Galactic Warming

Last year I acquired a Lego Wampa specifically for shooting outside in the coming winter snows… but the snow never came. It wasn’t till the following February that we actually got a bit of snow.

So I had to be creative. I was itching to shoot the Wampa and since the weather wasn’t cooperating I created a storyline called the Hoth Heat Wave. This storyline has since branched in many ways including a Snowtrooper Unit that has been stranded on the surface because all the ice melt has created a thick cloudy atmosphere that thwarts interstellar communications.

Special Forces Snowtrooper Unit SSF3298 works together to scale the massive cliffs that have been uncovered from the ice…

I recently acquired a Hasbro forcelink Wampa and it has spurred more Galactic Warming shots. The snow is all but gone and has turned Hoth into a swampy wet mess.

Such a Swampa mess!

This past weekend I took a group of scout out to the Arizona Strip on a campout. We hiked the next morning to what is known as the Glitter Pit. It is an active gypsum mine that is in the form of Selenite crystals. The selenite crystals are nature’s form of glass and you can actually see through the rock fairly easily.

Home Sweet Home

When I was younger I remember going down into this selenite mine and being able to see into the ground three to four feet. It was mesmerizing as the depth of the stone slowly changed from clear to blue to blackness. Utilizing an Estwing prospector pick, I could chisel a good 10-12″ slab out of the ground. Nowadays so many folks have visited this site that it has been transformed into somewhat of a tourist trap. The surface has been hacked at so much that now it’s just a white cloudy mess. Which is perfect for a Wampa Cave!

Wampa made it out just in time…

I had a volunteer scout to drop handfuls of gypsum powder over my new Hasbro forcelink Wampa. It was nearly noon and the sky was clear and blue and reflected so much light that I had to use my neutral density filter applied to my Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 lens to even get any shots. This ND filter darkened it quite a bit but I ended up utilizing my Litra Gear LitraTorch to add a few opposing highlights on Wampas legs. The contrast was a bit overwhelming and I lost a lot of my detail in the shadows so the LitraTorch was indispensable in bringing out those details.

Wampa Snow cave collapsing…

It took quite a few tries to get the “snow” captured just right. The other scout leaders watched from a distance as I pulled out my toys and worked my magic. The scouts were quite gung-ho about helping and because of them it turned out awesome!

As I was finishing up a few cars pulled up and out came some families with little kids to explore the Glitter Pit.

The Galactic Warming will continue as I find new ways to incorporate the heat into the Hoth landscapes – and I’m actually dreading snow this winter season!

All the water released from the Hoth Heat Wave has resulted in enormous plants…

Me found Beast Food!

Me found beast food!
Me found beast food!
When I was out taking shots with my boys we came across a stink bug beetle aka Pinacate Beetles.  It was the perfect setting for the caveman batman!  

This particular shot was a bit tricky to get because those beetles are fast when you don’t want them to be.  He was definitely feeling the pressure to hide and get out of sight.  After about five shots I finally got one I was happy about.  I actually wanted the beetle facing the camera but it was not to be.  Apparently stink beetles have fairly good vision.  When I placed batman at the right spot it would abruptly change direction.  Basically it didn’t want to cooperate with me.

No run away from batman!
No run away from batman!

My boys were somewhat fascinated, but their attention was quickly steered towards the mine shaft we had hiked up to and the “mysterious” rock door that blocked the entrance.

I bet they felt they were on some Indiana Jones adventure.  When I was a kid I had many Indiana Jones adventures.  

One such adventure was exploring the Old Ohio Mine in Milford, Utah with my brother.  My grandfather had given us our very own black lights and had told us we could find many examples of fluorescent stone down inside the mine.  He told us not to go there because it was dangerous and susceptible to cave-ins.

