Cedar Breaks Sunrise

Cedar Breaks Sunrise

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.

South Beach Lifeguard Stands at Sunrise

10th Street Lifeguard Stand at Sunrise

One of a string of unique and colorful lifeguard stands on South Beach in Miami, Florida

For spring break this year, we decided to go as far south as we could reasonably drive in search of warmer weather. It doesn’t get that cold in Atlanta, but, still, after a few months of temperatures hovering around freezing and occasionally dropping well below freezing, sunshine and the beach always sound pretty good. After a good bit of research we settled on a place in North Miami Beach. I wanted to stay away from some of the craziness of South Beach but still be close enough to enjoy it a bit.

So, I took a couple of visits to South Beach at sunrise to see if I could capture the lifeguard stands there in warm, early morning light. My first attempt was a bust because of overcast conditions and a triathlon taking place that day. The second attempt was much more successful. I would have preferred to have a few more clouds in the sky, but I’m still pretty pleased with the results. All of Miami Beach is beautiful, but the lifeguard stands from 22nd Street and southward in general are pretty cool. They are in an Art Deco style consistent with the architecture found in the rest of South Beach. It’s definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in the vicinity. Enjoy.

8th Street Lifeguard Station at Sunrise

One of a string of unique and colorful lifeguard stands on South Beach in Miami, Florida

Late Afternoon Light from Baxter Mountain

Late Afternoon Light from Baxter Mountain

Peak fall foliage in the Adirondacks as viewed from the summit of Baxter Mountain with beautiful late afternoon light bathing the landscape

Although I experienced wonderful weather during the portion of my trip in the Adirondacks, there was a downside to the beauty. While the trees and the fall color season had benefited from a prolonged dry spell with relatively moderate temperatures, the corresponding lack of rain had caused the streams to virtually dry up. Unfortunately for me, I had planned on shooting quite a bit in the streams of the Adirondacks with beautiful fall foliage in the scene or in the reflections in the water.

In addition, the cold clear mornings allowed for fog to settle in the valleys. Between the dried up streams and the inability to see more than a few hundred feet on some mornings, about half of my potential shooting locations were now a bust. As is always the case when conditions aren’t what I plan them to be, the mantra becomes “Adapt!”. So, I found myself trudging up and down a few more mountain summits than I had planned. It was simply the best way to capture the beauty of the Adirondacks given the conditions.

Baxter Mountain was one of those mountain summits I hiked in order to capture this image. But first of all, I had to find the trailhead. After reading through the directions a few times and driving past the trailhead at least twice, I finally found the wide spot just off the pavement to park my car. Even though I lightened my load as much as possible, it was still a bit of a struggle at times to reach the summit. Mercifully, the trail designer had created a series of switchbacks to gain elevation up the side of the mountain rather than a direct frontal assault. It may have taken longer, but I arrived at the top of Baxter Mountain in one piece and with a bit of energy in reserve.

I took awhile just to soak in the landscape below me. It was a relatively warm afternoon and a light breeze made for very pleasant conditions. I was prepared to stay at the summit through sunset but the cloudy skies were not encouraging in that respect. I feared that I would invest another two or three hours on the summit and walk away disappointed in my results. As I waited, though, the lighting just got better and better. As the sun sank lower on the horizon the fall colors became more vibrant and the harsh shadows faded away. Even the way the sunlight was filtering through the clouds and across the mountains became more and more pleasing to my eye.

I shot a series of images but this one works the best for me. There’s a bit of leaf movement visible due to the wind blowing during relatively long exposures. It’s not too distracting to me though. Overall I feel that this image captures the atmosphere atop Baxter Mountain that lovely fall afternoon. If you can’t hike up there yourself I hope this will be some form of substitute. Enjoy.

Silver Lake Mountain Panorama

Silver Lake Mountain Panorama

Fall color stretches for as far as the eye can see in the Adirondacks as viewed from the summit of Silver Lake Mountain

I had already experienced an incredible sunrise and golden hour on Taylor Pond in the Adirondacks. Honestly, I would have been happy just driving on up to Lake Placid and hoping that I could have great light in the afternoon, too.

