DJR Photography: Blog http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Dan Roeder djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Sat, 12 Aug 2017 17:07:00 GMT Sat, 12 Aug 2017 17:07:00 GMT Great Sand Dunes National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/great-sand-dunes-national-park Our next stop were the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. We saw dunes last year in Death Valley, but we didn’t see dunes quite like these. The dunes here are the tallest in North America, reaching heights of over 750 feet. The dunefield is a massive 30 square miles. That’s a lot of sand.

 

The length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 milesThe length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 miles

 

Wind and water move sand, continually forming the dunes. Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, over 65 miles to the west and some comes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains adjacent to the dunefield to the east. Prevailing southwesterly winds bounce sand grains to pile up beneath the Sangre de Cristos. Northeasterly storm winds blast through mountain passes, piling the dunes back on themselves. The dunefield is partially surrounded by two creeks—Sand Creek and Medano Creek—that also contribute to the recyling of the sand.

 

Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

 

The afternoon we arrived at the park was hot, and the parking lots were full. We found a space at an overflow lot and hiked to the creek. Medano Creek was the most popular place in the park that day, providing a place to cool off under the hot sun. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek toward the dunefield. A few brave souls could be seen climbing toward High Dune in the heat of the day, looking like specs in the distance. We decided to stay near the cool creek.

 

Medano Creek and DunesMedano Creek and Dunes Trapped CloudsTrapped Clouds Dissipating Clouds Over DunesDissipating Clouds Over Dunes Size of dunes compared to peopleSize of dunes compared to people Vegetation on dunesVegetation on dunes Shifting SandsShifting Sands

The following morning we were greeted by a thick deck of clouds casting shadows over the dunes and ensconcing the mountains, and a forecast showing rain in the area. The parking lot was nearly empty of cars. In their place were swarming mosquitos, ready to pick up and take away anyone brave (or foolish) enough to get out of his vehicle. We decided to begin the journey to our next location.

 

Clouds, mountains, dunes, and creekClouds, mountains, dunes, and creek

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado creeks dunefields dunes great sand duns np sand sand dunes http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/great-sand-dunes-national-park Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Garden of the Gods http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/garden-of-the-gods The Garden of the Gods is a free public park donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad. The park consists of several dramatically shaped ridges (also know as “hogbacks” and “fins”) of red sandstone, surrounded by tall grass and green vegetation.

In August 1859 two surveyors were exploring nearby locations for a new townsite and came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” It has been so called ever since.

The afternoon and following morning we were there were extremely cloudy. After scouting the park in the afternoon and hoping for a nice sunset opportunity, we left disappointed. We came back the next morning hoping for a sunrise with Pikes Peak in the background, but again we were greeted by dark clouds when it got light. That early in the morning, we were among only a handful of people there and were able to get some photos without the throngs of people climbing on the rocks. As we were making one final lap around the park, the sun started to break through the clouds, casting beautiful light on the east side of the fins and creating amazing contrast with the dark clouds to the west. A magnificent, and unexpected, ending to our visit.

 

Garden of the GodsGarden of the Gods The Three GracesThe Three Graces Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible)Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible) White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels)White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels) Garden of the Gods SunriseGarden of the Gods Sunrise Garden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the cloudsGarden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the clouds

 

As we left to go back to the hotel, with the sun still shining on the hogbacks of the Garden of the Gods, we could clearly see how the hogbacks extended beyond the park to the north. They were the bright red color as in the park, but the shapes were just as interesting.

 

Hogback formations extend north of the parkHogback formations extend north of the park

 

Next stop: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado colorado springs fins garden of the gods hogbacks http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/garden-of-the-gods Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Rocky Mountain National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/rocky-mountain-national-park Rocky Mountain National Park is the sixth most popular national park in terms of visitors, partially due to its proximity to Denver, but primarily because of its easy access to alpine, tundra, and meadow landscapes. It is also the highest national park by average elevation, with 60 peaks over 12,000 feet. Its popularity as a weekend getaway for locals made it an easy decision to visit the park in mid-week right after we arrived in Colorado.

We spent what was left of our first day on Bear Lake Road, scouting Sprague Lake for sunrise the next day, and hiking to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and partially around Bear Lake. Our breathless hike (due to the altitude and little time for acclimating) around Nymph Lake and to Dream Lake was rewarded by the sights of elk feeding near a pretty lake surrounded by mountains, a fisherman casting in a small pond, and a rather close encounter with an elk wandering near the shore looking for something to eat. After hiking back down from Dream Lake, we walked to the north side of Bear Lake to catch the last light of the day shining on Longs Peak.

