Category Archives: Roadtrips

Off to the Great White North!

Tomorrow my son and I head off to the Canadian Rockies for nearly two weeks of camping, hiking and photography (not necessarily in that order).  Temperatures here in central Florida have been in the mid 90s for a while and I’m looking forward to cooler weather (heck, the surface of the sun might be an improvement!)

Earlier this year when Ryan and I were considering where to go on our summer road trip, he shared with me a number of photographs on Instagram that had caught his attention.  A surprising number of them were from the Canadian Rockies.   Although I had heard of Banff and Jasper, they had never really come up on my radar screen even though I had photographed Glacier National Park last year and had been enraptured by the alpine vistas.   But the more photos I saw, the more I was impressed.

Mt. Sinopah reflected in Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park

“Morning Beacon” This was my favorite shot from Glacier NP last year…let’s see if I can top it in the Canadian Rockies!

Here we are a few months later and I’ve spent more hours than I would like to admit researching where we will photograph every single sunrise and sunset!  Not only does the region have incredible landscapes but it is also famous for its wildlife.  In fact, I bought a new Nikon D500 just for wildlife photography…we will see what kind of bear shots I can get with it mounted to a 200-400 zoom coupled with a 1.4 teleconverter (that will almost be the equivalent of a 900mm lens…I should be able to count the nose hairs on the bruins!)

Ryan and I are truly stoked about the potential for a great trip.  But in the back of my mind I wonder how many more of these trips we have in our future.  After all, Ryan is 21 and will be graduating next year…soon there will be a career and then a family…he just won’t have the time for these adventures with the old man.  But that’s the future…in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy it!

I’ll be sure to update you all when we return…here’s hoping the weather gods are good to us!
Jeff

Also posted in Rockies

Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

Last week I returned from an 8 day photo trip to the American Southwest with my son Ryan.  He was on Spring Break from college and wanted to get more experience with his new camera and try some of the area’s world-class hikes.  As for me, I never need an excuse to photograph the southwest and spending time with my son was just icing on the cake.

So now, after flying 4,000 miles, driving another 2,000 miles and hiking 40 miles…I’ve finally recovered enough to provide a quick trip report (with pictures of course)!

We flew into Vegas on a Saturday morning, got our rental jeep and were quickly on the road out of Sin City heading for Death Valley.

Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

First Sunlight on Manly Beacon at Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point

I was excited since I’d never visited Death Valley.  Even better, I was finally going to see one of the locations on my “Photographic Bucket List“:  Racetrack Playa.  Years ago I first saw photos of the ‘Sailing Rocks’ and their long trails on the flat Playa.   I’ve been fascinated ever since and this was my chance to finally visit.  I’ll be writing a full blog on this location in the near future, but I can tell you it is as strange, eerie  and alien as it looks in all those pictures you’ve seen.

Racetrack Playa Milky Way

Not of this Earth? The Racetrack is one of those places that sends a deep shiver down your spine!

After a couple of days living off of granola bars, Ryan decided to treat his old man to a nice breakfast on the way out of the park.   There aren’t a lot of dining choices in Death Valley, but the Inn at Furnace Creek looked nice.  They were serving brunch and we were so hungry that he didn’t even ask the price.  The meal was excellent leaving him both contented and smiling.  But when they presented a bill for $70, they managed to wipe away that smile along with a large portion of his Spring Break budget;)

Our next stop was Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada about an hour northeast of Vegas.  We only had 90 minutes to devote to this park but could have easily spent days there.  I had two goals here:

1) Find the mysterious “Windstone Arch” made famous by photographer David Muensch, and

2) Hike out to the “Fire Wave” and catch a sunset.

Fire Cave Windstone Arch Valley of Fire Nevada

Windstone Arch is a petite little treasure. Measuring about 3′ tall it might be a home for hobbits or elves…

Many folks have trouble finding Windstone (also known as Fire Cave) Even though it is only 150′ from the road, it isn’t marked in any way and is hard to see unless you know what you are looking for.  Luckily I had GPS coördinates and walked right up to it.  I was doubly lucky because it clouded up and even started to rain.  Why was that good luck?  Well, Windstone is a morning shot…usually the direct sun in the afternoon ruins the shot.  Overcast skies meant no direct sun and the diffuse light filled the small alcove nicely!

 

 

It was still overcast so my sunset shot of Fire Wave wasn’t looking promising but we drove to the trailhead and started hiking anyway…at least we could scout it out for our next trip.  Then, nearly at the end of the trail, the sun squinted thru an opening at the horizon.  We nearly ran the last few yards and I fell over myself setting up my tripod.  This was the scene:

"Sun Worshiper"

“Sun Worshiper”

It was magnificent…dramatic and brief!  Two minutes later, the sun was gone but I was still on a photographic high.  In fact, my son laughed at my giddy mood, but I was too happy to care. After the sun fell below the horizon, I took a look behind me:  This place just wouldn’t stop…a double rainbow!

End to a memorable day!

End to a memorable day!

The next few days were spent at one of my favorites, Zion National Park. We packed in full days of hiking.  Those miles on the trail were a bit less tiring for my 20 year old son than for my less youthful body, but the images I captured were worth every last single footfall.

