There I was, sitting in the window seat as usual and the only person I could see with the shade open. I was on my way home from Oregon and flying towards Denver. It was just like the first flight I can remember, seeing big puffy clouds from above looking like giant balls of cotton. There are some things from my childhood that I hope I never forget and that first flight is one of them. I have no idea where I was going or how old I was but I sure remember seeing the grandeur of the earth for the first time from an airplane.
Since then I’ve flown in pretty much everything there is, sea planes, little planes, big planes, in a cargo 747 transporting horses from Europe, the Goodyear blimp over Manhattan, hot air balloons, helicopters with the door removed so I could get better pictures.
Hot air balloons are my favorite, if I had too much money and enough friends to chase the balloon, I’d have one. They travel at the speed of the wind and the only noise is the blast of the propane and frightened horses stomping below. I first flew in one while in college and working at my first newspaper. There was a small balloon festival across the river from where I was living. I was assigned to cover the morning launch which always happens right after sunrise. Being in college, if I saw sunrise it wasn’t because the alarm went off that early. When the alarm went off that day I pretty much ignored it and a little later when I looked out the window I could see balloons inflating. I quickly dressed and scampered over to the site and started shooting. One of the pilots needed a passenger and asked if I wanted to get in. I was still asleep but I was game. It was a magical ride and I actually got up early the next day to do it again. I begged rides whenever I could and years later a client was the largest balloon festival on the East Coast, which meant plenty of balloon rides.
If I could have, I would have hitched a ride on the Space Shuttle and I would have demanded a window seat. I love watching the earth go past from above.
So once again here I am gawking out the window and we are passing over the Rocky Mountains. There they are, jutting toward me and loaded with snow. The peaks are covered and most of the surrounding area is white with occasional rocks popping through. Like I did when I was a kid and ever since, I pulled out my camera and made some pictures. I know I won’t be able to sell pictures taken through a dirty, scratched airliner window, so my iPhone works just fine. I’m snapping away and I look toward the person sitting beside me and he is looking at me with a bit of amazement, I’m sure he is thinking this must be the first time I’ve flown or I wouldn’t be taking pictures through the foggy window.
It wasn’t the first time but I’m happy that I enjoy it just as much.
Today I drove from my sister’s house in Grants Pass north along Oregon’s coast on my way back to Portland. It is not the shortest or fastest route, Highway 101 along the coast is mostly two lanes and goes through lots of small towns. It wasn’t my first time but there is always something new to discover.
Highway 101 runs along the coast in many areas and there are incredible pulloffs for great views. I stopped at one overlooking Haceta Head lighthouse which is they claim to be the most photographed lighthouse in America. I can’t say it is the most photographed but I can say t here aren’t any that are more picturesque. It is a postcard photo, the easy kind to shoot so I don’t usually bother but it is fun to look at.
When I got out of the car I heard barking and it wasn’t dogs. I looked over the edge and 300 feet below were sea lions, maybe 200 of them. They were making quite a racket. The first thing that came to me was how to get down there. It didn’t take long to realize there was no way to climb down the cliffs and get near the beach, which is why the sea lions were there!
I had settle for shooting from above with my telephoto lens. There were on the rocks and swimming around in the water, they were fun to watch and I nearly forgot to make a shot of the lighthouse.
Today was a driving day, I went from north east central Oregon down to Grants Pass, which is pretty close to California. My sister lives in Grants Pass and I don’t get to see her nearly enough so even a quick overnight visit is a special treat for me. It would normally be about a five hour drive but of course I took the scenic route. A great thing about being out scouting is that when I see something that is mildly interesting I stop and check it out. Sometimes it is good, others not.
I hadn’t been to Crater Lake but I’ve seen lots of photos from there, it was pretty much on the way, so I thought it would be a good place to stop. After yesterday’s gas shortage adventure, I was watching the gas gauge rather closely today. I was headed toward the Crater Lake National Park and I had about 3/4 of a tank, so no problem.
