Hi, and welcome to my blog. It occured to me that when you view the images in my galleries, that you would like have some idea as to the how, when and where. Therefore, through this blog, I will attempt to provide some background and detail about the photo trip that resulted in the images posted on my site.
Normally, around the end of September Jane and I would find ourselves up north in Montana enjoying the grandeur of Glacier National Park. This year, however, we were forced to make a last minute decision to cancel that autumn trip due to the devastating wildfires in and around the Park. The consequence of that unfortunate cancelation was that we now found ourselves in the unaccustomed situation of being at home for a bunch of weeks rather than traveling and photographing. What was I going to do with all that unexpected time on my hands? I’m not terribly good at being at home for too long. Not that there are no “projects” to be done around the house, it is just that I’m not a handyman and rather good at procrastination. So, as Jane watched me get more and more bored and restless, she came up with a brilliant suggestion. Why don’t I try and get a timeshare trade somewhere so we can take a bit of a trip?
That is how our consolation trip to Sedona, Arizona, came about. Turned out we were able to get a last minute timeshare trade to Sedona for the first week of October. The long way to Sedona, up U.S. Highway 95 from Yuma and over the mountains through Prescott and Jerome, is only about a day’s drive from San Diego. So the consolation trip to Sedona was an easy one week vacation and, needless to say, I was a happy camper to be on another journey. Sedona is surrounded by picturesque red rock formations and I looked forward to making some panoramic landscape images. In addition, it turned out that the 2017 Harvest Moon, the full moon nearest to the start of fall, or autumnal equinox, was to occur during the first week in October. That meant some more moon photography practice for me.
For a consolation trip, this short hop to Sedona turned out to be a truly astonishing junket. The timeshare unit was spacious and homey, there was a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, and numerous trails to hike. We enjoyed all of it, eating sleeping and hiking. We also explored some of the backcountry on dirt tracts to ancient Hopi cliff dwelling sites. All in all, we much appreciated this last minute consolation trip to Sedona.
I have not made a separate gallery for this trip to Sedona, so don't worry if you can't find any additional images from this trip.
What can be said about the great American total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, that hasn’t already been voiced all over the internet, television and printed media? This spectacular astronomical phenomenon, visible across the entire nation, from coast to coast, was indeed all it was forecast to be. Jane and I traveled from San Diego to Rexburg, Idaho, to be in the middle of the “totality” experience. The accolades expressed by the pundits from NASA, the Science Channel, and NOAA for this unique interaction between the sun, moon and earth were confirmed by us for the two minutes that we observed the magic of the sun’s corona erupting into space. Being awash in the darkness and chill of a total solar eclipse, while captivated by the dancing light of the sun’s coronal flares discharging from behind the moon into the atmosphere, was an exhilarating and exciting event.
Astronomers predict another solar eclipse will travel through the middle of the country, from south to north, in 2024. Who knows, perhaps we will travel to Texas to catch that one also.
August found Jane and me in Denali National Park and Preserve. We took advantage of an Alaska Airlines two-for-one ticket deal. I had wanting to go back to Denali National Park to try for some of the iconic wildlife to be photographed there. The last time Jane and I were in Denali I was still photographing with film, so you can imagine how long ago that was. Anyway, after the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies and Ancient Puebloan sites of Mesa Verde, we packed our bags for a short trip to Alaska’s premier park.
From previous trips to Denali, we knew that access to the interior of the park was restricted to busses only, no private vehicles beyond Mile Marker 15. There are a variety of bus tours available and our strategy was to use the Shuttle Bus that allowed passengers to get off and then get back on another Shuttle Bus, provided that there were seats available. We purchased Shuttle Bus tickets that allowed us to travel to the end of the line, some 85 miles and five hours one way, into the park, on three separate days. We left on the early morning bus each day but our strategy of getting on and off did not work out as anticipated. For one, the weather was always threatening and it rained pretty much every day, although not continuously throughout the day. Then, even though the bus left each morning with plenty of empty seats they were quickly filled by campers picked up along the way. We feared that once we got off the bus, it would be difficult to get back on another without having to wait a long time, potentially in the rain. So we pretty much rode the full busses from beginning to end each day, photographing from the bus as best we could.
Since the Shuttle Bus rides took all day, we had allowed a couple of days for exploring on our own. Those explorations proved to offer some fairly good photo opportunities. At Horseshoe Lake we encountered a beaver that had just felled a branch from a birch tree and was dragging it from the forest to a small pond where he commenced eating the fresh green leaves. We found a colony of pika near the Savage River Loop Trail head and spend lots of time watching and photographing these small little rodents as they foraged among their rocky habitat. Further along the Savage River Loop Trail we noticed arctic ground squirrels digging for roots and eating seeds from wilted flower stalks.
Even though we had gotten glimpses of Mount Denali from the bus, the high mountain peaks were obscured by clouds and overcast skies most of the time. Consequently, we decided to treat ourselves to a scenic flight thinking that the plane would be able to fly above the overcast and allow us to experience the grandeur of Denali. Our thinking turned out to be correct. Taking off under cloudy conditions, with not much prospect of clear skies at all, when we approached the mountain we were above the clouds and Mount Denali appeared in all its glory as if floating on billowing cushions.
