Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in... yup you guessed it Colorado. Colorado has always been idolized in books, magazines, and song for it's beauty. It's a great place to enjoy mountains, woodlands,wildlife, streams, rivers, and waterfalls. My trip to Rocky Mountain National Park had me staying just outside of Estes Park CO. Estes Park is a great little town with many places to stay, shop, and eat. A quick Google search will help with your lodging and other accommodations.

Upon entering Rocky Mountain National Park from the Estes Park side, the visitor center is actually before the park entrance. Good to know if you need to pick up some books, guides, souvenirs or supplies for your time in the park.The entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park is $20 for 7 days. If you plan on visiting multiple parks it's wise to pick up the national pass for $80. This pass will get you into any national park/forest/lake shore/monument out there and it turns out to be a great value if you are a frequent visitor.

I first arrived to the park in early evening. I took my camera but my main goal was to scout a sunrise spot. After entering the park I headed towards some spots I thought would be good. It wasn't long after I entered the park when I started seeing elk. If you have never been to a National Park that has wildlife, when there is a traffic jam, people stopped in the road, or people pulled over to the side pointing into the woods or grasslands, you know there is some sort of wildlife nearby. This seems to always be the case in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just look for a traffic backup and you will likely see some sort of mammal. This occasion was a big bull elk in velvet. It was a good sight to see and I grabbed many photos of him but I am still working on my wildlife photography so I will keep those photos hidden as "souvenirs" of the trip.

Rocky Mountain National Park has good vistas and I recommend catching a sunrise at Bear Lake. There is a trail that goes around the lake which will allow you to capture some reflections of the mountains in the glass like surface of the water, but the main attraction is the wildlife. You will have the chance to photograph elk, marmot, bighorn sheep, bear, and many other birds and critters. You noticed I said bear! I saw a Rocky Mountain black bear when I was at a "pull out" in my car. Good thing, because she was with 2 cubs and I am sure if I was outside of my car I could have perceived as a threat. Get some bear spray if you plan on hiking in the park! Chances are you won't run into any bears on the trail but I don't think I will want to gamble coming across 2 bear cubs and a mother. It might get a little intense.

This weeks post picture was taken in the valley of Rocky Mountain National Park. This particular spot is a popular place for bighorn sheep, and although I didn't see any sheep, I was able to capture this pano. I shot this handheld, in portrait orientation, with my 70-200 2.8 IS II. I used manual mode and exposed off of the blue sky to maintain an even exposure in the scene, and stitched the 5 images together in photoshop.

I really enjoyed Rocky Mountain National Park. I am much more of a woods, river, and mountain guy, than I am a desert southwest guy, so its right at the top of my list of parks. Highly Recommended!

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is located about 30 miles from Moab Utah. I stayed in Moab to visit both Canyonlands and Arches National Park. This is the best place to stay when visiting these two parks. Many different accommodations and things to do. A quick google search of Moab is all you really need to find what, where, how, and when.

First off I must say it was HOT. It was near 100 f during the day in mid July. When it dropped down to 85 f at night it actually felt a bit chilly, that's how hot it was midday. If you plan on visiting these parks during the summer months, please take this into account.

Canyonlands have very unique geological features that are carved out by the Colorado river. My first impression of Canyonlands was that it looked a lot like The Grand Canyon. Canyonlands National Park also has many features that rise above the horizon which give it a unique feel.

The main reason I wanted to visit Canyonlands National Park was to get a shot of Mesa Arch at sunrise. The underside of Mesa Arch glows when the sun hits it and you can look through Mesa Arch and see the canyon below. It's a beautiful sight! Moab being 30 plus minutes away and it's July so the sun rises early, you have to get up well before the crack of dawn to see the sunrise. I made my way out to Mesa Arch and being that I was a little behind I may or may have not drove really fast to get there in time. Shh don't tell anyone.

