My favorite lighthouse in Maine is undoubtedly Pemaquid Point Light and its famous puddle reflection. Many people have asked if that puddle is real and did I Photoshop a reflection in it. I can state unequivocally that the puddle is there year round (or at least over the course of my 15+ visits). The puddle may be bigger or smaller on each visit depending on the weather. The better question to ask is "Was the wind blowing?" That question is easily answered in that, if there is any decent wind, there will be no reflection. On this trip, I visited the puddle in the late afternoon and the wind was pretty steady. While I got some reflections, the ripples made it barely recognizable. Fortunately, I visited Pemaquid the next day at sunrise. After shooting from the front and the other side, I revisited the puddle, even though the wind was blowing. With a little patience, the wind died off periodically in order to get some still reflection shots.
I am missing Florida already and it has been less than a week since landing in Connecticut. We got about 10 inches of snow on Sunday night and I wish we never came home. It was 82° when we left Sanibel and it was in the teens last night. Needing some memories of the warm weather, I found this photo from a couple of years ago of what it looked like. Next year, we will try to stay well into March before heading home.
The Rockies are my favorite place to visit and the beauty that you see in photos, videos and movies do not do it justice. I wish I could explore their entire length, but due to money and time constraints, I have to pick the best places along the range. Johnson Lake is one of the lesser known bodies of water in Banff National Park. Most people visit Two Jack Lake, which is nearby, but I have had some great experiences here and make sure that I stop to visit. As you can see, the light was great and the water was glass-like, allowing for some terrific reflections.
I have been in Florida most of February, and returning to Connecticut on Wednesday was traumatic as winter is still here. A lot of the time, I was at the beach and it was very relaxing, although I missed being in the mountains. There are so many places in the western US that are simply beautiful that I had to find a photo of one of them to post. I came across this photo that I took when I was in Colorado a couple of years ago on a photo tour with Rick Louie and Chris Nitz. Talk about a beautiful location. We had headed out from Telluride and headed through and over the San Juan Mountains. We stopped at the top of Ophir Pass and this view just captivated me as the foliage was peaking. It was just one of the many amazing scenes that we saw that day. After crossing the San Juans, we jumped on the Million Dollar Highway (It is aptly named) for further exploration.
Just got back last night from a 3 week trip to Florida. As I wasn’t in the mood to write up a description, I took the easy way out and copied the following from Wikipedia.
“Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major 1980 eruption, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche triggered by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale caused an eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft, leaving a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles in volume. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to preserve the volcano and allow for the eruption's aftermath to be scientifically studied.
As with most other volcanoes in the Cascade Range, Mount St. Helens is a large eruptive cone consisting of lava rock interlayered with ash, pumice, and other deposits. The mountain includes layers of basalt and andesite through which several domes of dacite lava have erupted. The largest of the dacite domes formed the previous summit, and off its northern flank sat the smaller Goat Rocks dome. Both were destroyed in the 1980 eruption.
Some of 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 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.
Many of the visitors to Yosemite National Park enter the park from its western entrance, as it is the closest to the major California cities. The western part of the park is also home to the famed Yosemite Valley, where many of the major attractions are located. Many visitors stay in the valley and never travel to the eastern side of the park. That is a shame as there is a lot to see and it has a unique beauty of its own. To drive from the valley to the town of Lee Vining (home to the famed Mono Lake), the only choice of roads is Tioga Road. The trip is about 75 miles one way and the road peaks at nearly 10,000 feet at the Tioga Pass. This is one of the most scenic drives in America and is only open in season, which is generally late May to October, depending on snow. We left around noon to explore Tioga Road, making stops along the way and ultimately having dinner in Lee Vining. When we left town, it was approaching sunset and the light was phenomenal. Along the way, we stopped along the road to take this image. I highly recommend taking this road the next time you are in Yosemite.
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.
