The Great Mega Western Photo Tour – finally home!

•August 4, 2011 • 3 Comments

After 22 days, 3,229 miles, and 4,650 photos I finally arrived home in the San Francisco Bay Area on July 1st.  My car was still not fixed and subsequently visited a competent local dealership in Sunnyvale, CA and required a $1,300 head gasket repair.  I won’t be posting a review of my Honda Civic on this blog, but if I did it would be nowhere near positive.

Here is a map showing my route throughout the West.  I made it to 9 states, including every Western state except for Washington and Montana.  What a beautiful country I am fortunate enough to live in!  Let’s do everything we can to keep it beautiful and not drill for oil or shale gas in the Western United States.  Keep our air and our rivers clean!  I will do everything I can do slow global warming.  Let’s do our best!

[Click on the map to see the large version with details.]

My 3,229 mile route!

Processing the over 4,600 photos has been quite a challenge, though I am making steady progress and expect to be processing until I begin my graduate studies at Stanford at the end of September.  I’ll continue to share my photos on this blog and will perform a large website update once I’m done with the entire trip’s worth of photos.  Like all endeavors in life, nature photography requires patience and determination.  The following photograph is an excellent example of this.  I took this photo at Lake Abert in Oregon and waiting all afternoon for the sun to break through storm clouds on the horizon.  My patience paid off and offered a spectacular sunset behind the dramatic shoreline of this beautifully desolate lake.  I determined to make the most of this incredible light and shot many different compositions.  It was by far the best shoot of my three week trip.

“Lake Abert Sunset” – Lake Abert, OR

Nikon D700, Nikon 16-35mm lens

3-stop hard grad ND

2 image blend for luminosity (ISO 200, f/13, 1/10 sec and 0.4 sec) – blend is iHDR (manual PS blending using luminosity masks/painting)


Lake Abert update – Great Mega Western Photo Tour

•June 29, 2011 • 2 Comments

Yesterday was a whirlwind day full of frustrations and exileration.  I paid $200 to get my car finally fixed in Twin Falls, Idaho.  It was working fine for about 4 hours but then when I got into the middle of nowhere in the deserts of Eastern Oregon it started to overheat again.  After having taken it to 4 mechanics in two weeks, my car was still not fixed.  I knew I couldn’t be defeated by this.  I had to create some sort of value from this situation.

Because my car was not fixed yet I had to cancel my trip to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.  I was stuck driving down the high desert highway of US-395.  Little did I know that this would be an incredible opportunity to view one of the most amazing places I’ve ever had the pleasure of the photographing.

I shot one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen on Lake Abert, just off of US-395.  The colors were incredible as the sun lit up the remnants of the afternoon’s thunderstorms.  The foreground objects were plentiful, colorful, and just plain freakin’ awesome!  I have many more to process but here is a shot in the meantime.

Copyright Aaron Burdick Photography 2011

“Lake Abert Sunset”

Nikon D700, Nikon 16-35mm lens

3 stop hard step ND grad

Blend of two exposures, both at f/13, ISO200

Here is a crappy video taken with my phone that attempts to show the majesty of the waves crashing on Lake Abert’s shore at sunset.

I truly feel that I was able to “turn poison into medicine” with this situation.  I believe I got WAY better photos than I would have gotten if I had made the trek up to Crater Lake.  It was also a very unique experience to be the only one photographing the lake (in fact I did not even see anyone else the entire time I was shooting) after the crowds of Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

I’m writing from Klamath Falls as my car finally gets fixed for good.  I am so close to California I can almost taste it.  I’ve never been happier to be coming back home to Cali and my new home in Mountain View to see my fiancee.  Joni Mitchell’s “California” came on my iPod yesterday.  I can’t wait to be back in the greatest state in the country!

Yellowstone Update – Great Mega Western Photo Tour

•June 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I am in the Old Faithful Inn taking a bit of rest right now while downloading my photos from sunrise.  The sun rises around 5:15am here so mid-afternoon is a great time to take a break from shooting and get some rest.  I’ve got a lovely little room with a sink (bathroom down the hall) and log cabin walls and ceiling.  Unfortunately my lights are not working but I hope for that to be corrected soon.

I am here in Yellowstone shooting with some old friends including Frank Damon and Jay and Varina Patel.  We have a great group and are exploring some excellent locations.  Since I only have my laptop here I am not processing most of my files until I return home, but here is a little teaser from the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the most spectacular locations anywhere in the world.

