Explorer of The Dark

Of the beaten path in Glacier park Canon 5D II 21mm, F16

I’ve been to a lot of national parks in the U.S. and Canada, and one thing is always present. Lots and lots of people. Everywhere. So this makes is more and more important to find some out of the way places to get some really genuine photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I like getting shots of the really recognizable sites in some of these parks. But sometimes it helps to get out of the limelight and focus on something smaller. Something that will mean more to you and your visit, than standing with the crowds taking the same shot as everyone else.

So I found this great little place in Glacier national park. No path or trail, just following a stream until I found an area that opened up a bit. And definitely no people to worry about 😉

Just a quick word about some of the shots I like to take in these sorts of places. Most of the nature shots I take are HDR images, even if it doesn’t show, there’s usually a hint of it in there. HDR stands for high dynamic range. For those not familiar, it’s a great way to capture more ranges of light than would be possible with a single shot. The short version, taking multiple shots of a single scene, than blend the images. The result can be quite, illuminating… ha ha… More on that later 🙂

Sunrises and The Caribbean

Sunrise off the Caribbean shore Canon 5D markII 21mm, F11

Photographing sunsets, or sunrises are always a challenge. Even if you know what your doing (or me ;)). You can plan for what angle you want to shoot at, a scene you want to shoot, or during particular weather that you know works well. But the sun is so freaking bright! Depending on the conditions of your lens you can get flare in places you didn’t expect, and may not see through the viewfinder at first glance. Exposing for such things can take time as well that you might not have accounted for. But the results can be pretty stellar.

All conditions aside I knew while I was on vacation with fam on the East coast of Mexico, that I would be taking a pic of either the beginning of the day, or the end. And since I was on the East side, it would be the beginning…

So I went down super early in the morning and set up along the string of hotels that line the beach area. Looked around for something that might make a good comp without getting beach chairs and jet skies in the shot. Instead I opted to omitted everything but what I was focused on getting in my photo. Sometimes filler, is just that. Why overcomplicate things if you don’t need to.

One thing I have learned the hard way in a lot of my early photos, is to not clutter up a scene you intended to take. If this scene would benefit from having someone lounging in a beach chair, than great. But I didn’t feel like that was why I was there that morning.

Yellowstone Lower Falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Canon 5D II 200mm, f8

One thing I never get enough of when travelling, is the super cool, super huge waterfalls! they are so immense and shake you with their thunderous noise.

The falls of Yellowstone are awesome. There are hundreds scattered around the park. But none as impressive as the lower Yellowstone.

This place has many different viewpoints, all easily accessible  for some great shots. I knew when going here I would end up with the same shot as most people. But it’s what you do with it after that makes it your own. I like to process most landscapes I do in HDR. And most of the time you can get some great results. Especially in the middle of the day. I really wanted to highlight the shadow areas in the canyon. Without blowing out the water from the falls. Sometimes the two ideas never make it in one photo. I’m happy I was able to do it here without much difficulty.

Side note here! This is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area. If ever going there I highly recommend camping here. It can get cold if travelling outside the high temps of Summer. But being so close to the falls is pretty amazing.

The Deep Dark Olympic Forests

Hanging moss in Hoh National Forest Canon 5D II 21mm, f11

Most place I like to go to, I research a little before I leave. Look at maps and really try and get a feel for the place before I go. In Olympic National Park I thought I had done this to the best of my ability. But even Google maps doesn’t represent the size of this park in it’s true form. I had planned to get to the Hoh National Forest, with enough time to set up some kind of camp, get something to eat, and explore a bit. Sure enough I ended up making way into the campground around 11 at night… So there’s that I guess. This is the benefit to travelling by yourself. Nobody is put out but you 🙂

So as rainforests go, this is the total West Coast version. Hanging vines, mist that lasts all day… rain. It has it all! Not your typical tropical stuff, but so green and lush everywhere. It’s amazing. Everywhere you look there are trees that have fallen down, and have three or four other trees sprouting from their dead bodies. It looks like something out of the Jurassic period.

The one problem here is trying to get a good shot when it never stops raining. I mean it never stopped the whole time I was there! I should have been miserable with the cold wet, but it was actually okay. I just couldn’t imagine that a place like this exists right outside of a city like Seattle. And no offence to Seattle, I love that city, but it’s dirty. Really dirty! This is like a dirty forest. Not clean cut like most, but falling over itself with death and decay, but with a sweet smell of new growth. And so full of Elk. I saw packs of thirty or so on the road the next morning. And these guys don’t move for anyone.


Nashville City Lights Sony A7II 15mm, F8

This Summer I was lucky enough to join in, part way through the craziness, that was Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk across America. And it was ridiculously crazy. From the minute I landed for my 2 day whirlwind trip to Nashville, it was nothing but heat, heat, and a lot of sweaty photography.

I chose to join this one in particular because my friend and mentor Bob Young happened to be helping out to organize the event. I figured this would be a good opportunity to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the overworked, and totally talented, crew behind the Arcanum.

For those of you that might not have heard of the Arcanum, it’s a great online photography mentoring site started by Trey and some colleagues. I highly recommend checking it out.

This shot was from the first night I arrived. I was staying at a hotel right across the bridge from downtown. Which is where all the coolest stuff in Nashville is! And where the photowalk was going to start the next day.

