Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park is located on the island of St. John in the eastern caribbean. I was there only briefly but was able to explore a bit around the Trunk Bay area. Trunk Bay is the best beach and tropical area I have visited. There is only one other place that comes close and that is the black sand beaches in Waipio valley on the big Island of Hawaii. Trunk Bay has postcard worthy scenery with sugar sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. During tourist season it's pretty busy but my friends and I didn't have any trouble finding a spot on the beach. The park has an underwater snorkel trail that is home to various tropical fish and other ocean creatures. Besides Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park is home to many ruins and historical sites dating back to 840 BC. St. John is an island full of history and beauty and a place I am eager to visit again. Like I said I didn't get a chance to explore much so if you have any great locations to share please do. I need suggestions for the next time I am able to visit.

Here are a few images I made of Trunk Bay.

On the way to Trunk Bay there are several overlooks. This is one of the most popular ones overlooking the bay and beach.
On the way to Trunk Bay there are several overlooks. This is one of the most popular ones overlooking the bay and beach.
This is at trunk bay just off the main beach. I waded up to about chest height and snapped this picture. The water is really that color and when the sun shines through the clouds the ripples of the water really pop!
This is at trunk bay just off the main beach. I waded up to about chest height and snapped this picture. The water is really that color and when the sun shines through the clouds the ripples of the water really pop!
 

National Parks Closed...Try The State Parks!

The National Parks are considered Americas treasure. With the recent government shutdown entering day 9, Americas treasure has been locked up. While the problems with the government go far beyond our National Parks, there is an alternative. With the National Parks closed...try the state parks! This fall season has been one of the busiest for me and I have spent the last couple weeks photographing the fall colors. I started the fall season photographing Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan's upper peninsula. The Porcupine Mountains is a great park with many photographic locations, including rivers and waterfalls. It's basically in the middle of nowhere, which depending on how you look at it, it's either good or bad. In any event the landscape is prime for fall colors.

The weekend after visiting the Porcupine Mountains I headed to Pennsylvania to photograph Ricketts Glen State ParkRicketts Glen has many waterfalls, and while I was a bit early for the fall colors, the forest floor had a carpet of fallen leaves. The park has a loop that is just over 7 miles that covers 22 waterfalls. If the loop is too long for your liking, the one half of the loop has several bigger waterfalls. If I had to choose I would take this fork. An out and back comes out to be about 4.5 miles. I often compare Ricketts Glen to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. It has the same type of feel and views, especially in the spring.

My experience with the state parks have been mostly positive. Like always it's a good idea to research before you head out to a park. I have been to a few duds, but with the National Parks closed while our government decides what to do about budgets, and debt ceilings, try one of your state parks! Better yet visit a neighboring states park.

Porcupine Mountains State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park

 

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is located in central Alaska, between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Denali is also a preserve for the animals that live there, so the park service minimizes the amount of human contact the animals have with visitors. They do this by only having one road. The road bisects the 6 million acres of the park. After mile 15 the road is closed to private vehicles. To access the full 92 mile road, the park offers a shuttle service which will take you as far as you would like to go, with stops along the way. How far you would like to venture into the park will determine how much your bus ticket will cost. The shuttle service allows you to get off anywhere you would like and return on a different shuttle bus if you so choose. Depending on the time of year, will determine how many buses are out and about. The wilderness access station (the bus station) has a schedule of times and stops that the buses will make, which is very important because if there's a national park you don't want to be stranded in, it's Denali. At first I was a little annoyed with this setup. I wanted to drive my personal vehicle, stop at the stops I wanted to stop at, take the time photographing what I wanted to photograph. After about a hour on the bus I realized they have it this way to protect the animals. Denali National Park is home to truly wild animals, and to see them uninfluenced by mankind is amazing! It's like I would imagine it hundreds of years ago when we first settled in America. Denali is a park for the animals!

So what's to see in Denali National Park? Well what I saw the most were grizzly bears. Also caribou, moose, Dall sheep, arctic ground squirrels, mountain goats, all from the shuttle bus. Some things I didn't see include wolves, wolverines, and other small critters. The park offers a shuttle bus or a tour bus, the difference being the tour bus will pass on more information and history about the park. The tour buss also has a higher fare. The driver I had on the shuttle bus was full of great information. He had been driving the bus in Denali for 22 years. He knows a lot about the park and the animals that live there. His name is Mike, if you can swing it, I suggest you try to ride on his bus. He knows where the animals will be, what direction they like to travel, how to approach the animal, and how they will act. Because of this I was able to get more and better images. Mike is a bit of a surly fella, but he knows his stuff and he will call you out if you break the simple rules, (hanging out of the bus window, being loud, etc..) this turned some people off, but his main concern was for the animals.