 

Fisherman near Dream LakeFisherman near Dream Lake Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream LakeHallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream Lake Sunset at Bear LakeSunset at Bear Lake Longs Peak Reflection in Bear LakeLongs Peak Reflection in Bear Lake

 

Early the next day, we made our way back to the area to catch twilight on the mountains above Sprague Lake and hiked back up to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. We saw a pretty orange sky on the hike up and stopped to photograph Tyndall Creek cascading its way downstream after leaving Dream Lake.

 

Morning twilight at Sprague LakeMorning twilight at Sprague Lake Orange sky from Dream Lake trailOrange sky from Dream Lake trail Tyndall Creek CascadeTyndall Creek Cascade

 

We spent our last day in the park traveling the 48-mile Trail Ridge Road that bisects the park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. More than 17 miles of the road is in the Alpine zone and is home to the tundra. The road also took us to the homes of some of the park’s wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep, marmots, pikas, herds of elk, and of course, mountain peaks long the northern stretch of the road.

 

Tundra at Ute Trail pulloutTundra at Ute Trail pullout Wildflowers in the tundraWildflowers in the tundra Resting ElkResting Elk Yellow-bellied marmotYellow-bellied marmot Hoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlookHoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlook Bighorn SheepBighorn Sheep Never Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River beginsNever Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River begins

 

Near the Alpine Visitor Center, the road makes a turn toward the south and descends into the Kawuneeche Valley. Before the turn are sweeping 360º views of mountain ridges as far as the eye can see. We made our way up the Alpine Ridge Trail (climbing 209 feet in elevation over three-tenths of a mile) to take in the rarefied air and scenery.

On the western side of the park is the Kawuneeche Valley, with the historic Holzwarth Homestead. The Colorado River (to the left in this picture) meanders through this grassy valley. Here we saw a number of moose, including babies with their mamas along the East Inlet Trail near Grand Lake.

 

Old hay rake at Holzwarth Historic SiteOld hay rake at Holzwarth Historic Site Mama and Baby MooseMama and Baby Moose Sunset near Grand LakeSunset near Grand Lake Roadside ElkRoadside Elk Near where the elk and moose like to roamNear where the elk and moose like to roam Elk in field near Coyote Valley trailElk in field near Coyote Valley trail Along the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the backgroundAlong the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the background

 

Next up: Garden of the Gods

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) bighorn sheep colorado elk lakes moose mountains rocky mountain national park streams tundra. wildflowers wildlife http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/rocky-mountain-national-park Sat, 05 Aug 2017 20:17:23 GMT
Death Valley National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/death-valley-national-park Death Valley National Park is the largest U.S. national park outside Alaska. While the park has over 1,000 miles of paved and unpaved roads, more than 90% of the park is considered wilderness. The valley known as Death Valley lies between two mountain ranges: the Panamint Range and the Amargosa Range. The lowest point in the valley, the salt flats of Badwater Basin, is also the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The best place to get an overall view of the valley is Dante's View.

 

The valley also tends to be the hottest place in the country during the summer, with temperatures well over 100 ºF during the summer. During the few days we were there in mid-October the high on one day reached 101 ºF.

 

Dante's ViewDante's ViewDante's View Badwater Salt PansBadwater Salt PansBadwater Salt Pans

 

When many people think of Death Valley, they think of desert and sand dunes. There are three sand dunes in Death Valley, but they are small relative to the vast area of the entire park. We visited Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes because it is located right on one of the main roads through the park. The first time we were there was when we first entered the park. The wind was blowing so hard and there was so much sand in the air, we decided to come back later. The wind died down later in the afternoon. When we arrived, there was a photo shoot going on, which made for an interesting picture of the large sand dunes and the mountains in the distance. We explored the dunes, trudging through the sand, looking for places with relatively few footprints. We wandered a good distance from the parking lot, so we decided to stay until sunset, hoping for something special. The best color turned out to be opposite the setting sun, looking toward the east to see the deep blue of Earth's shadow beneath the pink of Venus’ Belt.

 

Mesquite Sand DunesMesquite Sand Dunes Mesquite TwilightMesquite Twilight

 

In addition to salt pans and sand, portions of the park feature multi-toned and multi-hued rock. To me, some of the rock looks like chocolate-swirled ice cream, such as that seen from Zabriskie Point and in Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

 

Manly Beacon from Zabriskie PointManly Beacon from Zabriskie PointView from Zabriskie Point in the early morning with Manly Beacon rising in front of the Panamint Mountains

 

The Ubehebe (pronounced U-be-he-be) Crater, 600 feet deep and a half-mile across, was formed around 300 years ago when rising hot magma reacted with ground water and caused the resultant steam to explode. The deep gullies on the side of the crater were formed by erosion. The crater is located in the northern part of the park, away from the most popular part of the park and most visitors.

