Cedar Breaks National Monument lies peacefully under the subtle but brilliant colors of a Utah sunrise
I had seen Cedar Breaks National Monument on maps before and had been tempted to visit on prior trips to Zion National Park. Cedar Breaks is tantalizingly close to Zion but I had always been on my way further east to visit another of Southern Utah’s constellation of incredible state and national parks. Fortunately, we had actually built a visit to Cedar Breaks into our schedule this time and had scouted our shooting location the night before. As it turned out, I was really happy we had done so. The next morning turned out to be pretty cold and it was nice to know exactly where we would be setting up shop.
It doesn’t happen often, but in this case the best shooting location at sunrise was right at the visitors center in the principal overlook. We had a 270 degree view of Cedar Breaks and could quickly move from one angle to another. At one point I had a camera pointed due east and another looking almost west. Having two camera bodies and two tripods was a great luxury since this turned out to be a pretty epic sunrise and there were lots of shooting opportunities. As the sun rose closer to the horizon and eventually over, the view further down canyon and over to the distant mountains just got better and better.
As I normally do at sunrise and sunset, I was shooting series of three bracketed exposures. I may even have had to go to five shots separated by two stops for the first few series. There was quite a wide latitude of exposures needed to bring out shadow detail and not blow out the highlights of the clouds overhead. Eventually there was enough reflected light to drop to three shots and ultimately one exposure. I’m just happy that good technique and modern equipment allow me to capture these types of scenes. The camera simply can’t always capture what the eye can see without a bit of an assist in post-processing.
Cedar Breaks isn’t one of those places where I would recommend staying for a weeklong visit, but it’s definitely a place you don’t want to miss. I think our overnight stay in Cedar City with a chance to take in a sunset and sunrise was a reasonable amount of time there. I drove away appreciating our time there and ready for another visit in the future.
The view along UT 14 as it winds its way up from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument
Since I visit the western US to shoot mostly during the fall, I’ve had the opportunity to see the aspens at peak fall color on several occasions. It’s always a magnificent experience. While planning this trip to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, I hoped that our schedule, elevation, and an aspen forest would intersect at some point. While at Great Basin National Park, the aspen forest had already turned and shed its leaves. Even so, the park was fun to visit and beautiful.
But, as we headed southeast toward Cedar City, I hoped that a beautiful aspen forest at the peak of fall color would be visible along the way. About thirty minutes out from Cedar City I began to see the mountains rising in the distance. I *thought* I could see pops of yellow on the mountainsides but I convinced myself that it was simply the way the sun was hitting the mountains. As we got closer, though, it became obvious that the large patches of yellow and orange that we could see were actually huge aspen groves. Needless to say, I got pretty excited.
I became even more excited once we dropped off our bags and headed up the mountain from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument. While on prior trips to southern Utah I had heard of Cedar Breaks and its beauty but I had never visited. So, I was pretty stoked to pay it a visit. What I hadn’t anticipated was the amazing beauty of the road up the mountain. It was one of those drives where we were stopping at least once a mile, and sometimes more often, just to gape at the landscape. I had gone from no leaves on the aspen trees to grove after grove at the peak of their fall beauty. And, I hadn’t even made it to the main attraction yet!
This shot was taken during one of those stops. There was a county park where we parked the car and moved up and down the road for a while. I loved the way that he fence and the road led my eye into the mass of the aspen-covered mountain we had just driven past. The colors were amazing and there were even a few clouds in the sky to break up the otherwise perfect blue sky overhead. The scenery was so beautiful that we utterly enjoyed two or three trips up and down the mountain pass just so we could soak it all in. I hope this image conveys some sense of the beauty of the scene that we experienced.
A thirteen-mile long straight stretch of road in the Utah high desert
I’m showing my age a bit, but with apologies to 70s supergroup SuperTramp, I’ve titled this post after their famous song. I was actually in high school when it came out… It just seems appropriate given the length of the highway pictured stretching out seemingly to infinity.
As you might imagine the distance between population centers virtually anywhere in Nevada outside of Las Vegas is vast. It was not uncommon for us to drive stretches of highway where there was thirty, forty, or even fifty miles between towns. And, with few towns and relatively flat ground, the roads could be very, very straight. We finally started guessing how far it would be until we reached the next bend in the road and using the odometer to referee our guesses. As it turned out, parts of adjoining Utah were very similar.
This stretch of Utah state highway 21 was the longest stretch of straight road that we encountered. We started where the road disappears in the far distance and stopped just before a bend in the road immediately behind us in this image. That stretch of road was over thirteen miles long! While I was taking this series of shots, a car would appear and we would still literally have minutes to compose and shoot before the car came even remotely close to us. My only regret from this part of the trip was not having a supercar that we could have opened up to full throttle on these long, deserted stretches of road. Oh well. Maybe next time… Enjoy!
The late afternoon light filters through clouds hanging over Great Basin National Park at sunset
I’ve probably mentioned my friend Tom over the last few years. The way I describe our relationship is that he is a hiker who enjoys photography and I’m a photographer that reluctantly agrees to hike when necessary to get a great shot. Tom and I have been friends since I was in college at Georgia State and he was matriculating at Georgia Tech.
One of Tom’s bucket list items is to visit every national park in the United States. So, in the last few years we have fallen into a rhythm of taking trips that incorporate a national park that he (and in most cases, I) have not visited before. That was the case this past fall when we planned a trip to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona to visit Great Basin National Park followed by various other sites in those states. To be honest, I had no real desire to visit Great Basin, but after some research it certainly seemed worth a look.
I don’t know if GBNP is the least visited national park or not, but it is certainly on the low end of the list. I believe that it averages 100,000 visitors per year. It’s certainly in an out of the way location. GBNP is located almost exactly halfway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Even more telling the road that runs to the east and north of the park is literally labeled The Loneliest Road in America on Google Maps. It’s the kind of place that you can go quite a while without seeing another person.