Oregon is a big place and there aren’t many towns once you get a little ways east. As I finally near the park entrance, I was now down to 1/4 tank and I hadn’t seen anything close to a gas station for hours. I figured there would be one in the park and I turned on the road my GPS said was the best way. Road signs also said it was the way to Crater Lake but 200 yards on the road and it was covered with snow. Not a little snow, about three feet. Since my rental SUV didn’t do well Sunday in the snow and there were no tracks in this snow, I knew it wasn’t the way to go. I ended up taking the long way around.
As I started climbing the mountain I could see more snow along the side of the road. I did a steep climb and suddenly the snow was four feet deep along the road. As I went further the snow was higher, soon it was way higher than the cars and it felt like I was driving in a snow tunnel. Some places it was 15 feet deep. This is the middle of May, how deep was it in winter? There was a sign sticking out of the snow saying park info was on an AM radio station. I tuned it in to find out most roads and facilities were closed due to the snow and only the visitor center at the rim was open. There were no gas stations open.
I got to the rim and the snow was amazing, I’ve never seen snow that deep. I went inside to get something to eat and find the nearest gas station. A park worker obviously had been asked that too many times because she just kind of blew me off and said it was 45 miles and to head south when leaving the park. Then she walked away. That wasn’t good, I needed to go east to my sister’s house, not south.
Since there was all of this snow, I thought I’d worry about the gas later and shoot some pictures now. I walked over to end of the parking and climbed up onto the snow to get view of the lake. Lots of people were tromping through the snow to get a view and it was a great view. There was no wind on the lake so the trees and snow make a perfect reflection. I walked around a little and shot several photos. They were renting snow shoes and I wished my wife Robin was with me, we love to snow shoe in Vermont and this would have been a great afternoon for a snow hike. I would rather spend time with my sister than hike alone so I went back to the car.
The gas gauge was now getting too close to the E and I realized that I was on top of a tall mountain and it was downhill for a long time, so for the next 35 miles I coasted. I touched the gas pedal only a couple of times and had to apply the brakes many times for the steep curves. I can’t image what my mileage was, but it had to be great, the gauge barely moved by the time I got back to the highway. I figured I had at least 60 miles of gas left so I wasn’t too worried. 20 miles later there was a small sign to a gas station, it wasn’t on the highway, so I guess I wasn’t the first person to feel relief when seeing the sign.
My sister Lynda has a beautiful house on 15 acres, “out in the country” as her husband Bill likes to say. It was great to chat with them and take a stroll up through their meadow and then down to the creek that runs through their property. The creek was running strong since they had a lot of rain this winter. In the summer it is pretty much a trickle but it was beautiful today with lots of little cascades. I made some images of it and enjoyed the sound of the running water. Being the professional photographer that I am, it wasn’t until I am writing this that I realized I didn’t make any real pictures of Lynda and Bill, just a panorama with my iPhone. Some day I’ll remember to make people pictures.
It always seems like the simple and free things in life and the most enjoyable. Spending an evening with Lynda and Bill was the most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. I have to leave in the morning but hope I see them again soon.
My journey to Oregon was to nail down a great location for my workshop to photograph the total solar eclipse in August. I did a ton of online research and my brother-in-law Bill knows the area and gave me some great suggestions. I spent the day exploring Oregon’s high desert and even though I spent about 10 hours in the car and covered a lot of area, I only saw a small part of the desert. Most people don’t think of Oregon having desert but just like California to the south and Washington to the north, the eastern 2/3 of the state gets very little rain, especially in the summer. Which makes it a great place to view a solar eclipse!
Since the whole astronomy world is coming, I am hoping to find us a great place where there won’t be a huge crowd. Bill pointed out that the Portland area has a million people, they love the outdoors, the eclipse is on a Monday morning and they are less than two hours from where we will be. He thinks that might be a recipe for traffic like at the Woodstock concert.