 

Ubehebe CraterUbehebe CraterUbehebe Crater

 

To see more pictures from Death Valley, please click here.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Badwater California Dante's View Death Valley National Park Mesquite Sand Dunes Ubehebe Crater Zabriskie Point salt pans http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/death-valley-national-park Sat, 21 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Eastern Sierras http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/eastern-sierras We left Yosemite National Park right before a storm was to move in, bringing rain, possibly snow, and high winds. We drove to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range hoping to see some fall colors. A week before we left on this grand vacation, I had seen blog postings on the Internet showing the trees had started turning already, a week or two earlier than normal. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the wind and rain wouldn't result in bare trees by the time we got there.

 

We arrived on the eastern side in the afternoon. Prior to checking into our hotel, we explored a few places, including Lake Elerbee (just outside Yosemite), Lee Vining Canyon, and Mono Lake. By the time we got to Mono Lake, the winds were howling around 45 MPH. We could hardly stay upright walking from the parking area to the lake. That evening, Tioga Road, the only road through the mountains, was closed due to high winds. While we missed the rejuvenated waterfalls in Yosemite, we would have missed more had we not gotten over the mountains when we did.

 

Lee Vining CanyonLee Vining CanyonLee Vining Canyon

Cascade on Lee Vining CreekCascade on Lee Vining CreekCascade on Lee Vining Creek

 

Before checking into our hotel, we visited Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake with no natural outlet. On the south side of the lake is an area with "tufas," columns of volcanic ash. The wind was so high, a "salt storm" was visible on the other side of the lake from the wind picking up salt and blowing it across the lake.

 

Tufas on Mono LakeTufas on Mono LakeTufas on Mono Lake Blowing Salt and SandBlowing Salt and SandBlowing Salt and Sand Approaching StormApproaching StormApproaching Storm

 

It was cold and rainy at the hotel in Mammoth Lakes the morning of the second day, but the weather forecast for the Bishop area (about 40 miles south and east) was for clear skies and warm temps. We were planning to head north, but decided to head south instead. Less than 10 miles east of Mammoth Lakes we turned around and saw a stunning rainbow. This rainbow (and sometimes a double rainbow) lasted for about an hour and was visible no matter where we went.

 

Full RainbowFull RainbowFull Rainbow

 

We headed further south and ventured into Bishop Canyon. As we drove into the canyon, the storm clouds were not too far in front of us. I wasn't sure how far we would be able to go before we got rained out. We found a small stream and some colorful trees, but nothing too spectacular. And then we came to the town of Aspendell, where we were greeted by a stunning display of yellow aspens.

 

Sunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of TreesSunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of TreesSunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of Trees White Trunks and Yellow LeavesWhite Trunks and Yellow LeavesWhite Trunks and Yellow Leaves

 

After lunch, we drove further south and east up into the White Mountains to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. This Bureau of Land Management area contains the oldest living things in the world, with the oldest tree there being more than 3,000 years old. There were two trails through the forest. With the elevation being near 11,000 feet, we opted to take the shorter trail, which contained the second-oldest living tree in the world (the other, longer trail had the oldest tree). For preservation reasons, the BLM doesn't say which of the trees you are seeing along the path are the oldest ones.

 

Ancient TreeAncient TreeAncient Tree - Seems to be smiling and saying, "Hey, you looking at me?"

 

The third day in the Eastern Sierras greeted us with continued rain at the hotel, but it looked like it would diminish during the day. We visited Lundy Canyon and Virginia Lakes to the north and drove the June Lake Loop on our way back south. To the north, we saw snow in the mountains surrounding Lundy Lake and the last bits of color holding onto some of the trees. Around June Lake, the aspens had more of an orange hue to their leaves. Again, the color was spectacular. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

 

Snow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy LakeSnow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy LakeSnow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy Lake First Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June LakeFirst Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June LakeFirst Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June Lake

 

The last place we visited on the eastern side of the Sierras was Alabama Hills, another BLM recreation area. The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The rounded hills and rock formations, including a number of arches, are in stark contrast to the rugged mountains that stand to the west. The most notable mountain that can be seen from this area is Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

 

Mt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada Range from Alabama HillsMt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada Range from Alabama Hills Mobius ArchMobius ArchMobius Arch with Mount Whitney in the background

 

Click here for even more pictures from the Eastern Sierras.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Alabama Hills Bishop Bristlecone Pine trees California Eastern Sierras Lee Vining Canyon Lundy Canyon Mono Lake Mt. Whitney Sierra Nevada Mountains White Mountains http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/eastern-sierras Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Yosemite National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/yosemite-national-park Yosemite National Park: a landscape photographer's paradise made famous by Ansel Adams. The views are ...well... there aren't enough adjectives to describe them. All I know is I had fun. Like no other place I've been, the time of day, weather conditions, and the light can make the mood and the color of the scene completely different. Weather also resulted in something largely missing from our time in Yosemite, and that was waterfalls. This summer Yosemite had only one rain event of over one hour in duration from June through mid-October (after which they had sufficient rainfall to put water back in Yosemite Falls--we missed it by two days). The long California drought is also causing other notable changes in the park and surrounding areas. Pines trees are dying at an alarming rate. We were amazed at the number of dead trees in Yosemite Valley.

