Monday, January 31, 2011

Buck-and-Rail Fences in Grand Teton National Park

There is a lot of history still present within Grand Teton National Park. Heck, this was cowboy country and the tradition is still carried on for commercial purposes within the park's boundaries.

Part of the photogenic history within the park can be captured by incorporating the ever-present buck and rail fences into your composition. These fences can be found in several locations, but are most abundant along Highway 191. Here the fences line the west side of the highway and make excellent forefronts for the majestic Teton Range towering above.

One of the best locations is near the Triangle X Ranch turnoff, where the fence descends into a gully and back up the other side. This adds for some intriguing and attractive diagonal elements to your composition of the Cathedral Group.

There are many other scenic locations along this highway to include the fences in your composition as well, including a spot just before reaching the Cunningham Cabin turnoff. Here, several groves of aspen add attractive color in autumn. There are many cottonwoods that also grace the west side of the highway.

Granted, I haven't visited this area in the spring, but I found autumn to be my personal favorite season for photographing this area with the dried brown grasses and yellow color in the shrubs and trees. OK, so autumn is probably my favorite time to photograph the park in general!

Mid to late morning serves as the best light for photographing this area as the light can be quite flat in early morning. Also, keep a watch out for horseback riders, which can add a new element to your composition. With all the ranches nearby, trail riding in guided tours is quite popular, and offers an historic story to your images.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy this magnificent area sometime soon. It really is a special treat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snake River Overlook - Grand Teton National Park

The Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park is a grand panoramic view of the range, made famous by a fantastic image captured by Ansel Adams. At that time, the full "S" of the river could be viewed. Today that is not possible with the growth of the trees, but is still a very worthy place to set up your tripod.

This particular morning started off on the wrong foot. I lost my watch the previous morning while shooting at Oxbow Bend, and borrowed a watch to wake up with. Little did I know, its batteries were dying. Waking up to the sound of other people in your campground is never a good thing for a photographer!

Once I realized what had happened, I raced off to the nearest location from camp - Snake River Overlook. Granted it was a place that interested me and was in my plans to shoot, just not this day! I arrived in plenty of time for sunrise, and was surprised at how few people were present. In fact, there was only one other photographer there when I arrived - a stark contrast to Schwabacher Landing.

Pre-sunrise conditions were quite nice here, however early morning light is flat. This is a better late morning destination when shadows add some depth to your composition.

Snake River Overlook is also an excellent place to capture dramatic sunsets. Unfortunately, I was awarded clear blue skies each evening and was unable to capitalize on this knowledge. Next time!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Schwabacher Landing - Grand Teton National Park

Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park offers excellent reflection shots at sunrise and late morning (early morning finds the light rather flat).

It's also on nearly every photographer's radar, so don't expect to be alone! I arrived over 1-1/2 hours before sunrise, only to notice headlamps already descending the trail from the parking lot. Upon arriving at the pond I wished to shoot from, a few photographers were already set up in total darkness, certainly having scouted the location the day prior (having arrived at the park late the previous evening, this was not an option for me).

I set my tripod up next to them in the dark, unable to see anything - including my subject! I quickly became involved in conversation with them, and much joking and camaraderie ensued. In fact, I ran into one of the photographers again at Oxbow Bend later in my trip, and then again in Yellowstone the following year!

While we photographed first light on the Tetons, the droves began to arrive (I've never understood late arrivals). Though I've found most photographers to be very courteous and respectful, you do run into a bad apple now and then. This was one of those times. Though the photographer next to me and I had our tripod legs intertwined so nobody could get between us, a late arrival still repeatedly tried and we were forced to take issue with her. She was part of a workshop - an irresponsible one.

The morning that unfolded before us was a beautiful one, and I felt fortunate to have been a part of it. Fall colors were peaking during my visit, which did not come by accident. I had actually delayed my trip by a week at the last moment when I realized they were running later than normal. This preparedness in my trip planning did not go unrewarded!

I will have many more trip posts from this magnificent national park as I prepare my new Grand Teton National Park web gallery - stay tuned!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Wind River Range Gallery!

I have always loved the Wind River Range in Wyoming. In fact, I'm quite amazed much of it isn't a national park as its scenery would certainly rival other locations with such acclaim. Of course, once you've spent time in the area and absorbed the local culture, your realize what a difficult battle it would be. You see, this is cowboy country, and many people still make their living off the land. They don't take kindly to the perceived threat of government regulations.

I have visited the Wind Rivers many times, and have repeated trips to both Island Lake/Titcomb Basin and Cirque of the Towers. Both are amazing. My last visit found me venturing to the east side of the mountains and investigating the Cook Lake area as well. Though I did some quick exploring, I certainly can describe my visit as incomplete at best.

My favorite area is of course Cirque of the Towers. This is a popular rock climbing area for obvious reasons, and attracts serious climbers from all over the world. Only the big walls of Yosemite rival it for sport climbing in North America.