We hiked up Angel’s Landing our first day…this was the trail I had the most pre-trip concerns about.  Reviews of this hike cited it as one of the most dangerous in the country (six folks have fallen to their deaths on the hike) and critics warned that anyone who didn’t like heights would be sorry.

Angels Landing Summit

View up toward the head of the valley…

Zion's Angels Landing Summit

The view down the valley toward Springdale..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankly, it wasn’t all that bad.   It WAS steep and I have no idea how many switchbacks were on that silly trail but the views at the end were breathtaking.

But then, just as we reached the summit, the weather Gods (who had smiled upon us the day before) turned downright nasty. The sun and blue skies vanished.  And then it actually started to snow. Ryan and I looked at each other thinking about how the way back down wouldn’t be all that fun or safe if the trail back got wet or iced-up.  We called it a day.

We checked off another “bucket list” location the next day:  the famous Subway.  Since it was so early in the year, we had no problem snagging two of the 20 daily permits allowed for this hike.

It was a long, rough hike.   Despite a ‘trail’ that looked like a Delta Force obstacle course,  we managed to have some fun on the way:

Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

“Samson at the Temple or Stamer at the Subway?”

When we finally reached the Subway, it was everything we could have hoped for.  In fact, when I took my first shot and looked at the LCD on the back of the camera, it was one of those few moments when what I saw looked better than all of those perfectly photoshopped pictures I had admired for years on the internet:

Zion Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

The Iconic Subway: Living up to the hype.

And then, the long hike back…including a challenging ‘scramble’ that involved a 1500′ elevation gain right at the end.  I was a tired puppy and it was a long day…over 9 hours from the start of the hike until we got back to the jeep.  We ate like pigs that night…I figured I had burned off my share of calories!

Our final day in Zion we hiked up the Narrows.

Zion Virgin River Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

The Narrows

A big part of the attraction of this hike (even for photographers) is that you actually hike in the Virgin River.  However, since it was March and water temps were in the 30s, we actually had to rent full dry-suits to avoid turning into human Popsicles!  The good news was that the cold water kept most of the ‘fair-weather hikers’ in their nice warm beds so we had the river nearly to ourselves…which made it a totally different and far more peaceful experience than my previous summer visits.

Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

Ryan looks down Orderville Canyon as it flows into the Narrows

After the hike we drove up to Escalante (near the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.)  We scouted the ‘Hole in the Rock Road’ before dusk (and nearly plowed into a herd of mule deer).

Devil's Garden Escalante Milky Way

Ryan contemplates infinity…

We got up at 3:30 so we could reach Devil’s Garden by 4am when the  Milky Way would be high enough to photograph.  As you can see above, it didn’t disappoint.  Escalante is so isolated and far from big cities that the view of the heavens is simply incredible.   We shot for an hour and hit the road again.

Ryan noticed that Bryce Canyon was on our way, so less than 2 hours later we were there for sunrise.  I had been checking the webcams and knew that Bryce still had snow…I had long wanted to photograph the hoodoos with snow!

Bryce sunrise with snow

Bryce’s hoodoos are unique and expansive….nothing else like this view anywhere…

Two more hours in the Jeep and we decided to stop in Kanab to try our luck in the daily lottery for at a permit to visit ‘the Wave.’  Well, that was an experience!…Over 150 potential people packed in a little room hoping to be one of 10 hikers who would get permits.  We didn’t win, but ‘nothing ventured….”  We actually drove back the next day to try again but it wasn’t to be.  Afterwards, during a ‘consolation breakfast’ at McDonalds we chuckled about the lottery and decided that next year would be our year to photograph this Icon!

We hiked out to Wirepass Slot on the way back from Kanab and then toured Lower Antelope Canyon.  We finished the day at Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona.  Five photo locations in 17 hours…we certainly packed everything we could into that day!

Lower Antelope Canyon sunbeam

I’d heard that Lower Antelope doesn’t get sunbeams…I was dead wrong.

Lower Antelope Canyon Spring Southwest Photo Trip Recap: 2016

Sand Avalanche

The next morning we decided to try Horseshoe again…I really liked the soft morning light but my favorite shot was a self-portrait from the night before:

Horseshoe Bend Sunset

Wish I had this view from my back porch…

 

For some reason, I really wanted to see ‘Balanced Rock’  which was a bit out of our way (near Lee’s Ferry).  It is a cool hoodoo, but I can’t honestly say it is remarkably photogenic.  Something about it just appeals to me, maybe just my odd sense of humor:

2016 SW Balanced Rock 03 11 2385

Yup… a big rock

This was our last full day and we drove down to the Grand Canyon.  It would be Ryan’s first time seeing this wonder.

2016 SW Grand Canyon 03 11 2515 Raven

This Raven joined us for lunch. It wasn’t shy and was the size of my dog Shadow. Truly an “Apex Scavenger”!

Unfortunately, the afternoon was overcast and the light was flat.  The canyon was still impressive of course, but as photographers, the dismal skies left us a bit disappointed.

