Local Woods

I went for a walk today before it rained, I really wasn’t on planning on photographing anything. I usually have a hard time finding any subjects in the wooded areas around me. Where I live, there’s not much charm or character you can find in some of the old growth forests in other places. It’s pretty much a chaotic mess. If you do manage to find something interesting, it’s usually obstructed my what seems to be an endless array of scrappy brush. Never the less, I always like to try and scout different areas for potential Fall colors. I went to an area I haven’t visited before and wasn’t totally disappointed for a change, so that was nice.

Utah 2020

I managed to get a break in work and booked a flight out to Utah to spend time around some of my favorite places. Despite the long drive from Maryland, part of me still prefers taking a road trip instead of a flight, since 9 times out of 10 I end up feeling pretty horrible after flights. Once I landed in Salt Lake City and walked around in circles for 10 minutes looking for my rental car, I headed out and made the 3 hour drive out to the Capitol Reef area. The one thing that was very strange to see once I got onto the highway was the noticeable haze from the wildfires in California. The whole sky was an overcast haze of muted color which made for some interesting skies later in the day and early in the morning. Despite the unfortunate series of events that caused these conditions, it did make for some interesting light to photograph during my trip.

Haze covering the sky

I felt pretty bad by the time I finally made it to camp. My head was pounding and the gas station burger didn’t help the situation, but I always find that the best thing to do in this type of situation is to go for a quick little 5 mile hike in the desert. ūüôā I headed out and drove to one of my favorite areas to go explore for a bit. On a busy day you might run into 2 people there, but with Covid happening, the trailheads were a little more busy than usual. Despite being a little more crowded, some of the obstacles and rock scrambles mid-way through the hike can get a little precarious and most people turn around once they encounter them. Having done these hikes many times, I’ve figured out how to traverse most of that stuff without too much effort, though I did have to be a little more careful this time since I was by myself and a little mistake would be costly. Once getting past those areas, the chance of encountering somebody else is pretty low and there aren’t too many things better than being secluded in the desert.

About a 12′ climb, and getting down is a little bit worse than climbing up

One thing I was sad to see, which may be the result of the greater amount of foot traffic, was a lot of rock graffiti. I’m not sure why people have this urge to let everyone else on the trail know that they were also on the trail. I like taking in my surroundings and enjoying all the little details surrounding me; however, when I come across areas with graffiti, it breaks that illusion of escaping the world a bit. I’ve seen areas completely destroyed by this type of thing. Usually I find names, fuck a certain politician, drawings of dicks, more names, and less creative ones that just scrawl multiple lines back and fourth just to either just leave marks or cross out what somebody else has written. While it wasn’t anywhere near that bad in the spot I came across, it’s still in an area that lends itself to that type of thing and bad behavior usually spurs more bad behavior. In short, nobody cares who you are, what you believe in, or when you were there.

One of my goals on the trails in this area was to try and find some pinion pines with some decent reflected light and a nice backdrop behind them. After a few miles, you’re pretty much in a deep wash surrounded by sandstone, with some dense areas of flora spread along the cliff walls, and trying to find something that works as a photograph is really tough. Most of the time you can see something that looks interesting up really high, and by the time you manage to scramble up the sandstone, you realize the composition really doesn’t work and then you need to come back down and just repeat over and over again. My legs did get one heck of a workout on this trip and I was quite exhausted, but it’s all good fun, sort of like a treasure hunt. I did end up finding something I liked which more or less sits right off the trail. I’ve made note of this area before but the light has always been a little too harsh in the past. I tried to time my hikes so that the sun was high enough to provide some reflected light but still low enough to avoid the direct sun. It took a while to compose this photo since lining up the trees so they wouldn’t overlap or compete with each other was a little tough, but I was pleased with how it turned out.

GFX 50R 50MM f/16 1/8 sec

Another goal of mine was to go and check out an overlook around one of my favorite areas of Badlands just outside of the park. I had wanted to visit this area the year prior, but time just didn’t permit and I was focused more on some of the other areas around there. With the hazy skies I really wanted to get out the before the skies cleared up to see if it would provide any sort of unique view of the area. I had scouted earlier in the day and after hiking around for a bit and grabbing some lunch, I drove back out for sunset and planned to car camp for the night to catch a sunrise. Upon arriving that evening, I saw 2 other cars, and when I pulled up I was greeted by a couple taking photos and a naked girl, who was their model. Not exactly what I was expecting to see but I had a good laugh with them about it. I ended up having a good conversation with them that night and it was nice to make some new friends.

I woke up about 6am and walked out to the edge of the cliff, which is a little unnerving in the dark with little step-downs on the rock and a sheer drop off the cliffside right in front of you. While the sunrise light was really pretty, I ended up preferring the image from right before the sun crest over the horizon and there was a beautiful glow that hit the valley for a few minutes. I ended up finishing my trip here for sunset about a week later after the skies had cleared since I was out running out of steam at that point and you can pretty much drive right up to the spot. I do plan on returning here the next time I’m out that way, photographically I think there’s much more here than what I managed to get but it was good to get out there and see what was around.

