United States

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.

The Road to Cedar Breaks

The Road to Cedar Breaks

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.

Take the Long Way Home

Take the Long Way Home

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!

Great Basin National Park Sunset

Great Basin National Park Sunset

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.

9/11 Memorial at Milton High School

9/11 Memorial at Milton High School

3000 flags are placed on the front lawn of Milton High School each year as a memorial to the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001

This is an image from a post I made five years ago, but it’s certainly appropriate today. May we never forget the tragic events of September 11, 2001. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Happy Independence Day!

Sea of Flags

A display placed on Boston Common on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate those who have given their lives in service to our country

Despite all of the issues that push to divide us, may we all take today to remember what unites us as a country: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hope that today is one of celebration for you and your family for the country we are so blessed to live in. I give thanks to God for allowing me to live in the United States where I can freely express my thoughts and beliefs while living with such abundance. Happy Fourth of July to each of you.

Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

A small cascade reflects the golden hues of autumn colors in Fillmore Glen State Park

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I spent quite a bit of time doing research for a trip to the Finger Lakes area of New York. As I read and poked around on web sites, some locations popped up over and over again. Most of the best sites were in state and county parks. One that sounded intriguing and was within a reasonable drive time during one of my daily excursions was Fillmore Glen State Park. As I recall, the primary attraction was Cowsheds Falls. It was a short hike inside the part, but was ultimately rather disappointing. It’s not that it was an ugly waterfall, but after some of the other ones I had seen it just didn’t match up.

Fortunately, there was more to the park than just that waterfall. I decided to hike a mile or so up the gorge trail to see what else might be interesting to shoot. Along the way, the sun was filtering through foliage that was near its peak color. When I would make a turn on the trail, if the sun was hitting a pocket of color in the trees above, there occasionally was a cool reflection in the stream running through the gorge. But, at some of the most ideal locations, there would have been a scramble down a steep bank or a wade into cold water to capture the image I had in mind.

Finally, I came upon a bend in the stream where the flow was shallow and I could rock hop out to the middle without too much a risk of soaking my gear or my clothes. This image is from that location. The foliage above was mostly gold and yellow resulting in this hue reflected in the stream. The little cascade is only two or three inches high but adds some visual interest to the scene. I don’t love the dead leaves in the background, but I didn’t have a way to easily get them out of the shot. I used a neutral density filter, an aperture of f/16, and an ISO of 100 on a cloudy day in order to get a 4 second exposure. That was long enough for the water to turn silky yet retain the golden reflection that caught my eye. It’s a simple image but I really like it. I hope you like it as well. Enjoy.

Eagle Cliff Falls

Eagle Cliff Falls

Eagle Cliff Falls in Havana Glen near Montour Falls, New York

As I did my research for a trip to the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York, I began to see some areas mentioned over and over again. One of those was Havana Glen. Since I had no reference point for some of these locations, I had to wander around a bit blindly to find them. And, once I had found the location, I had no idea how easy or difficult the area would be to hike.

Such was the case with Havana Glen and Eagle Cliff Falls. As it turned out, the location was in a small county park not very far from Watkins Glen State Park. To my surprise, the collection booth was actually manned. There couldn’t have been much profit to the county the day I visited. The entry fee was two dollars and I saw only two other vehicles in the parking lot during my hour or so visit to the park.

Fortunately, the trail to the falls was well-marked and there was actually steps and handrails in some of the steeper sections of the short trail. In general the trails to waterfalls in New York were much easier to navigate than the ones I find in the Southeast. I don’t know the reason for that but I certainly was happy to experience it!

I shot the falls from lots of different angles, but this image turned out to be my favorite. I like the cascade as a forefront to the falls in the background. There was a bit of fall color developing as well. It’s not my favorite image of the trip, but it’s still a beautiful one. Enjoy.

Autumn at Watkins Glen

Autumn at Watkins Glen

The colors of fall in Watkins Glen State Park

Just a short hike up the gorge from the image in my last post I found this scene. Glen Creek is channeled through a narrow crevice in the rocks creating a narrow funnel effect. The first image captures a wider view showing the flow of the water into a pool after it has flowed through the crevice. I like how the long exposure shows a bit of a whirlpool in the first pool and the flow is still evident in the second pool. I also like the way the subtle colors of fall are captured at the top of the frame. As in the other images I’ve previously posted the fallen leaves caught on the ledges of the gorge add even more visual interest.

The image below is taken just a few yards further up the trail. It isolates the chute yet still including a few of the trees hanging over the edge of the gorge above. I really like both images. They both convey the beauty of the scene well while emphasizing different elements of it. I hope you enjoy both as well.

The Chute

Glen Creek carves a narrow channel through the sedimentary rock of Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Well, this is the main attraction for Watkins Glen State Park – at least in my mind. Although there are a series of beautiful waterfalls, this one is iconic. I had hiked up the gorge for several hundred yards stopping along the way to take some shots. I had seen this image in several places and I wanted to capture it for myself. My hope was that I could arrive early enough to avoid waiting for a long time for people to clear the bridge and the stairs as they viewed the scene. In addition, I hoped that I could get a bit of fall color in the scene just to add some visual interest. I was able to accomplish both by timing the date and time of my arrival.

The shot itself isn’t so complicated. I shot at f/13 in order to have a fairly wide depth of field. In this case everything from about ten feet in front of my lens to infinity would be in focus. I blended together two shots of somewhat lengthy exposures (4/10 second and 1.6 seconds) in order to capture a reasonably wide latitude of dynamic range. The result is an image that is very much exactly like what I saw in the field. Once again, the conditions were nearly perfect. High overcast skies created a nice even light on the scene. There was almost no wind which kept the trees motionless. Fortunately, there had been a good bit of rain in the area which created a nice level of flow in Glen Creek. Relatively few people visiting the park in the first hour after sunrise gave me lots of time to work the scene.

If you can’t tell, I’m quite pleased with this image. I think it represents the park and the falls well. I hope you enjoy it too.