric guitar, the Walkman, MTV, karaoke, the iPod - has been condemned as the potential death of "real" music."

Now, here I'll translate, for all you photo-types out there: "In recent centuries [mid-19th, 20th, and now 21st] every new technology for creating and enjoying photography - the glass plate, safety film, 35mm film, early Leicas, in-camera metering, SLRs, Canon A-1, Olympus OM-2, electronic exposure control, Pho'Shop, all things d-i-g-i-t-a-l - has been condemned as the potential death of "real" photography." Or, something like that.

Seth goes on to conclude: "But music is eternal. Each new tool for creating it, and each new technology for experiencing it, only brings the joy of more music to more people. This new game is a fabulous entertainment that will not only introduce the Beatles’ music to a new audience but also will simultaneously bring millions of their less-hidebound parents into gaming."

Lesson learned?

(". . . number nine, number nine, number nine . . . ")

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Need a few more Nocturnists . . .

Image by former CofM student Roberto Renzetti

Looking for a few more people to round out the Night Photography Course I'm teaching over at College of Marin, Kentfield Campus. You'll need to hurry, tho' - deadline to register is THIS WEDNESDAY, September 9, 2009. Visit the College of Marin Web site for registration and more information. Class runs Fridays from September 11th thru October 23rd. Locations include some of the most scenic spots in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio and the Marin Headlands.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Simulacra and Night Photography

Today, we'd like to highlight Massimo Cristaldi's images of votive altars in Sicily. In a recent "Lens" feature of the venerable Photo Blog of the New York Times, James Estrin writes: "Simulacra of simulacra," is how Massimo Cristaldi describes his photographs of small roadside votive altars in Sicily — "overwhelmed by galloping globalization and by general indifference."

See more at Massimo's Web site.

From The [not so] Daily Nocturne