Patterns - Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

One of my favorite things about the desert are the patterns that are created in the sand by the wind. The patterns can vary greatly based upon the direction and speed of the wind. If a particular spot looks one way today, it may look very different tomorrow. Finding untouched patterns gets more difficult as the sun rises, particularly in popular places. The best time is at sunrise, as there are few visitors walking on the sand leaving footprints that destroy the beauty of the pattern. It is not until night when the wind erases the footprints and creates newly-formed patterns. If you are looking for patterns later in the day, visit some less visited spots. I shot this one in mid-afternoon in a part of Mesquite Dunes that rarely has people stopping and walking on the sand.

Horsetail Falls - Columbia Gorge, Oregon

The famed Columbia Gorge located along the Columbia River east of Portland is sometimes referred to as the Waterfall Corridor. It is an aptly named, as there are nine waterfalls that are easily accessible from the Columbia River Historic Highway that parallels the Columbia River. Most of them are mere steps away from the parking lot and there are many trails that are available to explore. Unfortunately, there was a major fire there last September that originated in Eagle Creek, started by a few careless and thoughtless teenagers throwing firecrackers. The fire spread to many parts of the gorge. It looks like many of the waterfalls are open, but some of the trails are still closed. Horsetail Falls, pictured here, plummets 176 feet from above and is one of the most accessible on the highway. 

Barn Glow - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One of the most photographed barns in the world, the Thomas Moulton Barn, probably has seen more visitors before and during sunrise than any other. The visitors are almost always photographers. Located on Morman Row, the barn waits quietly in the dark as photographers create a semicircle around the front of the barn. The photographers lay in wait and hope that there are no clouds blocking the sun as it rises from the east. They are also hoping that clouds are not hiding the wondrous peaks of the Teton Range behind the barn. As the su begins to rise, the area becomes a bit brighter until it clears the mountains in the east. That is when the barn door begins to glow a beautiful orange color. Once it does, all you hear are the clicking of cameras for a few minutes before the glow fades. Once it does, the photographers move on and the barn sits there waiting for the next sunrise.

Diaper Dump - Palmetto Carriage, Charleston, South Carolina

No trip to Charleston, South Carolina, would be complete without a horse-drawn carriage ride through this historic city. The ride takes you down tree-lined streets and the differing styles of architecture of the southern homes. It is also a great way to start a visit that gives an overview of the museums and attractions. There are a number of carriage companies that give tours of Charleston but the one we recommend is Palmetto Carriage. They have won a number of awards as the best in the city and they are easy to find. Just look for the big red barn. I couldn't help snapping a shot of this unique sign. I now know where I am taking my mule to get washed and dump my diapers. What a bargain.

Gates of the Valley - Yosemite National Park, California

There are a few places to get a great view of the glacier-created Yosemite Valley. One prime spot is from Tunnel View, which shows the valley from above. Want to get a ground view of the valley? Look no further than a small spot (only room for about twelve cars) on Northside Drive known as Gates of the Valley (also known as Valley View).  From this spot you can get a great view of El Capitan on the left while standing next to the banks of the Merced River. This ground-level view gives you a sense of scale that you don't get from Tunnel View. This location is special to photographers, as they would be walking in the footsteps of one of the most famous photographers, Ansel Adams, who created so many striking images from there.

Fisher Towers - River Road, Moab, Utah

With all of the superb parks in the Moab area (Canyonlands NP, Arches NP and Dead Horse SP), River Road is often overlooked by visitors. It is a shame, as there are some stellar spots. The added bonus is that the Colorado River runs along the majority of the road. One of the best areas to visit on the road is Fisher Towers. Jeff Clow's Photo Tour had visited the road earlier in the week, but the weather was quite overcast.  When the tour was over, Jaki Good Miller and I were headed to Grand Junction and decided to take this scenic route. Great choice, as Mother Nature treated us with some great clouds and weather along the way. 

As we approached Fisher Towers, the sun started to hide behind them and, while we got some quick shots, the towers were dark. Given that we only had less than an hour left of sun, we decided to drive further north and try to get a shot looking south to the towers with the snow capped La Sal Mountains as a backdrop. I had shot from this spot before, but was never there at the right time of day. Just as we set up, the sun broke though and gave us this scene.

Off-Road - Death Valley National Park, California

Some the best locations to explore in Death Valley are the many canyons that seem to be just about everywhere. Some are small and narrow, while others are wide enough to have roads. Of all of the canyons that we visited, Twenty Mule Team Canyon was my favorite. Truth be told, it probably was my favorite spot in the park. 

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is quite large, and viewing it from the ground didn't give me the perspective of the area. Fortunately, the rock formations are climbable if you are in decent shape. So up I went to the top of many of the surrounding formations, some by a trail and others blazing a new trail. When I reached the top to look around, I had a 360-degree view of this section of the canyon. As you can see, the landscape is quite amazing, with small ravines running between the formations. This view looking eastward away from the road shows the incredible formations with the Amargosa Mountain Range as a backdrop.

