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Len Saltiel
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11,946 followers
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Sandstone Wonders - Fisher Towers, River Road, Moab, Utah

River Road (also known as the Colorado River Scenic Byway or Route 128) is one of the most beautiful drives in the Southwest. It is often overlooked, as its competition is Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The road follows along the Colorado River for 44 miles, but you only get glimpses of it along the route. Don't worry though, the sandstone rock formations are everywhere, many of which are quite impressive. This section of the road, known as Fisher Towers, attracts visitors for its rock climbing and trails. On a nice day, you can usually see the rock climbers on the fins that measure between 1,000 and 2,000 feet in height from the mesa.

For those who want to photograph the sights on River Road, my advice is to shoot both in early morning light and late evening light. Because of how River Road is geographically situated (at least in March), one side of the road is bathed in great light while the other is in shadow. By going in the morning and evening, you will get great photos of the rock formations on both sides and you will be glad you did.
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Waiting - Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

Waiting for sunrise takes a lot of patience for me. I am not known as the most patient person in the world, so setting up a composition and standing there for a long time can be challenging. When I begin to feel impatient, I take a deep breath to relax and realize that I am standing in front of a beautiful landscape that I should absorb. There is a silence and tranquility present that soothes your soul if you let it in. I realize that many people would trade places with me in a heartbeat. These thoughts help me relax and results in a better photograph.

As I re-examine the scene, I see the blue and purple hues of the civil twilight coming through. I also notice that the light from the sky, coupled with light from a nearby building, is giving the top of the boats a subtle glow. Checking my settings, I take the photo and, because of the lack of light, the shutter stays on for 30 seconds. This causes two thing that I love. First, the ever present boat moored away from the dock takes on a ghostly look. Second, I see the red tail lights of a couple of cars in the distance that adds a bit of interest above the boats. I wish I had planned that but I will take it.
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Backroads - Palouse, Washington

I have been to the Palouse two times now, once in June and the other in late August. To say the experiences were different would be an understatement. In June, the farmland is all shades of green. When the wind blows, you can actually see the top of the crops moving, as if they headed in the direction opposite of where the wind is coming from. Although you can find the huge and powerful farm equipment here and there, there is not much of it in use. That is because the seeding was completed weeks before which created this "sea" of green across the landscape.

Fast forwarding to late August, everything has changed. The harvest was well underway. Brown replaced green as the dominant color. While many fields still had crops that could show the movement of the wind, more had the look of the farmland in this photo. Where there was an absence of large farm equipment in June, there was equipment everywhere cutting and hauling crops in large trucks. You knew where the the harvesting was happening by looking at the clouds of dust in the distance.

So, you might suspect that June is a better time to visit. On my first day of harvest, I would have agreed with you. By the end of my visit, I had a much better appreciation of harvest time, as I think that my initial reaction was more in shock at the change. I still prefer the spring season, but not by that much. I think that had I visited at the very start of the harvest (which is hard to predict) it might have been an equal match.
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Glorious Evening - Myers Creek, Gold Beach, Oregon
I am real excited to be heading back to the Oregon Coast this coming April for a scouting trip with Jeff Clow. I have been to this gorgeous part of the US a number of times and I think Jeff can add this to his ever growing destinations for his wonderful Photo Tours (Jeff has not visited Oregon yet). We plan to scout all 363 miles of the coast over a 10 day span. During this trip, we will be visiting over 150 locations on the Oregon Coast, many of which I have photographed and some that I have never visited. I am always amazed at how much information is on the internet when doing research.

I am sure that if I asked people who have spent some time on the coast and asked them what their favorite location was, I'd get tons of different answers. For me, this scene, which is just a little south of Gold Beach, is my favorite stop. It doesn't have a specific name that I know of but, when you drive south around a curve and see it, you have to stop. I took this photo in late afternoon of the sea stacks bathed in great light. To give you a sense of how big they are, if you look on the beach to the left of the big stack, there are two little specks that are people walking on the beach.
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Blue Hour Sky - Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

Like most photographers, I love a great sunrise, especially when you have iconic subjects that anchor your photo in the foreground. The great colors don't necessarily start when the sun peeks over the horizon. The light show actually starts well before sunrise and comes in five distinct phases. Each stage has a name: Astronomical Dawn, Nautical Dawn, Civil Dawn, Sunrise and the Golden Hour. I won't bore you with the description of each, but serious photographers will get to a location much earlier than the time of sunrise. To give you an idea of how long each lasts, these are the times today in Connecticut:

--> Astronomical Dawn (the time before this is Full Darkness) - 5:35am
--> Nautical Dawn - 6:08am
--> Civil Dawn - 6:42am
--> Sunrise - 7:12am
--> Morning Golden Hour - 7:12am (lasts for a little over an hour)

As you can see, the light starts over an hour before sunrise happens. So, if you want to experience the full breath of light at dawn, set your alarm clocks earlier. This photo above was taken at the beginning of Civil Dawn of the Mittens and Merrick Butte in Monument Valley. Anyone just getting there at sunrise would still have a beautiful golden sunrise, but would have missed these colors and not have been aware of what they could have had.
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Volcanic Plug - Kayenta, Arizona