 

Yosemite is the third oldest national park in the U.S. (Yellowstone and Sequoia are older). It is most well known and recognized by the glacially-carved valley and soaring granite cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome. The high Sierra and Sequoia groves are two other examples of Yosemite's grandeur. One could spend weeks hiking its hundreds of miles of trails. Each of the four seasons brings something different to make the park spectacular. I can't wait to go back.

 

Here are some of my favorite images from Yosemite. You can see more here.

 

Tunnel View: Early AfternoonTunnel View: Early AfternoonTunnel View: Early Afternoon Half Dome from Cook's MeadowHalf Dome from Cook's MeadowHalf Dome from Cook's Meadow Valley View ReflectionValley View ReflectionValley View Reflection Twilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya LakeTwilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya LakeTwilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya Lake

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) California Cooks Meadow El Capitan Gates of the Valley Half Dome Tunnel View Valley View Yosemite National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/yosemite-national-park Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Pinnacles National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/pinnacles-national-park About an hour southeast of Salinas, California, lies Pinnacles National Park. The Pinnacles area was named a national monument in 1908 and gained national park status in 2013. Its 26,000 acres look nothing like the area around it, where foothills make up much of the landscape. In addition to the monoliths seen in the photos below, the park also has sheer-walled canyons, a reservoir, and boulder-covered "caves" (more like a narrow passage through boulders that have been heaped into a pile) where bats have made their home.

 

We spent our time making a couple of hikes in the Bear Gulch area of the park. We took the Condor Gulch Trail up to the observation point so we could get a good look at the High Peaks. Our second hike was through the Bear Gulch Cave down to the Bear Gulch Reservoir. We didn't get to see any bats because the area of the cave where the bats breed was closed off so as not to disturb them.

 

High PeaksHigh PeaksHigh Peaks Blue Oaks in Condor GulchBlue Oaks in Condor Gulch Bear Gulch ReservoirBear Gulch ReservoirBear Gulch Reservoir - Is that a face in the rock?

 

You can see more pictures from Pinnacles National Park by clicking here.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) California Pinnacles National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/pinnacles-national-park Sun, 15 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Around the Pacific Coast Highway http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/around-the-pacific-coast-highway After visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon, we headed west to Salinas, which would be our base of operations for a couple days. We arrived in Salinas in time to go to Point Lobos for sunset. With no clouds to speak of, it wasn't going to be a great sunset, but as you can see, we did get some nice colors. And can there be a bad sunset on the coast?

The next morning we drove the Pacific Coast Highway from south of Monterey down to McWay Falls. Unfortunately for us, there was fog clinging to the coastline much of the way down to McWay Falls. Still, it made for some interesting photography that you can see in the gallery, here.

 

Point Lobos SunsetPoint Lobos SunsetPoint Lobos Sunset One Lone CypressOne Lone CypressOne Lone Cypress McWay FallsMcWay FallsMcWay Falls

 

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at one of the newest national monuments, Fort Ord National Monument, created in 2012. The monument, a US Army facility from 1917 - 1994 covering over 14,000 acres, remains undeveloped but provides 86 miles of trails, some of which we hiked while we were there for the afternoon.

 

DJRb_36055DJRb_36055

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Fort Ord National Monument McWay Falls PCH Pacific Coast Highway http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/around-the-pacific-coast-highway Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Kings Canyon National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/kings-canyon-national-park Kings Canyon National Park is adjacent to Sequoia National Park and the two are usually mentioned at the same time, as in "Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks." Kings Canyon is largely a wilderness park, with only two relatively small sections accessible by cars.

 

We spent most of our time near the Cedar Grove Visitor Center after driving Highway 180 (a twisty-turny scenic byway) through the steep-walled Kings Canyon to Roads End. We hiked about a mile up Copper Creek Trail for nice views of the end of the canyon. Then we descended to the floor of the canyon and hiked the Zumwalt Meadow Trail, a loop over the South Fork of the King River, around the meadow, and over a rock pile formed by a mountain slide.

 

The other popular section of the park adjoins Sequoia National Park and contains Grant Grove and Redwood Mountain Grove, two large areas of sequoia trees.

