A Sign from Above

With the beginning of a New Year, I’ve resolved to step outside of the safe little box that I’ve sheltered in, and create the life that I’ve always wanted to live, exploring this beautiful world and bringing home beautiful images to remind me everyday that finding your dream isn’t hard, or scary, you just have to start moving.  So, this year, I began my travels with a trip to Death Valley, a short 6.5 hour drive south of Reno, Nevada.  A fairly straight drive, well paved rolling highways, which I definitely rolled down and up and down again getting into Death Valley.

When I travel someplace new, I always have this vision in my mind’s eye of a place that’s foreign, where I won’t see many people, where the roads could be steep, and I might get lost.  It’s never the case, although I have gotten a little lost once or twice.  But you just have to turn the car around and head back where you came, and you’re back on track. So, on a Friday morning, noticing some cloudy weather in the forecast, which as a photographer would “make my day”, or actually my sunset and sunrise, I packed up my gear, lunch and dinner, hopped in my Jeep and set out to parts “unknown”.

My plan was to arrive in Death Valley at sunset and photograph the Mesquite Sand Dunes. I stopped a few times on the way down, watching the clouds roll in, buying gas twice, (the Jeep is a gas hog), and drove into the Valley just in time…to realize that there were hundreds of people swarming over the Dunes.  There went my visualization of pristine untrodden lines across the ridge lines of the Dunes, unless I ran, at top speed in sinking sand, way out there, (imagine me pointing about 2 miles out into the desert).  I tried, but with the sun sinking and the sky turning all kinds of pretty, I stopped, popped off a few shots and stood still just watching the color evolve.

I stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch, and had a map of Death Valley which I’d studied so I’d know where to go for sunrise and sunset.  Zabriskie Point was my sunrise location.  I woke up at 4am, headed out at 5am, found it at about 530am, headed up the little hill from the parking lot in the dark with my headlamp, set up my tripod and waited.  Sunrise is harder to predict than sunset.  You really can’t see the clouds in the sky, so you could be up and out there for nothing at all.  But this was a New Year, and at 6am, the sky started to glow !  I snapped off a few shots, then as the light came up, walked around finding my “Spot”.  As the sun peaked on the horizon, the sky light up in beautiful shades of pink, orange, yellow, and blue.  This was the perfect sunrise !  I’d never seen Zabriskie Point before, and I’ll never forget the feeling of joy that washed through me as I ran around shooting from different spots, capturing beautiful colors in a truly beautiful place.

I hiked around all day, exploring Golden Canyon, Artists Drive and Artists Palette, Mosaic Canyon, making my way back over to the Dunes.  This time I started hiking out on the Dunes around 4pm, leaving plenty of time to make it to an area where there weren’t any footprints, or so I thought.  In hindsight, I should have headed East on the Dunes, but I went straight out to the highest one, and shot from there at sunset.  I love my photos, even with the footprints.  As the sun set, I sat and enjoyed the beauty all around me.  There was a group of 20 somethings on the next dune over, laughing and enjoying the warm sand and soft light.  We waved across the Dunes, connected in peace by the golden light around us.

I shot sunrise over the Badwater Basin the next morning, and never made it to the Racetrack.  I was told by a park ranger that it was a two hour drive over a really really bumpy road, and the ground was wet, making it likely that if you did make it out there, if you walked on the ground, you’d leave permanent footprints.  That kinda sounded cool, but 2 hours of bumping each way just didn’t appeal to me. I made it home Monday afternoon, and downloaded my photos to my big screen.  Lo and behold, there was an angel in my sunrise at Zabriskie Point.  On top of the beautiful colors, I found my Guardian Angel.  She was with me the whole time, and appeared at Sunrise to remind me that life is what you make it to be.  If you sit home, wishing for things to come to you, it probably won’t happen.  You have to go out and find your life. I’m on my way.




Endings and Beginnings

2013 was a year of turmoil for me on a personal level, but in the midst of gaining insight into life and love, I was blessed to be able to travel from Alaska to Hawaii, from Yellowstone to Florida.  It was windier than hell and I had the flu in Hawaii, my house in Florida had bees inside and out which pooped honey all over the plantation shutters just a few days before finally selling.  It rained almost everyday in Alaska, where my son and I extended our trip to celebrate his 25th birthday to fish for halibut, experiencing what seemed like 20 foot seas, catching one fish which equated to 6 pounds of dinner.  I made it into Yellowstone for three hours, then was barred from entering again with millions of other people by the government shutdown, and finally returned home to my native state to enjoy some sun and fun with my friends and family.  I’m truly glad that 2013 is over, but I have to admit, even with Murphy’s Law rearing it’s ugly head over and over again, it was an incredible adventure, and I’m ready to do it all over again.  Well, maybe not the part with the bees.

Here are my favorite photos from this year, a year of unexpected craziness.

