Monday, May 27, 2019

The Cypress Hills Adventure

As always with a Neil Zeller trip, SO MUCH FUN!!

It's hard to know where to begin, or what to include. I could begin at the beginning, but that's so straightforward, so linear. Some of the photos are pet projects of mine, like distressed wood, that most people aren't interested in, and aren't really the point of the trip.

One of the rules about photography is that if you want to take more interesting pictures, you have to stand near more interesting things. You have to put yourself in the path of interesting. You have to be prepared to freeze your tail off waiting for interesting to happen.

The least one can say about a NZ trip is that it's interesting. And yes, we found great stuff to photograph. That's practically a guarantee for a Neil trip; he works his tail off to plan and organize these, yet is flexible enough to chase the light, or change plans for the weather.

The places included our base of operations at Reesor Ranch, Reesor Lake, Seven Persons, Brooks Aqueduct, Conglomerate Cliffs, Great Sandhills, Fox Valley, Sceptre, Red Rock Coulee, Elkwater, Maple Creek (but no time for goat yoga, to the disappointment of some) and lots of great scenery along the way.

The animals included pelicans, antelope (and similar), a badger, owls, but (aside from a brief moment of panic on my part) no danger ropes. Plus, as you'd expect, people, geese, ducks, hawks, and the extremely friendly and photogenic ranch horses, dogs, and cats.

Yes, you say, but where are the photos? First, you have to understand there are no photos of the savage rogue attack washing machine. Sorry to disappoint you, but to get that story, you need to bring me beer.

Linda got one entry in her bookmaking contest about how many photos I would take. He was almost twice too high, but as the only entrant he still gets a prize. Remind me on our next photo ramble and I buy lunch. I actually took only 1012 photos, since I was working on composition, and trying to be thoughtful. Plus we were overcast so the star shot count is way down. I've ended up with 146 edited. No, I'm not going to make you wade through all of them. At least not today.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Reesor Ranch is amazing! A big shout out to Scott and Theresa for making us feel at home, providing great food and fabulous stories.

R1, the main building in sunset light.

R2, part of the view.

R3, more of the view.

R4, their cabin tucked away from it all.

R5, a wind break in sunset light. I suppose this could have gone in personal interest.

R6, more view.

R7, yet more view. I never get tired of the endless sky and the distant horizon.

R8, we had some morning fog on the last day. Old equipment in fog is cool.

R9, Another view of the main building in the fog.

The people of the tour are almost as much fun as the places we go. There's time to get to know them. I didn't get a chance to shoot everyone, it's more opportunistic than that. If I'm captured by the scenery, like at Red Rocks, I'll shoot that. If I've got the shots I want, I'm likely to start aiming at my trip buddies.

P1, our fearless leader, Neil. Pity about the photobombing car.

P2, Cam hard at it.

P3, Lancette posing for Heather.

 P4, Heather working on the pelicans.

P5, Neil rounding up the pelican hunters.

P6, Heather.

P7, Lorraine.

P8, Lancette trying ND filters.

P9, Caitlyn.

P10, Neil and his drone.

P11, Caitlyn and Lorraine. No, there's nothing in the pens, but there's a great leading line to a barn.

P12, The whole group contemplating a panorama shot. L to R, Valentina, Chris, Philip, Lancette, Tracey (almost hidden), Heather, Neil, Caitlyn, Lorraine, Cam. Bart is guarding the van to make sure the badger doesn't steal our snacks.

P13, Valentina. Yes, I know, this looks photoshopped. I assure you, not.

P14, Contrary to appearances, Bart is not banging his head against the Conglomorant Cliffs.

P15, Caitlyn, startled.

P16, Lorraine. She had been snoozing mere seconds before this.

P17, Caitlyn, chasing rainbows.

P18, Scotty, one of our hosts at Reesor Ranch.

Some of the stuff along the way that is trip related, in no particular order.

T1, a bridge about halfway along the way.

T2, Neil basking in the golden glow of sunset.

T3, the badger. 

T4, Red Rock Coulee. (I have many, many photos! A few are below. More will appear more periodically in my blog. I may have to start a rock of the day feature.)

T5, just another sunset.

T6, the view from Conglomorant Cliffs.

T7, the owls live near here, but my shots of them are not good.

T8, the Sandhills. Look for Cam down in the bottom left for a sense of scale. (Hint, if you've got a chunk of wall 6 x 1 foot or so, or some multiple of that, this would print out in stunning detail.)

T9, taken through the window of a moving van, believe it or not. Shortly after this, the best line from the whole trip happened. "This van smells like wet photographer."

T10, a sunrise.

T11, one of the pelicans.

T12, a crossover photo. I guarantee everyone in the group saw this, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that took a photo of it.

Some of my personal interest photos. Often I'm the guy wandering away from the group, looking in the other direction, shooting things nobody else will. At Red Rocks, I forgot time. Suddenly I looked around and wondered how long it had been. I was almost expecting Neil to break out his drone and buzz me to herd me back to the van.

PI1, some hay bales near the first bridge above. I could have stayed here a while longer, looking for composition. Normally such bales are piled neatly. Tumbled about is much more interesting.

PI2, we think this is Neil's secret map to interesting.

PI3, some flowers growing in a crack of a red rock.

PI4, another view from Conglomorant Cliffs.

PI5, another pretty flower. I think they're called Shooting Stars. There were some wild crocuses as well.

PI6, part of the view near Fox Valley. 

PI7, the first view of the Sandhill.

PI8, I was having a tough time finding photos on the sandhill. The light was kind of flat, making it hard to find shadows to show the ripples. Then I found the lee side, where the sand is gradually burying the plants.

PI9, one of my favourites.



PI12, I think this is my best shot from the Sandhills.

PI13, a red rock, with my small camera bag to give a sense of scale.

PI14, some of the detail of the rocks. The potential for close up and macro shots is incredible! So many rocks, so little time.

To replace the Driftwood of the Day feature, here's the drylands version.


  1. Nice work Keith, that was an awesome weekend!

  2. Looks like an awesome time and you got some terrific shots. I need to look at them on the iMac to decide which are my favourites though. Thanks for the sharing the adventure!

  3. My buddy AM says "t looks like an amazing trip-my favourite picture is the pelican-good bird shots are tough to get! And I know the story of the washing machine...I have an inside source.” That was after a Grrrr because blogger ate it the first time.

  4. It looks like it was great extended weekend. Images R8 and PI1 are particularly noteworthy. The diagonal line formed by the tree branches work well and they give the image some depth. In the second case there is a sense of play / humour. I imagine a conversation among the back muffets. One, is saying, “Let me see – I wanna see”. The other muffets are saying “Stay down”. Cheers, Sean


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