Although I have photographed in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before, I had not been there in the Fall. I have been spending the fall season shooting in Utah and Colorado in the past, but it was time for a change.
We spent the first part of the trip in Yellowstone, and while there are not Aspens or other trees that turn color there in the Fall, there is so much else there.
The hot springs at the Geyser Basins, Grand Prismatic in particular, offer a wonderful opportunity to capture some great colors with the rising steam.
The massive waterfall in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, never ceases to amaze me. It was suggested that the landscape around it formed the shape of a heart. I didn’t see it before, but I do now.
I have previously passed on shooting Gibbon Falls, but it occurred to me that maybe a close-up of the lower part of the falls would work. The light was hitting the rocks in the upper right and it worked beautifully. Sometimes you just have to give some locations some extra thought.
After Yellowstone, it was on to the Grand Tetons. We were excited by the opportunity presented to us with an unexpected snowstorm covering the mountains. It is so rare to have an early season snowfall. While we waited for the skies to clear, we spent a few days tracking down some really nice fall color scenes.
I even delayed my flight out to be able to be there when the weather improved and the mountains were visible. It was two incredible days. On the third day, as I headed to the airport, the snow moved back in and the mountains were gone, once again. I didn’t mind. I had been given photographic opportunities that were previously only in my wildest imagination.
Next up will be an exploratory trip to Utah to locations that I have not been to before, some quite remote. Of course, I’ll be searching for fall color.
We first headed to the coast at Cannon Beach to photograph Haystack Rock at sunset. It turned out to be heavy overcast and covered in fog, so we hoped for the morning. At first, it wasn’t looking too good then either, but as the sun came up behind us the clouds began to absorb and reflect some really nice color. This turned out to be one of the most dramatic skies I have ever photographed.
Next up was the coast down south at Waldport. The beach there is flat and seems to go out forever at low tide, but once you get way out there, the photographic opportunities seem endless. The sunrise was once again lighting up the clouds offshore, and while not as dramatic as Cannon Beach, pretty darn nice.
We headed back north to Pacific City to make an effort at Cape Kiwanda. Two previous trips there did not yield an acceptable image. We hiked up the tall sand dunes and out to the end of the Cape to be able to shoot back at the orange sandstone formations that the Cape is known for. We even got the cooperation of the Pacific Ocean with some nice waves. So, the third time here was the charm.
Next we went inland to the area around Bend, Oregon to shoot sunset at Smith Rock State Park and sunrise at Sparks Lake. I have to say that both worked out extremely well.
Our next location was Trillium Lake up near Government Camp, but it was just too windy to get any good reflections so no sunset image that day. We left there at 3:45 am the next morning to get up to the north side of Mount Hood before the sunrise would begin to light it up. The plan worked to perfection and it turned out the setting moon was in exactly the right place at the right time. I wish I could say I planned it out that way.
We concluded our trip up at the Columbia River Gorge, where we were able to get a nice shot overlooking the Columbia River and the Vista House. Added to this were some images at Gorton Creek, Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls. The hike uphill to Ponytail was serious, but it was well worth it. The lush greenery in the Gorge is unlike anywhere else in the U.S.
Next up will be an expedition to Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. I’m hoping for some summer storms to complement the landscape.
South Dakota is home to Badlands National Park, which contains some of the most unique rock formations that I have ever seen. Also nearby are areas like Custer State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Wyoming is home to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. I had previously been unsuccessful in getting the image of the Tetons in the Spring that I wanted, so a return trip was warranted.
We drive 3000 miles on this trip, beginning our expedition in South Dakota. The Needles Highway runs through this amazing section of rock formations known as The Needles. We were on the move on this expedition and were only going to have one sunrise there. They were covered in heavy fog the day before and we couldn’t find them before it got dark. The next morning we had to scurry around to find them and then figure out the best location to shoot from. I found the spot just as the clouds were lighting up, got several shots and then the clouds came down and covered them up for the rest of the day. I am rarely this lucky, but you won’t hear me complaining.
