Storm Pass (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Just off of Bear Lake Road on the way to the Bear Lake Parking area in Rocky Mountain National Park is a small, often overlooked viewpoint called Storm Pass. The parking lot holds about three cars but fortunately it isn’t usually too busy in the early morning hours so parking isn’t an issue. We were planning to hike to the top of Hallett Peak (the primary peak in this photograph) from the Bear Lake Trailhead just after sunrise so knowing this place was a relatively easy spot to stop and make some photos I chose this for my sunrise location.

Storm Pass (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sunrise on Hallett's Peak from Storm Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park

I captured this image in three separate frames – one for the ‘normal’, one for the dark and one for the lights – to capture the full dynamic range. In addition, I used a ten-stop ND filter in this image to blur the motion of the river flowing back towards the Mountain. I only took a few frames this morning as I didn’t want to be late for the hike as I was meeting a few people but this would definitely be a place I’d go back to again and spend some additional time exploring as the mountains are nicely framed by the trees in the foreground and the river provides another interesting element to lead the eye from the front of the frame to the back.

Zabriskie Point (Death Valley National Park)

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is noted for its unique landscape that was formed over 5 million years ago when this whole area was covered by a gigantic lake. A favorite spot for landscape photographers at sunrise while in Death Valley it is often extremely crowded before the sun comes up. I visited my first morning there and after exploring the rest of the park decided that would be my only day there. The constant doldrums of other photographers bemoaning the light (less than perfect), their gear (damn Canon hasn’t made any improvements in years), etc… ruined the experience for me. The rest of Death Valley I found to be an absolute delight because of the solitude – Zabriskie Point did not afford that luxury. So if you are like me and enjoy to work alone – check out some of the other spots throughout the park where the ability to disappear and be on your own is greater.

Zabriskie Point (Death Valley National Park)

Zabriskie Point Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point is a popular place among pop culture apparently – in doing my research before the trip I learned that it is a popular place to trip on acid, has represented the surface of Mars in Hollywood films, was the backdrop of the U2 Album Joshua Tree and is a soundtrack for a movie of the same name featuring Pink Floyd and Jerry Garcia…Fortunately, I saw no one tripping on acid during my hike throughout the area.

Early Morning Light on the Grand Canyon

It’s been awhile since I revisited my pictures from our trip to the Grand Canyon in 2012 but last week I saw a funny blurb on ‘The Funniest Bad Yelp Reviews of National Parks’ and it caused me to go back and take a look at some old images to see if there are any I may have missed over the past two years.

I came across this picture which was one of the last images I took while I was in the Grand Canyon – I headed out to Yaki Point for sunrise that morning and was treated to a really nice one. The majestic colors had come and gone but the sun was still low enough that it was painting light across the canyon and causing shadows to slowly work there way through the canyon. As I was waiting for the bus to come pick me up I was sitting on a rock watching the light and noticed the rays were strong and visible – hoping to pick them up I grabbed the camera and shot a few images at different tones of light.

Early Morning sun lights up the Grand Canyon

Early Morning Light in the Grand Canyon

Want to see what the original exposure of this image looked like? Here is a link to the ‘Before and After’ version of it. Quite an amazing improvement by capturing additional ranges of the light in the Canyon.

By the way the review from Yelp about the Grand Canyon was:

“As amazing as the views are it is really kind of boring. Every 500 ft a new vantage point of the same thing: a really big hole in the ground. Don’t get me wrong, the canyon is amazing. What would be better is a guided tour of the canyon from open-air view trams via a very long (much longer than exists) rim side roadway. What would also be nice is Segway rentals, but I know the reason why this isn’t done is because someone would inevitably drive off the edge of the canyon to their death.”

And because of that – the Grand Canyon only gets ‘one star’. I couldn’t agree with this reviewers assessment any less – each vantage point does provide a unique view of the canyon.

If you’ve made it this far – Thanks! But that isn’t why I put that here – I am starting to (finally) transition over to a new website and blog. If you clicked on the ‘Before/After’ link then you visited that new site. This is in ‘demo’ stage but it is coming together. Please take some time and click around – let me know what you think in the comments here. Thanks again for spending some time here today!

