The Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. The three hour drive (only if you don't stop) from the town of Banff to Jasper traverses through the Canadian Rockies. It is famous for it's scenic mountains and lakes. About an hour and fifteen minutes north of the town of Banff lies Bow Lake. The northern shore of Bow Lake is the location of a great old lodge, the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. It is a family owned lodge and it's history can be found here. When we first pulled into the lodge's parking lot, we saw the rugged mountains reflected in the water. I immediately got my camera and shot quite a number of images, this being one of them. Every angle produced a beautiful composition. This image is just a very small slice of what you will find along the Icefields Parkway. I haven't been back there in a number of years but I still dream of my next trip to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.
After our stay in Denali National Park, we boarded an Alaskan Rail train. The train would take us to Whittier where we would board our cruise ship. This 8-hour train ride is something everyone should have on their bucket list. The scenery is spectacular and when the weather is right (as it was on this day), Mount McKinley can be seen in all of it's grandeur. Our train car had a glass dome for viewing the gorgeous Alaskan countryside. I quickly determined that shooting through the dome was not going to work due to the reflections, so I quickly headed for the open-air observation decks to shoot images from the speeding train.
This image was taken from the caboose of the train shortly after leaving Denali. The locomotive was chugging alongside a river bend in front of some of Denali's beautiful mountains. This is a train ride that I will never forget.
Continuing our adventures in Alaska, we visited Denali National Park on a pretty dreary day. While it didn't rain much, it was pretty raw out. Since we didn't have a car, we took a tour of the park hoping to see some wildlife. Even with a car, you can only drive as far as we did on the tour. To be able to go further into the park, you must arrange an expanded tour (wish we knew that going in). Unfortunately, while we did spot a few animals, they were mere specks in the distance. Despite the lack of wildlife and the gloominess of the weather, the scenery was outstanding. I was struck by the amount of open range in the park and how the mountain range contrasted with it. The clouds added to the gloomy mood. As I studied the scene, I was reminded of the words "...Purple Mountain Majesty..." in the song, America the Beautiful. It seemed to me that the words were inspired by these mountains.
After our overnight stay in Anchorage, we hopped on a bus for 3 hours to Mt McKinley Lodge. I was really looking forward to getting to the lodge because it looked like a nice day where we might have a chance to actually see Mt McKinley (the mountain is only visible 30% of the time). Even more exciting was that we had signed up for a Mt. McKinley Summit Flight that afternoon. We got to the lodge (yes, McKinley was visible), had lunch and hopped on a 45 minute bus ride to Talkeetna Airport (the lodge is pretty remote). On the way, my wife Carol muttered "I don't know why I agreed to do this" (she is not the best of flyers). When we got to the airport, we were assigned a small 10 seat airplane. She was assigned the co-pilot seat and was told not to touch anything (like she would have). I was alone in the second row and our friends were in the back row. To complicate things, it was raining and a fresh storm was approaching. Off we went anyway.
On the way to Mt McKinley, we soared above the Alaskan Range and this image was taken en-route to Mt McKinley. The majesty of this mountain range is something to see. It was pretty challenging to photograph from the plane. I kept getting the damn propeller in my shot and shooting through a small window at such high speed was a challenge. All-in-all, I do it again in a second but I'm pretty sure Carol won't.
The Canadian Rockies are filled with spectacular lakes, mountains and scenery. Whenever I visit Banff National Park, I make sure I get to the "Valley of the Ten Peaks" to shoot at Moraine Lake. The lake is glacially fed and when it is full, reflects a blue shade. There are boats available at the lake and there are numerous hiking trails. Early in the day it is extremely serene and you can feel one with nature. This particular morning, the sun was hitting the opposite shore resulting in a wonderful reflection. While I like to have clouds in my images to add depth and interest, I think that the beauty of the lake and its surrounding mountains speak for itself.
I try to visit the American Southwest as often as I can as the scenery is second to none. One area, the Grand Circle, boasts the largest concentration of national parks and monuments in the US. Located in the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, the Grand Circle is home to 12 national parks. Many of the parks are recognizable to everyone (Grand Canyon, Zion to name a couple) but there are a few that most people never heard of. One of those is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In fact, it only became a national park in 1999. The park is about 2 hours north of Durango, Colorado just outside of Montrose. To quote the National Park Service, "No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison." It is an extremely rugged landscape with the Gunnison River flowing at its depths. It is also a favorite destination of rock climbers.