However, I had marked a trail nearby that looked promising as I was doing my research. As it turned out, the trailhead was only a few minutes away and the light was still great. So, I found the parking area for the trailhead, loaded up my backpack, and headed up Silver Lake Mountain. Although I didn’t know it as I did my research, it turned out that the view I would have from the peak of Silver Lake Mountain was of the landscape I had just photographed earlier in the day. Only now I would have a bird’s eye view of Taylor Pond, Silver Lake, and the surrounding forest and mountains.

The trail was steep but mercifully short – probably less than a mile. There was a good bit of scrambling over rocks and boulders to gain elevation but the view kept getting more promising. Finally, I cleared a short, steep incline and had gained enough elevation to be looking down over the treelike to the landscape beyond. I don’t remember if this was from that view or from one a few hundred feet higher, but the light was gorgeous, the fall colors were near peak, and the breeze was gentle allowing the trees to not blur under a long exposure.

The body of water to the left is Taylor Pond where the images from the last few posts were shot. The lake on the right is Silver Lake. The mountains in the background are the Adirondacks looking toward Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

It truly was a magical morning. And it was only the first morning of my adventure in the Adirondacks and Vermont. There’s more images coming. Stay tuned and enjoy.

Morning in the Adirondacks

Morning in the Adirondacks

Early morning light illuminates the clouds and foliage over and around Taylor Pond on a spectacular fall morning

I’ve posted several images from my morning at Taylor Pond in the Adirondacks. I couldn’t resist this one last shot before moving on. The broken sky and sunlight filtering through it and the rising haze to illuminate the brilliant foliage on the shore and surrounding mountains made for some wonderful shooting conditions. If only every fall morning could be spent at a location like this one. It was magical. Enjoy.

Early Morning Light on Taylor Pond

Early morning light on Taylor Pond

Shortly after dawn the shoreline of Taylor Pond still reflects beautifully in the still waters of the pond

The morning I spent on Taylor Pond was truly magical. It was one of those mornings where the light changed constantly as the clouds moved overhead yet the wind stayed down enough to allow a beautiful reflection for an hour or more. I found myself just standing behind my tripod transfixed by the light show developing around me.

At sunrise I was focused primarily on capturing the pinkish hue in the clouds above reflecting in the pond. As the sun rose higher over the horizon and burned through the light overcast I became fixated on this shoreline. As the sun rose through the haze and over the low-lying mountains surrounding Taylor Pond, the trees on the shore caught more and more sunlight. Finally I was able to make a series of images with the trees fully illuminated. This is the first of those. I especially like the way the broken sky reflects in the still water of Taylor Pond. Enjoy.

Taylor Pond Reflection – Horizontal

Taylor Pond Reflection - Horizontal

Early morning light cascades over Taylor Pond in the Adirondacks

Here’s another one from Taylor Pond on the eastern edge of New York’s Adirondack Park. The Adirondacks contains an incredible array of mountains, streams, lakes, hiking trails, and spectacular scenery that are normally only found in a national park. In fact, Adirondack Park is larger than many national parks. The foresight of New York State to set aside such a large and scenic region is truly laudable.

The park is made up of multiple regions and contains many state parks, wilderness areas, and forests. Taylor Pond is a small part of this much larger area and is located on the eastern edge of the park about midway between Lake Placid and Plattsburgh.

I had hoped to capture a psychedelic array of colors in the pre-dawn sky perfectly reflected in the pond. That plan didn’t materialize, but I was treated to an hour or so of wonderful, changing light that did reflect beautifully in still Taylor Pond. Truth be told the pond is more like a lake. Surprisingly, the light breeze that persisted that morning didn’t ripple the water significantly and allowed me to capture image after image of the brilliant fall foliage and the continually morphing sky overhead. It was great fun to stand, take in the show, and bask in the glory of God’s creativity. Enjoy.

