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Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, in the north-central Rockies of Colorado, is my favorite national park. My history with RMNP goes back to childhood vacations and to two summers working in the park while in college. Every fall, I make my annual pilgrammage to "Rocky" to photograph the elk rut and the aspen turning. I never tire of it and never will.

Starry Nights

Starry Nights

This is a very small gallery with very large ambitions - at least, for me. The original images in this gallery were captured during a night photography workshop I attended in Jackson, Wyoming in July 2014 while others are the results of a workshop in Moab, Utah in September 2021 as well as night images from Death Valley and Maroon Bells near Aspen.

The impetus for attending the first workshop started while on a photo tour of Yosemite National Park in February 2013 where I got my first taste of night photography. I really enjoyed the effort but the results not so much. The interest grew as I participated in a photo tour of Iceland in February and March of 2014 where our principal objective was to photograph the Northern Lights. And, photograph them we did! But, while the experience of photographing the Aurora was unforgettable, the quality of most of my photographs was, unfortunately, forgettable. Not all failed the "eyeball" test but enough did that made me want to learn more about the fine details of night photography.

Enter David Kingham, fellow Coloradan who has extraordinary skills in night photography and conducts workshops to share his skill, expertise and passion for the night sky. David's workshop was four days and three nights in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming with field instruction and shooting as well as classroom review and post-processing instruction. Without getting into minutiae, David delivered as promised and I'm now even more "hooked" on night photography. The only downside to this new-found interest is where I live. There are very few dark skies locations in the southeastern US and the further exercise of night photography will require me to travel to the West (Oh, darn). So, keep watching for more additions to this gallery as I travel to Colorado principally to photograph the fall color and then to Utah to see if I can capture the magic of the Milky Way in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Several of the image titles are quotes from the song, "Saturn" by Sleeping at Last.

Sequoia, Kings Canyon & Yosemite National Parks - February 2013

Sequoia, Kings Canyon & Yosemite National Parks - February 2013

These three national parks, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite are the last three major national parks in the western US that I had not visited before this trip. There are others I have visited but not photographically such as Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado as well as Glacier/Waterton in Montana and Canada. But, this visit completes the tour in the lower 48.

Our visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon was better than expected because of the snow depth and the new snow while we were there. And, to stand next to one of the giant sequoias that is nearly 2,000 years old is very humbling.

Yosemite didn't disappoint either. Although it didn't snow while we were there, enough remained from January storms to accent the natural beauty of the park. I can say that there is no way I would ever go there in the summer or fall with the attendant crowds; it was pretty busy in the winter. Yosemite offers natural wonders so abundant and so unique as to bolster its stature among our national parks - El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, the Merced River and more. It's a park of superlatives!

12 For '12

12 For '12

2012 didn't turn out as planned. This was to be the "Summer with Sam" (my Border Collie) as we spent July and August in Colorado based in Crested Butte. The trip was sanctioned by my wife (actually, it was her idea) and I had every day planned as to where and when we would fly-fish, which days would be camera days, where we would hike and camp and which friends would be recipients of a scruffy old guy and his dog looking for a home-cooked meal and a Milk Bone. The "Summer with Sam" ended up addressing different and more important priorities as a result of health problems with Sam. Instead of roaming the Rockies, we spent the summer making vet visits, starting a chemo regimen and just doing the things we had always done for nearly 14 years - visits to QuikTrip for a hot dog, trips to the bank, Ace Hardware, the dry cleaner, Dairy Queen, taking our nightly walk and our weekly Sunday evening drive. And, it was a good summer - a very good summer.

A planned spring visit to the Smokies did take place but, based on the results, I should have left my camera at home. And, a planned trip to Savannah apparently was only in my imagination since that didn't happen, either.

However (and, this "however" is a positive one), my planned fall trip to Colorado and Utah with several photographer friends did take place and was very successful but only as a result of the advice and recommendations of three Rocky Mountain Nature Photographer members, Jack Brauer, Darren Kilgore, and John Mumaw. After hearing repeated reports of "early color" in Colorado, I contacted Jack, Darren and John, told them of the planned itinerary (start the trip in Utah and end in Colorado). All three gave me first hand and up to date color reports and recommended changing the itineray to start the trip in Colorado and finish in Utah. As a result, we expereinced near peak and peak color in the Elk Mountains, the Crested Butte area and the northern San Juans. Thank you Jack, Darren and John. Your advice and recommendations were spot-on and sincerely appreciated.

