Posted by: kerryl29 | October 7, 2019

Hawaii: Background and Day 1

Before getting to the (limited) photographic experience of my first day in Hawaii, I thought it might be useful to provide some background information about how this trip came about and ultimately developed.  My wife first proposed that I consider a trip to Hawaii late last year some time–after returning from Alaska.  I want to publicly offer thanks to E.J. Peiker, who has spent more time photographing in Hawaii than anyone I know–for his assistance as I began the planning for the trip.  I had been to Hawaii before–twice, in fact–but it had been nearly 40 years since my last visit.  The previous two visits, both of which took place while I was in high school, were family vacations.  This was years before I became serious about photography and photo opportunities were not a significant consideration when deciding where to go and what to do.  Besides, Hawaii has changed a great deal over the last four decades and E.J. was able to provide a plethora of useful advice.

Early on, I was encouraged by my wife to think big when it came to planning where to go and for how long.  At one point, there was talk of my visiting four, or even five, islands.  When I started to think specifically, I quickly pulled back on such thoughts.  In addition to being prohibitively expensive and utterly exhausting, it quickly became clear that the sheer time necessary to carry out such an itinerary was disqualifying.  I ultimately decided to limit myself to two islands; the question was which two.

There are eight major islands in the Hawaiian chain, seven of which are in inhabited and six of which can be readily visited by the general public.  Of the six, I wrote off Lanai as a possibility for a variety of reasons.  The least visited of the six, Lanai has limited amenities and very limited accommodations…virtually all of which are extremely expensive.  It’s also by far the smallest and least accessible of the islands that can be visited, so I felt that my time (and money) could be better spent elsewhere.

The remaining five islands originally under consideration were, in no particular order, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu.  Of the five, Oahu was of the least interest to me, given my more or less exclusive interest in spending my time photographing, and it was fairly quickly eliminated from consideration.  Oahu–home to Honolulu–is by far the most populous (read: crowded) of the five islands and is arguably the least interesting (in part because of how crowded it is) to a landscape photographer, so that island was fairly quickly eliminated from consideration as well.

As for the remaining four islands…well, none of them were really eliminated.  I ultimately decided to pair them–the largest (the Big Island) with almost certainly the greatest number of photographic locations (i.e. demanding the most time) with the smallest and least accessible island (Molokai), arguably requiring the least time; and the remaining two, both of which were kind of in the middle (Kauai and Maui).  The question was, which pair to do?  (The hope is/was to do the pair not done on this trip at some point in the relatively near future.)  I more or less arbitrarily decided to do Kauai and Maui on this trip, Kauai first, then Maui.

Almost literally everything in Hawaii is expensive.  Accommodations are expensive.  Food is expensive.  Gas is expensive.  Fees for things that have fees are (with very few exceptions) expensive.  Despite this, Hawaii is essentially always crowded with visitors.  Some times are relatively worse than others (June…and summer in general, and the holiday period are known to be particularly difficult), but there really is no off-season.

But very few of these innumerable visitors, apparently, are primarily there to photograph…or so it appeared to me.  I saw plenty of smartphones while I was in Hawaii but people were mostly pulling them out for the purpose of producing selfies.  As best I can recall, I saw only three or four other people with tripods during the entire trip (and keep in mind that I was out all day, pretty much every day, for 14 days in a row).  I’ll have some additional thoughts on this subject in a later post in this series.

I decided, not entirely arbitrarily, that I wanted to devote six full days to each of the two islands I was visiting; this would give me ample opportunity to visit just about every place on my list for both islands, with the likely opportunity to return to those locations I found of particular interest.  Since a great deal of hiking was on my agenda, the sheer number of days would better enable me to pick particularly propitious weather days for each hike.  There would, additionally, be a day to arrive, a day to transition from Kauai to Maui and a day devoted to return travel to Chicago.  The question was how to do this without requiring a second mortgage.  In truth, there’s almost no way to spend two weeks in Hawaii without spending a lot of cash.  I minimized it as much as possible by using miles for the airfare (which saved roughly $800), booking the least expensive hotels I could find on both islands, keeping the rental car costs to a minimum and limiting food purchases to roughly $12 per day.  So while it was still an expensive proposition, I figure that I spent about as much in two weeks as the average visitor forks over in five days…or less, depending on the actual cost of the specific resort the average visitor might book.

