Category Archives: Travel

Iceland

At the end of September I was extremely fortunate to go to Iceland. I was extremely excited for the possibility of seeing Aurora Borealis, something that had been on my bucket list.

It was a relatively quick flight for somewhere that seemed so exotic and detached. Just 5.5hrs from JFK airport. We landed at sunrise and made the trek east, after getting the rental vehicles and some food. It was quite cloudy and eventually the rains came, and stayed for several days. We had breaks where it was only windy, but it made for photographing anything a little more difficult. For a Florida boy, 40 degree weather, rain, and 40 mph winds don’t make for the most favorable conditions. So, we searched for things we could use the conditions with. Things that didn’t move. We found a big mossy area, which I was to learn is the old lava fields from Laki, one of the largest volcano eruptions in Iceland, happening over 7 months in 1783 and 84 and killing 25% of the population. Moss doesn’t move much, but I was determined to get some shots of the small bushes dotting the landscape in full fall colors. This took a lot of patience but I got several images over the next couple days that I really liked.

The boulders of lava went on for miles, covered in 6 inches or so of moss. It made for treacherous foot travel and I took a fun little tumble. Luckily, it is like landing on a tempurpedic bed! We encountered this area west of Vik on the way to Klauster.

Another amazing area is Jokulsarlon. There is nothing like it and it is oft photographed by travelers to Iceland. Icebergs calve from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and float out to sea, where some are washed back onto the black sand beach. This makes for a dramatic contrast and a scene unlike anything else.

This was also a tough shoot because the icebergs move. With each wave you either have to dodge them coming back in, or chase them back out, always recomposing your shot. In the second image, my iceberg actually broke in half and floated away just 3 waves after the image I got.

After 2 shooting sessions at Jokulsarlon, we made our way back west to trek into the highlands. Along the way we stopped at several waterfalls along the road(no shortage of them) and I took this image at one we nicknames Paul’s Falls because I had wanted to check it out for several days. I loved the recessed nature of it and how it had carved its way back into the rock.

Somewhere along the road, we also got a touch of sunshine and I was sure to capitalize on it. Whooper Swans were the only native wildlife we saw(lots of sheep) and I timed this image as a flock flew through the image.

Once into the highlands, we encountered a scene that seemed unreal. A nondescript canyon from afar, nestled among all the lifeless volcanic rock harbored at least 40 waterfalls, all leaking from the porous rock. At the bottom was an amazingly blue river and on the third shoot at this location, a freezing sunrise, we got some sun!

The last image was taken at Haifoss, meaning High Falls. It didn’t have that many compositional opportunities, but at 400 feet tall, and the accompanying canyon, still a great view.

Iceland was a land of amazing scenery, the weather sure made it challenging, but I am happy with what I got and hope to return in the future.To purchase an image go to my Iceland gallery: Iceland

 

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Olympic National Park, Washington

I can’t believe it has already been 2 weeks since my spontaneous trip to the Pacific Northwest. I saw that it had been a really wet Spring and I had been longing to revisit after an ecology trip in 06 during a drought.

I was actually planning to spend most of my time in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge (a later blog post) but just couldn’t resist running up to visit the rainforests of Olympic National Park for 2 days.

I met up with buddy and excellent photographer Alex Mody and we headed north. These are true rainforests, averaging 140-170 inches of rain a year. Miami, gets around 50. They are remarkable environments and I was so happy to be headed their way. We got to the Hoh Rainforest around 11pm and passed out. We awoke to low 30’s and drizzle. Perfect! The overcast and rain was just what I wanted to shoot the forests in…the temperatures not so much. We got moving around 6 am and with a mile or two, we came upon what has become one of my favorite images. Titled “The wizard of the Hoh” this “tree” commanded attention. It is actually a combination of a big leaf maple well over 100 ft. tall and a vine maple reaching out from its base. It just looked like it was raising up ready to cast a spell on all the denizens of the rainforest.

