La Conchita, California, December 2019
As I find myself on the south-east coast of Spain right now, enjoying a few quiet off days on the beaches of Playa de Oliva, I made use of the time in the evening, grateful for the fact the sun wouldn’t burn as hot as it does during the day, when it literally fries my skin that’s so unused to any sort of prolonged form of these warm rays, given the summer months have been washed away by persistent rain back home in Ireland.
So I took the short hike up to the ruins of Castell de Santa Anna, which is overlooking the small town of Oliva in the Valencian Community and the adjacent Mediterranean Sea.
Rewarded with a 360 degree view from up there, it certainly was well worth the effort; tranquility in its purest form watching on as the horizon changes colours to dark yellows, luminous orange- and red tones – but nobody is here, except myself, of course!
Having been to similar scenic viewing points in other places, like San Francisco or Lisbon that come to mind immediately, this one isn’t less spectacular, yet the area of Oliva, despite posing kilometers of the finest sand beaches isn’t particularly popular with tourists.
How wonderful, I think! There are still a few places not overun with tourists. Granted, I am one as well, of course….
A final photograph for 2018, and a final one from my recent trip to Arizona and the Grand Canyon – a day long hike along the Bright Angel Trail led to this panorama of the Colorado River.
Standing on the edge of Plateau Point, nearly one thousand metres below the Grand Canyon South Rim, a drop of 1,300 feet beckons with another step forward…
Getting up when it’s still dark and – quite frankly – bloody freezing – is never easy. But we photographers know the rewards can be rich for making the effort.
Certainly I was hoping for a grand sunrise over the Grand Canyon when driving down the few miles from my Lodge to Navajo Point – the highest point on the South Rim – a whopping 2.275m above sea level!
The sky was still dark, crystal clear and only the stars shining brightly when I set out at quarter past six. The air chilly, I knew even the thickest of gloves wouldn’t be good enough to protect my hands of turning stiff and numb, when standing exposed to the wind, fiddling with camera settings and tripod.
I found my spot on the edge of a huge stone that extended a metre or so beyond the Canyon Wall of the Rim. I didn’t quite move to the edge… too afraid of stumbling!
It was to be the place for another nearly two hours…. at temperatures around minus 9 degrees initially (kindly dropping to more balmy minus five after sunrise)
As I took my first shots, going as wide as possible – 8mm – the sky looked simply fantastic. Hues of violet, red and orange…. beautiful!
Unfortunately, the “grand sunrise” never materialized. Slowly but steadily, the light got flatter, the colours washed out – it was to be an overcast day!
Well, thankfully I was early there to capture the beautiful scene before the actual sunrise, which resulted in the image accompanying this article. In truth, I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful sunrise image of the Grand Canyon. It was well worth the early start and the freezing. Those moments, though – the raw nature, the scale of the landscape, the camera and yourself – there is something special about it.
In order to get maximum colour depth from a scene that had different light all over, I shot this is an HDR and used Lightroom in post for the HDR part.
One of the most “Instagrammed” places of recent times; and I have got that bucketlist item ticked off the list as well!
Ever since having seen photos of the Horseshoe Bend for the first time I wanted to experience this unique landscape with my own eyes – and get one of those “unique” panoramic shots.
Interestingly, it’s only a relatively new phenomenon that the Horseshoe Bend is so popular, which has seen annual visitor numbers rising up to 1.3 million! Hordes of people armed with selfie stick and mobile phone is a common sight these days; locals tell the story of a a place kept a hidden treasure for most of its existence.
Just a few miles outside of Page, Arizona, a short trail winds its way up to the spectacular edges of the Canyon walls – it’s easy to see why this has become such a popular attraction. Ultimately, this is the reason why I found my way there too!
Thankfully it’s off-season. Yes, this was certainly the most crowded place I’ve been to during my trip through Arizona. But I expected worse. And experienced much, much worse in other parts of the world.
Despite sunset time, the most popular time of the day for the Horseshoe Bend, there was ample opportunity to wander left or right and leave the crowds behind to find a place for oneself, to take in the breathtaking scenery and enjoy the sun slowly fading away.
Nonetheless, the crowds become an issue. At other times, there’s no serenity here, and in order to accommodate the masses changes are coming to the Horseshoe bend: “proper infrastructure” is currently under construction: meaning a new trail, railings as well as the rumours have it, a $25 entrance fee.
That’ll alter the uniqueness of the experience dramatically, of course. What choice have authorities, though? They’ve got to ensure safety and currently, that has to be said, it’s rather dangerous, given there are no barriers, and beyond the edges it goes 300 metres straight down!
For the photo I had in mind, a straightforward panorama, I brought the Sigma 8-16mm. Finding a place for myself wasn’t an issue…. but one that provided the perspective I had in mind, while having a panoramic images with no people tangling their legs over the edges was the difficulty.
I decided to wander to the left and “hid” behind a tall stone wall, that helped to frame the picture but also hid the people I didn’t want to have in the shot. Eight vertical frames were stitched together in post in Lightroom eventually.
Unsure what to expect, I planned only one full day in Monument Valley. Little did I know, indeed!
The overwhelming beauty, grace and magic of this landscape blew my mind – this stretch of planet Earth is something hard to describe in words, and certainly no photograph will ever do it justice. It’s got to be experienced by oneself!
Snow fell in the Valley the days before I arrived; covering parts of the red desert ground and the Mitten Buttes in deliciously fine white powder. Arctic temperatures… a result of the winter not making an exception for an area that only a few weeks ago was still piping hot as warning signs reminding hikers to take plenty of water on board during their travels.
Depending on what directions one looks, rock formations, size but also light and atmosphere changing dramatically. Snow covered peaks to one side; planet Mars-like landscapes the other way.
Photography-wise Monument Valley, but particularly The Mittens, present a riches of subjects to explore; so many different scenes want be captured – but nothing compares to the sunrise, when those first precious rays find their way over the massive stone walls, illuminating the valley in warm, golden light.
There’s this one world famous view everyone will have in some form or another; and if only in a Hollywood movie that gives the place its name: Forrest Gump Point. A particular delicious panoramic view with Route-63 leading right into it…. a place synonymous with selfie sticks these days.
I don’t own a selfie stick and wasn’t after the “money shot”. Rather, the setting sun, provided the perfect backdrop to create a powerful silhouette of the Mittens – the imagine I probably most love of all the ones I got during my time in Monument Valley.
Tamron 70-200mm G2
As I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, I took the chance to pay the local horse race track – Turf Paradise – a visit.
A compact race track, on the outskirts of Phoenix, I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere. Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it wonderful day out.
There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it can be at bigger tracks on these type of days.
Having the big lens with me on the day, briefly some security guy came up and ask “are you with the media?” – otherwise no bother, and I could take some great images.
Tamron 70-200mm G2