The flight to Hawaii was direct from O’Hare airport in Chicago to Honolulu…roughly 9 1/2 hours in the air.  There’s a five-hour time difference between Chicago and Hawaii so even though the flight was scheduled to leave at roughly 10 AM (it was actually nearly 11 when we took off, but who’s counting?) it arrived in Honolulu at roughly 3 PM local time.  Then, after a short layover, it was on to Lihue, Kauai on a Hawaiian Airlines flight of approximately 25 minutes in duration.  By the time I’d negotiated the rental car line in Lihue, obtained my vehicle and made the short (15 minutes or so) drive to where I was staying (Kapa’a), it was roughly 5 PM.  Sunset was before 6:30, so I really had no time to go anywhere…thus, I decided to photograph the early evening scene right from the beach fronting the hotel, even though it was an east-facing locale.  There was no way to find a suitable west-facing location, so I made do.

One of the best–if not the best–aspects of both the places I stayed (on Kauai and Maui) was that each facility had direct beach access.  In Kauai, it took about 45 seconds to get from my room to the beach.  (In Maui, it was about 20 seconds.)  This was particularly nice in Kauai where I could, if I chose, photograph sunrise from an east-facing beach without driving anywhere.  I did, in fact, do that on three of the seven mornings I was on Kauai.

But, as I noted above, my introduction to Waipouli Beach on Kauai was at sunset on that first day.  It had been a very long day, what with the two flights taking a total of nearly 10 hours in the air, so being able to take the short walk to the relatively empty beach was welcome.

Waipouli Beach is fairly shallow, but it has a number of interesting elements that can be used for foreground interest–driftwood and rocks, primarily.  I didn’t have much time for scouting, but it really wasn’t necessary.  I found some interesting driftwood, almost right at the spot where I entered the beach, and went to work.

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

Given that I was looking to the east as the sun was setting to the west, I wasn’t going to be able to get the full effect of the sunset–whatever that might have been, given copious clouds to the west.  But the light was still nice and the scene itself was captivating.

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

There wasn’t much time before the light faded completely.  In fact, before it became completely dark, it started to rain.  (These relatively brief, but occasionally forceful, spells of rain were a fairly common experience, and one I’ll touch upon again in later installments.)

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach at Sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

During the cloudburst, I was able to gather up my things very quickly and take shelter under an awning attached to the on-the-beach restaurant that was part of the hotel complex.  When it stopped raining, I retreated to my room, but there was time for one more image before I packed things away for the evening.

Palm Tree Moonrise, Waipouli Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Given the lack of opportunity to scout remote locations on that first day, I decided that I would begin the following day with sunrise at Waipouli Beach.  I’ll describe that experience when I chronicle day two–my first full day on Kauai.

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 1, 2019

Hawaii: Let’s Get It Started

So, Hawaii…as I write this, I’ve been back for five days, though it seems longer. somehow.  This post will serve as an introduction of sorts, for what is undoubtedly going to be a long string of entries covering the experience represented by this trip.  I have, to date, processed 43 images, a piddling sum.  I’ve barely scratched the surface (I doubt I’ve processed 10% of the would-be final total) and there are entire days–plural–worth of images that I haven’t even glanced at, let alone processed.

Evening Palm Trees, Wailea Point, Maui, Hawaii

Waipouli Beach Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

Prior to this trip I had been to Hawaii twice, but those two trips were 38 and 40 years ago, when I was in high school, and were family vacations.  I had a camera with me on both of those trips, but this was many, many years before I became truly serious about photography and, in any event, photography was not the point of those trips.  It most certainly was the point of this trip.

