Banff Springs Driveway

I took this about six years ago while staying at the Banff Springs hotel in Alberta. This was out back facing the conference area.

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Banff Springs Driveway
The grounds of the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada

The Banff Springs is a massive property with majestic views of the Canadian Rockies on all sides. While there I walked around taking shots of everything. This image has a nice leading line and captures some of the environmental elements. I’ve had three bracketed frames in my archives for a long time. Now that I have the newest Aurora HDR software from Skylum, processing it is easier than ever.

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I’ve been going back into the archives a lot lately. It’s funny how you see things in a different light over time. I wish I could go back and change my camera settings, but it’s also good to notice how my technique has improved. The mountains, on the other hand, have not changed, they are just as majestic as ever. Time for another road trip.

Mount Rushmore at Night

We drove across South Dakota to Rapid City, and by itself, the drive was pretty amazing, full of sights. The next day was Independence Day, and so we set out sightseeing the two main attractions. In the morning we visited Mount Rushmore which is about twenty miles from town, and in the afternoon we drove to the Sitting Bull monument which is another seventeen miles west.

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Mount Rushmore at Night
Mount Rushmore on the evening of Independence Day

At both locations, there were large crowds, but that was no surprise on the biggest holiday of summer. After a full day, we returned to our hotel in Rapid City for dinner. During dinner, we decided that rather than watch fireworks in town, we would drive back to see the monument at night. Spotlights illuminate Rushmore in the evening creating a massive spectacle.

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So on our second trip to Rushmore that day, I took this image from behind the amphitheater about thirty minutes after a presentation. As it was late at night, the crowds had dissipated, and only a few visitors remained. That is how I managed to be standing at the base of the mountain to take this picture without anyone in the frame. All in all, it was an excellent way to end the day.

Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

This is a panorama I took of Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. The abbey is high up on a mountain known as Montserrat, which is the highest point in this section of Catalonia. Here I took five photos side-by-side that are stitched together, this is just the central section.

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Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

The first thing you notice when you approach the area is the unusual shape of these rock columns on the mountain. Some people in Barcelona told us that there are faces in the rocks and I’ll admit I started to see them also when I stared for a while.

It is a working monastery with over a hundred monks in residence. We saw several in full robes as we walked around and explored. The abbey has been in operating for over a thousand years so the monks are maintaining a long tradition.

One of the most spectacular things to see is the inside of the basilica, however they don’t allow photography; notwithstanding that it’s still a must see with it’s ornate adornments and frescos.

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We drove a car up here but only later did I realize there is also a train and gondola from the bottom. In my opinion those are better options than the narrow hairpin road. There are also hiking trails up so if you prefer to walk up you’ll have no guilt consuming extra calories in the restaurants and cafeterias. No matter how you get here, you’ll not be disappointed.

This is Salerno

This is Salerno where I recently spent the day walking around in the rain. I was on a cruise of Italy and this was our fourth stop. Normally we booked tours of the port cities but this day I just walked around taking pictures. However it rained hard so there where periods where I was huddled in an entryway waiting for a break.

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This is Salerno
This is Salerno Italy

During the downpours, vendors would appear out of nowhere with an armful of umbrellas. Out of necessity I bought one for five euros, which was way too much, but I was in no position to complain. I saw the same ones later in a shop for less. To add insult to injury, I lost it on a bus later in the day and ended up having to buy another one for the same price.

Obviously I’m not a great shopper and normally I don’t shop at all on trips. But, I had it in my mind that I wanted to buy a pair of leather shoes. My first thought was to buy them in Spain but I didn’t find anything I liked. Mind you, I didn’t look very hard. While waiting out one of the downpours it happened I was standing in front of a shoe store. So I went in and found a pair I liked on sale for twenty euros. The shoes said they were made in Italy with Italian leather so I felt happy about it. At the end of the day I ended up with one pair of shoes and one umbrella for thirty euro. For a reluctant shopper like myself it seemed I did okay on average. It took two days for the shoes I brought from home to dry out, so it was good that I had an extra pair.