 

Roaring River FallsRoaring River FallsRoaring River Falls South Fork of Kings RiverSouth Fork of Kings RiverSouth Fork of Kings River The road into Kings CanyonThe road into Kings CanyonThe road into Kings Canyon Zumwalt MeadowZumwalt MeadowZumwalt Meadow - the most popular trail in Kings Canyon goes around this meadow

 

You can see more photo from Kings Canyon in the gallery here.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Calfornia Kings Canyon National Park Zumwalt Meadow http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/kings-canyon-national-park Wed, 11 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Sequoia National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/sequoia-national-park Sequoia National Park is the country's second oldest national park (Yellowstone was the first). From atop Moro Rock you can get a good overview of the park (after climbing 400 or so steps). To the north lies the biggest tree in the world: the General Sherman Tree. While the California coastal redwoods might be taller, sequoias are bigger around and weigh more. To the east are the high Sierras, where peaks up to 13,802 feet are visible (Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet is just out of sight).

 

The climb to the top of Moro RockThe climb to the top of Moro RockThe climb to the top of Moro Rock General Sherman TreeGeneral Sherman TreeGeneral Sherman Tree Bug's-eye View of the SenateBug's-eye View of the SenateBug's-eye View of the Senate The HouseThe HouseThe House Sequoia SunriseSequoia SunriseSequoia Sunrise

More photos from Sequoia National Park can be found here.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) California Moro Rock Sequoia National Park trees http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/sequoia-national-park Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Joshua Tree National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/joshua-tree-national-park This past October, Denise and I ventured to California for 18 days. During that time, our primary objective was to see 6 national parks, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System. We flew from Raleigh to Las Vegas and, spending as little time in the city as possible, we started driving southwest toward the first national park on our agenda: Joshua Tree.

 

Joshua Tree National Park is located east of Los Angeles, California at the convergence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The western half is Mojave Desert habitat. Amid boulder stacks are pinyon pines, junipers, and the wild-armed Joshua tree, which isn't really a tree, but a species of yucca. The eastern half of the park, below 3,000 feet above sea level, lies in the Colorado Desert. Amongst the habitat in this area of the park is the jumping cholla cactus, also called teddy bear cholla. But you don't want to get too close to these fellas because they will cling to you, and they are painfully difficult to get out of you skin.

 

Below are several pictures from our time in Joshua Tree National Park. You can see more in the gallery here.

 

DJRb_34958Balanced Rock and Lone Juniper DJRb_34958Jumbled Rocks DJRb_34958Joshua Trees at Sunset DJRb_34958Cholla Cactus DJRb_34958Cap Rock

 

Stay tuned for future blog posts featuring, among other places, the following national parks: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Yosemite, and Death Valley.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) California Joshua Tree National Park boulders cactus trees http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/joshua-tree-national-park Sat, 07 Jan 2017 18:10:10 GMT
Hanging Rock State Park, Part 2 http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/hanging-rock-state-park-part-2 Picking up from the end of the last post, we had gotten back to the parking lot after visiting Hidden and Window Falls and our legs were starting to ache. By this point we had hiked about six and a half miles, but we weren't done yet. "Hey, let's go see the Upper Cascades. They're just 0.3 miles away and it's an 'easy' trail." The trail was nice and there was a viewing platform overlooking the cascades. But who takes a picture from there? I scrambled down the stairs and rocks to get to the base of the falls. Much better from there.

 

Upper CascadesUpper CascadesHanging Rock State Park

 

As we got to the base of the falls/cascades, we noticed people were walking in the water downstream from the cascades. Since it involved walking through water, we weren't about to follow them, so we walked back up to the platform and to the trail. I noticed a spot off to the left of the trail that looked like a faint trail, heading downhill, and I thought I could hear water. Of course, I had to see where it went. I figured there must be another set of cascades down there somewhere. Sure enough, once we got down off some large boulders and around another huge boulder, we found what I call the "Middle Cascades." Denise thought these were the best falls we had seen all day.

 

Middle Cascades (Lower part of Upper Cascades)Middle Cascades (Lower part of Upper Cascades)Hanging Rock State Park

 

We got back up to the truck, rested a while, and looked at the park map. A relatively new trail (since we had first been there nine years ago) had been developed down next to the Dan River. Another "easy" loop trail and only 1.3 miles. "What the heck, may as well do it while we're here, and then we can drive over to the other waterfall we hadn't seen on the other side of the park."

 

The Riverbluffs Trail is one that isn't visited much. It's a narrow track through..."short vegetation." After a half mile or so, it gets close to the river and bluffs on the other side of the river can be seen through the trees. A little further a short spur takes you to the river at a point where there are some "rapids." Since the trail isn't visited much, and since I was leading on this walk, I encountered a number of unseen spider webs along the trail. But then I saw a huge one. At that time I picked up a stick and knocked it down. For the rest of the way on that trail, I waved that stick in front of me. I wasn't interested in staying on that trail any longer than I had to, so we walked faster than we did all day. I would not recommend that trail to anyone.

 

We got back to the parking lot and headed over to the other side of the park to see Tory's Falls. The waterfall was less than a quarter mile down a well-used trail. Unfortunately, it was another trickle. Oh well. Now we know what it looks like. 