Oxbow - Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

What can I say about a location that is iconic and photographed millions of times over the years that hasn't been said before?  Almost every photographer that is semi-serious who visits the Grand Tetons will head to Oxbow Bend and take photos there. The serious ones are there for sunrise hoping to get the classic shot. What makes Oxbow fun is that the weather patterns often make what sunrise looks like so different on a daily basis. There are days when the clouds are so thick that you can't see Mount Moran, or the sun for that matter. On those days, sometimes a quick break in the clouds will light the top of Moran for seconds. Other days, like the day I shot this photo, there are great clouds that are reflected in the calm waters of the Snake River.  That is why I keep going back, as I am never sure of what this iconic scene will look like.

Devils Tower - Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Ever since I saw the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", I knew that someday I would get to visit Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming. Well, it took me 36 years (the movie premiered in 1977) but I finally got there on a cross-country trip back in 2013. It is located in the middle of nowhere, about 60 miles northeast of Gillette, WY and about 110 miles northwest of Rapid City, SD.

We got a late start from Gillette and the winds were quite strong. Driving on the highway was challenging, requiring two hands firmly on the wheel. When we got off the interstate, we were shielded a bit by the formations on either side of the road. Devils Tower is quite a large formation that sticks out of the landscape, as it is surrounded by plains. Despite that, I couldn't get a glimpse of it until we were almost there.

This image was one of the first ones I shot of the day and is a great view of the formation. The wind was blowing so hard that I had to hold onto my tripod to keep it from blowing over. The clouds were a bonus and were moving quite rapidly the whole morning. And no, we did not see any aliens.

Boats for Rent - Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Lake Louise is a mountain lake in Banff National Park. Its blue-green water is set against the stark backdrop of Victoria Glacier and the Rockies. The lake is in the small hamlet of Lake Louise about a half hour north of the town of Banff. The lake is one of the most recognized and photographed scenes in the Canadian Rockies.

On one end of the lake lies the Chateau Lake Louise, a resort hotel. I have always wanted to stay in the hotel but it is quite pricey. When I visited Banff in 2006, I decided to break open the piggy bank and stay there. The advantage of staying there is the ability to roll out of bed before dawn and, in a quick short minutes, be looking at this scene. There were only a couple of people up at this hour, mostly other photographers. The light was phenomenal and the reflections of the mountains contrasted well with the bright red boats. The moment I shot this, I knew I had a winner.

Impressive - Jasper National Park, Alberta,

I have posted and written about the famed Icefields Parkway so many times that I am running out of things to say. Suffice to say, this 140-mile long road that travels along the Canadian Rockies from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, is the most spectacular road that I have ever seen. This is a "road shot" somewhere along the drive north in Jasper.

Astoria Column - Astoria, Oregon

High above the mighty Columbia River in the town of Astoria, lies the Astoria Column, one of the most visited attractions in Oregon. Sitting about 600 feet above sea level, the column affords some of the best views that can be found near or on the Oregon Coast. What is cool about the column itself is the spiral mural, which if layed down flat would be 525 foot long and 7 feet wide.  The mural itself depicts 14 significant events in Oregon's history, such as the discovery of the Columbia River and the terminus of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was modeled after the Roman Trajan's Column and was completed in 1926.

Highline Trail - Glacier National Park, Montana

Those of you who know me well know of my love of hiking. I usually walk at least 5 miles every day, and rarely miss unless I am on a vacation or a photo tour. Sometimes it is not the distance of the hike, but rather the beauty of the hike. Fortunately, Glacier National Park is home to some outstanding hikes, both in length and beauty. On the first clear day, a few of us hiked the Hidden Lake Trail, while others tried the Highline Trail. On our last day, we spent a few hours back at Logan Pass and tried the Highline Trail.

I knew that there were sections of the hike which were high up and narrow (it is called the Highline Trail for a reason) from the others in our group, but it was even tighter that I expected. It is not for those who have a fear of heights. Portions of the trail  only have room for one person to pass, and has a cable for those who want to make sure not to fall. Since there was a lot of foot traffic in both directions, a lot of stopping to let others to pass was the norm.

In this image, I wanted to capture the sense of height and scale of Logan Pass while using the Going-to-the-Sun Road as a leading line toward Reynolds Mountain. I highly recommend this hike for any who visit Glacier.

Two Medicine Magic - Glacier National Park, Montana

One of my favorite locations in Glacier is Two Medicine Lake, located on the eastern side of the national park. Unlike some other lakes in Glacier, there are no grand hotels that sit on the lake although there is a a campground there. If you are visiting from the more populated west side, you have to get up well before dawn and drive along the narrow and winding Going-to-the-Sun Road. Is it worth it? You betcha. The dominant mountain at the lake is Mount Sinopah shown on the left side of this photo. It seems like it is always windy and cold when I visit there and this particular morning was no exception. While I waited for Mount Sinopah to be fully lit, I was attracted to the sun-kissed tops of the surrounding mountains of the Lewis Mountain Range.