Glacier Point is one of my favorite spots in Yosemite National Park. One reason is that it provides what I consider the best view of Half Dome. Another reason is that from the two sides of the point you can either view the valley floor to one side or spot the waterfalls from the other side. A lot of visitors don't make it up to Glacier Point because it is not obvious where it is located. The point is visible from the valley if you are near the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Just look straight up. Just above 7,200 feet from where you are standing is the point. There are two ways to get to the point. The easy way is to take a 32-mile drive out of the valley going around the many granite formations, ending up in the parking lot. The hard way is to hike up the 4.6-mile trail (incorrectly named "Four Mile Trail) which ascends the 3,200 feet before reaching the point. I haven't hiked up the trail but I have hiked down it which wasn't easy. I can't imagine how challenging going up would be.
Want to experience Utah in all of its rugged beauty? Try taking the 18-mile long Shafer Trail Road / Shafer Canyon Road through some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions. The trip starts easy enough out of Moab along the well-paved Potash Road that parallels the Colorado River. About 17 miles later, the paved road changes into a rugged dirt road,,where signs recommend a four wheel vehicle with high clearance. The fun begins here. Deep ruts and soft sand patches are the chief features of the road. The surrounding landscape is spectacular. Over the course of the drive, you drive well above the Colorado River and about 10 miles in, you are between Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park. The final stretch of the road is pictured here, with a 1,500 foot climb from canyon to the top of the plateau where I captured this photo.
The ruggedness of Death Valley is often described as a story of the harsh heat of desert sands that have reached temperatures of above 130° Fahrenheit. That is only part of Death Valley’s story. There are an amazing number of rock formations that are on display that were formed by water erosion. That’s right, water erosion in a desert. At one time, there was not a valley there but rather ancient seas. As the seas dried up and mountains began to rise, the water began carving the rock into an intricate design. It’s almost like an artist painting a work of art over thousands of centuries. While the painting will continue, it is a beautiful one to experience. The beauty of it is exposed during the early morning or late evening light, when each crack and crevice is exposed with the interplay of light and shadow.
One of my favorite compositional tendencies is to take advantage of all of the lines in a scene. I really loved the mix of straight and curved lines in this scene and how they interplay with the buildings in the background. I think that our favorite photos are often not the ones that are perfect, but ones that evoke feelings we had when we took them. I remember walking the streets of Vancouver on the night before we were headed home, and the light was simply beautiful. Everyone else headed in for the night. but I was really in a zone and shot until dark. I knew that I had some winners to look at when I got home. When I was going through my Lightroom catalog, I happened upon this image, which brought back the same feelings.
One of the most iconic and most challenging images to capture of the American Southwest is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Why is it so challenging? It is not because it is difficult to find or get to. It is really all about its popularity with photographers; getting "the" shot during a small window of time (sunrise); and a very small area for photographers to get a good position. In fact, there may be space for only 10-12 people, and there are some that camp out overnight to get a prime spot. So, even when you get up well before sunrise, drive 45 minutes from Moab and hike to its location, you may well be totally shut out.
Once you get your spot, it is like you are glued to it. There is nowhere to move, as the second you do, the spot has been taken by someone else. Your choices are to (1) shoot many of the same shots as the sun rises above the horizon until it clears the top of the arch or (2) make sure that you shoot at different focal lengths that allow you to zoom in and out to the scene. For this photo, I zoomed into the scene in order to create a tighter look at the arch. It’s shape resembles an eye with the sun taking on the role of a waking eyeball.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, located near Page, Arizona, is one of the world's highest natural bridges with a height of 290 feet. It is almost as long as it is high with a length of 270 feet. Rainbow Bridge was known by Native Americans who have long held the bridge sacred as a symbol of the deities responsible for creating clouds, rainbows and rain--the essence of life in the desert. They named the bridge "Nonnezoshe" or "rainbow turned to stone." One of the natural wonders of the world, the bridge was formed by erosion of the sandstone by water flowing from Navajo Mountain towards the Colorado River. Rainbow Bridge can be reached by a two-hour boat ride on Lake Powell from either of two marinas near Page. After a wonderfully scenic ride on the lake, boats drop you off at the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon and, to reach the bridge, there is a short mile-long walk. The only other alternative is to hike several hours from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell, but that requires a permit from the Navajo Nation.