Before heading to Wyoming, we couldn’t resist going over to Devil’s Tower. Ever since Close Encounters of the Third Kind many years ago, I wanted to go by there. We had the good fortune of some dark stormy clouds, which really set the scene. I could just imagine an alien spacecraft coming through them and landing. It was really fun to have had the opportunity. Now I just need to go back when there is a lightning storm!
We crossed Wyoming to get to Grand Teton National Park. My previous efforts here did not result in some nice clouds over the mountains in the morning. We only had three days there, but on the second day, we got the clouds we had hoped for. After that we got some really stormy looking clouds that made for some nice images of the peaks.
We were leaving Grand Teton National Park and headed back to South Dakota and had to go through Togwotee Pass on our way there. To our surprise, there was a late season snowstorm resulting in some beautiful winter scenes near the Pass. It wasn’t really winter, but it sure felt and looked like it.
I had photographed in Badlands National Park some years ago, but were mostly chasing wildlife at the time and not doing much Landscape work. I had always thought there were some real nice opportunities there. It always seems to be a challenge to get some good clouds, especially in the morning. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
Next up is a return trip to Oregon in June. We will be working a large area from the coast to inland areas including the Columbia River Gorge.
The Lofoten Islands off the northern coast of Norway are unlike any other place I know of. There are snow covered mountains everywhere with many of them right on the edge of the sea.
I had made the trip to this area last year for the first time and there was so much there that I either had not been able to photograph or had not photographed under the best conditions, so a return trip this year was in order. This time I was there for a full two weeks to be sure I got what I was looking for.
There is a classic view of the red cabins in the village of Reine that I was hoping to capture this time with heavy snow on the ground around the trees. To our good fortune, it snowed heavily on our first day there and the next morning we were given the scene we were looking for.
If there is one constant in the Lofoten Islands, it is that the weather there changes constantly. We were always watching the radar and the sky and thinking about where we needed to be.
These little red boathouses are all over the Lofoten Islands. They’re all closed up in the winter, of course. We had been eyeing this one for days, waiting for a good blowing snowstorm to capture it in. Many of the images were ruined by snow on the lens, but with some diligent effort, we got a good one without any blemishes. I thought the way the snowstorm blurred out the mountain in the background was an excellent way to put emphasis on the little boathouse.
Although the water freezes in some of the fjords and inlets in the winter, it is constantly on the move with the tides. It can be all crammed up against the shore or too far out from it to include in an image and the trick is to have the ice close enough to the shore at sunrise to be part of the composition. We passed by this location many times and it just wasn’t right. Finally, on this morning, all the pieces fell into place. Not only was the ice in a good location, the wind was calm to give us the great reflections. It was just another example why you need one or two weeks in any location to be there at the right time.
This iconic location is overlooking the small village of Hamnoy. The little red cabins are the highlight of the show. Of course, a great winter sunrise with light on the mountain doesn’t hurt either. What made this sunrise so spectacular was the heavy snow that fell just before the sun came up covering the rocks right down to the water line. Sometimes you can only dream of having all the conditions the way you want them, but this time the dream came true.
Fishing is by far the largest industry in the Lofoten Islands. On this winter morning, we were photographing a variety of mountain scenes and they were nice, but just missing something. Then, this small fishing boat was heading out for the day and I knew it was going to provide the perfect balance and would be just what the scene needed. I guess I got a little lucky that day, but there’s nothing wrong with that!
There is a small waterfall in the Islands and the plan was to photograph it with the mountain in the background. The composition was okay, but after walking to an area above the falls, and getting my feet wet in the process, I fell in love with this composition from there. The angle of the flowing stream was perfect and the mountain behind the stream is absolutely beautiful. I tried quite a few compositions from there that were only slightly different from each other, but this was the winner. I love winter in Norway.