Last February, Jaki Good Miller and I flew into Albuquerque and headed out on a five hour drive to one of my favorite places on Earth, Monument Valley. We had hoped to get to the 13-mile marker north of the Valley to get a sunset shot of the famous road shot made famous in the movie, Forrest Gump. Our timeframe was tight and we weren't sure we would make it. Of course, landscape photographers can be easily distracted when the light is terrific and a new and different subject appears. Cue in the volcanic plugs that we spotted about a half-mile south of the Valley. The biggest plug was the 1,500 foot high Agathla Peak, which I posted last year. In the fields around the peak there were a number of smaller volcanic plugs, like this one that made nice subjects themselves.

So, what is a volcanic plug? I'll be honest, I never heard of the term before and only learned about them when researching Agathla Peak. Simply put, they are a volcanic rock created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano. A plug can cause a build-up of pressure if molten magma is trapped beneath it, which could lead to an explosive eruption. I don't know whether that is the case here, but I was interested in other volcanic plugs in the US. Turns out, two places that I have visited before, Morro Rock in California and Devils Tower in Wyoming (featured in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind) are volcanic plugs. Who knew?
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Chandelier - Wilderness Lodge, Disney World, Florida

One of the things that Disney does so well is creating their resorts so well that you think you have been transported to somewhere else. Take this photo of one of the buildings that comprise their Wilderness Lodge. The lodge was built in 1994 and Disney's goal was to recreate a turn of the century themed resort hotel that had the look and feel of the National Park lodges located in the Pacific Northwest. The main building was modeled after the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. An artificial geyser and hot springs are located on the resort grounds.

This photo was actually taken in the adjacent Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which opened in 2000. We stayed there a few years ago and I took this from the center of the first floor looking up at the timbered ceiling. The Villas were themed to look like lodgings that were built by workers on the transcontinental railroad.
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Park Avenue Pano - Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

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There are some places where you cannot easily transfer what you are seeing to a photo. They usually are vast landscapes that span 180 degrees or more. Yes, you can capture parts of the scene by zooming into subjects within the scene, but they don't give a true look to the whole experience. That is where panoramas come into play. For those who don't know how a panorama is created, it is a series of photographs that are taken of a scene and then stitched together in post-processing to create one combined photo. Alternatively, today's smart phones and mirrorless cameras have a panorama feature that allows for the pano to be stitched inside the phone or camera. The downside is that quality of the resulting file of the latter method is a bit inferior. The other disadvantage is that all panos end up as a very thin photo (unless you stitch together another "row" of photos) that doesn't always transfer well to the internet (especially Facebook).
The photo above is a pano of one of my favorite places and hikes in Arches National Park, namely Park Avenue. The vantage point where I took this photo is the beginning of the trail which ends up where the two sides converge in the center. It is not a strenuous hike but so rewarding. As you walk down of the center of the landscape and look up at the towering sandstone, you realize how Park Avenue got its name.
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Remains - Cook Bank, Rhyolite, Nevada

Most ghost towns have a unique story and Rhyolite, Nevada is no exception. Located near Death Valley and 120 miles from Las Vegas, the town was a mere teenager before its death. Its lifespan lasted only 15 years. It was founded in 1905, like many towns of its time, as a result of he discovery of gold. It was made home by thousands of prospectors and miners looking to get rich. Investors came in to build the town, providing it with telephone, electricity, buildings, a hospital, a newspaper and an opera house. By 1907, the population approximated 4,000. In 1908, as the main mine began to dry up, an investor ordered a study and the results were not promising. The exodus began, with only about 1,000 remaining by 1910. It took another 10 years for the remaining residents to vacate the town. Since then, it has been used in motion pictures and is also a tourist attraction. The building in the photo was the Cook Bank which also served as a Stock Exchange
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Glowing Mountaintop - Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Anticipation. It builds up from when the second the alarm goes off at 3:30am. After you shake off your groggy head and begin to think clearly, you check your weather app. Great news. Sunny with clouds. You peek your head outside your hotel room and look at the sky. Yep, it might be a killer sunrise. As you drive to your location, the anticipation begins to build. Once you arrive, it is still dark. You don your head lamp and determine where you want to set up your tripod. Check your settings. Take a couple of test shots. You are always amazed what today's camera sensors register in the darkness. And then you wait. You take a few more shots because there is nothing else to do even though you know they will never see the light of day. The it finally happens. The clouds start lighting up. You now know it is going to be a killer sunrise. The minutes pass by like hours until you start to see the tops of the mountain start to glow. This is when you can't be distracted because you know that this light show will last mere minutes. After the sun is up high enough to light the mountain, you begin to relax because you know you got some good photos. You know that you will shoot the rest of the day, but already the anticipation is beginning subconsciously for tomorrow's sunrise.
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