While the tufas that populate the lakeshore of the southern end of Mono Lake are the primary subjects for photographers, the weather conditions and great light can make the tufas in the lake stand out. I was fortunate to experience these conditions on our second sunrise visit to the lake earlier this month. When we got to the lake, there were clouds present in the sky for one of the few times that week. Even more of a surprise was the low hanging fog / mist that was rising from the lake's surface. The early morning sun added the finishing touch that colored the whole scene in yellow-orange light. All I had to do was pick out the tufas that I wanted to capture and push the shutter button. I chose to contrast the tufas close to me with the tufas in the distance.
My twenty-eight day trip was a combination of vacation with my wife and great friends along with a ten-day photo excursion to Yosemite and the Eastern Sierras. While the vacation was not photo-centric, I was still able to get out a few mornings and get some photos. At the end of our vacation, we were in Monterey and decided to spend a half day in the Monterey Bay Aquarium before we headed to the San Francisco Airport.
I typically don't take many shots in aquariums as they are very dark and crowded, but do try to sneak in a shot or two. I do admit to having a weakness for jellyfish (Why? I have no idea) and when I saw this tank of Lion's Mane Jellyfish, I knew I was going to capture them. I didn't know anything about this species of jellyfish but here is what I found out. They are the largest species of jellyfish and are found in the cold waters of the Arctic, found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They get their name after the long tentacles that are supposed to look like a lion's mane (Okay, I don't get it but I am running with it anyway). Their color is said to depend on their size, with the smaller ones more of a dark purplish color and the larger ones more of a vivid crimson color. Not sure where these measure up on the size range, but they were pretty big.
On my recent trip to the Eastern Sierras, I was not prepared for so many beautiful mountain lakes that I was going to visit and shoot. I should have anticipated that, as beautiful mountain ranges have their fair share of pristine mountain lakes. One of the things I learned was that this whole area of eastern California is a mecca for fisherman. This particular lake was man-made, created in 1908 by the damming up of the middle fork of Bishop Creek. The lake was named after the wife of C.M. Hobbs, who was the first General Manager of the California Nevada Power Company that built the dam. Regardless of its origin, the lake is a beautiful spot to photograph. A little tidbit is that Apple's newest operating system, High Sierra, has Lake Sabrina as its wallpaper.
When we first got to the lakes, we saw a small marina and walked along the length of the dam to get some decent angles of the lake. The water was quite rough and getting a reflection was almost impossible. As I walked back toward the marina, I noticed Mike Louthan shooting boats in the marina and went to join him. As I was setting up, I heard some voices above me that surprised me as the terrain was a bit rocky. I headed back out and discovered a small, unmarked trail that took the "high road". Walking down the trail, I discovered this scene with an island surrounded by these small boats. The water had become still in this part of the lake and the sun had risen high enough to light up our side of the lake. I heard a noise below me and saw Bobby Strader where I had stood only minutes before. I told him about the trail but, since we were running out of time, he played mountain man and scaled the rocky incline.
One of my main reasons for attending Jeff Clow's Mono Lake Photo Tour (other than hanging out with my best buddy) was to visit and shoot the famous ghost town of Bodie. Over the years, I had seen many photos of the town but never seemed to be able to fit it into my travel plans. Now I can say that I can check it off my bucket list and would have loved to spend more time there.
Bodie was a bit different than I expected but enjoyable nonetheless. What was different? More non-photographers for one. Trying to photograph a popular spot can be challenging, as many people aren't interested in taking photos and often don't even think about the fact that you have been standing there waiting for the scene to clear so you can photograph it. They have every right to be there as much as we do and, while we wish that they weren't there, we have to learn to be patient (a tough task for me). The second surprise was that many of the structures there were not open and we had to shoot through windows, sometimes through very dirty windows. The added challenge to doing this is that you have to have the lens touching the glass to avoid reflections (I have a gadget that fixes this problem but I left it in Connecticut). This minimizes the number of compositions you can capture.
Those challenges being said, you sometimes come upon a scene that works out fine. I spotted the inside of this house through a not so dirty window. I have a fondness for roofs that are decrepit and allow beams of light to create an interesting play of light and shadow on the inside walls. I knew immediately that I would capture this scene come hell or high water. I knew I got what I wanted when I got home and looked at this photo on my big screen.