I hit the ground running and spent the whole first day and night walking around downtown with my headphones in, taking shots. I’m not a country fan by any means. But I am still able to appreciate this city. It’s full of cool looking churches, bars on every corner, and stores that sell boots, well pretty much everywhere. It’s a little ridiculous… But somehow awesome at the same time.

I walked back across the bridge with a pizza, and stopped to get this shot before I went home to FaceTime my wife. Who would like nothing better than to be surrounded by country at all times, and is kinda upset I went without her… sorry about that ;(

Monument Monoliths

Light shoots through the clouds at Monument Valley Canon 5D II 70mm, F16

On a list of places you always read about but never get to visit, Monument Valley Arizona certainly topped my list. And it turns out that I got there just in time for some amazing clouds as a storm was rolling through. Which I hear is very rare.

And the people you meet in these places can be equally as fascinating. One such Japanese man struck my friend and I particularly interesting. He didn’t speak English, but he was taking photos, and we had that understanding that comes along with that. And we were certainly waiting for the same thing. The Golden hour seemed like it was going to be an amazing one. But with the storm, and the clouds, the window was getting narrower, and we could see the disappointment forming on his face.

When the clouds did break, there was about 10 minutes to get as many shots as possible with this great light blasting in from the side. Lighting up the red rocks in way we could have only hoped for. But when it was done you could see in our new friends face that he was not satisfied. We dubbed him the saddest man in America. It was even more impactful because he couldn’t convey it in words. But at least we able to make a connection and brighten his day a little. I hope 😮

The Waters of Larch Mountain

Flowing Waters of Larch Mountain Canon 5D II 21mm, F16

When I drove into the Columbia River Gorge area from Portland it was quite late at night. I could still see the immensity of the gorge even though it was so dark. Instead of taking the freeway, you still have the choice to take the historic highway that runs along the side of the steep cliffs that start the mountain range.

Along the road there are a number of pull outs that have great majestic waterfalls running down and under the road. Almost like they were put there on purpose.

I rolled up and grabbed one of the last remaining campsites near Multnomah Falls. Probably the most recognizable one of them all!

In the morning I started at the crack of dawn and hiked up the trail. I know I say it a lot, but I’m used to flat ground. This is anything but. The trail heads straight up with no place to rest really until you reach the top of the falls. And there’s always that one guy in the morning running the whole thing. Makes you feel so crappy about yourself ;(

Along the trail, which is long and very winding, there are so many other amazing waterfalls. Each with their own dynamics. Very cool to walk under a bunch of them. Not to mention the greenest place I have ever been.

My goal that day was to reach the triple falls on the way up to Larch mountain. Unfortunately some kids got there before me, presumably from the other side, and would not get off the top. So I knew I was going to have to wait to get a good pic. So I went further down the trail and found this amazing little bend in the river. It was so quiet and amazing, with fallen logs and moss growing everywhere. So I stopped and got out all my equipment and started to set things up when I heard a “Hello” come from behind a huge boulder behind me.

I guess I didn’t get up as early as I thought. Because behind me there were two couples in about their 70’s set up for a picnic! With a table cloth and everything! It was like a mad tea party in the middle of the forest. Very cool, and super strange at the same time.

So I had a little chat with them, as every time you take a picture in the middle of nowhere, people always want to know what your doing. Not my favourite thing, but in a place like that, and no rush, it can be fun. Plus they had beer 😉


The Patient Forest

The aspen stand tall Canon 5D II 21mm, F16

There is a moment when you are out taking photos in the wilderness, that’s still. Quiet, patient, waiting for that photo to present itself. This is what I love about nature photography. There is no one telling what you should be doing. You need to discover the best course of action for yourself. What is interesting, and what drives you. And from this, the beauty of the world becomes all to clear. Realizing it has been staring at you your whole life, but you never bothered to look back. Thankfully I have had this moment many times in my life. And it has had a profound impact on my self as a whole. I am able to silence the pressures of the world and focus on something simple, pure, and reflective.

One such place that this rings all to true, is Aspen Colorado. Sure it’s probably wonderful in the winter. But I am not the best skier you’ve ever seen. As you can imagine I don’t get that many chances to practice in the prairies ;). So I decided to go in the summer! And I’m glad I did. The mountains and forest of the Aspen highlands can be a humbling experience. The ever changing weather, and forests that are dense and never ending.

There are few trees in this world that spark a true sense of grandeur like the mighty Aspen. They’re shear number alone is daunting. And given the fact that most of these trees come from the same family root, is amazing. Nature’s version of a hustle occupation into the forest. They have totally taken over, pushing out all other trees taller than themselves. Leaving nothing but a silent army of soldiers, waiting…

The Geyser Stumps

Dead roots in the bog Sony A7 II 147mm, F8

On the road home from the travels I take, more often than not, passes through Wyoming. It is a great mid point in the two countries I travel in the most. My home country of Canada, and America.

Wyoming is full of such great wildnerness. It really has to been seen to be believed. From open ranges rising to thunderous mountains. To sleepy glaciers lakes flowing down to raging riverbeds. It really has it all. But Yellowstone National Park is where everything collides into a massive ecosystem of wonder.

My favourite feature of the park are the geyser basins. These amazing (and smelly!) hotspots are where yellowstone really sets itself apart from every other park in the continental system. And one thing that always fascinates me about them is how they destroy everything around them, yet life flourishes.

On my last trip here I really wanted to get a shot that represented the basins in a different sort of way. Something a little more unique than the colourful waters the geysers are known for. And what better way to show the slow destructive power, than a dead tree being consumed by the bog!