Merced Beauty - Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite is situated in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is one of the most famous and most visited national parks in the US. For those of us that love the outdoors, Yosemite has everything: granite cliffs, waterfalls, rivers, streams, lakes, mountains, meadows, glaciers and sequoia trees, Yosemite has enchanted many for a long time. Galen Clark first championed the protection of Yosemite Valley, leading Abraham Lincoln to sign the Yosemite Grant in 1864. He was followed by John Muir, whose efforts helped establish a larger area beyond the valley to be included in what was to become a national park. The park gained even more acclaim through the photography of Ansel Adams. Adams' photo of Half Dome in 1927 named "Monolith" and his subsequent amazing black-and-white photos made Yosemite a must-visit location to the public. Yosemite's popularity continues today as more than 5 million people visited the park for the first time in 2016.

Road to Ruggedness - Death Valley National Park, California

Some the best locations to explore in Death Valley are the many canyons that seem to be just about everywhere. Some are small and narrow, while others are wide enough to have roads. Of all of the canyons that we visited, Twenty Mule Team Canyon was my favorite. Truth be told, it probably was my favorite spot in the park. The canyon was named after the teams of 18 mules and 2 horses that were attached to large wagons that transported 10 short tons of borax from the mines. The trip traversed the Mojave Desert and was 165 miles long. Considering temperatures during the summer can be as hot as 134 degrees, it must have been a very difficult trip.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is quite large, and viewing it from the ground doesn't give a good perspective of the area. Fortunately, the rock formations are climbable if you are in decent shape. So up I went to the top of many of the surrounding formations, some by a trail and others blazing a new trail. When I reached the top to look around, I had a 360-degree view of this section of the canyon. The dirt road provided me a great leading line into the desert ruggedness.

Farmland - Steptoe Butte State Park, Colfax, Washington

The landscape in the Palouse is amazing to photograph, and the best place to start is Steptoe Butte State Park. The butte is the tallest feature in the Palouse area, rising about 3,600 feet above the surrounding rolling hills and mounds. At the very top, you get a 360-degree panorama of some of the best farmland in the United States. Photographing from the butte can be overwhelming, as it is difficult to capture the whole thing. Instead, it is easier to zoom in on smaller compositions that convey the beauty of the contours of the landscape that are more pronounced during early morning or late evening light. This photo was taken just after sunrise last year.

Haystack - Cannon Beach, Oregon

One of the signature sea stacks along the Oregon Coast, the Haystack Rock towers 235 feet above the beach, seemingly reaching out to the sky from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Along with its proximity to the city of Portland, this rock formation has contributed in making Cannon Beach a tourist destination. It is very accessible from the beach and one can walk right up to it during low tide. The saying, "you can look but you better not touch" applies to this iconic rock formation. It is protected, as it is a national wildlife refuge and one of seven protected intertidal areas along the Oregon coast. My favorite time in shooting it is at sunrise when the beach is not crowded. The morning glow starts at the very top of the rock and slowly moves down to bathe the full rock.

 

Old Trucks - Colfax, Washington

The Palouse is a region of farmland located in Eastern Washington State and into parts of Western Idaho. A number of my friends have asked me where the Palouse is, as they have never heard of it. Truth be told, it is a destination that primarily attracts photographers because of the landscapes of great rolling mounds and hills of farmland. After spending time there, it is obvious why non-photographers never heard of it. It is pretty remote with only a few very small towns. There are not many hotels and restaurants (my buddy Jeff Clow says it is a culinary wasteland), and, other than driving the roads for the scenery, not much for vacationers to do. One of the things that surprised me was the number of old car and trucks that dot the landscape. Another of my friends stated that the Palouse is where old vehicles come to die. This lineup of old trucks is just one of the spots that can been seen on the backroads.

Dune - Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley is part of the largest desert in North America, namely the Mojave Desert. Of course, when one thinks of the desert, one of the first things they picture are sand dunes. The one thing that surprised me about my visit to the valley was, while there were dunes, the majority of the park (at least the parts that I saw) was more valley floor and mountains. Fortunately, down a few miles from our hotel, the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes were there waiting for us to explore. Arriving at the parking lot for the dunes about an hour before sunrise, we trudged out toward the dunes in the distance with our flashlights and head lamps. Along the way, the clouds began to put on a light show, before the sun peeked above the horizon. I shot a number of photos of the clouds, but my heart was waiting for the sun to light up the landscape and the dunes to the west. As you can see in this photo, the sun did its job and delivered amazing soft light that exceeded my expectations.