The Road to Big Sur

The Road to Big Sur

The last bit of straight road before hitting the bends and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway along the Big Sur coast

As we worked our way up the California coast, I was anxious to get to the twists and turns of CA-1 and the jaw-dropping views from high atop the cliffs of Big Sur. I had experienced the road a few times before and I was looking forward to seeing if it lived up to my high expectations.

Before we made it to the twisty bits, we came upon this view. Given my expectation of winding roads I hadn’t remembered this long straight stretch before we entered the coastal range. It was one of those “Wow! I’d better stop the car and capture this!” moments. I have quite a few of those as I’m out shooting. In fact, my favorite shots are often ones that I hadn’t visualized and catch me quite unawares.

So, I quickly pulled off the road, made a u-turn, and worked my way back to where I first saw the shot. I took a few different angles including these in the middle of the road. Fortunately, Pamela was there to act as my spotter. Otherwise I likely would have been so absorbed in taking the shot that I would have been struck by another photographer’s car as they soaked in the sights oblivious to my presence.

I love leading lines in my images. It doesn’t get much better than the yellow center stripe of a perfectly straight stretch of road with a scenic vista at the end. Hopefully, you will enjoy the image as well.

The Road to Connemara

The Road to Connemara

An Irish country road leading toward Connemara National Park

I’ve talked before about how some shots happen just because you stumble onto them. This is one of those shots. Pamela and I were driving toward Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park. We had no real set agenda and we were just taking the roads that looked most promising in terms of scenery and views. While driving the light began to change as the sun danced in and out of the clouds overhead. At the same time we were approaching this row of trees lining the road we were driving on. We both immediately commented that this tree line looked like a poor mans version of the Dark Hedges we had visited earlier in our trip.

We drove through the alley of trees once and I immediately had that feeling that you may know as a photographer. A little voice in my head kept saying “Go back, go back..” Usually, when I refuse that voice I live with the regret of the picture that might have been. I drive on or walk away and have a mental image of the perfect image that could have been. Then there are the times when I actually stop and go back and the ‘perfect’ image that I had envisioned is flawed somehow. But, in this case the image was what I hoped it would be. So, I set my tripod in the middle of the road – while dodging speeding cars heading both ways – and got the shot.

I really like how the image captures the mood of the place. The road leads my eye into the image. The trees have just enough shape to create a moody vibe. And through the trees you can see the fog shrouded landscape beyond. It makes me think of that day and drive even now as I type. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Loop Road follows the coast of Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula

While staying in Dingle, our favorite pastime was to circle the peninsula on the Slea Head Drive. Of all the places we visited, the Dingle Peninsula was the most like the Ireland that I had envisioned. It was full of low rocky walls, small verdant pastures, picturesque houses, and views to the sea from around every corner. As a photographer I found myself stopping every 500 yards – or feet! – to compose another picture.

This shot is from near the westernmost point of the peninsula, Slea Head. I had to park our car several hundred yards up the road and walk back to this spot. As we drove around the corner I wanted to stop in this location but that would have been impractical and a bit suicidal. The roads in Ireland are very narrow and in this spot don’t even have a centerline. When two cars meet head to head it’s basically every driver for himself. So, I parked the car in a relatively wide spot in the road and dodged cars on the way back to this location.

I love the way that the low rock barrier wall leads my eye into the scene toward the lush green hills in the distance. The contrast of the blue seal with the green hills and blue-white sky makes for some great pops of color. It’s also apparent from this angle how steep the hills are and how precipitous the drop to the ocean below is. It’s a great visual representation of the beauty of this part of Ireland. Enjoy.

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

A row of beech trees found near Armoy, Northern Ireland

I first saw the Dark Hedges in a blog post by a native Irishman named David Patterson a few years ago. While he had emigrated from his native Ireland, he still visited, photographed, and discussed his native country. One of the spots that he photographed was this row of trees in Northern Ireland known as the Dark Hedges. I knew then that I wanted to visit this spot one day.