Sunrise, GFX 50R 50mm, f/16, 10 sec
Sunset, GFX 50R, f/16, .5 sec

During my other visits here I ended up running into a few other guys, one of whom was from Chicago and was out traveling around the Southwest and surrounding areas “until his car broke down or he ran out of money” I think he said ūüôā This reminded me of our road trip my wife and I did almost 10 years back now, and brought a nice feeling of nostalgia over me and made me happy to hear he was sort of doing the same thing we did. The best trips are the ones with no plan and you kind of just go where the road takes you. I managed to grab a photo of him while flying the drone around and figured it would be a nice memory from his adventure.

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This was my first year bringing a drone out here with me. I didn’t want to come back out here without one since I knew the area provided some nice aerial views. I did have some places I wanted to fly that I couldn’t figure out how to get to, but I’ll figure it out for a future visit. One of the downfalls of living on the other side of the country is that I have to try to focus efforts on certain things and leave other opportunities for return trips and even though I didn’t really get out to some of the areas I wanted, I still found some nice views and made some interesting images I was somewhat happy with.

I was also here at the time when Fall color was starting to peak. More so on the mountain pass just outside of town where I was camping. This was another one of those times where I was doing other things and probably could have taken more advantage of the available color. Never being here during this time though, I ended up scouting out areas more than I did photographing them and I’m hoping to return during that time next year with some places in mind to concentrate my efforts. Some of the overlooks on the drive up the mountain provided some really pretty views of the trees. I haven’t really processed too many images from when I was up there, not sure I’m really happy with any of them, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It still was nice wandering around through the woods and hanging out with the free range cows in the area.

GFX 50R 250mm, f/11, 1/80 sec
GFX 50R 50mm, f/22, 1 sec

When my trip was close to ending, I decided to spend a few afternoons at one of my favorite viewpoints in Capitol Reef, It’s sort of a side stop off the main trail. I probably have sat here at least 20 times over the years and watched sunset. Photographically I’ve never had much luck here, but it’s still one of my favorite places to hang out. I was chased down to the parking area during a crazy thunderstorm a few years ago and I still regret bailing, even though the area had some very close lightning strikes and is really exposed, it was probably the smart thing to do. I did miss some of the most terrific light I’ve seen here after the storm passed, and a rainbow to boot which I think was only there to mock me as I stared up from the parking area. I ended up running back up the trail which is a climb the entire way for over a mile, stopping a few times to hyperventilate, only for that effort to be for nothing. Every time I visit here I still laugh and think about that afternoon. I was really happy to finally get some nice color in the sky on my most recent visit. The sun sets a little bit too far off to the west of this spot so the clouds end up losing some of the color intensity but the sun managed to sneak though the clouds on the horizon just before it had set and threw some nice color across the sky.

GFX 50R 50mm, f/16, 5 sec, 2 image focus stack
Western view before the sun snuck under the clouds

Overall I had a pretty good trip. It was nice staying around one area and just relaxing a little bit. The one downfall of visiting Utah though is that eventually you have to leave, and then you’re just left thinking about it until you can return again. Hopefully a year from now I’ll be writing another one of these.

GFX 50R 50mm, f/16, .6 sec
GFX 50R, 50mm, 1/6 sec

6,722 Miles

6,722 Miles, the amount of miles we drove in about 2 weeks. Granted, most of these miles were racked up during the long drive from Maryland to Nevada where we finally arrived at Great Basin National Park to start our trip. We never had visited GBNP before so after securing a campsite we drove up the long winding roads to one of the trailheads and went hiking for a few hours.

I didn’t do too much photography, mostly because as soon as we get over 10,000 feet in elevation we both instantly get headaches and feel like crap. This is mostly our fault for not taking a few days to acclimate to the altitude change. You’d think we’d have learned by now. Overall though, our short time spent here was really fun. We saw some nice lakes, cool old bristlecone pines, and some spectacular valley views. Well worth a visit again when we have more time and can properly get ourselves sorted out before doing any long hikes.

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After a few days here we headed back over into Utah and went to Kodachrome Basin State Park. We’ve been around this area before but never took the time to head there and check it out. The park was pretty rad. There was some really good hiking and some great overlook views, most of which involved walking out onto very narrow strips of land that put you right over the valley floor.

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The sandstone monoliths were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. We also had a bluebird that hung out with us everyday at our campsite. He was a pretty cool little dude.

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We spent the last half of our trip over in Capitol Reef NP. It’s where we ended our long 10 month trip a few years back so it holds a special place in our hearts. Besides that, it’s just a really awesome place. It’s a bit of a hidden gem of a spot. Most of the crowds go to Arches, Bryce, or Zion and usually just make a short day trip passing through this place. This means most of the hikes that aren’t on the main scenic drive see little to no people for the whole day so you pretty much have the place to yourself.