Denali doesn't have many designated trails. All of them are within the first 15 miles. After mile 15 you make your own hiking trail. Many people backpack Denali, I would like to someday, but it's truly a wild place and will take a lot of time and preparation.

Alaska in general is a great experience. Denali National Park was part of that experience. Denali is a wildlife park, much like Yellowstone, but the Alaskan range is also beautiful! Mt. McKinley is often covered in clouds, but it's a powerful sight to see. It looks so scary and strong at the same time. It has the ability to humble and awe inspire just about anyone.

When visiting Denali National park you will want to be using mostly telephoto lenses. A 100-400mm or a fixed 500 or 600mm would be ideal. I suggest you rent a longer lens before heading out. You will be up close to wildlife, but having the extra focal length is ideal. This weeks post image is one of the dozen or so grizzly bears I saw on my 11 hour bus tour of Denali. He was walking down the dirt road, and veered off into the brush to eat some berries. Every once in a while he would look up at the bus, and this time he had his tongue sticking out. One of my favorite images from my Alaskan trip.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I have been very fortunate to have visited many parks and places, some of which are world class venues like Yosemite. So when I planned a trip to Pictured Rocks, to be honest I didn't think there was going to be anything that would overly impress me. Well guess what? Like more often than not, I was wrong. Pictured Rocks was gorgeous! They have plenty to do and explore, like hiking through mature hardwoods to remote waterfalls. Exploring sandy beaches, and observing wildlife in and around the lakeshore. The main attraction are the cliffs and rock formations on the lakeshore. It's virtually impossible to navigate the coast by foot therefore some boating is required to see all the cool features. Kayaks and other boats are seen exploring the coast but the easiest and most convenient way is to take a cruise. Pictured Rocks Crusies does a wonderful job getting you up and close. They also explain some of the history and Native American legends. It's really worth the price of admission, and a must to get the full experience. I loved it and I cant wait to go back! The fall colors are gorgeous so I would recommend visiting in the fall or early spring to catch some of the wild flowers.

The image below is one of Miners Castle. Miners Castle is one of the main rock formations of the lakeshore. This image was taken near the designated lookout for Miners Castle which is just several yards from the parking lot.

5D III 16-35mm II at 16mm f16 @.5 sec ISO 640

Yosemite Winter

Here in the Midwest more specifically Northwestern Michigan, it's been warm! If it snows it's not very much and it doesn't stay around long. The landscape is not covered with snow like we should have, the snowshoes have yet to be worn, and it feels more like March than January. Dare I say I miss winter? Last year at this time I was preparing for a trip to photograph Horsetail Falls in Yosemite. It was my first experience in a Yosemite Winter and it was a great one. I know I have said this many times before but Yosemite is the best place I have visited to date. All other locations are compared to Yosemite. I hear that Yosemite is also experiencing a warmer winter. This could effect the waterfalls this spring and horsetail falls may be non existent. If you are visiting for these specific reasons I would do a bit of research before heading that way.

The image in this weeks post is of half dome and was made in cooks meadow. It was around 7:30 in the A.M. on a cold February morning. I used a tripod mounted 16-35mm f2.8 II, at f22 to achieve sharp focus throughout the scene, ISO 100, at 1/2 of a second. I converted this image to black and white using NIK Silver Efex pro. I am not a big black and white guy, I love saturated colors, but often when there is little color to speak of I will convert to black and white as I did in this case.

As you can see by the photograph it's a swampy area so do take cation. I used my tripod legs to poke around in front of me to uncover any hidden dangers the fresh snow may have been covering. It's not so much that it's dangerous but I didn't really want to walk around in 20 degree weather all wet and cold.

An unrelated note, CES is taking place in Las Vegas this week. I am not an insider but there may be a few camera or lens announcements taking place this week. If not there will be plenty of other cool gadgets being introduced.

That's all I have for now, I am going to go do my snow dance in hope that it will snow soI can go get the wintery landscapes that I so desire.