French Canal - Strasbourg, France

There are so many reasons to visit European cities, it is hard to name them all. Some of the major reasons are the age and history, the architecture, the culture and the food. The one characteristic that really fascinates me are the canals. While I have only visited around ten European cities, they all seem to have a pretty extensive canal system. Of course, Venice and Amsterdam are high on the list, but even the smaller cities have them.

On our Rhine River cruise a few years ago, one of  our stops  was Strasbourg, France. We docked on the Rhine in Kehl, Germany and after a quick bus ride over the bridge, we were in Strasbourg. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France. As we walked the streets, we came upon their canal system, which was really quaint. Not a lot of hustle and bustle, but rather beautiful homes and architecture all along the canals. 

Morning Beauty - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

"To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air is the elixir of life.'  -- Isabella Bird

To me, this quote says it all about my love for mountains. No matter how many photographs I take of them and no matter how many photographs I view of them taken by other photographers, nothing beats the spiritual nature and exhilaration of being there. It is hard to describe the chill in the air and the anticipation that you feel in the pre-dawn hours. It is hard to convey how you are feeling as the sunlight kisses the peaks of the mountains. For me, I feel insignificant when the light slowly lights up the landscape. The silence and the tranquility is so real that you think you can reach out and touch it. Before a trip to the mountains, I think that the reason that I am going is to get great photos of beautiful landscapes. When I am standing there taking in scenes like this, I realize that I am lying to myself. I am there for their beauty and what the experience does to rejuvenate my spirit. While the photos are important they are secondary. They are reminders that I can relive when I get back to real life that helps me to look forward to my next visit.
 

Hot Seat - Stone Mill, Lawrence, Massachusetts

I like to dabble in photographing abandoned buildings, including factories, homes, prisons and mills. While many of the ones I have photographed are truly abandoned, there are others that have been partially converted and renovated to usable space. This photo is from the Stone Mill that was built in 1846 and is one of the few mills of the time that was built out of stone. The mill manufactured locomotives and fire engines. Today, some of the floors are used for commercial businesses. There are still some abandoned floors like the one pictured here. We experimented with light painting with some colored lights, and I really like the chair in red backlit by the lights from an adjoining mill.

Evening Beauty - Banff National Park, Alberta

Can you imagine a mountain range that stretched from Philadelphia to San Francisco with many of the mountains in the range towering over 14,000 feet? How about one that was up to 300 miles wide and had numerous glaciers, lakes, forests and national parks? That imaginary mountain range would be almost 2,900 miles long. Wouldn't you love to visit it whenever you could? Well, I am here to tell you that it DOES exist, but instead of going east to west, it goes north to south. That's right, I am talking about the Rocky Mountains that starts (or ends) in northern British Columbia and ends (or starts) over 3,000 miles away in New Mexico. 

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. One of those best places is Banff National Park, pictured here at Johnson Lake, which is located just outside the town of Banff. I try to get to Banff every two years and am planning to revisit this coming June. That's a long way away, but I guess I will have to rely on photos and my memories to revisit from Connecticut.

Dijon Skies - Colfax, Washington

Not every field in the Palouse is green, as this photo proves. This rich soil produces some of the finest crops in the world including wheat, barley, garbanzo beans, chickpeas, lentils and canola. Most of these crops cover the landscape in a green blanket that appears to be in a patchwork pattern due to many shades of green of each crop. The only exception was the rare patch of yellow that indicated that we had found a canola field (or at least we thought). After shooting this scene, we ran into a farmer that informed us that this field was actually a dijon mustard crop.

Regardless of the crop, it was a challenge for us shorter people to get a good view of the field (we couldn't find a high vantage from the road) so I climbed up onto the step of a car and shot over the car roof. While I would have loved to have been able to capture the full bottom of the tree, it was impossible from our (or any) vantage point. I went for a more minimalistic composition as the clouds and blue sky was magnificent.

Harbor Protection - Gloucester, Massachusetts

Not all of the great lighthouses in New England are located in Maine. This one sits at the outskirts of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and is a terrific one to visit. This is actually the third lighthouse to reside on this spot and was built in 1890 (the original light was built in 1832). The location of the lighthouse is at the entrance to Gloucester Bay and watches over very treacherous waters. In fact, between 1830 and 1910, 779 vessels and 5,305 persons out of Gloucester were lost at sea.

If this lighthouse looks familiar, you may remember it from the movie, The Perfect Storm. This image was shot from the breakwater that extends into the harbor. The 2,250-foot breakwater was built using 231,756 tons of Cape Ann granite blocks to protect the harbor. Before the breakwater was completed, nearly forty ships had crashed into it, demonstrating the need for a light to mark the outward end of the obstacle, and one was added in 1905. Today, visitors and fisherman frequent the light. If you plan to visit it, be aware that the locals have put a sign up that indicate the the access road is private. It is not, it is a public road, so proceed through the sign. Once there, the best view is to walk out on the extremely long stone walkway and look back toward it.