After this image, which I instantly knew would be a keeper, everything else was a bonus for the day. As I continued wandering the forest, I felt I had hit a jackpot with that image. Everything else was just so chaotic, yet beautiful. It seems near impossible to translate the beauty in a photograph, but I tried the best I could. Here is another image where I felt the scene came to have some order.

As we continued, the light got a bit harsh and made it a bit difficult to shoot wide-angle forest scenes. We made our way to the visitor center and found a Barred Owl very relaxed around everyone. Alex commented that it was probably a youngster because it almost seemed dumb. It made several sad attempt at hunting and it did seem to be a bit inexperienced. Regardless, it posed nicely for us for a long time.

As we were leaving the Hoh rainforest to go to the Quinault, I saw this scene in some second growth forest. The second growth is actually a little more organized because the trees are all about the same size and age. Not as dramatic as the other but I thought I showed another environment quite well.

As we entered the Quinault the rain picked back up a bit. As the light faded, the fog begain rising and I got an image I was not expecting. The simplicity and color combo was hard to resist.

In this same area we also saw the largest black bear I have come across. The light was far to gone to get a keeper but I was amazed at my camera’s capabilities to at least get a documentary shot. The settings were: Lens (mm): 400 ISO: 25600 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/80

The next day we awoke and began a hike. the light wasn’t ideal, getting a little too strong, but I was able to get one image I was happy with.  I framed it with two trees growing out of a fallen nursery log. It is called that because as it decays it provides a great place for the next generation to germinate. Sometimes you will see several large trees all growing in a line, along a now decayed nursery log.

We saw many impressive trees in the Quinault and I couldn’t resist taking a self-portrait, which I will leave you with.

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Apalachicola

The last part of my road-trip was a few days in Apalachicola National Forest and surrounding areas. It is Florida’s largest forest, at just under 600,000 acres. It also has a stellar burn program and the pinelands were a joy to wander. I noticed a bunch of painted white rings on the pines and came to find out they are the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker host trees. The RCW is an endangered species and I was happy to see several of the little guys while exploring the forest. I saw a lot of wildlife, including box and snapping turtles, turkey, deer, water moccasins, a fox squirrel, gators of course, swallow-tailed kites, opossums on a weird quest, maybe for a female, and a gray squirrel/snake scuffle that the squirrel won. Unfortunately, it was also tick abundant;I can put up with mosquitoes, but not ticks.

I was happy to see the bogs with carnivorous plants, the showiest being the pitcher plants. They gain additional nutrition by luring insects to the mouth of the pitcher, where they fall down the slippery walls and can’t get out. The plant then digests the insects and absorbs the good stuff.

Anyways, here are a few of my favorites. Let me know which ones you guys like.

These little carnivorous plants trap insects with sticky drops on their modified leaves.

My new car and home on the road.

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Busy Busy….

Sorry for the lack of new blog posts, I went up to the Smokies, then over to Nashville and down to Apalachicola National Forest. I had a blast on the road trip and got home at the beginning of May. I have also been working down on Big Pine Key with the Institute for Regional Conservation removing exotic plants. So I am staying quite busy at the moment. Anyways, I figured I would just put up a couple images from the Smokies while I had some time.

One of the only "icon" shots I have ever taken. I like to have my own original images but the light on this was too nice to pass up.

There was a whole group of these Swallowtails soaking up a pee spot. Seems it got them a bit drunk. I helped this one out of the water after the image was taken.

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Coyote Buttes South

Well I forgot I had one last area of the trip to add. This was by far my favorite area and also the most remote. We had a near 2 hr drive down a rough dirt/sand and rock road to get out here. It had some amazing formations and I suggest you google it for the wider views. I wish I had taken some just as snap shots but the light was harsh, as we had a clear sky all day. Because of this, I focused on shooting in the shade. The also limited me to more intimate shots but I was happy with them, as the glades isn’t as nice up close as this place. The patterns and colors found everywhere were unreal. Here are the favorites so far, I still have some to process and perfect.

Tortured

Bacon!

A wider view and the wonderful glow that happens after the sun sets

Thorny Old Friends

Thanks for stopping in!

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