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)
We went to the top of Table Mountain twice during our trip Cape Town – the first trip was foggy and the views were unique but less impressive than they were on the second trip when the sun was shining and the blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see. With the view I needed to take a panorama to bring the whole scene together so I took 17 individual pictures and merged them into a panorama in Photoshop. Because of the size of the image the one below is a smaller size than I normally post but if you have the time (and patience) to click on the picture, load in ‘original size’ and zoom in and see all the details it is quite impressive!
All of the focal points of Cape Town are shown in this picture. From left to right – the cable car from the bottom to the top of table mountain is on the left, Lion’s Head (another famous mountain with spectacular views) which trails down to Signal Hill and leads to the Soccer Stadium that housed the most important matches of the world cup in South Africa a few years back. Off in the distance is Robben Island which has been used over the years as a prison and held Nelson Mandela during his 18 of his years spent behind bars.
Cape Town from Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)
A spot that is often mentioned by photographers as one of their favorites for sunrise is the Hoodoos Viewpoint on Tunnel Mountain Road that provides views of the backside of Mount Rundle, the Bow Valley and the hoodoos (small, jutting rock formations). Maybe I just haven’t gone at the right time of year or have experienced bad light but it isn’t one of my favorite spots. I went through some old images this evening and this was among my favorites but it is still not one that I’m in love with. From this angle Mount Rundle just doesn’t look as majestic as I think it does from the other side (Vermillion Lakes area, Two Jack Lake Area, etc…). Given my viewpoint on the aesthetics of the peak it is probably not a mystery that I have a dozen or so images of the mountain from the other side but only a handful from tunnel mountain road.
Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mountain Road (Banff National Park)
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)
Millions of years ago there was a giant lake sitting at the base of Zabriskie Point – covering the location I was standing in when I took this photo last year. The rising/falling water levels and erosion that it caused formed the badlands in the foreground of the image.
A popular spot for sunrise in Death Valley I spent the morning with about twenty other photographers sipping coffee and commenting on the colors in the sky. The highlight of sunrise from this point is actually the mountain range that is directly behind where I’m standing here. Unfortunately, the wispy clouds that turned so colorful in the minutes before the sun came above the horizon prevented the sun from hitting the mountain and so most people who spent the morning out there left disappointed with the outcome. I made the best of it and got a few usable shots – like this one and a couple that I’ll eventually convert to black and white of some heavy clouds over the mountain.
Sunrise over Zabriskie Point (Death Valley National Park)
We take off on Saturday so this may be my last post for a few weeks. I will try to post some photos while overseas and if time permits I’ll schedule a few to post while we are on vacation but I have a feeling the wifi is going to be spotty over there.
This is another of my favorite spots in Banff – Two Jack Lake – Sunrise and Sunset from this spot with a great view of Mount Rundle across the lake.
Peace and Serenity on Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)
We should have already landed in Cape Town a week from now for the start of our African Vacation. We’ve been planning it for almost a year and a half and it is finally here – crazy how it sneaks up on you as we still have a lot to finish up this week in preparation to be gone for over two weeks.
The image below is from one of my favorite and easiest landscape photography spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. An easy trail winds around the lake from the parking lot and brings you to this spot which – in the summer – has these two rocks prominently occupying the foreground of the image. I know I’ve posted a lot of Sprague Lake shots in the past but the blue sky in this one and clouds reflecting in the lake make it one of my favorites for non-sunrise/sunset times of day.
Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)
In Joshua Tree earlier this year I was pretty fortunate with two really nice sunsets during my only two nights in the park. I spent the afternoon driving all throughout the park to different locations looking for some nice Joshua Trees to put in the foreground. I also wanted to catch the hills (or are they mountains?) in the distance. The Mojave desert is one of the only places in the world where the joshua trees grow so I definitely wanted to make them one of the stars of this image.
Sunset over Joshua Tree National Park (Joshua Tree National Park)
In Lightroom I cropped the image a bit to remove some of the distracting foreground and also added a vignette and a little more vibrance to the colors.