Spanish Steps, Rome Italy

The widest staircase in Italy sits in the heart of Rome and connects two main plazas leading up to a beautiful church at the very top. The Spanish Steps as they are known were built in the early 1700s and include 135 stairs – they were recently featured on one of G and I’s favorite shows (The Amazing Race – if we ever went on there we’d probably kill each other though).

This is one of my favorite spots in all of Rome to sit at night, people watch and drink (discretely) a beer or some wine before heading off for dinner and gelato. The crowds certainly never disappoint and because there are so many stairs and they are so wide there are always ample places to sit and relax away from others.

Spanish Steps, Rome Italy

Spanish Steps Rome Italy
To take this picture I set my camera and tripod up and waited for the sun to set so I could catch the twilight taking over the square. I took five exposures (-4, -2, 0, +2, +4) so that I could blend them all later in Photoshop. Generally, I only take three exposures (-2, 0, +2) but I did not want the street lights in this picture to blow everything out in the -2 exposure so I went a little darker to make sure I captured the purple hues of the sky.

I posted a picture earlier of the Spanish Steps from the base of the staircase that I took as we walked to dinner. That one had the “Fountain of the Ugly Boat” in the foreground whereas this picture has that fountain in the distance but you can see the swarms of tourists around it as night settles in. Clearly, as you can see on the right hand side there is always a large police presence in the area as it does serve as a major intersection of the city. Despite this there are still a number of pick-pockets who work the area so if you are ever around there just be mindful of your surroundings. An alert tourist generally is a safe tourist.

The Garden of the Gods

I spent a few days at the Garden of the Gods State Park while in Colorado last November. It was a quick trip where I was out there for only a day but the weather was perfect as I think it was in the low 70s/high 60s and the wind was fairly calm. I hiked a number of the trails and drove around exploring much of the park in the one day I was there. For anyone who hasn’t been out that way I’d highly recommend spending a few hours checking out the main sites (balanced rock, twin sisters, big toe) which are all just short and easy hikes from major parking lots.

The Garden of the Gods at Dusk

Garden of the Gods Colorado Springs Colorado

Sunset over the Grand Canyon

A tip if you ever plan on going to the Grand Canyon and hope to watch the sunset or the sunrise from one of the numerous viewing platforms on the South Rim…Back in 2012 we spent five days in the Grand Canyon and had the opportunity to take in a few sunsets. The Grand Canyon is pretty amazing but unfortunately since alot of the areas are off limits and well there is a giant canyon your viewing areas are limited. As such the viewing platforms are typically very clustered and you are forced to get in position sixty to ninety minutes in advance and then you have to defend your position. Sunrises – for obvious reasons – are a little less crowded but still expect to have more people (10 – 20) than you typically would at other national park locations where the views are more spread out.

Sunset over the Grand Canyon

Sunrise in Seattle

I was in Seattle for work near the beginning of the year and spent one of the mornings in Kerry Park watching the sunrise behind the skyline. Kerry Park has the best perspective for the Seattle skyline in my rather limited opinion given that on a perfectly clear morning you can even see Mount Rainier towering over the city a couple hundred miles away in the distance. The clouds on this particular morning kept the famous peak hidden for the most part although there is a faint view of it in a couple photos that I took that morning (not this one).

City of Fire – Seattle, WA

Sunrise in Seattle from Kerry Park

Seattle is known as the Emerald City but on this morning the positioning and color of the clouds made it appear that several buildings were burning behind the well-known space needle.

Morant’s Curve – Banff National Park

I love Banff National Park and I got to spend the weekend there again these past few days (sometimes the job has its perks). Each time I go the varying seasons open up new possibilities to explore. This past trip most of the hikes I’d typically do were snowed in so I had to do most of my exploring via the car. Fortunately, Banff is very cooperative to those who wish to never be more than ten feet from their automobile. This location – known as Morant’s Curve – is about ten feet from a parking lot. Morant was a photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and made this location famous through the rails advertisements. I’m obviously not the first conductor to shoot from here either as the train’s conductor opened the window and waved at me as the train rolled past.

