Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

We were climbing down from watching the sunset over Florence when out of one of the windows I spotted this view. I loved the contrasting blue sky to the east with the warmer colors to the west where the sun had just dipped below the horizon. Add in the square below that was just starting to bustle with early evening activity and dinner goers, the historic cathedral and hills in the backdrop and it made for a picturesque scene. Of the places we’ve visited in Italy this is definitely one of the areas I’d love to go back to – the wines and delicious food mixed with the history of the city make it one of my favorite places we’ve ever visited.

Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

Florence in the Early Evening (Florence, Italy)

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.

Cholla Garden Sunset (Joshua Tree National Park)

The Cholla cactus is native to the Southwest US and while it looks harmless is actually a ‘jumping’ cactus so don’t get too close to them because they STICK to everything and their quills are sharp! So sharp that they even pierced my heave hiking boots when I stepped on one. I had to remove my boot and pull the quill out of the bottom of my foot – OUCH! Okay so they don’t really ‘jump’ per se but they stick to everything and they do seem to shed so their pods and quills are scattered all over the cactus garden. Despite how prickly (and painful) they are I do like the look of them at sunset. The way the sun bounces off the quills and makes them glow is pretty magical. I stayed out past sunset and had to very carefully (and slowly) navigate myself back to my car – not an easy feat with all the cacti around.

Cholla Garden Sunset (Joshua Tree National Park)

Cholla Gardens Sunset (Joshua Tree National Park)

Impressionist Waves (Matador Beach, California)

I’m off to Las Vegas for a few days so not sure how much I’ll be able to post while I’m there – it will be largely dependent on wifi speeds which I expect will be woeful at best. I don’t remember from the other times I’ve been out there but I know they didn’t build Las Vegas by having ‘guests’ sit in their rooms on the internet. They want you in the casinos early and often! Even trying to go to the gym in Vegas is a $20 – $30 spend because you have to purchase a day pass. It’s a racket but I certainly get it.

I will be bringing my camera out there though so I’m hoping to get some good pictures of Death Valley at night (Milky Way) and the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas strip.

Impressionist Landscape (Matador Beach – Los Angeles, California)

Impressionist Landscape (Matador Beach - Los Angeles, California)

I took this picture a few years back when out in Los Angeles for work. The sun was setting behind the rocks on the horizon and as a result I was able to keep the shutter open a little longer than I normally would have to smooth the waves a bit. The reflection of the colors from the sky combined with the look of the waves gave it a bit of an impressionist feel for me.

Purple Rain in the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon National Park)

Three years ago we spent a week hiking and photographing in the Grand Canyon. During that time we were treated to some pretty nasty weather – flash storms and abnormal amounts of rain for the middle of the dessert. However, that meant that we were also treated to some pretty sweet skies at sunset – this night in particular a storm was approaching over the canyon and the setting sun lit up the rain and made a nice purple streak as it swept across the canyon.

Purple Rain in the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon National Park)

Purple Rain in the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon National Park)

I’d love to go back one day but maybe next time check out Horsehoe Bend on the North Rim.

Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre, Italy)

The unofficial headquarters of the five cites (Cinque Terre) on the Northwestern Italian Coast is Riomaggiore. Our bed and breakfast was located on the opposite side (in Monterosso al Mare) so we never had the pleasure of exploring Riomaggiore except from afar while taking a boat ride to give us better views of the five coastal cities.

Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre, Italy)

Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre, Italy)

Is it summer yet? It’s only 40 something here in Chicago today so I don’t think Mother Nature got the memo. As a result, I stayed home most of the weekend (even sold my Cubs tickets yesterday since I didn’t feel like sitting out in the cold temps for four hours) with hopes of catching up on work and the blog. Unfortunately, my router/modem had other ideas and is being a major pain in my ass – my upload speeds which used to hover around 4 mbs range but all of a sudden within the past ten days its been less than 1 mbs which means anytime I try to upload anything website times out. I’m losing patience quickly!! Anyone better with techie stuff and know what I’m supposed to do here?

The image above I had to shrink the quality pretty drastically just to get it to load properly which is mighty annoying!!!

Sunset Over the Windy City (Chicago, Illinois)

I don’t know why but I don’t shoot as much in Chicago as I do when I go on vacation or am traveling for work. It seems like I take this beautiful city for granted most of the time – I find excuses like the clouds aren’t perfect, it might rain, it’s going to be warmer tomorrow, etc…I just think it is one of those things that we all do when we procrastinate and put off things for tomorrow that we would otherwise do today.

