Dream Lake in the dead of Winter (Rocky Mountain National Park)

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)

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.

Sunrise over Cottonball Basin (Death Valley National Park)

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)

Sunrise over Cottonball Basin (Death Valley National Park)

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain 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)

Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sunset over Joshua Tree National Park (Joshua Tree 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)

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.

Crowfoot Glacier (Banff National Park)

I was up in Calgary this week but was unable to squeeze a trip to Banff in as our upcoming vacation to Africa (two weeks – EEEEKEKKEKEK) is taking up a bunch of the year’s holiday budget. I’m still hoping to squeeze a weekend in up there in May/June but it will depend on the budget at that time. For now I love going back and revisiting old pictures. This was from June last year when I drove up the Icefields Parkway and took pictures along the road during a mildly overcast day.

Crowfoot Glacier (Banff National Park)

Crowfoot Glacier (Banff National Park)

It will likely be brief posts for the next few weeks as we prep for our trip to Africa. We are heading there pretty much on the cheap thanks to hotel points, rental car points and the plummeting Rand (15.5 to the USD). We’ve been pretty fortunate the past few years with our international travel as the strengthening dollar has helped put some funds back in our pocket!

Waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains (Smoky Mountain National Park)

This past fall we spent a few picturesque days in the Great Smoky Mountains hiking and taking pictures before taking off for the Honky Tonks of Nashville. The mountains here – which look more like hills compared with the Rockies in the west – provide amazing foliage during the fall season as the leaves change from green to brown before tumbling from the trees.

Waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains (Smoky Mountain National Park)

However, the crowds pressing to see the leaves really limited my enjoyment. The purpose – IMO – of taking a vacation is to get away but this trip was anything but that. At every corner we seemed to encounter more like minded tourists/photographers. Therefore, even for all of the beauty I would not go back. It was a sight to see but its now checked off my bucket list. Speaking of bucketlist – a month from now my wife and I will be on a plane to South Africa. We will spend a few nights in Cape Town before embarking on a trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia and finally a safari in Northern South Africa. It finally sunk in yesterday afternoon that this date was approaching when I had to get my Hep-A and Hep-B vaccinations. Malaria is also a possibility in the Victoria Falls and Safari portion of this trip so we will be on malaria medicine for 19 days while abroad – I heard a segment of people get some f’d up dreams from that stuff so hoping I don’t have that type of reaction.

The Town of Banff (Banff National Park)

On the way to the Norquay Ski area in Banff National Park is a picnic area that sits on the side of Mount Norquay and provides stunning views of the town of Banff beneath it. In the distance (left hand side) towers Mount Rundle which regardless of where you are in the town serves as a marker given its imposing size. I could have waited for the small child in the lower left hand corner to clear the frame before shooting (or photoshopped her out) but I liked the sense of scale she provided in the image. Hopefully, it helps to give sense of size to the grandness of the landscape.

The Town of Banff (Banff National Park)

The Town of Banff (Banff National Park)