Golden Sunset - Badlands National Park

As I have slowly creeped along reviewing my photos while transitioning to On1 Photo RAW, It has become obvious to me that I have developed quite an affinity for Badlands National Park. Ever since I visited the park in 2013, I find myself gravitating toward the South Dakota folder to pick photos to edit and post. This "elite" status has often been reserved for my favorite places, namely Yosemite, Banff, Grand Teton and Arches. It is clear to me that they need to move over to make room for Badlands. The only regret that I have is that it took me so long to finally visit there. While it is remote and can be harsh during parts of the year, once you get there, the landscape is among the most diverse and accessible and is worth the trip. Where else can you walk out of your hotel room and within minutes get sunset shots like this one?

Crater Lake - Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

There are two things that I remember vividly from Crater Lake: the unique manta ray shape of Wizard Island and some of the bluest water found in the world. The water is also some of the purest that you will find anywhere. When researching the reason for why the color was so blue, I found the answer on the National Park Service's website (paraphrased in the next paragraph). 

The water is so blue because there is hardly anything else in it.  The water molecules found in Crater Lake contain no sediments, algae, pesticides or pollution, making it very pure. The water molecules absorb all of the color spectrum of sunlight except for the blues. The key to creating the deep blue color is having enough water to absorb the other colors. Since there are 4.6 trillion gallons of water in the lake, there is no problem.

Fading Canyon Light - Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Tucked away near the Colorado - Utah border is a cool National Monument that I try to visit whenever I visit Moab. Located about 20 minutes outside Grand Junction, the 23-mile Rim Rock Road rises 2,000 feet to give visitors to the park great vistas of the surrounding landscape. There are some amazing canyons along the road with sandstone and granite formations that tower above the canyon floor.

I had flown into Grand Junction and planned to shoot sunset and sunrise in the park before heading to Moab. When I landed, the rain started and continued through the afternoon. I was almost ready to hang it up but something told me to at least drive the road and scout out for the next morning. As I started up the road, the weather began to clear and some great golden hour sun began to peek through (you can see the storm in the distance). At one of the pullouts, the sun lit the tops of these formations just right and made it worth the trip.

New Eddystone Rock - Misty Fiords National Monument, Alaska

Misty Fjords National Monument is located 40 miles east of Ketchikan, Alaska, along the Inside Passage Coast in extreme southeastern Alaska. The area is nicknamed "The Yosemite of the North" for its similar geology. Formed by glaciers, the glacial valleys are filled with sea water. The walls of these valleys are near-vertical and range from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level and drop 1,000 feet below it. The scenery ranges from tidewater estuaries to mountains often shrouded in mists, sky-blue lakes, waterfalls and the seemingly endless evergreen forest. Misty Fjords' road-less location is only accessible by floatplane or boat from Ketchikan. We took a tour boat out of Ketchikan for a 6-hour boat tour. The weather was pretty raw with periodic rain. Along the way, we saw it all, rugged mountains, eagles, the very cool New Eddystone Rock and waterfalls. New Eddystone Rock is a pillar of basalt that originated from fractures in the floor of Behm Canal over the last 5 million years. The texture of the New Eddystone Rock indicate that it was form by volcanic magma that rose above the surface of the water.

Glowing Wall - Badlands National Park, South Dakota

There are very few terrains that look so different from one another depending on where you are than in the Badlands of South Dakota. Driving the 31 mile road that traverses this rugged park, the landscape changes many times from jagged rock formations to mounds of rocks. They vary in forms of mountains, mesas, canyons, buttes and hoodoos. These formations also have very different layers of rock, often having very different and unusual color.

To explain the formation of the badlands as simply erosion would be a mistake although it is a major contributor to its development. The process of deposition was prominent in the building of the different layers of mineral material such as clay and sand. Each layer solidified and was then covered with the next one over a period of almost 50 million years. When the layers solidified, erosion from wind and water created the many different landscapes that are found there today. 

This photo, taken at the extreme eastern end of the park, shows the jaggedness of the peaks. If you at the foreground, you can see how the erosion created these short rock formations that extend well behind and to either side of where I am standing. I have only visited this place once and am really hopeful that I can get back there soon.

Otter Glow - Acadia National Park, Maine

One of my favorite spots in Acadia National Park is at Otter Beach (aka Boulder Beach). As can be seen in this photo, the beach is not exactly your typical sand beach, but rather a bunch of large rounded stones that are quite difficult to walk on. I muddled my way carefully over the stones (I have taken a fall there before) in the hopes that I would have a decent sunrise, so that the stones would begin to glow golden. My first location was closer to the water but it turned out that the tide was coming in. Even though my boots were waterproof, the water went above them, resulting in getting both feet soaked. As a result, I moved back to this position and was rewarded with some great light. Not only did the rocks on the beach light up, but the Otter Cliffs in the distance also glowed orange.

