The Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

The “Bridge of Sighs” located in Venice, Italy passes over the Rio de Palazzo canal and connects the ‘New Prison’ with the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace (The Doge of Venice is the leading authority in the city of Venice).

Built in 1600, the view from this spot (on the covered bridge) was the last glimpse of Venice that the convicts saw before their imprisonment (likely for the remainder of their lives). Thus, as criminals were led over the bridge they’d peer through the barred windows at this view of the Rio de Palazzo leading out to the Grand Canal and regret the actions they’d taken that led to this point of their lives – sighing as they made their way into the cells.

The Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

The view from the Bridge of Sighs (Venice, Italy)

Couples in Venice can often be found riding in gondolas under this bridge and kissing directly underneath it. Local legend (perhaps made up by the gondola industry? Which in my humble opinion is very overpriced) states that couples will be granted eternal bliss with a well-timed kiss at sunset under the bridge.

White Thunder (Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska)

Glacier Bay National Park was established in December 1980 to allow scientists to study the speed of glacial retreat that was ongoing in years leading up to its designation. Since the ’80s the pace of retreat has only increased and there are concerns that at some point the glaciers may disappear from Alaska completely.

One of the main attractions of the visit to Glacier Bay National Park in the spring and summer months is the possibility of hearing ‘white thunder’. ‘White thunder’ is sound of the calving glaciers (when a piece breaks off) that hit the water and sound like a cannon shot echoing off the landscape around it. The trick with trying to photograph it is that you hear the sound after the iceberg has already calved so if you chase the noise you are going to miss the impact. In this picture I focused on one area of the giant glacier, zoomed in tight and patiently waited/hoped for a piece to break loose. I got lucky and was able to capture the moment the iceberg hit the water and created a mini-explosion.

White Thunder – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

White Thunder (Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska)

Grinnell Point (Glacier National Park)

Located in the Many Glacier Region of Glacier National Park is Swiftcurrent Lake which is dominated by Mount Grinnell directly across the most easily accessible shore. A favorite place for sunrise amongst photographers it is often packed. Their is a lodge nearby which in the summer months is open early for coffee which is a welcome treat when you are standing on the shoreline awaiting those first rays of sun.

The sunrise disappointed in the morning but I popped my ten-stop ND filter on and took some longer exposure shots to get the motion of the big, puffy and fast moving clouds in the sky.

Grinnell Point (Glacier National Park)

Grinnell Point (Glacier National Park)

This was a twenty second exposure which captured the movement in the sky but smoothed the waves in the lake making it seem incredibly smooth.

Red Canoe on Lake Moraine (Banff National Park)

One of the most iconic locations for landscape photography is Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I’m fortunate to go there a few times a year for work and I always look forward to the summer months when Lake Moraine is accessible without an eight mile snowshoe from where they close the road in the winter and spring months. Lake Moraine is perhaps the most well known location in Banff and when people think about Banff the image that probably pops into their head is the iconic view from the rockpile looking out at the ten peaks that reflect in the turquoise blue glacial water.

Red Canoe on Lake Moraine (Banff National Park)

Red Canoe on Lake Moraine (Banff National Park)

I spent some time during my last visit in August – I went in December as well but timing just wouldn’t allow me to spend any days in Banff – walking the shoreline and tried to make a compelling image with the canoes in the foreground. I probably stood in this spot or similar for twenty minutes and maybe shot thirty or forty different compositions before I finally hit on this one that I liked the best. The red canoe seemed to pop and it was running parallel with the shoreline in the distance so I thought it provided nice symmetry for the image. Additionally, all of the other canoes and the shoreline in the distance seem to be pointing out towards the peaks in the distance so it kind of naturally leads the eye back towards the main focal point of the image.

Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

On a perfectly clear night in Rocky Mountain National Park I hiked to my favorite location in the entire park – Dream Lake. Lying about a mile and a half from the Bear Lake trailhead it is a relatively easy hike but in the depths of winter it takes a little more effort with several feet of snow to deal with. Luckily for me the snowfall has been light and the trail was well compacted so I was able to hike up to the lake fairly easily (although I did experience altitude sickness the next day for the first time – not very pleasant) to catch the starry night over Dream Lake.

Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

My new camera – Nikon D750 – allows me to more easily capture starry nights because it performs better in low light situations. I haven’t shot a ton of photography at night but I learned alot during this last session about what makes a good starry night photograph:

1) Shoot with the widest angle lens you have (I used the Nikon 16 – 35 mm)
2) Shoot at the lowest aperture possible (My lens was only a f/4.0 – typically you should use something f/2.8 or below but I don’t own one and they tend to cost alot more)
Note: If your lens has any type of ‘vibration reduction’ you’ll want to turn that off
3) Unless you want to have movement in the stars you will want to keep the exposure time to less than 20 seconds; Star trails are cool too but not if they are unintentionally
4) Shoot at a high ISO level (I started at 800 and eventually moved to 6400 in order to get the exposure less than 20 seconds)
5) Use a sturdy tripod because the camera will be sitting there for a while so you won’t be able to handhold it
6) If your camera has a remote – you’ll want to use it in order to minimize camera shake; Also, if your camera has ‘mirror lockup’ mode or ‘delayed exposure’ you can use that to move the mirror out of the way and limit camera shake

This image is really clean and I shot it at ISO 6400 with an exposure time of 17 seconds. I used Nik Software Define 2 to rid the photograph of some minor noise and then did some additional processing in Adobe Lightroom to make the stars pop. The moon was rising right behind Hallet’s Peak so it makes the light slightly more concentrated behind the mountain as if it is being spotlighted.

Rocks of Love (Caye Caulker, Belize)

During our vacation last year in Caye Caulker, Belize we went snorkeling and came across this assortment of shells in the Caribbean waters. I thought it was appropriate for a post-Valentine’s Day post since I was unable to get much service while out west doing some hiking/photographing.

Rocks of Love – Caye Caulker, Belize

Rocks of Love (Caye Caulker, Belize)

Brown Pelican (Cape Coral, Florida)

I don’t take a lot of wildlife pictures and I’m sure more often than not there are birds, elk, other animals right in front of my face when I’m out roaming around throughout the year. However, every now and then an opportunity presents itself and you have to take a few pictures. We were walking around in Cape Coral, Florida when several brown pelicans started diving for fish. It isn’t the most glorious animal but I think I got a nice shot of him in flight as he sought out his prey beneath the surface.

Brown Pelican – Cape Coral, Florida

Brown Pelican (Cape Coral, Florida)

If you weren’t aware all US National Parks are free starting tomorrow and through President’s Day on Monday (February 16th) so if there is a park near your house that you’ve thought about trying out but didn’t want to pay the entrance fee now is your chance! Get out there and take in the beauty of America – we live in such a beautiful place and are fortunate to do so. I wish I was closer to the western half of the country though – the midwest in Chicago is so flat :(. Fortunately, my work brings me out that way a few times a year and I get to leverage that into weekends in the mountains. It is what keeps me sane!

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

– Ray Bradbury