Winter West of Casper, WY

I hurt my back last week when I slipped and fell while shoveling a foot of wet heavy snow from my sidewalk here in Casper.  I am still nursing my back this weekend and that has afforded me to spend some time editing photos.

I went back in time to the winter of 2014 and sorted out a few images I really like that I took west of Casper, Wyoming.  It is incredible how time flies by; seeing these images took me right back to those nights and mornings that I took these photos as if it was yesterday.  Yet, I am turning the corner on my 3rd winter in Wyoming!



20140111-Fence Line Overgrowth - w

20140111-Sage and Sunstar - w

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I’m Addicted to Photographing the Sun

Reviewing my images lately, I’ve noticed I’m getting addicted to shooting directly into the sun.  At least for me, including a celestial body in an image, whether it is the sun or the moon, adds additional interest and keeps me examining an image longer than I would have if it were not there.  In fact, when reviewing my all time favorite images, well over a third of them include either the sun or the moon!  If you follow my photography but had not noticed this trend, scroll on down!

20140111-Sage and Sunstar - w

20140117-Jackson Hole Winter Grass - w

I’ve found it is easiest to shoot the sun when it is still very low on the horizon.  In fact, so low that part of the sun is still below the horizon.  The sun is so bright, that even if only a part of the sun is above the horizon, it is plenty bright and can present a challenge to obtaining a proper exposure.  But, thanks to the digital revolution, there is no waste; I just shoot and shoot and shoot until I get an exposure I like!

20140117-Sun over the Snake - w

Although the middle two images in this post are from Grand Teton National Park, I took the first image a short drive outside Casper, Wyoming. I took the last image (below) outside my childhood hometown of Pierre, South Dakota.  If you pay attention, you can find incredible landscapes right out the back door of pretty much anywhere.

20140202-Winter Prairie Grass - w

When looking at all these images, I can’t help but remember the mad dash to get a picture pulled together before the sun rose (or set) from the horizon.  Even though I am reminded of my stress when I took the photo, hopefully you are reminded of the beauty in nature that is all around us.

Thanks for stopping in and having a quick peak!


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A Day in Nerd Heaven…Kennedy Space Center

A month ago or so, I took a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast east of Orlando.  Besides photography and all things outdoors, I’m a big history buff with a special interest in the space program.  When I was a very small child, I cut the back fabric off my parent’s couch because “I wanted to see what it looked like inside.”  I went on to college and studied mechanical engineering, so I guess it is not terribly surprising I think NASA’s space program is one of the most significant accomplishments of man kind (and therefore really, really, cool).  Seeing the launching point for the entire space program up close is truly inspiring whether you’re a big space nut or not.

Because NASA’s complex at Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy is so large, to see the sites, you have to take guided bus tours that take you to different areas of the complex.  Being the nerd that I am, without hesitating, I signed up for the “mega tour.”  The mega tour starts at the visitor center complex and takes you the Vehicle Assembly Building, the Space Shuttle launch pads, and then to an exhibit of the Apollo Saturn V rocket.

20130623-NASA Vehicle Assembly Building_01-w

Vehicle Assembly Building Interior

To call the interior space of the vehicle assembly building, or VAB for short, vast would still be an understatement.  Nearly 530′ from the floor to the ceiling, the VAB is the fifth largest building in the world by volume.

Launch Pad 39

Launch Pad 39

Launch pads 39 A & B were used as the launch site for the manned Apollo missions and were then outfitted and used for the duration of the shuttle program.  Ten seconds before launch, the entire contents of the water tower in the right of the above image, were dumped onto the launch tower and platform to help protect it from the immense heat of the rocket engines.

The Flame Trench

The Flame Trench

On the launch platform, the shuttle (and moon rockets that came before) sat directly above two trenches that, to prevent damage to the launch facilities, direct the flames of the rockets away from the surrounding infrastructure.  Still, during a launch, the area surrounding the platform is anything but a friendly environment.  Even with the flame trenches, the heat from the launch would kill anyone within 400′ of the platform.  Within 800′ of the platform, the sound of the rockets firing would be so deafening, your heart would stop!

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis

About a minute after the space shuttle was launched the main engine (big orange tank in the middle) had to be throttled back to slow down the space craft’s acceleration.  If the shuttle continued to accelerate at such a rapid pace, the thick lower atmosphere of earth would have crushed the spacecraft.  Only once the space craft was much higher in the atmosphere, where the air is much thinner, could the main engine be brought back to full throttle.

Saturn V Rocket Engine Base

Saturn V Rocket Engine Base

Saturn V Rocket Engines

A Closer View – Saturn V Rocket Engines

The diameter of each nozzle on the five rocket engines on the Saturn V rocket is more than twelve feet in diameter.

Stage 1 - Saturn V Rocket

Stage 1 – Saturn V Rocket

When the first stage of the Saturn V rocket was lit, the resulting noise was the loudest man made sound ever produced.  Also worth noting, the VIP viewing platform for Apollo rocket launches and also during the shuttle program was three and a quarter miles away from the lunch pad.  Why so far?  When fully fueled, if the rocket (or space shuttle) were to malfunction and blow up on the ground, the minimum safe distance from the launch platform was three miles!  In fact, there was as much explosive energy in the fully fueled space rockets as an atomic bomb!

Lunar Module Interior

Lunar Module Interior

With walls so thin, a man could easily punch through them, the lunar module carried two astronauts and landed them on the moon.  The lunar module was notoriously unstable and extremely challenging to fly.

Apollo Command Module

Apollo Command Module

When viewing the Saturn V rocket as a whole, it is incredible how small the main space vehicle is compared to the rest of the rocket.  The command module was the only part of the space craft designed to return safely back to earth (although it was not reusable).  The command module was built to carry three men to and from the moon and did so with the the computing power less than a modern day simple scientific calculator.

My day at NASA was incredible; I was literally like a kid in a candy store and could have easily spent several days exploring the complex at Kennedy Space Center.  As our space program continues to evolve, with the Special Launch System (SLS) in development, along with the rovers we’ve sent to mars, and satellites and probes we’ve sent into space, the story that is the United States space program is far from complete.  I’m sure I will be back to visit again…

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