Day 4 – U.S. Route 89 Loop

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

Southern Utah – Northern Arizona Loop

Day 4 of the trip was a driving day. There was no hiking or climbing involved.

Originally, I discovered Hwy 89 Loop by accident because of my poor planning while visiting Southwest for the first time. I was on my way from Grand Canyon to Kanab with the plan to visit Lake Powell but due to the landslide the Hwy 89 was closed and I was forced to take Hwy 89A instead. Since then, the Hwy 89A became one of my favorite driving destinations.

This year I decided to complete 300km loop counterclockwise, taking 89A first and on the way back to use 89.

My plan was to visit and photograph the following destinations: Vermilion Cliffs, Marble Canyon, Lees Ferry, Echo Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Grand Staircase. It is amazing that all that could be accomplished in only one day.

Horseshoe Bend

I was very excited about visiting Horseshoe Bend for the first time. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of the bend but not too many of them really impressed me. They all looked very similar without any compositional variety. I was hoping to come up with something different.

When I reached the bend I understood the reason for the lack of the variety in photos and challenges facing every photographer.

First of all, the bend is enormous and it is hard to grasp the scope of the place looking at photos. Even with the widest lens (10mm) it is impossible to fit all elements into one composition. And if you want to step back to use wider perspective, the edge of the cliff abstracts the river below.

I also discovered that there are only a few spots from where you can capture the entire bend.

On top of everything, after I managed to take a couple of shots, the rain started to poor and I had to wait at least 40min before I could resume shooting.

This is when I realized that my photos would not be too different from the rest.

Arizona. Horseshoe Bend
Loc: 36.878861, -111.513808

To give you the better idea about the scale of the bend, I included 100% crop of the area of the Colorado river from the right side of my photo where you can see the paddler.

Read moreDay 4 – U.S. Route 89 Loop

Day 3 – Extreme Weather in Bryce Canyon

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

From Kanab to Bryce

The city of Kanab is a very important place when you visit Utah and Arizona. It is strategically located in the “Grand Circle” area within driving reach to iconic destinations such as Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

After a successful day two of my trip spending the entire day in Zion, I was ready to tackle the Bryce Canyon National Park, which was located 100 km from my hotel in Kanab.

During my trip, I met many photographers from different parts of the world and, every time after a short talk about photo equipment and weather, we would always end up discussing the best location, from a photography standpoint, in South Utah and North Arizona.

Some photographers prefer Zion and some prefer the Grand Canyon but, for me, I always prefer Bryce Canyon. It is such an easy choice because of its distinctive and sometimes even surreal colors and shapes. The extraterrestrial looking landscapes of Bryce Canyon always fascinates me.

Utah. Bryce Canyon
Loc: 37.622100, -112.166205

That day, my only concern was the weather. The year before I had to cut my visit to Bryce short in the middle of the day due to a major snowstorm when the temperature plummeted from 20°C to -2°C (68°F to 28°F)  in a matter of hours

This year, however, I was lucky. Even though the temperature fluctuations were extreme (from 25°C/77F° to 5°C/41F°), it never dropped below freezing. The rain started at least five different times, but I never complained because the extreme weather changes resulted in a beautiful sky with stunning cloud formations.

Another highlight of my visit to Bryce was the hike to the bottom of the canyon. The view from the bottom gives you a completely different perspective on Bryce where, instead of shooting wide open landscapes, you shoot up converging orange rocks.

The view from the bottom of Bryce Canyon

Also, when you reach the bottom of the canyon, it feels as if you are in an entirely different climate zone as it is much warmer down there with absolutely no wind. It looked very comical when I was climbing up, sweat pouring through my t-shirt, as  all of the hikers climbing down were dressed for winter.

Shooting & Processing

There were not too many challenges with shooting and processing. I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod but when I started editing them in Lightroom I realized that I did not need to use HDR processing, single RAW was enough.

I used a Lightroom preset based editing, using Point Lobos present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).

 

 

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Read moreDay 3 – Extreme Weather in Bryce Canyon

Day 2 – Conquering Angels Landing in Zion National Park

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

Angels Landing

My second day of the trip was entirely dedicated to an exploration of Zion National Park.

The highlight of the day was hiking all the way to the top of the famous Angels Landing trail.

I have visited Zion previously, knew what to expect and had all the facts about the trail.

