Undulating Landscape - Colfax, Washington

I have been doing a lot of planning for my upcoming scouting trip next week to Oregon with Jeff Clow, as well as for a Palouse Photo Tour in May that I am co-hosting with him. These two locations are very much on my mind, so I will be posting images from my past trips there this week. 

If one word can describe the Palouse, it is undulating. Other than Steptoe Butte and Kamiak Butte, there is no significant part of the Palouse with any altitude. Instead of just being flat land, the landscape rolls up and down, creating little pockets of light and shadow. They are much more pronounced when the sun is lower in the sky. When the sun is high, the whole landscape is lit and the undulations appear less undulating.

When Jeff and I scouted there last August, the color of the landscape was golden, as the harvest was underway. Some areas had golden wheat swaying in the wind, while others were devoid of wheat as they had already been harvested. It is in the spring when the landscape changes to all shades of green, as you can see from this photo that I took during my first visit there. 

Sundown - Myers Creek, Gold Beach, Oregon

One of the best things about the Oregon Coast are its sunsets. Pick any beach along the 363 miles of coastline, add some clouds and you have the recipe for a terrific photo. The bonus from shooting from a beach is that you are almost always assured of getting a reflection that amplifies the beauty. Of course, one of the challenges of any coastline is the possibility of fog, many times thick fog. Why are coastlines susceptible to fog? Coastal fog usually results when warm, moist air passes over a cool surface. Coastal fog usually occurs when conditions begin to warm up but the sea (which warms more slowly) stays relatively cold. If that's the case, why isn't the coastal fog more consistent during these times? The easy answer is the wind that can blow the fog out to sea. What do you do when shooting in thick fog? Be patient and hopefully it will clear that day. On the day that I shot this photo, the morning was totally fogged in and I was unable to get anything. By the afternoon, the fog had cleared and, as you can see from this photo, was nowhere to be seen at sunset.

Blue Room - Oliver Bronson House, Hudson, New York

Last week, I posted a photo of the elegant stairway at the entrance to the Oliver Bronson House. The stairway goes to the top of this once magnificent house. After seeing it in it's current condition, it is still hard to believe that it was built in 1812. In any case, each floor has its own specific look and feel. For this photo, I climbed to the third floor and checked out what we called the "blue room" (for obvious reasons). You might think that this is a simple shot, but a lot of thought went into its composition. Making this a challenge was the dynamic range of the scene. It was dark in the corners and bright near the windows. Coupled that with whether the doors should be closed, partially opened or fully opened. I must have tried at least ten compositions with all of the possible combinations. I finally decided that this one was "the" composition for several reasons. First, I wanted to show the rails of the stairway to be prominent and appropriately lit. Second I wanted the light to gradually brighten as you look through the doors. That forced me to open the door of the room in between the blue room and the stairway. Next was the decision to leave the closet door partially open, hopefully adding a mystery of what might be in there. That decision led me to have the door to the blue room being partially opened. So this seeming simple shot required a lot of thought.

Coastal Stacks - Myers Creek, Gold Beach, Oregon

In less than two weeks, I will be headed to the Oregon Coast with my buddy, Jeff Clow to scout for a future photo tour. Jeff has never visited Oregon but he has always wanted to. I have been fortunate to have visited there a number of times and it is one of my favorite locations (read: I never tire of it). I have convinced Jeff that it is a "target rich" location that is always a requirement for one of his photo tours.

I have a list of over 200 photo locations to scout over the 363-mile length of the coast. In addition, we will be scouting the Mount Hood area, as well as the gorgeous Columbia Gorge with all of its amazing waterfalls and scenery. To say that I am pretty excited about our trip would be an understatement. I think he will love it as much as I do.

This photo is an early morning shot showing some of the sea stacks south of Gold Beach. I had headed out before sunrise but I wasn't able to shoot this until the sun cleared the mountains about an hour later. 

Clouds - Sanibel, Florida

Testing out DNG files taken on my iPhone.

On my trip to Sanibel last month, I brought my camera equipment with me, but I rarely took it out. This was more of an escape from the winter cold and rest and relaxation with old friends. I am pretty committed to walking five miles a day, but I seem to slip up when I am traveling. I resolved that this year would be different and, so far, it has been. Every morning in Sanibel, I headed out at 6:30am to log my miles in before everyone else was up. Since it was before sunrise at that time, I considered taking my camera with me to catch some of the great sunrises that Sanibel has to offer. Instead, I thought I would test out the DNG option in the  iOS Lightroom app to see how well it worked.