 

We managed to drag ourselves back up to the truck and make our way back home. Nine miles. Seven trails. Four waterfalls. My calves ached for three days afterward. But it was a fun day. I look forward to going back to Hanging Rock State Park soon. I might not hike as far though. Maybe just five miles.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Hanging Rock State Park North Carolina hiking photography waterfalls http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/hanging-rock-state-park-part-2 Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Hanging Rock State Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/hanging-rock-state-park Earlier this week, Denise and I drove up to Hanging Rock State Park for a day of hiking and photography. The park is a couple of hours away from Raleigh and northeast of Winston-Salem. It is park of an old mountain range called the Sauratown Mountains, named after the Saura Indians.

 

We had been to Hanging Rock once before (looking back at earlier photos, I found to my surprise it had been more than nine years ago). My plan for the day was to hike the park's namesake trail, connect to another trail on the way back down, and then over to the western side of the lake, and back to the parking lot. All this should have been less than five miles. In the end, we turned what was supposed to be five miles into nine miles. 

 

The hike up to Hanging Rock was on a wide path. I think most people visiting the park use this trail. The trail was rated as moderate, and it was, until the last half mile or so, which was pretty steep. But the hike was worth it. When we got to the top, the view was great and there weren't many other people there, and they left pretty quickly. We stayed at the top for about an hour, taking photos and enjoying a snack.

 

Hanging Rock View 1Hanging Rock View 1Hanging Rock State Park Hanging Rock View 2Hanging Rock View 2Hanging Rock State Park Hanging Rock View 3Hanging Rock View 3Hanging Rock State Park Woman Looking Toward Moore's KnobWoman Looking Toward Moore's KnobHanging Rock State Park

 

We then hiked over to Wolf Rock, which is pretty much an outcrop, facing south, from which you can see both Greensboro and Winston-Salem on the horizon. As I explained to a guy we met in the park, they were pretty small on the horizon. Yes, you could see some tall buildings to the southwest and southeast, but they were teeny-tiny. If you hold your arm out toward the horizon with your thumb and index finger about a quarter inch apart--that's how small they were.

 

We then hiked down from the ridge to the nice little lake and back to the parking lot. After a short break, we decided to go visit a couple of the waterfalls in the park because, "oh, they're just a half mile away." What we didn't know was that one of them was a good ways down a bunch of steps. Going down I remarked to Denise that they were going to be heck coming back up. We got down to Window Falls, and it was not much more than a trickle. Then back up (and it was heck) and over a short distance to Hidden Falls and there wasn't much water in it either. "Oh well, wouldn't know if we didn't go there. Good exercise."

 

At this point, we had hiked a mile and a half more than I thought we were going to hike that day. My calves, knees, and hip were starting to feel the burn. But we weren't done yet. As they say, "To be continued..."

 

 

 

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Hanging Rock State Park North Carolina cascades hiking photography waterfalls http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/hanging-rock-state-park Sun, 28 Aug 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Happy Birthday National Park Service http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/happy-birthday-national-park-service Today marks the 100th birthday of the US National Park Service, so I put together a collection of my favorite pictures from many of the parks I have visited. I have been to a few parks before my photography hobby started, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Redwoods; unfortunately, I don't have any photographic record of those visits. We will be celebrating Park Service's birthday by visiting six parks by the end of the year, five of which we've never been to before.

 

I should point out that the National Park Service is responsible for more than just what we know as the National Parks. They operate and maintain national monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House--over 400 areas in the United States and territories.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Acadia Arches Badlands Big Bend Bryce Capitol Reef Crater Lake Denali Everglades Great Smoky Mountains Mount Ranier National Parks Shenandoah Theodore Roosevelt Zion http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/happy-birthday-national-park-service Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:03:24 GMT
Birdhouse Sunset http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/birdhouse-sunset We visited Denise's mom for a weekend not too long ago. As evening approached, I kept an eye on the western sky wondering if there might be a nice sunset. There were some thin clouds in the west that made me think something special might happen. I set up my camera and tripod well ahead of sunset time. Since there are trees on the west side of the farm, I knew I wouldn't actually see the sun set, but I was hoping the sun would light up the clouds during the twilight period.

As time went on, the thin clouds disappeared as I waited. I continued to wait as a narrow band of clouds drifted into the scene. And I waited. And waited. It looked as though the original composition I had planned just wasn't going to work. Then, the narrow cloud band that was originally in my preferred composition started to light up. Unfortunately, the part of the clouds that were lighting up the most was not in my vertical composition. I changed the orientation of my camera, refocused, and made exposures for the sky and the ground, knowing I would have to combine them in post-processing.

As much of a bummer as it was to not get the composition I was hoping for, I do like the image I made.