Distance: 5-miles
Average Hiking Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous uphill hike.
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Trail Usage: Heavy

Since the average person does not hike with a tripod and does not stop every 100 meters to take photos, I estimated the average travel photographer hiking time to somewhere between 7 to 8 hours.

I also knew that late morning and early afternoon hours in Zion could be very crowded and, in general, I am not very fond of people in my landscapes. Instead of unapologetically removing them from my reality in Photoshop, I decided to beat the crowd and start the hike as early as possible.

I was on the very first park’s shuttle bus in the early morning as I started my hike in a very comfortable cool temperature with absolutely no people around.

Zion National Park. Conquering Angels Landing
Utah. Zion National Park. Angels Landing Trail
Loc: 37.265410, -112.950776

In the beginning, it was a steep but very comfortable hike, with amazing open views and plenty of room to setup a tripod.

The last half mile of the Angels Landing hike became a bit extreme. I had to pack my tripod and climb with the camera hung around my neck. That was the moment when I really appreciated the switch from DSLR to mirrorless.

For some reason, the hiking down was less uncomfortable than going up.

Shooting

Once again, after analyzing the scene I could see the very bright area of the sky and the deep shadows at the bottom of the canyon. To shoot for HDR was the obvious choice.

I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod.

Processing

I keep experimenting with Lightroom 6 new feature – HDR Merge. I like that Lightroom produces HDR file in DNG format which is relatively small. I also appreciate that Lightroom adds “HDR” to the name of newly created DNG file.

I merged 3 bracketed RAW images to HDR using Lightroom 6.

For the processing, I used a Lightroom preset based workflow, using Point Lobos present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).

 

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Read moreDay 2 – Conquering Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Day 1- Packing Fast and Light (Look inside of my camera bag)

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

Packing Fast and Light

My latest trip to the Southwest was a bit unusual. Normally, it takes me two weeks to plan such a long and complex voyage but, this year, I had only 8 hours.

My original intention was to leave for Nevada at the very end of May but, due to some changes in my personal life, I had to leave as soon as possible or postpone the trip until September.

Friday afternoon I booked a direct flight to Las Vegas for the following morning and spent the entire night booking hotels and planning my route.

My favorite part of preparation for long trips is testing and packing my photo gear. First, I place every piece of the equipment on the floor, making sure I have everything in place. Then, I start packing.

Below is the photo of my photo gear that was ready to be packed.

Camera: Sony a6000
Lens: Sony 10-18mm
Lens: Sony 16-70mm
Tripod: FEISOL Tournament CT-3442
Ballhead: FEISOL CB-40D
L Plate Bracket: Docooler® Universal MPU100 Quick Release
HD Filter: Hitech 10 Stops
Camera Bag: Manfrotto Unica I Messenger Bag
Remote Trigger: FotoTech IR Wireless Shutter Release
Memory Cards (3):  SanDisk Ultra 32GB

Batteries and Charger: NP-FW50 Kit For Sony Alpha
USB Charger: Poweradd™ 50W Charger
Laptop: Asus ASUS Vivobook 13-inch
Portable Cell Phone and Tablet Charger: Royal Power Burst 10000
External Hard Drive: WD My Passport 1TB
Tablet: Nexus 7
Mouse: Logitech Wireless Mini Mouse

I got “Rouged” Again by Air Canada

Rouge is an Air Canada “discount” airline. It is probably the most hated carrier in Canada and is famous for cramped seats, old planes and poor service. I try to avoid Air Canada Rouge at any cost but, sometimes there is no other choice.

My last year photography trip was ruined by Rouge. My original plan for the 2014 trip was to land in Phoenix at 12 PM local time and drive to Sedona first, with the goal to be at the Grand Canyon a couple of hours before sunset. Instead, I wasted 9 hours in Toronto waiting for the replacement plane and spent the night driving from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, missing Sedona, and both the sunset and sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

This year’s Rouge experience was less damaging but it still managed to sidetrack my trip again.

This time the Rouge flight was late by 4.5 hours. This probably is not a big deal if you go to Las Vegas to party but, when your hotel is four hours away from the airport, it makes a huge difference.

Long story short, instead of spending the evening in the Valley of Fire photographing beautiful red rocks, I had to drive directly to my hotel in Kanab.

The only photos I have from my first day of the trip are the ones I took from the plane flying over the mountains and the canyons.

 

 

 

 

Intro – American Southwest Photography Trip Recap

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

I just returned from my latest photography trip. This time I went to one of my favorite destinations, the American Southwest.

