Vermillion Lakes - Banff National Park, Alberta

The town of Banff was formed as a result of the industrial revolution. In the late 1800's and the advent of the train travel, the Canadian Pacific Railway was formed to physically unite Canada from coast to coast. Imagine having the responsibility of selecting the locations for where the train stations would be located along that route. It must have been an awesome job. There was no town of Banff before the railroad was built. So what was the main reason for its selection? Was it the rugged mountains? The gorgeous pristine mountain lakes? Was it the roaring rivers and waterfalls? Nope. Surprisingly enough, it was a series of natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. When the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to build a string of grand hotels across Canada to attract wealthy visitors to the railway, the town was born. Today, the town is the southern entrance to Banff National Park and is one of the most visited resort towns in Canada. Being located in such a target-rich natural setting, you can see why. Where else can you hop in your car downtown and drive a mere one-and-a-half miles to look at this scene at Vermillion Lakes?

Passing By - Bug Light, South Portland, Maine

There are many lighthouses to be found in Maine (sixty five) spread out over the 5,000 miles of coastline, inlets and islands. With so many of them, everyone who has visited Maine has a different favorite. Names like Portland Head Light, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Nubble Light and Marshall Point Light are among those that often top the list. But what about the smaller unknown lights like this one in South Portland? Well, it certainly is not making any top ten lists given its size. It's original (and official) name is the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, but its size caused many to refer to it as Bug Light, which has stuck over the years since it was built in 1875. When photographing the light, there are two leading lines that are most common (from where I shot this) and from the walkway to the light. With a high level of boating traffic, just wait a bit, and a boat like this sailboat will pass by, giving it some added interest.

Mittens Framed - Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

If you say the words "the mittens" to a landscape photographer, the majority of them will know you are talking about the famous buttes in Monument Valley. These sandstone rock formations are probably the most recognizable formations in the American Southwest. They have been featured in many movies, television shows, commercials and music videos. When viewed from the south, they each look hands in their mittens with a "thumb" visible. The unique thing about them is that the "thumbs" face each other just like your hands do. For this reason, these buttes probably have been photographed millions upon millions of times. That is why I try to find unique perspectives when I compose my images. This dead tree provided me with one, with the West Mitten being in the center of the image and the East Mitten on the right between the tree's branches.

On the Prowl - Banff National Park, Alberta

My favorite time of the year to visit Banff National Park is in mid-June. There are several reasons for that. First and foremost is that the Canadian Rockies have a lot of snow on the mountains (it seems winter in Alberta ends sometime in June) and the snow melt has begun. There have been times when you can still see ice on the lakes, which adds a different feel to photos. Another reason is that there are less people around than in the summer months. Since 1996, the number of visitors to Banff National Park has exceeded 4 million each and every year, with summer being the most visited time. Finally, there is the abundance of wildlife. Given that the winter ends late, animals are coming out of their hibernation and can be seen just about anywhere, many times with their young offspring. Although I am not primarily a wildlife photographer, I do enjoy capturing them when I see them. I shot this photo of a lone grizzly (before a closer encounter a few years later) somewhere in the park while he was looking for dandelions to munch on.

Two Jack Sunrise - Banff National Park, Alberta

Being a landscape photographer, there are three things that are sacred to me: mountains, lakes and reflections.  I have posted extensively about Banff, as it is one of my favorite places on Earth. I have been there four times and would visit there every year if I could (it is now running at every other year with a visit this upcoming June). There are so many beautiful lakes in the area, but, this one stellar and is the most convenient to get to being right outside the town of Banff. .

When I captured this photo a few years ago, my buddy Jeff Clow and I visited Two Jack every day, and the lake was always rippled with no reflection to be found. We had said goodbye the night before, and I was headed to Jasper National Park and Jeff was headed home. I decided to make one last stop at the lake, and the photography gods were smiling upon me as I came upon the scene in the photo. My only wish was that Jeff was able to see the reflection of Mount Rundle. I found out later that he too visited the lake a couple of hours later, and was able to capture its beauty reflected in the water.

Million Dollar Foliage - San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Living in New England for the past twenty five years, I have seen my share of beautiful Autumn scenes. The colors that I can see right outside my door range from brilliant yellows to oranges to reds and every shade in between are downright amazing. I didn't think that I would see any scenes as beautiful as the ones in New England. A few years ago, I discovered I was wrong. While the colors of New England still can't be beat, I found that having the rugged Rocky Mountains as a backdrop more than made up for the range of color. That is especially true of the 25-mile section of US Route 550 in between Silverton and Our Colorado. Known by many as the "Million Dollar Highway", it is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. I had been on this road quite a number of times over the years and thought how beautiful it was, it wasn't until I saw it during the peak foliage season did I realize how stunning it could be. 

 

Haircut? - Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is a mecca for Urbex photography though it is a historical site and museum. The penitentiary was built in 1829 and continued operations until as recently as 1971 (hard to believe the amount of decay since then). When the building was erected, it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. One of the revolutionary intentions of the time was the idea that inmates were to be reformed rather than be punished (thus the word penitentiary rather than prison). In fact, the warden was legally required to visit every inmate every day as a form of rehabilitation. Two of the more famous inmates were Al Capone and Willie Sutton. This image is of one of the barber chairs that still can be found in the building. The urban decay is evident on the walls along with the algae growing down the right wall.

