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

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.

Folly Beach Pier Sunrise

Folly Beach Pier Sunrise

The pier at Folly Beach, South Carolina at sunrise

Deciding on sunrise locations is much easier than choosing sunset locations when in Charleston. Since the Atlantic is due east of Charleston you want to be somewhere where you can see the ocean. You don’t have to worry about distracting elements taking attention away from the main attraction – the rising sun.

So, when I visited Folly Beach at sunrise, what did I do? I put a distracting element in my image of the sunrise. And I like it.

I shot for a few minutes on the other side of the pier getting some colorful sky shots with interesting blurry ocean waves using long exposures. But, I quickly realized that those shots could have been taken anywhere there is a direct view from the beach of the rising, or for that matter, the setting sun.

I realized that the star of the show could be the pier itself. So, I found myself composing the pier into my shots in as many ways as possible. Given the length of the pier, any shot showing it in its entirety made the sun almost an afterthought in the image. Ultimately I compromised with a short section of the pier acting as a frame for the rising sun. The pier, its reflection in the wet sand, the ocean waves, the orange sky, and the sun itself make for a pleasing combination of elements. I really like the shot. I hope you do as well.



A balloon floats serenely over the desert landscape near Page, Arizona

One of my favorite things about travel photography is encountering the unexpected. Now that is a bit odd since I’m pretty regimented and definitely prefer order and structure. But, I also am a slave to new, better, and different. So, when I’m traveling I’m constantly on the lookout for a photo opportunity that wasn’t on my shot list. In fact, some of all-time favorite images have come totally unexpectedly.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel in which we were staying while in Page, Arizona, we noticed a pickup truck and an RV with ballooning gear loaded into trailers they were pulling. I immediately wondered if they were just passing through or if there was a balloon event scheduled for the area. Fortunately, the latter was the case. We began to ask around to find out when and where the ascent would occur. It was to be on the Saturday morning of our trip. That was great news because we had a window of time before we were scheduled to visit Lower Antelope Canyon. The balloon ascent could fit into our schedule.

After asking around we found out that the ascent would be shortly after dawn on Saturday morning. The next question became from where we could best view the event. Page isn’t a very big town so it didn’t take very long to pick some locations that might work. When we woke up an hour or so before sunrise on Saturday morning we headed for one of those spots. Before we arrived, we realized that many people were heading up to the top of a plateau near the middle of town. We just tagged along hoping a local would lead us to the best spot. We weaved our way through a neighborhood until the car ahead of us pulled to the curb. When a mom, dad, and two young kids emerged from the car, I thought we might be in the right place.

It turned out to be not only the right place but perhaps the absolute best place to view the ascent. We walked between some houses, across the local golf course, and out onto a series of rock ledges overlooking the desert and Lake Powell. Balloons were inflating directly below us and would soon be in the air. We had picked the right place.

If my memory serves me correctly, there were between thirty and forty balloons launched that beautiful, cool, fall morning. Many of them either rose initially just in front of us or crossed at our altitude as the winds swirled around Page. I shot with a telephoto lens and a teleconverter in order to fill the frame with as much color as possible. I took hundreds of images, but a few stand out to me. This one isolates the balloon from the power lines, buildings, and other balloons in the air. I like the way the early morning light casts a beautiful soft, side light on the balloon and the landscape. It must have been incredibly serene to float soundlessly above the desert. I hope I have conveyed that sense of serenity in this image. Enjoy.