Sunday, September 20, 2015

Trip Jinx

My friends and family know that traveling with me is like a hazardous occupation.  I've seen snow in Death Valley, rain in the desert,  and busloads of tourists invading isolated overlooks at sunrise.  True friends have even suggested to my wife that we really ought to just stay home.

This summer was no exception.  I had arranged a canal houseboat rental from Mid Lakes Marina in Macedon along the Erie canal in New York. June was one of the wettest months ever, and just before my trip was to start, large stretches of the Erie canal were closed - for high water!  How you get too much water in a canal I don't know.  Admittedly the boat was quite comfortable but we had to head west instead of east as I had intended.  Canal houseboats are also very slow - people walking briskly along the towpath trails could outpace us when they were motivated.  So we didn't cover quite the area I had planned, but it did force me to slow my own pace down. Way down. I guess that's a good idea and fits with the concept of a vacation.  At least I didn't have guide a mule pulling the canal boat.

In July my long suffering wife Chris and I headed to Glacier National Park.  About two days before departure we got an email from one of the hotels informing us of a forest fire.  I've been to Glacier four times and this is the 2nd forest fire.  That's 50%.  I should probably be banned from the park.  When I called the hotel to inquire about whether I should get a reservation elsewhere, the man who answered said not to worry,  and nonchalantly added that the fire wasn't close - 6 miles away - and that it was at worst just a bit smoky....  So we flew into Great Falls Montana because although Kalispell is closer, it's on the west side of the park and we were spending all of our time on the east side which is separated from the airport by Logan's pass and the Going to the Sun road which can have surprise delays (even when there's no fire) and mess up your attempt to catch the flight back home.

Great Falls seemed to be a pleasant town and when we checked into the hotel we surprised with an upgrade - a jacuzzi suite. That night after dinner there was the sound like a herd of horses galloping around the room above us.  Just when we were about to call the desk about that there was a knock on the door.  When my wife answered there were two intoxicated young women standing there, one of whom slapped the other and slurred "told you this was the wrong floor!"  A few minutes later, there was the sound of flowing water coming from the room with the jacuzzi.  When I checked it out, there was water streaming from the light fixtures, the fire suppression nozzle, and down the walls.  Definitely time to call the front desk.  Apparently it's ok to go out and get drunk, leaving your children to wreak havoc back at the hotel.

The next day we drove to the park to discover that the main road through the park, Going to the Sun Road, was closed because of the fire and was unlikely to open in the near future.  This is the main road to access the majority of the highlights of the park.  The good news was that the fire wasn't heading towards our hotel.  The other upside was that it forced us to explore the Two Medicine section of the park which is definitely under-appreciated.  But this trip was timed to let us see the Logan Pass area after the snow had melted and when there should have been wildflowers and that wasn't an option anymore.

We spent the last few days of the trip in the Many Glacier area and stayed at the century old lodge.  It's definitely cool, historical, and offers access to my favorite section of the park.  However, there have been major advances in hotel construction over the last 100 years in areas like bathrooms and noise control. And when the fire alarm goes off at 3 am in a century old wooden structure you're really motivated to exit quickly!  

In spite of the challenges of the trips, there was great scenery and plenty to photograph.  One of the most fruitful outings were the two drives we made exploring the area east of Glacier National park.  This area is agricultural and the landscape was more of the big sky type with horses and hay fields under it. This area was quite a contrast to the mountains and lakes of the park.

As always, I was pleasantly surprised with the opportunities for images, even if they weren't what I had anticipated.  And of course, I'll continue to travel in spite of the black cloud.  I'll even go back to Glacier National Park - but next time I'll probably travel under an alias...


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sometimes You Get What You Need

My photography crazed friends Andy and Pete suggested a shoot where we would only photograph at night and sleep during the day.  And we would primarily car camp - each of us sleeping in the back of his own SUV.  The one week which seemed to fit our schedules was in February and the target area was eastern Utah.  It was necessary to find a week where the moon was less than one half at it's brightest and it would set early enough to give us both some moonlit landscape and some moon free night sky.  We didn't quite figure the impact of the very late rise of the thickest part of the Milky Way, which turned out to be around two hours before dawn.  For those who like night photography, you know that the night starts fading two hours before sunrise (and doesn't get really dark until 2 hours after sunset.)

We met up in Arches NP and the first night started off well and then became increasingly cloudy. Then there was a major league snowstorm.  So much for night sky shooting.  We elected to head south because the snowstorm was moving northeast and we figured it would clear there first.  We drove to Natural Bridges National Monument where eventually we were the only visitors for a day.  When you see no other tire tracks, you know you have the place to yourself.  The snowstorm  coated the rocks and trees perfectly and we had the opportunity to photograph the high desert scenery in its winter finest.  Of course,  hiking in the snow was a little challenging and sleeping in the SUV's at 20 degrees wasn't exactly cozy.  But the images were awesome, and eventually the storm cleared providing a superb sunrise in the process.  We photographed our way back north and eventually got some night shooting as we had envisioned. 

In retrospect I was glad for the diversity the snowstorm provided and the fact that it forced us to get some sleep at night.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

So Now What?

My wife and I had planned a February trip to Hocking Hills in the fall.  She was looking forward to the romantic cabin and I to some winter photography - and romance in the cabin.  We had just gotten a foot of snow at home so I figured the scenery would be awesome. She was hoping the cabin would be as nice as its website.  The cabin was, but the snow never got quite as far south as Hocking Hills.  Now what?
Of course I still had a beautiful woman, a really nice cabin in the woods, a hot tub, wine, and some gourmet food.  If I wasn't a diehard photographer, this would be perfect.  We did do some hiking, as my wife Chris really does enjoy the outdoors and thankfully can find things to enjoy while I photograph.  Besides the lack of snow, it turned out that the Yaktrax that she had weren't up to the ice covered stone steps that lead down to the really cool features in the park. My Kahtoola  microspikes were awesome but we only had one set of those.  So for our hikes together we went places without lots of icy steps and I looked for ways to depict winter without showing a snow covered landscape (bottom photo.)  When she'd had enough hiking I slipped out (pun intended) and used the microspikes to find wintery looking scenics (top photo.)
In the end, we had some quality "us" time and I found some images too, so it was a perfect weekend.