The Mighty Westerdam (Sitka, Alaska)

This was our home for the week that we were in Alaska, the MS Westerdam from Holland America that carried us from Seattle, Washington to Glacier Bay, Alaska and back again. Along the way we stopped in Juneau, Sitka, Keitchkan and Victoria (British Columbia). In Sitka we had to dock off shore and take the lifeboats to the town – from the shore I took this picture before we joined our group and went kayaking for the day.

MS Westerdam in Sitka, Alaska

MS Westerdam in Sitka Alaska

The MS Westerdam holds nearly 2,000 passengers and has a crew of over 800 – needless to say we were well taken care of while aboard the ship and with a ratio of 1:3 crew:people we rarely had to wait for anything. It really was a wonderful experience. Heading into it I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy cruising but for the most part I thought it was a great way to travel – especially for a large group of nine with very diverse ideas of what activities are ‘fun’. It allowed us to each go our own separate ways during the day and then re-convene at night for dinner, drinks and games of some sort (Cards Against Humanity was awesome – if not inappropriate for the others on the cruise who had to sit by us as we laughed and laughed and laughed).

The Streets of Florence, Italy

Stepping out onto the streets of Italy sipping a delicious cappuccino and flaky pastry we headed to the church (Florence Cathedral aka Duomo di Firenze) and the joined the queue to take the steps to the top for the spectacular views of the city streets. The narrow cobbled streets form a maze of old, family owned bakeries, coffee shops and the more upscale shopping districts that Florence is known for.

The Streets of Florence, Italy

View from the Top of the Duomo in Florence Italy

The view from the top of the Duomo in Florence, Italy provides a wonderful view of the historic, twisted streets below. The Cathedral sits in the center of it all and is one of the most visited landmarks in Italy. Built in the Byzantine style it stands out from the more traditional/Gothic architecture that other Italian churches are often known for.

Nature’s Frame (Garden of the Gods)

An easy 1-mile round trip trail in the Garden of the Gods State Park near Colorado Springs, Colorado leads to the well known rock formation – Siamese Twins. A popular hike, as the trail is well maintained, so you are likely to encounter a fair amount of people (and pets) on the trail to and from the formation. In the distance is one of the iconic peaks of the Colorado Rockies – Pike’s Peak. Pike’s Peak stands at over 14,000 feet (one of 52 peaks in Colorado to reach that height) but is pretty accessible to most of the public via a 13-mile (one way) hiking trail (called the Barr Trail) which also contributes to how dangerous it is. Gaining nearly 8,000 feet in elevation it is exposed to lightning throughout much of the trip up and down. Often, as I saw when I hiked to the top of Hallet’s Peak in August, storms come out of nowhere in the summer months in the mountains. A cloudless morning can quickly turn into a heavy storm by 11 AM and most hikers are not aware of the dangers that an exposed peak brings as there is no cover from deadly lightning strikes.

Nature’s Frame (Garden of the Gods)

Long's Peak through a Natural Frame (Garden of the Gods)

Mount Rundle in the Pre-Dawn Light (Banff National Park)

The third Vermillion Lake in Banff National Park is a favorite of landscape photographers looking to get reflection shots of Mount Rundle at either sunrise or sunset. This lake is slightly deeper than the other two lakes that precede this one on the Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive and as a result it usually looks pretty good in pictures and produces nice reflections when the weather is calm. Every time, and more importantly every season, I’m in Banff this is a spot where reflections are pretty much guaranteed. This location is a couple hundred yards up the road from the main dock of the third Vermillion Lake where many photographers stop to take pictures. Since I’ve been to this location so many times in the past I try to find new vantage points and this area wasn’t as obvious as the dock area – it is a little more hidden, but easily accessible. Essentially, you follow the lake up the road for a hundred yards or so, up a little hill and then around a slight bend about a hundred yards before reaching this clearing. There is a shore area that provides nice views of the peaks, the marsh across the way and then allows for a nice reflection in the water.

Mount Rundle in the Pre-Dawn Light (Banff National Park)

Mount Rundle Vermillion Lakes Banff National Park Sunrise