Sunset was a bust so after it got dark we splurged on pizza (SO much better than Cliff Bars)!  When we came out of the restaurant, the skies had started to clear, so we headed back to the rim.  I shot until the clouds came back and completely hid the sky.

Grand Canyon by moonlight

Grand Canyon by moonlight

We headed back to the room and I set my alarm for 4 am just so I could check to see if the weather might break for sunrise.  Maybe we could get a few decent shots before we had to head to the airport for the flight home.

Four am came quickly.  I grabbed my beeping phone and my weather app told me it was still overcast, in fact, it was snowing!  So, it was our last day and the weather looked like crap.  The bed, on the other hand, looked wonderful to my sore, sleep-deprived body.  I figured that the chance of a decent sunrise was about nil…so, of course I got dressed and headed to Mather Point anyway.

Glad I did.  I found a spot, got set up and prepared to spend a cold morning shuffling my feet without taking a shot.  But then, somehow, right at daybreak the sun managed to poke thru a clear slot in the overcast skies. It revealed a wonderland of snow, red rock and hoar-frost covered trees.  Shutters started clicking and the tourists at the viewpoint gave up a cheer (I might have joined in)…

Sometimes you do win the lottery...

Sometimes you do win the lottery…

2016 SW Grand Canyon 03 12 3206

 

I could never have asked for a better morning to be at the Canyon…it was a photographer’s dream.

2016 SW Grand Canyon 03 12 3237

A photographer’s life doesn’t get much better than this…

To make the day even better, I crushed my son in a our first ever snowball fight (hey, we don’t get much snow in Florida!)2016 SW Grand Canyon 03 12 3241 2

Killer trip.  Great photos.  Fun with my boy.2016 SW Grand Canyon 03 12 3441

Does it get better than this?  If so, bring it on, I’m ready!
Jeff

 

Also posted in Milky Way Photography, Photo Tips and Guides, Southwest U.S.A. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

10 Days: 10 Photos

This summer has been a busy, wild and intense ride!  In June I spent 20 days photographing Washington State and Southern Alaska.  Two weeks ago, my son, Ryan, and I hiked for 10 days during a 1,500 roadtrip thru the Pac NW and at Glacier NP.  And in two days, my wife and I head to Bonaire in the Caribbean for some underwater photography and scuba.  Needless to say, I am behind in my blog and it may take the rest of the year to catch up.

Today, I have only an hour or so free before I have to start packing, so I thought I would do a quick recap of the highlights of the hiking tour Ryan and I enjoyed…so sit back and enjoy!

Neither my son or I had ever visited Crater Lake and it turned out to be far more impressive than either of us had anticipated.  On our first night there, I got what may be the best shot of the entire trip.  I had long wanted to photograph the Milky Way with Wizard Island and the lake in the background.  I found the famous, whitebark pine that precariously hangs over the edge of the crater and got some solid images before the cold got to me and I decided to pack it in near midnight.  Ryan, who had been warming up in the car, came over and we spontaneously decided to use him as a model for a last shot.  Just as I hit the shutter, a meteor lit up the sky right over his head and we simultaneously screamed “Did you see that?!!!” In my next breath I yelled “Don’t Move” hoping he could hold still for the 20 second exposure so his image wouldn’t be blurry.  Did he freeze?  Check it out…

2015-pac-nw-08-07-0214-merge-crop

“Starstruck” You do all the planning in the world but sometimes pure luck makes the shot!

 

After a couple days of exploring Crater, we headed for the Oregon coast.  Along the way we stopped at Toketee Falls.  The standard shot is from the observation deck…and it is an impressive view!

2015 PAC NW 08 09 0777

My son decided to scramble down to the base of the falls.  I followed him but soon had second thoughts when it became clear that the trail was not official, safe or sane.  More about that experience at a later date!

Thor’s Well is one of those attractions that photographers fantasize about.  It’s a collapsed cavern on the Oregon shore.  At high tide, the ocean literally pours thru the roof of the cave and it truly looks like the Pacific is draining into a massive well.  I had planned our trip to coincide with high tide and sunset…I was not disappointed!2015 PAC NW 08 09 1205crop

Our next three days were spent hiking the famous waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge.  Ryan loves waterfalls and he had a long, detailed list…and I think we hit every, last, single one of them.  Hiking up Oneonta Gorge was without doubt, our favorite…similar to the Virgin Narrows at Zion only shorter and much greener!

2015 PAC NW 08 12 2564

Our next stop was Palouse Falls in Washington State.  It was over 100 degrees F when we arrived and I chuckled to think I had left Florida trying to escape the heat of August!  We hiked down to the base of the falls (yes, it was a trend…Ryan was determined to see every waterfall from all possible perspectives).  Fortunately, it cooled off overnight so we didn’t bake in our tent.  In the morning, the sun apologized for its brutal behavior the day before by greeting us with an epic sunrise.2015 PAC NW 08 14 3763_HDRcrop

We wrapped up our trip with three days in Glacier National Park.  Although there were a number of active wildfires in the park, Glacier is huge so we just selected hikes in the areas that were unaffected.  I was a bit disappointed by the hazy skies but they did seem to intensive the color at sunrise and sunset.