But its about more than rock climbing - it's about beautiful rock spires in a grandiose setting. It's a place where one can spend many days and never tire of the surroundings, whether exploring the many side trips available to the motivated hiker, or simply enjoying the inebriation one falls victim to within the supreme setting of the cirque itself.

Another favorite of mine is Island Lake and Titcomb Basin, approached from the Elkhart Entrance near Pinedale. This is a fantastic destination with a lot of exploration available - whether it's wandering up toward Dinwoody Pass, exploring neighboring Indian Basin (recommended), scrambling up Fremont Peak (third highest peak in Wyoming), or maybe experiencing the many lakes along the Highline Trail. Of course, there is always staying put and enjoying the reflections in Island Lake as well! As with Cirque of the Towers, I recommend multiple days to enjoy this area. Anything less than 4-5 days is cheating yourself of the experience!

I've included many images from the area in my new Wind River Gallery and hope you will find time to visit, if only a moment. Maybe it will motivate you to visit the area for yourself. Or possibly it will tug at your curiosity to investigate other, more creative options. Or just maybe, you will simply find an image that touches you in a special way.

As always, thank you for your interest in my photography and taking the time to read my blog.

Next up? Quite possibly Grand Teton NP. Check back!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Glacier National Park Gallery

My new Glacier National Park Gallery is live! These images cover a span of nearly 15 years, and are comprised of at least six different trips to the park (at least that I can count!).

My first time visiting the park was a two-week visit comprised of overnight backpacks - nothing extended. I visited the likes of Gunsight Lake, Otokomi Lake, Cracker Lake, Sperry Glacier, and some destinations up in Waterton National Park.

My second visit was mostly peak-bagging adventures, knocking off the likes of Gould, Siyeh, Gunsight, Flinsch etc., and some day hikes with my wife to Iceberg Lake, Garden Wall, etc.

My third visit was with a good friend, but fell victim to weather. We did get a visit in to Comeau Pass, Sperry Glacier and another visit to the summit of Gunsight Peak, however. We camped near the Sperry Chalet, which was closed for construction.

My fourth visit was a backpacking trip with my wife up the North Fork - a trip to Boulder Pass and Hole-in-the-Wall (see previous post). This trip included the most bear sightings I have ever experienced in the park - all black bears, except for the young grizzly at Hole-in-the-Wall.

My fifth visit was to backpack a variation of the North Circle with a climbing friend. We hiked the Garden Wall to Granite Park (where I took the first photograph above), continued on the Highline trail to Fifty Mountain, then we made it interesting! We climbed over the shoulder of Mt. Kipp and followed the Chaney Glacier route down to Sue Lake. From there, we continued our cross-country trek to Stoney Indian Pass and Stoney Indian Lake, then continued the North Circle route to Mokowanis Lake and up to Elizabeth Lake before crossing thru Ptarmigan Tunnel and descending to Many Glacier - an incredible trip!

Finally, last summer I visited the park with family, focusing on mostly roadside photography. However, my wife and I did the Garden Wall trail one-way, exiting at the switchback. Later while staying at Two Medicine Lake, I did the Dawson-Pitamakan loop, visiting No Name Lake and climbing Flinsch Peak along the way - all this with a broken toe! The toe hurt quite a bit on the Garden Wall hike, but was pretty much a non-factor on the Dawson-Pitamakan trip.

I plan to have more gallery updates to share soon! I'm still deciding which is next, but am leaning toward the Wind River Range. We'll see - check back soon!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Boulder Peak in Glacier National Park

While working on images for my upcoming Glacier NP Gallery, I revisited a trip to Boulder Pass and Hole in the Wall that I did with my wife back in 1997. I was shooting Fuji Velvia in those days - long before the age of digital.

While camped at Boulder Pass, I jaunted up Boulder Peak in the evening and enjoyed this view of the Boulder Pass vicinity and out to Hole-in-the-Wall. I never thought to stitch these two images together until this morning - 14 years later!

Despite a bad wildfire just outside the western boundaries of the park during our visit, we had a great time. Our trip included seeing many bears around Upper and Lower Kintla Lake, as well as a young Grizzly around our camp at Hole in the Wall.

This was my third trip to Glacier, and I have been back several times since then. Recently I completed a variation of The North Circle, traveling cross-country from Fifty Mountain to Stony Indian Pass via Sue Lake. It was a most excellent trip!

Last summer, I visited again with family and enjoyed photographing areas around Logan Pass and St. Mary's Lake. Despite having a broken toe, I also did the Dawson-Pitamakan loop, with a side trip to No Name Lake and repeat climb of Flinsch Peak.

Earlier trips have taken me to the likes of Gunsight Lake, Cracker Lake, Otokomi Lake, Iceberg Lake, Comeau Pass & Sperry Glacier, and climbs of Mt. Gould, Mt. Siyeh & Gunsight Peak.