Cherry Blossoms, Reno, Nevada
Cherry Blossoms, Reno, Nevada
Sunset on 62nd Lane, West Palm Beach, Florida
Sunset on 62nd Lane, West Palm Beach, Florida
Gradient Orange
Gradient Orange Sunset over Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Porcelain Geyser Basin sunset
Porcelain Geyser Basin, Yellowstone. The night before the government shutdown.
Silver Lining Sunset over Lake Tahoe, Nevada
On Golden Spooner 96dpi
On Golden Spooner, Spooner Lake, Nevada
Aspen Jack
Aspen Jack, Nevada
West Fork Carson River Autumn
West Fork of the Carson River Autumn Colors, Nevada
Rainbow Inflation Great Reno Balloon Race
Rainbow Inflation Great Reno Balloon Race
Ice Skating Rink Canadian Geese Washoe 0213©DottyMoltPhotography2013
Canadian Geese Ice Skating Rink Washoe Lake, Nevada

The other Wine Country Autumn Color

The other Wine Country Autumn Color

Napa and Sonoma are well known around the world, and only a short four hours away from Reno, Nevada. However, there are many beautiful vineyards much closer to the Lake Tahoe area, one of which is in Amador County. Bray Vineyards is located on Shenandoah Road in Plymouth, California, and along with excellent wines, including an aptly named Red, Brazen Hussy, the fields of vines are beautifully arranged, and a great pleasure to photograph.
Many thanks to Robin Bray, owner of this lovely vineyard for allowing me to wander around with my camera for over two hours, photographing beautiful colors of Yellow, Gold, Red, orange, and everything in between.
This photo was taken at Sunset, adding a beautiful glow to the Live Oak in the foreground. The sunset itself was soft and pink, and an exquisite ending to a perfect day in the vineyards.

Air boating on Lake Okeechobee


I’m a Florida Native, so you’d think that I would have been riding an airboat all my life!  Not so, I’m more of a tomboy princess.  But my cousin Mike, who’s also a Florida cracker, was out riding an airboat with his Dad before he could ride a bike.  So, this year, the year of extreme photography, when he suggested we go out for a ride, I was more than willing and really excited about getting out on the water to shoot Florida from an entirely new perspective.

Mike has a hunting camp in Okeechobee, and along with riding airboats all his life, he’s an excellent hunter, fisherman, and an exceptionally patient and inspired guide.  The last time I’d been out fishing with Mikey was in 1986. That time, we headed out at 2am to catch snook, one of the best tasting fish on the planet.  It was a warm summer night, which was in complete contrast to our airboat ride. I remember thinking how peaceful and serene the water was back then, Mike knew exactly where to go, winding through the canals behind million dollar mansions, out to the Intracoastal that parallels A1A in Fort Lauderdale.

For the airboat ride, we woke up before dawn and got dressed in layers of clothing, a lot of layers because it was 35 degrees out on the water!  I think it was the coldest morning ever in Florida !  I’m surprised it didn’t snow.  We put in on Lake Okeechobee, and headed out to a marshy area where the airboat was back in the reeds, keeping the platform still enough to set up my tripod to photograph a beautiful sunrise.  As the sun came up, so did the wind, so on top of being cold, there was a wind chill factor which made it feel like it was zero degrees out.

We then headed out in search of sandhill cranes, colorful mallards, roseate spoonbills, and great blue herons.  The thrill of speeding across the water was intoxicating, turning and sweeping back and forth across the Lake, scaring up all kinds of birds.  It was a beautiful morning.  I shot about 600 photos that day, and only a few turned out, mainly because it was so windy.  The birds weren’t very happy about the cold weather, either, hiding in the brushes, or flying high in the sky.  So, I guess I’m going to have to go back again, and hopefully it won’t be so darn cold out!




Photographing a Photographer

As a photographer, I find myself extremely comfortable behind the lens.  In fact, if I see someone else pointing a camera in my direction, I tend to turn away, or duck behind someone or something.  It’s definitely not my favorite place to be.  But, knowing that to be a great photographer means stepping outside of the box, and putting yourself in places where you’re not extremely comfortable, learning to grow, I decided to get in touch with a friend of mine who’s an exceptional photographer, shooting people in their element, in studios, out on the road, even fishing in the middle of waist deep water.

Tom Winter and I met back in Boca Raton, Florida.  He was the president of our HOA back when I was selling Real Estate, in fact, his house was my first listing.  He and his beautiful family moved to Palm City, where he began to pursue his career as a corporate photographer. I sold Real Estate for two more years, and then took a leap of faith and moved to Reno, where I began pursuing a career in landscape photography.  Now, the bad thing about landscape photography is that there are a lot of us. So, you’ve got to find you’re niche, create a style that’s all your own, and support yourself in the meantime.

