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Summer Here, Summer Gone

I woke up this morning to a wonderful 59 degrees outside. The perfect temp to throw on some shots, stocking hat and a hoodie... I can feel it, the cooler temps are coming back and they are not far away. The other night a couple friends and I ventured up into the mountains at around 11,000 feet... Leaving my house in Denver with temps in the mid 80s I was dressed in jeans, hoodie, and winter boots because where we were going was going to get down into the mid 30s. On our way up to our shooting location we were talking about how fast summer went. I can't quite pinpoint the reason why but it sure feels like summers (the time between Memorial Day and the day my daughter goes back to school) are getting shorter. I decided to go back into my photo archives and take a look at some of the images I was able to create this summer and share them with you with a little more of the backstory that I don't always post on social media.

St. Paul Lutheran Church - Sony A7r4, Sigma 100-400 at 274mm, ISO 200, F/9, 1/400th sec

Near Boone, Iowa sits the ever so beautiful St. Paul Lutheran Church. Perched up on a small hill overlooking a newly sprouted field. Earlier in the morning I had been photographing the church from the green lawn in front of the church. After the sunrise I decided to make my way to another location and when I started to drive away this scene caught my eye. Because the rows are not perfectly in line with the church I found myself walking around quite a bit to get an angle I found pleasing to the eye. I like this scene and how the moon lines up with the church at various times of the year. It's a location I plan to shoot each time I'm in Iowa for different images that capture different moods. As the plants get taller I think the image will change a bit too.

Shannon City, Iowa First State Bank - Sony A7r4, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 100, F/4, 1/20th second

The small town of Shannon, Iowa is home to about 70 people. Most of the buildings are abandoned. At its peak in the early 1900s, Shannon City boasted four churches, two banks, a number of other shops and stores, and a population of nearly 400. Shannon City was established in 1887 and laid out June 5, 1888 on both sides of the Ringgold/Union county line with the business section located mainly on the south side in Ringgold County. The First National Bank Of Shannon City in Iowa printed $305,560 dollars worth of national currency. This national bank opened in 1910 and stopped printing money in 1935, which equals a 26 year printing period.

In the winter, the first time I saw the bank, the vines were dead and void of any leafs. When I re-visited this summer I was happy to find the vines filled with vibrant green leaves which made a nice contrast to the brick building.

Cobweb Disaster - Sony A7r4, Sigma 100-400 at 400mm, ISO 50, F/22, 1/13th second

During our night photography workshop in Yellowstone National Park I found some free time to get outside during the day and find some areas that didn't have a lot of people. In doing so it lets me connect with an area without feeling rushed. I like to watch the scene before me and try to come up with a vision of an image that I might be able to create. Along Gull Point Drive one day I sat at the waters edge and took in the scenery. I started to think about how I could photograph what I was seeing. Using a longer lens I zoomed in on some trees which were catching some highlights from the sun and still had some areas in the shade. I felt the contrast of the two was nice and decided to do some "ICM" - In Camera Movement. Because it was very bright out and I didn't have a filter to fit this particular lens I had to work with a slightly faster shutter speed than I was hoping..In doing so it just made me adjust my movement a little slower so that I could still capture some details as well as the movement. This is an image of trees in the sunlight. I took several images using this technique and found two that I really enjoyed, this being one of them. If you have never tried ICM I highly recommend it as a form of expression that differs from normal photography. Basically you are just moving the camera while the shutter is open. Each scene will be different and each movement will produce a different image so it's almost impossible to get any 2 images alike.

Night Under the Stars - Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm for the foreground, Sigma 28mm for the Milky Way. Single image for the foreground shot just after the sun went down. 45 images for the sky, stacked in SLS, hand blended in PS

At night, Yellowstone is home to some of the most beautiful dark skies I have ever seen. I love how quiet it is at night. Even with a workshop group, once everyone is set up and the lights are off, you can just sit back and enjoy the night sky as our cameras work away. On this particular night we were blessed with not only seeing the northern lights but also hearing a pack of wolves howling not more than 100 yards away. As our group was on the boardwalk that you see in this image, the wolves were having a good ole time near the parking lot. While the howling probably only lasted a minute, it felt like several minutes. Being out there under the stars on a perfect moonless night hearing the wolves howl as the norther lights danced along the horizon was one of the most memorable nights I've had as a workshop instructor with a group.

Summer at the Narrows - Sony A7r4, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 50, F/20, 1/5th second

After getting home from Yellowstone I quickly changed gears and headed to Oregon to celebrate my Dad's birthday. While the drive is roughly 1300 miles and takes about 22 hours. I always enjoy the time I get to spend with him. My father has been a pillar in my life and I am very thankful for all the lessons he has taught me. When I am visiting my Dad I generally do photography fairly close to his house. One day last winter while I was with him and some of his fishing buddies, one of them mentioned this "waterfall" along the river. I asked a few more questions regarding the location of such place and they were quick to pinpoint the area. It's a "fishing hole" with a small trail that leads to the river. When I visited this spot on Christmas last year, it was snowing and had so much water rushing over the rocks that you couldn't see these rocks. I decided to go back and see what it looked like in the summer. The water level had dropped and was a beautiful emerald color which closely matched the leaves on the trees. Behind me in a small pool of water in the rocks were a few salamanders playing. I sent a picture of them to my daughter and she quickly replied, "What are those?". It was at that moment I thought I failed as a parent but then realized she had never seen a salamander before. I grew up playing in the Oregon Coast river system so I had been around them my whole life... Hopefully next time she goes to Oregon with me I can show them to her.

