Sprawling City of LA (Los Angeles, CA)

I’m always amazed when I go to LA and everything is so spread out – in comparison to the downtown districts that I’m more familiar with (Detroit, Denver, Dallas, etc…) it seems that everything in LA that a person would need financial institutions, commercial districts and places of cultural/historical/sightseeing significance are miles apart from each other. It reminds me a lot of sightseeing in Rome or London where you need to go across the entire city to see two different items of interest. Although both of those European cities have reliable mass transit systems – unlike in LA where it is just a constant traffic jam! No matter what time of day or day of the week the speed on the freeways seems to be at a crawl.

Sprawling City of LA (Los Angeles, CA)

Sprawling City of LA (Los Angeles, CA)

The Mulholland Drive overlook several miles (and a world away) from the downtown Los Angeles area provides the best overlook of what can probably be considered the ‘business district’ although I’ve had plenty of other meetings in areas nowhere near those buildings which are still in ‘Los Angeles’.

Having Tea at Greenfield Village

The Cotswald Cottage at Greenfield Village is an english teahouse experience translated to Southeast Michigan. Guests are invited to a ‘traditional’ tea experience featuring tea, finger sandwiches and other snacks. It’s a nice relaxing time and good place to stop during your exploration of the village…plus you can get iced tea in place of hot tea since they serve only in the summer. The village in general due to being outside doesn’t get a lot of traffic in the winter.

Cotswald Cottage – Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Michigan)

Cotswald Cottage - Greenfield Village Dearborn Michigan

Off to Alaska tomorrow! Woo Hoo!!

Shark Week – Belize

We went snorkeling during our last vacation in Belize. During the trip we were approached by a school of sharks (nurse sharks – but still sharks!) who swam with us for a bit. I think they were interested in possibly getting some food as some tourists will bring something to chum the water with. We didn’t do that….for the most part nurse sharks are harmless so it isn’t like we were going to be approached by a great white or anything.

Sharkweek – Belize

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It’s been a really busy week getting ready to spend the end of August in Alaska….It is really hard to pack for Alaska in the summer. It’s supposed to be near 80 in Seattle where we will spend the first few days and then it will be in the 40s up in Alaska at night. No complaints though – looking forward to a good time spent with the family.

Lake Helene at Sunrise

Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most picturesque locations I’ve ever been too. At the base of Notchtop Mountain and located 3 1/4 miles from the Bear Lake Road Trailhead with 1,300 feet of elevation change it is not a hike/photography expedition for the faint of heart. However, that isolation and the dedication it takes to role your ass out of bed in the morning to get here early make it a place that isn’t photographed too frequently and a location where isolation and being alone while photographing are almost guaranteed. There is a reason I prefer sunrise to sunset and the isolation/peacefulness of sunrise is a big reason for that.

My goal was to get to Lake Helene at 5:30 for the 6 AM sunrise which would give me some time to find a good foreground for the shot. I had to wake up at 2:45 to ensure that I could be in position to make the sunrise and I arrived at the trailhead at 4…hiking at about a mile every half hour I was in the proximity of the Lake by 5:30. Unfortunately, I missed a turn so where along the way and found myself hiking downhill into the Odessa Gorge region. This is where the scouting trip on Friday paid off huge – sometimes we fail to get out and scout the location but in this instance where the Lake Helene trail isn’t marked (at least the spur that takes you to the lake) it is imperative to make sure you have an idea of where you are going or you will wind up lost running around at 5:30 AM trying to find a ‘needle in a haystack’. Ultimately, after some backtracking up the stream that feeds from the lake I was able to work my way back to the lake. Without the scouting trip I would have just kept going down into the Gorge and may not have had a chance to capture this magnificent reflection!

Lake Helene Reflection – Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Helene Reflection Rocky Mountain National Park

For some reason I am still awake at nearly midnight so I’m approaching 24 hours of being awake! I did powernap (ten minutes during taxiing) on the plane back from Denver but other than that I’ve been wide awake – the rush of the outdoors! Photography invigorates me and being out in the mountains is inspirational.

