Alaskan Cove

The weather on the edges of the day in Alaska tended to be overcast which meant the many mornings I woke up early to catch ‘perfect’ light didn’t turn into the images I envisioned. A good thing though was that on many of those mornings we were close to a shoreline which provided interesting landscapes to shoot at which is better than being out at sea with nothing but bay around you.

I forget which morning this was but as we sailed the Alaskan Coast I noticed a little cove tucked away with shorter jagged peaks in the distance. The low hanging clouds provided another interesting element that I could use to add some interest to the image. Given that the light was subpar I decided to post-process as a black & white image which made the clouds pop out a little more.

Alaskan Cove

Alaskan Cove Alaska

No Fishing (Caye Caulker, Belize)

I walked the beach in Belize to catch the sunrise a few mornings that we were in Caye Caulker. Unfortunately, this was the only morning the clouds allowed the sunrise to actually be photographed – but it was a really nice sunrise.

No Fishing (Caye Caulker, Belize)

Sunrise in Belize

Sunrise at Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

By far the most popular spot for sunrise in all of Banff National Park is Lake Louise and it is easy to see why as the scene that unfolds when light first hits the peaks across the lake it is pure magic. Banff is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet and I’m sure that anyone else who has been there will agree that Lake Louise is one of the many jewels that the national park has to offer. The one thing that detracts from this particular spot are the crowds and photo tour groups bus people in at the pre-dawn hours in an effort to get this iconic shot. Therefore, you need to get there early to pick out your spot – I arrived about an hour before the ‘sunrise time’ and there were already a dozen or so people setup in their spots. I also like to move around and get different viewpoints/foreground items and that is one thing you really cannot do at Lake Louise because enviably someone has already setup in that other spot you had in mind. Still if you are in Banff National Park this is one sunrise location that cannot be missed – plus, if you have the money to stay at the Fairmont Lake Louise ($500+ a night) you can walk out in your pajamas and snap away (plenty of folks were still in their slippers).

Sunrise at Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

Sunrise at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

I will complement the other photographers though for their good manners – for the most part it was complete silence with the exception of the snapping shutters and sounds of autofocusing lenses. Occasionally, a whisper could be heard but there were not any obnoxious people so it wound up being a very relaxing morning before I drove back to Calgary to meet with my client. I will never tire of Banff and I envy those who are able to have this scenery in their backyard.

Here are a few other photos I’ve taken at Lake Louise and posted here in the past – sunrises in the winter are much less crowded (and infrequent with the clouds) but they can be pretty as well. I took the one below from a bridge that goes over a small stream that flows from Lake Louise. This is the one place you can find open water in the winter since the lake freezes over and they setup a skating rink and of course a hockey rink!

Winter Sunrise on Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

Winter sunrise on Lake Louise Banff National Park

Hockey on Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

Hockey on Lake Louise Banff National Park

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).