Wall Shadow - Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I have a great affinity for Monument Valley. It certainly is in my top 10 list of places to visit. I first set foot in Monument Valley in 2004 and have been back many times since. Each time I go, it seems to rejuvenate me, as I take in the beauty of the desert landscape and learn more about the Navajo traditions and culture. Maybe my love for the area started when I watched the old westerns on television and in the movies. The movie that made John Wayne famous,"Stagecoach", was filmed in Monument Valley. The location was found by John Ford and was the first of many collaborations with Wayne that used Monument Valley as a backdrop. 

From a photography standpoint, the unique sandstone formations that glow orange during the golden hours, combined with blue skies, clouds and the desert landscape make Monument Valley a very compelling destination. To see parts of the valley, you need to hire a Navajo guide as I did when I captured this photo. The evening sun bathed the sandstone with wonderful light, creating a great shadow of the lone tree. I could have stood there for hours just taking in the scene.

Mosaic Arch - Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo from this amazing Basilica in Ravenna. I described the eight walls (and pictured one of them) that rise from the center of the building to the dome above. The Basilica is one of the most important examples of Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe, and the walls have art on them made up of small gold mosaic tiles depicting scenes that are simply beautiful. This is another photo of one of the walls that is distinctly different from the one that I posted before (on July 18th). I posted this photo to show how different they are from one another. Each of the walls are distinctly different, and you might be able to imagine their magnificence when taken as a whole with the grand dome above. 

Iconic Mesa Arch - Canyonlands, National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park conjures up visions of vast landscapes that include canyons, mesas, and buttes. Two major rivers, the Colorado River and the Green River, helped shape this rugged landscape over millions of years. This 527-square mile national park is split into four distinct sections: Islands in the Sky, Needles, Maze and the rivers. There are very few visitors that see any of the areas except for the Islands in the Sky, mainly because it is the most developed part of the park with its proximity to the town of Moab. One of the most popular attractions in this part of this section is Mesa Arch. Requiring a short hike, this arch is a mecca for photographers that want to get the iconic sunrise photo of it as the sun peaks over the distant mountains. The area where photographers can take this image is quite small -- only 10-12 people can squeeze into it. Get there well before dawn to procure a good spot. Otherwise, it is impossible to get the iconic composition.

Glass Like - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Grand Tetons conjure up visions of rugged mountains rising from the valley floor known as Jackson Hole. The Teton Range in northwest Wyoming dominates the landscape for forty miles. No matter where you are in the National Park, it seems there is a stellar shot to be had showing off wildflowers, forest, lakes and foliage depending when you visit. The names that ring familiar to all photographers are Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing and Mormon Row. That is where many of the iconic images are captured. There are, however, so many other spots that are stellar that you can spend lots of time and not get to all of them. One of my favorite spots is from the shoreline of Jackson Lake. With the right conditions, you can capture photos that are the equal of other spots. On this morning, we had great conditions, with the lake taking on a glass-like surface. The scene cried out for a panorama and it turned out like I hoped it would.

Get Lost - Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

One of the great reasons to visit the Canadian Rockies in June is the abundance of wildlife. The winter has departed (although a brief snow is not unusual) and there are many mothers that have come out of their hibernation with their babies. Then there are the fathers like this one who are reacquainting themselves with their "harem". Our small group had just spent a few hours during sunrise photographing at neighboring Pyramid Lake. It was a stellar morning, with great light that allowed for some awesome photos of Pyramid Mountain and Pyramid Island reflected in the lake.

Leaving Pyramid Lake, we went around the curve to see the end of Patricia Lake and saw this guy surrounded by a number of females. We were able to get some nice photos and after a while, he looked at me, stuck out his tongue as is to say, "We have had enough, now get lost." 

Moab Snowfall - Canyon Rims Recreational Area, Utah

This has been a very hot summer throughout the US. When I came across this photo that I took a few years ago in the desert, I thought it might help cool things off a bit. It really doesn't but it does remind me that winter isn't that far off. The older I get, the faster the seasons seems to change. Obviously that is perception and not reality, but it doesn't change the feeling. I am sure that when winter comes, I'll be wishing for summer just like I wish for colder temperatures now. And so it goes...

Growing Season - Endicott, Washington

There are so many barns that dot the Palouse landscape, it is impossible to have a favorite one. Each one has its own character, color and condition. Another factor are the crops themselves. When it is growing season or the harvest, all barns will look better for it. This is a photo from my first visit to the Palouse and this barn became one of my favorites. I was attracted by its layout from this angle showing the growing crops and its latticed back. 

Fast forward to my last trip there in May. My once favorite barn was a shadow of itself. The main reasons? Even though we were there during the growing seasons, there was nothing but bare soil. Crop rotation, low wheat prices or late planting of crops are often the cause of this. The other reason was related to that latticed roof. It had collapsed on itself and is likely not to be repaired. Another casualty of the weather and lack of maintenance. The Palouse has a way of doing that to barns. We spotted no less than five barns that had either disappeared or became little more than rubble. That is one of the benefits of photography. It remembers things as they were.