"Morning Beacon"

“Morning Beacon”

 

Glacier is well known for its wildlife…and now I know why! Bears, Big Horn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goats, Marmots, Bald Eagles…the variety was incredible.  Not only that, but when you are alpine hiking, some of these critters use the same trails you do…so they get close.

Didn't need a zoom for this shot!

Didn’t need a zoom for this shot!

2015 PAC NW 08 16 4896

This ram got so close I could have taken this shot with a camera phone…seriously thought he was going to head-bump me for a second or two!

We finished our trip with the long hike to Grinnell Glacier on our last day.  My 20 year old son was kind enough not to leave me behind as we climbed the trail.  But to tell the truth, after hiking 50 or so miles since the start of our roadtrip, I admit that I didn’t exactly sprint up the mountain.

In this shot, Ryan's exuberance and joy of life is pretty apparent...in my case, I'm just ecstatic that I didn't drop dead on the trail:)

In this shot, Ryan’s exuberance and joy of life is pretty apparent…in my case, my happiness is due to the fact that I didn’t drop dead on the trail:)

So there you have it:  10 Days summarized by 10 Photos!  I have much more to share with you about trip…some great stories…like the one where a Park Ranger gave me a breathalyzer test because my eyes looked weird (that’s what a 57 year old guy looks like after hiking for 10 days with 4 hours sleep per night!)

Anyway, I gotta run.  More to come later!

Jeff

 

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Photographic Highlights of Adventure in Pac NW & Alaska

Hello All,

Sorry for my long absence but my 2 week trip to the Pac NW & Alaska resulted in over 10,000 photos…and when I got home those photos demanded that I drop everything and process them.  So other than short breaks to eat and sleep, I’ve been a Photoshop slave for the past ten days.  My wife says I’m a bit obsessive…but you can’t trust her judgment.  After all, any woman that would marry me obviously is not a good judge of character and has a tenuous relationship with reality.

We had an incredible time.  Exhausting, but wonderful and very, very productive!

I was able to capture some images that I am very proud of and I’m going to share some of them with you today.   Later on, I will craft some in-depth blogs about specific events and locations and will include additional photos.

Our first stop was the Palouse, in western Washington (south of Spokane).   The Palouse is a region of gently rolling hills that reminds many of Tuscany (not that I’ve ever been there).Palouse

It is a calm, friendly place where even the road workers holding the ‘Slow signs’ walk up to your car and start chatting.  Maybe this is the way America used to be, if so, we have truly lost something special.  The hills are sensuous in their own odd way and the occasional red barn or grain silo makes for quaint interruptions in the flowing landscape.

Palouse Falls is a few hours to the east, in central Washington.  It is truly in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing, I mean nothing, around it.  Perhaps that just makes the falls that much more magnificent and dramatic.  I had hoped to get a Milky Way shot here and I succeeded beyond my dreams:

Milky Way over Palouse Falls Washington

Although I had planned this photo, luck played a big role.  After standing on the edge of a cliff in the dark for two hours, I finally admitted to myself that although the Milky Way looked great, the moonlight was just too feeble to properly illuminate the falls.  I was about to take down my tripod and call it a night when a guy stopped by and politely asked if he could do some light painting of the falls.  His name was Ariel and he had the most powerful flashlight I had ever seen….he lit the falls up like it was daytime and I was able to get the shot I had envisioned!  I’ll be visiting these falls again next month and I’ll do an in-depth blog with photo tips.

Next we visited with my old friend Alan and his wife Linda in Portland.  I was excited to see them again AND get the chance to hike to a bunch of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge…which is considered by some to have 5 of the top 10 most beautiful falls in the country.

2015 Northwest 06 21 047

Anita and I were at the falls before 6am hoping to beat the hoards of tourists that show up on weekends.

Multnomah Falls is probably the most famous of those in the area and it is claimed to be the most photographed waterfall in the US.  One glance and it is easy to see why.  See if you can spot Anita on the bridge!

Next on our list was Mt. Rainier.  Although the wildflowers weren’t due to be at their peak until August, I still wanted to visit and do some scouting.  As it turned out, the lack of snow during the past winter resulted in the flowers blooming early and when we started hiking in the Paradise area, we were overwhelmed by the lushly flowering trails.

Wildflowers on Trails near Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier

‘Stairway to Heaven?’…apologies to Led Zeppelin

Less than 12 hours later we were off to Olympic National Park where we enjoyed the luxury of spending TWO consecutive nights in the same hotel (I spoil that wife of mine)!  Olympic NP amazed me with its diversity…everything from rain forests to towering mountain ranges. I’m finding it difficult to choose my favorite shot from this magical place…and I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, but as of this afternoon, the sunset at Second Beach is the winner.  I was able to catch the sunburst thru a sea arch and it made a memorable image:Sunset at Second Beach Olympic National Park, Washington

Our next stop was Seattle.  Although I’ll bet a lot of you thought I’d feature a shot of the Space Needle, I’m going to surprise you.  2015 Northwest 06 26 906This World War II Boeing B-17 overflew our ship as we left Seattle harbor.  When I zoomed in on the image, I could see that it was named “Nine O Nine.”  A quick check on Google and I saw that this old warbird had flown 140 missions in 1944-5 (including 18 trips to Berlin) without an abort or loss of a crewman.  Turns out it was visiting Boeing field for an airshow.  Okay, okay, I know you read this blog because of landscapes and wildlife photography…but jeeze, I’m still a kid at heart that wanted to be a fighter pilot!

