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Category : Scenic

23 Aug 2017

Fun times in Oregon for the solar eclipse workshop

The day after always seems to be the hardest. I got back yesterday from my Oregon Total Solar Eclipse workshop and I’ve finally had a little time to look through some images and think back on what a great experience it was.

The most important part of any workshop is the people attend and I had a great group once again. They came from across the country and Israel and we spent a lot of time driving around Oregon and they were loads of fun to be with.

We started in Portland and had dinner at one of their famous food truck pods before shooting dusk along the Willamette River reflecting the skyline. Then it was two days on the coast photographing the beauty and uniqueness that is Oregon. On Sunday we drove through the Columbia River Gorge stopping to photograph the large waterfalls on our way to our lodge at Timberline ski resort on Mt. Hood.

But it all came down to experiencing the total solar eclipse. Words or pictures can’t describe the event, although I tried in yesterday’s blog post.

It was a great trip, I made many new friends and experienced something that will last a lifetime, although I’m already planning the next eclipse workshop. I hope you enjoy the photos.

15 Jul 2017

Looking back at a great Provence, France workshop

It took me a while to get through all my photos, but I finally edited them down – somewhat.

One of the cool things that comes with hosting photography workshops is the great people I get to meet and spend time with. Workshops tend to create a bond between people who don’t know each other and they work together to make the best photos possible. But they make more than photos, they make friendships and it great to see how well folks get along when on a workshop. This trip was no different and when one person had to leave for a medical issue, the others were feeling down about not having their friend around any longer. They texted him to make sure he was ok after getting home and checked up with him each day.

The teamwork happened not only when making photos but also when it came to leisure time. Twice we did a tailgate dinner out in the boonies and they had a great time planning the food and wine and volunteering who would get what. Even when we didn’t have any glasses for the wine, they laughed and joked when I cut five empty water bottles in half to make 10 not-so-fancy drinking cups.

I look forward to our next adventure together, everyone has already signed up for either my March trip to Iceland or June Acadia National Park workshop.

Below are some of my photos from France. I’ll soon have a link to photos taken by the participants.

08 Jul 2017

Nice, France is nice

My workshop partner, Ron Lake, and I stayed an extra day in Nice after our Provence Photography Workshop ended yesterday. We figured we came this far so we should spend some time just shooting on our own. While I do some shooting during the workshop, my main focus is making sure the participants are getting great pictures, having their needs met, helping with photo questions and worrying about logistics. Just thinking about making photos is how I like to shoot.

Old town Nice is a beautiful part of the city. It is right on the Mediterranean coast, although the beach is filled with stones and rocks and not the sandy beach I imagined in the French Riviera. I guess that’s why nearby places like Saint Tropez, Cannes and Monte Carlo are so famous. The houses in old town are quaint and filled with character and characters. I met an American in his 70’s who lives in Denmark and has been refurbishing an old story apartment for years. He told me the history of his block and showed me remnants of WWII bombings by the Germans. He loved spending a few weeks a year there just working on his apartment. I loved the small alleys and all the lovely windows with shutters.

Old town features a vibrant night life, which we discovered since my hotel window looked out over a square where a three piece band, including a full drum set, started playing at 12:30 a.m. last night. There are many cool looking restaurants that were full at 10 p.m. and many shops.

My trip to France has been great. Ron took us to many of his hidden gems so we could make splendid photos. Tomorrow we get on a plane and head back home. It has been a long trip and I look forward to seeing my wife, Robin, and doing a full edit of my photos.

06 Jul 2017

A beautiful last workshop day in Provence, France

This morning we went over to Roussillion to see the unique ochre trail. The trail goes through a canyon where they have mined ochre for many years and used the color to make many things. The buildings were all ochre color and you could buy ochre color to make you own paint or pottery. The town had a fun little market today, so that made for some good photos.

We enjoyed L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue so yesterday we decided to go back there this afternoon and have dinner beside a canal.