We drove out the following Saturday.  We followed directions from grandpa scribbled on lined paper.  We arrived near the base of the mountain dump and hiked to the entrance of the mine.  The old Ohio mine has several different shafts.  The main opening was large enough to walk through without needing to duck.  We broke out our flashlights and entered the dark abyss.  As we ventured deep into the mine we saw a steep angled set of rail tracks exiting the ceiling high above us and entering near the floor.  We shined the flashlights done that shaft but it spooked us when the light didn’t reach the end.

We crept along until we reached a large underground cavern that could’ve been natural but was most likely dug out.  We turned on our black lights and were met with an amazing glow of vivid fluorescent colors.  Pinks and greens, blues and purples.  It was as if bright paint had been splattered everywhere!  When we turned off the black light – darkness.

This caveman batman got me to thinking about caves and bats and all this random meandering down my memories of deep mineshafts.  Thanks batman! Thanks Lego!

Desert east of Leeds, UT

Redrock hills near Leeds, UT.
Redrock hills near Leeds, UT.

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Desert east of Leeds, UT.  Looking toward Zion National Park.

This view of the desert is from an old mine dump that my boys and I hiked up to. I had stopped to take the previous picture of the caveman Batman figure, so we didn’t find the mine shaft right away.  My kiddos found the opening right before me.  It had been closed off with a wall of mortar and rocks from the dump.  I wonder what they were after?

Silver Reef is only about 5 miles to the north of me from this spot.  Silver Reef is the only place in the world that they have found rich silver deposits in sandstone.  That may be what they were after over this way as well.  Silver Reef was once a booming mining town because of the silver.  At one time they even had a china town area.  Now it is a rather artistic community where people go to retire.  The famous sculptor, Jerry Anderson resides up there.  I am sure this desert is an inspiration for his many creations.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house near here.  I know the couple that live there.  They gave me a tour once and it has high shelves all over inside with plants hanging down.  The high windows and walls were inspired by the desert cliffs surrounding the area.  It is a beautiful home that is much more interesting to look at than your standard run-of-the-mill suburban stucco house.

The desert never ceases to amaze me.  The colorful landscapes are even more colorful up close.  The reds turn into many shades of red, orange, and white streaks.  The sandstone in areas is what they call picture sandstone because of all the beautiful striations that make it look like a desert scene itself.  I am glad I have the opportunity to live in such a beautiful part of the world and that I get to experience it with my boys on at least a weekly basis.  When my other kiddos get a little older we will be able to get out and enjoy this expansive place together as a family!

Me hunt beast food all day

Caveman Batman Hunts beast
Me hunt beast food all day

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Out on the hunt for Lego photography locations!

Yesterday, I took my boys with me to sell Wowflutes at the Tuacahn Saturday Market.   There were a few vendors there enjoying the perfect weather.  No wind, no rain; just sunshine and some whispy clouds.

After our morning of selling we headed over to target so they could pick something out with the money they earned helping me.  Target had no Lego Batman Minifigures… 🙁  They had a whole bunch of the series 16 CMF though.   I guess they were trying to move those before putting new stuff out.

So we went over to Walmart and they had the big display in the aisle with a bunch of Batman Movie CMF.  I picked up this Clan of the Cave Batman (above) along with the Mime and a Catman.

We then set off to find a good hiking location and photo spot.  We drove around Quail lake to a spot on the north end I used to raft when I was a kid.  Quail lake catches the runoff from the Pine Valley Mountains to the north after it has carved it’s way through the slot canyons of Redcliffs desert reserve.  The water flows slowly into the lake through a covered lazy river.  In the summer it is heavily shaded and is the perfect swimming hole.   There was about  four inches of dead leaves covering the entire area.  We hiked around a bit and then headed towards Redcliffs.

Redcliffs was blockaded for construction on the access road so we headed down a dirt road north of Leeds, UT.  It was such beautiful scenery all around.  I love taking my boys out in the hills where they can hike without trails and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.  We hiked up to a mining dump and I was hoping to show them what a mine shaft looked like, but the opening had been sealed with a rock and mortar wall.  My boys were still curious about it.

