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.

Redwoods - Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, California

The Redwoods. The tallest trees on Earth (some over 360 feet). One of the oldest trees on Earth (some older than 2,000 years). Who wouldn't want to walk among them and take in their beauty? Who wouldn't want to experience the serenity, silence and peacefulness while with them in their groves? These were questions I pondered earlier this year when I knew that I was going to California on vacation with my wife and great friends this past September. All I had to do was plan out an itinerary and off we would go. Well, I found out that planning an itinerary there was not a simple thing. The main challenge is how large of an area the redwoods cover - almost 500 miles north and south from southern Oregon to central California. Trying to cover that area in a couple of days is near impossible. I decided to concentrate the itinerary on Redwoods National Park. As I researched, I became confused--lots of mentions of California State Parks and I couldn't put my finger on it. Finally, the light bulb clicked on. The National Park is a combination of the four state parks that are jointly run by the Federal and State governments. With that understood, I began to search on the more popular groves and was able to create a reasonable itinerary. Whew.

This photo was taken in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park near Crescent City. I found it hard to capture the pure beauty of the Redwoods as they are so tall (a wide angle lens is a necessity). Their are also dynamic range challenges, as the groves are dark and the sky is usually quite bright,  making an exposure complicated. I found during my shooting there is to hope for the sun to shine through the trees, as they tend to accentuate the trees and provide some relief to the difficult dynamic range.

 

Snowy View - Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

What would be your choice if you had only one place to visit before you die? Some might pick a place they had always wanted to see  but hadn't had the time or money. Others might pick a place that they have been before but found something magical when they were there. For me, it is the latter and I would pick Banff National Park.  Those of you who have followed me for awhile know about my love for Banff, and I have often said that this lake or that lake was my favorite one in the park. They are all unique and beautiful and would qualify as someone's favorite. Pondering the question I posed in this post, I have come to the conclusion that Lake Moraine is my favorite and possibly the spot where I took this photo.

Other than its obvious beauty, this glacially fed lake is surrounded by the famed Canadian Rockies. I am not talking about a couple of mountains, but rather ten peaks (thus the name Valley of the Ten Peaks). These mountains magnify the beauty, serenity and majesty of the lake. The ruggedness of the mountains contrasts beautifully to the lake's color, which reaches its crest in June (when I shot this photo). To me, that is the best time to be at the lake, but be prepared for anything, such as snow, as it happened on this particular morning. That's why I love this place. The weather conditions change the look and feel of the place and I wish that I could spend an extended time there taking in all of the different looks and feels. Perhaps someday I will be able to do that.

Athabasca Falls - Jasper National Park, Alberta

The Icefields Parkway had been written about as one of National Geographic's top scenic drives in the world. Running 143 miles from a little north of Lake Louise to the town of Jasper, it is a road full of "wows". The Canadian Rockies tower over it with pristine glacier lakes almost everywhere. While there are not a lot of easily accessible waterfalls on the parkway, there are a couple close to Jasper that certainly measure up to the high landscape standards of the Parkway. 

The most accessible waterfall is this one, Athabasca Falls, less than twenty miles from Jasper. While not the tallest waterfall in the Canadian Rockies, it makes up for it with the force of the water. The Athabasca River feeds into the falls, making it a Class 5 waterfall. There are plenty of angles to shoot the falls from, but I like this one the best, allowing for a view of the river upstream with the towering Mount Kerkeslin making a wonderful backdrop.

Fishing Shack - Rockport, Massachusetts

Is this the most photographed fishing shack in the world? Many in New England believe that is the case. Maybe that is the case, but the shack has an unique name, Motif No. 1, that was given to it in the 1920's by an art teacher who thought it was the most painted fishing shack in the America. He came to that conclusion as his students over the years would repeatedly draw or paint the shack and exclaim in exasperation, "What? Motif No 1 again!"

The fishing shack is located In the small town of Rockport, Massachusetts on Bradley Wharf. The original shack was destroyed by the blizzard of 1978 when it was swept into Rockport Harbor. Motif No. 1 was rebuilt within a year. The fishing shack has even been commemorated on a postage stamp.

Tenaya Lake Beauty - Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, California

While Yosemite Valley attracts the most visitors to this National Park, Tioga Road has quite the number of attractions spaced further apart. The old gold rush quote, "There's gold in them thar hills," might be an apt description. Mike Louthan and I spent a few days in Yosemite before heading to Lee Vining to join Jeff Clow's Mono Lake Photo Tour. One of our great friends, Bobby Strader, was getting in and we asked him if he wanted us to pick him up in town and head to Tioga Road. 

We had great late afternoon light and we ended up spending some significant time at Tenaya Lake, pictured here. The opposing granite rock formations Polly Dome (left), Medlicott Dome (center) and Tenaya Peak (right) began to take on a golden glow as we stood along the dark lakeshore. It was a very nice beginning to our Mono Lake adventures and gave Bobby his first glimpse of Yosemite. 