Then it was off to Alaska to photograph some wildlife!

2015 Northwest 06 30 768.50

Check out the fashionable Day-Glo full-body immersion suit the captain made me wear!  Even if it didn’t keep me afloat it would make it easier to find the body.

We went out on small boats and zodiacs repeatedly over the next week and I freaked out more than a folks by bringing along the ‘beast.’  That’s my nickname for the Nikon 200-400 zoom (see photo to the right)…it is huge, intimidating and heavy, but it does the job (even if my right elbow is sore as heck for a couple days afterwards).

Over the next week we travelled to Victoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, Misty Fiords, Skagway and Haines.  I don’t think I could honestly tell you how many hikes and small boats we were on…the days were long and seemed to run together.  But we saw certainly saw (and photographed) wildlife!

My dream for this part of the trip was to photograph Humpbacks “Bubble Net Feeding.”  But it was not to be.  The guides said the whales had been doing a lot of ‘bubble net feeding’ but they had just stopped a few days before.  We went out on the water nearly every day over the next week but had no luck.  As it turns out, they started again as soon as we left (check out this Youtube video taken the day AFTER left).   Figures.  Oh well, gives me a reason to go back!

But we certainly saw whales.   I was able to capture some of my best whale-tale shots ever…even a few with some nice mountains in the background .

Humpback Whale Tail in Alaska's Inner Passage

The Orcas were very active.  Although I captured some nice close-ups, I think I like this shot the best….not because of the Orca…but because of the shocked faces of the people on the boat!

2015 Northwest 07 02 979

Of course there were sea lions.. 2015 Northwest 06 28 283

…and fat harbor seals…2015 Northwest 06 30 451 (1)

I am always amazed at the number of Bald Eagles you see in Alaska.  I particularly liked this shot of this mated pair high in their perch:

2015 Northwest 06 30 599 (1)

But Alaska certainly has landscapes as well.  I carefully composed this shot and then a whale surfaced and ruined the composition (I’m kidding!)

2015 Northwest 06 29 009 (1) blend crop

This shot of Misty Fiords goes a long way to explaining how it got its name.  It was a rainy, chilly morning but the conditions were perfect for moody photography: Misty Fiords

Alas, all good things come to an end, as did this trip.  Wouldn’t you know it, the best sunset of the whole two weeks lit up the skies right after we got back into a harbor on our last night.  Although I would have loved to had been able to get to typical ‘landscape location’, I was more than happy to settle for this image that included our cruise ship, the Celebrity Solstice.

Celebrity Solstice

Still Not a bad way to end our adventure…right?!

Anyway, I’ll add much more to my blog over the next few weeks about this trip.  But, I’ve got to work fast because I’m heading back out west in less than a month to spend 10 days photographing and hiking with my son Ryan.  We will spend a week in Oregon then head to Glacier National Park for a few days.  It is going to be a busy summer for me…hope I have enough energy!
Jeff

PS:  I experimented with some time-lapse photography from the balcony of our cabin.  I clearly have a LOT more to learn about making a video, but if you have 5 seconds to spare, check it out…

 

Also posted in Pacific Northwest USA Tagged |

Photo Adventure in the Pacific Northwest

My wife, Anita and I are excited to be leaving tomorrow on a 17 day photo excursion to the Pacific Northwest and southern Alaska.  I’ve never photographed Oregon and Washington state before so I’ve spent the last month excessively researching and preparing for this adventure.  We will spend most of our time running around in a rental car from location to location…it promises to be an invigorating (and exhausting) trip.

Anita is a good sport, and gave me an early Father’s Day card in which she promises to “not complain about the early mornings or late nights caused by my obsession with photography.”  I’m going to laminate that card and hang it from the rental’s rear view mirror…I’m fairly certain it will come in handy before the end of the trip…

Some of the locations on our itinerary are:

  1. The Palouse
  2. Palouse Falls
  3. Seven different waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge
  4. Cannon Beach Oregon
  5. Mt. Rainier
  6. Olympic National Park
  7. In addition, I’ve got a number of wildlife excursions planned in Alaska’s Inner Passage area.  One dream I have is to photograph whales bubble net feeding and this might be the trip when it happens!

We are well and truly ready to escape the 90+ degree weather that Central Florida has been dishing up the last few weeks and explore a new corner of our beautiful world.  Of course, I hope to return with some memorable photos, but no matter how much planning I’ve done, it will still largely come down to luck, weather and my ability to work 16 hours days!

I won’t be able to post any blogs for the next four weeks…I learned last year that I simply can’t photograph for a full day and then half the night (because of Milky Way shots) and then go back to my room and write a blog.  The desire for sleep is far too strong.  However, I promise to update you all with details when I return!