When I arrived to the trail head parking lot, there were about 7 or 8 cars already there. The path to Mesa Arch is about 1/4 mile and being how light it was already, I  dang near ran to the arch. I got there and already a string of photographers were set up photographing. It was funny though because there was a spot open almost like they knew I was coming.  I wedged my way in with my tripod and started photographing. As the sun came up shortly after I got there, my fellow photogs and I just started saying ooo and ahhh. For a moment we all stopped taking pictures to enjoy what we were witnessing. The excitement and comradery is great in places like these. I have heard stories of photographers getting into fights over the "best" position but I have yet to witness this and actually my experiences have been exactly the opposite. Respect can go a long way, and I end up talking and making friends.

This weeks post picture was taken at f16 so I could get the "star burst" effect. I was using my 16-35mm lens at 16mm, tripod mounted with a cable release. This photograph was the best of my trip and I am glad I was able to witness a Mesa Arch sunrise.

As far as the rest of Canyonlands, it was ok. I defiantly enjoyed Arches more, and if I were to do a "canyon" trip I would go to the Grand Canyon instead.

I recommend visiting Canyonlands National Park just based on the fact that Mesa Arch is a must see!



4 Tips for Flower Photography

Spring is the time of year flowers and fruit tree blossoms all over the country start to bloom. To get the most out of  your flower photographs here are 4 Tips for Flower Photography. 1) Get low! No I'm not talking about Lil John I'm talking about getting low to the ground. Most people look at flowers from above. To make a compelling photograph that most people don't get to see try getting low.

2) Use a tripod. Tripods are useful for any form of photography, but when you need to get low and line up your composition it makes it that much easier. I use my live view option on my camera, line up my shot and click away. Lying on the ground trying to hold my camera still, making sure all the important elements are in the frame without a tripod can be a bit difficult and unstable.

3) Get a diffuser. I have a Lastolite Trigrip shoot through diffuser. Many of us are out in the direct sunlight with all those harsh shadows. This diffuser will take that harsh sunlight and turn it into a beautiful soft  light. This just doesn't work on flowers, it works on everything from products to portraits. Why not use the sun and turn that light into a soft-box quality light.

4) Use Back lighting. Ever look at flower photographs where you can see through the petals and see a silhouette of the Stamen, Anther, and the Pistil? This is done using back lighting.  Shoot into the sun and you will achieve this effect which adds a bit more depth and interest to the photograph.

There are many more tips out there but these are some that I use most often. Tis the season for flower photography so Google a spot to visit in your local area and get out and make photographs. Lets make sure that we respect the parks and places we visit. Watch your step and respect the the flowers that we all love to photograph. For a bit more information about wildflowers check out my post for Carrizo Plain National Monument.


This photograph was taken in spring in my home garden.


Traverse City Sunflowers

I have seen many sunflower field pictures but I never been to a sunflower field. I started researching sunflower fields. Google came up with a few, and I even got in touch with George Lepp, to see where he goes to take sunflower pictures. He said Goodland Kansas. Well that is a bit too far away to go for sunflowers so I kept researching. I found some possible fields in Northern California but it's still a good 6 or so hour drive up there. I kept looking and then I found it.  Traverse City Sunflowers. It's true and it just so happened I was going there visiting family and friends.

The fields I found are just north of Traverse City off of M72 heading towards Elk Rapids. I took the turn off of 72 to Bates rd. Once there I just pulled off the road, got out and started taking pictures. I went during sunrise being that was the direction the flowers were facing and I could get some good front lighting. In the evening you would have back lighting and it might prove a bit more difficult getting a proper exposure.

It was late July when I went  and some of the flowers had yet to open so I would maybe try middle to the end of August to get more blooms. I am not sure who owns the fields so for the most part I just stayed on the shoulder of the road. If I was to venture further in I would get permission to do so.

Never the less it was fun and I will be going back there as long as they keep planting them.

If you're in the area it's worth a gander.