Lodgepole Road – Banff National Park

The Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) through Banff National Park is one of the most popular drives in the world – and for good reason. Whereas the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) will get you between the town of Banff and Lake Louise faster you won’t get the full on Banff experience that the Bow Valley Parkway provides. The road carries on for around 70 kilometers or so and there are plenty of places to stop along the way get out of your car and take some amazing pictures. There is an article in this month’s Outdoor Photographer magazine that talks about how many of the best shots are found just steps away from parking lots or roadside turnouts in the National Park system. The people who designed those roads did so for a reason – and they knew where the best views in the park are so trust them. Of course it is always beneficial to move around a bit and its nice to find some solitude by taking an early morning hike but if health or physical reasons prevent you from doing so it shouldn’t discourage you from getting out there and finding beautiful scenery to shoot. The world is an amazing place!

Lodgepole Road – Banff National Park

Lodgepole Road - Banff National Park

While most of Bow Valley Parkway twists through various meadows, rivers and lakes there is one section of it – Lodgepole Road – 10 km north of my favorite spot (Castle Mountain Junction) where the road becomes arrow straight for several kilometers. The trees also tend to be arrow straight so the composition comes together nicely. In this instance I just hopped out of the car, set my tripod up took a few different bracketed exposures and then carried on my way. Given, that the day was largely overcast (I was out seeking rivers and waterfalls to shoot) I knew that I’d process the photo using black and white so that I wouldn’t have to worry about not having optimal light. Ultimately, I’m very pleased with how the photo came out.

A Peaceful Morning in Banff

The terrible flooding that is ongoing in Calgary is saddening. From what I’ve read 75,000 have been forced from their homes and at least three people have been killed as a result of all the rain they’ve received in the past few weeks. A few weeks ago there was an outside chance that I was going to be in Calgary from June 20th – 24th for work and then a few days up in Banff. That fell through and the trip hasn’t been rescheduled but thinking now with all the potential power issues that they may have (talking potentially months without a full restoration of power) that it could be a while before I’m back there for work. I wish all those battling and fighting the floods well and hope the rain holds off for a few more weeks and lets the people get back on their feet.

Photo of the Day – Lack of Sunshine

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This was one of my mornings in Banff – you can see the low clouds in the distance covering the mountain in front of me – which means there wasn’t much of any color in the sky. Still determined to make the most of my time there I looked for some angles that could make good compositions for black and white images. The sky itself was just basically plain grey so I minimized having that in the frame to the extent I could and rather focused on the rocks and dead tree stump in the foreground.

Amazing Experience in the Colorado Rockies

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.

– Leonardo Da Vinci

I took this several weeks ago while snowshoeing in the Colorado Rockies in RMNP. We were hiking to black lake (unfortunately the snow got too deep and with limited time we never made it) and came upon this frozen lake in the shadow of a very impressive and menacing mountain in the distance. The sky was clear so the ‘clouds’ above the mountains are not actually clouds but snow blowing off the tops of the mountains in the distance. The temps were in the single digits and the lake provided a nice flat area for the wind to whip across unobstructed.

Photo of the Day – Cold Mountain

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It was bone chillingly cold but I would never trade in this day because the weather made it that much better. I was awfully tired but at the end of the day I slept well knowing I was able to experience something many dream off. I’ve been very blessed to travel the way I do and while there are frustrations the good outweighs the bad nine-to-one. This was a very long day that started with a four AM wake up call in Estes Park and ended with a drinks on a balcony in Longboat Key, Florida but one that added to my life being spent well and in death I hope to be satisfied with my journey.

