The Leviathan Spine - Badlands, UT

The Leviathan Spine - Badlands, Utah.

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In the year 2076, an ancient race of Leviathans arrived in orbit around Earth to take our planet away from us. Having used up all the resources of their home planet, they scoured the galaxy looking for another habitable planet. They sent out millions of drones in every direction, searching for the perfect combination of atmospheric gasses, magnetic fields, and metallic ore.

After over 1000 years of searching, one drone reported back information about the 3rd planet orbiting a yellow dwarf star in the backwater region of a relatively uninteresting arm of the Milky Way. They gathered their forces. Mined the last of their minerals. And prepared for their centuries-long journey.

At first they appeared to be just specs of light in the nighttime sky. Stray comets from the Kuiper Belt perhaps? Somehow blown out of their original orbit around the sun? As the months went on, Earth pointed her telescopes at the new celestial objects, which got brighter with each passing day.

They are not comets the New York Times headlines read, along with countless newspapers, blogs, and websites from across the world. We don't know what they are, but they are not comets. Soon, the religious fanatics came out to worship these new heavenly deities. Millions of people from across the globe joined hands to sing praises and dedicate their lives to welcoming our new friends. An equal number of people cast doubt and fear towards these new visitors. "The end is near!" they cried, "Repent now!"

Every government capable of sending signals into deep space tried to communicate with these new...whatever they are...once we noticed they were actually slowing down. Saviors or destroyers? Are we to finally find out that we are not alone in the universe? Is an advanced alien race finally making contact with us?

Then The Leviathan War started. Governments and militaries scrambled to organize their troops and weapons. The United States issued draft orders for millions of young men for the first time in over a hundred years. But our guns, our missiles, our ships, our jets...all useless. This war was not like machine guns vs laser guns. No, it was more like sticks and stones vs nuclear weapons. Like the Wright Flyer vs an F35 Lightning II. Humanity was hilariously outgunned. Earth's best and brightest were recruited to find a way to stop the onslaught. Every nation's borders fell as we united as one to prevent our own extinction. The Russians, the Chinese, the Americans, the British, the Iranians; everyone finally working towards one goal: to not die.

3 months later and nothing we tried could stop the barrage of rail gun darts launched at our planet at relativistic speeds. Entire cities were swallowed up in craters and melted to slag as magma from beneath the Earth's crust filled in the voids. These new aliens had no weakness we could exploit. The physicists at CERN had one long-shot of an idea. "It probably won't work," they said, "but if it does, we don't know what exactly will happen. The math doesn't exist yet." With our only hope lying in a hail mary, the new Earth government gave the green light.

While studying particle physics, the CERN scientists accidentally discovered the creation of ingress and egress apertures of an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. In other words, they stumbled across creating wormholes. After decades of what amounted to fooling around with the math, they were able to somewhat control the creation points. With some modicum of accuracy, an entry point could be created at one end of a room with a small margin of error. A matching exit point was also created at the other side of the room, but due to a lot of complicated math that even our smartest nerds didn't understand, the margin of error was much greater.

The terrible idea they proposed was to create a ingress aperture inside the sun's corona and an egress aperture, well, right over our planet. We'd try to point it in a direction that blasted the Earth tangentially instead of directly. We hoped, somewhat naively, that the unmatched power of the sun's atmosphere would kill the Leviathans and that the wormhole would collapse before it killed us all.

We succeeded in killing the Leviathans. More than 3 dozen beasts were instantly incinerated, their dense carapaces buckling under the immense heat and radiation. They started to fall to Earth, being pulled out of their orbits by her mighty gravity. Earth became dotted with the charred and decaying husks of of a once great species.

But no one on Earth was around to celebrate it. They warned us that the math simply didn't exist to predict an outcome. The blast that killed the Leviathans also ignited our atmosphere. Within a few seconds, every living thing was turned to dust as the almost 6000K solar wind blasted against our small blue marble like an 8 year old with a magnifying glass over an ant hill. But there was no pain. One moment there we were. The next, there was nothing.

Earth now lie a desiccated rock, peacefully orbiting a yellow dwarf star in a backwater region of a relatively uninteresting arm of the Milky Way. The only evidence of any life existing on the planet are the 3 dozen or so hulking Leviathan Spines half buried in the sand and dust of a once verdant and thriving planet.  No one is around to tell how they got there or what happened to them. If anyone finds our hundred year old Voyager probes and tracks them back to Earth, they will have quite the mystery on their hands.