Morning Tranquility - Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Located on the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive Loop, Two Jack Lake is a prime sunrise destination for photographers looking for stellar Canadian Rockies beauty. In my opinion, Two Jack far outshines its larger next door neighbor, Lake Minnewanka. While there are plenty of locations to capture photos of Mount Rundle, the compositions of it reflected in the calm waters of Two Jack often sends chills down my spine. This particular morning had it all. Calm waters, nice clouds, and great golden hour light made it a magical morning. One feature that Two Jack provides in spades are the strategically placed rocks that act as a great anchor in the foreground. Clearly this is one of my favorite spots in Banff.

Bass Harbor Light - Acadia National Park, Maine

One of the most iconic shots of Acadia National Park is this one of Bass Harbor Light. To get this shot, it takes a bit of planning and a bit of luck. The Light is located in the southwest portion of Mount Desert Island in the park, which is a drive away from Bar Harbor and the other attractions in Acadia. Given its popularity, photographers are drawn to the location at sunset, when the soft light glows on the lighthouse. The challenge is to get there early enough to secure a spot because of the limited space available. There is not a lot of room for people to get a clear shot and it requires sure-footedness, as the best angles require climbing over slick rocks. It is not unusual for photographers to get there two hours before sunrise to secure a good spot. Sometimes two hours is not enough time. Be prepared to defend your spot once you get it from the late stragglers who come down the steps and want to try to fit into space that literally doesn't exist. Planning to get there early is well worth the resulting images.

You Can Trust Your Car - Endicott, Washington

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. On a recent trip there, a friend said that the Palouse is where old cars go to die. You might be driving on a dirt road and you come upon a car or truck in the middle of nowhere that reeks of nostalgia. If you ever explore Endicott, you might spot a replica of a Texaco station with a green Chevy parked next to the pumps. It is home to a treasure trove of old cars in various stages of repair and disrepair. Some have windshields with bullet holes, while others appear to be in great condition. It is a great place to spend some time exploring. Be aware that the property is private and that if you want to visit, please get the permission of the owner of the property. 

By the way, for those of you who don't recognize the title of this post, it is from a slogan from the 1960's for Texaco that was heard in commercials. The slogan (and jingle) was "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the big, bright Texaco star." 

Canyon Light - Colorado National Monument, Colorado

Landscape photographers are always at the mercy of the weather. The weather can make or break a photo trip's success. No matter what weather app you use to forecast conditions, there is always hope that it is either right or wrong depending on its prediction. That proved out on a trip to Moab. I planned to stay a night in Grand Junction, primarily to shoot at Colorado National Monument at sunset. When I boarded the plane in Hartford, the weather forecast was predicting rain. When I landed, the forecast proved accurate. I checked into my hotel in late afternoon with the hope that the weather would improve. By dinner time, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, so off I went to see if I would get lucky. As you can see, the weather gods did indeed smile on me. By the time I climbed Rim Rock Drive, Monument Canyon was bathed in soft evening sunlight. The weather front had moved to the east just in time. Times like these even out the score when the weather goes against you.

Paintball Grit - Philadelphia , Pennsylvania

Here is something a bit different from me. Back about five years ago, I signed up for a day of urban exploration (also known as urbex) to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a mecca for urban photographers. The day started in a location that I had never heard of, Philadelphia's Graffiti Underground, located on an abandoned loading pier jutting out into the Delaware River. It is just a few minutes from the center of the city off of Route 95. The underground is pretty big and is covered with graffiti. It also looks like it has been used extensively by paintballers. The grit and decay associated with urbex can be seen at the underground as well as the great colors of the graffiti.

Dawn on Herbert Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta

I can remember this day like it was yesterday, even though it was 2006. It was the day that I truly fell in love with Banff National Park and the Icefields Parkway. We had splurged and stayed at the famed Chateau Lake Louise. Up before dawn, I dragged my wife into the car for the short 10 minute drive to one of my favorite lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Herbert Lake. When we got there, I got out of the car and she stayed in it. You would think that to get to such a beautiful destination, you would have to hike a distance. You would be mistaken. The lake lies only a few footsteps from the Icefields Parkway. It was magical to me. There was no one else there and I had some of the best weather that I could have asked for. I have been back to Banff several times since then and shot this mountain lake many times, but have not matched the day I took this photo.

Surrounded - Bay of Kotor, Kotor, Montenegro

The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro is a 15-mile winding bay leading from the Adriatic Sea. The bay is composed of four smaller gulfs and, due to its many twists and turns, is often called Europe's southernmost fjord. Numerous cities and towns are located on the bay such as Kotor, Perast and Prčanj. When we entered the bay, the fog was so thick that we could hardly see anything as we traversed the length of the bay. After we docked in Kotor (at the far end of the bay), the weather took a turn for the better and began to clear. By the time we started our tour of the bay, the fog had dissipated and we discovered one of the most beautiful places that we have ever visited. As we passed along the shoreline, we were able to observe these wonderful towns that were fully surrounded by towering mountains.