Waterfall Row, Pua’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point, Kauai, Hawaii

On this trip, I spent six full days (and bits of two others) on the island of Kauai and six full days (and bits of two others) on Maui.  I flew directly from Chicago to Honolulu (a flight of approximately 9 1/2 hours) then, after a brief layover, flew on to Lihue, Kauai (a flight of roughly 25 minutes).  A week later it was on to Maui, and a week after that it was back to Chicago, via Denver.  That return flight was a red eye–something virtually unavoidable when flying back to the eastern half of the continental United States from Hawaii, given the sheer length of the flight and the five-hour time difference between Hawaii and Chicago.

Kaho’olawe at Sunset from Polo Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Breaking Wave, Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

The photographs accompanying this entry are essentially a random selection, chosen mostly to provide a sense of the variety of subject matter viewed and captured on this trip.  One thing that is nearly universal is the presence of water in the frame.  There are certainly exceptions, but given the ubiquity of water in the Hawaiian landscape, I’d estimate that 80% of the images I captured reflect that fact.

South Maui and Molokini at Sunrise from Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii

Kealia Beach Sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

There were a number of challenges on this trip, more than I’m accustomed to dealing with.  This is a subject I’ll discuss at greater length in a future post because I think it ended up playing a major part in the overall experience and may (or may not) have impacted my photographic output.  I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions regarding any possible impact based on viewing the imagery that will be displayed throughout this series as well as reading my description of the hurdles that I attempted to overcome.

Lunch, Black Crowned Night Heron, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, Maui, Hawaii

Upper Ho’opi Falls Black & White, Kauai, Hawaii

I was up and out for sunrise and sunset every day; occasionally it fizzled, as it does everywhere, but most of the time it didn’t and sunrises and sunsets in Hawaii can be pretty spectacular, if my limited experience is any indication.  I also covered just about every square inch of both islands–at least those areas that were readily accessible by vehicle (and a fair number of spots that aren’t).

Shadowland, Haleakala Crater, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Boat and the Island of Lanai from Ka’anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

There have been a few exceptions, but when I document these extended photo excursions I typically run through a day-by-day chronicling of the experience, buttressed by the occasional post written with a thematic approach in mind, and that will be the process I follow this time around.  On this trip, as much as or more than any other I’ve taken to date, I think the day-by-day structure will be helpful in lending a sense of what the overall experience was really like.

Haleakala Crater, Keonehe’ehe’e Trail, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Kalalau Valley Rainbow, Pu’u o Kila Lookout, Koke’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii

It may take me awhile to fully process the images from enough days to get very far into the chronological series of entries (after just a few more days I won’t be able to do any editing for several weeks as I’ll be away from my post processing computer for about three weeks), so I hope you’ll be patient.  I promise I’ll get there eventually.

‘Til next time…

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 26, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Ingenuity?

Back in the spring of 2012, I undertook a photo trip to Utah and Nevada.  The final stop on the trip was Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour northeast of Las Vegas.  The park is phenomenal and I long to return there at some point.  One of the subjects I hoped to photograph during my few days in Nevada was the unofficially named “Windstone Arch.”  My singular experience photographing Windstone is the focus of this entry.

Windstone Arch was made famous by well-known landscape photographer David Muench, who most recently included a photograph of the feature on the cover of his book Windstone:  Natural Arches, Bridges and Other Openings.  (I received a copy of the book myself as a gift, 12 or 13 years ago.)  The “Windstone” name for the feature is colloquial and comes from the title of the book.  Technically, as far as I can tell, the feature is unnamed.

My experience with Windstone Arch is kind of interesting.  At least I think it’s interesting; your mileage may vary.  Despite having GPS coordinates and the knowledge that Windstone was within a couple of hundred feet of the park’s Loop Road, I found it remarkably difficult to find.  I’d spent some time during the previous day’s scouting session wandering around in search of it.

