Earlier this week, I posted a photo of Monument Valley taken from the View Hotel and how the hotel's proximity to such a beautiful scene made it a place to stay overnight. After writing that post, I came across this photo of Mount Grinnell towering over Swiftcurrent Lake and, all of a sudden, I backed into a theme. In the foreground, you will see the Many Glacier Hotel, which offers a striking view of the scene. Unfortunately, I have never stayed there, so rolling out of bed to catch the sunrise hasn't happened for me yet. Instead, you must stay just outside the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park (30 minutes away). If you are staying near the western entrance to the park where most visitors stay, get ready for a two-and-a-half hour drive in the dark on the dangerous Going-to-the-Sun Road to make sunrise. Again, in this case, Many Glacier Hotel is all about location, location, location.
It always amazes me how trees survive growing out of rocks in the desert. Think about what this tree (I believe it is a Utah Juniper) has to endure: the searing hot sun of the desert during the day coupled with the very cold chill of the desert night. Add to that the dryness of the desert and extremely strong winds. It is a wonder how they survive growing right out of the rocks. They clearly are the ultimate survivors.
I shot this photo way back in 2008 and came across it recently. My editing of it was simply terrible and, since it was one of my favorites, I decided to give it new life with a total post processing redo. Came out much better. Here is my writeup from back then.
Venice is a magical place and it is very hard to describe it to someone who hasn't been there. There is a feel to the "city" that is unlike anywhere else I have been. Venice actually lies in a lagoon that is protected from the sea by thin strips of land that have three small inlets. Rather than an island, Venice is actually made up of 124 small islands connected by small bridges. Venice is a favorite destination for tourists who arrive by plane, water taxi and cruise ships. This particular morning, I got up at dawn and wandered out onto the Grand Canal. This is one of the few times you can avoid the crowds of tourists and get some shots without worrying about bumping into someone. I noticed this artist that had the same idea and was painting the scene. As I began to shoot a few photos of the artist, I noticed this large cruise ship being towed down the Grand Canal out to sea by a little tugboat. It was an amazing scene that I never saw coming. I think I enjoy the images that are a result of just dumb luck the best.
I am so behind in reviewing photos. I am sad to report that I haven't gone through all of my Africa photos while on a safari in 2016. I will try to make up for it this upcoming winter. I shot this photo in Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Our guides were amazing and they got us into position to ride beside a herd of more than fifteen elephants. These two young elephants decided to spend some time playing as the herd headed toward the water hole. What a great experience, one that I will never forget.
Being a landscape photographer, you sort of get used to getting up at o'dark thirty and then driving a while to get to the place that you want to shoot well before sunrise. So, when you get a chance to roll out of bed, pick up your camera gear and walk to the hotel's balcony to shoot an iconic scene, you grab it. No where is this easier than the View Hotel in Monument Valley, one of the premier locations in the American Southwest. Prior to being built in 2008, there was only one hotel in the area, about three miles down the road. The next nearest ones are 23 miles away. Why? Monument Valley's official name is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park which is the Navajo Nation's equivalent of the American National Parks. The View Hotel was built and is run by the Navajo People. While no one would mistake the View Hotel as a resort, you go there for the location so you can roll out of bed and watch the blue hour turn in the golden hour.
One of the great spots to shoot in Death Valley is from Dante's View. Many visitors head to it for the panorama view that they get of the southern valley basin (known as Badwater Basin). The basin is the lowest point in North America at 283 feet below sea level. In contrast, Dante's View is from 5,476 feet above sea level, illustrating why people visit it so much. While waiting for sunrise, I took a look in the opposite direction from the basin and saw this scene. The sun had begun to light up the sky, casting beautiful oranges and yellows. It also silhouetted the clouds and the mountain peaks to the east of the Greenwater Mountain Range, located in the Mojave Desert. It was quite inspiring to see, and hopefully I captured some of its beauty.