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We also made an overnight trip to Escalante and Goblin Valley during our time in the area. We only briefly stopped at Goblin Valley about 5 years ago so it was nice to spend some time there and go and wander around at night checking out the milky way a little later the super moon would illuminate all the little formations.

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Overall it was a great trip. we found some super cool rocks and petrified wood. You’re allowed to collect on BLM land and we found a great spot that looks like it’s never been picked though so we hit the jackpot there. The day before we left the fruit orchards opened up and we picked some peaches and apples for our drive home.

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To break up our drive back to Maryland we made a short drive over to Santa Fe for the night before 2 days of painful driving ensued.

We also purposely went a little out of our way to drive over near Oklahoma City to stop at Pop’s Arcadia which has great burgers and like 5,000 different sodas. Pretty sad to be back but thankful we got to spend some time in our favorite part of the country. Hopefully at some point we’ll call it home.

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Year in Review: Top 20

Since I can’t make myself sit down and blog every single thing I shoot, I thought this would be a good compromise. I still have a few more shoots I have to do before I can relax but I figured I would share 20 of my favorite images from¬†the year so far. No particular order, they were just ones I smiled at or thought were cool.

 

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It’s Spring Time

I photographed these guys a few months ago but we decided to head back out for some photos that had a little less snow in them. We spent some time walking around Mount Vernon in downtown Baltimore, then popped over to the Baltimore Museum of Industry. It was a little chilly but the sun was out and the company was great. I’m really looking forward to their wedding in a few months.

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KATIE AND DAN

Sometimes throughout the season, I get a wedding or two that I am constantly thinking about every day as it gets closer. This was the wedding that I did that with this year. I’m not sure if it was because it was my last big wedding of the year, or that it was in a completely new area, or that the potential was there for absolutely gorgeous images and I just needed to figure out how to make it all work on the day. We had only met Katie and Dan one time prior to this. We met at the beautiful St. Mary’s Parish¬†in downtown Annapolis, discussed a few details, scoped out some areas, and then parted ways and planned to see each other again on the big day.

The most important part for me as a photographer (and this is true for many) is developing ¬†a bond with my clients. Sometimes I get to spend more time with some people and less with others, but I’ve never once felt like I didn’t click with a couple. However, Katie and Dan were one of those couples that I felt like I’ve known and been friends with for years. The logistics of the day were a little complicated and required some shuttling and finding parking in a crowded spot in downtown Annapolis on a Saturday which on a wedding day, you would think would be disastrous. To my pleasant surprise, we were never thrown off schedule once. The bridal party stayed cool and collected, the newlyweds never once let any kind of stress take over. We lost a credit card after snagging an all important and what seemed to be the only open parking spot in the dock area. I didn’t care, it was only a minor snag on what ended up being a perfect day.

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Sandy and Eric

Last week, the Baltimore area was slammed with a record breaking snowfall. The bad news is that my back felt like I laid¬†down in the middle of the street and let cars run me over for 30 minutes. The good news is that everything was covered in snow. We had planned to shoot this in Baltimore city but everything looked pretty messy. There’s nothing worse than dirty city snow.¬†I decided to just go to one of my regular spots that I knew would look really nice and be fairly easy to walk around. The day turned out to be really nice. It was in the mid 40’s which was a welcome¬†change from the¬†previous days when it was in the teens.

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Nicole and Andreas

Nicole and Andreas wanted to do a fall engagement session. We had to keep pushing the date back as the fall color was very slow to peak this year. I had scouted out Oregon Ridge Park and Cylburn Arboretum but we finally settled on the Hampton National Historic Site. This 18th century estate was the largest private home in America when it was completed in 1790. I absolutely love shooting here since it has all sorts of wonderful trees, barns, stonework, and gardens. This was a fun session. I climbed some trees, rolled around in leaves, and even hopped into the Loch Raven Reservoir at the end of the day. If I’m filthy by the end of the day it usually means the session went really well.

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Fred & Kaitlyn

We packed our gear and headed north for a drive that ended up taking close to 2.5 hours instead of 60 minutes that we were expecting. I blame myself for wanting to take the scenic route instead of getting on the highway . Having traveled up that way for weddings before, I should have know the traffic was going to be horrible. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it to our destination. This was my first time at the Wissahickon Trail in PA and I was throughly impressed. We first met these Fred and Kaitlyn at a wedding we did last year and got along with them really well. We spent a few hours exploring the trail and walking around in the woods. The weather was beautiful and we all had a really great time. We finished the afternoon at Curtis Arboretum which had a pretty big festival going on at the time. We managed to find a nice quiet area away from the crowds. Overall, it was a pretty fantastic day.

 

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Karina and Georgy

There isn’t too much to say about this day. Everything went off without a hitch. The weather was beautiful, the couple was awesome, and the¬†setting was absolutely terrific. We scouted out a nice loop for formals the week prior. It included a walk along the Baltimore Harbor, a stop by the Visionary Art Museum, and then ended on Federal Hill with a great view of the city. It all wrapped up with one heck of a party.

 

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