During that earlier scouting session, after wandering around for a good half an hour, I suddenly found Windstone itself.  The light that afternoon was awful; I didn’t even have my camera equipment with me, since I knew I wouldn’t be doing any shooting then, but I spent some time sizing Windstone up with the naked eye.  It’s essentially a small, delicate cave-like feature, with openings at both ends and a remarkably photogenic arch within the cave itself.  The classic shot is the one on the cover of the Muench book.  As luck would have it, this was the opening that I poked my head into first.  When I was there on the afternoon of the scouting session, direct sunlight was flooding into the chamber, but I knew that I was in the right place.  I took the time to climb down from the first opening and find my way up to the other side.  Again, sunlight was directly impacting the shot, but–weirdo that I am, I guess–I liked the composition better from this side–the shot that, as best as I can tell, people don’t ordinarily shoot.  I made up my mind that, the following morning, I’d produce images from both sides.

It was a good plan, but it was flawed, as I found out when I returned to Windstone on the morning of the next day.  I climbed up to the chamber from my preferred side–the non-iconic side.  There were two openings toward the rear of the chamber that the sun, in the southeast sky, was flooding directly.  Ah, I thought to myself…perhaps this is the reason no one shoots it from this direction!  You need the sun up to get the dramatic impact of the reflected light, but by the time the sun is high enough to make that happen it ruins the shot by pouring through those openings.  I fiddled around with multiple exposures so I could play the HDR game in post processing, but I knew even as I was doing so that it was a waste of time.  You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Very disappointed, I climbed down and went back up to the iconic side.  The sun was no problem from there; the openings were behind my shooting position and actually helped fill the chamber with indirect–but highly photogenic–reflected light.  So I produced the iconic-side image with my 14-24 mm lens.  You can see one of the iconic-side images below.   The sunlight openings I mentioned are behind the camera.  I was on my hands and knees in the cramped setting; my tripod was set up very low as a result.

Windstone, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

When I was done, I began gathering up my things, in preparation to move on to the next site, but before packing up for good, I took another look at the openings–the ones that were killing the shot that I really wanted–behind me.  They weren’t that large.  I decided to check them out from outside of the cave.  Because of the topography of the rock formations, I wasn’t even sure if I could get to the outside of the openings, but after a little bit of rock hopping and a 500-foot (approximately) walk, I found that I was in fact able to get there.  As I’d surmised, the openings weren’t huge.  They were, however, 2-4 feet above the rocks I was standing on.  I had a brainstorm; what if I could diffuse the light coming through the openings?  I had brought two diffusers with me; I’d used one of them–a white umbrella that makes for a wonderful hands-free diffuser–on a couple of occasions at other locations on this trip.  The other I hadn’t used to that point;  it was an over-sized disk reflector-diffuser.  Could I possibly rig something up that would solve my exposure problem?  It was a worth a try.

I ran back down to the car and grabbed both diffusers and ran all the way back up to the outside of the openings.  I then spent several minutes trying to prop the diffusers up in a way that they would both stay in place and block all of the light that was streaming through.  I thought I’d accomplished the task and ran back down to the cave.  Nope.  There was still direct sunlight hitting the walls.  Back up to the diffusers I went and adjusted them…and they fell down.  So I started over again.  After another few minutes I thought I’d done what was necessary and ran back down.  This time, it looked good.  I quickly gathered up my tripod-mounted camera, took it over to the other side and set up.  Perfect.  No direct sunlight and I instantly remembered why I had preferred this side the previous day.

Windstone Arch, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

When I finished at Windstone, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, given my moment of inspiration regarding the diffusers.  The moral of the story:  explore every possible alternative.

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 16, 2019

Equipment Shouldn’t Be an Encumbrance

I prepared this entry during the final stages of planning for a photo trip—I left for Hawaii less than 48 hours after I finished writing this back on September 8—that will involve quite a bit of hiking, much of it over steep, uneven terrain.  On at least one of the days when I’ll be on location, I anticipate hiking from shortly after sunrise until shortly before sunset.  The point is, I have to carry everything I need—clothing and other accessories, food, water and (of course) photo equipment—all day long.  Given the grueling nature of the itinerary and the lack of options, I’ve had to spend some time thinking about what to bring and how I can enforce reasonable weight and space limitations without negatively impacting the point of the exercise—picture taking.