 

Reeds and Color - Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Maine

New England Fall foliage is renowned for its great colors and attracts visitors from all over the US. The challenge is trying to time your trip. The peak of the foliage is very unpredictable as many factors contribute to when it occurs. Being a New Englander for twenty five years, I have seen it as early as late September and as late as mid-November. Complicating the challenge is that most of the hotels are sold out well in advance so booking a trip is akin to a crapshoot. What affects the timing of foliage? Weather condition is the main determinant of the timing and the intensity of color with temperature and moisture being the most important factors. Is there a way to time it? Yes, but it means moving to New England so you can drive to catch the peak season. This photo, taken in mid-October in Maine, was on a photo tour that I co-hosted with Jeff Clow. We were extremely lucky to be there when the peak foliage in Maine happened. 

 

 

Feeling Spiritual - Jasper National Park, Alberta

Ever visit a location that you fall in love with, even though on your visits there, you get only twenty minutes to shoot? Well, I wouldn't have though so but Spirit Island did that for me. Located on Maligne Lake in Jasper NP, once you see it, you realize that it is aptly named. There is something very spiritual about this tiny island that is surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains towering above it. 

Why have I got only twenty minutes per visit there? The answer is simple, it's not easy to get there. The island (it is only an island for part of the year) is about two and a half miles from the docks at Maligne Lake. That's right, the only way to get there is by boat and, if you rent a kayak, it would take your four hours to paddle there and another four to get back to the dock. There are no roads or trails that lead there. The only option is to take a boat tour to it that allows you twenty minutes at the island. The boat tour, all by itself, is pretty awesome. The good news is that the tour company announced longer tours for 2017 so I am hoping to take advantage of that on my visit there next year.

Ocean View - Coquille Point, Bandon, Oregon

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.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse - Newport, Oregon

The Oregon Coast measures 363 miles and is some of the most beautiful in the US with its magnificent sea stacks, beaches and rocky promenades. One thing that has always surprised me about it was the relatively low number of lighthouses that are located on the coast. I have also wondered about the lack of cities along the coast. I am sure there are lots of reasons that make that so, but I found out one reason from a local on my recent trip there. It seems that the Pacific Ocean waters are not very deep close to the shoreline, making it very dangerous for large shipping vessels to dock there.

That being said, there are still some gorgeous lighthouses that are found on the coast. One of my favorites is this one,Yaquina Head Light. The lighthouse is the tallest in Oregon, measuring 93 feet tall and is located north of Newport on Yaquina Head. On the morning that I captured this image, I literally had the whole place to myself. I couldn't believe it, as Newport is one of the more populated parts of the Oregon Coast. I wasn't complaining, as the early morning sun bathed the lighthouse and the wild grasses with golden light.  

Mono Beauty - Mono Lake, Lee Vining, California

Visiting Mono Lake is a unique experience, especially when in the South Tufa area of the lake. Mono Lake is 65 square miles in area, has no outlet and is one of the oldest lakes in North America with an estimated age of over a million years. Over this period of time, salts and minerals have seeped into the lake from melting snow and the resulting fresh water streams. The freshwater eventually evaporates, leaving behind the salt and minerals that have made the lake very alkaline. The lake is more than twice as salty as the ocean. The interaction between the alkaline and freshwater created the tufa columns at the bottom of the lake. Over time, as the level of the lake decreased, the tufa columns became visible in some potions of the lake. This phenomenon has made for a great photogenic subject, as can be seen in this photo.

Happy Halloween - Manhattan, New York

Halloween. Chances for children to dress up as their favorite ghoul or superhero and collect lots of candy from their neighbors. Although it  has been countless years since I walked around my hometown looking for treasures, I still fondly remember the fun I had way back then. I am pretty sure that Halloween these days is much different than I remember. Just think if we had smart phones back then. The homes that were handing out the best candy would be inundated with kids ringing their doorbells. Those handing out the worst candy might have been tricked. It is hard for me to relate, as for the past 15 years, we have had less than ten “trick or treaters” visit our house due to its location. I sort of miss the interaction with the young kids dressed up, although I wouldn’t miss the barking of our ferocious watchdog, Jack the Miniature Schnauzer.

I have never posted a Halloween photo before, but as I was looking through my Lightroom catalogue, I found this old photo that I shot in Manhattan about ten years ago and decided to post the first one. To all of the kids out there, have fun and be safe. 

Above the Valley - Yosemite National Park, California

Carved by glaciers over millions of years, Yosemite Valley attracts visitors from around the world for its unparalleled beauty and grandeur. The oldest of the rocks in the valley are 114 million years old and the youngster of the group Half Dome (pictured here) is a mere 87 million years old. The valley itself is approximately 7.5 miles long and up to 5,000 feet deep.  The valley is surrounded by huge granite rock formations and its floor is made up of forest. While Yosemite National Park is much bigger than the valley, visitors flock to the valley because of all of the attractions there. The valley gets the bulk of the over 4 million visitors each year.

