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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
When one thinks about the Amalfi Coast, the first thing that comes to mind is driving on one of the best coastal roads in the world. The drive is famous for its hairpin turns and its narrowness in some parts, but mostly for its beautiful views of the sea below. It also is not a drive for the faint of heart and can be quite dangerous and challenging.
There is a different and more comforting way to see the Amalfi Coast and that is by boat. Taking a cruise from either the port of Salerno or another town, you get a more leisurely ride that gives you a better perspective of each town that lies on the coast. It is quite the different experience from the drive and allows you to fully enjoy the surrounding mountains and the Gulf of Salerno. Don't get me wrong-- the drive and the boat ride are very unique experiences. If you have time, do both.
I took this photo after we stopped in the town of Amalfi. I wanted to give this composition the feel of a painting, so I processed this differently than I normally would. To get a better feel of this, click on the photo to view it large.
Almost all Alaskan cruises travel through the Gulf of Alaska (an arm of the Pacific Ocean), which has some of the most beautiful landscapes that exist. Traveling the Gulf treats you to a unique combination of mountains, forests and glaciers along the way, not to mention the numerous bays and inlets and the inside passage. The scenery along the Alaskan Coast is simply breathtaking. You could literally take a photo every five minutes and get different rugged mountains that rise from the waters of the Gulf. I took this particular photo just before the 16-mile wide entrance to Yakutat Bay on our way inland to view the Hubbard Glacier. The lush green forest that stops partway up these mountains contrasted well with the brown rock and snow- capped peaks.
Have you ever been on a trip where you have heard of all of the famous locations you will be visiting but it is the unknown ones that you remember most? For me, our visit to Ravenna was one that has stayed with me the longest. Our main destination there was the Basilica di San Vitale that promised to be a must visit. Talk about an understatement. The place is awesome. Why? The age and history blows my mind. Built in the year 547, it is one of the most important examples of Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. When you walk in and walk to the center, you are surrounded by eight walls that rise to the central dome. On each wall, the art made up of small gold mosaic tiles depicting scenes that are simply beautiful. As you look at all of the walls, it is so overwhelming to take in that you feel insignificant in the scene of things. While I tried to capture its beauty in photographs, I failed miserably. That's okay. It is hard for anyone to capture the scale of what you are seeing. The best thing is to visit in person--you will be astounded.
A few years back, we took a river cruise from Amsterdam down the Rhine River, ending up in Basel, Switzerland. We decided to head to Lucerne in order to experience Switzerland for the first time. We are so glad we did. What a combination of a terrific city to explore with the wonders of the Swiss countryside to enjoy.
On one of our days, we opted to take a cruise on Lake Lucerne that would lead us to taking the Pilatus Railway (the world's steepest cog railway) to the top of Mount Pilatus. As we began our cruise, the Swiss landscape was exactly how I envisioned it -- very green surrounded by mountains with Swiss chalets dotting the scene. We had beautiful weather and I was able to get this photo of Mount Pilatus in all of its glory. In what seemed like a short time, we were standing on top of the mountain looking down at the lake.
The darkness starts to give way to the light. The majestic subranges of the Rocky Mountains in the distance are silhoetted in the distance across the lake. The right amount of clouds are in the sky and are beginning to light up like a fire. The ten-mile long Lake McDonald has a few ripples, but not enough to destroy the mountains reflection. The lone boat in the lake sits there like every other time I have been there, turning slowly as the current moves beneath it. To my left, a group of boats on the dock await the morning sun when visitors will take them out for a spin. Only one thought goes through my head as I observe and capture this scene -- "There is nowhere else that I would rather be than standing along this shoreline on this particular morning."
Want to get some exercise and take photos during it? I suggest looking for a tall lighthouse and climbing to the top and then back down. I am not a big fan of step machines, but give me a 175 foot tall lighthouse and I am all in. That is what I found in Ponce de Leon Inlet. The lighthouse there is the third tallest in the United States, with 203 steps up and 203 back down. The lighthouse is quite beautiful from the outside, being fully restored in 1998, and it has been kept in pristine shape since then. As beautiful as it is, I have a fondness for shooting up and down the spiral staircases inside. This photo was taken about halfway from my descent down. It sure was a lot easier than the the climb up.
When the alarm goes off at o'dark thirty, your first inclination is to turn it off, turn over and go back to sleep. In fact, the majority of people do just that, especially when they are off from work. If they do, they don't know what they are missing, particularly when Mother Natures provides you with a picture perfect morning. They don't realize how quiet it can be in the pre-dawn hours when no one is around. They do not realize how thrilling it is to stand on the shoreline of a major glacier- fed lake. They don't realize how majestic the unique-shaped mountain on the opposite shoreline is. They don't see in fascination how the sunlight first lights the top of the Mount Grinnell and then gradually begins to work its way down until it hits the water. They don't know how rewarding it is to witness what just happened and only share it with a few friends. The more I think about it, don't tell them and keep it to ourselves. Let them sleep while we experience it.