Taylor Pond Reflection – Vertical

Taylor Pond Reflection - Vertical

A beautiful fall sky is reflected in the still waters of Taylor Pond in the Adirondacks of upstate New York

Well, I managed to go an entire month without posting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my plan. October just turned out to be a much busier month than I had planned on. In October I wrapped up a trip to New England, had our house hit by a small tornado (literally), traveled to China for ten days, and spent a week recovering from a bug I picked up on the way home and threw out my back all the same time. Meanwhile, my wife has been out of town on business and our two teenage daughters have somehow maintained their sanity throughout all the chaos. I don’t want to repeat October anytime soon!

So, I’ll try to get back to a somewhat regular posting schedule now that life is back to normal. This image was taken on my early fall trip to the Adirondacks and Vermont. After flying into Burlington, Vermont, I took the ferry over late at night to my hotel in Plattsburgh, New York. From there I woke up very early the next morning and drove to Taylor Pond.

I couldn’t get to the side of the lake that I had planned to shoot from but as it turned out I’m glad that I landed where I did. The sunrise itself was not spectacular, but the conditions it created in the cloud layers above were magical. As you can see the foliage in the mountains surrounding the pond was near peak and the pond itself remained calm for most of the morning. I spent a couple of hours transfixed by the beautiful, changing light conditions. I’ll share several images from the morning but this is the first of my favorites. Enjoy.

Summer’s First Sunrise

Summer's First Sunrise

The first sunrise after the summer solstice as viewed from Grandfather Mountain, NC

Most landscape and nature photographers will tell you that a significant portion of their best images are captured in the “golden hour”, the hour immediately after sunrise and before sunset. I’d actually stretch that definition to the golden two and a half hours. Most of the images that I come back to over and over were taken thirty minutes before sunrise until two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset through thirty minutes after sunset. So, in any given day, I have five great hours to shoot and I’m filling in the gaps with other possibilities for the rest of the day.

That’s not so bad during the winter time when days are short. In the summer, though, there might be fifteen hours of daylight. That means that most of the day is filled with harsh, flat light. That’s why most photographers would tell you that they hope for partly cloudy to cloudy skies. In an ideal world I would have partly cloudy skies at sunrise and sunset and cloudy skies in between. That way I could use the rest of the day shooting with no harsh shadows and minimal contrast.

Fortunately for me on this trip I had a variety of conditions. On this day a front was moving through and I just hoped the sun would rise before the incoming clouds obscured the sunrise. I hoped that because I had scouted for quite a while to find just the right sunrise location. This shot was taken from the shoulder of the Blue Ridge Parkway not from a cleverly located pull-out. Unfortunately the Appalachians run from the southwest to the northeast in most of North Carolina. Since the sun was rising in the northeast at this time of year the mountains themselves generally obscure the sunrise. Searching for a location with a good northeasterly view that also was devoid of trees took quite a while.

When I arrived on location about an hour before sunrise I could only hope that cloud cover would give way long enough to actually see the sunrise. On this day exactly that happened. I pulled my car over to the side of the parkway, walked back a hundred yards or so to a clearing, and set my tripod and camera up. I could see the glow on the horizon but the clouds were thick enough that I couldn’t tell for sure exactly where on the horizon it would rise. I was pleasantly surprised when the perfectly round orb of the sun began to penetrate the otherwise dense cloud cover. The show didn’t last for long, but I took a series of images while it was visible. This is the best of those. I hope you get to enjoy the beauty of a sunrise in person sometime soon.

Lone Fir at Sunrise

Lone Fir at Sunrise

A lone skeletal Fraser Fir tree in silhouette against the backdrop of golden sunrise light and the ridges of the Smoky Mountains

Here’s one more shot from Clingmans Dome at sunrise. I’ve already talked about the devastating impact of the Balsam woolly adelgid and the beautiful conditions this late spring/summer morning. So, this post is short and sweet. But, I do love the contrast of the lone fir tree and the beautiful golden light of sunrise with the Smoky Mountain ridges as a background. I hope you like it as well.