Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is in the northwestern part of Montana and sits in the Northern Rocky Mountains. There are two main entrances into the park. One from the east called St. Mary and Many Glacier and one from the west in Apgar village and West Glacier. Highway 2 runs along the southern border of the park with Canada to the North.

The best and most enjoyable way to get from one side of the park to the other is a little road called "Going to the Sun Road". This is one of the most scenic drives in the world ranking with the likes of highway 1 in California. The drive is not for the faint of heart as the road winds up and down the mountains with sheer drop offs just on the other side of the little rock guard rails. Throw in some early morning mountain fog and you have a nice little heart racer for your sunrise photo session. 

Halfway on Going to the Sun Road you'll reach a a visitor center and parking area called Logan Pass. Mountain goats, big horn sheep, grizzly bear and other small critters all call this area home. Bear spray is highly recommended when hiking or roaming the wilderness and is available at all Glacier National Park visitor centers and shops. 

From Logan Pass there's some hikes for beginners and experts alike.  Hidden Lake is a mile and a half one way which is on a boardwalk to protect the alpine environment, while the Highline Loop provides stunning views from upwards of 7300 feet according to my GPS. All of the literature I read said the Highline Loop was 11.8 Miles, but upon completion My Garmin GPSmap 62S recorded 12.6 miles. I don't remember deviating from the trail except to eat lunch at the chalet. Not sure if my gps went rogue or if the trail needs to be reassessed. All I know is that my GPS states it's accurate within 13 feet. In any event here's a view of the route it recorded. 

The trail is marked in Red. It starts at Logan Pass and ends at a buss stop along going to the sun road. A free shuttle bus provided by the National Park Service will take you back to your car at Logan Pass. Allow plenty of time for this hike and always check the bus schedule before heading out. 

Aside from the excellent hiking, Glacier has many photo opportunities. I had better luck with sunrises on both sides of the park. Not saying sunset isn't worth it, it is, sunrise seems just a little bit better. 

If you're a hiker I would recommend staying on the east side of the park in Many Glacier. It's more hiking friendly and more close to picturesque settings. I also saw more bear in the many glacier region. Logan Pass is in the middle and your best chance for mountain goat and sheep. I also saw moose on a couple of occasions near the lake McDonald area. Wildlife is abundant throughout the park but your best chances for viewing is right after sunrise and just before sunset. This is when the animals are most active. 

As far as photo locations, I recommend just stopping along the Going to the sun road at one of the many pullouts to capture stunning views at most anytime of the day. Take some day hikes to lakes and waterfalls. Glacier has many opportunities to make great images. It's one of the few parks that doesn't have an "iconic" scene or location. It's a great opportunity to expand your photographic vision. 

The images below are some of the images I made during my most recent visit. Enjoy! 


Lifting Fog

Summer sunrises in Michigan can be difficult even for the early bird. The sun rises just before 6 a.m. I try to be in place about a half hour before sunrise. Say 5:30 ish. If I plan on driving or even hiking I take into account that time expenditure as well. This means on average to catch a sunrise you'll be getting up around 4 a.m. depending on your travel and prep time. It's definitely not for everyone, my wife included, but I do believe the best images are made at sunrise. 

This image was made near the Maple Bay Natural Area between Traverse City and Elk Rapids Michigan. (See Map Below) The fog provided great mood and added depth to the photograph. The birds flying about are also noticeable in the morning sky. Just these few simple elements make an ordinary image extraordinary art.

 

Lifting Fog

Lifting Fog

 

Wagner Falls

On a recent visit to Michigan's upper peninsula and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I made a point to visit Wagner Falls. On this morning I was up bright and early and headed out to the falls parking area. (see map below) It was still rather dark even in July when I arrived so I relaxed a bit before I made the short hike. 

It's always more enjoyable when being at a popular attraction and you're the only one there. I guess everyone else isn't as crazy as me when it comes to getting up early. Nonetheless I enjoy nature more when it's quiet and peaceful. Being out there hearing the water roar with a light breeze and a bit of mist is therapy for me. It's my zen. When finishing up a photo shoot I feel refreshed and excited for the day. 