On our first night in the park, we set up hoping for an epic sunset looking west toward the horizon. Unfortunately, the spot we picked didn’t have a great view to the horizon. And, conditions weren’t shaping up for a blazing show in the west at sunset. However, as I looked back east, some low lying clouds caught the right amount of light and were briefly a fairly intense shade of pink. I captured this image looking out toward Utah over the Great Basin. It may be a desolate part of the world, but it is certainly beautiful in its own was as well. Enjoy.
Downtown Atlanta skyline as viewed from the Jackson Street overpass in December 2016
The app that I use to forecast sunrise and sunset conditions showed that there was a high chance of a brilliant sunset over Atlanta last night. So, Taylor and I headed down to the Jackson Street bridge over Freedom Parkway to see what might happen. I’ve shot from this location many, many times, but I’ve never come away with the shot I want. Unfortunately, the same was true last night. Conditions were promising, but no blazing sunset over my hometown materialized. Sigh. Conditions were great for the classic twilight view of Atlanta, however. Here’s that shot and here’s to that fiery sunset over the city that I’ve been chasing for a while now.
A panoramic view of the Cowee Mountains from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway
I was spending a few minutes puttering around in my office this morning and I came across this image. I had just posted an entry that contained another image captured during this sunset, but I’m still intrigued by this shot.
While I was waiting for the clouds to turn brilliant shades of pink, orange, and red after sunset, my friend Tom and I were standing on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Cowee Mountains Overlook in western North Carolina just waiting for things to develop. As is often the case with me the shot that I wound up with turned out to be totally different from the shot I had anticipated. Sunset that night, while not a bust, certainly was not sensational. This, however, turned out to be an epic shot. Paraphrasing John Lennon among many others, sometimes life is what happens in the meantime.
For those of you interested in the technical details, I shot this with a Nikon D800 at ISO 400 with an aperture of f/5.0 at a speed of 1/500 second using my Nikon 24-70 2.8 at 50mm. I shot on a tripod with portrait orientation taking eight shots stitched together with the panorama feature in Adobe Photoshop CC with final adjustments made in Lightroom CC.
I wish it was a sunrise shot because it would make for great commentary on how I view the new year. So, let’s just go with the sunrise/New Year analogy even though this is a sunset shot..
Here’s hoping that 2016 is your best year yet. I certainly hope it will be for me and my family. In any case, may your relationship with your family, your friends, and God who created you grow in depth and vitality in the new year. Enjoy.
Late morning light streams over the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall located near Beijing
I don’t have a lot to add about my trip to the Great Wall since my last post. I will say that it is one of those places that is not overrated. You truly have to experience it to do it justice. I suspect I could visit each of the sections in a different season and in different lighting conditions and could photograph it many, many times without creating a boring image. It truly lives up to its description as great. Enjoy.
A woman walks her dog at the peak of fall color along beautiful Bragg Hill Road in Waitsfield, Vermont
Well, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’m trying to get back in the groove. I’ve got images from China, California, Georgia, and France to post so I don’t know how I’m going to catch up. But, I’ll give it a shot and get as may images and stories posted as possible over the next few months.
This will probably be my last image from last fall’s trip to New York and Vermont. I have to post it, though. It’s one of my favorites from the trip. And, as it so often happens, the shot was totally unplanned.
One of the most beautiful spots on my sojourn through New England last fall was Bragg Hill Road in picturesque Waitsfield, Vermont. I was driving slowly through the farms on Bragg Hill Road near sunrise just looking for ways to highlight the beautiful fall color in the region. I had stopped by the side of the road to photography a barn when a lady walked by with her dog. She was just taking the animal for his morning stroll but I quickly realized that her and the dog could be an interesting focal point for a larger picture of Bragg Hill Road.
I waited patiently for her to walk to the bottom of the hill and begin the ascent to the next hill. I snapped several images, but this one seemed to capture the beauty of the moment the best. I considered taking all of the telephone poles and lines out of the shot, but they too seem to convey some of the rural nature of the area. In the end I liked the way the woman and her dog are almost lost in the scene. The image conveys the solitude that one can still attain in the fall in New England surrounded by incredibly beauty. Enjoy.
A sign for Maple Lane Farm with beautiful fall foliage behind near Woodstock, Vermont
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post. I’ve undertaken the gigantic task of moving my entire workflow from editing photos in Apple’s now defunct – but formerly excellent – photo editing software to Adobe’s Lightroom. I’ll try to post about my trials and tribulations with that transition shortly.
In the meantime here’s one of the last images from last fall’s trip to Vermont. This is a simple, but beautiful shot from near Woodstock, Vermont. As you might imagine there is a recurring theme related to maple trees in New England. Maple syrup, maple trees, maple leaves, Maple Street, and all things maple can be found in the region. Add in the fall foliage and the occasional maple tree flaming with various colors and signs like these become representative of the region. I hope to have more for you soon. Enjoy.
A classic small New England town, Waits River, Vermont
This is yet another visitation of a classic Arnold Kaplan composition. Waits River is literally a wide spot in the road as you move from one small Vermont village to another. It took me quite a bit of research to determine *exactly* where this shot was taken. After driving the back roads a bit, I still had to adjust my bearings a bit to find the right turns and ensure that I had indeed arrived in Waits River.
I think this is a good example of the vanishing classic New England village. Even after some fairly extensive retouching to remove the most egregious signs of modern man, I am still left with a myriad of wires, posts, and other relics of modern life that weren’t one hundred years ago or even less. Still, this image is a great reminder of what Vermont used to look like and, in some cases, still does. Enjoy.