In the winter, the village of Hamnoy, Norway receives the direct light of the sun that rises from the southern part of the sky. It was clear enough where the sun was rising from the mountains and clouds behind the village lit up beautifully. The white snow, the pink clouds and the blue skies all worked in harmony at sunrise on this morning of Norwegian Colors.
This location was one of our main targets during the two weeks we were in the Islands, but it needed a fresh winter snowfall to make it work. Finally, after ten days, the snow came and we headed out that afternoon with much anticipation. When we arrived, we found that the ice on the lake blocked the reflection of the peak of the mountain called Volundstind at most places along the edge of the lake. After some searching, we found a location where we could “get the point” of the mountain.
There is a fantastic view of the little town of Hamnoy in the Lofoten Islands from a nearby hill and it is just impossible to resist shooting this winter composition. It was simply the perfect morning with the sun rising behind us lighting up the village along with the mountains and clouds behind it. Although we were there for two weeks, we did not see similar conditions again.
I head out west in April to check out some new territory between Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake. I’m hoping the road to Crater Lake will be open as it is currently closed due to broken snowplows.
Jason and I arrived in Southwest Colorado hoping to find that there had been an early snowfall on the mountains like last year, but it was not to be. So, we made the decision to focus on scenes that were not so dependent on mountains.
With the clear morning skies, the first subject on the list was the rather well known group of curved aspen trees near Ophir, Colorado where the rising sun would provide some nice back lighting on the aspen trees along with a beautiful sun star.
Just south of Telluride is Cushman Lake, one of the prettiest fall color settings in Southwest Colorado. It had been windy for days, which causes ripples on the water and prevents the lake from having good reflections of the trees. We finally got a good forecast of calm winds so we got there before sunrise and were well rewarded.
The remnants of Hurricane Rosa that had come ashore in Mexico were on their way to Colorado. The viewpoint of Mount Wilson near Telluride was the perfect place to capture the incoming weather. The morning sun was still shining on the mountain and the aspens in front of it when storm clouds began building behind the mountain. I could not have asked for more.
We continued searching the back roads around Telluride for good fall color scenes and came across a stand of aspens where an old road appeared to go through them. It was raining, which did a nice job saturating the color of the leaves, but had me heading back to my dry car without spending time to see where the old road went. Maybe next time. Down yet another back road was a stunning setting showing off the contrast between the pines and the aspens.
Not too far northeast of Ridgway, Colorado this unusual ridge with Courthouse Rock makes for a wonderful fall color scene. At sunset, it sits high above to the east allowing the setting sun to light it up beautifully. On this day, the sun was not blocked by any clouds as it made its way to the horizon behind us, providing us with a warm glow on Courthouse Rock.
We headed to Crested Butte in search of some new scenes. The leaves had begun to fall off most of the aspen trees, but we headed out early on the winding dirt road west of town where some very nice fall color scenes can be found. On the way back to town, we came around a curve and there it was, this wonderful grouping of pines and aspens that we couldn’t see when previously heading the other direction. Everything about it was perfect, with the pines surrounded by the aspens on the left and the grouping of the white aspen trees on the right.
It was on to Aspen to see what was happening with the fall color there. The iconic image at Maroon Lake was not possible due to extremely low water levels and still no snow on the mountains. So, we headed up Fryingpan River and were able to capture a nice scene of the Cottonwood trees overhanging the river. Just like Aspens, they turn yellow in the fall, as well.
Finally, during the last two days of our time in Colorado, it began to rain, with snow at the higher elevations. The best place to capture snow on the mountains was going to be at McClure Pass, west of Aspen. On our last day, we got there before sunrise planning to photograph from the river at the bottom of the valley, but found the entire valley to be covered with low clouds and fog. I thought our day was done, but then decided to drive to the top of the pass to see if we could get above the clouds. It worked, and we were rewarded with two incredible images.
Next up will be a November trip to Death Valley and the red rock country of Utah during the peak of fall color there.