One of the most amazing examples of erosion shaping rock formations is Balanced Rock in Arches National Park. The rock formation is probably the Park's most recognizable formation. While being named Balanced Rock, the formation is not technically balancing the rock but rather, it is one solid piece of sandstone. The formation is pretty big, measuring 128 feet tall with the "rock" portion being the top 55 feet of it. The "rock" portion weighs a mere 3,600 tons. While it is currently defying gravity, it will collapse some day like it's smaller "sibling", "Chip off of the Old Block" did in 1976.
On Saturday, I will be headed to one my favorite coastlines for two weeks. The coast is known for its amazing beaches and sea stacks that are at their best at sunsets. Of course, there are a few lighthouses that I will be visiting. While you would think that there are a lot of lighthouses on the 360+ miles of coastline, there are less than ten. This is It because the Pacific Ocean waters are not very deep close to the shoreline, making it very dangerous for large shipping vessels to dock there. This one located on Cape Meares is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, standing a mere 38 feet tall. In fact, the parking lot is actually higher that the top of the light. There is a short path to see the light, and as I was walking down toward the light, I spotted the red fresnel lens through the trees and captured this photo of it. Usually, the path is full of people but the rain had scared most of them away.
Shooting the redwoods is simply a great experience. The challenge of planning a trip there is selecting where to go. Why? The redwoods stretch for about 470 miles down the coast of California (there are some in the southernmost part of Oregon) and the National Park is actually made up of several State Parks that surround the National Park and they are all run as one big park. If you are coming south from Oregon, the first place you should stop at is Stout Grove. The road there has pretty narrow dirty holes with quite the number of potholes. Once there, the parking is limited and I am sure that visiting in the summer would be a challenge. There is a loop trail that is a little over a half-mile long and pretty flat. There you will be treated with some of the tallest trees in the world. The tallest redwood in Stout Grove is 342 feet tall (the tallest known one is 380 feet tall) and it is extremely difficult to convey its size through a photograph -- I know as I have tried. It is safe to say that you must see the redwoods in person to get a sense of how big they really are. I liked these particular trees, as the light was really nice on them, which I hope accentuates how tall they are.
So how do you capture the magnificence, vastness and the wonder of the Grand Canyon? The answer is that you don't. The best that you can do is to capture a small slice of the canyon and hope that a little of it's beauty comes through your image. There are two times to best photograph the park: sunrise and sunset. When the sun is near the horizon, it's light casts long shadows and adds great definition and depth to the canyon walls. Any other time, photographs seem flat with little or no definition because the sun is higher in the sky, thus casting very shallow shadows. This image was taken just before sunset from Yavapai Point on the South Rim of the canyon. The sun cast a great golden glow onto the rocks, creating terrific long shadows in the canyon itself. While many shoot into a rising or setting sun, my tendency is to shoot away from the sun to capture the great warm tones on the surrounding scenery.
I am sure that everyone with an imagination has looked up toward the sky and has seen all kinds of different "images" in cloud formations. This same imagination has been applied to the many of the mountains, rock formations, buttes and mesas on the ground. Nowhere is this more true than in the American Southwest, especially Monument Valley. Almost all of the structures in the Valley have a descriptive name and it is often unknown whether the name was originally created by early settlers, the Navajo people or someone else. Mentioning names like "The Mittens", the "Rain God Mesa" or "The Three Sisters" to people who have visited the Valley will conjure up great memories. For the first time visitor, it might be daunting to remember all of the names, but after a few trips through, they become indelible in your mind. This rock formation is known as "The Hand of God" whose fingers can be seen on the right side of the formation.
If you think that the Palouse is all about rolling landscapes of farmland, barns, abandoned houses and Steptoe Butte, you would be mostly right. The one thing that you might not expect are the old cars that also dot the landscape. Someone once told me that the Palouse is where old cars go to die. The treasure trove is a place where the owner has a replica of a Texaco station along with some awesome collection of cars. The owner used to allow photographers on the property to shoot as long as they made arrangements beforehand and made a small donation. The time I shot this, he spent about a half hour with us talking about his cars. Unfortunately, the owner does not allow anyone on the property anymore due to a very selfish photographer who did not make an advance arrangement and banged on the owner's door at 6am. Just like in other situations, this bad apple gives other photographers a bad name and has ruined an amazing spot for others.
