Dead Horse Point Canyonlands Moab Utah Landscape Photography Photo Tour Tours

Sunrise over the Colorado River below Dead Horse State Park near Moab Utah

Persistence, determination, tenacity – all terms that apply to the way a landscape photographer has to go about his (her) business.  It HAS to be that way, or they will spend most of their time disappointed at the quality of their images.

This point was driven home to me recently on a trip to the National Parks in Southern Utah.  Sunrise can be so spectacular against the backdrop of red rock formations and I knew that the view from Dead horse Point near Moab was amazing.

Sunrise was 6am.  It takes nearly an hour to drive to Dead Horse from Moab, plus I needed my cup of coffee – so alarm clock set for 4:15a.

On my first morning there, I arrived at about 5:30a – enough time to locate some good viewpoints and chat briefly with a few other intrepid souls – all of us shivering behind our tripods and waiting for the light.  It never showed up.  The thin layer of cloud at the horizon soon became a sky full of light cloud cover – the photographers nightmare.

Second morning I arrived at 5:40a – located some additional foreground interest and made note of several other photo possibilities.  A significant portion of the sky was cloudy, but the horizon looked like it might give us enough sunlight for one of those magical moments.  The sun rose – lit the tops of the red rock like they were on fire – it was truly amazing.  Then it went away – gone, behind an endless wave of clouds.

The third morning I trudged to my spot – the tripod holes were getting well worn by now.  The sun rose, but was behind a bank of clouds.  Slowly the photographers around me packed up their gear and drifted away.  Looking at the cloud pattern and the wind-flow, it seemed possible that in the next few minutes it might pop out – but probably not for long.  This just might give me enough angle on the sun to light up some of the deep canyons that lay before me.  My stubbornness kicked in.

Out of the dozen or so photographers that stood on the ledge that morning I was the last to leave – and the only one to get a shot.  Some would say it was total chance, but really it was all about persistence and determination.  It might not be the best shot from the trip, but it’s definitely the one that left me with the most impact.




Caribbean Paradise

Beautiful Bottom Bay, southeast corner of Barbados, West Indies

Bottom Bay along the southeast coast of Barbados, West Indies

Sometime in mid to late January a subtle change begins to creep into the minds of most people who live north of the 30th parallel.  Frankly, we’re tired of winter and ready for some sunlight.  The beach seems to be a good place to dream of – maybe even a Caribbean island, say Barbados?

Recently, my wife and I were fortunate enough to spend a little time cruising around this tropical island – what an adventure!  Our rental car seemed to come from a prior generation – complete with rusted body and 40 horse-power engine.  The rental car ‘agent’ (actually a 17 year old surfer dude) gave us a map and said everything is easy to find – no problem, you’ll have a great time.

By the time we returned the car, we were missing a couple of hubcaps – and maybe even some other parts that had fallen off during our drive on the rough roads.  Did we get lost?  Of course.  There are no road signs in Barbados so you never really know what street you’re on. Did we have a great time?  Absolutely!

The beaches in Barbados are spectacular – the people very friendly.  The weather – 82 degrees Fahrenheit – 28 Celsius – it was paradise.

The time in the sun seemed to warm our spirits as we returned back to cold North America.  But before our plane touched down on our return flight we were already making plans for our next trip to the Caribbean.  Maybe this time we will check on a rental car upgrade…

Rocky coastline along the eastern shore of Barbados at Bathsheba

Rocky coastline along the eastern shore of Barbados at Bathsheba, West Indies



December in Bavaria

Bavaria Saint Coloman Church Fussen Allgau Schwangau Germany

Winter morning at St Coloman Church in Schwangau, Bavaria Germany






















Canon 5d mkII EF24-105 at 85mm ISO 100 f16 1/100 sec.

The true test of my resolve always seems to come on the first morning after a long flight.  The lure of sleeping in to help recover is intense.  But I know that missed opportunities are my biggest regrets, so I force myself to crawl out of bed in the pitch black at 4 or 5am for my first shots.

This morning it was in Schwangau, Germany – and St. Coloman Church.  I sneak out to the rental car, scrape the frost off the windows, crank it up and head out to my chosen spot.  It is officially minus 15 degrees – that’s centigrade, but all I know is that I’m glad to have my long underwear on – it’s cold!!

I’m undecided as to the perfect spot to shoot from.  Not only do I have several options, but the sun (once it rises) is going to be blocked by a large bank of clouds and also by a very large mountain that is closer to this little church than I had thought.

As I stand beside the road in two feet of snow wondering what my next move needs to be I hear bells – sleigh bells.  The first thought that comes to mind is “Santa Claus” – honest.  I think it must be the jet-lag.

It turns out to be several farmers in their horse-drawn carts heading off down the road to the Christmas market – this seems so surreal.  I can feel the farmers laughing at this crazy Yank standing next to a camera and tripod, up to his knees in snow in the middle of one of their fields at 6a.  The horses even snickered – I would have too.