It was a driving trip and I broke my personal record for distance covered in a single trip: I drove 4500 km (2700 miles) in 10 days.

My trip started in Las Vegas where I rented a car and I drove north to the city of Kanab in Utah where I spent 5 days photographing some of the most amazing destinations in Arizona and Utah. Then, I crossed the Nevada desert and drove to California’s coast, visiting Death Valley, Eastern Sierra, and Lake Tahoe along the way. My trip concluded in San Francisco Bay area where I spent a few day exploring the city and visiting Big Sur.

My initial intention was to write a short blog post with at least one photo at the end of each day of my trip to give readers of my blog the highlights of my travels. Very soon, I realized that my plan was not sustainable.

Every day of the trip, I woke up around 4am to be able to capture the morning light and on average I drove around 400km and 500km during the day, staying outside until sunset hours. By the time I was in my hotel, I was dead tired and I still had to backup new photos, charge camera batteries and plan my next day. I had absolutely no strength or time for blog updates.

I decided to share the experiences of my trip retrospectively. For the next 2 weeks, I will be featuring my Southwest adventures chronologically, day by day.

Lake Powell Wahweap Marina (Arizona)

Arizona. Page. Lake Powell
Loc: 36.956793, -111.488646

Shooting

It was almost perfect shooting conditions on the day I took the featured photo. It was early evening and the light was already soft, but the thick white clouds made it even softer, acting as a huge natural diffuser. I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod.

Processing

The soft diffused light made processing of this photo easy and straightforward. I did not have to use HDR workflow because the light was not too dynamic and the single RAW processing was sufficient to recover the highlights and the shadows.

I used Lightroom Preset based workflow. I applied Natuarl preset from my Landscape Preset Collection and adjusted Exposure using ToolKit adjustments.

In the final step, I did some cleaning and color correction in Photoshop.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

 

Read moreIntro – American Southwest Photography Trip Recap

Trip in Pictures: Highlights Of My Driving Travel Photography Trip to Southwest of US

This is updated post with the highlights of my driving travel photography trip to Southwest of US. At this point I processed most of the photos and I can properly illustrate the key moments of the trip.

I started the adventure in Phoenix and drove through Sedona to Grand Canyon. My next stop was in Kanab, from where It was easy to reach to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. From Kanab I drove through the desert to Las Vegas and my final destination was Los Angeles.

  • Number of days: 7
  • Total distance: 2953 km (1835 miles)
  • Number of states visited: 4 (Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California)
  • Number of national parks visited: 5
  • Number of state parks visited: 12
  • Number of photos taken: 4281 (most of them are bracketed shots for HDR photography)
  • Number of heat waves: 2
  • Number of snowstorms: 1
  • Excitement level: extreme

You can also check Photo Location Guide Map where you can see all locations I visited.

Travel Photography Blog: Grand Canyon National Park
Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park
Loc: 36.061637, -112.108524
Travel Photography Blog: Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah. Bryce Canyon
Loc: 37.4751, -112.2405
Travel Photography Blog - Arizona. Grand Canyon South Rim
Arizona. Grand Canyon South Rim
Loc: 36°3’42″ N 112°6’29″ W
Travel Photography Blog - Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park
Loc: 37.531878, -112.260233
Travel Photography Blog - USA. Utah. Zion National Park
USA. Utah. Zion National Park.
Loc: 37.23836, -112.8379
Travel Photography Blog - USA. Utah. Zion National Park
USA. Utah. Zion National Park. Canyon Overlook Trail
Loc: 37.21335, -112.94575
Travel Photography Blog - Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah. Bryce Canyon National Park
Loc: 37.74035, -112.29691
Travel Photography Blog - Arizona
Arizona
Loc: 36.8321, -112.2556
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Arizona. Colorado River and Marble Canyon
Loc: 36.8175, -111.6328
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Arizona. Echo Cliffs
Loc: 36.7173, -111.6501
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park. Desert View
Loc: 36.043333, -111.826389
Travel Photography Blog - Nevada. Valley of Fire
Nevada. Valley of Fire
Loc: 36.4297, -114.5154
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Utah. Zion National Park
Loc: 37°15’40” N 112°46’13” W
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Utah. Bryce Canyon
Loc: 37°34’41” N 112°13’40” W
HDR Photography - Processed in Photomatix
Arizona. Grand Canyon. Mather Point
Loc: 36°3’42” N 112°6’29” W

 

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