There isn’t much out here, I saw some birds and a couple of black tail deer and not many towns. One road sign said 94 miles to the next gas station. I thought I was ready for that but my side trip to the painted hills put more miles on the car than I expected and it wasn’t long before I was in fairly desperate need of a refill. I went through a couple of towns that showed up on my GPS but they didn’t have any gas stations. I finally made it to the town of Fossil, a quiet village with a gas station.
Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states where you can’t pump your own gas. Every little town where I filled up had the old analog gas pumps with the numbers that roll over. No need to update the pumps. I talked with Ken as he pumped my gas, he was ready to chat, things are pretty quiet in the middle of the afternoon. Ken pumped gas when he was a teen, went off to college, came home and did some odd jobs for a few years and now he is pumping gas again. “Any job is a good job in this town,” Ken said as he put my gas cap back on. We went inside the station for me to pay and talked a lot more. The town is right in the center of the eclipse’s path and he said many people have rented out a spare bedroom for the weekend. With a sheepish grin, Ken said he was hoping for a couple of young college ladies to be in need of a room.
I love talking with locals because they know the best places to go. Ken told me to go to the top of the mountain and look for a gravel pit just off the highway about 10 miles from where I was hoping our site would be. He told me the view from the gravel pit is his favorite in the whole area and not many people know about it. Cool, this is just what I was looking for. He also said there is a small dirt road down in the valley along the river that is easy to access.
It was about a 30 minute drive to the gravel pit and I had to pass my main spot, so I stopped there first. It is part of national refuge so there are toilets and a few picnic tables right next to towering cliffs they call the Palisades. It is very cool and it will make a great place for us to shoot but I wanted to check out the gravel pit. I crossed the river and drove down the little road along it but it wasn’t anything special so I headed up the mountain looking for the gravel pit. When I started down the other side I realized I missed so I turned around. When I came up over the top again the view was amazing. Ken was right, this is a special view. Since I hadn’t seen another car since I left the gas station, I slowed way down and crawled down the mountain and quickly saw a pile of gravel near the road. There were tire tracks worn into the dirt and right away was a fence and closed gate with a couple of No Trespassing signs. Damn. If I was shooting the eclipse by myself, I’d jump the fence but I can’t take a group of 10 people onto posted property. I looked around for a phone number but couldn’t find anything. The gravel pit wasn’t going to work.
Back to Plan A. I drove back to my main site and it will be a great location. We will get there plenty early in the morning, photograph the rising sun shining on the Palisades, I’ll cook everyone some of my famous pancakes and of course I’ll have a big bottle of Vermont maple syrup.
August can’t come too fast, this will be a great adventure.
While wandering through Oregon’s high desert scouting locations for my workshop to photograph the total solar eclipse in August, I found myself at a fork in the road out in the middle of nowhere. I’ve heard people talking about where they live as being in nowhere, but it wasn’t it too far back down the road where the sign said the next gas station was 94 miles.
One road was paved and the other was dirt, I had a four wheel drive rental, so of course I’m taking the dirt road, even though I had no idea where it went. How far out of the way could it go?
I found out.
A sure sign that I was not in Jersey was a real sign, a road sign indicated curvy road ahead. I hadn’t driven straight for 30 yards yet, so I couldn’t imagine what laid ahead. Other than the road, the sign was the only humanity in sight and it was full of bullet holes. I guess in the desert there isn’t much to shoot at each scrub brush so a road sign is an exciting target.
I went through a cool canyon with rock cliffs looming overhead. This part of Oregon has areas that are much like the desert southwest, canyons, plateaus, cliffs. And it is just as beautiful and remote.
The road kept getting smaller and I came to a sign that said he road was now going through a ranch and I wasn’t to leave the road for the next 15 miles. At this point the road wasn’t much wider than my rented SUV but the rancher’s sign warned that they patrolled it so I figured I was wouldn’t rot for too long if something went wrong. The road was rutted but I kept pushing ahead. I stopped a few times
An hour later the road finally came out to another road and there was a sign saying it was 40 miles to the town I was headed for. I was only eight miles away when I took the scenic turn, so I guess I went the wrong way. There was also a sign saying the Painted Hills were four miles away. I had seen the Painted Hills in my research but I thought they would be too far south for me to visit. But since I was nearby I decided to check them out.