Red Creek, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia


I’ve had some experience doing this (I’ve discussed photo trip planning in a previous post on this blog; I wrote specifically about limiting photo gear on challenging hikes in another entry), but I want to cover the subject in more general terms.

Basically, no matter what kind of photography you’re engaged in, regardless of the place, the first rule of photo gear is that it shouldn’t get in your way.  There have never been as many quality options with regard to photographic systems as exist today, so there’s almost certainly an option that best fits the specifics surrounding your shooting experience.  For instance, all things being equal, the ideal system to take on a jaunt similar to the one that I mentioned above is either a high-end point-and-shoot with a large zoom range lens and a very light tripod to support it.  This arrangement takes up minimal space and weighs very little.

A Celebration of Color, Morton Arboretum, Du Page Country, Illinois


For something with a bit more technical control, any one of a series of mirrorless camera system packages will fill the bill.  The camera bodies that provide the foundation for these systems are tiny—many of them fit in the palm of your hand—and the lenses are small as well.  A three-lens outfit, plus the camera itself, takes up about as much space as (and weighs less than) a pro-level DSLR and a single wide-aperture mid-range zoom.

If you already have a DSLR body, a do-it-all variable aperture zoom lens might be just the ticket for you.  It’s heavier and takes up more space than either of the options mentioned above, but it’s well within the limits of many hikers.

Atlantic Afternoon, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland


What will I be doing?  Well, I normally carry four heavy lenses and two camera bodies and I’m cutting that typical load a bit—two cameras, three lenses (with two of those lenses mounted). That will allow more room for everything else I bring and will lighten the load somewhat below the normal weight of gear that I normally bring with me.  This will make the hike modestly less burdensome and allow me to focus more of my energy on the reason for the hike—photography.  And that’s always how it ought to be.

I’ve used the example of photographing as part of a strenuous hike, but the point is applicable to any form of photography.  Say, for instance, you’re interested in street photography, which involves a lot of walking around with your camera in your hands and/or around your neck while making candid images of people.  Anything other than a camera that’s light, fast to autofocus and small and unobtrusive enough not to attract attention is going to get in the way of what you want to do.

Sparks Lane Morning, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee


What could be more absurd than your photo gear getting in the way of your photography?  It’s a simple principle: if your equipment is inhibiting your photography, you have the wrong equipment.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 9, 2019

Flipping the Switch

It’s been a year since my last extended photo trip–the well-documented journey to the interior of Alaska.  On September 10 I will board a plane for Hawaii, the prelude to nearly two weeks in the islands (specifically Kauai and Maui).  This trip has been long in the planning; I booked the reservations back in February.  That, of course, was months in advance of the series of events that has dominated this year for me–the relocation from Indianapolis to the Houston area.  This relocation process–which still isn’t complete–has been a miserable experience.  (I will not bore anyone with the details here.)  And the fact that the relocation isn’t complete, four months after it began, forms the crucible:  can I put this process out of my mind while gone and concentrate on photography?

Sunset, Coral Cove Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

The answer is:  I don’t know.  I hope so.  I have traditionally been able to compartmentalize sufficiently well to thoroughly turn myself over to the task at hand:  photography.  But I haven’t faced quite this kind of a test in the past.  It has occurred to me that the visual stimulus–I’ve been to Hawaii before, on two occasions, four decades ago, so I have some idea of what to expect–may be so overwhelming that I will lose myself in it, as I frequently do.  But, as I stated, I haven’t had to overcome anything quite like this in the past, either.

And I know that if I can’t concentrate fully on what I’m doing, if I can’t “put myself in the zone,” I’ll just flail around aimlessly.  At its heart, landscape photography is about seeing and if I’m distracted, I won’t be able to see in the field the way I want to.

Pacific Coast, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

And so, I will hope for the best even as I dread the possibility of the worst.  I should know within a couple of days on the ground in Hawaii how this will go.  Here’s hoping…

In the meantime, I plan to prepare a couple of posts in advance that I hope to upload here while I’m gone.  But if nothing gets posted until late September, you now know why.  I’ll “see” everyone in a few weeks.