Delicate Arch - Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

A trip to Moab would not be complete without images of the most famous arch in Utah, Delicate Arch. Even those who have never set foot in it's home of Arches National Park have probably seen it. The arch is pictured on Utah license plates. Seeing the arch in person can be a little more challenging, especially if one wants to get a close-up view.

To stand next to it requires a 3-mile round-trip hike that takes the hiker over a trail of slickrock (not recommended in wet weather for obvious reasons) that rises almost 500 feet over 1.5 miles. It is not an overly difficult hike if you are used to high elevation (the arch is 4,800 feet above sea level). I hiked this trail with my son in 2005 in 40 miles-an-hour wind. Probably wasn't the brightest thing I have ever done, as it was blowing so hard when we got there that we couldn't even stand up.

For an easier view of the arch, there is a shorter trail that takes you pretty near to the arch, but doesn't reach the arch due to a wide canyon. Many hikers take the trail to the viewing platform that says "End of Trail",  but there are actually two ridges that are closer to it.  A few of us ended up at the first ridge, and this is where this image was taken from. The sunset light was great (the only thing better would have been some nice clouds), and it really helped cast a long shadow of the arch on the sandstone.

Rockefeller Center Night - Manhattan, New York

Going through some old photos is always a kick and sometimes you come across a photo that you don't remember taking. This is one of those photos. I was scratching my head trying to remember why I was at Rockefeller Center. Finally, it came to me. I had taken a photo tour with Rick Louie and Chris Nitz in Colorado a few years ago and Rick invited me to join him  and Chris in NYC before heading to Maine for a NxNW trip. Once I remembered who I was with, it easily came to me why I was near this spot. For those of you who don't know Chris, he is a terrific photographer who sometimes uses toys in his photos. Turns out that there is a HUGE Legoland store that he had to visit. After spending an eternity at the store (I like Legos but not as much as Chris), I shot this photo. Great memories.

Lower Waterton Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

At the border of Montana and Alberta is a terrific little Canadian National Park that sometimes flies under the radar of travelers. This is probably due to the fact that it is adjacent to Glacier National Park. In fact, I am sure that most people have never heard of Waterton Lakes National Park, and may even be surprised that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known or unknown, it is a photographer's paradise, with the magnificent Rocky Mountains and beautiful lakes.

The biggest lake is known as Waterton Lake, and is actually two lakes that are referred to as Upper Waterton Lake and Lower Waterton Lake. The two lakes are connected by a channel. One would think that Upper Waterton Lake would be north of Lower Waterton lake, but they would be wrong. The lower lake lies fully in Alberta, while the upper lake extends south into Glacier. Regardless of the naming convention used, the lakes act as a wonderful foreground to the rugged Rockies, as can been seen in this photo of Upper Waterton Lake.

Norbeck Morning- Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park had been on my must visit list for quite a long time. I finally got the opportunity on a cross country trip a few years ago with my son. There are two main entrances to the park and I decided to stay near the northeast entrance, as my research indicated that there were numerous sunrise and sunset locations in that part of the park. The choice proved to be the right one although the lodging and dining opportunities were challenging at best. The challenge then became to pick two sunrise locations out of the almost ten possibilities. Fortunately, both locations turned out to be stellar. This photo was taken from an overlook just around the corner from Norbeck Pass and was taken on our second morning. The jagged peaks that are part of the pass were a great subject, particularly in the early morning light.  The shadows added terrific definition to the photo. The diversity of the park's landscape makes it a must visit park. After one visit, it has become one of my favorite parks and I definitely think a return trip is in order.

Foliage - Cathedral Ledge, North Conway, New Hampshire

Well, it is now that last day in November which to me is the unofficial end to Autumn. I thought it appropriate to post one last foliage photo for the year. This image was taken at Cathedral Ledge in North Conway. It is an easy location to get to as long as you don't miss the road leading to it. There is a small circular parking lot and it is a short walk to the ledge. The sun was setting, casting beautiful light over the countryside. The ledge overlooks the White Mountains, in particular, the Presidential Range whose peaks are named after American Presidents. It is a wonderful view that I have posted previously. I think that the night I took this was indicative of why visitors flock to New England in the Fall. The light and colors say it all.

Red Barn - Steptoe Butte State Park, Washington

Early morning on the second highest point in the Palouse (the highest point is Kamiak Butte, mere feet higher) is a magical time to capture the play of light and shadow. As you stand on top of this 3,612 foot butte, there is nothing but rolling farmland as far as the eye can see. The few buildings that dot the landscape are farmhouses, barns and grain elevators. When the sun is low, the rolling hills are bathed in shadows and light that slowly change from dark to bright over a relatively short period. That is when the magic happens. Because of the vastness of the landscape from above, a telephoto lens is a requirement to zoom into the scene. The decision from there is the photo's composition, picking out a structure that becomes the anchor to the photo. In this case, I picked this red barn as my anchor.