Foxglove Dew Drops - Sony A7r4, Sigma 105mm Macro ART, ISO 400, F/4, 1/1250th sec

Early morning dew drops on some newly opened Foxglove blooms. I had just purchased the Sigma 105mm Macro Lens and this looked like a great image to use it on. I moved around a bit to get the green behind the blooms. Foxglove grows abundantly in Oregon and it was one of my moms favorite flowers. So each time I see it, it reminds me of her.

Proposal rock Reflections - Sony A7r4, Sigma 105mm Art macro, ISO 50, F/16, 1/40th second

Proposal Rock is an island off the coast of the U.S. state of Oregon, in Tillamook County, near the community of Neskowin. The island is named for a local legend of a sea captain taking his beloved there to propose to her. The proposal was from Charley Gage to Della Page sometime around 1900. My goal on this particular morning was to get more over by the trees on the hillside and photograph the "Ghost Forest" of tree stumps that have been uncovered after many many years of being under the sand. Even though the tides were right, there was too much water inside the inlet which made it unable for me to walk through. Instead of just leaving and going back to my dads, I decided to fly the drone a little and see about getting some images with the ripples and reflection. I was already doing some other macro work in the sand so I just kept the macro lens on and used it for this scene. The camera and lens were only a few inches off the water as I wanted to really emphasize the ripples in the foreground.

Lost Creek Cascade - 3 horizontal images stitched, Sony A7r4, Sigma 14-24mm at 14mm, ISO 50, F/14, 0.3 seconds

Each summer I try and get a few hikes in with my family. Schedules can be a nightmare to match up but occasionally it does happen. The first time I hiked this trail was with some friends and we didn't make it this far because our destination was a waterfall lower on the trail. The second time I hiked this trail was with my daughter. I though it would be fun to show her the waterfall we had seen and for whatever reason that day she was not in a good mood and wanted nothing to do with the waterfall. I'll admit I was a little bummed that all she wanted to do was go home. She was several years younger and although she had climbed 2 14k feet peaks she just didn't want to be hiking that day. Third times a charm. I was able to match up schedules with my wife and we decided to hike to the lake at the top of the trail. It was a perfect day. We arrived at the trailhead about an hour before sunrise, got the last parking spot (one of the problems with Colorado is that EVERYONE wants to be outside) and started hiking up in the dark. We got to the first waterfall just as the sun was coming up and the moon was setting. We enjoyed the view there with our dog and I took some pictures. We started back up the trail and soon came to a footbridge that crossed a heavily flowing creek. It was a beautiful sight as we listened to the water rushing by. A little further up the trail we found this beauty. The way the water was flowing down through the rocks making the bend and then flowing right in front of me was breathtaking. Once I break the camera out my wife knows it's going to be a little bit. I try and work as fast as possible because I know she'd rather keep hiking. I took a few shots and realized the scene was bigger and closer to me so I would need to stitch a few shots to get the whole thing in. I ended up taking 3 horizontal images and stitching them to get the entire scene from the rocks and water in the foreground to the sky and trees in the background.

Sand Dunes Sunset - Sony A7r4, Sony 24-105mm, ISO 100, F/7.1, 1/20th second

Sometimes the best images are the most spontaneous ones. On this particular day we just decided to load up the car one afternoon, my wife, daughter, her friend and our dog and drive three hours down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I had been there a couple times before but this was the first for my wife and daughter. We get there about an hour before sunset and enjoyed playing on the dunes. My daughter had a blast with her friend rolling all over them. We had some nice storm clouds before sunset which gave way to a nice rainbow. That was fun to watch. My daughter and her friend took off up the dunes and we told them to just come back after sunset. My wife and I waited with the dog until they got back. In the meantime we got to witness this amazing sunset over the dunes. If you look close you can see 2 chairs on the lower portion of the dunes. If you've never been to the dunes it's hard to imagine how big they really are. If you have been here then you know their grand size. I snapped images from my lawn chair with my wife and dog by my side enjoying the same view. This trip is one I will always remember.

Pittsburgh Nights - Sony A7r4, Sony 24-105mm, ISO 200, F/10, 13 seconds

With summer quickly coming to a close and my daughter headed back to school in less than a week I felt that we needed a little trip together. Generally in the summers my daughter and I spend about 6 weeks traveling on road trips. This summer was a little different because she wanted to work. We didn't get to spend as much time together as we normally do. I knew Metallica was playing in Pittsburgh on Aug 14th and it just so happened that her favorite band, Greta Van Fleet was opening. What would be the odds. I had put off buying the tickets but as the date grew closer I realized that it was moments like this that can't be replaced by anything. So I bought the tickets, she got time off work and we road tripped to Pittsburgh from Denver. It's a 24hr drive and just getting to spend time with her in the car and taking to her was really good. We met up with my brother in law and his wife the night before the show and enjoyed some of the sights and had dinner together. I love skyline shots so I was very happy to get this image showing the town at night. The next night we all went to the show, had a blast and then my daughter and I got up early and made the drive home. We got home the day before she started school. A whirlwind trip to say the least and one that I don't think we will forget anytime soon.

So that's my summer in a nutshell. I am sure looking forward to Fall and the cooler temps as the leaves change and a new type of scenery surrounds us. Life moves pretty fast. We have to appreciate these moments we have when we can. Sometimes we just need to make the time to enjoy them. I sure appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

I'd like to thank the following companies for their continued support of my work -

Sigma Lenses - I use Sigma lenses for 99% of my work

Moab Paper - Juniper Baryta Rag is my favorite paper to print on.

Robus - My tripod of choice. Amazing quality at an amazing value

You can find Darren's work around the web in these locations. I'm always happy to connect with like minded people.

Darren's Website - Discount code CPJASS at checkout for up to $50 off your purchase of any image.

You can contact me directly here -

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