Pompton Lake Intimate, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 4, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Perseverance

The first time I visited Bear Rocks Preserve in the Dolly Sods Wilderness (Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia) it was blowing a gale.  I was on a brief (weekend) photo tour of the Canaan Valley area and on the first morning of the program we drove up to Dolly Sods in the pitch dark; the goal was to photograph sunrise.  To say that there were incumbent problems would be an understatement:  in addition to the pitch darkness, the unfamiliarity with the area and the howling wind (it was gusting above 40 MPH; the camera of one participant broke when his tripod toppled over), it appeared that there would be no sunrise at all, as fog swirled all around us.

With the aid of my trusty flashlight, I wandered off in the dark by myself, found a (relatively) sheltered spot and set up low to the ground, partly with the hope of avoiding the calamity that beset one of my colleagues.  Ultimately, enough of a crack appeared at the horizon, which produced a semblance of a sunrise and somehow I was able to produce an image that froze the dancing conifers you see in the frame below.

Bear Rocks Sunrise, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Success?  Meh.  Despite having turned into a popsicle (it was cold up there that morning, even without wind), when enough ambient light was available for me to look around, I could see that the location was loaded with potential.  I just needed better conditions.  Unfortunately, I was told that what we’d experienced that morning was pretty typical; Bear Rocks was frequently foggy and almost always windy at daybreak.

The conditions throughout that weekend were pretty bad, but the entire Canaan Valley area was plainly brimming with opportunities, so I made plans to come back the following year, for a week, on my own.  While there were many things I wanted to photograph, Bear Rocks at sunrise was atop the list.

When I returned the following autumn, the first time I made the long drive up to the preserve over the miserable forest service access road I was greeted with fog, drizzle and winds as bad as I had experienced the previous year; there was no sunrise visible from Dolly Sods at all.

The second attempt produced, shockingly, nearly windless conditions but plenty of fog.  It made for an interesting morning’s shoot, but the views from Bear Rocks were non-existent.  And upon returning to my vehicle when I was done I had a flat tire to deal with, which presented its own set of issues.

Despite the problems with the tire, I subsequently made one more trip up to Bear Rocks and was finally presented with windless conditions, and the only fog present was the ambiance inducing remnants in the valleys below the Bear Rocks overlook.  The morning was spent producing images epitomized by the one you see below.

Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

The moral of the story?  Sometimes persistence pays off.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 21, 2019

Exploration and Preparation

A number of years ago I was on a waterfall shoot with a sizable group of people.  (The “sizable group of people” scenario is far from my preferred modus operandi, but that’s a story for another day.)  We arrived at a waterfall—Ludlow Falls, in Miami County, Ohio—that presented several challenges.  Ludlow Falls is located on Ludlow Creek, which is as wide as most rivers at the point of the falls, but access to the waterfall is limited.  You can walk down to the riverside with relative ease, but the falls are hundreds of feet away from the nearest exposed section of riverbank.  To make things more difficult, there’s a (very unattractive) concrete bridge that carries a roadway and spans Ludlow Creek almost immediately above the waterfall.

When the group I was with arrived at this location everyone more or less automatically collected at the same riverside spot, pulled out a telephoto lens and went about the task of taking head-on shots of one type or another of Ludlow Falls.  Everyone, that is, except me.

I sized up the “conventional shot” with a sidelong glance and pretty much immediately deemed it unappealing.  I then went about exploring the location to see if I could come up with something more interesting.

I thought—as I almost always do—that finding and expressing a different perspective—with a distinct foreground, middle ground and background—would help produce a more three dimensional feel using a medium that is, obviously, two dimensional in nature.  The way to do that, I quickly concluded, was to incorporate elements of the creek.  There was absolutely no way to do so without actually climbing into the creek itself and navigating my way to a series of rocks that were roughly 35 feet away from the riverbank.