Glacier National Park has always been a favorite of mine, and I am sure I will return again with further ambitions.

I hope to have my Glacier NP gallery up in the coming days - stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dr. Jose Rizal Park - Wow!

Dr. Jose Rizal Park has amazing views of the Seattle skyline from the south, as well as Safeco and Qwest Field, and Elliot Bay.

This was my first visit to the park, and I was pretty much blown away by the views. And this was inspite of having only visited Kerry Park a couple days prior. Both parks are very nice vantages.

The first view that gets your attention is obviously the view of the city and the freeway wrapping around it. At night (or early morning in my case), headlights and taillights create colorful streams of ribon during long exposures. The above image was exposed at 15 seconds, f16.

Qwest Field is a close second in the running for your attention from this park, at least at night. The colorful blue roof serves as a beacon south of the city. In stark contrast, Safeco Field is simply a dark structure with no lights.

Also cast in bright lights in the south industrial area are the cranes serving the Port of Seattle along Elliott Bay. I found them an interesting scene, especially once the Olympic Mountains began to emerge closer to sunrise. The cargo ships can be scene docked with full loads just beyond the Qwest Event Center Parking Garage. This composition was squeazed between Qwest Field and Safeco Field.

Vertical isolations were also fun to play with from this vantage. The black building in this composition is the Columbia Center - tallest buidling in Seattle and second tallest on the west coast at 987 feet. Originally, it was supposed to be even taller. But FAA regulations would not allow the proposed height of 1005 feet due to its close proximity to Sea-Tac Airport.

The building has an observation deck on the 73rd floor that is open to the public (for a fee) on weekdays only. The views are supposed to rival those from the Space Needle - some say better. Though the panorama is not 360, they are reported to be excellent of the city and of Elliot Bay. This attraction has been added to my bucket list.
As the western horizon starts to turn a pastel pink moments before sunrise, Qwest Field again becomes an attractive scene. At least it did in my mind. I took many shots of this scene in varying light - including first sunlight on the stadium itself. However, I think the subtleness of this one makes it my favorite.

Panoramas of the city scape are also possible from here. The panorama below consists of three images stitched together for a fairly complete representation of this vantage. I wish I would have thought to take these images about 10 minutes earlier when the pink hue dominated the sky. Next time.

Dr. Jose Rizal Park is located on Beacon Hill, just off of Dearbon Street (the exit to take off I-5). The approach from the south is a little indirect due to one-way streets and freeway obstruction, but it is worth the effort! Check it out next time you are in the area!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve from Kerry Park!

2010 ended on a high note for me. I finally visited a park that has been on my list for the last several years - Kerry Park. Wow! There is a reason for it's popularity. Actually, I should say reasons - plural.

Kerry Park is one of, if not the, supreme view of the city skyline that Seattle has to offer, and includes the bonus of Mount Rainier off on the horizon. The visual is magical.

Access to the park was pretty straight forward and easy, even on such a day as New Year's Eve. It is certainly a popular spot, but as with many tourist locations, people come and people go. Too crowded for you? Wait 10-15 minutes.

Actually, the people were a large part of the experience for me. They were from all parts of the country, and the world. The entourage of guests came on foot, on bikes, personal vehicles, small tour buses, and even stretch limos. And everyone I talked to were inebriated from the views and enjoying the moment.

It was fun sharing stories with people from Georgia, while offering to take pictures of a family from South Carolina. The spirit was festive!

Kerry Park is not very large. In fact, the "park" is mostly down below viewpoint, and requires a steep descent to visit. Kerry Park as photographers know it is more of a paved viewpoint, roughly 100 feet long. The best vantage if from the far west (right) end near the steps that descend to the play area and basketball court.

I saw very few photographers during my visit. Much fewer than expected, anyway. And I could count the professionals on a single hand.

I recommend arriving at Kerry Park about an hour (or slightly more) before sunset. Not so much for the potential crowds (and it will help), but for some of the best lighting. I found the vantage from Kerry Park best while Mount Rainier and the foreground still had some light on them, and then well after sunset when the city lights transformed the setting.

The scene becomes much different after dark, both through the lens and the number of people standing around you. The city lights change the setting from one of stretching panorama under a pink hue of the evening sunset to one of festive nightlife. Both are quite intoxicating. It's a scene that is hard to pull away from. But as the skies grow darker, you realize the best images to be had are already on your flash card and it is time to move on.

A visit to Kerry Park at sunset should be a must on every visitor's list. I strongly recommend it.

The park is located on Queen Anne hill, just west of Queen Anne Ave.

There are other magnificent places to view the city as well, including Alki Point and other vantages from West Seattle. Make sure you check them all out!

Next, I will share yet another new vantage of the city that I found quite impressive. Stay tuned!