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As we pulled out of port the rain stopped and the clouds parted. I looked back at Salerno and took this image. Maybe the umbrella merchants moved on or switched to some other product. However I got what I wanted and, more importantly, got a bunch of photos. Most of them are just people walking through the rain while I waited under an entryway. I think this one looking back from the ship at the end of the day is a little more interesting. Anyway, that’s the story of my short visit to Salerno on a rainy day.

Cafeteria Built on a Rock

While in Spain we were told by several people that we should visit the Abbey of Montserrat about an hour north of Barcelona. It’s built in an impossible location on a steep mountainside and has stunning views of the region. It’s a great place to take photos and this is one I took of the cafeteria built on a rock.

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Cafeteria Built on a Rock
Cafeteria Built on a Rock at the Abbey of Montserrat

To drive here you take a series of steep switchbacks up the mountain. But if you don’t like hairpin turns over cliffs, you can also take a train or gondola from the valley floor. In that respect it reminds me of locations in Switzerland or Germany. However the red earth and unusual rock formations also remind me of the southwestern United States. Perhaps it’s a combination of both, yet entirely unique.

This is a popular place because there were a lot of people here when we arrived. And there is a lot more to see than just a cafeteria, but this grabbed my attention when I first arrived. It’s no ordinary cafeteria, at least not the kind that comes to mind when I think of my old high school. If you did nothing but drive up here and buy lunch, it would be well worth the trip as you gaze out at the valley and Barcelona in the distance.

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My only regret is that I didn’t know about this place sooner. I will come back and explore it more thoroughly on my next visit, especially at night. And there is way more to see than just the cafeteria, so plan a day of it the next time you’re in the area; I know I will.

Dystopian Dreamscape

This is adjacent to a marina at the Great Salt Lake. I took this as an afterthought and didn’t think much of it at the time. Only after I processed it in monochrome does it come across as a dystopian dreamscape. Surrounded my mountains it has an otherworldly quality to it.

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Dystopian Dreamscape
Dystopian Dreamscape just outside of Salt lake City

This is a furnace stack from a smelting plant just outside of Salt Lake City. It towers above the landscape and was the visible for many miles. It’s so big it creates an optical illusion of sorts. From afar it appears much closer than it is. Next to the surrounding hills it looks like something on Mars or the moon. The area is rich in minerals and home to some of the largest mines in the world; it’s little wonder the scales are so large.

Speaking of worlds, the cooper mine over the ridge is so large it can be seen from space. The tip of it can be seen from all over the Salt Lake City valley, but it’s in the background, not really a main feature. It’s easy to spot and I suppose the same holds true if you’re looking out the window from the ISS. Here is a picture of it from the NASA archives.

more monochrome images

When we go back to the moon or make it to Mars, we’ll be doing quite a bit of mining. The idea is to use the resources available to build, construct and sustain. Maybe in a few hundred years when someone sees this picture they’ll think it looks just like some places they saw on Mars while on vacation. You just never know.

Bridal Veil Falls

This is Bridal Veil Falls near Salt Lake City. To get here it’s just a short drive from the city into the bordering mountains. In a previous post I mentioned that it’s a routine for us to go for a drive on Sunday. As we were in Utah we decided to take the Alpine Loop, which is a scenic drive that winds through the mountains. The road traverses mountains with switchbacks that are open only during the warmer months. There are spectacular views all over and we found ourselves stopping nearly every mile to see one sight after another.

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Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls along the Alpine Loop in Utah

I’m related to some of the original settlers of the area and I couldn’t help but think that they had a much harder time of it. For us it was a Sunday drive through the mountain passes on a paved road; for the settlers in covered wagons it was another thing entirely. It’s little wonder they decided to stop after making it through the mountains; I would have done the same. I have no idea which route the settlers took, but back then there were no highways so it was no Sunday drive.

To get a sense of scale of this waterfall you can see a couple of people at the very bottom of the image. The falls are over six hundred feet high and were once serviced by a gondola and a restaurant at the top. That’s gone now but the falls remain and you can take a short hike to the base or just look from a parking lot next to the highway.

other waterfalls in the gallery

Anyway, the Alpine Loop is a spectacular drive and the parks within it are open to hiking, camping and fishing. And not too far from this spot is where the Sundance Film Festival takes place each year. All in all the Alpine Loop is a must see if you’re in the area.