Maltese Alley - Mdina, Malta

Going through my photos while transitioning from Lightroom to ON1 Photo RAW has been a tedious task. This is offset by the little nuggets of gold that allow me to relive old memories through my photos. I captured this photo way back in 2008 on our first Mediterranean cruise. My wife and friends like cruising but, being a photographer, I prefer to stay on land to take advantage of the golden hours of sunrises and sunsets, which are nearly impossible on a boat. The great advantage of a cruise for me is that I have visited places that I never would have. That is the case with Malta.

The island of Malta is located south of Italy and north of Tunisia. It has a population of less than 500,000 and is a beautiful place to visit. We only spent a day there but I particularly loved traveling to the northern part of the island to visit the ancient city of Mdina. Built in the 8th century by Phoenician settlers, it was once the capital of Malta. Over the centuries, other areas of the island became more populated and the capital changed to Valetta. Today Mdina has a population of only 300 and property is handed down to descendants. Walking the streets and layaways of this walled city transports visitors to medieval times. The architecture is ancient with a Baroque look to it. Walking the alleys like this one was spiritually lifting when thinking of all of the history this city has experienced.

Coastal Light - Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Maine

My favorite lighthouse in Maine is undoubtedly Pemaquid Point Light and its famous puddle reflection. Many people have asked if that puddle is real and did I Photoshop a reflection in it. I can state unequivocally that the puddle is there year round (or at least over the course of my 15+ visits). The puddle may be bigger or smaller on each visit depending on the weather. The better question to ask is "Was the wind blowing?" That question is easily answered in that, if there is any decent wind, there will be no reflection. On this trip, I visited the puddle in the late afternoon and the wind was pretty steady. While I got some reflections, the ripples made it barely recognizable. Fortunately, I visited Pemaquid the next day at sunrise. After shooting from the front and the other side, I revisited the puddle, even though the wind was blowing. With a little patience, the wind died off periodically in order to get some still reflection shots.

Punta Gorda Morning - Florida

I am missing Florida already and it has been less than a week since landing in Connecticut. We got about 10 inches of snow on Sunday night and I wish we never came home. It was 82° when we left Sanibel and it was in the teens last night. Needing some memories of the warm weather, I found this photo from a couple of years ago of what it looked like. Next year, we will try to stay well into March before heading home.

Johnson Lake Beauty - Banff National Park, Alberta

The Rockies are my favorite place to visit and the beauty that you see in photos, videos and movies do not do it justice. I wish I could explore their entire length, but due to money and time constraints, I have to pick the best places along the range. Johnson Lake is one of the lesser known bodies of water in Banff National Park. Most people visit Two Jack Lake, which is nearby, but I have had some great experiences here and make sure that I stop to visit. As you can see, the light was great and the water was glass-like, allowing for some terrific reflections.

Valley of Color - Ophir Pass, Colorado

I have been in Florida most of February, and returning to Connecticut on Wednesday was traumatic as winter is still here. A lot of the time, I was at the beach and it was very relaxing, although I missed being in the mountains. There are so many places in the western US that are simply beautiful that I had to find a photo of one of them to post. I came across this photo that I took when I was in Colorado a couple of years ago on a photo tour with Rick Louie and Chris Nitz. Talk about a beautiful location. We had headed out from Telluride and headed through and over the San Juan Mountains. We stopped at the top of Ophir Pass and this view just captivated me as the foliage was peaking. It was just one of the many amazing scenes that we saw that day. After crossing the San Juans, we jumped on the Million Dollar Highway (It is aptly named) for further exploration.

Dormant Volcano - Mount St. Helens, Washington

Just got back last night from a 3 week trip to Florida. As I wasn’t in the mood to write up a description, I took the easy way out and copied the following from Wikipedia.

“Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft, leaving a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for the eruption's aftermath to be scientifically studied.

As with most other volcanoes in the Cascade Range, Mount St. Helens is a large eruptive cone consisting of lava rock interlayered with ash, pumice, and other deposits. The mountain includes layers of basalt and andesite through which several domes of dacite lava have erupted. The largest of the dacite domes formed the previous summit, and off its northern flank sat the smaller Goat Rocks dome. Both were destroyed in the 1980 eruption.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon - Death Valley National Park, California

Some of the best locations to explore in Death Valley are the many canyons that seem to be just about everywhere. Some are small and narrow, while others are wide enough to have roads. Of all of the canyons that we visited, Twenty Mule Team Canyon was my favorite. Truth be told, it probably was my favorite spot in the park. The canyon was named after the teams of 18 mules and 2 horses that were attached to large wagons that transported 10 short tons of borax from the mines. The trip traversed the Mojave Desert and was 165 miles long. Considering temperatures during the summer can be as hot as 134 degrees, it must have been a very difficult trip.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is quite large, and viewing it from the ground didn't give me the perspective of the area. Fortunately, the rock formations are climbable if you are in decent shape. So up I went to the top of many of the surrounding formations, some by a trail and others blazing a new trail. When I reached the top to look around, I had a 360-degree view of this section of the canyon.