The Oregon Coast stretches along the Pacific Ocean for 363 miles and there are some amazing places to visit and photograph. One of my favorite places on the coast is the town of Bandon on the southern part of the coast. If you are driving on the coastal highway (Route 101) though this bedroom community, you might miss one of the must-see seascapes in Oregon. The gem is Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, where there are some of the most amazing sea stacks that you will find anywhere. After visiting there, you might be tempted to be on your way. Don't. A few miles down the road, there is another spot you need to see -- The Coquille Point Interpretive Trail.
At the southern end of the trail there is a parking lot that leads to a big decision: do you take the trail or climb down the well-built stairs to the beach. My recommendation is to do both. The trail weaves parallel to the coast with beautiful cliff-top grass on either side of the trail. You can walk out to the edge of each outcrop and look down on superb rock formations and beach. This photo was taken from one of the overlooks. The trail is a little over a mile long and my advice is to descend to the beach and walk among the rock formations on your way back to the parking lot.
The Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park has quite the number of small waterfalls that just demand photographers to set up a tripod and shoot a few long exposure shots. These type of photos are best captured when there are overcast skies. That gives the scene even light that doesn't have any "hot spots" that is caused by the sun on a bright day.
The rolling landscape of the Palouse is always more pronounced when the sun is low on the horizon. At sunrise, as the sun peeks above the horizon, the top of the mounds begin to light up, leaving the small "valleys" in shadow. As the sun rises, the "valleys" begin to light up before being totally lit. My favorite part of the sunrise is when the "valleys" are still in shadow. This brings out great contrast in the scene that emphasizes the natural contours of the fertile land. The best place by far to capture these types of scenes is Steptoe Butte, where you can get a 360° view almost 3,600 feet above the landscape.
The name Death Valley conjures up visions of a vast desert that can reach temperatures as high as 134˚ Fahrenheit. While these visions are true today, picture the landscape above being underwater some 5 million years ago. That's right, the whole area was once covered by Furnace Creek Lake at one time. During several million years of the lake's existence, sediments such as lava from nearby volcanos, gravel from nearby mountains and saline muds formed on the bottom of the lake. When local mountains began to be formed, they impacted the weather to become more arid, causing the lakes to dry up. Over time, erosion began to carve the rocks to what it looks like today. One section of the rocks is known as the Red Cathedral, the geological formation pictured above. It is clearly visible from Zabriskie Point, a premier location in the park.
As we are nearing the end of summer, my thoughts turn toward the annual color display that Mother Nature puts on each Autumn. This is particularly true here in New England. Unlike the thousands of "leaf peepers" who travel here from all over the world, we New Englanders only have to look out the window to see when the peak colors are happening. The foliage can reach it's peak any time from late September to late October. I always feel bad for those who visit from other places who spend a lot of money and just miss peak by a week or two. Some foliage seasons are better than others depending on all kind of variables, such as rainfall and temperatures, but even the "bad" ones are pretty good. I can't wait to visit some local spots when the foliage does hit that are just around the corner from my home, like this scene from Pennwood State Park.
One of the best locations to see wildlife in Yellowstone is in Hayden Valley, located on the eastern side of the park. The valley is between Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake, with the Yellowstone River connecting the two ( it is 7 miles long and 7 miles wide). The valley floor once was an ancient lake bed from a time when Yellowstone Lake was much larger. It has long been a wildlife location providing the natives with a source of food and, later, trappers with furs. Alas, I spent some time wandering the valley looking for wildlife and didn't see any. On the way back to the Yellowstone Hotel one evening, I stopped here to capture the late evening light and a perfect reflection.
If you want to be one of the first people to see the sunrise each day in the continental United States, head to Maine. A great place to capture the first light is Acadia National Park. While it is not the most eastern part of the state (West Quoddy Head is), it is pretty close. You also won't find a more beautiful part of the coast to shoot it from. The Maine Coast in Acadia is one of the most rugged in the US. Jagged rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes are the norm for the coast. Every step might land on what looks like solid rock, but sometimes the rocks move unexpectedly.
There is nothing like the feeling of climbing to your spot on the rocks before the sun rises above the horizon. As you stand there waiting, the sound of the waves hitting the rocks, and the clouds beginning to light up in different shades of colors make you feel insignificant in the overall scheme of things. On this morning, the tide was out, so Thunder Hole was rather silent for the most part. Then the sun crests the horizon and you are glad that you were out of the hotel to experience the scene.