While up on top of the mine dump we heard what sounded like distant barking – lots of it.  We looked everywhere for dogs, but then the barking slowly morphed into honking.  It turned out to be a flock of geese flying over the desert.  I snapped a quick shot.  Overall, today was a nice relaxing Saturday!

geese flock over the desert
Flock of Geese over the desert, Leeds, UT


Lenny Raptor – Red Explosion

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Ferocious peddling… heart pounding… blood surging… Lenny is not an MEM (Mindless Eating Machine).

I was out helping a friend of mine build his house and afterwards i decided to head out to the small desert town of Lund, UT.   I really needed to get out there and since his house was pretty much half way there I decided to drive the rest.

When you get through the small foot hills west of Three Peaks Recreation Area, there is a turn in the dirt road and an excellent view for a nice vanishing point.  Lund is located on the other side of the valley and has a population of about two.  Train tracks cut through near the abandoned houses and homesteads.  Back in the day Lund was a pivotal point in the railroads progress where they switched out cars and kept the rails rolling.

The valley leading up to Lund is somewhat open range and the cows dot the landscape.  I have hiked out to some abandoned buildings that are now used as shade structures for the cows and it is interesting to find their paths carved into the desert sagebrush and soils.  Each path goes out as a spoke from the shade and has been trodden so well that they are dug into the soil by about 4-6 inches.  There are scattered cow pies and any grass has been nibbled to a stubble.

I initially traveled out this way to get a shot of the vanishing point road but it didn’t show up well with the focal lengths I brought and with being so close to the ground.  It was cold and my hands were frozen with beating wind.  I decided to head down a off-shoot dirt road that was not used very often.  This road led me to a small shooting range that was filled with various bullet shells and random broken things.  I went exploring for a small scene and found an exploded red paint can.  The red paint was splattered all over the rocks and if the can had not been there, I wouldve thought that I had stumbled upon some gristly murder scene.  I am glad the paint can was still easily recognizable.

This paint can was the perfect place to setup a bike ride for Lenny.  The red offset his green appearance and matched his iconic red bike.  I set him up with his tail catching the edge of the metal so it could help prop him up.  The wind was still there and frigid – but with this find I barely noticed.  The background was a bit rocky and distracting so I used a technique to blur it in a motion sense.  It is rather easy to create the effect by placing my fingers in front of the lens when the aperture is wide open.  It creates a motion effect in the bokeh by applying the lines of light that come through the cracks in my fingers.

I thought the image turned out quite well although I still think its a bit to busy.

Father and Son Stranded Adventure

homer and bart simpson broke down
Father and Son brokedown

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Father and son adventure; it’s always interesting when there’s car trouble out in the middle of nowhere…

This is the image I wasn’t quite satisfied with because the endless road in the background was not really as visible as I wanted it to be.  This dirt road is called Lund Highway and leads to the small almost ghost town of Lund, UT.  I believe it has a population of two.  Not sure if that is two households or two hermits, but either way there are lots of empty and abandoned buildings.

I had many experiences as a kid with exploring the deserts of southern Utah.  As part of this exploration processes there were always many predicaments we got ourselves into.   One such experience was driving a “shortcut” because we were almost out of gas, then finding the hard way that the shortcut was blocked off by a new lake from recent rains.  This particular predicament was with my brother and a good friend of mine, Zack Fitzwater.  We could not turn around because we didn’t have enough gas to go back.  Just forward.  My friend Zack came up with the brilliant idea of hydroplaning the small truck across the massive puddle.  We didn’t know how deep it was, so we made sure he got a good running start.  He got up to about 60mph before he created one of the largest splashes I have ever seen, slamming into the puddle.  The water engulfed the truck and he just kept gunning it.  The truck skidded across the puddle and came out the other side – completely dead.  The engine wouldn’t turn over.  It just clicked.  So now we were stranded.  It was about fifteen miles to the nearest help and this was before cell phones.  So we just sat there.  Waited… waited some more.  after what seemed like forever we tried to start it and VROOM! it started up.  We rocked the truck on fumes till we arrived at my friends house.  We siphoned gas from his truck and then we were back in business.