 

DJRb_23907-HDR

 

If you are wondering why I had to take two exposures and combine them in post-processing, it's because cameras such as mine can't take a picture such as this without the foreground being very dark or the sky being too bright. The "dynamic range" of many cameras isn't as great as our eyes, so just after sunset, when we can still see objects like the ground just fine, the relatively bright sky overpowers the camera and the ground turns out darker than it appears to us. If I had taken a picture without the sky in it, the camera would have been able to expose the picture just fine. Knowing this, I made an adjustment in the camera to brighten the ground so it looked like what I saw, and I took a picture. I then made an adjustment in the other direction to make the sky look like what I saw, and I took another picture. When I got home, I combined the two in software to get a realistic image, like you see above.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) birdhouse fencepost sunset http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/birdhouse-sunset Wed, 10 Aug 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Coneflowers http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/coneflowers ​Early this summer, we had favorable conditions for flower growth, especially in a bed that I had transplanted some black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers a couple autumns ago. We got plenty of rain and temperatures weren't too hot. All that has changed in the last 2 or 3 weeks. The flowering season for the coneflowers is about over. I'll let them go to seed, hoping to attract goldfinches and other birds in the fall, and to possibly thicken the bed in future years.

With the coneflower blooms quickly fading, I thought I'd try to get a few pictures of the one or two remaining photogenic ones. I was lucky to get a couple with some "workers" on them.

 

Coneflower with One WorkerConeflower with One Worker TeamworkTeamwork

 

 

 

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) bees coneflowers purple http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/8/coneflowers Wed, 03 Aug 2016 19:54:34 GMT
Roan Highlands http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/roan-highlands For several years now, I've been wanting to go to the Roan Highlands during the month of June to see the rhododendrons. Finally, this year we had an opportunity to get there around the peak time for the rhododendrons, so we took it. We went the day after the Rhododendron Festival in Roan, Tennessee thinking there wouldn't be many people there. To our surprise, the parking area at Carver's Gap on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina was totally full, as were areas off the road. We managed to get lucky and find a spot not too far from the trailhead.

 

The hike we planned to take was a five-mile round-trip, ridgetop trek on a portion of the Appalachian Trail, along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The trail connects three balds: Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald (a bald is mostly grassy mountain top). This portion of the Appalachian Trail is supposedly the most beautiful section of the trail (so why hike any more of the trail?), especially in June when the rhododendrons and flame azaleas are in bloom.

 

Flame Azaleas near Jane BaldFlame Azaleas near Jane Bald Flame Azaleas near Jane BaldFlame Azaleas near Jane Bald Near Grassy Ridge BaldNear Grassy Ridge Bald

 

As we neared what we thought was the end of the trail, we met another hiker going in the opposite direction. He asked us if we had ever been up there before. We told him we hadn't and he told us a "secret." He said that most people think the rhododendron show is over once you reach the plaque atop the Grassy Ridge Bald. He said to keep going on the trail for about a mile, instead of turning left to go to the plaque. So, when we got to the fork in the trail, we kept going. The trail got narrower and headed downhill through some bushes. We weren't sure if we were going in the right direction, but a trail kept going, and so did we. We went under trees and around large rocks.

 

Determined 'dendronDetermined 'dendron

 

We came to an opening where someone had pitched a tent. Beyond the tent, the mountainside was speckled with rhododendrons. We kept going along the trail and more and more rhododendrons laid out ahead of us on both sides of the ridge.

 

The Extra MileThe Extra Mile

The Extra MileThe Extra Mile The Extra MileThe Extra Mile The Extra MileThe Extra Mile The Extra MileThe Extra Mile

 

The extra mile or so was certainly worth it.

 

Once we got back to the car, we drove a short distance to the Roan Mountain Recreation area, which is a part of the Forest Service. The main attraction this time of year is the Rhododendron Gardens. The gardens feature a short trail through some trees that leads to an overlook with a great view:

 

Rhododendron Gardens OverlookRhododendron Gardens Overlook

 

Not a bad daytrip I'd say. A nice five-mile hike made better (and just a little longer) after talking to other people on the trail. It always pays to say "hi" to folks you meet on the trail.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Appalachian Trail Grassy Ridge Bald Jane Bald Roan Highlands Roan Mountain Recreation Area Round Bald azaleas mountains rhododendrons http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/roan-highlands Fri, 01 Jul 2016 20:15:57 GMT
The Life of a Seagull http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/6/the-life-of-a-seagull On a recent trip to the Savanah area, Denise and I went to Tybee Island, which is on the coast east of Savanah. In addition to seeing the lighthouse, we took a stroll on the beach. It was not really a "beachy" day as the clouds were thick and there was a pretty good breeze. As Denise walked along the beach with her mom and sister, my attention got captured by a seagull walking in the water on the edge of the beach. 