Thankfully, I got off my lazy ass on Saturday and took a trip down to Lake Shore Park – near the Magnificent Mile – to take some shots of the Hancock Tower before walking over to the lake front for sunset. The clouds in the sky during the day were moving pretty fast so I grabbed my 10-stop ND filter before heading out of the house because I wanted to do some long exposure photography to smooth out the waves in the lake and catch the motion of the clouds behind the city. Unfortunately, by the time that sunrise came the clouds had largely cleared off and were to the west but there were still a few stragglers that I was able to pick up the motion in and the sunset wound up being pretty nice so the colors in the sky turned out well.

Sunset Over the Windy City (Chicago, Illinois)

Sunset over Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

Want to see what the photo looked like straight out of camera? Check out the link below – the camera is important of course but the post processing is important as well and I think I did a good job with the colors here. Unfortunately, the ‘standard’ wordpress site doesn’t support before and after viewers so you’ll have to click the link below to see it.

Link to the Before and After Photo

The ‘before’ photo is straight out of camera – before ever touching it in Lightroom (which is an amazing program although the most recent download is really mucking up my computer for some reason – the lag man the lag for Christ sakes…I spent almost my whole weekend troubleshooting it trying to get it back to ‘normal’ but to no avail) and bringing it into OnOne Perfect Effects for the finishing touches.

Ultimately, I think the colors turned out amazing and if my sensor wasn’t so damn dirty I would print this out and hang it on my wall.

Sunset over Badwater Basin (Death Valley National Park)

Taken early last year at the lowest point in North America on my last night in Death Valley. During the day I spent about five hours searching for an area where the salt flats made smooth, visually appealing patterns and marked each location with my GPS so that I’d be able to find them (and more importantly find my car) when the sun was setting. Badwater Basin covers approximately 200 square miles so finding smooth, undisturbed salt flats isn’t an easy task.

Even with the GPS coordinates it was still a struggle to find my car – I knew where it was of course – but there are not any ‘trails’ in the dessert to follow back and the dessert isn’t all smooth salt flats like you see in this picture. Littered throughout the area are large salt crystal formations that stretch for quite a distance that will saw your legs up if you try to pass through them. Thus, you have to find a way out without walking through any of the spiky salt formations, think of it as a giant natural maze. I walked about nine miles (largely in circles) seeking a place to setup for sunset and so just following my GPS created ‘trail’ was not an option. All-in-all my car was only about a mile away from where I took this picture but it took me a little over an hour to get there because of all the backtracking I had to do.

Sunset over Badwater Basin (Death Valley National Park)

Sunset over Death Valley (Death Valley National Park)

In this photo I tried to really minimize the size of the mountains (they are actually pretty large) and did that by using a really wide angle lens to make them seem very tiny in the distance. I also wanted to convey a sense of just how wide and vast the landscape was.

Long day tomorrow with a 7 AM flight and 7:45 PM return flight so I probably won’t be posting anything on Thursday.

Last Light on Long’s Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

One of the most easily accessible and thus visited lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park is Bear Lake. During the day the mile long, handicap accessible trail that circles the lake is packed with families with young kids and older family members who no longer get along as well as they once did. However, on this August night as the sun went down the area around the lake was surprisingly empty. It was chilly this evening – around 45 or so – which probably kept most visitors indoors. Admittedly, I wasn’t as prepared for the weather as I should have been but fortunately it wasn’t too far back to my warm car at the trailhead.

Last Light on Long’s Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Last Light on Long's Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

“There is no place comparable to the Diamond [up Colorado’s Longs Peak]. It is high, cold, steep, a long way from the parking lot, and most of all, intimidating. Chasm View, or the Flying Buttress can get you acclimated, but nothing can prepare you for the Diamond but the Diamond.” — Malcolm Daly.

It’s hard to make out the famous, unmistakable diamond of Long’s Peak in this photo but when the sunsets it is the last place the sun hits as it rises 14,259 feet into the air. I do want to climb it one day (you can hike to the top) but I need to get more acclimated to the high altitudes first before I’m ready to tackle that challenge.

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

The Grand Canal at Sunset (Venice, Italy)

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Venice picture but felt the need to go back through some images from our 2013 Italy trip (five cities in two weeks) over the weekend. I love reliving vacations through photos. This last trip to Paris we actually used the GoPro a bit and captured some video as well. Those were fun re-watching this weekend to. The sounds of the city bring back memories as well so we will certainly be using that more frequently.