Take Care!
Jeff

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An Arctic Walkabout: Photo Tour of the village of Kaktovic Alaska

Have you ever gone on an expensive trip to a dream location but afterward what you catch yourself thinking about isn’t the ‘Big Name’ place?  You mind keeps drifting back to a little, no-name stop you visited as an afterthought?

This happened to me last year.  You probably haven’t heard of Kaktovik.  kaktovik_alaska[1] That’s not surprising because Kaktovic is a tiny village of 350 hearty souls located on Barter island…which is nothing more than a small spec in the Arctic Ocean off the north coast of Alaska.  There isn’t much else even remotely near it…in fact, it’s the only town in the entire 30,000 square mile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  But Kaktovic’s claim to fame are the dozens of polar bears that gather there every year to feed on the remains of the whales that the Inupiat are allowed to harvest.  The whales attract the bears and the bears attract photographers…which is why I was there.

There are no roads to Katovik.  A small group of us had flown in and we were hyped to see the bears.  But the weather was bad…and it got worse.  In fact the waves were so high that the local captains refused to take us out on the boats to the area where the bears hung out.  Since we couldn’t photograph bears most of the folks decided to chill out at the lodge.  That didn’t work for me.  I figured I could chill out when I got home…heck, I had come halfway around the world to take some darn pictures.  One of the other guys, Cesar Aristeiguieta, felt the same way, we so grabbed parkas, mud boots and cameras then headed out to see what wonders Kaktovik might hold.  The drive from the gravel airstrip hadn’t revealed much…a few roads, boats, clutter and trash…but nothing ventured, nothing gained, so off we went.

As we walked thru the thick fog, we couldn’t help but think about the warning our guides had given us:  Keep your eyes open for scavenging polar bears.  I’m a pretty good runner, but I wasn’t positive that I was faster than Cesar, so I kept alert!

As we headed east, an old graveyard was the first thing that caught our eye. An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska It sat in the middle of the tundra surrounded by a wood fence.  Since we were guests in the village and wanted to be considerate to the feelings of the residents, Cesar and I stayed on the road and didn’t actually enter the cemetery. The solid overcast made the atmosphere somber and almost oppressive. But it sure fit the scene.

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

I processed this shot to resemble the look created by the 19th century glass plate cameras. I think it adds just the right character for the shot.

During the cold war, the U.S. maintained and listening and communications station on Barter island.  As the fog started to lift we could see the huge radar dome in the distance thru the cemetery’s gateway.   An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

Cesar snapping a final shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we strode away, I noticed a long ridge of tall wooden fences in the distance.  Being from Florida, it took me a bit to realize that these were snow fences.

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

Never see these in Orlando!

We headed down to the lagoon and came upon an old bowhead whale skull.

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

I took while to compose this shot. Fortunately I had a travel tripod with me so I was able to take multiple long exposures and process this scene via HDR when I got home.

Right next to the whale bones was an old wooden wreck.

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

The texture of the grass wood really worked well in a black & white exposure but I like the scene in color as well.

 

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

As I looked around the harbor, I could see that there were a number of old wrecks..

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

WW 2 era Landing Craft abandoned along the shore

 

We continued walking back toward the center of town and came upon this child’s wagon.  It’s bright color really jumped out.

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House on skis!

House on skis!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By this time we had walked to the far side of Kaktovic.  Just past the homes was a second cemetery.  We later learned that this was the ‘new’ graveyard.  The fog started to thicken as we approached.An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

 

As the visibility worsened, we decided to head back.  As we started trudging along, I looked down and my heart skipped when I saw this:An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

I’m sure the locals had a good laugh as they watched the two ‘Qallunaats’ sprint back to their lodge!

Over the next few days we did get a chance to finally photograph the bears (see my blog about that incredible experience).   The bears were awesome.  They were magnificent.  I will never forget my hours photographing them as long as I live.

But I won’t forget my stroll around Kaktovic with Cesar either.

Jeff

 An Arctic Walkabout:  Photo Tour of Kaktovic Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Alaska, Landscape Photography Tagged , , |

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

Hello All,

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a frenzy of non-stop Photoshop processing of the thousands of the images I took on my Alaskan photo tour.  Now that I’ve got the bulk of the photos done, I’m in a bit of a quandary about how to write a blog to accompany the pictures.  The problem is simply that it was an incredible 10 day trip packed with an expansive range of photographic subjects…everything from Polar Bears to the Aurora Borealis, so  if I tried to write a single blog and cover all these topics…well, the result would be a small book.

So instead, I’m going to break up the adventure into bite-sized topics and cover them separately in-depth.  Today I’m going to just give you a taste of things to come by providing a brief recap of my Alaska Photo Tour Highlights.

The adventure started off with an incredible night of the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks.  In fact, it may have been the best northern lights we saw on the entire trip!

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

The calm Chena River was a wonderful reflector for the Aurora!

Believe it or not, this view was not more than 20 feet behind the little cabin I stayed in.

Day two and three were spent driving up the Dalton Highway (the “Haul Road” made famous in the “Ice Road Truckers” TV show)  which was built to supply the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. The Dalton is over 400 miles, most of it is gravel and there are only 3 small towns on the entire route (with a TOTAL population of less than 40, combined)!