Autumn Scene - Lake Waramaug State Park, Connecticut

The foliage season was quite late here in Connecticut this year. In fact, there are still some leaves on the trees that are falling. This has to be the latest time of the year that I can remember. Even though I have been home since mid-October, I didn't get out to shoot. I guess my thirty day vacation and photo trip got the best of me. Even I can get overwhelmed after shooting for that long and just need some time away from photography. I am sure that I missed some stellar foliage but there is always next year.

One great thing about not editing every photo that I have shot during the years is that I can go back to favorite places and relive those experiences. I found this photo that I had not edited from 2009 and thought it would be a great representation of fall in Connecticut. Lake Waramaug is not a huge lake but it is quite picturesque, especially during the fall. A good portion of the lake is owned privately, but there is a state park on its northwestern shore that offers swimming, fishing, picnicking, camping, boating and canoeing.

Peaceful Feeling - Herbert Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hope everyone has had a quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving Holiday. I took some time off from my blog and social media last week to get into the right frame of mind as we enter the always frantic holiday season. I would be remiss if I didn't give my personal thanks to those of you who have visited my blog and social media presence for all of your visits, likes and comments. It really makes my day and all the effort I have put into posting well worth it.

I wanted to post a photo today that conveys peacefulness as we enter the holidays. For me, Herbert Lake is one of the most peaceful places that I have shot at. I have been there mostly in the early mornings before sunrise when the waters are calm and the light is great. Even at other times in the day, it is a place that is peaceful. There are always few people there despite its closeness to the Icefields Parkway (mere steps). There are other great lakes in the area that draw crowds like magnets (Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Bow Lake), all of them beautiful but not as peaceful. They are lakes that must be visited on any excursion to Banff. If you want to enjoy some peace and solitude, make sure that Herbert Lake is on your itinerary.

Stone Vanishing Point - Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc with many parts of Florida this past September causing some historic winds and damage. I have spent a lot of time in many of the areas that were impacted and hope that the damage was kept at a minimum. One of the places that I wondered about was Key West and Dry Tortugas National Park. It always amazes me how quickly disasters seem to fade from the news, sometimes days after they occur, and trying to find out about recovery efforts is difficult at best. From what I can tell, Key West hotels have reopened and recovery efforts are moving along slowly, but the challenge is that many residents homes were destroyed and only time will tell how well it recovers.

While Key West was on many minds due to the impact to people's lives, Dry Tortugas National Park was more about the impact on history and Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas is located about 70 miles west of Key West and is reachable by boat or seaplane. The park consists of seven islands, but it is the massive Fort Jefferson that is the main attraction. Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, being built with over 16 million bricks. My suspicion was that this massive structure survived, but it is hard to find out what impact Irma had on it. The park is open with some areas closed to visitors, so I suspect that the damage was minimal. Let's hope so.

This photo is from my visit there back in 2013, of one of the walkways in the fort displaying just a few of the 16 million bricks that make up the fort.

Aspen Beauty - Uncompahgre National Forest, 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.

Point Arena Lighthouse - Port Arena, California

On our vacation to the West Coast in September, we drove from Portland, Oregon and ended up in Big Sur, California. While this trip was not lighthouse centric, if there was a lighthouse in the vicinity, we made sure to stop. One of the more picturesque ones was this one in Mendocino County. I didn't know much about the light before our visit but have since learned about its history.

The 115 foot tall lighthouse was erected in 1870 on Point Arena (a narrow peninsula extending a half-mile into the Pacific Ocean). The light was constructed in order to prevent shipwrecks due to a sandbar located near the point. In 1906, an earthquake all along the San Andreas Fault struck the lighthouse resulting in its demolition along with the light-keeper's house. The lighthouse was rebuilt by a company that built factory smokestacks as they had experience building tall structures that could withstand earthquakes.

As you can see in this photo, the peninsula that the light sits on is quite beautiful. The waves were not overly active the morning I shot this as the tide was out. I imagine it would be an awesome place to shoot during a windy storm.

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park, Montana

Logan Pass. The Continental Divide. The Rocky Mountains. Going-to-the-Sun Road. Glaciers. Mountain fed lakes. Waterfalls. Trails all around. All of these at one location. Have I got your attention? It certainly got mine. The first time that I explored this highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (almost 6,700 feet above sea level), I was hooked. I had heard that the large parking lot in the summer was often filled up before 10am in the summer and now I knew why. You can spend all day at Logan Pass and never tire of it. 

Getting to Logan Pass is a thrilling ride in its own right. The two lane Going-to-the-Sun Road is quite narrow and winding with hairpin turns, especially west of Logan Pass where most visitors come from. Towering mountains on either sides with deep valleys are the norm as you approach the pass. There are just a few turnouts where cars can pull over but they are quite small and there are simply not enough of them to handle the number of cars in the summer. In fact, many visitors don't drive themselves but rather climb aboard the Red Jammers (vintage 1930s red buses, modernized in 2001) to get to the pass. No matter how you get there, you will be in landscape heaven.