Tioga Road - Yosemite National Park, California

Many of the visitors to Yosemite National Park enter the park from its western entrance, as it is the closest to the major California cities. The western part of the park is also home to the famed Yosemite Valley, where many of the major attractions are located. Many visitors stay in the valley and never travel to the eastern side of the park. That is a shame as there is a lot to see and it has a unique beauty of its own. To drive from the valley to the town of Lee Vining (home to the famed Mono Lake), the only choice of roads is Tioga Road. The trip is about 75 miles one way and the road peaks at nearly 10,000 feet at the Tioga Pass. This is one of the most scenic drives in America and is only open in season, which is generally late May to October, depending on snow. We left around noon to explore Tioga Road, making stops along the way and ultimately having dinner in Lee Vining. When we left town, it was approaching sunset and the light was phenomenal. Along the way, we stopped along the road to take this image. I highly recommend taking this road the next time you are in Yosemite.

Wilson Mesa - Telluride, Colorado

I will bet that most of you have seen these mountains before, even if you haven't ever traveled to Colorado. Why do I know that? Because I assume most of you drink beer and have picked up a Coors Light at least once (probably more than once). For those of you who don't drink beer, it is impossible not to have seen the Coors commercials on TV. That mountain on the Coors Light label is Wilson Peak, featured in this photo. Of course, the one on the label was photographed in the winter with snow covering the peak. I really don't like the cold, and I would rather shoot mountains during my favorite time of year, autumn.

This was taken just after sunrise, when the peak was being touched by the golden sunlight. While we weren't there during the peak of foliage season, you can see that some of the aspens have already turned to their golden color. We probably missed the full foliage by a week or two, but this is still a beautiful scene.

Half Dome - Yosemite National Park, California

Glacier Point is one of my favorite spots in Yosemite National Park. One reason is that it provides what I consider the best view of Half Dome. Another reason is that from the two sides of the point you can either view the valley floor to one side or spot the waterfalls from the other side. A lot of visitors don't make it up to Glacier Point because it is not obvious where it is located. The point is visible from the valley if you are near the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Just look straight up. Just above 7,200 feet from where you are standing is the point. There are two ways to get to the point. The easy way is to take a 32-mile drive out of the valley going around the many granite formations, ending up in the parking lot. The hard way is to hike up the  4.6-mile trail (incorrectly named "Four Mile Trail) which ascends the 3,200 feet before reaching the point. I haven't hiked up the trail but I have hiked down it which wasn't easy. I can't imagine how challenging going up would be.

Winding Dirt Road - Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Want to experience Utah in all of its rugged beauty? Try taking the 18-mile long Shafer Trail Road / Shafer Canyon Road through some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions. The trip starts easy enough out of Moab along the well-paved Potash Road that parallels the Colorado River. About 17 miles later, the paved road changes into a rugged dirt road,,where signs recommend a four wheel vehicle with high clearance. The fun begins here. Deep ruts and soft sand patches are the chief features of the road. The surrounding landscape is spectacular. Over the course of the drive, you drive well above the Colorado River and about 10 miles in, you are between Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park. The final stretch of the road is pictured here, with a 1,500 foot climb from canyon to the top of the plateau where I captured this photo.

Rugged Desert - Death Valley National Park, California

The ruggedness of Death Valley is often described as a story of the harsh heat of desert sands that have reached temperatures of above 130° Fahrenheit. That is only part of Death Valley’s story. There are an amazing number of rock formations that are on display that were formed by water erosion. That’s right, water erosion in a desert. At one time, there was not a valley there but rather ancient seas. As the seas dried up and mountains began to rise, the water began carving the rock into an intricate design. It’s almost like an artist painting a work of art over thousands of centuries. While the painting will continue, it is a beautiful one to experience. The beauty of it is exposed during the early morning or late evening light, when each crack and crevice is exposed with the interplay of light and shadow.

Vancouver Reflections - Vancouver, British Columbia

One of my favorite compositional tendencies is to take advantage of all of the lines in a scene. I really loved the mix of straight and curved lines in this scene and how they interplay with the buildings in the background. I think that our favorite photos are often not the ones that are perfect, but ones that evoke feelings we had when we took them. I remember walking the streets of Vancouver on the night before we were headed home, and the light was simply beautiful. Everyone else headed in for the night. but I was really in a zone and shot until dark. I knew that I had some winners to look at when I got home. When I was going through my Lightroom catalog, I happened upon this image, which brought back the same feelings.

Mesa's Glow - Canyonlands, National Park, Utah

One of the most iconic and most challenging images to capture of the American Southwest is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Why is it so challenging? It is not because it is difficult to find or get to. It is really all about its popularity with photographers; getting "the" shot during a small window of time (sunrise); and a very small area for photographers to get a good position. In fact, there may be space for only 10-12 people, and there are some that camp out overnight to get a prime spot. So, even when you get up well before sunrise, drive 45 minutes from Moab and hike to its location, you may well be totally shut out.

Once you get your spot, it is like you are glued to it. There is nowhere to move, as the second you do, the spot has been taken by someone else. Your choices are to (1) shoot many of the same shots as the sun rises above the horizon until it clears the top of the arch or (2) make sure that you shoot at different focal lengths that allow you to zoom in and out to the scene. For this photo, I zoomed into the scene in order to create a tighter look at the arch. It’s shape resembles an eye with the sun taking on the role of a waking eyeball.