Fortunately I had the appropriate footwear to do this. Since I had known that the focus of the shoot (waterfalls) would lead us to be around water, I was wearing a pair of waterproof knee-high rubber boats (as I always do when I expect to be around something wet).  The water level of the creek at this point was below knee level, so, using a combination of rock hopping and wading, I made my way in the direction of the aforementioned rocks.  I propped my tripod up on one of the rocks and then maneuvered around in the water, camera in hand, to try to find the ideal composition.  Once I did so, I retrieved my tripod, set up, and produced the image (which you see below).

Ludlow Falls, Miami County, Ohio


When all who were present that day subsequently shared images electronically, via a Web-based forum, the other attendees all heaped praise on my photograph of Ludlow Falls.  It was “so different.”  I had really “demonstrated outside the box thinking” in obtaining my shot.

So what’s the point of my story?  Am I patting myself on the back because I’m a “better” photographer than the people I was with that day?  No. What I was—at least that day—was the better prepared photographer.  I was one of only two people who had brought waterproof footwear.  What I had done wasn’t even an option for most of the people who were in attendance (though several of them, after seeing me wade into the creek, moved away from the “conventional” position to see if there was anything they could do with a different perspective).

I was also—again, at least that day—the more thoughtful photographer.  I didn’t simply settle for the most obvious, easiest-to-access vantage point.  (A clear view doesn’t always equal a compelling view.)  Even the one other person with waterproof footwear that day didn’t bother to attempt anything but a snapshot of the conventional view (much to her chagrin, she later told me).  She snapped that conventional shot, packed up and left, without even bothering to investigate other options.

Composing landscape photographs is about “seeing,” but in order to do so you have to give yourself a chance.  That means exploring different perspectives and that, in turn, means being prepared to be able to move around and investigate.  Sometimes the “better” shot is available only if you’re patient and inquisitive.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 12, 2019

Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake State Park

My last Wisconsin entry was posted more than a month ago; there’s no time like the present to get back to the series.  This entry focuses on the second (and final) full day of my time in Wisconsin this past spring, all of which was spent at Devil’s Lake State Park.

The first few hours of this day were forecast to be cloudy and that was borne out.  Despite no chance of a sunrise, I got up early and made the relatively short drive to the park entrance.  There was no one manning the fee station, but I dutifully paid the entrance fee using an ATM-like machine, drove to the parking area serving the head of the East Bluff Trail, grabbed my things and headed out, with the intention of spending as much of the rest of the day exploring this part of the park as the weather would allow.  It’s a steep climb from the trailhead to the point where the trail levels out atop the bluff, hundreds of feet above Devil’s Lake itself, but if you’re fit and determined it doesn’t take very long to conquer the incline.  In no more than 10 minutes I had accomplished this task and began looking in earnest for possible compositions.

East Bluff Trail Intimate, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

The trail meanders through a mixed forest, rich with interesting rock outcroppings and periodic views of the valley that includes Devil’s Lake.  The deciduous trees were still in the budding stage along the trail, which was a bit of a double-edged sword.  There were more bare limbs than might be desirable but views were better than would have been the case if everything was completely leafed out.

Devil’s Lake View Black & White, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

I ended up spending time on the East Bluff Trail–and on several relatively short (but quite steep) secondary trails–well into the afternoon.  The image below is a fairly indicative portrayal of what much of the forested part of the trail feels like.

East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Along the way, I ended up finding a fair number of comparatively intimate scenes that I found quite intriguing.

East Bluff Trail Intimate, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Mushrooms Black & White, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Tree Roots, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Tree Roots Black & White, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

East Bluff Trail Intimate, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

The spur trails that I checked out were plenty interesting in their own right.

Balanced Rock Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Balanced Rock Black & White, Balanced Rock Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Devil’s Doorway, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

By late morning, the sun had made its appearance, and a hazy sunshine would remain in place for most of the rest of the day.  I spent the duration of my time on the East Bluff Trail photographing the still-budding trees in the Devil’s Lake watershed and nearby hillsides far below me, using a telephoto lens.

Budding Trees, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Budding Trees, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Budding Trees & Conifers, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Budding Trees, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Conifer & Scree, East Bluff Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

After I returned to the parking area, following a hike that totaled roughly nine miles, I spent some time looking for images in other parts of the park.  Largely because of the light, I didn’t find all that much until late afternoon.