Yosemite. The third park established in the US in 1890 (only Yellowstone and Sequoia preceded it) that conjures up scenes of granite rock formations, waterfalls, streams and rivers, lakes, mountains and giant sequoia trees. Made famous by naturalist John Muir and later, photographer Ansel Adams, it was the fifth most visited National Park in 2017, with almost 4.5 million people taking in this natural wonderland. Walking along the Merced River in the area known as Yosemite Valley allows for the sighting of many of the famous rock formations with great nicknames: El Capitan, Three Brothers, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Glacier Point, Cathedral Rocks to name a few. Each one is unique from the other. This one, Three Brothers, was named after the capture of the three sons of Chief Tenaya near the base of the rock formation. The official names of the three consists of Eagle Peak (the uppermost "brother"), Middle Brother and Lower Brother.
Earlier this week, I posted a photo of Monument Valley taken from the View Hotel and how the hotel's proximity to such a beautiful scene made it a place to stay overnight. After writing that post, I came across this photo of Mount Grinnell towering over Swiftcurrent Lake and, all of a sudden, I backed into a theme. In the foreground, you will see the Many Glacier Hotel, which offers a striking view of the scene. Unfortunately, I have never stayed there, so rolling out of bed to catch the sunrise hasn't happened for me yet. Instead, you must stay just outside the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park (30 minutes away). If you are staying near the western entrance to the park where most visitors stay, get ready for a two-and-a-half hour drive in the dark on the dangerous Going-to-the-Sun Road to make sunrise. Again, in this case, Many Glacier Hotel is all about location, location, location.
It always amazes me how trees survive growing out of rocks in the desert. Think about what this tree (I believe it is a Utah Juniper) has to endure: the searing hot sun of the desert during the day coupled with the very cold chill of the desert night. Add to that the dryness of the desert and extremely strong winds. It is a wonder how they survive growing right out of the rocks. They clearly are the ultimate survivors.
I shot this photo way back in 2008 and came across it recently. My editing of it was simply terrible and, since it was one of my favorites, I decided to give it new life with a total post processing redo. Came out much better. Here is my writeup from back then.
Venice is a magical place and it is very hard to describe it to someone who hasn't been there. There is a feel to the "city" that is unlike anywhere else I have been. Venice actually lies in a lagoon that is protected from the sea by thin strips of land that have three small inlets. Rather than an island, Venice is actually made up of 124 small islands connected by small bridges. Venice is a favorite destination for tourists who arrive by plane, water taxi and cruise ships. This particular morning, I got up at dawn and wandered out onto the Grand Canal. This is one of the few times you can avoid the crowds of tourists and get some shots without worrying about bumping into someone. I noticed this artist that had the same idea and was painting the scene. As I began to shoot a few photos of the artist, I noticed this large cruise ship being towed down the Grand Canal out to sea by a little tugboat. It was an amazing scene that I never saw coming. I think I enjoy the images that are a result of just dumb luck the best.
I am so behind in reviewing photos. I am sad to report that I haven't gone through all of my Africa photos while on a safari in 2016. I will try to make up for it this upcoming winter. I shot this photo in Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Our guides were amazing and they got us into position to ride beside a herd of more than fifteen elephants. These two young elephants decided to spend some time playing as the herd headed toward the water hole. What a great experience, one that I will never forget.
Being a landscape photographer, you sort of get used to getting up at o'dark thirty and then driving a while to get to the place that you want to shoot well before sunrise. So, when you get a chance to roll out of bed, pick up your camera gear and walk to the hotel's balcony to shoot an iconic scene, you grab it. No where is this easier than the View Hotel in Monument Valley, one of the premier locations in the American Southwest. Prior to being built in 2008, there was only one hotel in the area, about three miles down the road. The next nearest ones are 23 miles away. Why? Monument Valley's official name is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park which is the Navajo Nation's equivalent of the American National Parks. The View Hotel was built and is run by the Navajo People. While no one would mistake the View Hotel as a resort, you go there for the location so you can roll out of bed and watch the blue hour turn in the golden hour.
One of the great spots to shoot in Death Valley is from Dante's View. Many visitors head to it for the panorama view that they get of the southern valley basin (known as Badwater Basin). The basin is the lowest point in North America at 283 feet below sea level. In contrast, Dante's View is from 5,476 feet above sea level, illustrating why people visit it so much. While waiting for sunrise, I took a look in the opposite direction from the basin and saw this scene. The sun had begun to light up the sky, casting beautiful oranges and yellows. It also silhouetted the clouds and the mountain peaks to the east of the Greenwater Mountain Range, located in the Mojave Desert. It was quite inspiring to see, and hopefully I captured some of its beauty.