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

The Alaska Pipeline has been controversial, but it certainly is an engineering marvel…and it can be photogenic as well!

The Alaska Pipeline was our companion the next couple days and was usually within sight off to the side of the road.

At Deadhorse (the name of the town at Prudhoe Bay) , we took a puddle jumper to Barter Island. This is a small island off the northern coast of Alaska only 70 miles west of Canada which has become justifiably  famous for the Polar Bears that can be viewed there this time of year.

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

A mom and cub share a polar bear ‘kiss’

We photographed the bears from buses and from small boats.  The weather was pretty iffy, but I got one 40 minute window with good light the last day I was there and made the most of it.  My adrenaline was pumping!

These two sibling cubs were engaged in a good-natured rumble!

These two sibling cubs were engaged in a good-natured rumble!

After three days of photographing polar bears, arctic wildlife and the fascinating native town of Kaktovik, we headed back to Prudhoe.  About an hour south of town, our sharp-eyed guide (Hugh)  spotted a herd of Musk Oxen.

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

Truly prehistoric beasts!

It was pretty cool ‘stalking’ these huge critters!   You have to walk in single file to avoid appearing like a predator.  Even so, it took every bit of 550mm to get this shot.

Heading down the Dalton a few hours later we noticed that the Northern Lights were making an appearance.  We stopped for an hour or so along the road and didn’t get to our rooms until 3am, but no one was complaining.  Of course, then I had to stay up for another couple hours drinking beers with the guys.  It sure seemed like a good idea at the time…

Alaska Photo Tour Highlights

The Aurora was absolutely breathtaking!

I was the only one up for sunrise…I got precious little sleep but I had plenty of time to make up for it during the 23 hours it took me to fly home (thanks to a couple long layovers).

Sunrise over Wiseman Creek

Sunrise over Wiseman Creek

Okay, I know that this blog was brief, but I’ve been stuck for a few days trying to get started so I’m glad I’ve broken the logjam!  I’ll be writing some detailed articles over the next few weeks about the Aurora, Polar Bears, Dalton Highway wildlife and landscapes .  I also plan to provide a review of the actual tour I was on (Hugh Rose Alaska Polar Bear and Aurora Photo Tour) for those of you who might be thinking about going yourself!

Jeff

 

Also posted in Alaska, Wildlife Tagged , , , , , , |

Upcoming Arctic Photo Tour with Hugh Rose

I am EXCITED!  Tomorrow I leave on an incredible adventure:  10 days in the Arctic!   I’ll be joining Hugh Rose on his Sept Polar Bear and Aurora Photo Tour.  This incredible photo tour covers Alaska from Fairbanks all the way to the Arctic Ocean (maybe I’ll take a dip and join the “Polar Bear Club”).   Click on this link to see the itinerary:  It is simply incredible!  We will be traveling in vans, small bush planes and rubber rafts…heck, I might have to strap on some snowshoes!  My wonderful wife, Anita, purchased my ticket for this extravagant tour as my Christmas present last year and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since.

For a guy from Florida, this trip presented some challenges…like buying a full arctic wardrobe.  Merino wool underwear, down jackets, insulated boots:  these aren’t items that you find in many closets down in this neck of the woods!  But it has been fun planning and preparing for the last nine months.

I’m really excited to get the chance to photograph the Aurora Borealis.    I’ve never even seen it and I am hoping that I am lucky and the Aurora is visible

Next to the Aurora, the next item on my wish list are polar bears.  These predators are not afraid of humans and I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger…but like they say:  “You don’t have to be fast, just quicker than the guy next to you!”

Anita won’t be making this trip with me.  Not because it will all be about photography (she is used to that) but she gets chilly when the temperatures drop down into the mid 70s….so Alaska in the fall isn’t somewhere she wants to be.

I won’t have internet access for most of the trip, so I’m not even going to try to write a daily blog (that didn’t work out well for me when I tried it this summer:).  I will give you all an update when I get back and share my photos as well.

Jeff

(PS:  Did I mention that I’m excited?)

 

Also posted in Alaska Tagged , , , , , |

A Portrait of the President (Kinda…)

Last week I was in Washington DC for a couple of days.  Although my first love is Landscape and Wildlife photography, sometimes I like shooting in the ‘urban jungle’ just for a change of pace.  But…as different as it is, some things seem to remain the same.

For example, I was trying to take the standard ‘tourist’ shot of the White House from the South Lawn (see below).

2014 untitled shoot 08 August 00508 Unfortunately,  I had to take the shot from much further away than normal since they had the road right behind the White House blocked (usually it is open).  So I ripped off about a half-dozen shots with my 200mm zoom and walked away with my wife to head down to the Lincoln Memorial.

As I walked, I reviewed my shots, zooming in so I could delete the frames that weren’t perfectly focused.  As I did so, I noticed figures on the second floor balcony (see below).2014 untitled shoot 08 August 00508 crop1

So I zoomed in even more and…

2014 untitled shoot 08 August 00508 crop2

Yup, looks like the President and one of his daughters had been on the porch enjoying the afternoon and were heading back into the living quarters!  Kinda neat…and a reminder of just how incredible modern photo gear can be…I mean, I must have been well over a half mile away!

