Spirit Island

This stand of trees is known as Spirit Island. It’s one of the most photographed sites in the Canadian Rockies and can only be reached by boat.

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Spirit Island
Spirit Island in Jasper National Park

You can trek here as well, but be sure to bring bear spray. Even so, if I were backpacking, I’d want to do it here. You can’t get the proper scale of the peaks from a photo; it’s beyond belief.

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I took this over five years ago with my old Nikon D800 which I’ve since sold. It’s not the camera that matters but what’s holding it. I’ve changed a lot, and so have my techniques, so I need to give it another go. In the meantime, it’s still fun to look at these and go back in time to a place that hasn’t changed since then, or hundreds of years prior for that matter.

Santa Cova de Montserrat

That building on the mountain is a church known as Santa Cova de Montserrat. What’s impressive is that it’s only accessible by trail. Also, it’s very near the Abbey of Montserrat in the Catalonian region of Spain. When I took this photo, I was standing not far from the abbey on an overlook near the top of Montserrat. To get up the mountain, we had to drive a precariously steep and winding road.

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Santa Cova de Montserrat
A church that is only accessible by foot near Barcelona

The landscape here is extreme and, try as I do, still can’t imagine how places such as this get built. The construction must take many generations. Projects like this are not something we are likely to see again.

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The Abbey of Montserrat is just an hour from Barcelona, and you can see the outskirts of the city in the distance. We didn’t plan it right and arrived in the afternoon which meant we only had a couple of hours to explore. But now that we know, next time we’ll spend the day exploring much more of this unbelievable monastery in the mountains.

Village of Dobrota

This is a photo of the village of Dobrota in Montenegro that I took from a ship in the Bay of Kotor. We spent an amazing day in Kotor and were leaving when I took this. The geography of the area reminded me of fjords. There are narrow inlets surrounded by towering peaks and the view is amazing.

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Village of Dobrota
Village of Dobrota in Montenegro

In Kotor we rode in a bus up an impossible single lane road to the top of these mountains. Even though the bus drivers are some of the best in the world half the passengers were praying fervently. It’s said the bus drivers in Montenegro bring more people to religion than the priests. After twenty-nine hairpin turns, I believe that to be true.

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I also have some images looking down at the water from these peaks. Either way you look at it this is one of the most scenic areas of Europe.

Outside of My Comfort Zone

At the time I took this shot I was way outside of my comfort zone. This is a shot I took just before landing on a mountaintop in sub-zero temperatures while in New Zealand. In this case the scale is difficult to convey because there is nothing to use for reference. However the copter landed on the icy plateau on the upper left and it would look like a small toy if we could see it here.

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Outside of My Comfort Zone
Outside of My Comfort Zone in the alps of New Zealand

I remember this stop in particular because I walked a little ways down that slope on the left. It was nothing but ice and the incline increased with each step as it dropped into the abyss. I realized that just in time and froze in my tracks then took several steps backward until my footing was sure and the panic subsided.

We landed in spots that were pretty much inaccessible save for experienced climbers. As it turns out our pilot was a mountain climber and used his knowledge of the area to choose our landings. In fact, he had been up in the area on foot a short while before. Some of the peaks seemed to me nearly impossible to reach and I was always looking for a route down should we get stranded. In places like this I’m not sure what options there would have been.

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Despite the extreme landings I was so occupied with capturing landscape images that I had no time to be afraid. It’s only on reflection from the comfort of my home that thoughts of potential danger return. Certainly I had the same thoughts on that day as well, but they were crowded out by the task at hand and the rare opportunity to capture these images. In reality the pilot was super competent and never put us in any real danger. Lucky for me he was well within his own comfort zone.

Mount Alfred from Kinloch

This is a view of Mount Alfred from up the side of another mountain in Kinloch, Otago. The type of wide angle lens I’m using makes Mount Alfred appear far off and small, but in reality it is quite a bit larger. I got here by helicopter and was just one of a dozen spots chosen by our pilot from Over The Top – The Helicopter Company in Queenstown, New Zealand.

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Mount Alfred from Kinloch
Mount Alfred from Kinloch in New Zealand

It’s been a while since I looked at my New Zealand photos. However I’ve recently been playing with a new tool for processing images called AuroraHDR 2017. That prompted me to go back and get some older photos and see what I could do. I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. In this case I processed one RAW image rather than three combined. It works well either way and normally I’ll combine two or three for a true HDR image.

new zealand photos

On this excursion we started off around seven in the morning and the temperature was downright cold, it was below freezing. On top of that we flew above the mountains with the doors off. The combination of layers and adrenalin kept me warm until the sun rose. Within a few hours we were on this mountain side and the weather had warmed up considerably, most of the heavy layers were peeled off, yet the adrenaline was still flowing due to the amazing vistas and sights.

Processing an old image with new software is a good way to go back in time and reminisce an awesome day.

Keku Strait in Alaska

When I was on the ship I was constantly taking photos of the landscape. Much of it was open waters bordered by mountains and peeks. That’s different from what I’m used to looking at back home so I soaked in as much as I could. This was taken as the setting sun casts a warm glow on everything. The way the ship moves around these straits I could never really tell which direction was west unless the sun was low enough in the horizon. Even then I would think it was in the wrong place, it’s a good thing I wasn’t steering the ship.