Off in the distance there is a glowing castle – yes this is Bavaria, and some beautiful snow-covered mountains.  I decide to race off down the road and catch some other shots while waiting for the light to develop.

Once I get a few shots of the castle and surrounding area, I head back to St. Coloman church to see how it looks now.  It’s better.  I think it will get even better, but just in case, I snap a few shots wanting to get something in the bag.  I leave once more for some snow shots in the trees, always keeping my eyes on the sky.

I’m now back in front of St. Coloman.  The sun has just poked its way above the mountain range, the sky is blue with some wispy clouds.  The scene that I’ve been waiting for suddenly develops in front of me – it’s magic.  In about fifteen minutes time it’s all over.  The sun’s a little too high now and the cloud cover returns – but I got my shot.  Is it the best photo ever?  Not by a long-shot, but it’s the one that I had set out to capture.

The jet-lag, early morning exhilaration, and successful shooting leaves me looking for some early morning hot chocolate.  I head off toward the Christmas-card town of Fussen.

Bavaria Hohenschwangau Castle Schwangau Winter Germany

Early morning at Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria Germany


Amazing Umbria

Castelluccio Umbria Italy Piano Grande Photography workshop Tour

Village of Castelluccio perched high above the Piano Grande, Umbria Italy

When you think of all the great things about the region of Umbria in East-Central Italy, the list gets pretty long.  Mountains, sculpted valleys – in fact, endless landscapes, fascinating medieval villages and towns, wonderful people, killer food…  it’s easy to go on and on.

The Monti Sibillini National Park is home to some of my favorite Umbrian memories.  So much so that I bring a group of photographers back every year in one of my Photography Tours.  If you’d like to be one of those photographers in June 2012 – there is still space.  Click Here.

Most of my time is spent roaming the vast mountainous areas overlooking villages like Preci, Norcia, Castel Vecchio and Castelluccio.  But once the shooting stops, it’s time for FOOD!!  Norcia is home to some of the best cooking I’ve ever had – with local cheeses, truffles and wild boar (my favorite) – all washed down with great vini.

One evening my wife and I walked into town to one of our favorite restaurants – the staff greeted us (by now they had seen us a number of times).  As usual, the dining room was full of people – most in some animated form of conversation, but all enjoying their food.  We sat in our usual seat – tonight we were next to a priest, his friend and a nice tourist couple from Germany.

Our waiter (Luciano) approached with a bit of a frown – we had to ask what was wrong.  He said you can eat here tonight but you’ll have to hurry.  We knew that it wasn’t closing time, no one was waiting for our seat – we were confused.  Luciano went on to say that the football match started in 20 minutes and he was going to be watching it on TV.  Such is the importance of football (soccer) in the lives of the Italians. This match happened to be one of the first-round games of the 2010 World Cup.  Of course this was a big deal.

We ordered quickly, paid the bill before the food even arrived, and true to form the entire restaurant was emptied in 20 minutes time – leaving only us, the priest and friend, and the German couple to finish our meals.  Quiet, enjoyable, certainly tasty – but just the six of us.

Outside in the main piazza someone had set up a large TV.  A crowd gathered, and for 2 1/2 hours there was a Superbowl party happening below the ancient statue of San Benedetto in Norcia.

Such fun!

Come join us next June for one of two weekends photographing Umbria!

Preci Umbria Italy Landscape Photography Workshop

The last rays of the setting sun warm the medieval town of Preci in the Valnerina, Umbria Italy


Piazza San Benedetto Norcia Umbria Italy Photography Workshop Tour

Twilight in Piazza San Benedetto, Norcia Umbria Italy


San Francisco!

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California Bay sunrise

Sunrise over San Francisco from above the Golden Gate Bridge

I always find it interesting to hear what people think of when you mention the name of a place.  For San Francisco it’s things like Cable Cars, Fishermen’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Ghiradelli Chocolate, Seafood… all kinds of wonderful things.

For me and the way my mind works, I think of the amazing views from all around the bay.  I enjoy a walk down the Embarcadero, people watching all over town, the view from Alamo Square, but most of the time I’d rather park myself with my tripod on a hillside overlooking the beautiful landscape of the bay.

Such was the case on my most recent trip to the area.  Each morning and evening I could be found clinging to some rocky cliff working a cool angle or view.  My wife thought I was nuts – she’s usually right. But it takes a bit of work to find the best shots – and that, of course, is what I’m always after.  I can honestly say that I’ve come to appreciate the grip of my Merrill hiking shoes.

But great views never get old for me.

Bay Bridge San Francisco California skyline twilight dusk

Twilight over San Francisco from below the Bay Bridge


Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California Fort Baker Bay

Early morning below the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

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