To view images from our Denali trip go to the National Parks and Monuments gallery and then find Denali National Park and Preserve.
It is not often that I get to toot my own horn, but here goes. Nature Photographer magazine, my favorite for finding great photography locations, has recently published three articles I had written about great photo locations in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The Wyoming article featured the wild horses of McCullough Peaks near Cody, Wyoming. The Utah article highlighted the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument established in 1996. The Grand Staircase is often overlooked by photographers in favor of the more famous parks in Utah, but it has some really outstanding photo locations. Finally, Great Basin National Park was the topic of the Nevada article. It is a wonderful park to visit in the fall when the aspen trees are in blazing colors.
You can probably find the magazines at Barns & Noble, or perhaps online.
Jane and I, along with our photo buddy Bruce, spent the last week of June in the rarefied air of Colorado’s high Rocky Mountains. Since there were three of us traveling, and since it was a photography journey, there was too much luggage for the back of the 4Runner. This trip required use of the “Thule”, a rooftop cargo carrier. The Thule had been patiently waiting in the garage for the next trip it was needed. We last used the Thule on our Alaska Highway adventure in August 2013. So the Thule and the three adventurers were looking forward to another great sojourn.
We stayed at a vacation rental cabin just outside Idaho Springs along Chicago Creek. Doesn’t sound like Colorado from these names, but we were definitely in the high Rocky Mountains. From the relatively low elevation of 7,600 feet at the cabin, we made day trips to the top of Mount Evans at 14,000 feet. Why, you ask, would we deny ourselves the dense, thick air of sea level? The answer is to photograph mountain goat families that forage near the summit of Mount Evans.
From our rental cabin, the trip to the top of Mount Evans takes about an hour along a paved, winding, steep and narrow, two-lane, roadway. The scenery along the way was stunning with dense, healthy stands of conifers. Above timberline, the road traverses subarctic rocky tundra with a myriad of delicate, small wildflowers. Above timberline, the road also becomes steeper with numerous switchbacks, limited sight distance, and no guardrails along the steep downhill side of the road.
We typically made this trip early most mornings in order to be at the summit of Mount Evans with good morning light and to maximize the possibility of sighting wildlife. We were not disappointed with these early departures. Every trip to the top resulted in our being able to photograph mountain goat nannies with young kids playing along the boulders, yellow bellied marmots soaking up the warm sun, and small pika, the most elusive of our targets. When not looking through the camera viewfinder, we were entertained by the antics of the energetic young mountain goat kids. At this early age of their lives, they were already pushing and shoving to show who was boss. Their favorite game was to play “king of the boulder” with as many as five or six of the lively white fur balls vying to be the last one remaining on top.
As can be expected on top of a 14,000 foot mountain peak, the wind was ubiquitous, cold and blistering. We had to seek shelter in the 4Runner on several occasions. We were also not alone on the mountain top. Other photographers and wildlife enthusiasts were there to appreciate being so near to these wild animals. During one of our forays to the protection of the vehicle, Jane engaged a fellow photographer in some shop talk. She found out there was a lake some distance north of Idaho Springs that was a sure bet for photographing moose. That night we Googled the location, found directions and decided to head there the next day.
Brainard Lake was nearly a two hour drive from the cabin. In order to ensure good lighting for photography, we were up at 4:30 AM, out the door at 5:00 AM and at Brainard Lake at 7:00 AM. Of course, we had no idea where to look for the moose. After parking the 4Runner in the day-use parking area, we just headed towards the lake. Not knowing where to go, we turned right at the lake’s edge where we ran into another photographer we told us we were heading in the wrong direction. We turned around and hustled over to a dense area of willows behind a stand of pine trees. Jane, our premier spotter, was first to see the moose. We crept through the stand of trees and counted four big male moose with outstanding racks covered in velvet browsing on willow shoots. By about 8:30 AM the sun was getting hotter and the moose wandered off into the cool, dense forest. What an extraordinary experience that was.
To complete our Colorado adventure we spent the first week of July at Mesa Verde National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although over 7,000 feet in elevation, Mesa Verde is far enough south to result in temperatures much higher than the cool atmosphere of the high Rockies. We changed to cooler attire and put away the long telephoto lenses in favor of the shorter wide angle ones. The popularity of this unique archaeological area has resulted in the Park Service limiting access to the most outstanding cliff dwellings only by Ranger led tours. Fifty tickets are available for each tour and could only be purchased up to two day in advance. We were in the Park long enough to be able to get tickets for all three of the Ranger led tours.
Photographing the Ancient Puebloan ruins was a challenge. It is not like photographing wildlife where the unique characteristic of the animal carries the image. This is landscape photography where the need for a dynamic composition, exceptional lighting and a dramatic sky are mandatory. All I can say in my defense is that I tried.
You can be a judge. The images from Mesa Verde are located in the National Parks and Monument gallery. Images from Mount Evans and Brainard Lake are located in the Mount Evans 2017 gallery for the time being. I will probably be moving them to the Hooves, Antlers and Horns gallery and the Young Animals gallery in the future.