A different perspective of The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

October 17, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     Last week, I spent a few days in New Mexico.  While I mostly went there for the annual eclipse that occurred from Oregon to Texas on Saturday October 14th, I also photographed some fall color in the Santa Fe National Forest and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  

     Instead of the usual close up shots looking up at the sky, I opted for a different eye level view of the balloons from afar.  These images were taken from a hiking trail in the Sandia foothills above the city of Albuquerque. 

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     Hopefully, I will have some images from the annual eclipse to share in a future blog post. It was certainly good practice to prepare for the upcoming total eclipse that will occur in April. 


The landscapes of Utah's Capitol Reef National Park

September 29, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     Back in May, I joined up once again with Utah resident James Kay for a tour of Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is one of five national parks in Utah. It doesn't have iconic scenes like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park or The Narrows and Angels Landing that have become heavily visited in Zion National Park. However, it does feature good red rock scenery without the crowds.  

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     It is also a place for some interesting geology...

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     Capitol Reef only sees about a 1/4 of the visitors of Zion National Park and most of those visitors stay on or close to the main highway that runs through the park. The dirt road that goes north to Cathedral Valley...

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...or the dirt road going south to Strike Valley can provide an even quieter backcountry experience. 

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     The desert of southern Utah is often a stark place where it is hard to find signs of life.  However, I did find isolated spring flowers close to Factory Butte, just outside of Capitol Reef. 

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     It is in this area where the Mars Desert Research Station is located and this barren landscape was used to test the Mars Rover. You can read more about the testing of the Mars Rover that continues in the Utah desert here.

     One great place is the Bentonite Hills, where the red landscape resembles something like you would see on Mars. 

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     While most of the landscape is barren, a couple of my favorite pictures is where water was able to cut a course in the red sandstone.  

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From the photo archives: Oregon Coast

August 31, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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     This summer, I have been going through the archives and looking back on photos from years past.  This group of pictures was from a trip to the Oregon Coast.  I traveled the entire length of the coast of Oregon, from north to south. I will share you some of my favorite pictures that starts in the north part of Oregon while ending with some pictures in the southern part of the state. 

     The journey began at the town of Astoria, where the Columbia River empties into Pacific Ocean. On this foggy morning, you can (barely) see this bridge spanning over the Columbia River. 

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     Just outside of the town of Astoria is Fort Stevens State Park, where another minimalist scene was captured using old wooden piers. 

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     Next, it was down to the seastacks at Cannon Beach...

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...and the views and sea caves at Cape Kiwanda. 

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     One great place to see the crashing waves is at Seal Rock, south of Newport.  

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     Another place to witness the changing tides and the interaction between waves and rocks is at Thor's Well along the central Oregon coast. 

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     Here, there is a unique formation in the rocks where you can see the waves pour into a hole. The Oregon Coast is also a great place for lighthouses.  My favorite lighthouse to photograph was the Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon.  

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     With its numerous seastacks, Bandon is probably the most famous location to photograph along the Oregon Coast.  Changing skies and tides can make for almost endless compositions to capture. 

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     The trip ended in Southern Oregon, with another photogenic location known as "Secret Beach" north of the town of Brookings. 

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Fireworks at Lake Leatherwood

July 03, 2023  •  1 Comment

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     Happy 4th of July!  

     On Sunday night, I drove out to Lake Leatherwood.  This lake is located just outside of Eureka Springs in Northwest Arkansas.  I had hiked around the over a decade ago but never seen the fireworks show there.  Last week, I wanted to seek out a firework show in a natural setting with few structures, preferably with a lake where I can also capture colorful reflections in the water. Lake Leatherwood seemed like the best option to me that was within an hour of my hometown. I wanted to find a way to incorporate the landscape with the firework display, not just point a camera up to the sky.  One way to do that is to back off from where the fireworks are fired and use a mid-range zoom lens instead of a wide angle lens that is more typically used in firework photography. If you are close to the show, you then a restricted to using a wide angle lens that often is pointed mostly up into the sky.  The image above was at a focal length of 90mm to capture the fireworks that were about a mile and half away from where I was standing and is a composite of eight firework images stitched together into one image.