Friends continually ask me to photograph their families, and I’ve found that it’s a great way to increase your visibility in the community, along with adding to your income.  That’s where Tom comes in.  His photos are gorgeous, so I asked him if he could show me how he sets up a photo shoot.  He suggested photographing me, which would also help me understand how my subjects felt when the camera was pointed at them.  He was brimming over with information as we drove down to the beach, sharing knowledge and giving me advice on what to buy and how to market my work. After our photo session on the beach in Palm City, I discovered his secret.  It’s all about the light.  Off camera lighting, natural lighting, maybe from a golden sunset or reflected light bouncing along the rocks, where there’s light, there’s magic.  We shot for about an hour, before and after sunset, trying different Yoga poses,  (my other passion), and thanks to Tom’s expertise, we had a lot of keepers, and one favorite.  Which is all you need.

Tom asked me how it felt to be photographed, and I had to admit, I was a little nervous at first, but when I started moving, finding different poses, and forgot about the camera, it was a piece of cake.  I learned that the best place for a photographer to be is almost out of sight, quietly shooting.  And the best thing for your subjects is to let them be themselves.  Give them something to do, to play with, to take their focus off of you.  When you can successfully do that, you can really capture the person inside. And everyone can relax.


In the Wee hours of the night

So, I couldn’t sleep the other night and woke up at 3am  really thirsty. Heading out to the kitchen to get a glass of water, I noticed something odd in the backyard. There was a quarter moon shining down on a huge cloud bank covering most of Washoe Valley!  Needless to say, and being an adventurer at heart, I threw on some clothes, and jumped in the Jeep, heading up to shoot down on this enormous cloudbank.

We see lenticulars all the time in the Valley, and I’ve shot my fair share of those, but cloud banks don’t happen all the time.  As I drove up, I kept my speed down, we’d had a ton of rain in the past 48 hours, and the roads were covered with black ice.  As I came up to the base of the Winters Creek Lodge, I parked right by the guard rail, and stepped out cautiously, treading lightly on the slick surface under my feet.  I had rushed out of the house so quickly that I forgot my ski jacket, and with the temperature down to 35 degres, it was a little chilly.  Needless to say I took two 1 minute exposures, checked to make sure they were in focus, and jumped back in the car with the heat blasting.

I then drove over to Lake Tahoe, hoping for a bank of clouds over the Lake, but I was out of luck this time.  So, I turned around to come back home, stopping twice to shoot the stars overhead.  I was back in bed by 5am, and back up at 7am, ready for my run and to start the day.  Officially start it anyhow.

330am Cloud Blanket over Washoe Valley

Extreme Photography

Photographing iconic locations has become a national past time.  Almost everyone has a camera, or an IPhone, or a camera on their phone, and therefore, everyone is a photographer !  If you’re planning to shoot an iconic location, i.e. Tunnel View at Yosemite, The Watchman from the bridge in Zion, the Mono Lake Tufas, and you arrive right at sunrise or sunset, you might not be able to find a vantage point you like due to the crowds of people waiting for the sunrise or sunset, and if you do, you’ll end up with the same photograph as thousands of other photographers.

So, how do you find iconic shots that are unique and beautiful, that you won’t see plastered all over the web?  You take extreme measures and go off the beaten path!  You need to be a fearless explorer with a huge sense of adventure, and the right equipment for where you’re headed to shoot.

Last month I flew to Las Vegas and drove to Zion to attend a photography workshop with the Aperture Academy.  I didn’t relish the idea of shooting with a group, but this was an Extreme workshop, hiking in the Virgin River in the Narrows, in a dry suit, with a twenty pound backpack filled with photography gear on my back, and something I wouldn’t consider doing on my own.  At least not the first time.  We were lucky in that the flow of the river was only about 42 cubic feet per second, and the deepest point was only about 4 feet.  We were also lucky that it was a sunny day because without the light shining down into the Narrows, the opportunity for photographing gold and red reflected hues from the walls onto the river would not have existed.

We began our trek in the River at dawn, stopped a few times along the way, setting up tripods and shooting low and fast, capturing flowing water, and finally, as the sun crested high enough over the top of the canyon, golden reflections!  We happened along a few professional photographers along the way, but the people shooting with I Phones didn’t start to appear until a little too late for the best light. I’m guessing that most of the latecomers captured beautiful shots of the river, but I’m also guessing that their photos didn’t look like ours.


Pillar of Light
Pillar of Light
Orange and Golden Light
Orange and Golden Light
White Throne
White Throne



Lundy Liquid Gold

Lundy Liquid Gold

The Fall Foliage is over now, but I thought I’d share one of my favorite images from this season as my first post. This shot was taken after beginning a hike up Lundy Canyon in the Inyo National Forest at 630am. The sun was just barely rising over Mono Lake, the light was soft and gentle, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Darn! The hike was pretty, but the foliage was a little past peak. Upon arriving at one of the last waterfalls, (there are quite a few on this trail), the sun was high in the sky, and much of the scene was contrasty. I used my 28-300mm lens to shoot closeup, to get any closer with my 17-40 would have meant standing in the middle of a pretty steep waterfall, not something I had planned for. At least, not today. The resulting image was golden from the reflections of the Aspen along the back on the waterfall.