I got a LOT of good pictures this weekend as the weather – nice sunrises and stormy skies during midday followed by decent sunsets so expect a healthy dosage of Rocky Mountain National Park shots over the next few weeks.

Highway 190 (Death Valley National Park)

After a client meeting in Denver I spent the weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was action packed and outside of taking sunrise/sunset pictures and hiking (reached my first summit – more to post with pictures later) I had very little time to do anything else. This morning I woke up at 2:45 and I was at the trail head at 3:45 setting off on a hike to Lake Helene for sunrise. It’s one of the best places in Rocky Mountain National Park to photograph at sunrise…the only problem is it is 3.5 miles from the trailhead and 1300 feet up hill. I hustled and made it to the lake around 5:30 – when sunrise struck at 6:09 AM it was nothing short of spectacular. The lake was calm at times which should allow for some nice mirror like reflections as well. As I sit here in the Denver airport scrolling through the pictures on my camera it looks like absolute perfection! Can’t wait to get home and get them set up on my computer so I can start posting some of them.

Highway 190 – Death Valley National Park

Highway 190 - Death Valley National Park

Earlier this year I was in Death Valley National Park which is 300 feet below sea level…flash forward to yesterday and I was 12,800 feet ABOVE sea level at the summit of Hallett Peak. It was an amazing hike! The image above (Highway 190) is the main highway in Death Valley National Park. The barren, dessert terrain looks completely desolate compared with the backdrop of Rocky Mountain National Park. Both places have their charm and driving along this highway leaving Death Valley in January I was really impressed with the variety of photo opportunities. Salt basins, straight as an arrow highways, sand dunes and distant mountain peaks…I can understand how some people say Death Valley is one of their favorites. However, as I am readying to leave the Colorado Rockies (this is just my opinion) Death Valley just didn’t compare to the variety that RMNP offers.

Misty Morning in Banff

It was a really cold winter in Chicago but I don’t know that I’ve ever been colder than when I was in Banff this past March and went out to take sunrise pictures. The Vermillion Lakes area of Banff is pretty unique in that the third lake rarely freezes because it is fed by a nearby hot spring so the temperatures need to drop pretty drastically for the water to freeze. This makes it fun for photographing regardless of the time of year because there is always the chance that you will be able to see get a reflection of the mountains in the distance. I’ve accomplished this type of shot many times in cold weather but this particular morning it wasn’t meant to be.

There was a heavy snow the night before and the clouds still hadn’t really lifted above the mountains. Additionally, the drop in temperature the previous night led to the third lake freezing over in spots which would have prevented the reflection. There were a couple of geese on this morning that swooped in to keep me company though. They were swimming in the ‘warm’ water where the hot spring feeds into the lake and due to the wide difference in temperature between the water and the air a big layer of fog/mist built up in front of the trees. In the far distance you can see one of the mountain ranges with its peaks shrouded in clouds….One day I’ll get blessed with good light in Banff. Next month I’ll be doing the drive to Jasper after spending a night or two in the Lake Louise area. I’m hoping to get some magical light over top of Lake Moraine. Fingers crossed!

Misty Morning in Banff

Misty Morning in Banff National Park

The Blues of Venice

The only morning in Venice, Italy that I got up to take pictures at sunrise there was a little bit of light rain in the morning and the overcast sky blocked the nice colors of the sunrise that are on display in the distance. Across the grand canal on the opposite bank lies the San Giorgio Maggiore Church (which we did not have the opportunity to visit) which was famously painted by Monet (picture linked here) at dusk and sunset from a similar spot as this photograph. Monet felt that Venice was too beautiful to be painted and thus many of his paintings of Venice remained unfinished presumably because he didn’t think they captured the beauty as good as he hoped.

The Blue Hues of Venice – Venice, Italy

The Blues of Venice Italy

Monet is partly right too as being there in the moment is a much more magical experience. However, I like the motion of the boats in the water and the pink hues from the sunrise on the horizon. It adds a little sense of magic to the image.