Giant’s Causeway

I spent last week in Belfast for a conference, and was lucky enough to get an extra day to explore the Northern Ireland coast. The weather was volatile, with sleeting rain switching to bright sun and back every hour. At the Giant’s Causeway, intense wind gusts kicked up choppy waves and forced tourists off the columns, providing a few unexpected openings to take people-free pictures. Topped off with a beautiful sunset and a final stop to see castle ruins, it was a pretty incredible afternoon.

Past snapshots: frozen sunset

Going through old photos, another trip to Yosemite. This one was pretty special, a New Year’s Eve weekend following a long cold spell but no big snowstorms. We were able to go up to Tenaya Lake, which had frozen solid. It was really beautiful standing in the middle of that mountain lake watching the sun set and the moon rise.

The Sleeping Beauty Castle

Schloss Neuschwanstein, one of the most photographed sites in Germany, was built in the 1800’s by King Ludwig II. It’s an idealistic version of a medieval castle, and has in turn been a source of inspiration, including for the design of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. We braved the tourist crowds for an afternoon, and enjoyed the bright evening views across the valley.

Past Snapshots: Yosemite

Wrapping up my trip through 2011 photos was a September trip to Yosemite, another one of my absolute favorite places. Of all my trips there, this one stuck in my mind for negative connections with a family emergency that happened just afterwards. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed returning to these photos. The short trip was packed full of classic Yosemite moments: an icy morning in Tuolumne Meadows, a scramble hike to Gaylor and Granite Lakes, afternoon and sunset along the Tuolumne River, a quick stop at Fern Springs, ravens and El Capitan views from Taft Point, and a final sunset on Sentinel Dome. My approach and style has changed in the last eight years, but there were still a lot of shots I like.  I hope they make you smile too.

Chitwan Jungle Walk

We spent our second week in Nepal at Chitwan National Park, at the Tiger Tops lodge. The lodge is situated near the edge of the park, and hosts guided walks through the jungle to see the wildlife. In addition to the naturalists walking along with us, mahouts rode elephants at the front and back of the group. The elephants acted as security detail. If wild animals were to charge, the mahouts would move the elephants in front of the group as a very hefty protective wall. This provides security for the hikers and employment for the mahouts without overburdening or harming the elephants. Just a few minutes into our hike, we saw three rhinos (a mother and baby, and another female) and got to watch them interact. Later on the hike, we came across the mother and baby again wallowing in a waterhole.

Sunset and Stars at Deer Park

The day before my birthday was unusually clear, with views across the Strait of Vancouver Island and to the east of Baker Mountain. It was also a night with no moon, and so I greeted my partner in crime at the door with great excitement–clear sky! bright stars! milky way!–and a packed picnic dinner. We drove up to Deer Park, a campground and lookout point in Olympic National Park, WA, and meandered the trail up to the top.

The view was indeed spectacular, and though we were joined with other photographers and hikers for the panoramic sunset, they all cleared out with the end of the light, and we had the starry night all to ourselves. Well, and one late-night buck who wandered in front of my camera, and paused long enough for my night picture set up (40mm equivalent lens, and a 4 second exposure) to catch his visit.

This was also my first time playing with combining multiple images together in different ways, using a couple of different softwares. There are panoramas, which are multiple horizontally adjacent shots stitched together (using Lightroom 6’s included merging). I tried one HDR picture where three shots were taken at dark, medium, and bright exposures, and then combined to get more out of the range of lights and shadows (in Affinity photo). And a couple of the Milky Way photos are also composites, with multiple 20-second exposures taken one after the other, and aligned to keep the stars bright, reduce background noise, and remove streaks from airplanes and satellites (using the Starry Landscape Stacker). I’m pretty happy with the early results, although I know there’s a lot more to learn about how much digital software can do–and how to make it look good.