Stranded in Detroit

Not the worst place for me to be stranded since my family does live here and I was able to have a nice dinner with them, play some board games and now stay (for free) at my sister’s place near the airport so that I can get to the airport tomorrow for my (hopefully) departing flight to Chicago. It’s never a ‘treat’ to get stranded but of all the places to be stuck in Detroit is my first choice because of the family connections. The cancellations today were due to winter weather across the midwest and I saw some pretty ugly behavior at the airport today and I really don’t get it. Would people prefer to get on a plane, get in the air and crash? I mean we don’t like to drive in this so imagine a pilot trying to take off, fly and then land a multi-ton aircraft going hundreds of miles per hour in this stuff. It is never convenient, it is never fun but it comes with flying and I’m much happier not getting onto a plane in less than ideal flying conditions. I’ll head back to the airport tomorrow and try again, my patience might be a little thinner but I won’t take it out on the gate agents or anyone at the airport because it isn’t their fault. They don’t control the weather and don’t make the decisions on what is appropriate, or isn’t, to fly in.

Photo of the Day – Dreaming of Chicago

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This is an old picture and it was windy so the skyline is a little blurry but that bluriness adds to to dream like feel I’m getting for Chicago right now. Do you dream in color or black and white? I had a dream the other night that was very clearly in black and white – this doesn’t happen to me often and I woke up completely aware that I just dreamed in black and white. I don’t remember this ever happening to me so I wondered whether it happened to other people. I read later that day that 80% of dreams are in color but that some people also claim to only dream in B&W. Apparently, dreams in B&W are supposed to have ‘occurred’ in the past or happen to people who think in B&W. This dream could not have happened in the past so maybe I’m starting to think more in B&W (whatever that means).

I’m ready to be home. Ready to get back to ‘normal’ and a busy work schedule. I’ll probably have to make some time up in the office this weekend but that’s okay. I was able to take a personal day on Friday to snow shoe in the Rockies and on Monday to catch spring training down in Lakeland. I’ll pay the consequences this weekend but I’ll also never look back with regrets for experiences I didn’t have the chance to do.

The Controversial Fist of the Brown Bomber

Joe Louis was the heavyweight champion and the pride of Detroit in the 1930s and 1940s. He is widely regarded as one of the first heroes to African Americans across the United States. He created this legend as a boxer and it grew as he defeated the German champion in the years leading up to World War II as the Germans built up their powerful armies.

Photo of the Day – Fists of Fury

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At its open the fist elicited alot of responses – some were good some were bad but most were and still are confused by the statues meaning. Some thought it evoked images of the black power movement or felt it represented only Louis’ violence and not the other tremendous things he did for the Detroit community. Others felt it was a powerful representation of the city of Detroit itself – tough, gritty and determined.

I personally take the latter view in that I think it is a representation of the never say die spirit you see in the city of Detroit. It’s a hard working town and this fist represents that drive and spirit that I hope will ultimately lead to the revival of a truly great city.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

A couple quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. on this day that honors him (sorry in advance for the ‘soapbox’):

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

The value of hard work will be rewarded – In my opinion one of the biggest issues that our country is facing right now is that people have forgotten this. We are not all destined for ‘great’ things in the sense the ‘world’ thinks of greatness. Unfortunately, we all can’t be athletes, musicians or CEOs. In the words of the immortal Judge Smails (Caddyshack) – ‘The world needs ditch diggers too’ and no matter what it is we are destined for we should take pride in the task at hand and do it to the best of our ability.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

While I think, for the most part, bigotry/racism (at least in the open) is long past us in the United States of America there is still a lot of prejudging that takes place on a day to day basis and thus I think this quote will forever have merit. For example, just recently an article came out about the 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and how his tattoos make him look like a San Quentin inmate more than a CEO. Now, I don’t have any tattoos but can’t help but think the reporter rushed to judgment quite quickly on the type of person he is just based on how much ink he has. The quote from MLK in today’s aspect should take it a step further from just race but rather from all people – white, black, Indian, Latino, Asian, etc… – to go outside of their comfort zone and continue to recognize that we are all in this ‘melting pot’ together. We are all going to be different and rather than staying separated through those differences we should come together and celebrate those differences recognizing how great it is not to be clones of one another.