Picking where to kick off our short visit to Yosemite at sunrise is no easy task. There are so many choice subjects that we could have picked in the Valley. A bit of research into where the sun would be rising, specifically in late September, helped narrow down the choices. Then, trying to figure out when the sun would rise high enough to light up the valley was a bit more of a challenge, Finally, as every landscape photographer has experienced, be prepared for the unexpected. In our case, the prior two days in the Valley with two large pieces of granite falling from El Capitan (with one death) caused utter confusion, as a considerable portion of Northside Drive was closed. Suddenly, one-way roads were converted into two-way roads with very little notice and signs.
In the end, we ended up at Cathedral Beach, which is along the Merced River. From this spot we were able to get El Capitan and later, the Three Brothers, reflected in the river's still waters. I have been there to this spot a few times in the past. I am always amazed that this spot is almost always deserted in early morning but am also very thankful for it. Mike Louthan and I had the whole stretch of the river to ourselves. We patiently took in the serenity of being there, watching the sun slowly light up El Capitan until it was fully lit. I didn't count the number of shots I took as the sun moved down the granite monolith, but I know it was a lot. I decided to post this one first, as it was fully lit and the water still unbelievably still.
Convicts and rocks. This might bring to mind a group of prisoners that were put in a chain gang where, using picks and axes, they spent days and months breaking up rocks. Not so for this photo. Yes, the lake was named after convicts that had escaped a Carson City prison in the 1870's that made their stand against a posse, resulting in many deaths on both sides. The rocks pictured here were not created by picks and axes, but rather moved here to create a small marina on the lakeshore. The lake is a prime destination for fisherman (and photographers), especially during the foliage season. Our group spent about 90 minutes shooting from various places around the lake. I wandered to the marina and climbed onto the rocks forming a barrier for the boats and really liked how they formed a great leading line that seemed to lead to Laurel Mountain. The rocks protected the water in the marina, making it comparably still, which provided a good reflection of the mountain.
Yosemite. Just its name conjures up visions of large granite rock formations, amazing waterfalls and the the famous men like John Muir and Ansel Adams who made it a nationally recognized national treasure. It is my favorite national park in the US. It had been seven long years since I set foot in the valley and I don't want to wait that long again until I return. Yosemite Valley, pictured here, is where the majority of visitors to the park spend their time with the high concentration of granite rock formations that can be seen. Formations like El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Dome are visible from most of the valley. Waterfalls like Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are also popular sights. The one place where you can see most of these formations is from Tunnel View and is one of the first scenes that visitors driving through the park's western entrance see. This view was made famous by Ansel Adams' black and white photos, making it an iconic photographic spot. On all of my previous visits, I had not got a decent shot of it and I was determined to get one on my visit there. By the last day, I thought I was going to be shut out again but was able to capture it on my last evening there.
I am finally adjusting from my four-week trip to the west coast. The first 18 days were spent with my wife and great friends, and the final 10 days were spent with both old and new photo friends photographing some amazing landscapes. Most of the places that I visited were ones that I have been to before, so I thought I would post my first photo from my trip to one of the places I had never visited before.
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierras have long been on my list to visit so when my best buddy, Jeff Clow, held a photo tour there, I was all in. The lake is located in the town of Lee Vining at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The lake is a large shallow lake that has no outlet, causing high levels of salts to accumulate which make the water alkaline. Over time, tufas (columns of limestone deposits) were formed and became visible when the lake's water levels became shallow. The tufas have become a terrific photographic subject and we were fortunate to photograph them with clouds in the sky on our second sunrise visit of the tour. As can be seen in this photograph, the tufas began to glow from the soft light of the morning sun.
Many Glacier Hotel is an historic hotel built in the early 1900's by the Great Northern Railway in an attempt to put Glacier National Park on the map. It was actually part of a series of resort hotels that the railroad built along its routes. The railroad was trying to promote Glacier as the "American Alps" and built the hotel on the shoreline of Swiffcurrent Lake in a Swiss Chalet style. The hotel, over 100 years old, is on the less-visited eastern side of the National Park and has one of the park's most iconic views from it's rooms, that of Mount Grinnell. The day I took this photo was a dreary, rainy day, but for a few moments, the waters of the lake were still and I was able to get a reflection of the hotel. The dreariness of the day gave this scene an almost black and white feel to it.