So my wife and I thought this was pretty cool..I  mean how often do you see the President? (even if I couldn’t see him without blowing up a photo by 400%)  But, the surprises didn’t stop there.  The next day we were hiking across the National Mall and a helicopter flew right overhead.

2014 untitled shoot 09 August 00566 I recognized “Marine One”  (the President’s chopper) and  it landed behind the White House.  About 30 minutes later, it took off and flew by the Washington Monument.  I found out later that Obama had used ‘Marine One’ to leave on his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

2014 untitled shoot 09 August 00554

Like any type of photography, sometimes it just pays to be in the right place at the right time!

Jeff

PS:  Attached below are a few of my favorite images from this trip.2014 untitled shoot 09 August 00602

2014 untitled shoot 08 August 00499

I love Victorian architecture….and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building has it in spades!

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The city lights illuminated the clouds behind the Washington Monument after sunset…

2014 untitled shoot 08 August 00514

Hard to imagine a more impressive monument than the one dedicated to President Lincoln

Epic Roadtrip: What the heck happened?

A number of you have emailed me with that question.  After all, you got a couple blogs about the trip and then….nothing.

Did the guy fall off a cliff?  Get eaten by a Grizzly?  Decide to run off and become a hermit?

Well, nothing so dramatic.  More a combination of my son getting sick, problems uploading blogs from locations with no internet/cell service…and the fact that I’m getting old.  To be honest, hiking up to 10 miles a day and trying to get by on less than 4 hours sleep (that’s what happens when you hike all day, photograph the sunset at 8pm, the milky way at 1am and the sunrise at 5am).   When I did have a free hour, I have to confess that my first thought was a nap…not writing a blog:)

You know the old saying?:  “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Well, the original plan was 3 weeks, 22 states, 12 National Parks and 8,500 miles.    A few days into the trip Ryan came down with a bad case of nausea, fatigue and killer headaches.  Turns out it was a bad case of altitude sickness.  So we cut out about a third of the trip, especially the stuff at high altitude.  It was a shame, but it means that we can go back next year and hit the places we missed!  Our final tally was 2 weeks, 18 states, 8 National Parks and 7,000 miles…which is nothing to sneeze at.  Ryan was a trooper and never missed a wake up alarm or slacked off during a hike (heck, it was like hiking with a mountain goat…the kid was always 10 yards ahead of me!)  Fortunately he began to feel better as the trip progressed (and we lost altitude).

We had a blast!  We saw Buffalo, Beavers, Elk, Grizzly Bears, Prairie Dogs and a lot of other critters that we don’t see in sub-tropical Florida.  We hiked up the Virgin Narrows in Zion National Park (our new favorite hike of all time!)  Watched the sun go down over the dunes at White Sands .  Chanted “USA!  USA! USA!” while a guy ate a 3 pound hamburger and 10 onion rings in less than 15 minutes (a new record at the Pioneer Restaurant).

I will share more with you in blogs over the next couple months, but today I just wanted to apologize for ‘going dark.’

 

Take care,

Jeff

Okay, okay…I can hear you now…”Where are the pictures?…This is a photography blog…you can’t sign off without adding photos!”   Fair enough, here are my quick Top Ten Favorites:

2014  Roadtrip  June 24 00504_.1

Ryan levitating at Devil’s Tower (with some Photoshop slight of hand!)

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Reflected Light in the Virgin Narrows. Everyone should see this at least once in their life.

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The vista of the Grand Tetons from Schwabachers Landing is one of the most impressive on the continent…if not the planet!

2014  Roadtrip  June 26 00821_crop

We don’t have beavers in Florida…and they facinated me.

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A bizarre and beautiful spectacle. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone. The hike up the hill to get this shot has been called a ‘scramble’…I would have called it something else, but I was out of breath.

2014  Roadtrip  June 24 00557_

I got lucky and photographed this Grissly for five minutes or so.

2014  Roadtrip  June 24 00483_crop

I had never seen a Prairie Dog before. Noisy and cute.

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Ryan looking back at the moon as we hiked out of White Sands

2014  Roadtrip  June 24 00366_watermark

Possibly the nicest sunrise of the trip…Badlands National Park

The full arc of our Milky Way...amazing seeing it with your bare eyes! Shot from the Virgin River/Watchman bridge at Zion NP

The full arc of our Milky Way…amazing seeing it with your bare eyes! Shot from the Virgin River/Watchman bridge at Zion NP

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Epic Roadtrip: Day 1

We are off!

Headed over to Daytona to start the trip.  It was a bit out of our way but it allows us to honestly say that that our road trip is truly Coast-to-Coast.   Ryan pulled an all-nighter saying good bye to his friends.  He has been up for 36 hours now…God it must be nice to be young!

We plan to get to Kentucky tonight…over 850 miles for the day.

Ryan and I have had a nonstop conversation rolling for about 8 hours, at least until I started typing this blog.   He spoke nonstop for the first couple hours…must have been the sleep deprivation.

Time for me to take a shift driving.  I’ll try to put up an update tomorrow after we visit the St. Louis Arch.

 

Jeff

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