Then, The Game of Thrones was made into a series by HBO and this location was used in its filming. I’ve read the books but I haven’t seen the show. I quickly found out while researching our trip to Ireland that this simple country road had been used as a filming location for the series. Consequently, when I visited I was never alone. There was virtually a constant flow of sightseers and fans of the show who wanted to stroll this beautiful lane. I agreed with them that it is a beautiful location, but I wanted a few minutes in great light so I could photograph it!

Alas, my moment of beautiful light and an empty road never materialized. I was able to squeeze this shot off, but I’m pretty sure that there is a tour bus about to enter the image from one end or the other. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back one day and visit here in the golden hour when the popularity of the show has waned. It’s definitely a shot I’ll keep on my bucket list. Enjoy.

Driving Into Sunset

Driving Into Sunset

The road from Page, AZ to Kanab, UT as the sunset paints the sky brilliant hues of red and orange

Our trip to Arizona and Utah had been very productive. As is usually the case for a trip like this one, many of the shots I had envisioned hadn’t turned out quite the way I had hoped, but we had encountered many other unexpected visual delights. Such was the case with this image. As we stood in the streets of Page contemplating shooting the balloon glow in the streets of Page that evening, the gathering clouds on the horizon suggested that the sunset could be worth shooting. We began to evaluate our options. Pretty quickly we decided that hitting the road early and taking our chances on the road from Page to Zion gave us the best chance of capturing a beautiful sunset.

So, we headed for our car and hit the road toward Kanab. It quickly became apparent that the sunset would be worth shooting. Now the dilemma common to photographers became paramount. We were in search of a foreground to use with the beautiful emerging sunset.

Having driven in the area for a couple of days we had some ideas about places that might work, but we were running out of time. The sunset was quickly peaking and we would have to get somewhere quickly. As it turned out, somewhere turned out to be a pullout offering views of the surrounding mesas and Page in the distance. After taking a few test shots, it occurred to me that the foreground could be the road we were just driving on. So, I set my tripod up in the middle of the road and began composing.

I had to move a few times for oncoming traffic, but that was pretty easy. I could see for at least a mile in either direction so I had plenty of warning if a car or truck was approaching. After taking a few shots this image resulted. The sunset is waning but there is still a glow on the surrounding cliffs. The road trails off nicely in the distance and its distinctive yellow and white stripes provides a nice contrast to the gray-black of the asphalt.

It’s a simple image but a fitting one for my last one from the trip. We were on the road home and it felt good to be going there. Enjoy.

Past Their Prime

Past Their Prime

These structures have seen their best days but still reign majestically over the Palouse

The road system in the Palouse is a combination of mostly two-lane paved roads linking the major communities and dirt or gravel roads that allow access to individual farms. The paved roads are great for getting from one location to another quickly. The back roads may be slower to navigate and occasionally a bit slippery, but they are vastly superior for finding great images.

This image is a great example of that premise. We were wandering along the Washington-Idaho border and saw that a series of farm roads would take us from where we were in Idaho to where we wanted to go in Washington. The problem with maps and GPS systems is that they render a two-dimensional view of the real world. They don’t capture elevation changes, the type of terrain, or the location of barns, houses, churches, or other photogenic subjects. As it turned out, the entire route was full of interesting subjects and great viewpoints.

My favorite of the sights that we saw that morning was this farm. Once again, weather conditions were ideal. There was an overcast sky that still had enough texture in it to be interesting. The weathered red paint and gray metal roof of the barn and outbuilding were a beautiful combination. As with other barns in the area, the vibrant green grass of the surrounding pasture and fields contrasted wonderfully with the reds and grays of the sky and buildings. As a bonus, the back side of the old barn had fallen down allowing patches of sky and field to be seen through the structure itself.

I would have liked to stay and prowl around a bit. However, as we were setting up to shoot, we noticed that there was actually a camper set up in the remaining sturdy part of the barn. Basically, we were wandering around in the front yard of someone who had chosen to live in a trailer under a dilapidated barn. Something told me that they probably wouldn’t like us wandering around their home. We moved on quickly but made sure that we had our shots first. I love the way this image captures the feel of that Sunday morning in the Palouse. Enjoy.