 

I took several images of the seagull before he eventually flew off. Once I got back home and looked at the pictures, I thought three of them captured what the day, or at least a portion of it, might be like for a seagull. I arranged the pictures in a grouping of three, cropping them each into a square format.

 

A Slice of Life: SeagullA Slice of Life: Seagull

 

I thought the grouping told an interesting story that I didn't see just by looking at the pictures individually. To me, the most interesting of the three is the middle image, where the bird is stopping its stroll to look out at the passing ship. 

 

Here are the pictures individually, uncropped.

 

Deep in ThoughtDeep in Thought Distracted by a Passing ShipDistracted by a Passing Ship Moving OnMoving On

 

Which do you like better, the triptych or the photos individually? If you'd like, leave your answer in the comment section below.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Tybee Island seagulls triptych http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/6/the-life-of-a-seagull Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:05:39 GMT
Wildflowers of Texas Hill Country http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/5/wildflowers-of-texas-hill-country After exploring Big Bend National Park, we stopped in Kerrville (outside of San Antonio) to visit with some of my cousins. The hope this time was to see some wildflowers that are legendary in the Hill Country part of Texas during the spring. The last time we were in the area during the spring, we were lucky to see any wildflower, due to the drought Texas was experiencing. This year, with the drought over, the wildflowers were supposed to be fantastic. And we weren't disappointed. 

 

My favorite Texas cousin Tom gladly drove us all over the place in search of great shows of wildflowers, stopping whenever and wherever I asked him. Below are some of the images I was able to capture. Most of these were just right along the side of the road, although some of the roads were well off the main highway.

 

Wildflowers North of CastellWildflowers North of Castell Willow City Loop WildflowersWillow City Loop Wildflowers Willow City Loop WildflowersWillow City Loop Wildflowers Wildflowers on Highway 16Wildflowers on Highway 16 Carpet of BlueCarpet of Blue Blue and Red ForeverBlue and Red Forever Yellow and Blue FieldYellow and Blue Field Wildflowers North of CastellWildflowers North of Castell Honeymoon Ranch Road WildflowersHoneymoon Ranch Road Wildflowers More Willow City WildflowersMore Willow City Wildflowers Wildflowers on Highway 16Wildflowers on Highway 16

 

Occasionally, the Hill Country has some beautiful sunrises also.

Hill Country SunriseHill Country Sunrise Hill Country Sunrise 2Hill Country Sunrise 2

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Texas Texas Hill Country spring sunrise wildflowers http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/5/wildflowers-of-texas-hill-country Wed, 04 May 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Big Bend, Part 3 http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/4/big-bend-part-3 This final post covering our Big Bend trip presents some of the other things we saw driving around the park. Most of these photos were made on our last day in the park, when there were some nice clouds in the sky.

 

This is a picture taken from the Lost Mine Trail. The peak on the left is Casa Grande and the v-shaped notch to the right of it is the Window.

 

Casa Grande and the WindowCasa Grande and the WindowFrom the Lost Mine Trail

 

I thought the Burro Mesa was an interesting groups of mountainous forms. I liked the layers and bands of color in the rock. The ribbon of asphalt in the lower part of the image is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

 

Burro Mesa from Ross Maxwell Scenic DriveBurro Mesa from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

Burro MesaBurro Mesa
 
 

On our drive to Texas, we saw loads of wildflowers (more on the wildflowers of Texas in a later post), just alongside the interstate. They were amazing. When we got to Big Bend, we didn't see too many, but the few we did see were along the edge of the road. On our way out of the park on our last day there, I was determined to find a place where I could get a good composition with the wildflowers and the mountains. I managed to find a couple.

 

Chisos Mountains and BluebonnetsChisos Mountains and Bluebonnets Chisos Mountains from Ross Maxwell Scenic DriveChisos Mountains from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

 
Here is a path not taken, the beginning of the Ward Spring Trail. Since the park was in a sever drought, I kind of doubt the spring would be found at the end of the trail.
 
A Path Not TakenA Path Not TakenWard Spring Trail
 
We had stopped near the Visitor Center to get some gas before we were to drive home the next day. As I was pumping the gas, I was looking around and spotted the sun shining on a ridge of the Sierra del Carmen in the Mexican distance. When we were ready to go, I had to get a better view and see if I could get a good picture of what I had seen.
 
Sierra del Carmen from Panther JunctionSierra del Carmen from Panther Junction
 
 
We left our hotel before sunrise on our way back to Kerrville. More clouds in the sky that morning, including some swirling cloud that caught some early pre-sunrise morning light. That strange-looking mountain out there is Santiago Peak.
 
Mysterious SunriseMysterious Sunrise
 
 
Coming up: Wildflowers in Texas Hill Country
 
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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Big Bend National Park Casa Grande Mesa Burro Santiago Peak Sierra del Carmen http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/4/big-bend-part-3 Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:18:06 GMT