We had plenty of time to do more shooting in town, there is a lot to see and photograph. There were quite a few people in boats on the canals and there obviously is skill involved in using a long pole to propel the boats. The person in the back does all the work and it looks like sitting in the front is an exercise in relaxation. Most of the boats had men but one pink one has two young women and she moved the boat faster than some of the men.

This is our last full day together and it has been a blast. People are tired and invigorated and having a nice dinner together was a perfect end to the week.

Tomorrow we head back to Nice.

05 Jul 2017

The view from Provence is great

While we were getting breakfast at a great little bakery in Gordes, I walked over to the edge of town. In Gordes, the edge is really an edge, take a couple extra steps in the wrong direction and you are in flight. There were a couple of other Americans making photos in the street and one of them paused to change her camera. She made a nice foreground looking out across the valley filled with wheat fields and vineyards.

We then went to the neat town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which has several canals running through town. I was fascinated by a little green boat floating on a canal, I worked it pretty hard but wasn’t overly thrilled with the image I made, it will be fun to see what the others got from the same scene.

We went to several other towns and as the sun was going down we found ourselves back in Bonnieux, where we started yesterday. We pulled up to the same overlook as the sun was setting on the distant horizon. We enjoyed the tailgate dinner we had two days ago so we had planned on doing it again. We had an even bigger spread tonight in a tremendous location looking out over the French countryside. The sunset for a wonderful photo and end to another great day in Provence.

04 Jul 2017

Celebrating July 4th with lavender

It is a little strange to be in a foreign country on the Fourth of July, there is no celebration and no fireworks. What’s wrong with these people?!!!

We ventured over to Bonnieux, an old village high on a mountain that offered great views of the valley and the next town over, Lacoste, home of Marquis de Sade’s old castle. I love how they love their lavender, and it obviously isn’t just for tourists. Many homes have doors and shutters painted lavender.

While shooting from the overlook, I could see a patch of lavender in the distance and some trees at the end of it, so we went there on our way to Lacoste. The field made a nice picture but we were getting hungry so we packed up and headed to the small village of Lacoste.

It was almost 10 a.m. when we rolled into town and grabbed the first parking spot we could. We had rented a nice Mercedes van that held the entire group but parking it was a challenge in these ancient villages. There was a restaurant nearby and a few of us sat down only to learn they were only serving croissants. A few of us hiked farther into the village, which was a hefty climb. It was amazing to see how they built homes on the steep side of the mountain and some of them were three stories high.

We ran into a couple of English speaking and they said our choices for breakfast were the first restaurant or a small farmer’s market. One person was on her way back from the market and said there wasn’t any food there so we went back down the hill to the restaurant and we cleaned them out of croissants.

It was a fun way to celebrate without fireworks.

03 Jul 2017

The beauty of an abbey and lavender in France

The fun and excitement of the Provence Workshop took a hit today, we had to say good bye to one of participants because he got a detached retina in his eye. He had one before and knew when he landed in France that he might have a problem. Last night he saw a flash of light that he shouldn’t have and he talked with one of our other participants who is an opthamologist and they decided it would be best for him to fly back to America and get it taken care of. We hope him the best.

We moved to a new town, Gordes, today and went to visit one of the most anticipated site of our trip. My partner in this trip, Ron Lake, several years ago made a fabulous shot of Notre-Dame de Senanque abbey and we ventured down a winding, narrow road from Gordes to the valley below. The medieval abbey is still in use and they plant a lavender field right up to the ancient building. The lavender is still a couple of weeks away from being in peak beauty but it still made for some lovely photos.

02 Jul 2017

The lavender goes forever in Provence, France

One thing about leading a photo workshop in places like Provence, France, is that I don’t want to take time to edit photos and write blog posts. I’d rather be out shooting! So these will be fairly short and I’ll put together a full slideshow when I get home.

Today we ventured out to more lavender fields on Valensole Plains from our base in Manosque. Once again we were greeted with miles of lavender and lots of other photographers. Some brought models and others were there just to shoot lavender. One jerk thought it would be cool to walk out in the middle of a field where everyone was trying to make pictures of a cute little block house. The idiot received plenty of advice of where to go in several languages. He didn’t move until he was done. One photographer had a model dressed in white, which looked beautiful in the lavender so I grabbed some shots of her when he wasn’t looking. From the angle he was shooting, I think I got the better shot!