When planning for photographing the bridge, I realized that I would not be able to shoot it in great light as the earliest boat reaches it at almost 10 am. For those of you that have seen images of the bridge and it's reflection in the water, it is not possible to capture. One of the Park Rangers told me that due to the low water levels on the lake, the last time water flowed through the arch was almost 20 years ago. Regardless of the not perfect light and lack of water, the bridge is still an impressive subject.
There are plenty of barns in the Palouse that one could capture on digital film. Of all of the ones I have shot, this one is one of my favorites. Why? I love red barns. There is something about how the red stands out against the blue sky and green crops that make photos pop. Red is a very popular color for barns and came about by accident. According to the Farmers Almanac, hundreds of years ago farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but also ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, it was very effective as a sealant. It turned the mixture red in color. The morning I shot this photo was before co-hosting a Palouse tour with Jeff Clow. Jeff and I were the only ones there and it was a beautiful serene morning. I noticed the moon shining in the sky and made sure it was included in my composition.
The 167-mile long Icefields Parkway is filled with mountain bliss. While the Bow River does not flow the full length of the parkway, there are still miles and miles that the river can be seen with the majestic Canadian Rockies as a backdrop. There are so many spots to photograph from, it is hard to remember where each photo was taken. When I came to this photo, I had no GPS information to help me figure out where it was but that isn’t a prerequisite to post some of the best scenery that you can find in Banff National Park.
Boulder Beach is my favorite sunrise location in Acadia National Park. Getting there takes a little work and an ability to walk on unsteady footing. After scrambling down a steep incline, you are faced with walking on these round boulders that can be tricky to stay upright on (I have taken a spill in the past). The challenge is not only walking on rounded rocks, but also not knowing which ones are loose and which ones are slick from being wet. Despite these challenges, the payoff is worth it. I have shot from this location many times, and it is hard to get new compositions, especially when there are lots of photographers already staked out. For this photo, I decided to capture a small section the the boulders and slowed down the motion of the waves.
The best way to see Monument Valley is to hire a Navajo guide, which enables you to see parts of the valley that you cannot see on the 17-mile road semi-public road. The guides are not inexpensive but are well worth it for their local knowledge, stories of the Navajo culture and even playing musical instruments and singing Navajo songs. If you cannot afford to hire a guide, you can still see wonderful scenery as well as all of it's famous landmarks for a $10 per person or $20 per vehicle entrance fee. This fee allows you to drive a 17-mile dirt road that winds throughout the park. It is a fabulous drive and I recommend doing it at least twice - early morning and evening. The light is so different at these times that the formations take on very different looks. This image of the world-famous East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte was actually taken from the visitors center in the early evening (no fee for this view). The dirt road can be seen below as well as the shadows of the visitor center. I left the car on the road to give the image scale - those buttes are really huge.
The sea stacks at Myers Creek, just south of Gold Beach are symbolic of the nature of the Oregon Coast. I remember the first time that I laid eyes on them as I was driving toward the southernmost point on the Oregon Coast. As I was coming down an incline in the road, it curved toward the ocean and I saw one of the most amazing stretches of road that I had ever seen. My first thought was that I could spend all day photographing all of the monolithic sea stacks in the ever-changing light. The sea stacks cover about a mile of beach and there are endless compositions. My favorite time to shoot there is in evening light with the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. This is not a sunrise location, as the bluffs adjacent to the ocean are pretty high and the sun has to clear them before they light up. That gives landscape photographers like me an advantage over other locations as we can sleep in. On this particular morning, I headed to the southern part of the sea stacks and waited for the sun to peek above the bluffs. Not a bad way to spend a morning.
During my hiatus from my blog and social media, I decided to change my editing software from Lightroom to ON1 Photo RAW. As part of that change, I decided that I was going to go through my entire photo library and really cull through them. As of today, I have been though about a third of my photos (about 30,000 photos) so far. It will probably take the rest of this year as I am doing a little at a time. One of the benefits of this tedious process is to revisit all of the great places I have been and maybe reprocess a few with different looks. This photo of the walkway underneath Fort Jefferson is one of my favorite photos. I thought that it would be a great subject to process in Black and White.