Castles in Punta Cana (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

I put the finishing touches on our late year vacation earlier today – I’ll wait a few weeks to discuss details but it will be much different from our vacation in three weeks when we are off for Africa.

Castles in Punta Cana (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

Castles in Punta Cana (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

I looked into renting a lens today for the safari part of our trip. My longest lens is a Nikon 18 – 270 which is an AMAZING walk around lens in the city and in places where you can walk to get in a better position. However, my understanding of safari trips is that you (wisely) spend the entire day in the vehicle taking pictures from the jeep so you are unable to position yourself better for pictures so the longer focal length is needed. has a 150mm – 600mm for around $225 for the 21 days. The lens itself is around $1,000 purchased off of the street so the $225 isn’t a minimal amount relative to the purchase price. However, since I mainly do landscapes I don’t think I have a use for it past this vacation so while I don’t think the ‘value’ is there in just renting the lens I also can’t justify straight out purchasing in and then leaving it in the closet for the next three years thinking I might use it at some point.


Sunrise at Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

One of the most tranquil scenes in all of Banff National Park is catching the sunrise at Two Jack Lake on the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road. The large lake has spectacular views of Mount Rundle and is one of the nicest campgrounds in the park system. Imagine – waking up to this view in the morning….yes, please!

Sunrise at Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

Sunrise at Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

Busy week at work and then a delayed Christmas at home in Dearborn with my family. The life of a family of nurses (wife and two sisters)…..holidays never actually happen on the holiday 🙂 That’s okay, we just get to extend the joy for months to come!

River to Hallett Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Often overlooked as a photographic spot is ‘Storm’s Pass’ on Bear Lake Road which offers nice views of Hallett Peak at sunrise. Storm’s Pass has a tiny parking lot that fits maybe four cars and it is surrounded by much more popular destinations along Bear Lake Road – like Bear Lake itself, Glacier Gorge, Sprague Lake, etc… all of which draw hundreds of hikers and photographers daily. As I sat here photographing cars flew by but not a single person stopped to catch the view.

There is a river leading down from the mountain which draws a leading line through the trees which also help to provide a nice foreground. The only negatives are the two trees that have jumped up and partially blocked the views of the mountain….if only I had a saw (just kidding of course).

River to Hallett Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

River to Hallet Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise (San Francisco, California)

Recently I’ve been making an effort to stay away from the HDR processing software that I originally started using when getting into photography. Historically, I’d use a program called Photomatix by HDR Soft and take the the three to five images directly into that program and the software would blend the images together to come up with a ‘tone mapped’ version. From that image I’d try to blend in different parts of the ‘original’ files to ultimately come up with a finalized version. This process works well and as a beginner I was very satisfied with the results I got from this. However, over time as other photo editing processes – like Lightroom – have improved allowing me to pull more detail and color out of images it is less of a necessity to use programs like Photomatix to pull details into an image.

Years ago creating an image like the one below using only a single exposure would have been next to impossible. I’m sure that Photoshop experts would have been able to do it using complex masks and multiple layers but a beginner like me never would have been able to do it. However, now it is much easier and with programs like Raya Pro by Jimmy McIntyre which takes the complicated work out of creating luminosity masks and lets you make targeted adjustments to specific details and areas of the photos without impacting other areas.

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise (San Francisco, California)

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise (San Francisco, California)

This image was created through the use of Lightroom, Raya Pro (in Photoshop) and then ultimately some touch ups in OnOne Perfect Effects.

The original photo is below:

I was able to make all of these adjustments without using a ‘dark’ or ‘light’ version of it. After the new year I’ll write a little review of Raya Pro as I’m still playing with it but here in the early days – after a bit of a learning curve about luminosity masks – I’m extremely impressed with the program as it has opened up possibilities that didn’t exist in my photography and photo editing before.


Sunrise over Lake McDonald (Glacier National Park)

The largest and deep lake in Glacier National Park – Lake McDonald – stretches nearly ten miles and is one of the most accessible lakes in the park. I was lucky enough to visit Glacier National Park in 2013 on my way to a work trip up in Calgary. This was my last day in the park and I visited this lake on my way out to the airport. For most of the morning it didn’t look like there was going to be much of a sunrise but then all of a sudden the clouds lit up in a wide array of purple and pink colors. The colors were very brief – maybe two minutes before it went back to being solid grey – so I was fortunate to get a few shots in before I headed out. Going through some of these pictures over the weekend makes me really miss Montana – hopefully we will be able to take a trip out there soon.

Sunrise over Lake McDonald (Glacier National Park)

Sunrise over Lake McDonald (Glacier National Park)

Foggy Morning over Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

I’m off to Banff on Sunday for a very quick trip through the Canadian Rockies. I’ll only be there for about twelve hours since I have a meeting on Monday afternoon but I just couldn’t imagine going to Calgary without making the drive up to the mountains. It’s only a ninety minute drive from downtown and believe me the scenery is so worth it.

A good place for sunrise pictures is Two Jack Lake as the sun hits the mountain perfectly in the morning. On this morning there was a decent sunrise but about ten minutes later fog started to roll in and I took this and a couple of other shots. Ultimately, the fog got so thick the mountain disappeared from view.

Foggy Morning over Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

Foggy Morning over Two Jack Lake (Banff National Park)

The weather actually looks pretty good on Sunday afternoon – highs in the 80s and sunny throughout most of the day. If everything travel wise goes well I’ll get to spend a few hours taking pictures since sunset this time of year is around 10:15 PM. The bad news (or good since my meeting is at 10:30 AM Monday) is that sunrise comes early also at around 5:30 AM so I won’t get much sleep but I’ll sleep on the flight home.