USA

Born in the USA

American flag, steam, and locomotive

American flag, steam, and locomotive

On a recent photography trip to Oregon I was working my way down the coast from sight to sight and town to town. As is often the case on these trips I was heading from one pre-planned location to another when serendipity struck. While we were stopped on the side of the road photographing some arcane roadside attraction, an old American built steam locomotive came chugging down the adjacent railroad tracks.

I quickly shifted my attention from what I was looking at to this beautiful old piece of machinery from a bygone era. After squeezing off a few quick shots the train chugged down the tracks, we noticed that the train was pulling into the small town that we had just passed through. We quickly backtracked and found the train sitting at a siding in the middle of Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

As the train sat at the siding steam continued to pour out of her tanks as the crew oiled the machinery and prepared for the return journey down the coast. It gave us the opportunity to move around the locomotive looking for unique ways to capture her strength and beauty.

During that exploration I was struck by this composition. The plaque denotes the fact that the train was built in Schenectady, New York in September 1925. The steam rising is obviously a byproduct of the machine, but it also adds a certain dramatic flair to the image. And the American flag represents the country and the era that created such a powerful yet now obsolete relic of America’s past.

If you are reading this in the United States, I hope that you take a few minutes this holiday weekend to reflect on your liberty, our great nation, and those that came before us that sacrificed much in order for us to be able to enjoy our Fourth of July celebration.

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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.

New York City Skyline

Sunset over New York City

A brilliant sunset sky over the skyline of New York City and the Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Skyline at Dusk

The lower Manhattan skyline as viewed from Brooklyn Bridge Park at dusk

New York City Skyline

The skyline of lower Manhattan as viewed from Brooklyn Bridge Park

I’ve had some shots on my photo bucket list for quite a while. Those include images from Patagonia, Iceland, and New Zealand among many others. It’s pretty easy for me to justify a lack of images from those locations in my portfolio. I haven’t traveled to those locations… yet.

But, the skyline of New York? That’s hard to explain. It’s not that difficult to get there. The shot itself isn’t technically difficult. I just didn’t have it. So, when Taylor and I began to plan a trip to Boston and New York, I immediately began to think about locations in New York that I would like to photograph. The view from the Empire State building or from the top of Rockefeller Center was one obvious location I wanted. The other that came quickly to mind was a view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn or New Jersey.

As I began to flesh out the details of our trip it became apparent that the time of day that I could shoot most readily would be sunset. That meant that I would want to put the setting sun behind the city. So, I would be shooting from Brooklyn. As I researched online the spot that came up over and over again was Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since I haven’t spent a lot of time in New York City I had not visited that location before. Frankly, I didn’t know if the area would be safe, well-lit, or even easily accessible. When I talked to my brother-in-law who lives in the city he assured me that the area was perfectly safe and that I would not be alone there.

So, I hopped on the subway and made my way to Brooklyn. After a short walk to the park I was surrounded by other photographers, sightseeing tourists, and plenty of locals who were out enjoying a beautiful late spring evening. Now all I had to get was great lighting conditions for my shots. As it turned out I had perfect conditions and I was extremely grateful for them. To be in the right place at the right time doesn’t always work out for your friendly neighborhood photographer. But, God smiled on me that night.

I shot from several different locations, but I ended up at a seating area that has been created to view the perfect New York City sunset. The seating area is located just south of the Manhattan Bridge. As you can see, there is just enough of an angle so that the Brooklyn Bridge can serve as the foreground for the skyline of lower Manhattan. I sat in that location for a very happy hour and a half just watching and capturing the changing light conditions.

The shot I had in mind when I set out that night is the glowing sunset over the city. It’s a toss-up though whether my favorite is the dusk shot or the later shot with only a bit of glow still lingering in the sky. I love them all. I hope that you enjoy them all as well. And, as always, thanks for stopping by. Enjoy.

The View from the Rock

The View from the Rock - horizontal

The Empire State building and lower Manhattan at sunset as viewed from Rockefeller Center

One of the shots that I hoped I would be able to get was the Manhattan skyline from the top of Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, on the day we had tickets to go up some rain was forecast for New York City. After discussing it for a while, we decided to go anyway hoping that the weather would hold off until after sunset.

So, we queued up with all the other tourists and waited our turn to ride the elevator up to the observation deck of Rockefeller Center. I could tell from the gathering clouds that our chances were pretty slim for staying dry. Still, the experience was fun and we looked forward to our turn.

Our time finally arrived and we made our way through the queue and into the elevator. When we arrived at the top of Rockefeller Center we took a few minutes to wander around a bit, taking in the view and looking for the best vantage point for the upcoming sunset.

My only mistake was taking the rules posted on the Rockefeller Center website a bit too seriously. There were strict prohibitions of any type of tripod or monopod being allowed. Of course, I immediately saw at least two tripods in use and no one really seemed to care. A bit later on I regretted not having even a small travel tripod. I was able to photograph until the sun actually set, but after that there simply wasn’t enough light for me to hand hold my camera and take a shot without vibration.

The good news was that the incoming storm also created some pretty sweet shooting conditions. I did have to stand through a brief rain shower covering my camera with my rain jacket. But, it turned out to be worth it. There was a brief ten minute or so window where the setting sun dropped below the clouds creating the showers and cast some beautiful golden light on the Manhattan skyline.

The shot posted here was taken in just those conditions. Some of the city lights were coming on at dusk. Some sunlight was creating a wonderful glow on the Brooklyn Bridge and some of the buildings of lower Manhattan. The Freedom Tower stood virtually glowing in the late afternoon light. All in all, it was a pretty amazing experience even though we did get a bit wet. Enjoy.