The short hike to Wagner Falls is straight forward with a boardwalk part of the way that leads to an overlook. It's a must see when in the area. 

 

 

 

Frankfort Michigan Pier

My wife and I just finished off a three week bender of visitors and guests. The order was friends, family, finished off by more friends. While I love showing off my home town of Traverse City Michigan, my eating habits went from strict to eating pizza for breakfast, with my workout routine being spotty at best. While out as a tourist I was able to visit some neat locations and capture some satisfying images.

The image below was taken from Frankfort Michigan pier. The white sand beach was full of sun worshipers, a group of teens were using the pier as a diving board to my right, and fisherman were trying to land the big one to my left. Big lake Michigan was very calm and the rocks beside the pier made for a wonderful foreground subject and the dunes in the distance are always appealing. This is a typical summers day in Michigan and I am glad to call this state my home. 

 

Canon 5Ds r first thoughts with images

Canon's 50 megapixel monster arrived at my doorstep just over a week ago. Being a landscape photographer I was concerned about the dynamic range of the sensor. I gathered my things and headed out to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to test the camera out.

My first experiment was to test the sharpness and resolution. It's no disputing that this camera is insanely sharp. It's really hard to explain but the best way I can think of is that the images seem 3D like. Everything pops with well defined edges and detail. It's also crazy how much I can crop and still end up with a 30 megapixel image. Examples are shown below. 

My second test, and for me the most important, was the dynamic range test. I have to say I was presently surprised by the results. So much so I started researching other reviews to see if they were getting similar results. They confirmed my findings. The dynamic range is pretty darn good on the 5Ds r. See for yourself. The image below was exposed for the highlights. I made the raw image, imported to light room, and then exported a jpeg for this write up. 

 

Image is straight out of the camera. Raw photo exported to jpeg via lightroom. 

Image is straight out of the camera. Raw photo exported to jpeg via lightroom. 

As you can see it's pretty dark. In lightroom I went through my normal editing process. For this image I opened the shadows, raised the exposure, and used a graduated filter to darken the sky because it was pretty bright after the aforementioned edits.  I made some color adjustments, local exposure adjustments, local contrast adjustments, etc. The image below is the final result. 

Image after exposure and shadow adjustments. 

Image after exposure and shadow adjustments. 

I'm not going to win any awards for this photograph but as you can see I was able to pull out a lot of information from just one image.  Again heading back to the web reading other reviews I found photographers were getting similar results with the 5Ds r and on par with Nikons D810 dynamic range. I was really shocked and very happy with these results! 

My last test was to shoot some wildlife and experiment with cropping. Again I was blown away with the detail of this camera. While this is not marketed as a wildlife camera, it will get plenty of use from me in that department. I know of a fox den and set up my camera to capture some images. My longest lens is 400mm so I setup as close as I reasonably could. Below is the full 50 megapixel image edited and exported in jpeg format via lightroom CC. 

 

50 Megapixel image edited and exported via lightroom

50 Megapixel image edited and exported via lightroom

The composition isn't bad but I wanted to get closer. I cropped the image to my liking and came up with this image. 

Cropped image

Cropped image

A subtle yet better composition in my opinion. I didn't worry about the megapixel count while cropping. I did the adjustments then checked to see where I was resolution wise. Come to find out I was just under 29 megapixels! 

Before I edited the fox photograph I zoomed in to 100% and exported the image. This is a raw photo straight out of the camera exported as a jepeg via lightroom cc. 

100% zoomed unedited

100% zoomed unedited

Overall I am very pleased and excited with the Canon 5Ds r! Some video features and high iso are lacking therefore it's not for everyone. Other features like built in interval and bulb timers are welcome. The build quality is top notch and as far as I can tell the exterior is identical to the 5DIII. I am pleasantly surprised by the performance of the camera specifically the sensor. This camera works flawlessly with Canon's recently updated lens lineup, (in my opinion the best glass you can buy, besides some zeiss glass). The images above were made with the 16-35mm f4 and the 100-400mm II. 

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