So, here are my favorites for 2012. Critiques are always welcome. Click on the images for a larger more detailed view.

Colorado National Monument - September 2012

Colorado National Monument - September 2012

Colorado National Monument, a part of the vast Colorado Plateau, rises up 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley and Colorado River. Largely overlooked because of comparisons to nearby national parks such as Arches, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Monument Valley and because it "suffers" from being so close to the largest city between Denver and Salt Lake City, Grand Junction. Colorado Monument is spectacular and unique in its own right.

I had been to Colorado Monument before but this was the first time with a camera and I only had a couple of hours before meeting friends at the Grand Junction airport to start a ten day trip to photograph Fall color in both the Elk and San Juan Mountains in Colorado and visit Arches, Bryce and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.

CNM was so designated in 1911 by President Taft under the Antiquities Act and the first real road network in the Monument (Rim Rock Drive) was constructed in 1931 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Wildlife abounds in the Monument with regular sightings of bear, mountain lion, bobcat, Big Horn Sheep, coyotes, foxes, Golden Eagles, hawks, vultures and deer. I was lucky enough to see a small herd of desert Big Horn Sheep near the west entrance.

Colorado - Utah Fall 2012

Colorado - Utah Fall 2012

My annual fall pilgrammage to Colorado took on a couple of new dimensions for 2012; first, instead of this being my usual "solo" trip, I acted as "location consultant" for the Colorado portion of LightChase Photography Tour Company's "Colorado-Utah Fall 2012" tour and secondly, a "Whitman's Sampler" (LightChase president's description) of Utah national parks was added to the tour.

At the last minute, because of earlier than normal leaf color changes in the aspen forests of Colorado, we completely changed the itinerary to start in Colorado and end in Utah rather than starting in Utah and Colorado. And, it was an excellent decision and we enjoyed outstanding aspen color throughout the tour.

Colorado tour location highpoints included: Aspen, Marble, Kebler Pass, Crested Butte, Ohio Pass, Cimarron Valley, True Grit (Kate's) Meadow, Red Mountain Pass area, various Ouray County roads and the Mt. Wilson overlook near Telluride.

Our Utah itineray included Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as Dixie National Forest . My favorite - Canyonlands. The view from the "Green River Overlook" is "other-worldly" and let me imagine I was on the surface of Mars.

Enjoy the journey.

Southern Utah - Northern Arizona - November 2011

Southern Utah - Northern Arizona - November 2011

The trip to the national parks of southern Utah, Bryce and Zion, and the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona was originally a "throw-a-way" trip taking back seat to a planned fly-fishing outing at my favorite location, Lee's Ferry on the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam. My original plan was to fly into Durango, CO and meet up with a long-time friend, drive to Lee's Ferry for a grand fishing trip then on to Zion National Park to meet up with LightChase Photography's tour of southern Utah and northern Arizona. The "perfect" plan. But, like all "perfect" plans this one ran into an unplanned obstacle - my friend from Durango had to make a change in his plans that took him to Hawaii instead. What a sacrifice. And, I thought of him the morning it was 3 degrees at Bryce National Park, and the morning it was 11 and the wind was a steady 40 mph. Kona showed a high of 82 with gentle tradewinds.

Losing the fishing portion of my grand plan was tough enough but focusing on the photo tour elements more than made up for any fishing shortfall. I had been to both Zion and Bryce before and thoroughly disliked both. Not because they were a physical disappointment but because of the crowds in the summertime when I had first visited both. I remembered wall-to-wall people, traffic jams, shuttle buses, 45 minute waits to eat and endless tour buses disgorging herds of people.

What I found this time was magnificant natural beauty, almost no people, no lines, and a thoroughly rewarding and revealing experience. New friends were made, new experiences were had and a new perspective was put into place.

Maine Lighthouses and Acadia National Park - August 2010

Maine Lighthouses and Acadia National Park - August 2010

Our trip to Maine turned into one about lighthouses and lobsters with a couple of unexpected (and, unwanted) adventures added.

