News & Stories · Uncategorized

My Top 20 Favorite Images of 2017

2017 was a year I will never forget, and one that will set the bar for the future! I was able to travel and see so much, make friendships and bonds, and experience some incredible things!

Here is a rundown of some of my favorite images of 2017, complete with the memories made!

Please Enjoy!

Mud Crack Sunrise copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 (x4 for focus) | ISO100 | 14 & 24mm | 1/3rd & 1/20th seconds

•Poseidon’s Tomb•

Taken during a sunrise in Death Valley while scouting with my good friends Jesse and Duane. Jesse knows Death Valley like the back of his hand, he told us how to get here the night before since he wouldn’t be in until late. We hiked out on the playa looking across at the distant mountains that seemed to never get closer, soon we realized we had gone too far beyond where the massive cracks are and managed to find them just as the sun was setting. Before it was completely dark I managed to find the awesome crack and dropped a pin on my GPS so that I could find it for sunrise!

Tree in Hole Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/1000th seconds

•Vortex•

This image was taken while on a long weekend in Escalante with my girlfriend, adventure pup, and great friend Jesse. We Had hiked to reflection Canyon the day before, we were exhausted and sore but didn’t want to just head home so we stuck around GSENM for a few more days and hiked Spooky and peek-a-boo slot canyons the next day and then camped near dance hall rock so we could shoot the milky way over one of these awesome pot holes, and gnarly cottonwoods. While wandering around on this giant rock we stumbled across a crazy aussie looking for the same thing we were! We got to talking and hit it off and continued the search for just the right tree, in just the right hole! We managed to get an LED panel down in the hole, and that was an adventure all in itself! The next morning we went back up for sunrise and I managed to make this image. The colors weren’t very exciting and I almost binned this image but just when I was about to give up I quickly converted it to B&W and saw its potential in a whole new way!

Lake Blanche Vertical Comp Two copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 (x3 for focus) | ISO200 | 14mm | 1 second

•Damnation•

What can I say about this image. This is Sundial Peak, carved by glaciers high in the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt lake City. This hike was intense, grueling and extremely challenging. At 10,320ft, a 10.5 mile round trip hike with 4,300ft of elevation gain its by far the most challenging hike I have ever done, especially with nearly 70lbs of gear on my back. Lacey, Myself and the dog geared up in hopes wed find some wildflowers dotting the lake shore, but we were surprised to see that nearly no flowers exist up there at all at least close to the lake because of how trodden the lakeshore is by visitors. We setup camp along the lake, Lacey quickly passed out while I shot away as the Milky Way rose above the peak. I woke early for sunrise and was happy to see some nice clouds forming. Once the sun broke it casted beautiful, warm light on the tips of the peak.

Horseshoe Bend Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 16mm | 1/5th & 1/20th seconds

•Afterglow•

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona is truly a cool place. The view is astonishing but not quite as astonishing as the abundance of people there to watch the sunset. It’s no surprise though! On my very first visit to this famed location I was greeted with one hell of a sunset! I was shocked at the amount of people there, and how little space there was to squeeze in and get a shot. Not being the type of guy that just settles for whatever is easy I found a gap between a couple of other photographers. Not just a spacial gap but a literal massive gap in the rock, so I splayed my insanely tall tripod out across the gap and then summoned my best Jean Claude Van Dam and did a nearly full split across the sandstone. This Gap just so happened to be positioned in the near center of the ben allowing a full view of the entry and exit point of the river in the scene. We ooh’ed and awed as the sun got lower and light got better and better!

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/14 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/4 second

•Rebirth•

During our 8 day trip to Oregon in June we decided after a few days of shooting the Gorge that we would head north to Mount St. Helens. I mean, how cool is this place! A volcano!?!?! We sat, all by ourselves, 35º in the bleachers of the overlook and watched this beautiful sunset pass through, and a halo of clouds form around the crater. I felt that I wanted to showcase the destruction of the day that the mountain blew its top, and the lush greenery.

Swiss Cheese Falls Vertical copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 14mm | 1 & 20 seconds

•Harvest•

This amazing set of falls have become somewhat Iconic amongst photographers in the southwest and in Utah. Known loosely as “Swiss Cheese falls”, is as stunning as it is challenging to get to. With a huge and very steep descent into a massive canyon, you wonder how in the world people stumbled across places like this. Once down in the canyon we were greeted by deep yellows and reds adorning all of the trees, vines and foliage in the canyon, and just the right amount of water to make this scene possible! The beautiful Reds of the canyon walls were complimented so well by the yellow cottonwoods.

Maroon Bells Epic Sunset copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 24-70 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 24mm | 1 & 1/10th second

•Maroon Lake Reflections•

Oh man, this sunset was epic, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time! I had been in Aspen for 4 days, camping in the roof top tent and returning to the Bells each morning for just the right conditions. Waking at 4am for 4 days straight was taking its toll and dealing with the crowds here each morning really texted my patience. We had been searching for a grove of Aspens that sloped downward so that we may compose a scene of aspen trunks with the yellow canopy in the background, and hoped for fog. We were on our way to check out a spot above Maroon lake that might tick those boxes but when we showed up before sunset we saw the potential for an incredible sunrise, and it was!

