Jason and I returned to southwest Colorado this year as I so impressed by what we experienced there last year. We explored a variety of back roads that we somehow missed last year and were rewarded with new scenes to photograph.
We started in Aspen to photograph the well-known Maroon Bells, named for the two mountain peaks behind Maroon Lake. From there, we head down to Ridgway, Colorado to work with the large variety of scenes there. The original “True Grit” was filmed in and around Ridgway. Of course, it is much different now than is was in 1970. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend the True Grit Café.
Usually, most landscape photography is timed around sunrise and sunset. However, there is something about the combination of the fall colors with blue skies that just seems pleasing. The trick is taking the photo shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset when the sky is not too bright.
We were a little disappointed by the lack of snow on the mountains this year, but soon realized that there are color variations in the mountain rock that creates a different, and equally interesting part of the composition.
I would like to go back again next year, but there are so many other places to be. Next up will be Great Smoky Mountains National Park for fall color there.
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In just about every year on record, the wildflowers in the pastures surrounding Mount Rainier bloomed in August. There are limited places to stay near the park due to its remote location, so you have to make your lodging arrangements six months in advance. As luck would have it, the continued drought in the west caused the wildflowers to bloom in early July and they were all gone when we got there in August.
Undeterred, Kelly and I searched high and low for other alternatives. We found a few remaining flowers to include along with some other subjects. It turned out to be quite productive with about ten images worth keeping.
This place is a hiking paradise, although many of the hikes do involved some serious elevation gain. We did some hiking, and the higher than normal temperatures resulted in some mild dehydration, which may have been a factor in causing the kidney stone I got. There were a couple of difficult 30 mile drives to the closest emergency room. I will try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
The Washington State wild fires did cause some hazy skies for a couple of days, but it could have been worse. If we had stayed longer, I think it would have become worse, but my photographic issues with it pale in comparison to what those that are fighting the fires are facing. We wish the best for them and their families.
Next up will be short trip to Acadia National Park in Maine and then we’ll be in the Rockies for fall colors at the end of September.
Summertime brings rain and thunderstorms to the Southwest allowing you an opportunity to get in the right place for rainbows and lightning strikes. This was the main reason we headed to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah in the heat of July.
Mornings were cloudless limiting any decent opportunities but that was made up for by the afternoon storms. When lightning was striking, we either stayed right next to an open car door or shot from inside the car itself. With an SUV, you can actually set up a tripod just inside the window. This might not work from all locations, but at Arches, it worked pretty well.
I usually try to capture sunrise and sunset colors, but there is something about the way the blue skies contrast with the red rock formations that is colorful and pleasing to the eye.
We took a couple of days to go down to Canyon de Chelly to photograph Spider Rock (see the last photo), and it may be a location I will go back to again. The lush greenery in the bottom of the canyons is different from anywhere else I have been. I would have stayed there longer, but I got a virus from something I ate or drank that resulted in us driving back to Moab, going to the ER and losing two days to photography time. I guess that’s just going happen occasionally
It was fun, lack of sleep and virus aside, and I’ll be going back in November when the sun rises and sets at a much different angle resulting in different opportunities. Next up is Mount Rainer in Washington State in early August for the wildflowers. Snow-capped mountains and flowers will certainly be the opposite from the Utah desert.
It had been a year since we had last photographed the Grand Tetons. Spring is a beautiful time there with the flowers in full bloom. Last year, the weather pattern had the clouds covering the mountains for almost the entire time we were there, preventing a vast majority of any photographic opportunities.
Ever hopeful of better conditions, we returned this year to these majestic mountains to try once again. As luck would have it, this time the morning skies (when the rising sun shines on the mountains) were almost completely without any clouds. A good photograph simply requires some clouds, hopefully with some sunrise color.
Accepting our situation, we worked around it the best we could, but opportunities were limited. With the clear skies, we went for the sunset photo of the sunburst just as the sun was setting behind the Tetons. The reflection of the sunburst in the water was an added bonus.
We had one morning when we knew a storm was coming through and had planned where we wanted to be when it did. It is a view of what is called Cascade Canyon and it resulted in one of the most dramatic images of the Tetons I have ever seen.
Just for fun, we headed south of Jackson to the Granite Creek area and were surprised by the huge fields of yellow Balsamroot flowers with some nice mountains in the background. Another mid-morning gave us some wispy clouds at the always beautiful Oxbow Bend. Minutes later they were gone and the sky was cloudless, once again.
We got up on our last day, a Saturday, greeted by cloudless skies once again. By-mid-morning, when we were headed to the airport, a beautiful set of wispy clouds formed over the Tetons. We blew past the airport turnoff and headed north to Glacier Point to capture the moment. I would have paid good money to have clouds like this in the early morning getting lit up by the rising sun. In a way, it was like Mother Nature gave us this small enticement to return again. We’ll have to see about that.
We’ll be heading to the red rock country of Utah in July with its 100+ temperatures and hope get lucky with some thunderstorms in addition to some nice sunrise and sunsets.
Deserts, canyons, mountains, rainforests and more. Oregon has it all and spring is a fantastic time to photograph there. I returned to Oregon with my good friend, Keith Miller, who assumed the driving duties allowing me to spend the time in the car forecasting the weather, planning and re-planning our itinerary.
We got off to a great start at Trillium Lake with Mount Hood in the background at sunrise, which required a 3:30am alarm, but it was more than worth it. From there, we headed south the Bend, for sunrise at Sparks Lake and sunset at Smith Rock. It took three days, but we got just the weather we needed. Smith Rock has some of the coolest hiking trails in Oregon. While dodging rain, we explored the area and found Sahalie Falls, a wonderful surprise in the rainforest.
We ventured south of Oregon to check out Redwood National Park and were dutifully impressed by these massive trees. We returned to the Columbia River Gorge to explore some of the small streams, like Gorton Creek. Northeast of Portland is Moulton Park, with a charming scene of a wooden bridge with its reflection in the calm river.
We traveled over 2,800 miles in the 10 days we were there and barely scratched the surface of what is in Oregon to photograph. It was my third expedition to Oregon and already have a commitment to return in June of 2016.