I can guarantee that if we hadn’t had the bad experience of getting stranded I would not have remembered so much.  I look back at these times with fondness and they inspired my toy photography today.

A Break in the Blizzard

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A break in the blizzard, New Castle, Iron County, UT.

Nabbed this shot out the window of the passenger side while driving at around 55 mph.  It had a nice dreamy feel to it.  The morning was cloudy and a slight snow flurry had been upon us until we crested the valley and dropped out of the small mountain range.  When we approached New Castle, UT, the sun broke through and the clouds parted into deep blue sky above.  It was just a small opening, about the size of the town but much smaller than the surrounding valley.  The blizzard raged on all around us – but we were in a split second haven from the storm.

I snapped this shot with my olympus EM5 out the window.  I used one of the artistic built in filters for a high contrast black and white.  It just matched the scene perfectly – the contrast of billowing clouds and an opening in the storm while the ground was covered in a blur of flurries.

Treacherous Surface Exploration

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We are anthill men on an anthill world. ~ Ray Bradbury
Some areas of the surface are a bit too treacherous to explore with the exosuit…

I find myself revisiting places I went to often as a kid to capture my toy photography.  It is a very nostalgic experience.  This shot, along with many others I have captured was taken at what I call the Cinder Pit.  This cinder pit is located near my grandfathers ranch in Summit, UT.  Summit is a small town if you can call it that.  Passing it on the freeway, you blink and it’s gone.

The cinder pit is located on an old cinder cone hill.  It has been developed by the Utah department of transportation (UDOT), but is open to the public.  They use the dark grey cinders to spread on the icy roads in the winter.  When mixed with salt this makes for excellent gripping power in the snow.

They mine the cinder out of the mountain side and they pile it in small fifty foot tall hills.  These hills become weathered in rain and create small 5-6 foot cliffs on the slope.  The cinder is very soft in these piles to a depth of almost three feet at times.

When I was a kid we would climb up the backside of the hills and run and jump off the top ledge.  It was a thrilling, intense activity of freefalling upwards of fifteen feet into the soft powdered hillside.  Think of it like jumping into the ball pit at McDonalds (although I haven’t seen those in forever).  Because the cliff is on a slope, when you jump off it you fall much farther.  Also because of the slope, when you land it is a gradual landing and doesn’t hurt at all, usually.

My cousin and I and a friend decided to go and try this cinder pit jumping as adults.  I was equipped with my GoPro, and I think that’s where we went wrong.  I think GoPro’s have a tendency to capture injuries because some people like to show off when they are being filmed.  Well, this particular day we went was a very nice and sunny day but the issue was that it had rained a few days earlier and the cinders had soaked up that water.  The cinders were only soft to a depth of about 6-8 inches – then they were rock hard and wet.  We were unaware of this until my cousin (he’s a big guy), leaped off the top and landed with a painful bounce.  He shattered his tailbone on contact.  It was horrible, and I caught it all on the gopro in slowmotion.  I would put the footage up – but I don’t think he would appreciate it.

I think this cinder pit is a perfect location for an other worldly landscape and I have used it several times in many different shots.  I utilized Mextures and Enlight to give it a martian surface feel.


Cow Abduction in Progress

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That cow is totally being abducted!????  Enterprise, UT
Seriously though.  Folks out in Southern Utah have had cows show up with missing eyes and lips and utters.  These don’t seem to be attacks from standard predators because of the way they are found and the markings found.

Utah has some very bizarre occurrences that are mostly unknown and unheard of because of the taboo that surrounds the topic of aliens and UFOs.

As founders of the Utah UFO Fest, my brother Nathan and I have been on many trips to investigate the unknown.  from a supposed UFO crash site in Garrison, UT, to the Dugway Proving Grounds near Delta, UT, there are many reasons why a Utah UFO Festival is long overdue.  Make sure to take some time a checkout our website.