Well, after shooting a bunch of photos, I edited this one on Lightroom Mobile, and then when I got home, I did some final tweaking on my desktop version of Lightroom and sent it over to my finishing app, OnOne Photo RAW. The good news was the files held up so much better than the JPGs that I used to shoot on my iPhone. It was really apparent when I used the Shadow and Highlights sliders. I was impressed on how much I was able to do with the DNG file. The bad news? I knew that I wasn't working with a photo that was taken on a 24 megapixel sensor. I couldn't push it as far as I could on my Fuji XT-2 photos. That is what I expected given the difference in sensor size. But, if I just don't feel like carrying that bigger camera on occasion, I will not hesitate on using the DNG option in Lightroom Mobile, knowing that I can now get a very respectable image from it.

Norbeck Pass - Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Where does the time go? I was going through some photos and came across my Badlands trip images. I was amazed that the trip was almost four years ago. It seems like a short time ago. I visited this amazing park for the first time as part of a cross country trip with my son. We stayed at a hotel just outside the eastern entrance to the park. Talk about remote! Only one restaurant for 30 miles (and it was one of the worst I have been to) and no stores either. The only advantage was that I had the park almost to myself at sunrise. One of the classic scenes to shoot in the park is this one at Norbeck Pass. I remember getting up and driving about 20 minutes to shoot this scene. I was the only one in sight and there were some great clouds that lit up as the sun came over the rock formations. I love how most of the formations in the park have the layers of strata that show how these might have been formed.

Sunglow - Edith Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Last year, after a photo tour of Banff, a few of us headed north to do some scouting of Jasper National Park. Jasper NP is not as well known as Banff NP but it is just as beautiful. That works in Jasper's favor as it is less crowded than Banff. That, coupled with the size difference (Jasper NP is not quite double the size of Banff NP) makes the chances of being able to enjoy the scenery  alone much more likely. Despite the size difference, there is one thing that is consistent between the parks and that is the amazing and majestic Canadian Rockies, along with their pristine glacier-fed lakes. These lakes are very accessible in both places, with many of them being within the town boundaries of both towns. For landscape photographers, that is a godsend especially in June, when sunrise happens before 5am. This photo of Edith Lake is an example of how easy they are to get to. A mere 4 miles from downtown Jasper, we got to the lake and had it all to ourselves. It was a beautiful morning and the clouds cooperated with the sun, creating a great sun ray effect from behind the mountains.

Staircase - Oliver Bronson House, Hudson, New York

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to shoot the Oliver Bronson House during a workshop with photographer extraordinaire, Denise Ippolito. Denise is an amazing photographer as well as one of the most creative artists that I know. Her work is amazing and, if you don't follow her, you need to. Beyond those attributes, she is a talented teacher that is always willing to go the extra mile to help her clients evolve into better photographers.

Now, on to the house that was the main subject. The house was built in 1812 by a local builder. If there was an architect involved in the design of this Federal style residence, he is unknown. The house was sold to Dr Bronson in 1838 and went through two remodels that resulted in changing the house into a  Hudson River Bracketed style. The house was sold in 1853 and was ultimately absorbed into the grounds of a penal institution. For many years, the house served as the home of the prison superintendents until the early 1970's. It has been abandoned since then. In 2003, it was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 2008, the house and its immediate grounds was leased by Historic Hudson, Inc., who have begun a restoration program. 

Some of the restoration can be seen on the outside of the house today, while the inside of the house has not been significantly restored. This photo shows the staircase, which is the centerpiece of the house from just inside the front door.

Fins - Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

There is something about the rock formations in the American Southwest that always makes me wonder how they were created. Of course, the answer is usually erosion, but it is hard to put my head around it. Whenever I see the many different and unusual ones, usually in close proximity to one another, I think of what combination of wind, water and ice made each the way they are, especially since they were exposed to very similar conditions over time. On the opposite hand, there are rock formations like these sandstone fins that have a very similar shape as far as the eye can see. 

I decided to find out how these fins were created and here is what I found out. Fins are actually an intermediate stage in the erosion of sandstone. The fins may have started out as part of a plateau. Through the uplift of the underlying rock, deep vertical, parallel fractures to begin to be formed. Weathering and erosion enlarge the fractures and the sandstone falls away until they form the shape that you see in this photo.

What's next for these fins? The next stage is the erosion of sandstone below forming either windows or arches. Over time, even these erode causing the arches to collapse, resulting in hoodoos. This helps me understand how the rock formations in Arches National Park were formed.  