Morant’s Curve – Banff National Park

Morant's Curve - Banff National Park

Two Jack Lake – Banff National Park

I arrived in Banff National Park last night to ‘out-of-season blizzard like conditions’ which I’m sure is great for skiers but bad for photographers. Unwilling to just sit in my hotel room for hours and watch the NCAA tourney I ventured out and tried to find some photo opportunities (few and far between). One area that I tried to head to was Two Jack Lake. Visibility was terrible (the mountain was invisible) and the remnants of the island in this photo were buried in snow. I am not trying to complain but I really have been hit with some pretty poor luck in Banff National Park for weather the past two years. I was thinking about it today and in total I’ve spent two weeks in the park and I’ve had one day that I consider to be optimal conditions for photos (relatively clear skies, color in the morning and evening) while the rest have been pretty mediocre.

Photo of the Day – Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake Banff National Park

The End of the World

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

Reaching the End of the World – Sears Tower – Chicago, IL

Sears Tower Willis Tower Chicago Illinois
From a warmer period in Chicago – we headed up to the top of the Sears Tower and shot the perfectly clear sunrise setting behind the western suburbs of the city. They don’t allow tripods up in the tower although I was able to sneak a GorrillaPod up there and take a couple shots that were less blurry than they would be if I had to hand hold everything. Great views from up top of the building – although I tend to prefer the Hancock Tower a little more because you get the perspective of seeing more of the downtown buildings in the skyline.

Fishing Villages of Cinque Terre

The colorful houses (mostly store fronts today) that makeup the five towns that create the historic Cinque Terre area in Italy were once primarily fishing villages. The houses were painted bright colors distinct from one another so that those on the boats far from the shore could navigate in as they approached and wind up near their ultimate destination. Fortunately for the Cinque Terre and for those lucky enough to visit little has changed in this gorgeous spot of the world. No longer a ‘hidden gem’ in Italy because tourism is undoubtedly big business here but still a magnificent and relatively unspoiled location within what is my favorite (outside of the US – home country bias of course) country in the world.

Fisherman on the Coast of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre colorful houses in Italy

Window in the Garden (of the Gods)

The Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado about an hour south of Denver but a world away when it comes to the red rock formations scattered throughout the area. There are a number of relatively easy hikes (all one to three miles round trip) that I was able to knock out in half-a-day or so since they are also relatively close to one another. I’m sure there are more challenging hikes but the park is set up to really be family friendly and this would make a nice stop for someone visiting Denver and looking to get a quick day trip done (of course Estes Park – the home of Rocky Mountain National Park – is also only about 90 minutes away and I’d favor that over Garden of the Gods if I had to choose just one).

Photo of the Day – The Window of the Gods

Garden of the Gods Siamese Trail Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak in the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountain Range is visible through a rock window on the Siamese Twin trail in Garden of the Gods. A quick, well-marked trail takes you to this spot with duel rock formations with views onto the Continental Divide in the distance. Positioning yourself perfectly allows you to clearly see Pikes Peak in the distance. This was a terrific fall day in Colorado – one could really get used to living out amongst all this beauty. Each time I visit I’m really jealous of those lucky enough to live in the Denver area.

Calm Morning on the banks of Lake Louise (Banff National Park)

I spent a calm summer morning on standing on the banks of the picturesque Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The canoes that are rented to lake visitors made for an interesting and colorful foreground. I had to wait a few minutes for a couple ‘summer lovers’ to move of the dock as they huddled in a hoodie but once they cleared the area I took a couple pictures looking up at the Fairview Mountain Range across the lake.

Photo of the Day – Canoes on Lake Louise

Lake Louise Banff National Park

I have a meeting in Calgary at the end of March and hope to make a weekend trip up to Banff again. The Lake Louise area is likely to be closed (closed for the winter) but many of the other sights should still be open.