Since we were out in the farmland of France, there isn’t an easy way to grab food to go and we didn’t want to have a big sit down meal as the evening light was getting great. So we did a little tailgating the middle of a lavender field. We got some French bread, cheese, sausage and, of course, wine and had a picnic after the sun went down, which is pretty late this time of year. By the time we finished eating it was after 10 p.m. and there was still a good bit of light in the sky. I got out a big flashlight I carry and we did some light painting of the lavender. The trick is to calculate the camera’s exposure for the sky and use the flashlight to illuminate the foreground. Lighting a field with one flashlight is rather tricky and getting an even exposure is pretty tough but the photos came out pretty nice.

01 Jul 2017

Understanding France’s lavender fields’ sounds

Today was the first day of real shooting for my photo workshop in Provence, France. We started off with a blast of lavender, wandering through huge fields. It was overwhelming for my sense of sight, smell and sound. I expected it to look wonderful, thigh-high rows of lavender stretching out to the horizon. I had seen plenty of photos, so the sight was a pleasure to see. And since it is lavender, I guessed it would smell great. I felt like rolling in it but I didn’t want to do any damage to the crop.

But what I didn’t expect was the sound. We were out in fields, away from the sound of humanity but there was a constant hum. I frequently see things that I don’t know what they are and I smell things that I don’t recognize but it rare to hear a sound that I can’t place. As I was walking through the rows of lavender it finally hit me that the hum I was hearing was actually a loud buzz and it was coming from bees. I had seen many bee hives near the fields but until I saw the squadron of bees doing their work on the lavender, I just couldn’t place their sound. Millions of bees pollinate the lavender and make it thrive and they were busy buzzing throughout the plants. They did make me move a little slower so I wouldn’t anger them and get stung.

Workshop participant Mourad Fahmi stands among the lavender.

 

 

30 Jun 2017

Being seen in Saint Tropez

Tomorrow starts my Provence photo workshop in France, but I came over a little early to make a quick visit to Saint Tropez and to get acclimated to the time change before all my participants arrive.

Photographer friend Ron Lake and I are hosting the workshop, Ron has extensive experience in Provence and is our guide for the week. We had a great time stomping around Saint Tropez, taking in all the glam and being among the people who are here to be seen.

The Saint Tropez harbor is filled with big yachts from all over the world and at night they are the place for parties. Floating near the worldly yachts are small fishing boats owned by the locals. It was fun to see the late evening light reflect off the buildings in the water. The glitz isn’t my cup of tea but I enjoyed going into the old part of town and seeing the buildings and where the real people live. We came across a wonderful home entrance with an old grape vine growing up beside a blue door and then spreading out overhead.

Tomorrow we head out the fields of lavender, I’m looking forward to another great day.

15 Jun 2017

I love finding a new meadow of wild lupines

Lupine grow in the wild from Maine to California and even down to Florida but it is still a thrilling sight to come a across a large meadow filled with them. One of my Woodstock, VT, neighbors pointed out a field of them yesterday less than two miles from my house.

I hadn’t seen them there before, I don’t know if I missed them, wasn’t paying attention or just didn’t look at the right time year.

This morning I went to the meadow at sunrise to catch the beauty of the early day light. The meadow is on the west side of a hill so it took a while for the sunlight to fall on them. The tall grass was wet from heavy dew and my jeans quickly got soaked as I walked through the field.

I was thinking about my upcoming workshop in Provence, France, where we will be shooting fields of lavender and how the lupines’ color is just a couple of shades darker.

There was lots to do explore in the field and I came away feeling good about spending the morning among the wild flowers.

09 May 2017

A quick visit to my sister and Crater Lake

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.

08 May 2017

A cool place to photograph the total solar eclipse

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.

08 May 2017

Oregon’s high desert is a desolate and unique place

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.

07 May 2017

Doing a final check on Oregon solar eclipse workshop locations

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.