Dolphin Play - Pine Island Sound, Florida

My trip to Florida last month has become an annual event to escape the New England winter. This winter has been one of the milder ones in recent years, but it still isn't Florida. After spending a few days in Disney World and  then Punta Gorda, we headed to Sanibel. Although I had brought my camera equipment with me, I decided that I wasn't going to take it out of the bag much. Catching up with old friends was more important and I shot primarily with my iPhone when the urge came over me.

One of my favorite things to do in Sanibel is to take a speedboat trip around the island, and for this I knew that camera equipment was coming out. Why? Because there would be dolphins following us for a portion of the trip. The boat itself is a fifty-five foot super-catamaran, and two 440 horsepower engines power it. If memory serves me right, it reaches a speed of 40 miles per hour. When the dolphins are spotted, the captain slows down and the dolphins jump in the boat's wake. It is not easy capturing them, but I was lucky to get these two in mid-leap with one of them looking directly at me. A moment worth getting the camera out for.

Lake Mist - Herbert Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

The Icefields Parkway connecting Banff National Park and Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is my favorite road to take photos. That's saying a lot, as it beats out others that I have been on, including California Highway 1, the Alaskan Highway, Montana's Going to the Sun Road and Arizona's Apache Trail. It is probably the combination of pristine mountain lakes, beautiful glaciers and towering mountains that makes it my favorite. It also doesn't hurt that the scenery doesn't stop for its full length of 166 miles.

I am often asked how far I had to hike to reach some of these lakes and my answer sometimes surprises them -- very little. Of course, there are some lakes that hiking boots and a long hike are required, but many are just a short distance from the highway. The lake in this image, Herbert Lake, is a prime example. I literally had to walk about 20 feet to set up my tripod, wait for sunrise and shoot the shot. I was lucky this morning to have some great clouds and mist rising from the lake's surface.

On the Backroads - Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park provides beauty at almost every turn. Even on the backroads there seem to be compositions that have the road acting as a leading line to the beautiful Canadian Rockies. This particular photo was only a few miles outside of the town of Banff. We were headed to Johnson Lake one morning and saw this staring us in the face. Being that I was with Jeff Clow, who stops for any and all road shots especially when there are mountains, we pulled over and shot the golden hour light bathing the mountain in golden hour 

Mustard Canyon - Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park had been on my bucket list for quite some time and I was lucky enough to finally visit it in December. It was quite different than I expected, in a positive way. I remember thinking that it was nothing but desert and sand dunes (maybe from watching the television show Death Valley Days as a child) but was quite surprised to find plenty of mountains and canyons. Beyond the well known spots that every photographer visits (Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Dunes) there are a number of dirt roads that take you to different kinds of beauty. Near the old Harmony Borax Works, there is a road that takes you through Mustard Canyon. As you can see in this photo, the canyon gets its name from the mustard colored rocks that line the road. I liked this scene, as the Panamint Mountain Range provided a darker background to the mustard color.

River View - Potash Road, Moab, Utah

If you had to pick a river in the United States to explore, which one would you choose? For me, it is an easy choice - it would be the Colorado River. Why? Not because it is the longest (it is actually the fifth longest) but rather because it is the most picturesque. Originating in the central Rocky Mountains in Colorado, it traverses 1,450 miles to its terminus into the Gulf of California, between Baja California and Sonora. Along the way, it travels through no less that eleven National Parks. Its waters can be quite calm or quite tumultuous depending on where you see it (it has two whitewater rapids on the top ten list of notorious rapids in the world). It has carved many canyons throughout the American Southwest (the biggest being the Grand Canyon) as well as numerous famous "goosenecks" (Horseshoe Bend, Dead Horse). I had the great fortune back in 2005 to stay on a working ranch along the river, which was quite exciting. This photo was taken just outside of Moab along Potash Road. As you can see, the waters along this section are quite calm, allowing the sandstone rock formations to be reflected in its waters. 

Garden Key Light - Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys, Florida

The Florida Keys are an archipelago that extend from the southeastern coast of Florida and westward past Key West into the Florida Strait, which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago is made up of 1,700 islands. The last inhabited key is Key West, and the furthest keys from the mainland are the Tortugas chain, home to Dry Tortugas National Park. There on Garden Key sits the lighthouse in this photo on top of Fort Jefferson. The lighthouse actually predates the fort by over twenty years. The lighthouse construction was completed in 1826 and the fort began construction in 1846. The fort was never finished even though over 16 million bricks were used, and construction stopped in 1861 over fears that the island might not be able to support the weight that finishing the fort would require. 

