My apologies for being so silent during the past month or so with only a couple of new articles posted. My wife and I have been on an extended holiday/photography tour for the past 26 days.
The purpose of this extended trip was to revisit some areas of the Western USA as well as take in some new sites, capturing some photographs along the way. This was field work for some photography-related books I have planned for early 2017 (more on that in the months ahead).
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Our trip covered 10,187 kilometres with about 19 days of the journey focused primarily on photography. We had quite an aggressive schedule which was designed to replicate a typical sightseeing holiday that many travellers would experience.
We did not revisit sites on consecutive days waiting for ideal photography conditions. We simply took each day as it came and created whatever images we could on a ‘catch as catch can’ basis.
Our first planned photography stop was at Sioux Falls South Dakota. I used a Benro monopod and a variable neutral density filter to help capture the two waterfall images above.
Sioux Falls is a series of cascade type waterfalls which extend several hundred meters. I spent about an hour or so photographing various water features along the water course.
The next morning we headed off to Rapid City South Dakota with a planned afternoon stop at Badlands National Park, where the above image was captured.
We entered the park through the eastern end and made stops at the various overlook points. Without question it would be easy to spend a number of days at this splendid park with your camera.
We used Rapid City as our base for a few nights. The next day we headed out to the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Needles Highway. If you look on the right side of the Crazy Horse Monument image you’ll be able to see the outline of the horse’s head.
While at Mount Rushmore I noticed some workmen doing some maintenance on the top of the monument. I took a few images with my V2 and CX 70-300mm, then remounted the zoom lens on one of my J5s. It yielded the following image…
Watching these intrepid workers on the top of the monument made me wonder what kind of health insurance coverage is required!
While we didn’t get directly hit with too much rain during our photography tour, many days had quite menacing weather in our vicinity. This created overcast conditions on a number of days, while others had skies full of heavy, dark clouds.
The Needles Highway is named after the rock formation pictured above. We entered the roadway on the eastern end and it took quite a while before we reached the higher elevations where the ‘needles’ are located. The drive going up was actually pretty boring with very little to see other than the pavement and trees lining both sides of the road.
Once you are at the ‘needles’ area there are a number of other interesting rock formations and outlooks which make the drive worth the effort.
After another day photographing in the Rapid City area we headed off into Wyoming with planned stops at the Devil’s Tower and Yellowstone National Park.
Our schedule only allowed for one afternoon at Yellowstone. Once you get past Old Faithful and on towards the western end of the park there are many outstanding photo opportunities. If you are a photographer who also enjoys hiking you could easily spend a few days or even a week in this expansive park.
Both my wife and I found Old Faithful rather underwhelming and we were glad that we timed our visit such that we only had to spend about 20 minutes at this location in the park.
We were fortunate to see some wildlife during our visit including bison, elk, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and a coyote. Not bad for a quick afternoon visit. After Yellowstone National Park we headed south through Idaho, then on into Utah. This state was our primary photographic destination given its numerous national and state parks.
We started our Utah exploration with visits to the northern and southern portions of Zion National Park, where the image above was captured. We then headed off to Bryce Canyon National Park.
The 1 Nikon 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom was used extensively while I was photographing at Bryce, and also at Zion as the wider angle zoom came in handy dealing with both tall canyon walls and wide expanses.
I had each lens of the Nikon 1 ‘Holy Trinity’ mounted on a different camera body. The 1 Nikon 6.7-13 mm and 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 zooms were both mounted on J5s. The CX 70-300 mm was mounted on a V2. This allowed me to very quickly switch between cameras without the need to remount lenses. As expected the 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 zoom was the workhorse of the team.
After hunkering down through a brutal thunderstorm one night in Glendale Utah, we were greeted the next morning by some migrating hummingbirds. They were quite used to being around humans so I was able to get close enough to capture this ‘full frame’ image. We learned that a tornado had touched down in a neighbouring town a few miles down the road during the storm the night before.
After spending another four days in Utah we ended up in Mexican Hat (pop 31) and visited Goosenecks State Park (image above), as well as Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is a location that has been featured in numerous motion pictures over the years, from John Ford westerns, to Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and Forest Gump to name a few.
We drove our car through the public access portion of Monument Valley. This allowed us to stop wherever we wanted to create some images. Care needs to be exercised as the dirt road can be quite rough. This is not something I would recommend doing in wet conditions, or if you have a car with very low ground clearance. My Scion xB handled the challenge well.
There is so much to see and photograph in Utah that one article cannot possibly do the state justice. I’ll do my best to try to put an additional additional article together to highlight some of the other Utah parks…time permitting of course.
After leaving Monument Valley we headed east into southern Colorado and visited Mesa Verde National Park. This location has wonderful vistas as well as a treasure trove of historical sites. We only spent part of a day at Mesa Verde but many travellers could spend several days, if not longer, at this location.
There are a few areas in the park that are recovering from previous forest fires. These sites present very unique image opportunities.
After Mesa Verde we continued east and visited Great Sand Dunes National Park. The sand dunes cover over 30 square miles and the site is one of the most unusual places I’ve visited in North America.
You are allowed to hike on the sand dunes and you can also use a sand-sled to ride down the sides of the dunes.
To get some close up views of the dunes I used my CX 70-300 mm on one of my J5s and found that the combination did a great job.
During the three weeks that I was shooting extensively with my Nikon 1 gear I found that the Nikon 1 ‘Holy Trinity’ of three zoom lenses gave me all the flexibility that I needed during the tour.
After leaving Great Sand Dunes National Park we headed north to Colorado Springs and visited the Garden of the Gods.
The timing of our visit probably couldn’t have been worse in terms of the size of the public crowds at the site on a Sunday afternoon. Trying to capture images without having strangers walking into frame was a significant challenge. In many cases all I had was a couple of seconds to compose my image and grab the shot. Nevertheless, I found that the Garden of the Gods was quite a pleasant photographic venue.
The final link in our photographic journey was to do the ‘grand loop’ of the Rocky Mountain National Park. My wife had read many rave reviews about this loop and we were eager to give it a try.
We came away from the experience with mixed emotions. On one hand it was quite memorable to drive north of the tree line and photograph alpine scenery. I don’t recall ever driving a vehicle at over 11,700 foot altitude before.
On the other hand, much of the drive up to the summit and back down again was about as interesting as watching paint dry. Much of the twisty road is bordered by trees close to the pavement which creates a monotonous stream of ‘sameness’. I suppose if you are partial to forest photography you may find it much more photogenic than I did.
While I initially thought I would have plenty of roadside opportunities to capture images this was not generally the case. Many of the states like South Dakota have 80-mph speed limits on the interstate highways. This makes jumping in and out of the car to grab some quick pictures quite hazardous.
Another common issue is the lack of shoulders on many of the highways throughout this area. In many cases the shoulder is only about 1/2 meter (about 19 inches) wide. Caution and common sense are needed when attempting to capture images from the roadside.
I ended up going to the rear of the various rest stops and found that I could often capture quite reasonable and representative landscape images using this approach.
I hope you enjoyed this summary article. I’ll no doubt have a lot more blog content based on our recent photo tour in the weeks and months ahead.
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