There are two locations that give a true glimpse of the valley: Tunnel View and Glacier Point. While Tunnel View gives a ground level view into the valley, the view from Glacier Point, pictured here, does the best job at showcasing it. The best time to capture this view in September is near sunset. The challenge in photographing it is that when the valley and Half Dome are fully lit, the light is rather harsh. To get the great soft light, you have to shoot it closer to sunset because that renders the valley floor dark as the sun sinks below rock formations to the east.  Regardless of the challenges, it is a wonderful scene to watch in person.

Seastack Glory - Cannon Beach, Oregon

Perhaps the best known town on the Oregon coast is Cannon Beach. It is a very popular destination due to being close to Portland (less that two hours) and of course, the famed Haystack Rock. The Haystack towers 235 feet above the  beach and is one of the largest in the world. There are other haystack rocks on the coast, but this one seems to get all of the press. When the tide is out, as it was the morning I took this, you can walk along the beach and get a great reflection of it along with the other two smaller sea stacks. In fact, later in the day, we were able to walk out to it and, if we were allowed to, could climb on it. That is prohibited, of course, due the proliferation of sea life that is abundant on or around it. The Haystack Rock tide pools are home to many animals, including starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs. The rock is also a nesting site for many sea birds, including terns and puffins.

Spanning the Columbia - Astoria, Oregon

On my recent trip to Oregon, I planned to show my wife and great friends all that it's coast had to offer. In order to do that, one has to start in Astoria. Astoria is the most northern city near the coast and is situated fourteen miles from the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River acts as the "state line" between Oregon and Washington. Thus, the only way to drive to Washington is via bridges. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is the longest bridge that spans the river. The four mile bridge is, in fact, the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.

Three Brothers - Yosemite National Park, California

Last week, I posted an image of El Capitan from Yosemite's Cathedral Beach. Later that morning, Mike Louthan and I walked along the Merced River away from El Capitan. The trail, if you call it that, weaves along the river and offers many glimpses of El Capitan and this one, the Three Brothers. The Three Brothers are east of El Capitan and just opposite of the Cathedral Spires (behind my shoulders). Every twist and turn of the river gave me a different view of the Brothers, but there seemed to be some obstruction that made the composition less than what I wanted. When I got to this spot, I realized that it was going to be the best vantage point if I wanted to capture a reflection. The light was very different from my El Capitan photo as it was a bit more east and the mountains took on a purplish tint.

A little tidbit. The Three Brothers have names. The highest peak is named Eagle Peak, the place that John Muir believed provided the most beautiful view of Yosemite Valley. I'll take his word for it, as I don't think I will ever be atop it. The other two peaks are boringly named the Middle Brother and the Lower Brother.

Emerald Bay Morning - Lake Tahoe, California

There is no doubt that Lake Tahoe is a terrific place to visit and photograph. It had been almost 20 years since I had been there, and back then I wasn't seriously shooting photos. The one thing I remembered was Emerald Bay on the southwest portion of the lake. The bay was created by a glacier that carved a canyon that became submerged by Lake Tahoe's waters over time. The bay's shape is quite apparent in this photo with it's small entrance from the main body of Lake Tahoe.

There are quite a number of vantage points to shoot Emerald Bay from, but my favorite spot was this one high above the bay. This view allows for a great view of the lake coupled with Fannette Island (the only one in Lake Tahoe). My research had indicated that the best time to shoot from this spot was at sunrise and it proved to be right. As the sun began to poke above the opposite shore, the foreground lit up wonderfully. I also decided to take advantage of the sun and create sun rays by shooting with a small aperture.

Bandon Beauty - Bandon, Oregon

On my recent trip to the west coast, we flew into Portland and drove down the Oregon and California coasts down to Big Sur. This was the second time this year I had driven down the Oregon coast and it was a night and day difference. Back in April, Jeff Clow and I scouted the Oregon coast for a possible 2018 photo tour. For ten days, we were rained on, sleeted on and snowed on, not to mention severe winds. If we added up the total time we had sunshine during the full ten days, it might have added up to a day, if that. Fast forward to last month. During our total time on the Oregon coast, we did not have a drop of rain. The good news is that Jeff's 2018 Oregon Coast tour is scheduled for September. The first week has sold out and there are still a few spots open on the second week.

One of the stellar spots on the Oregon coast is Bandon. This is sea stack heaven and you can spend a lot of time walking among the stacks and getting some great shots. Many of the stacks have their own unique names, such as this one: Howling Dog. This stack is so unique, it has a second name, Wizard's Hat, when seen from the north.