La Conchita, California, December 2019
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
The Devils Glen waterfall this afternoon – a truly breathtaking place in the Wicklow Mountains I didn’t know about until discovering it on Saturday in a magazine pullout of the Irish Times weekend edition.
So off I went today right away. An hours drive from Naas, Devils Glen is easily to reach, parking onsite and two excellent looped walks waiting to be explored. Easy enough terrain, nothing extreme.
Unfortunately it was an overcast day which means the light wasn’t quite as I would have liked it. Surely I’ll be back in autumn when it must be such a colourful place.
I got a 25 second long-exposure at the foot of the waterfall – a beautiful scene that may have been enhanced by some sun rays shining through the trees. It’s an image I quite like nonetheless.
After passing the site multiple times in recent weeks (and didn’t find it instantly when actively looking for it either), today there was no stopping getting to the top of the Hill of Allen!
To find the site, even more so to find parking, is an adventure in itself. Don’t expect signs, and don’t expect the small car park that exists in theory to be open either – the site is officially not open for public any more as quarrying takes place at the other side of the hill.
It it still possible to go up, though. A small, muddy way leads all the way to the hill. A shame the county council has effectively abandoned this site of historical importance as it could be a real gem – if protected and cared for.
At the top of the tower has been a glass canopy erected a few years ago. Unfortunately this one has been smashed and glass is scattered as wide as the eye can see.
If you squeeze through the open frames you’ll be rewarded with the most magnificent view over county Kildare, the Curragh all the way up to the Wicklow Mountains in the distance, nonetheless. It’s well worth the effort.
The stunning panorama of Fuerteventura as seen from the Mirador Morro Velosa – six vertical frames each at 70mm taken and stitched together in post to create this kilometer long view across several barranco’s.
It’s actually not that long ago, that I owned a computer with a hard drive of the size of the original file of this image. It brought the old laptop I had with me on the trip to Fuerteventura down to its knees processing it.
Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland –
116mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/60sec; Nikon D7100, Tamron 70-200mm G2
8mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/25sec – Nikon D7100, Sigma 8-16mm f4.5-5-6 DC HSM,
The Fairy Pools are one of THE highlights on the Isle of Skye. Everyone has heard about them, everyone wants to see them and everyone has most likely seen these dreamy, colourful, long exposed images of the pools and waterfalls.
When I was there it was crowded and the light was little to non-existent. That’s a shame. You can wait and you can come back, but things did not really pan out for me during my stay on Skye if it comes to the Fairy Pools.
That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the end result. In fact I do love the image. The colours of the grass, the most beautiful blue in the water – all there. Though a bit of proper light, a bit of sun shining into the pools…. it would have been too nice.
The week here on the Isle of Skye is flying, so is the wind…. or the rain and sun in an ever evolving game of who wins the battle for supremacy for the day.
So photographing Skye isn’t an easy thing. The light changes constantly. The same moment you find a composition the rain may well force you away from it as soon as you have your gear ready.
I haven’t taken many photographs so far. But the ones I got are meaningful. None more so than the image of the Old Man of Storr – of course – but this one here is also an image that evoked emotion when processing the RAW file in Adobe Lightroom.
It’s an image with a small story behind it. As it goes I was taking in a smallish hike along the ruins of St. Mary’s church outside of Dunvegan. During the way up I looked back down into the valley and immediately the vista stroke me as the perfect picture of what Skye is all about. Rolling hills, lush green grass, rain clouds and fog hanging low in the mountains….
But the light wasn’t there. It was a nice vista for the human eye to see in flesh then but appeared flat and dull as a photograph. So I finished the hike which was a loop and lead me back to where it began. All the way promising myself to head back up again if the light would change to see whether I could capture the image as envisioned in my mind.
The outcome is the lead photo above. It started to rain minutes after pressing the shutter.
I am currently on the Isle of Sky. A week long holiday, immersing myself in the spectacular landscape this part of Scotland has to offer. High on the “must see” list is – of course – “The Storr”. It’s the one image many will most likely have in mind when they think of Skye. So do I.
Photographed in the millions, to get an image of the “old man” that is unique seemed a distant dream. My idea of getting a sunset image went to pieces the first evening I tried. Masses of people hiking up there, the mountain top hardly to see under a thick cover of fog.
Getting up early the next morning, the hope of a beautiful sunrise image with soft light and sunrays illuminating the mountain – shattered upon arrival. No light, only fog. At least no other people around. Now I’m here, let’s get up anyway.
Efforts were rewarded. Eventually. It took a while and it was only a brief moment. Yet a moment of glory. The sun breaks through the clouds while the fog gives way – a matter of seconds. The world around me is glowing in the most beautiful flush green. I get my shots away, a pano in mind, and bang gone is the light as quickly as it came. It never came back….