Sequoia and King's Canyon - A Walk Among the Grove of Giants

 This past October, I spent a rainy, foggy weekend exploring Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks for the first time. Nothing prepared me for the sheer size and scale of the sequoias that thrust impossibly toward the sky. With names like General Sherman and Grant, these ancient stoic beasts gaze down with indifference as the tiny mammals (yours truly included) scurry across the forest floor in awe.

This trip ended up being the last hurrah for my Nikon D7100 and Tokina 12-24 lens, as I sold them to make the move to a full-frame camera at last! This combo has served me well for so long and helped me produce some of my favorite images.

After an hour ascending the sickeningly long, windy road leading into the Giant Forest, the sun finally broke through enough to allow the rich colors to make themselves known.

Sequoia Trifecta - Mamiya RB67, 90mm, Kodak Ektar 100

Here we are ascending the popular Moro Rock Trail at Sequoia. The short but steep hike concludes with a sweeping panorama of the Sierra Nevadas all around.

Ascending Moro Rock - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24

Sometimes I find that, when hiking to a certain spot for one shot, other scenes catch my eye and inspire me to capture them. I try to remember to keep my eyes open and look around, for the best shot may be right behind me. The image below of a fallen tree framing the distant mountain range drew me in.

Framed - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24

We then made our way to the understated beauty that is King's Canyon National Park. Though not as famous as its nearby sibling, the variety and grandeur of the landscape should not be missed! We arrived on a cold, rainy, dreary day. However, the path to General Grant, the second-largest Sequoia in these parks, achieved an eerie beauty in the gloom. I did, unfortunately, fail to clean my lens from the constant mist and rain.

The Trail Toward General Grant - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24

Moody General - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24

After visiting the General, we made our way onto the scenic drive through the canyon. Low-lying clouds and fog enveloped the mountain peaks and lent a magical air to the place.

Middle Earth Scenic Drive - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24

King's Pass - Mamiya RB67, 90mm, Kodak Ektar 100

View into King's Valley - Mamiya RB67, 90mm, Ektar 100

All in all a truly unique experience. I look forward to returning to explore these expansive, lesser-visited parks and get to know them a little better. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more! 

Exploring Antelope Canyon

During a recent trip to Lake Powell, we embarked on an exploratory tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, a magical slot canyon on a Navajo reservation near Page, Arizona. For this tour, I was unable to bring along my tripod, however I still came away with some images I'm quite happy with. The enchanting light and sculpted sandstone walls inspired my imagination.

Paramount - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

Paramount - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

Panchromatic Cavern - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

Panchromatic Cavern - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

Whispering Sandstone - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

Whispering Sandstone - Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4

I can't wait to return to this extraordinary slot canyon and uncover the secrets it has yet to reveal. 

Sunset along the Colorado

Taken with the Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4. Two merged exposures to reign in the dynamic range of the scene. 

Taken with the Nikon D7100, Tokina 12-24 F4. Two merged exposures to reign in the dynamic range of the scene. 

A bit of an unusual perspective on the oft-photographed and ridiculously majestic Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. To the right of this scene, there was a maniac hopping up and down on a unicycle near the edge of the cliff. Terror and beauty all at once! This image is available to buy and will be added to the store shortly.  


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2014 thus far has been a year of new perspectives and a reinvigorated focus. Looking at old things in new ways and prioritizing passion and happiness above all else. I can't wait to show you all what's in store!

The above image was taken during a particularly disappointing sunset, at least from the expectation of fiery explosions of color and dramatic light. However, the subtle backlight and the sun barely breaking through the dense clouds made for a fascinating and unexpected moment to capture. It's when we remove all expectation that we can genuinely see what the moment gives us. It's important to remain open-minded and that is a new priority of mine in my art.

Join me at the Summerlin Art Festival!

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Come down and see my work and purchase your favorite print at this year's Summerlin Art Festival! It's Saturday, October 12th and Sunday, October 13th from 9am to 5pm. Come by my booth, say hello, and brand new pieces debuted for the first time! The even is free, open to the public, and there will be tons of food and entertainment! Bring the whole family! I look forward to seeing you all there!

Here's the brochure:


Come see me at Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center!

Hey everyone, Red Rock Canyon is hosting an artist meet and greet for me in the lobby of the Visitor Center this Saturday, the 20th, from 10am-2pm. Come down and say hi, check out my prints, and feel free to ask questions! Also, enter to win one of my prints for free just for stopping by!

look forward to seeing any and all who can make it!

Now For Sale At The Red Rock Visitor Center!