Copyright Aaron Burdick Photography 2011

“Into the Prism” – Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WY

Nikon D700, Nikon 16-35mm, Singh ray warming polarizer, 2 stop hard step grad ND filter, 1/4 second @ f/13

The Great Mega Western Photo Tour!!!

•June 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Howdy y’all!  I am writing this from Jackson, Wyoming while my laundry is washing.  I am in the middle of what I like to call the “Great Mega Western Photo Tour”!!!  Intrepidly I have embarked on the following route:

Los Angeles –> Zion National Park, Utah –> Telluride, CO (pit stop at Telluride Bluegrass Festival!!!!) –> Moab, UT / Arches National Park / Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah –> Timpanogos, Uinta National Forest, Utah –> Jackson, WY (a week in Grand Teton / Yellowstone National Parks) –> Sawtooth Range, Idaho –> John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon –> Redwood National Park, CA –> back home to Mountain View, CA!

So here I find myself in Jackson, Wyoming waiting on my laundry and downloading photos from the past couple of days, including a beautiful sunrise shot from this morning in Grand Teton National Park.  This trip has been full of trials and victories.  My car has been overheating and after 2 mechanics and $125 put into it, the problem persists.  I will be renting a car this week for Grand Teton / Yellowstone and then taking my car to the Honda dealer in Idaho on my way home.  Just gotta bite the bullet sometimes.

In the Timpanogos I dropped my cell phone (HTC EVO) and shattered the screen.  What a bummer!  However, I’m sure I got rid of some past negative karma and so I am filled with joy!  I got a screen protector which prohibits me from cutting myself and the phone amazingly still works.

I’ll be posting many more images but I’ve got to go change the laundry over now!  =)  For now, here is a teaser from a sunrise in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, CO.

Copyright Aaron Burdick 2011

“Iris Sunrise” – San Juan Mountains, CO

Nikon D700, Nikon 16-35mm lens, f/14, 2 stop hard step grad ND filter

“Showdown”, near Mohave, CA

•February 16, 2011 • 1 Comment

In the winter the spiny desert vegetation of the Southwest watches in awe as small tufts of green grass surround them from the winter rains.  Soon the wildflowers will be exploding across the region and I will be out shooting them.  The stormy winter sunsets in the desert, however, are hard to beat at any time of year and provide an amazing background for the unique interplay of vegetation to be found this time of year.

“Showdown”, near Mohave, CA

– This shot is a blend of three exposures using the iHDR technique (hand blending exposures in Photoshop using “luminosity clusters”).  This is the only way I was able to get the foreground exposure the proper brightness, while maintaining detail in the cloud.  If I had used a Grad ND filter, then the cloud would have been near black, rather than the beautiful dark purple it was.

Southern Utah – a beautiful alien world

•February 16, 2011 • 2 Comments

Last November I was fortunate enough to travel with Jay and Varina Patel on a photo workshop to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  It was my first time shooting in the region and I can say unequivocally that I will be back as often as possible.  What an incredible landscape!!!

I explored the following sites with my friend and fellow photographer Frank Damon (here’s his website):

Paria Canyon

Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness

Page, AZ

Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park (near Las Vegas)

Here is a sampling of my photographs from the trip:

“Bryce Canyon Sunrise”, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

– My first time ever seeing Bryce Canyon I was treated to this sunrise.  It was a glorious introduction to an amazing place that photos can never really do justice too.  It is just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon!  This shot is a blend of 3 or 4 different shots taken less than one second apart.  The reason for this blend is to capture the full dynamic range (from dark to light) of the scene.

“Mentor and Disciple”, Zion National Park, Utah

– For this shot I got in really close to these two leaves and used the hyperfocal distance of my wide angle lens to give the exaggerated perspective you see here.  The relationship of Mentor and Disciple is crucial to many disciplines and for me has been crucial to the development of my Buddhist faith.  A Buddhist mentor should be united with his or her disciples and there should be no elements of hierarchy, but rather unity.

“The King”, Vermillion Cliffs, Utah

– This image was taken at the “Wahweap Hoodoos” in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness.  The color differences are due to the age of the rock layers.  A truly alien landscape, this scene would be just as comfortable on Mars (though there would be no blue sky).  =)

“Bush and the Rock Rainbow”

– This place is known to some as “The Land of the Sleeping Rainbows” and contains some of the most wonderful sandstone layers I’ve ever seen.  From oranges and purples to browns and whites, this place has all the colors of the Southwestern rainbow!  The fall colors of a desert shrub complement the colorful rocks in the background.