One of the most famous abandoned farmhouses in the Palouse is known as the Weber House, a little north of Pullman. The house is situated on private land but you cannot really get close to the house and need to shoot it from afar like I did in this photo. The house attracts tons of photographers and the majority of them obey the owner's signage and ropes that dictate how close you can get to the house. Of course, a very small minority of photographers are willing to do anything to get "the shot". I have heard that someone actually posted photos taken from inside the house. In any case, our group was on their best behavior while shooting the house. Toward the end of our shoot, a truck approached us and the husband questioned us on how we were doing. Turns out that they are the owners of the house (the wife is a descendant of the Weber family) and they can actually see Weber House from their home. They spent at least a half hour telling us all about the house, their crops and their business. The were the friendliest people that you will ever meet, and would like for visitors and photographers to continue to visit the house. They said that a very small number of photographers have ignored the signs and that the majority are the "good" photographers. All in all, it was a great night learning about the history of what we were shooting.
The gem of Bandon 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 go on your way. Don't. A few miles down the road, there is another spot you need to see -- Coquille Point. There is a small parking lot there where you can gain access to a trail that runs north above the beach. The trail weaves parallel to the coast, with beautiful cliff-top grass on either side of the trail. The other choice is to take this great little staircase down to the beach to get up close and personal with the rock formations. I really liked the look of the staircase and used it as the foreground looking south toward the sea stacks.
One of the best things about Grand Teton National Park are the many turnouts and overlooks that have been built along the park's two main roads, US Route 89 and Teton Park Road. These stops on the road provide many beautiful views of the massive Teton Range, which are part of the larger Rocky Mountain Range. I have a particular affinity for the Blacktail Ponds Overlook. Being a sunrise location, you really need to get there early enough to get the morning light as it begins to light up the peaks and work its way down the mountains. Many people leave when the mountains are fully lit but I like staying. Why? The overlook sits high above a valley which, like the mountains, gradually light up as the sun continues to rise in the sky. I like the contrast between the light and the shadow and having a creek acting like a leading line doesn't hurt either.
One of the most iconic spots of the American Southwest is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Requiring a short hike, this arch is a mecca for photographers that want to get the iconic sunrise photo of the arch 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. It is always hard to know the right time to get there. It all depends on luck. I've been there when there were only one or two photographers. I have also been there when a whole group of photographers had gotten there at 2am, leaving very few spots for anyone else. Once they set up, they don't move until the sun is well above the horizon. So, what do you do when you are unlucky and can't get a good spot? Try other angles that might not include the arch like this photo. Still some amazing shots if you look hard enough.
One of the signature sea stacks on 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 accessible from the beach and can be walked to 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 to shoot this icon is usually just after sunrise when the sun clears the cliffs to the east. The beach is usually secluded at that time of day. Shooting near sunset can a bit problematic, as there are usually swarms of people walking the beach. For some strange reason unknown to me, when I headed to the beach one night this past September, there wasn't anyone around, allowing me to shoot some photos in the great evening light.
I have visited Badlands National Park only once, but that one visit enraptured me in such a way that it became one of my very favorite places. The landscape has everything that a photographer could ask for: jagged buttes, twisted canyons, rugged spires and rock formations in the shape of domes often striped in different colors. All of these contrast greatly with prairies on either side of the park. The formations and buttes form what it is known as the Wall. It extends for 100 miles. Approximately 31 of those miles are paved and easy accessible on Route 240, otherwise known as Badlands Loop Road. North of the Wall, there is nothing but plains, and the formations cannot be seen. Coming from the south, the formations can't be missed, showing a sort of natural "skyline". This image was taken at Norbeck Pass on the way back to the hotel. It shows the full moon lighting up the night sky.
Many of those who follow me are well aware of my love for lighthouses. Living in New England, there are some amazing ones that can be found from Connecticut to Maine. I am always on the lookout for lighthouses wherever I go. My frequent trips to the Oregon Coast has allowed me to find some new gems to shoot. While there are as many lighthouses on the Oregon Coast, the ones that are there are quite beautiful. This particular lighthouse, Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon, is perhaps Oregon's most picturesque. The light was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 1870's. The lighthouse tower measures 93 feet tall and is the tallest in Oregon. It is managed and maintained by the The Bureau of Land Management and is not far from the center of town.