Overhanging Branch Black & White, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Upland Loop Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Backlit Maple, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Shortly after the image of the backlit maple tree was made, clouds rolled in.  The forecast was for rain later that night and drenching rain the following day.  There would be no sunset this evening and, given the rain forecast for the next 24 hours, I decided to head back to the Chicago area a bit early.

So ended my short–less than two full days–sojourn to Wisconsin.  I hope to return to the north land, perhaps for somewhat longer stretches of time, in the years to come.

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 6, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Perfection

My profuse apologies for the uncharacteristically long gap between posts.  This relocation from Indianapolis to the Houston area has been a hellish experience that has sapped virtually every hour of every day for me for nearly three months now.  It’s finally starting to wind down and I will attempt to return to the pattern of a new post a week–if possible–moving forward.

The image accompanying this post comes from the end of my very first–and all too brief–visit to one of my all-time favorite locations:  the Kootenay Plains, located in the front range of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta.  As I have mentioned in the past on this blog, I came to realize just how much I’m drawn to meadows during my forays into the Canadian Rockies on consecutive years earlier this decade.  There’s something about these locations that has a special feel for me that I can’t really explain.

Of these meadows, the Kootenay Plains is my favorite.  I find it so enchanting that I made a special trip there–entailing a two-hour round trip detour–when I undertook my second visit to the Canadian Rockies in 2015.

On the first experience, the previous year, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to scout the place.  We arrived–this was part of the photo tour portion of the trip–when the light was already good and getting better with every passing minute.  Composition finding had to take place in real time.  I tried to size the location up quickly and immediately decided that doing the place justice required putting my grand landscape cap on.  This was big sky country and the best way to convey that feel was to let the wide open nature of the spot speak for itself.  The clouds and the ensuing sunset were exceptionally cooperative and snow-capped peaks, including the pyramid-shaped Mt. Peskett, accented by the stands of yellow-leafed aspens and the dark green conifers, provided the icing.

The image provides one of my fondest memories of a great trip.

Majestic Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 9, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Conifer Silhouettes

During our trip to Alaska late last summer (early fall in Alaska), Ellen, Debbie and I dealt with more than our share of poor weather.  We encountered rain in some form or fashion on at least half the days of the trip, with two in particular near total washouts.  The heaviest rain day came during our transition from the Denali area back to Fairbanks in preparation for our foray north into the Brooks Range.  It was raining when we got up, it was raining when we loaded the car, it was raining during the entirety of our drive back to Fairbanks, it was raining when we unloaded the car that afternoon when we arrived at our hotel, it was raining when we made what seemed like our millionth trip to the camera store in Fairbanks, it was raining when we made our (futile) attempt to avoid having to take our rented vehicle to a car wash before returning it by cleaning the SUV ourselves…well, you get the idea.

We were sitting in the hotel that evening, when I noted that the rain had finally stopped.  I was in a chair but half-turned toward the window, when I noticed that the light was starting to look interesting for the first time that day.  Within a minute it started to look really interesting, and I said something to Ellen and Debbie before racing to my room to grab my backpack and tripod.  Ideally we would have set off for an interesting location–a return to Creamer’s Field, perhaps?–but there wasn’t time.  It would have taken us about 15 minutes just to drive to Creamer’s Field and who knows how much longer to advance by foot to an interesting spot.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the very last thing I want to do when the light is great is to be in a vehicle attemptimg to arrive somewhere before the spectacle fades.

What there was time to do was race down a flight of stairs into the hotel parking lot.  I had noticed, upon arrival, that there was a very nice stand of conifers right next to the lot and with a nice sky…let’s just say it had possibilities.

Hands down, this turned out to be the best sunset of the trip.  It was unfortunate that we weren’t somewhere else, somewhere spectacular–the Denali Highway, for instance–during this impressive display, but it was an opportunity to implement another maxim I’ve come to appreciate over the years:  don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Sunset Sky, Fairbanks Northstar Borough, Alaska

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