And I’m glad I did.
Oregon’s Painted Hills are incredible. Five million years ago the area volcanoes dumped tons of ash around the region, it got covered with lava, dirt and other stuff and turned red and yellow. Then erosion and upheavals bared some of it and the ash is so toxic nothing can grow on it. At least that is how I understand what I was looking at. All I really know is that it is amazing looking and makes great photos.
I landed in Portland, OR, this afternoon to do some final scouting for my upcoming Oregon Solar Eclipse Photography Workshop that will be in August. I’ve been to Oregon several times but not to the high desert, which is the eastern side of the side.
Most people don’t think of Oregon as being desert but most of the state gets very little rainfall, especially from now until late fall. About half of the state doesn’t even get much in the winter, although the higher elevations get some snow.
Last year when I was thinking about photographing the upcoming total solar eclipse I did a lot of research to determine where the least likely place for clouds would be along the path of the eclipse. A desert made a lot of sense and as soon as I saw the eclipse’s path would be in Oregon, I thought that would be an ideal place. I quickly discovered I wasn’t the only one, the town of Madras is ground zero for the serious eclipse watchers. Many websites said this is where the astronomers are going to be so I knew it would be a great place for a workshop. I started checking on hotels and they all were booked. I was a year ahead of when I wanted to stay but many people were a couple of years ahead of me. The hotel I’m in tonight said they have been booked for four years. Fortunately my sister lives in Oregon and last year her husband suggested I check a ski resort about an hour from Madras. They had some rooms so I grabbed them.
On my way from the airport to Madras I took the scenic route through the Columbia River gorge, which is spectacular. It is filled with water falls, which I’ve photographed before so I didn’t stop to make any pictures. I’ll back back here with the workshop, so I thought my limited time was better spent getting to the desert. I did stop for one scenic overlook and it was just starting to rain a little, so I got a cool shot of the river and clouds.
The drive to the ski resort we are staying at on Mt. Hood is only a little over an hour from Portland. I stopped to make sure it was great and it is. There is still a lot of snow up here, the lifts aren’t running but people are climbing the mountain and skiing down. The late day sun hitting the mountain was stunning.
I wanted to go to a little lake that offers a beautiful view of the mountain and I hoped I could get some reflection shots. I drove to the lake and there was snow on the road a sign that said it was closed in the winter but open after April 1. I could see tracks from other vehicles and since I rented a four-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue, I thought I’d give it a try. It wasn’t long before the snow was so deep it was hitting the bottom of the SUV. Since it was starting to get dark, I figured it wouldn’t be too smart getting stuck out where I might not get out until morning so I turned around. When I got back out to the main road I could hear a thumping under the SUV. The faster I drove the faster the thump. Great, I’m only 100 miles into my journey and I broke the rental car. I figured I’d drive until it didn’t want to go any more and about 30 minutes later the thump went away. I probably packed snow up in the engine compartment and it finally melted off.
Just after dark I made my way into Madras and checked in at a hotel. My Oregon adventure is off to a fun start.
I just read another “pro” blog saying to leave your DSLR camera and lenses at home when traveling and just take a small mirrorless camera with one lens. If the purpose of your trip is to make great images, then that is the most stupid advice there is.
Let me get this straight:
- You’re going to a grand location.
- You may never go there again.
- You want to make great images.
- You’ve invested a good deal of money for the trip.
- You’re spending valuable time on the trip.
So you should use equipment that you wouldn’t use at home to photograph your dog?
Yes, I’d rather travel light, it is much easier. I’d rather take no luggage and have everything given to me when I arrive. But that doesn’t happen in my income range. I always have at least one more case of equipment than anyone else – I want to be ready for the shot.