Beacon Hill Red Door

Beacon Hill Red Door

A beautiful red door in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood

I’m a bit of an architectural photography geek. I don’t know if it’s symmetry or unique design or repetition that draws me in the most, but my eye is often caught by elements of architecture. Whether it is a famous architect like Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry or simply a beautiful building or element designed by someone I’ve never heard of, I tend to take a disproportionate number of images of architecture.

On our trip to Boston, I wanted to visit Beacon Hill. I’ve been in Boston numerous times, but somehow I had never been to the Beacon Hill neighborhood. So, my long-suffering daughter agreed to trudge up and down the hilly neighborhood for a couple of hours as we were on our way to explore other sights in Boston.

It’s not hard to realize why Beacon Hill is such an attractive community to live in. It’s as close-in to downtown Boston as you can be. The townhouses are historic and beautiful. The neighborhood is eminently walkable. Although the homes are very expensive, it would be the fulfillment of many people’s dreams to live there.

I had to be content with capturing some of the character and charm of the place with my camera. So, I focused on street scenes and architecture hoping to be able to convey some of the beauty that I was beholding. This shot is simple but it’s representative of Beacon Hill. This door was freshly painted demonstrating the owner’s commitment to keeping their home beautiful. The color scheme is simple but the red door contrasts beautifully with the black trim. I also love the intricate glass and metal work of the surround. I suspect that the entryway is only a precursor of the well-appointed, tastefully decorated interior of the home. I can only hope that I get an invitation to visit someday soon! In the meantime, I’ll just have to use my imagination and enjoy this lovely image. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

A memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment on the edge of Boston Common commemorating the first black regiment to serve in the Civil War

As a son of the South I have a particular attachment to all matters pertaining to the American Civil War or, as it was referred to when I was a child, the Late Unpleasantness. There were some other more derogatory terms used to describe the war, but that is to be expected when your side is describing its own losing effort.

All that said, I’m an American first and a Southerner second. Truth be told I’m a child of God first and everything falls somewhere well behind. But, this is a photography blog and I’m getting to my point, so let’s move on now…

In addition to being a bit of a Civil War buff, my favorite type of literature is history. I love to hear the full details of historical accounts. Those details – even if imagined but informed – help me establish context. And context is very, very important to me.

So, when I first saw this memorial in Boston many years ago, I took it for the northern equivalent of a southern staple, the Civil War veteran being honored for his service. Only after watching the movie Glory and visiting the monument for a second time did I realize that this memorial is actually very special. For the people represented in this memorial are not your typical Civil War veterans. In fact, if this memorial were a painting it’s significance would be instantly obvious. But, since the memorial is cast in bronze, it’s not so easy to notice that the soldiers on foot are black and the officer on horseback is white.

In the movie, Edward Zwick does a masterful job telling the story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-black regiment in the Civil War. Given that a central theme of the war was slavery and that Shaw was an abolitionist, the story of him training and leading a black regiment into battle is powerful. The actors portraying the black regiment (Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman among many other excellent African-American actors) only add to the visceral emotional reaction that the viewer gains knowing that these freed black men fight not only for their lives and their country but also for their race.

I still remember being emotionally wrung out after watching the movie and its powerful climax. I feel confident that you will have the same reaction if you’ve never had the privilege to watch the film. Hopefully this simple image will be the impetus for you to do so. Enjoy.

A Day Game at Fenway

Matt Joyce of the LA Angels plays left field in front of the famous Green Monster

Matt Joyce of the LA Angels plays left field in front of the famous Green Monster

I have a love/hate relationship with baseball. When I was growing up, the Braves made their first appearance in the playoffs in the newly created division championship series. Baseball was still played in the daytime back then. Even playoff games were played in daylight for the most part. Atlanta was electric with its relatively new team having a chance to go to the World Series. Unfortunately, we ran into the buzzsaw that was the 1969 Mets – the Miracle Mets.

Since then, I’ve lived through some absolutely awful Braves teams. And, I’ve had the good fortune to experience thirteen straight playoff appearances and one World Series championship in 1995. Through it all, I’ve maintained a love for the game. And love the Braves as I do, there’s still something magical about day baseball in some even older ballparks – Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in particular.

So, when I realized that Taylor and I would be in Boston for a day game in May of this year, I immediately found some tickets. Fortunately, Taylor understands my obsession and wanted to go as well. What I couldn’t have anticipated was the absolutely perfect day that we would have to experience a day game at Fenway. The food was great, the weather was perfect, the home team won, and I got to take my camera into the park to record the spectacle.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from that day. I hope they bring you a fraction of the enjoyment that I had in capturing them.

A sign on the brickwork of venerable Fenway Park

A sign on the brickwork of venerable Fenway Park

The Red Sox host the Angels on a perfect late spring day at Fenway Park

The Red Sox host the Angels on a perfect late spring day at Fenway Park

Mike Napoli takes a huge swing at historic Fenway Park

Mike Napoli takes a huge swing at historic Fenway Park

The first baseman for the Boston Red Sox stretches for a thrown in a routine out against the Los Angeles Angels

The first baseman for the Boston Red Sox stretches for a thrown in a routine out against the Los Angeles Angels

A statue of Ted Williams and a young boy with cancer outside Boston's Fenway Park

A statue of Ted Williams and a young boy with cancer outside Boston’s Fenway Park

The Red Sox second baseman makes the turn at first base to begin a double play

The Red Sox second baseman makes the turn at first base to begin a double play

Boys look in from center field at Fenway Park dreaming about playing baseball on that perfect surface

Boys look in from center field at Fenway Park dreaming about playing baseball on that perfect surface