This summer, the temperatures are setting records across the US. When that happens, any swimming pool looks so inviting. If you want to really enjoy the swimming, don't just hop into any pool, find an epic one to explore like the outdoor one at Hearst Castle.
The Hearst Castle is one amazing place located off of the Pacific Coast Highway and is a must stop for everyone. There are ten different tours that a visitor can take through the grounds. The castle was built by William Randolph Hearst over a period between 1919 and 1947. Hearst spared no expense in the castle's construction, spending an estimated $500 million in today's dollars.
The Neptune Pool, pictured here, is just a small example of how Hearst built his castle. This pool features an ancient Roman temple, transported in pieces on an ocean liner from Europe and was rebuilt onsite. According to some stories, the pool was rebuilt three times before Hearst was satisfied with the end results. Some facts about the pool for the Hearst Castle website, "The final version of the pool as it stands at the Castle today is 104 feet long, 58 feet wide and 95 feet wide at the alcove. It is 3.5 feet deep at the west end, 10 feet at the drains, and holds 345,000 gallons of water. "
If I have learned anything from Jeff Clow (and I have learned a lot), it is to recognize a road shot. Like the old saying goes, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." I am modifying that saying to "When a landscape photographer comes to a road shot, park the car, get out and take the picture."
That's exactly what happened on a trip to Death Valley. Jaki Good Miller and I decided to visit the Valley of Fire State Park for a couple of days before heading to Death Valley. I landed first in Vegas and, while I was waiting for Jaki, I took a look at the driving routes to the Valley of Fire, I saw that there was possibly a more scenic but slower route that meandered a little west of Lake Powell through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. What a great choice it was. While we didn't see much of Lake Powell, the route provided some wonderful desert scenes, with all kinds of mountains and rock formations displaying the great desert colors. As you can see, the road was newly paved and provided a great leading line taking me through the scene.
Earlier this week, I posted a photo of the Alaskan Range before our last Alaskan cruise. Fast forward to the cruise, one of our stops was in Skagway, Alaska. For those who haven't been on a cruise before, the cruise line offers several excursions that you can sign up for while spending the day in each port. When I read the descriptions of the excursions for Skagway, there was no question which one I was taking. Why? Let's see. Board a narrow gauge train and ride 20 miles to the White Pass Summit over a railroad that was built as part of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. After spending some time there, head through British Columbia and into the Yukon Territory to visit the Yukon Suspension Bridge. That's why.
The suspension bridge is a 200-foot long pedestrian bridge that traverses over the Tutshi River Canyon. Standing on the bridge, directly over the middle of the Tutshi River, gives photographers a great leading line to some beautiful mountains looking in either direction. I don't know the name of the mountain in this photo but it is sure beautiful.
How I miss Venice. I can't believe that it has been almost 10 years since I visited this unique city. The city is unlike any I have ever been to as it is situated on 118 small islands that are separated by canals and connected by over 400 bridges. There are no streets in Venice, only canals. The only traffic jams are in the alleyways and footbridges and consist of people instead of cars. The main way to get around is by boat and the city has as its public transportation a fleet of motorized water buses known as vaporetti.
For photographers, the architecture alone is worth the trip. The age of the buildings, along with their bright colors, make for wonderful subjects. Whether you are walking over the footbridges or riding in a boat, as I was when I took this photo, the subjects are endless.
The Alaskan Range is the highest mountain range in North America, running 400 miles through southern Alaska. The range actually follows the shape of the coastline to the south. The main attraction of the Alaskan Range is Denali National Park and its namesake mountain Denali (once named Mount McKinley), the highest mountain (over 20,000 feet above sea level) in North America.
On our last cruise to Alaska, we elected to stay in a lodge near Talkeetna before heading to the national park. We had made arrangements for a eight-seat plane ride that would allow us to get up close and personal with Denali. When we took off from Talkeetna, it was raining, but as we began to soar above the Alaskan Range, the sun began to break through. While Denali was the star of the trip, the mountains below it aren't too shabby as can be seen in this photo.
Wishing everyone in the US a great Fourth of July holiday with plenty of celebrations on our country's birthday.
Logan Pass is probably the favorite destination of visitors to Glacier National Park. Located on the Continental Divide, it is home to the park's Visitors Center. If you plan to visit, make sure that you get there before 10am, as the parking lot gets full and stays that way most of the day. The Visitors Center is also the place where two of Glacier's most popular hikes originate. The Hidden Lake trail is the most popular and climbs past Mount Reynolds to an overlook that shows the picturesque Hidden Lake below. Most visitors stop there and then head back to the Visitors Center. You are almost guaranteed to encounter mountain goats at the overlook. The other trail, the Highline Loop, is my favorite, as it travels along the Continental Divide with meadows and wildflowers. There is a portion along the Garden Wall where those with a fear of heights might have some issues. It is not a long section but only one person can pass. There is a cable for those who need a handhold to make it through. Regardless of which hike interests you, Logan Pass is amazingly beautiful.