Keku Strait
Keku Strait in Alaska at sunset

In the summers it never really gets completely dark. That was a new experience for me. It would be fun to travel further north and experience the constant daylight of the summer months (It’s on my bucket list). I would wake up in the morning to see the dawn light and then look at the clock to find it was three-thirty or four. Most mornings I was up around five, it was hard to sleep knowing it was light outside.

landscapes from the gallery

I walked to the bow of the ship where there is an observation deck and a helicopter pad. People would gather here at sunset or when there was some interesting spectacle. I came to catch the sunset, but on account of how slow the sun sets I stayed for an hour just watching the scenery. This is just a snippet of that.

Cedar Top Beer

I did a short hike through the Tongass National Park in Ketchikan Alaska. Despite the northern latitude this is a rain forest and Ketchikan receives the second highest amount of rainfall in the world, second only to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. It goes without saying that the predominant color was green in all directions.

Cedar Top Beer
Cedar Top Beer is made from tops of cedars in Ketchikan Alaska

In fact it was raining during the hike, a light pleasant rain, however it was warm at the same time so a light poncho was all I needed. Tongass is the largest national forest in the US and I saw only a sliver of it.

These cedars are used for a lot of different things including the making of musical instruments. They are also used in the brewing of Cedar Top beer up in Skagway. Don’t bother looking it up (I just tried), it’s a local brew only. I know this because on advice of a guide I tried it at a bar in Skagway. It took a pint to get used to the flavor and after that it was smooth sailing on pint two.

Landscapes from the Gallery

Beer aside, I stopped on the trail when I came to a clearing and took this image. It just seemed kind of mystical with the low clouds over the mountainous terrain. And of course I was wondering how they got those cedar tops into the beer.

Sense of Direction

This is from my trip to New Zealand a couple of years ago where I participated in a photography workshop. After all of the time that’s gone by I still have a lot of photos in my backlog to process. Here we were standing on a hill one afternoon overlooking Queenstown. That trip went by so fast I’m glad I have photos to re-live it in little increments later.

Sense of Direction
Whenever I travel to places I don’t know, I struggle with my sense of direction. This is facing south in New Zealand.

Whenever I go somewhere new it can be a little disorienting. By that I mean I’m never to sure which way is north south east or west. I remember having that feeling when I was here and struggling to sort it out in my mind. I love going back to Google Maps or Google Earth to look at places I’ve been and get a proper sense of direction and location. It’s helps me to integrate the experience after the fact.

For instance, with this shot I keep expecting to see the river, but it’s to my back as I was facing south. When we headed to Glenorchy, I thought we were driving south but it’s actually north. And if all that isn’t enough, on the last day I took a helicopter through the southern alps during which I had zero sense of whereabouts. Thankfully I was geotagging my photos, so now years later I can go back and begin to piece the locations together into some kind map of the journey.

Perhaps the sense of not knowing where we are in a new land adds to the sense wonder and excitement. I think perhaps, there might be something to that.

More images from the New Zealand gallery

Iconic Morning

Iconic Morning
An iconic morning in Vancouver BC                                                    Obtain a high quality framed print for home or office

I can be such a tourist at times, like when I took this shot of the Vancouver Convention Centre against the back drop of the harbour, bridge and mountains. It would not surprise me if there are a thousand of these photos taken everyday. To prove my point there was a little plaque where I stood to describe the scene. One minor difference is that I took this at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning before any self respecting tourist was out of bed.

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But its karma, or something like it. I live in an area of Florida where there are a lot of tourists, so it’s only fair that I should get to be a tourist once in a while. Actually, it’s not karma, its more like tourism payback, serious payback. That makes no sense.

Off to the right is the Lions Gate Bridge, beyond that are the mountains and at the tops you can make out the lights of Cypress Bowl, a local ski area. Between the bridge and the convention centre is Stanley Park and to the foreground of that is the sea plane port. But the one thing that catches my eye, and everyone else eye, yet gets left out of the tourist plaques is the gas station. Why on gods green earth they decided to put a gas station in the middle of Vancouver Harbour I’ll never know. But there it sits, along side all the other icons of Vancouver. Interesting.

End of Lake Wakatipu

End of Lake Wakatipu
End of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy, New Zealand                                                   Click here to learn about purchasing a fine art framed print

This is the end of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy. I was here a couple of years ago on a Trey Ratcliff photo adventure. I had just switched from Nikon to Sony and so was still struggling with the placement of the buttons and menus. Sometimes I go back and look at my settings and wonder what I was thinking, like this one, my aperture was f10; seems a bit high. Maybe I should just forget about that and just enjoy the scenery. Forget I even mentioned it.

I was going back to look at my New Zealand photos and found this sitting in the bit bucket. I started working on its just out of curiosity and then got carried away. All the while I was thinking I’d seen this before. Sure enough, I’d processed and posted this same picture. My techniques and eye are constantly changing and this time the result was different. So maybe I should have titled it Glenorchy Part 2, …or some such thing.

Boy, if I could go back in time and make different choices. Well, just a few. Like buying a certain company stock when it was really cheap. Oh well, until I invent a time machine I’ll just live in the present, learn from the past, place one foot in front of the other, you know the drill. Actually, I’m kind of glad I can’t go back, it seems the longer I live the less confused things are. So going back and buying that stock might just put me into a place I don’t want to be. Hmmmm, … tis a bit of a conundrum.