Waterfowl Reflections - Banff National Park, Alberta

Waterfowl Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

We just got back from Florida after spending almost three weeks there escaping the New England winter. The first week, we spent time in Disney and Punta Gorda. The remainder of the time was spent in Sanibel. It was nice and relaxing, although it seems the traffic in Florida seems to be getting worse and worse. It's pretty terrific once you get to your destination, but getting there can be challenging. My visit there also reminded me that, while I love the beach, my heart belongs to the mountains. Pristine glacial lakes surrounded by majestic mountains with hiking trails to explore is my definition of nirvana. When I am in this element, I don't worry about traffic or people everywhere, but rather think about how serene it is when you only have birds and wildlife to contend with. This early morning scene of Waterfowl Lake along the Icefields Parkway (I am literally mere steps from the road) is just what I mean. There was no one to be seen or heard other than my four friends to share this moment with. Don't get me wrong, I will still travel to Florida in the winters and enjoy my time there, but the mountains are always calling me. 

Pyramid Island - Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

I have posted a number of photos from the town of Jasper. The town is located within the borders of Jasper National Park, which was recognized as a national park in 1930. The town itself was only recognized as a municipality 71 years later in 2001. The town's southern border begins at the northern terminus of the iconic Icefields Parkway. It is surrounded by two mountain ranges and one mountain to the north. To the west of Jasper, the Victoria Cross Ranges provides a border. To the east, the Maligne Range provides another border. To the north, Pyramid Mountain forms the third border.

Pyramid Mountain, pictured in this photo, is quite close to the town (approximately 6 miles from the center of Jasper). It is an easy place to visit and it almost seems that it is part of the town. As you approach the mountain, it seems that everything here is named Pyramid. In the photo, the mountain is reflected in Pyramid Lake. That man-made walkway leads to, you guessed it, Pyramid Island. The island is quite nice, but I prefer to capture it from the eastern lakeshore where you can get a great view of all three. If you have a good sunrise like I had on this morning, the whole scene seems magical.

 

Rising Above - Sanibel Island Light, Sanibel, Florida

Just about time for my annual visit to Florida to escape the New England winter for a short time. I never thought that I would become a part-time "snowbird". For those of you who don't live in the Northeast, snowbirds refer to the many people (usually retired) that flock to Florida to escape the winter cold. Truth be told, the winter here in New England has been quite nice. Not a lot of snow and the temperatures have not been bad at all (of course, I just jinxed us). Over the past few years, we have visited many parts of Florida to see which areas we like the best, looking forward to some time in the future when we become full-time "snowbirds" in the winter months. Our favorite so far are the many towns on the western coast of Florida (we have yet to visit the panhandle). This trip we will be visiting Sanibel Island for a short time and I will get an opportunity to visit some of my favorite stops there like the Sanibel Island Light, pictured here.

Many Glacier - Glacier National Park, Montana

Mount Grinnell

I am still going through the photos that I shot last year and I am starting to make a little dent in them. As I go through my 2016 photos (probably over 25,000), they bring back so many memories of the locations I was fortunate to have been able to visit and the many friends I was able to shoot with. Memories come back quickly with almost each photo. I also remember the many days when Mother Nature shut us out (I try not to remember them) and the days when we were blessed by Mother Nature. The must be a scientific equation out there that tells us how many bad days are forgotten when you get one great day. My unscientific conclusion is probably 4-5 times.

In any case, this morning that I spent at Many Glacier Hotel with Jeff Clow was certainly one of the great days for me. The sunrise was simply amazing, lighting up the majestic Mount Grinnell and its surrounding mountains with the soft light you dream to get. On this morning, the wind was a bit strong, creating some serious ripples in Swiftcurrent Lake. Fortunately, this little section of the lakeshore was surrounded by a wall of stones giving me some still water so that Grinnell's mountaintop was reflected perfectly.

In the Weeds - Banff National Park, Alberta

Many of those who follow me will remember my now infamous encounter last year with a grizzly bear in Banff National Park. I was fortunate to walk away from that meeting. On that same trip, we encountered quite a number of bears, including this black bear that seems to be right next to me. I am happy to report that, unlike my meeting with the grizzly, this black bear was pretty far away. I captured him with a focal length of 550mm, which for me is a much safer distance from a wild bear.

If you are into wildlife and you are planning to visit Banff, head there in June. The wildlife is plentiful and they are just coming out from the winter snows. If you are real lucky, you might find some babies along with their mothers (be careful not to get too close when there are babies around). An added bonus is that the mountains have a lot of snow that give a much different look than in the later summer. It has become my favorite time of year to visit my favorite place in the world (so far). If you can't make it in June, don't get discouraged, Banff is always awesome any time of the year.