Now if I were to go on vacation and sit on a beach and do nothing, then I don’t need my real camera gear. But that doesn’t happen for me. Even when I’m not on a exclusively photography trip, I get away at least of a couple of mornings for sunrise light so I can make some decent pictures.
I see people buy these light, flimsy tripods for trips and they would never use the skinny things at home. So why use them when you are someplace special? Oh yea, it is easier. I hosted a workshop in Tuscany last summer and a couple of times when we went into quaint medieval villages I didn’t bother taking my tripod. I shoot nearly everything on a tripod but I was feeling lazy. And it showed. When I got home and looked at my images I couldn’t figure out why some days I didn’t get much in the towns. Then it hit me that I wasn’t using the tripod and it changed the way I shot in the towns. I did snapshots instead of real photos because I was just walking around popping off tourist photos without thinking what I really wanted to say with my photos. I blame that on my laziness.
I’m not going to let “It is easier” be the determining factor on whether I get good images. I hope you don’t either.
One of the nice things about doing art shows in Florida is being able to get out early for sunrise and not freeze. I headed to Juno Pier this morning hoping to get some good clouds at sunrise. I wasn’t disappointed. I had hoped to go at 3 a.m. to catch the Milky Way over the pier but it was cloudy when I got up. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and by then many of the clouds had cleared away.
The crescent moon was shining bright when I got there before any light was in the sky. As the sky filled with color the became less distinguishable and by the time the sun cleared the horizon, the moon was barely visible.
Today was the last day for this year’s Vermont Winter Photography Workshop. The weather was good, there is lots of snow on the ground and we had a great group of eight people. They came from all over, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We were prepared for the cold, so it didn’t feel like 15 degrees during the day.
We hit many locations during the three days, farms, covered bridges, towns, rural scenes and a couple of real Vermont country stores. Several of the group hadn’t walked on a lake before, so going out on Silver Lake to see people ice fishing was a bit of an adventure.
I always know it was a good shoot when my SUV is a filthy mess. After our breakfast stop this morning, I was surprised to see a lovely note scratched on my back window. Thanks gang.
My love affair with birch trees continues. There is a fairly large grove about 15 minutes away from my Vermont house and I love wandering around there. It has a magical look to it no matter when I go.
Today I was there before sunrise hoping to get the rising sun shooting through the trees. When the sun came up, it glowed for a couple of minutes and then went behind a large cloud. I could see it would come out again so I tried several shots while waiting to see how the snow, trees and sky would look once the sun was shining again.
As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. The long shadows in the snow and deep blue sky highlighted the white bark and made for beautiful images. There must be 250 trees in the grove and today I noticed a couple of crooked ones shooting skyward. I like the shape they make and worked to get an angle that would highlight them. I’m pretty happy with the shot.
I went to a Ft. Meyers beach for sunrise today that is more populated by wildlife than people. There are lots of better beaches for sunbathers, so the only people that come to Bunches Beach are there to either walk, look at birds or photograph birds. Today there was a large group of bird watchers carrying binoculars and scopes, wearing their bird watching clothes and their boots. Which means they were going to mess up a lot of photos.
So I went the other direction on the beach. There weren’t as many birds and no people, but one great blue heron was working the surf to get a fish. Herons are one of my favorite birds to photograph. Their long necks make great shapes, it is either curled back as they relax or it gets taught when they have prey in sight. My heron today was standing in shallow water as small waves rolled in on. It didn’t move a whole lot so I tried lots of different shots, using different composition and placement of the bird in the photos. I decided to try some very slow shutter speed to see if I could get a unique effect blurring the incoming waves.
The heron had caught a good size fish was standing pretty still so I knew it would be sharp and the blurry water surrounded it. Of course, as soon as I make lots of setting changes the heron kind of turned around and a bald eagle came out of nowhere and stole the fish from the heron’s mouth. I was a bit dumbfounded knowing I didn’t have time to change camera settings and fired the camera anyway knowing that anything moving would be a blur even though the eagle was moving fast. I got cool wave effects but the two birds look like blurry blobs. It was fun knowing I was the only person to witness nature at its peak.