We had driven about four and a half hours from Manitou Springs on our way to Montrose and reached the park pretty late in the day. The visitors center had just closed so we were left to ourselves to explore the 12 miles of scenic road in the park. The sun was beginning to set and the landscape was painted with shadows and light. It was a wonderful ending to a great day.
When I was planning last year's vacation to Yosemite National Park, the biggest challenge was how I was going to fit in all of the parts of the park that I wanted to photograph. Since I was the only photographer in the group and we were only there for three days, I had to be totally organized to make the best of our visit. Researching on the internet for the best locations to shoot proved to be extremely challenging. Not only are there are so many places to see and photograph in the park but knowing what time of day to shoot at each location was proving impossible. It was then I found the book "Photographing Yosemite Digital Field Guide" written by Lewis Kemper. I found the book to be exactly what I needed. Not only does the book outline tons of locations, it also provides photos from most of the locations as well as the best times to shoot. Armed with this guide, I found it easy to plan my short time in the park. I would highly recommend this book for anyone that is interested in shooting in Yosemite. You can buy the book on Amazon.com for $13.59. Note that I have no affiliation with the author.
This shot was taken from just after dawn from Sentinel Bridge (one of the locations noted in the book). It shows the Merced River going around the bend just past the bridge. While I was hoping for the golden glow of the sunrise, I wasn't too disappointed in the clouds as I think they add an air of drama against the rock formation.
In the heart of Banff National Park lies the beautiful turquoise colored Lake Louise. Located about 45 minutes from the town of Banff, it is a favorite destination for hikers, skiers, snowboarders and boaters. The lake is surrounded by numerous snow-capped mountains and the head of the Victoria Glacier. It also home to a five-star resort hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise (a Fairmont Hotel). We decided to spend a couple of days at the Chateau (really great hotel but a bit pricey) and used it as our home base to explore the surrounding attractions (Moraine Lake, Yoho National Park, The Icefields Parkway to name a few). One of the advantages of staying at the lake was the ability to roll out of bed before dawn and quickly set up the tripod for sunrise.
On this morning, there were very few people up and out and I was able to move freely around the lake to get whatever scene that I was interested in. I am always drawn to boats and the boat house spoke to me. The forest behind the boat house, it's reflection and the glow of the sunrise on the mountain made the moment one to remember.
One of my bucket list items is to visit and photograph all of the national parks in the United States. I have visited California many times and I never seemed to have enough time to visit Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. Both parks are contiguous with one another although a bit remote. When I planned our family vacation to Yosemite last year, I decided to finally visit them. Kings Canyon possesses the deepest canyons in North America amid the rugged Sierra Nevada. In fact, it's canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The park was virtually empty so we had the run of it. I am told that the crowds visit it's more famous neighbor to the north, Yosemite. That's a shame as the scenery, while not quite as well known, is still outstanding. To find out more about the park, see its NPS webpage.
As we were driving through the northern portion of the park, I noticed this lone tree on the side of a mountain. I wondered how long it has been there. I am sure it has endured years of storms; rain, snow and ice; and a climate that ranges from scorching heat to subzero temperatures. The conditions when I took this shot were not ideal: it was mid-day; the sun was shining brightly at a bad angle and it was extremely hot. I threw on a ND filter to cut down on the light. While I would have loved to capture it during the golden hours, I was still happy with the result.
One of my favorite places to photograph is in Yosemite National Park. It's rugged scenery contains memorable granite formations and has been attracting visitors since its discovery. The park itself is about the size of Rhode Island and contains hundreds of lakes; miles and miles of hiking trails; and two rivers. Located in the Sierra Nevada of California, it is about 4 hours from San Francisco. Walking in the footsteps of John Muir and Ansel Adams leaves you feeling like you are treading on hallowed ground. The best time to capture Yosemite Falls is very early morning before the crowds show up. This photo was shot at 5 am and as you can see, I was the only one out and around (except for a bear at the other end of the meadow). The day was a bit cloudy so the early morning sun was not to be seen. Nonetheless, the majesty of the falls can easily be seen.
The photo was taken from the Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop hiking trail.