But our planet's core is still active so her magnetic field still works. Slowly she'll rebuild her atmosphere and maybe in a couple hundred million years, life will start to grow and thrive once more.

Fortune Favors the Bold Photographer

When I first got started in landscape photography, I would flood myself with images from other photographers and all the beautiful places they would see.  By only seeing the final realization of their vision, I thought landscape photography was going to be so easy.  I picked up my camera and fully expected to produce amazing work in no time.

Walking through photography galleries on Park City's historic Main Street, I had grand expectations that I would be opening my own gallery soon.  Little did I realize that some of these photographer's have spent many decades honing their skills under completely different expectations.  Only after  years of success in other realms of photography did they decide to open a gallery to show off and sell their work.

After so many outings and so many failed attempts to capture something amazing, I started to wonder why my photos didn't invoke the same reaction in me that the work of others did.  I posted my work all over 500px and was met with tepid results.  I looked at the pages of other, more popular photographers, and saw their "lower quality" images (I thought my stuff was better, of course) getting way more attention than what I had posted.  I thought to myself, "I bet if this photographer posted this image of mine, it would blow up in 2 hours."  I was probably right.  But the superficial nature of 500px or any social media platform is the wrong place to learn about success and fortune.  I simply cannot post "ok" work online and expect to get a movie deal out of it.  Beginning photographers set themselves up for failure at alarming rates by expecting huge returns on little effort.  When their photo of a sunset taken from their backyard doesn't get 200 likes, they get discouraged, thinking they aren't a good photographer.  Too many people never realize their full potential because they expect greatness from mediocrity.  And the Internet gives them a cold, hard slap in the face.

The good news is that you don't have to wait 20 years before you start taking the best photographs of your life.  All you need to do is get out there and start taking pictures.  Fortune favors the bold photographer.  You won't be taking amazing photos if you are just sitting in front of your keyboard or phone scrolling through an endless conga-line of beautiful images.  You have to actually lace up your boots and get out there.

When I first started in photography, I was thinking with a small mind, like almost all early photographers I see.  By simply going to a small creek near my house or walking along a heavily trafficked hiking trail, I would expect to find the next Ansel Adams best seller.  Pointing my Canon Rebel T2i and 18-55mm kit lens at the water, I'd drag the shutter and smooth the flow.  "This is going to look so amazing," I'd think to myself.

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The problem I didn't understand, the same problem the overwhelming majority of new photographers don't understand, is that there isn't anything bold or impressive about a little creek running through a park at 2:00 in the afternoon.  There was no planning.  There was no scouting.  It was just me picking up my camera one afternoon and thinking I was going to get the image that will make my career.

In order to take bold photographs, you have to be a bold photographer.  Do something you've never done before.  Travel someplace you've never traveled before.  The very first time I tried to take a panorama was in Capitol Reef National Park with my wife and 2 kids.  We went for a small walk along an overlook trail and I was looking for a cool place to take a picture.  I found a beautiful backdrop of rocky red buttes and scattered sage brush with a little dirt road.  I couldn't fit the entire thing in one frame so I thought, "Let's try a panorama."  I put everything I knew about panoramas (almost nothing) into practice and snapped away.

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What I walked away with that day is one my favorite images ever.  I have it printed and framed on 20x60 metallic paper and it hangs up in my office.  I took it with only a couple years of relevant photography experience.  Did I get lucky with that photo?  Absolutely.   The sky was perfect.  The light was perfect.  The scene was perfect.  All I did was show up.  But I was out doing something, being bold, instead of wallowing in self pity that my photos aren't as good as Joe Photographer on Instagram with his 300,000 followers.

When you decide to wake up early and drive out to catch a beautiful sunrise is when fortune will smile on you.  When you decide to try something new or go someplace new, you'll be surprised at what happens.

I was at Lake Powell to photograph the lunar eclipse in January 2018.  I only thought I would get a lunar eclipse photo but I stayed for the sky-on-fire sunrise in the morning and captured this amazing image.  I was trying something new and I got lucky.  The more you try, the more success you will have.  And from your failures, you'll learn more about planning, preparing, shooting, and editing.  This will make you an even more capable photographer for the next time you go out.

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When you are ready to stop taking pictures of that one waterfall or stream by your house that's pretty look at but never turns out as a really good picture, you will start the next phase of your maturity as a photographer.  Find a place you've never been to before, plan the best time to visit it, grab your camera and go there.  Then show me the image you got from it.  I'd love to see it.