White Rhinos (South Africa)

While we were in South Africa we were fortunate enough to see many white rhinos with immaculate horns – some of which may be worth up to $300,000 on the black market. For some reason the horns today fetch something like $60,000/kilogram and the adults have horns that weigh approximately 5 kilograms. The horns themselves are just made up of keratin – yes, keratin – the same exact materials that make up human finger nails, hair and horse hooves. Why does it cost so much? Tough question to answer but apparently in eastern medicine there is a belief that the horns are magical and can cure many ills and they also can serve as decorative handles for knives and other fine jewelry. Overall, it seems like an expensive price to pay for a ‘cure’ when I can just chew my finger nails and get the same medicinal effect?

White Rhinos (South Africa)

White Rhinos (South Africa)

Unfortunately, the war on the White Rhino horn trade in South Africa is still ongoing to the point where the country recently (briefly) lifted their ban on domestic trade of the horn. It was reinstated but is currently under review and there is a chance that South Africa decides to lessen the penalties on trading the horn within their country. Clearly, this would be a negative development as hundreds of these animals are marred or killed each year WITH the ban in place. Imagine what will happen if suddenly the penalties for committing the crime and trading the horn are lessened.

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Rainforest in Alaska

Only 4 days remaining to support our campaign, but we still have a log ways to go, as we only crossed the 50% mark in our goal. While we think we may still reach it, it does look like we just as well may miss it and this is for a great cause so if you have the ability and can spare some money to support it – please do! Plus, you will get a photo book with some great pictures (including one of mine) in it!

All you need to do is go to this link (Plus One Collection III Charity Photo Book) and select your level of support.

Rainforest in Alaska

Tongass National Forest Juneau Alaska

The Tongass National Forest in Southwestern Alaska is the largest national forest in all of the United States and is the largest temperate rainforest in the entire world. Alaska was nothing like I imagined it before heading to the great vast north. We didn’t go further north than Glacier Bay but I expected all of Alaska to be much like the ice planet Hoth in Star Wars. Instead it was more like the forested planet Endor that the Ewoks lived on during Return of the Jedi. Alaska was largely forest and the trees expanded in every direction – we hiked out to the Medenhall Glacier and had the opportunity to hike on the face of it before repelling down into the ice cave. On the hike back, as the sunset, I tried to stop along the way and take pictures of the lush green forest. I didn’t have time to setup my DSLR so I had to take this, and other pictures, with my point-and-shoot camera (Nikon All-Weather Camera). Given the speed of the water I was able to get some decent motion blur in a very short period of time (1 second or so). The most challenging aspect was trying to keep the camera steady throughout the shot – I had to balance this on a log, with a rock behind it.

Rocky Mountains

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”

― Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

Mitch Albom came out with a new book this week called The First Phone Call from Heaven. It tells the story of a town of people that starts getting phone calls from the afterlife and the joy in hearing that persons voice one last time. Enjoy the times you have and make sure you are living every day to the fullest because you can never be sure when your clock may be punched. I’m going to start reading it this weekend and I’m sure – like all the Mitch Albom books I’ve read I’ll highlight a number of passages that are significant to me. The one above was one that hit me because the fear of death paralyzes me at times and at other times it makes me go faster so that I can fit more into a day – but what is the quality of that day. When we rush through things and just tick the box what have we really accomplished?

Photo of the Day – Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

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The mountains settle me – they have since I was 25 and made my first trip to Montana. There is just something about the significance of them and the fact that they’ve been around for millions of years that makes the whole tick the box thing just seem foolish. I’m planning our upcoming trip to Belize in April and trying to build in more ‘down’ time for my wife and I. It’s a struggle for me since I do still have this innate desire to see everything but I know for a fact the memories I make are much sweeter when I slow down and breath a little bit.

Two Jack Lake – Banff National Park

So the streak had to come to an end at some point. For as much traveling as I’ve done the past year my delays and time spent parked on the Tarmac has been minimal. In fact, it is hard for me to recall my last delay that was more than a half hour or so. Today I was hit with a bit of bad luck in that we took off from Houston expecting a break in the weather in Chicago around the time of our scheduled landing. We circled in a holding pattern a few hundred miles from the airport before they finally gave us the clearance to go in thinking that it might be clear when we arrived.

Unfortunately the weather stayed stubborn and despite landing safely on the ground they shut O’hare down because of lightning in the area which prevented ground personnel from doing what they needed to do to safely get planes in and out of their gates. Therefore, despite being a hundred yards from happiness we sat on the plane for a couple of hours waiting for a gate to open up so we could get off the plane.

Photo of the Day – Two Jack Lake

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The Continental Divide

An early morning look at the Continental Divide at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was the first time I’ve ever been to this lake for sunrise that I didn’t run into any other photographers – most of the time there are five or ten other people walking around and trying to find a shot but for whatever reason on this particular Saturday the lake was all mine. I spent the majority of the morning on the Continental Divide side of the lake shooting back at the rising sun but worked my way over to this spot just prior to the light getting too harsh to get any decent shots of the mountain.

Photo of the Day – Sprague Lake Stream

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A few winters ago I tried to take a picture of this bridge – it was winter so the stream wasn’t running nearly as fast – and the snow made the image a little too bright. I’ve shot it a few other times since then and have never been happy with the results. However, I kept coming back and kept trying different angles figuring I’d eventually get one that I liked.

Fire in the Sky

Last week while in Rocky Mountain National Park I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a cold, rainy night and I wasn’t sure that anything was actually going to happen. I had a hope that the sun would drop below the rain clouds but I never imagined the clouds were going to light up like they did. I’m not sure the picture does it justice because the clouds everywhere in the sky were lit up with shades of blue, pink and orange. As far as the eye could see the sky was seemingly on fire.

Photo of the Day – Fire in the Sky

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My wife was in a different location trying to shield herself from the sun and the rain but as soon as the sun dropped below the clouds and the sky lit up (for only about two or three minutes) she was sprinting down the road yelling at me to make sure that I was taking lots of pictures of the sky. She agreed that it was one of the more memorable sunsets of her life. That is what keeps all of us landscape photographer’s going though….chasing the light and being in the perfect location to capture light like this high above a historic peak or prominent landmark.

Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is one of the more frequented hikes within the park. There is a reason for that since it is one of the more beautiful ‘trails’ (if you can call it that) that I’ve been on. It was paved, with guard rails and elevated platforms over the 7+ waterfalls within the mile and a half hike. Essentially, it is a tourist trap for hiking since tour bus after tour bus shows up there. The good news is that unlike other tourist traps – Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue – this one never closes. Therefore, you can avoid the crowds by arriving an hour or two after sunrise or before sunset.

Photo of the Day – Upper Falls

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We got here around 7:30 in the morning after watching the sun rise at Lake Moraine. Because there weren’t any crowds at the canyon yet I was able to put my 10-stop ND filter on the camera and keep the shutter open for four minutes without other people trying to push me out of the way. On the hike back we were reminded of just how packed it can get since there were hundreds of Asian tourists (literally) walking past us in the other direction – in the parking lot we saw the five buses that dropped them off. I was happy to be leaving and not waiting in line to photograph the waterfalls.