Sometimes the coolest places that you visit are the ones you never heard of or thought of visiting. Last year, Jaki Good Miller and I "discovered" this place by mere chance. We had flown out early to Las Vegas before a Death Valley Photo Tour to photograph the Valley of Fire. Rather than take the direct route, we decided to travel up the western shore of Lake Mead through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. What a great choice. The scenery there is amazing and definitely beat the interstate. As we headed to our destination, we saw this road that looked like it went down to Lake Mead, and it took us to this marina where there were literally hundreds of houseboats docked. The mountains on the other side of the lake made a majestic backdrop to the scene.
Straddling the border of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico lies the largest Native American Territory in North America, namely Navajo Nation. It's size (over 27,000 square miles) makes it larger than ten US states. The landscape that can be found there consists of desert, sand dunes, plateaus, mesas, buttes and mountains. The land is the color of sandstone (a beautiful orange) that contrasts wonderfully with blue skies, making it a great photographic destination. Perhaps the most desired location to photograph in Navajo Nation is the famed Monument Valley, with its unusual rock formations that have been given unique names by both Native Americans and settlers to the region.
Monument Valley was put on the map outside of Navajo Nation by movie director, John Ford, who filmed the first and one most famous western there in 1939, namely Stagecoach. It's start was a relatively known actor named John Wayne. Since then, many movies, commercials, television shows and music videos have been filmed there. Monument Valley is one of my favorite places and whenever I see it on film, I want to hop on a plane and visit it.
Sometimes the words don't flow. After posting almost 1,300 blog posts, I sometimes find it hard to come up with something new. So for the first time since I started blogging, I've got nothing to say that would enhance the beauty of this pristine lake along the Icefields Parkway. Don't worry. I am seldom at a loss for words for long.
Sometimes when you are driving through the Palouse, you really don't know exactly where you are. You know the area you are in (in this case, somewhere on Endicott Road). We had stopped by some farm structures to shoot and there was these railroad tracks running by them and this red barn across the away. I spotted this sign which indicated that it was the town(?) of Thera. I never heard of it so I looked it up and discovered there is an area called Thera on the map but there doesn't seem to be any information about it. A search for its population resulted in no census data. Perhaps it is just a stop on the railroad but it is not clear whether it is even used anymore. Just another of the many mysteries that the Palouse has to offer.
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park measuring ten miles long and over a mile wide. It is also a deep lake at almost 500 feet. It is probably the most photographed lake in the park as it is perfectly located near it's western entrance. It is a perfect location for both sunrises and sunsets. Most of the sunrise photos are taken from Apgar Village where the Visitors Center is located, and there are always boats at the dock with a solitary boat anchored offshore. McDonald Lake is also beautiful from many other spots at other times of the day. I took this photo on the final day of my good buddy Jeff Clow's last Glacier photo tour. It was off of a parking area on the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road in early afternoon. Although the light isn't typically good at that time of day, there were some amazing clouds that allowed for some terrific shadows on the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Jeff is wont to making up names at different spots (some good, some not so much) and he named this one Ripple Point for obvious reason. I actually liked this name, proving to Jeff that I do like some (albeit a few) of his names.
While I hadn't planned it, it seems that my postings this week have been from my archives. With this photo, taken in 2008, I continue to do so. Italy is where my mother's parents came from. I didn't know them, so I don't have any memories of who they were. Fortunately, I had many aunts and uncles that shared their culture with myself and my brothers, They all were warm and friendly. My favorite memories were all around the table eating dishes from the Italian cuisine. With that background, it's no wonder that my favorite country in Europe is Italy. While I have not explored the country as fully as I hope to, I will be hard pressed to top our experiences in the city of Venice
We stayed in the Hotel Monaco, which is located on the Grand Canal waterfront just steps from St Mark's Square. It is a very popular tourist destination with St Mark's Basilica and the Doge’s Palace as main attractions. What I loved most about the location was the ability to be so close to the waterfront at sunrise and sunset. This view across the Grand Canal was shot in the late evening, just before sunset. It features San Giorgio Maggiore, one of 188 islands that make up Venice. The buildings shown in the image are part of both the San Giorgio Monastery (built in 982) and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (built in 1566). The fading light gave the buildings a wonderful glow.