Did you ever have a photo that every time you see it, you say to yourself that I really should edit and post it? This photo, taken in 2013, is one of them for me. I used to travel to San Francisco quite a lot on business (my record was 10 times in one year) and never had a camera with me because I never had much free time. San Francisco has always been my favorite city and, since I retired, I can now spend as much leisurely time strolling its hilly streets as I want. Instead of moving quickly to my next meeting, I now can walk slowly and take in the nooks and crannies with photographer eyes. When I saw this scene somewhere on Market Street, I was taken in by how the four buildings lined up. Even more fascinating to me was the style and age of the buildings, from the look of the buildings in the middle exuding character of old contrasting with two new modern buildings on either side of it.
The Merced River is a 145-mile tributary of the San Joaquin River flowing from the Sierra Nevada to the central valley of California. The most famous section of the river is where it travels through the renowned Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. The Merced drops over the Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls and passes into the valley, where it flows in the pine forests that fill the valley floor. Visitors to Yosemite Valley can go almost anywhere along the Merced's banks and see the famous granite cliffs and formations. One of my favorite spots along the Merced is Cathedral Beach. Here, one of the most famous rock formations in Yosemite is often reflected in it's waters, El Capitan. It was early morning and the soft light was bathing the formation and the opposite bank. It's no wonder that the Yosemite Valley is one of the most visited national parks in the US.
What can you say about the Grand Tetons that somebody hasn't said already? I am usually at a loss when trying to describe their beauty to someone who has never been there. These craggy mountains dominate the landscape and look different from almost every angle. I have visited these majestic peaks many times before, in all different times of the year. My favorite time to visit is in May, as they are often covered in snow which, in my opinion, makes them more beautiful than other times of the year. For this composition, I wanted to compose this photo in a way that would make the viewer feel like they were standing next to me when I took it. I thought that using the road as a leading line and shooting a bit wide would accomplish the goal.
If you do a search on the best national parks in the US or the world, two parks consistently appear in the top two spots, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Both parks evoke imagery that captures one's mind and soul. There is no doubt that these rankings attract hordes of visitors (and photographers) to them. The big difference is that Yellowstone is a lot larger at almost 3.5 thousand square miles vs. 1.2 thousand square miles for Yosemite. Most visitors to Yosemite stay primarily in the Yosemite Valley, which measures a minuscule 5.9 square miles. All this means is that Yosemite is extremely crowded throughout most of the year. When I visited Yosemite last September it was still very crowded, and finding anywhere in the valley where there were no people was hard. If you look hard enough, you can find some tranquil spots like this one near Sentinel Bridge on the Merced River.
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 (we were lucky enough to have clouds most of the week, which is most unusual for Death Valley). 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. Once lit up, you could look in the distance and see the highest dune. I looked at my great friend, Jaki Good Miller, and I think we thought the same thing. Climbing to the top of the dune was going to be "the goal". Off we went and made it after a strenuous climb.
As many times I have been in the Palouse, I have been very unlucky with seeing crop dusters that I could shoot. On my visit there last month, we saw lots and lots of them that more than made up for previous visits. We spotted them flying overhead, landing and taking off at the small airport, in the distance and, my favorite, looking down on them form Steptoe Butte. The first time I remember becoming aware of crop dusting was many years ago watching Alfred Hitchcock's great movie, North by Northwest. In it, Cary Grant is attacked by an in-flight crop duster. The good news is that none of us was attacked on this trip.
Is this the most photographed barn in the world? Do a search on the internet and you will see that many believe it is. I suspect that this barn has been shot from every angle possible and that there are not any new compositions left. If that is what I believe, why shoot it? The answer is simple. It is a gorgeous scene when the sunrise light hits the front of the barn for about five minutes. To me that glow is worth shooting. There is another reason to shoot it and that has to do with weather, clouds and light. No one day is identical to another. When you get up before dawn, you almost never know what conditions you will experience once on location (I wish I could get paid for being wrong as many times as weather forecasters are). Great clouds? Low hanging fog? Will the sunrise reach the barn? Who knows for sure, but you will find me shooting this iconic barn every time I am in the Tetons.