On the flip side of this coin is another news story that annoyed me over the weekend and that was how the NFL is expanding the “Rooney Rule” because no African American coaches were hired for head coaching vacancies. If we are going to get past the race thing in this nation than I think we have to not look at it as a white/black thing anymore. There is no way that NFL owners – with the amount of money that is on the line – are concerned with the race of their coaches. They are concerned about the green coming in their pocket and if you were to throw a green martian on the sideline who could coach up some football players, win some football games, sell some tickets, etc…. they’d hire them. Now of course that isn’t to say that there aren’t any qualified African American coaches but this round through the hiring cycle the owners went in other directions not because of race but because they liked what the other guys said better.

Photo of the Day – MLK Jr Memorial in Washington DC

Opened 48 years after Dr. King’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC welcomes another great leader to the National Mall. A visit to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a must-see on any trip to the nation’s capital. The memorial is situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin, adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and sharing a direct line of sight between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. It is open daily, with park rangers on site from 8 a.m. to midnight.

The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders. The two boulders, which started as one, represent the Mountain of Despair. The boulders are split in half to give way to the Stone of Hope, which appears to have been thrust forward toward the horizon in a great monolithic struggle. The Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair together represent the soul-stirring words from Dr. King’s history-making “I Have a Dream” speech. On the visible side of the Stone of Hope, the text from King’s famed 1963 speech is cut sharply into the rock: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” On the other side are inscribed these words: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” a statement suggested by Dr. King himself when describing how he would like to be remembered. Every visitor enters through the Mountain of Despair and tours the memorial as if moving through the struggle that Dr. King faced during his life. Visitors end in the open freedom of the plaza. The solitary Stone of Hope stands proudly in the plaza, where the civil rights leader gazes over the Tidal Basin toward the horizon, forever encouraging all citizens to strive for justice and equality.

Thanks to Washington.org for the text above on the monument

Extra Terrestrial Icon

The iconic symbol of the Seattle skyline reigns high above any other building in the Pacific Northwest as being ‘cool’. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair the Space Needle has stood the test of time (and should continue to do so). I jotted down some facts from the skydeck that I thought were pretty amazing for a building over 50 years old: 1) It can with stand 200 MPH winds 2) It is rated to survive an earthquake of magnitude 9 or lower 3) It has 25 lightning rods to protect against lightning damage.

Photo of the Day – 3, 2, 1….Blast Off

Unfortunately, for us during our trip to Seattle there was hardly any visibility (due to weather) so while we did go up to the observation deck the mountains surrounding Seattle weren’t all that visible. Also, a shot I was hoping to get while out there was the view from Kerry Park (like the linked image from Jacob Lucas) which is absolutely stunning but poor visibility didn’t permit me the chance. Not deterred I walked back to the space needle for some early morning shots. From this angle it certainly looks like something about to be launched into space.

Day Late Dollar Short

So Flickr came out with a new and improved app. I saw it yesterday as well but wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I downloaded it to my phone tonight and I can say that it is a vast improvement to what they had before. One of the very first apps I downloaded when I got an iPhone was the Flickr app and it was garbage. This one has some promise. I’ll play around with it a bit more but thus far I like what I see. Like the Snapseed app below it is free and I doubt I ever use any of the filters or anything like that but as a way to view and post photos I take with my iPhone I think it will be a winner.

I took this photo down in Houston, Texas. I processed in Black and White and tried to add some clarity to the reflection. I liked the way the building seemed to explode from the tubular walkway in the downtown district. If you haven’t been to Houston they have a tube that essentially wraps in a big circle around a one/two block radius that connects all of the buildings. I’m sure there are a lot of dealings between businesses down in this central district and from what I’ve heard the Houston summers SUCK with the heat so this tube is probably a life saver when it is 100+ degrees for weeks on end.

Photo of the Day – Out of This World

I mentioned the other day how great of an app snapseed is – here is a demonstration of just some of the functions. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s powerful – for free it’s amazing.