The varied landscapes of New Zealand

April 24, 2023  •  2 Comments

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     New Zealand's beauty was a wonderful beginning to this year. In late January and February, I finally was able to go this trip that was in the works since 2019, but was postponed twice during COVID.  In 2022, international tourism resumed and I was finally able to go!

     After flying into Christchurch on the South Island, I met up with one of my favorite photographers...James Kay. He and his wife Susie have been visiting New Zealand for many years and know it well. Mount Cook National Park was the first destination. Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki to the native Māori population, is the highest point in New Zealand. 

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     The top of the 12,218 foot tall mountain was shrouded in clouds for much of our stay there.  However, one evening it made a brief and dramatic appearance as the sun shined through a small gap in the clouds over the Tasman Sea.  This scene of the last sunlight of the day hitting the peak with pink clouds behind only lasted a couple of minutes.  

     This was a trip of several "firsts".  It was the first time for me to cross the Equator, cross the International Date Line, drive on the left side of the road and the first time to fly in a helicopter. 

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     For each of these helicopter rides, the destination was to either land on a glacier or on top of a mountain. Here is a short video clip of us going over Tasman Glacier: 

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     As you take off the glacier and head back down the valley, you can see the geological journey that has been created. It starts from ice fields up high that evolve into glacial moraines and new lakes with ice chunks. 

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Ice Chunks

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     Out of those newer lakes are braided streams that eventually leads to bigger and more mature lakes downstream.
 

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     Back on the ground, you can also get a good look at the difference between the newer and older lakes. The older glacier lake (in black and white) has recently formed with nothing but moraine and rocks still surrounding the lake with floating ice chunks still in the water. 

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     The older glacier lake below is a little lower in elevation and now has vegetation growing up around them. 
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     Next, it was on to the area around the popular resort town of Queenstown.  It is in this valley that some of the scenes from "Lord of the Rings" was filmed.  It was here, along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, where we were greeted with a cinematic looking rainbow. 

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     In this valley, next to Glenorchy and the aptly named village of Paradise, you will find many lush meadows. 

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     Sheep are also plentiful in this picturesque valley. 

     It was then on to a different environment on west coast. Here, the climate is wetter. The landscape has even more trees that has a temperate rainforest atmosphere.  The scenery is similar to what you find on the southeast Alaska coast or the fjords of Norway. The most well known place on the west coast of the South Island is Milford Sound. 

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Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world, averaging 268 inches of rain a year.  Of course, we would see it rain here. Not only that...but also a prolonged heavy rain with a lot of wind. It probably rained somewhere over 5 inches of rain in about 24 hours. So is Milford Sound worth it in the rain? Absolutely! Otherwise, you wouldn't see scenes like these:

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Waterfalls were just pouring off the cliffs! Here is a short video of our group of photographers braving the elements: 

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A photography trip to New Zealand would not be complete without visiting "The Wanaka Tree" in the town of Wanaka. The Wanaka Tree, a lone willow tree in Lake Wanaka, is one of the most photographed individual trees on the planet.  

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We were fortunate to have a view of the distant mountains and great clouds behind the famous tree...and even another rainbow!

Up the valley from Wanaka is Mount Aspiring National Park. Here, we had another helicopter ride with a clear view of the namesake mountain. 

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We landed on top of Dragonfly Peak. From here, you can see miles of mountains as far as the eye can see.  In the picture below, you can see Mount Cook in the distance...over 80 miles away! 

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New Zealand has a variety of landscapes over short distances.  Many of the above pictures makes you feel as if you could be in Alaska or Switzerland.  However, there are other places that are similar to the Pacific Northwest of Oregon or Washington.  The temperate rain forests scenes were reminiscent of what I have seen in Olympic National Park. 

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There were other places where it felt like you were in Sonoma or Napa County in California, such as this vineyard on the outskirts of Wanaka. 

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Further north on the west coast, there was more of a subtropical flavor to the landscape.  This felt more like Hawaii than Alaska. 

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New Zealand might have become my new favorite country to visit.  I hope to make it back there in a future year.  Here are few more assorted favorite pictures of mine from the South Island:

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