I love the name Ding Darling, it is a National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Sanibel Island and a great place for people to observe birds. I was named after a cartoonist who was instrumental in wildlife conservation in the early 1900’s and helped initiate the duck stamp program. The park has a four mile long Wildlife Drive where you can walk, bicycle or slowly drive your car and see wildlife in its natural habitat. I’ve been there several times and it always has something going on. The park claims to have 230 bird varieties visit and I think there are that many types of photographers too. The nice thing is it is easy to drive your car and not have to carry a ton of gear long distances.
This morning I found this group of willets. I’m not a birder and I can’t name a lot of birds, so I had to look this one up. They were fun to watch, they would come to attention as a group and they start milling around looking for food. I tried a long exposure to show some of their movement and I think it worked pretty well.
I drove 150 miles today around Vermont making pictures on a beautiful day – the first official day of winter. I didn’t hear too many people talking about it but they were pretty happy that the temperature got above freezing and it was sunny in some areas. People were out enjoying the day, I went to a couple of the big ski areas and they were pretty busy for a Wednesday in December. There is a good base of natural snow and the weather is perfect for making snow. It should be a good week for them as the new year approaches.
I stopped at Moss Glen Falls in Granville to see how it was looking. It has been very cold here and the falls was nearly completely frozen over. There were a couple of spots you could see water flowing but it didn’t make for a good photo. I put on my big snow boots and wandered into a little brook that runs along the road in front of the falls. I always love seeing how flowing water makes unique designs of ice, especially where it lightly splashes to make weird shapes and then carves into it.
I think Winter Solstice should be a holiday and many Vermonters would agree with me.
On the way home I heard a guy on satellite radio say the best thing about this being the first day of winter is that spring will soon be here. He wasn’t from Vermont.
We lost one of the American great ones today – John Glenn. He was the first American to orbit the earth and the oldest man in space after going up in the Space Shuttle at age 77. He was a Marine fighter pilot flying 149 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War and was known as “Old Magnet Ass” because his plane was shot so many times and he kept it flying. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross six times.
To be a hero you have to be willing to sacrifice your life in a way that will benefit others. Hero gets tossed around too much, people many times do the right thing but if they don’t put their life on the line, they ain’t a hero. I heard a dog called a hero this week because it bit someone attacking its owner.
But Glenn was a hero, many times over. And a good guy.
He was a Senator from Ohio when I lived there in the ’80s and ran for President in 1984. I worked for a small daily newspaper and even though our circulation area was 50 miles from where Glenn lived, it was such a big story that we covered his presidential announcement. We were an afternoon paper and the event was scheduled for late morning, which meant we had time to get a story in that day’s paper and an AP photo. I talked the editor into sending me and I promised I have a print ready by noon from a 10 a.m. event that was 90 minutes away.
These were the days of film and we didn’t have a transmitter, so the only way the get the picture in the paper was to develop the film during the 90 minute drive back to Marietta. I arranged to use the newspaper’s circulation van and got one of their people to be my driver. I set up a film darkroom in the back of the utility van, I had a changing bag to load my film into a developing tank, the proper chemicals and rinse. I was ready. (more…)
I took my Meetup.com groups to Conowingo Dam in Darlington, MD, for a fun weekend of photographing bald eagles. The eagles gather at the dam to grab stunned fish that come through the generators. There are eagles that live in the area and many migrate south as it gets colder up north. At one point I counted 89 eagles sitting on the bank across the river and there were many more on an island and our side of the river.
Eagles sit in trees along the bank and then swoop down and grab fish out of the water. Then many times other eagles try to steal the fish and aerial battles ensue.
There are probably more photographers than eagles, it is an amazing the amount of big lenses in use. Canon Pro Services brought a ton of equipment for us to use. A special thanks goes to Tony Kurdzuk of Canon for bringing the equipment and helping our people with their photos. Also thanks to Paul Fishkin who provided us with Benro and Induro tripods and heads.