Winter in the Rockies are magical – yes any time of season can be defined as magical so what makes the winter different? For me it is the dead silence that envelopes one of our nations most populated/visited national parks. In the summer I’d probably encounter one, if not two other people, on the trails pre-dawn but in the winter….not a single soul. It is just me and the watchful eyes of the elk wondering what the hell it is that I’m doing that early when it is this damn cold!?!
Dream Lake in the dead of Winter (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Regardless of the temperatures there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing the light hit the peaks as daybreaks on the Rockies. I only wish that during these trips I knew better how to use my GoPro because I would have taped it to a tree and captured the movement of the sun over the mountains as the day announces itself.
During our trip to South Africa I rented a lens from Borrowlenses.com in order to bring the ‘action’ closer to me. The lens I rented was the new Tamron 150mm – 600mm and it certainly did the trick as I found myself able to zoom in tight and bring the animals right to me. For example, in this image the cheetah’s were probably 20 or 25 feet from our safari vehicle but because I had the long lens I was able to zoom in tight and frame this shot perfectly so that this guy and his brother were both in the shot as the sunset over the horizon. I intentionally let the light leak into the frame as I wanted the image to be warm and for the sunset ‘feel’ to be established without actually bringing in the sky. I did have to wait several minutes with the camera up to my eye for the cheetah in the front to do anything interesting but finally he looked towards us and yawned – clearly he was ready for us to move on as well.
Cheetah’s at Sunset (Phinda Game Reserve, South African Safari)
Finding interesting patterns in the Cottonball Basin of Death Valley National Park is not as easy as it seems when you look at this picture and geometrical shapes seem to spread out as far as the eye can see. The reality is finding these types of patterns in the direction that you want to see the sun rise or set is one of the challenges of taking interesting pictures of Death Valley National Park. The prior day I walked 6 – 8 miles back and forth across the Cottonball Basin and dropped pins on my GPS so that I could re-locate the spots in the dark the following morning. I wound up dropping around 8 pins – taking test shots during harsh lighting – and then deciding on which location to revisit the night before while scrolling through the photos on my laptop the night before.
Sunrise over Cottonball Basin (Death Valley National Park)
On our way to Africa we spent a long layover in London, England before making the last leg of the flight from London to Cape Town. Yes, you read that right for some stupid ass reason we flew from Chicago to London (7ish hours?) and then to Cape Town (13ish Hours?). So because that flight was so long we decided that spending the day in London would be a nice way to break the trip in two and not make it feel like we were doing back to back flights. For the most part it worked – however what we didn’t factor in was an hour delay in Chicago and a two hour customs line in London (it was days after the Brussels bombing so security was tight – especially for people planning to spend seven hours in the country).
Tower Bridge (London, England)
Originally, our plan was to do some of the churches we weren’t able to see last time (including St. Paul). Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that we were coming in on Sunday and all the churches were closed to tourists on days to respect those in prayer. Instead of heading to the churches we decided to hit a pub (I needed a beer!) and then went off to the Tower of London which we enjoyed during our last trip in 2010 or 2011. We had to tour it quickly and on the way out I snapped a few pictures of Tower Bridge.
During my work trip to New York City I spent an evening heading up to the ‘Top of the Rock’ in order to check out the city sprawled out beneath me. Unfortunately, for the most part I was skunked out on the weather which was overcast with a slight drizzle most of the three days I was in town. It happens and fortunately New York City is a place you can make really interesting photos no matter what the weather is like.
On the Top of Rockfeller Center I looked out at the Empire State Building but couldn’t make out the top of it nor were the views all that clear of the city below me. Still it was worth the trip even if my favorite picture thus far is one where I zoomed in on the binoculars and bokehed the city skyline off in the distance.
Turn to Clear Vision (New York City)
Before making it to Africa we spent the day in London as we had a 12-hour layover. Initially, I wanted to head back and check out Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were able to tour Westminster Abbey a few years back when we were in London but had to skip St. Paul’s because of time constraints. Unfortunately, we arrived in London on a Sunday and both cathedrals were closed to visitors. We wound up heading to the Tower of London instead – not a bad fall back plan and a place we enjoyed the first time through.
Last year, when we visited Paris one of the highlights for me was seeing the upper chapel in Sainte-Chapelle. The stained glass in this magnificent church is world renowned and it is obvious to see why. The picture doesn’t even do it justice – it is a sight you must see to believe!
Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)
At this point of our trip we should be on the brink of just departing Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe and so I thought it made sense to post a shot of a beautiful but much less impressive waterfall. Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park (near Banff National Park)is a nearly 1,000 foot waterfall that is easily accessible and can be viewed from the road if desired without taking the short half mile trail to this point here alongside the river.
Takakkaw Falls (Yoho National Park)