First, a word about the lobsters - I managed to eat lobster for all but one meal of our ten day tour of the Maine coast and Acadia National Park. No excuses; it had to be done. There was steamed lobster, fried lobster, whole Maine lobster, lobster bisque, lazy man's lobster, lobster roll, lobster au gratin, lobster bake, lobster tail, stuffed lobster (sounds like me), and lobster scrambled eggs. This almost sounds like a knock off of Bubba in "Forrest Gump" and the shrimp scene (he listed 21 different preparations). Then, add seven days of New England clam chowder and fresh Maine blueberry pie every day and some sort of record has to have been established. I even tried the Maine Blueberry Ale - not even close to the Durango Blueberry Ale. They thought it was special to pour smashed blueberries in the beer - NOT!

Sunrises, sunsets, drenching (and nearly drowning) rogue waves, soaked clothes and camera gear, rock everywhere, a 4 am departure (and others) to photograph the first rays of sunlight to hit the US on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park and you have the perfect photo tour.

Highlights of the trip included being whacked by a couple of rogue waves estimated to be over 60 feet high at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. I almost lost all my camera gear on that one and only a valiant and dangerous effort by our leader, Mark Rasmussen, prevented my entire camera backpack from resting forever in Davey Jones Locker. Instead, Davey Jones Locker ended up in my backpack and I didn't finish cleaning the salt water off and out of my equipment until 1:15 am!

Then, there was the ferry boat trip from New Harbor to Monhegan Island in a storm described as a "tropical depression". We were told the seas were "only about 6 feet". Halfway through the twelve mile trip, the swells were estimated at 12 - 13 feet by the first mate on the ferry. It was a constant battle with sea sickeness throughout the trip; unfortunately, the sea won. Without exaggeration, it was the scariest boat trip of my life. When I was able to remember, word for word, Gordon Lightfoot's, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" ("Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours...") and all the dialogue in "The Perfect Storm" I realized that I am, forever, a mountain boy.

And, finally, the best part was doing all this with friends old and new. Our group came from Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri and we endured and thoroughly enjoyed the tour of Maine in good spirits and a common sense of adventure. I look forward to traveling with all of them on another photo adventure. Thanks Mark, Don ("The Weasel"), Jimmy, John, Carla, Marti ("Mrs. Cougar"), and Paul. You are all good sports, great photographers and fine friends.



Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

"Grand" Teton is exactly the right description for this often-overlooked park. Spectacular in its own right, Grand Teton NP doesn't receive the attention it's adjacent and more famous neighbor, Yellowstone, does. The first time I fished the Snake River from a drift boat I didn't have much success. The lack of success wasn't because the fish weren't biting but because I was focusing all my attention on the mountain and not my fly - I just couldn't keep my eyes of the Tetons. And, Grand Teton has it all, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. And, my favorite town, Jackson, Wyoming.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just up the road a piece and is easily visited from our home in North Georgia. The park has a couple of unique distinctions: it is the most biologically diverse area in the world - more plant and animal species have been catalogued here than anywhere else and it is the most visited of our national parks. That is readily apparent throughout the fall foliage season where bumper to bumper traffic is common and hotel rooms are literally impossible to get without reservations having been made many months in advance.

The Smokies are a photographers paradise with spectacular sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers in the spring and autumn foliage displays to rival New England. Waterfalls and streams abound throughout the park and black bear are commonly seen. Pioneer cabins, cantilevered barns, grist mills and other structures have been restored and are of great interest.




Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park

There are fewer images here than I had hoped for. I had great expectations of wildflowers everywhere and dramatic views of Mt. Rainier. An unperfect photographers storm of unfavorable weather and very poor photographic execution on my part produced a yawning number of very mediocre images. Maybe I'll do better next time.



Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

There are not as many photos here as I had planned and hoped for. I had great expectations of brilliant sunrises and glorious sunsets on the beach. Alas, there was a convergence of unfavorable weather and very poor photographic execution on my part that yielded very few acceptable photos. The rain forest shots turned out to be as boring as a family vacation slideshow. Maybe next year.


Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone, the first national park, has it all - geysers, waterfalls, canyons, terraced springs, thermal pools, mudpots, wild rivers, lush valleys, and wildlife - so much wildlife that Yellowstone is often referred to as "The American Serengeti". Bison, elk, deer, moose, wolves, coyotes, black bear, and of course "griz" live here. I've been to Yellowstone many times and see it differently every time. And, I'll go back many more times because you simply can never see it all.

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