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Some exciting news, dear readers! You can now purchase many of my Red Rock Canyon images at the Elements Gift Shop at the Red Rock Canyon visitor center in Las Vegas! All of the fine art prints are printed and matted by me, signed, and include a certificate of authenticity. This is a huge step forward in sharing my images with the world. Click on the logo below for more info!

A Return to Zion

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Returning to Zion National Park always feels like coming home. Last year, because of health issues, I wasn't able to visit as much as I'd like, nor was I able to make my yearly Narrows hike a reality. Thankfully, with the strengthening of my body, we were able to make the short trip to this beautiful place to rejuvenate my spirit. Visiting in late March is a transitional period for the Park and the lovely town of Springdale, just outside the gates. The weather is warming up and the crowds are starting to increase, but it's not quite in full swing like the busy peak summer months. You can make your way along the trails without feeling so much like waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland. We sampled much of the incredible food available in many of the restaurants in Springdale, the smells drawing us in while we walked along the street.

Although I was sans-DSLR for this trip (I was anxiously awaiting my Nikon D7100 pre-order to come in, more on that in another post), I had my trusty Panasonic LX-5 with me at all times. It is quite freeing to be able to travel so light and still have a good camera with a good sensor for any photographic inspiration that comes along. That's something that tempts me about the Micro Four-Thirds system that I might succumb to someday (OM-D EM-5, you sexy beast). I still managed some images I'm happy with from the trip.

The above was a shot I took along the Riverside Walk (AKA The Temple of Sinawava). The early spring lends a mysterious quality to some of these scenes, with the trees still barren, but the ground teeming with life.

A black and white taken from Springdale. I love the multi-aspect sensor of my LX-5. Being able to shoot in 16:9 lends a cinematic feeling to the images. It's nice to see the framing in the field, rather than cropping after the fact.

I can't wait to return to Zion again in the summer for a Narrows hike the my new D7100. Thanks for reading!

Episode 3 is LIVE!

It's been over a year since the last episode of my video series, but I'm finally back in good health and ready to ramp up production! Take a look at the new episode and let me know what you all think as well as what you'd like to see in future episodes!

To Boldy Go...

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One of my goals for 2012 was to dip my feet into Astrophotography, a subject that has captivated me for years. Armed with a rudimentary knowledge of what I'd need to get any kind of exposure of the heavens above, I set out to capture a perspective of Zion National Park I had never before attempted. Just outside of Zion, in the lovely town of Springdale, the skies get much darker than they ever do here in Vegas. My eyes began to adjust and the silvery band of the Milky Way became clearer. While perched atop the balcony of the pool of our hotel, I began to fire away in the general direction of our lovely spiral galaxy. Blind fire would be more appropriate, as it's nearly impossible to compose a shot through the viewfinder in this darkness. In the future, I'll definitely compose while light still remains in the sky.

I knew I wanted the stars to appear as pinpoints rather than long streaks of light across the sky, so my exposures were limited to 30 seconds. Any longer, and the rotation of the Earth would blur the stars. The preview of my first shot on the back of the camera astounded me with a view of our galaxy my eyes could never capture directly. The colors of the myriad stars shone through like fairy dust. Truly magical. This was my first attempt at astrophotography and I've already learned many lessons I'll take to my next star-gazing session. Onward and upward!

The Road Back

It's been quite a while since my last update. There are a number of reasons for this, primarily some health issues that kept me in and out of the hospital for a couple of months. I'm currently in the process of a slow, but sure recovery. This experience has given me a new perspective on things, including my craft. Honestly, I had been stuck in a bit of a rut photographically even prior to my wardrobe change to a lovely hospital gown. I realize I had been taking the same sorts of pictures and needed change of pace, so I've set some photography goals to help me branch out and take advantage of being well enough to get out there and make some new images.

Here's my list of goals:

  • Shoot more horizontals! While looking through my body of work, I noticed that I take a hell of a lot more vertical (or portrait) photos than horizontal (landscape). I read on the remarkable Dreamscapes blog that men tend to take more vertical orientation shots than women, something to do with our more aggressive nature. I think it's more about compositional laziness on my part, but I'll use the excuse that I'm just too darn manly! Plus, landscape orientation tends to make slideshows so much prettier! So there's that...
  • Intimate! I've been so obsessed with getting the grand sweeping vistas that I've lost sight of the smaller details, the hidden beauty that I trudge past on my hikes. The photo at the top of this post is an attempt at this goal. There are so many beautiful shapes and patterns that get lost when approaching things from a grand scale.
  • Panoramas! On the other hand, huge sweeping panoramas are pretty badass. This is when you take multiple photos of the same location and stitch them together to get a view nearly impossible to get with one shot. The other benefit is that, because you're getting so much more resolution, these can be printed HUGE. There is a lot of technique to master in order to make a good panorama, so that's a goal of mine for the tail-end of 2012.
  • Astrophotography! This is a big one. Those who know me well, know that I'm an astronomy nut. The first time I saw the Milky Way with my own eyes on a moonless night was as close to a religious experience as I've ever had. I've longed to capture the stars as a backdrop to night landscapes for quite a while. There is a lot to learn and a great deal of experimentation involved in getting anything usable, but It'll be worth it.
  • Stop lusting after new camera gear! As challenging as it can be, I need to remember that the latest camera and most expensive lenses won't make me take better pictures. It's also a fantastic way to accumulate debt! Some of my best photos were taken with a 6-year-old Nikon D200 and a kit lens. Focusing on the craft is worlds more important than going bankrupt for a few more megapixels. This is a tough one, as I'm generally quite the gearhead.

That's it for now, quite a lot to accomplish and a great way to kick my butt into gear photographically. You can follow my progress on these goals here on my website and I'll be featuring these topics on future episodes of "The Adventure Book" show on Youtube. Let me know in the comments what sorts of goals you have! 


Zoological Hijinks

We took a fun little trip to the San Diego Zoo a couple of weeks back. I hadn't been since I was 11 or 12, so much of the experience was entirely new. First course of action? Pith helmets. No self-respecting adventurer would be caught without one.

Tourist trap? Maybe. Stylish and sophisticated? You know it!

I've always been a lover of animals, but where I live in Las Vegas, the variety is a bit lacking. You can see only so many snakes and lizards before they all start to look the same. And, regardless of how often I try to replicate the mating call of the elusive mountain lion and shake raw meat above my head, they are not fooled into making contact. Probably for the best, all things considered.

Here was an opportunity to photograph so many beautiful creatures in one spot, AND retain all of my limbs in the process!

It helps if you imagine bongos being played throughout this blog post.

The eyes are very soulful. It's a little upsetting to see this one behind the cage.

This fella's practicing his upward dog. Well done.

And here we see the hyperactive panda.

As always, check out the full gallery to see all of the images from this trip!

Thanks for joining me! Now I'm off to take a nap...



Waking up the Watchman

©2012 Matthew Arrington. Click for a larger version.

We just spent a wonderful weekend at Zion. For those who've never been there in the off-season, it's quite a different experience to the mobs of people in the summer. Many of the shops and restaurants in the neighboring town of Springdale are closed for the season. You can drive your own vehicle through the shuttle loop, which opens up many photo opportunities that would otherwise be less accessible. This is a view of The Watchman from the bridge over the Virgin River. A common view that I've seen countless times, but there was something special about this particular morning. The clouds finally broke off in the distance to cast some crisp sidelight on The Watchman. What caught my eye beyond all else, however, was the turquoise color of the water. Never have I see the river take on this color. You don't often see Zion in winter, especially during a mild winter with little to no snow, but there is a stark beauty here. 20 minutes later, the clouds filled the sky once more and greyed everything out. Timing is everything, truly.

Episode #1 is LIVE!

Here it is, the start of my new video series! This first episode takes you behind the scenes of what I do to improve my landscape images in post-processing. Let me know what you think in the comments section and tell me what you'd like to see next!


Click for a larger version.

Nothing draws me into a scene or composition more than stark contrast. It's what my eye seeks more often than any other element. How can one subject, such as the mountain above, be of such dual nature? Cold and frozen on one face, warm and golden on the other. I chose a symmetrical  composition to emphasize the difference here. I didn't have as long a lens as I would have liked, so much cropping was necessary to get the framing I wanted. This shot is a great example of a scene that comes alive in post-production. Shooting a camera in RAW format often doesn't capture the brilliant colors and contrast of the scene as the eye saw it. RAW files start out with such flatness and muddiness, so post-production (read: contrast, brightness, saturation, and levels adjustment) is necessary to bring the image back from the dead. Why do I shoot RAW vs JPEG? Because I get all of the data recorded of the scene and can decide for myself how to interpret it. When you shoot JPEG, you're losing information and many of the creative decisions are handed off to the camera. I'm kind of a control freak, so I definitely can't have that! I'll delve further into the differences between RAW and JPEG in an upcoming episode of my video series.