Another photo from my past that I discovered in my culling through some of my old photos that I just had to edit. This one was from the summer of 2009 when I stayed with my brother and sister-in-law in their Wildwood condo. My plan was to get up early before sunrise and shoot Cape May Light for the first time. My nephew said he wanted to join me and I had my doubts that he would get up that early, but I was wrong. He got up right on time and out we went. I gave him a small camera to use while we started working the scene. The light was really good and there were some pretty awesome clouds that day. We shot the light from just about every direction that we could and I was able to capture some of my favorite images that I have ever taken. This composition used the fence line as a leading line that took my eye along the beach and then made a right turn to the light in the distance. A memory and experience with my nephew that I won't forget.
I have been on a mission this summer going through my Lightroom catalog that contains over 65,000 photos that I have kept over the past ten years. The mission is to cull through the shots and identify those that I want to edit - my keepers so to speak. I always have had great intentions when I get back from a photo trip to do this but almost never fully do it. I tend to quickly scroll through the shots, identify ten photos to edit with the plan to go through them more fully. As you can guess, I almost never go back for that review. Until now. I am probably only through about a quarter of my photos and I hope to finish by year-end.
One of the great things about doing this is to relive the moments when I shot theses photos, remembering the location, the light and weather conditions, who I was with, etc. I have come across some photos that seem to speak directly to me that say "Edit me now!" This was one of those photos. I took this shot back in 2013 after attending a photo tour in Grand Teton National Park with Jeff Clow (my first of many tours with him). I had planned after the tour to head to Yellowstone on my own and explore the park for a few days. I had been there many years before and I remembered that Mammoth Springs was one of my favorite stops, so I stayed a couple of nights there to really explore. The first morning before sunrise, I headed up to the Upper Terrace Loop Drive and stopped at a few spots on the loop. One of them was this one at Canary Terrace. I was the only one there and the rising sun was lighting up the rocks and the steam from the hot springs below perfectly.
Many wonder (including my wife) why I like going back to places that I have already been to, and end up shooting many of the same scenes that I have previously shot. The answer is that one of the most important factors in making a great photograph, besides the subject, is the light and weather conditions. The light changes every hour of every day, and you never know what you will get. I remember that a famous photographer was asked how he ended up getting a particularly great shot. His reply was that he had visited that spot every year for over 20 years, and he finally got the shot that was being asked about.
This photo is an example of what can happen on any given day. I had been in Grand Teton National Park several years ago in July on a photo tour, and shot tons of images of Mount Moran from Oxbow Bend. While we had decent light, it was mostly overcast, which was a bit disappointing. Fast forward two months later when I revisited Oxbow Bend on a cross-country trip with my son. The first morning, off I went to Oxbow Bend and witnessed this scene. It was nothing like July, but the fog, clouds, and the sun all met at the perfect moment to light up the top of the mountain. Ten minutes later and it was all gone, and anyone who came later that morning didn't know what they missed.
It has been over seven years since I have visited my favorite National Park in the US but that is about to come to an end. I will be spending a few days there next month. I have always visited the park in June when the days are long and the water is flowing in spectacular manner. I have heard from friends that the drought over the past few years has been bad and the water has been gone by mid-summer. I hope the rainfall this past year will change that for my visit. I went on Yosemite's webcam and it looks like there is still water flowing, albeit not as strong as in June. Let's hope that it continues for another month or so.
Yosemite has a long history with great men. It was actually created when Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant. This is the first instance of park land being preserved for public use by the US Government and was the precedent for the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872 (Yosemite was the third national park established in 1890). Other famous men associated with Yosemite are famed naturalist, John Muir and perhaps the most well known photographer in the world, Ansel Adams. Muir was a preservationist that was instrumental in making Yosemite a national park. Adams helped put Yosemite on the map in the late 1920s and thereafter. His stunning black and white images of Yosemite mesmerized the American public and made it a must-see destination.
This photo of El Capitan reflected in the calm waters of the Merced River was taken shortly after sunrise.
Next month, I will be traveling back to San Francisco for a few days and I cannot wait. It is my favorite US city to visit and I am always excited to be visiting there. There are so many things to do and see there that you can spend a month and not experience everything. Of course, there are so many different subjects to photograph, it is hard to pick your favorite one. If I had to pick one, it would be the Golden Gate Bridge pictured in this photo. I guess I am not alone. Just for kicks, I did an image search on San Francisco and at least a third, if not more, were of the bridge. Looking at the images, you realize how photogenic it is, as there seems to be an infinite number of compositions represented from just about any angle you can think of. Add in the fast-moving fog and the mood changes dramatically. You never know what conditions you will find when you visit, but I will be ready for anything.