“Clinging to Life”, Vermillion Cliffs, Utah

– The fragility of life in the desert has always been a favorite subject of mine.  This tiny seed pod landed on a mud crack near the Wahweap Hoodoos.  I used my Nikkor 70-180 macro lens to focus on the pod, deliberately leaving the ground underneath out of focus to provide a “3D” look.  The composition is certainly unique with the strong incoming diagonal lines of the mud cracks.  Thanks to Varina for providing the shade from the harsh mid day sun!

“Devadatta” and “The Enlightenment of Devadatta”

•December 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have been studying the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra (you can too), which explains the enlightenment of Devadatta, an “evil” person who betrayed the Buddha, tried to destroy the Buddhist order, and to assassinate Shakyimuni Buddha many times. He used some creative means of attempted assasination, including trying to roll a boulder into the Buddha and releasing a live elephant on him. 

The main point of this chapter is that we are all Buddhas and can attain enlightenment and happiness in this lifetime, even if we have done evil acts. The Buddha even called Devadatta “a good friend” because he helped to illuminate this principal and to represent the oneness of good and evil. All we must do to attain enlightenment is to embrace faith in the Lotus Sutra (which is really faith in our lives).  Everything we could ever need to be “enlightened” (which really just means to be happy and full of courage and compassion), we already have – we just need to look in the mirror!

Both of these shots were taken in Southern Utah at the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area (“Land of the Sleeping Rainbows”).  The black and white shot was taken at sunrise and the color shot taken at sunset of the same day.  We were treated to some amazing light both times.  Both shots were taken with a Nikon D300, one with a Nikon 12-24mm and one with a Tokina 12-24mm.  Both images were manual blends of two images in order to keep detail in the sky and the foreground.  B+W conversion was done using Lightroom 3.

I’ve added some new images to my website and will be adding more in the next couple of weeks.  Check them out: Aaron Burdick Photography!  Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

Happy Holidays to all!  May 2011 be a year filled with boundless victory, joy, and Buddhahood for all!  Please be safe and take care of your health.


"Devadatta", Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah

"The Enlightenment of Devadatta"

"The Enlightenment of Devadatta", Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah

Sunset Bloom

•December 22, 2010 • 2 Comments

Boy what a year it has been!  I have been so busy with so many things (SGI Rock the Era festival, graduate school applications, environmental consulting) it has been hard to find the time to keep up this blog.  I’m back though and have had some time to process some recent images and some old ones.

I would like to share this image from Joshua Tree National Park, taken April of 2010.  It is titled “Sunset Bloom” and showcases a fantastic cactus bloom against a desert sunset.  Crazy story: as I was driving into the park, the Park Ranger who let me know was my friend from high school Billy, who I’ve also seen (as a Park Ranger) in Sequoia National Park and in Grand Teton National Park.  What are the odds to see him at 3 different National Parks within 2 years? 

Processing: Nikon D300, Tokina 12-24mm, 3 image manual blend (I didn’t want to use a grad ND since that would have obstructed the mountains and made them black), ISO 200, probably f/14.

Aaron Burdick - Sunset Bloom

Spring Wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains

•April 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

I have been hiking a lot and enjoying the wonderful wildflowers blooming in the Santa Monica mountains. Malibu and Griffith Park are beautiful right now so get out there and enjoy them! I’ll be heading up to the Poppy Reserve soon and will be checking out wildflower blooms in Joshua Tree next weekend. For now here are some photographs I’ve shot over the past two weeks:

LA Wildflower Sunset

LA Wildflower Sunset

Flowers Galore

Flowers Galore

Purple and Yellow Bokeh

Purple and Yellow Bokeh

Purple Wildflowers

Purple Wildflowers

Griffith Park Sunset

Griffith Park Sunset

Rambo meets Ansel Adams!

•March 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So my friend just went to Las Vegas and saw Peter Lik’s gallery in the Venetian.  She knows I’m a nature photographer so we went and checked out his website.  First off, his photography is quite excellent and I encourage you to check it out.  Secondly, this guy is hilarious!  You’ve got to check out the video for his “100 Miles from Nowhere” show.  He can’t decide if he’s Rambo or Ansel Adams!  Best part: “What am I gonna do?  Sit in the car park and shoot it with a long lens?  F*%K THAT I’M GONNA GET THE SHOT!”  LOL.

Not all nature photographers are as crazy as this guy.  Some of us just enjoy the peaceful feeling of a nice sunset… =)  But, hey, he has no less than FOUR galleries in Las Vegas so I guess he’s doing something right.