Crystal Mill Fall Colors - Copy
Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1 second

•Crystal River•

The most photographed location in Colorado, the historical Crystal Mill has been on my list to visit for years. I realized one day that we know live only a few hours from this amazing place so we set out in August to scout, knowing I would return in Fall for the amazing color. I loved the soft directional light just before sunset that dappled across the scene, illuminating the yellows surrounding the old mill.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 & ƒ/2.8 | ISO160  & ISO10k | 14mm | 1 & 10 seconds

•Fallen•

Last night I learned of the passing of my grandfather, a man I grew up loving more than life itself, but life and distance separated us for many years. When we moved here to Moab last year we stayed in Denver for several days visiting with him, my grandmother and aunts. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 15 years and it was as if I was 7 years old again riding in his big pick up heading down to the beach to catch crabs. My heart hurts as I write these words, and I dedicate this image to you grampa, I love you.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 |Tamron 150-600 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 110 & 550mm | 1/200th & 1/10th seconds

•Unity•

The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 was something I will never forget. My friend Jesse called me up just a few weeks before and asked if I wanted to bonsai up to Idaho for it, without any hesitation I said yes! So I booked a flight from Moab to Salt Lake, met up with Jess and we hopped in the rental and drove to Stanley, Idaho. We had talked about even heading up to Jackson, WY or the Wind River Range but we decided to just stay in Stanley! The tiny town was bustling with the anticipation of massive hoards of Eclipse chasers. The roads were lined with taco carts, coffee stands and bbq pits. The campgrounds and bam areas were crammed with people, but we found our little hideaways. We spent time at Stanley Lake capturing the stars, and a sunrise. We knew that with the sun being extremely high in the sky it didn’t really matter much where we watched and photographed it from as it would be extremely challenging to capture with a wide angle given the pinhole distortion. I wanted the eclipse to be the prominent subject in the image, so while we were at Stanley Lake I made this panorama during the twilight hours knowing that I would blend the Eclipse phases into it to reenact as accurately as possibly the mood and feeling of the eclipse. Its important to be honest when making an image that couldn’t have been captured exactly as seen in the image.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/14 | ISO100 | 110mm | 1 & 20 seconds

•Eagles Lair•

Punch bowl falls cascade along Eagle Creek, above the incredible beautiful Metlako falls. Metlako was a dream to see however a short time ago the “overlook” collapsed into the deep gorge, and a clear view of the falls no longer exists. Punch bowl falls were so unique however this fall leaves a bittersweet feeling within me. Just a few seconds after shooting this scene I was wading further across the raging stream for another vantage point when my NiSi Filters 150mm square plate glass polarizer fell from my lens and was swept down stream never to be seen again. The rest of my waterfalls and seascape themed trip was made much more difficult without that unsuspecting piece of glass.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/5.6 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/200th second

•The Mighty Tree•

The famous Japanese maple resides in the Portland Oregon Japanese Gardens, and although its imaged often you’d never suspect how small and unassuming this tree is. I only found it because I bent over to tie my shoe and looked to my left! We had wandered around the garden for some time taking in the sights, and smells, I didn’t really think about even photographing the tree but once I saw it, and realized that it was adorning red leaves in June, I just had to!

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 (8 images for focus) | ISO400 | 14mm | 1/10th & 2 seconds

•Jurassic•

What a place this was! The Mossy Grotto was WAY high on my list of places to visit and at the time of visiting I had only seen one or two images of this place. I really wanted to create my own vision of this place. There a funny (now) story with this one, however. I didn’t know much about the hike, so I told my girlfriend it was an easy/moderate hike…well its not ha! It seemed like never ending switchbacks climbing hundreds of feet, a steep decent down loose rocks where rock slides had clearly happened in the past. After several days of car camping and non stop hiking she was a little irritable so the hike quickly ticked her off. We argued the whole way, and half way down the rock slide area she just sat down and pouted while I continued on. At the time I was fuming, I was upset that it mattered, I was clouded by anger and frustration so I was shocked that I walked away from that area with any usable images let alone one of my all time favorites!

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 14mm | 5 seconds

•Forged in Fire•

What an intro to Navajo Sandstone slot canyons this was! On a trip to Arizona we really wanted to visit one of the many slot canyons in the area but didn’t want the crowds at Antelope although I am dying to see that canyon for myself someday! This Canyon was short but sweet, the colors were outstanding, and the private acoustic guitar concert really helped me hone in on my creativity! Its funny, at the time of visiting this place I had seen exactly ZERO images, and only heard about the canyon just before the trip. I got home a day later and immediately process this and another image and posted it, then received a comment on social media that another photographer had taken an image of almost the same composition but hadn’t yet posted it, and another comment saying someone else had just posted the same composition that day. Its crazy that several photographers can visit a place and without any influence at all come away with an image of the same scene. Pretty awesome!

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/8 & ƒ/2.8 | ISO400 & ISO10k | 14 & 24mm | 1 second & 10 seconds

•The Labyrinth•

Goblin Valley State Park, near Green River, UT reminds me of the movie “The Labyrinth” Starring the late David Bowie, and the trolls depicted in the movie remind me of the hoodoos that fill this valley. I have been here many times but never really had much desire to capture an image, until this trip. I stumbled around for hours looking for a composition before stumbling on these 4 trolls, and when I saw them I felt like a little kid about to be bullied on the playground, they felt like 4 big, dominant figures in the night.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO64 | 14 & 24mm | 1/60th, 1/4, & 1 second

•Sunrise Fire•

The view from a steep ledge along Lake Powell, the morning after we made the grueling near 10 mile hike to this spot outside of Escalante. Another awesome trip to GSENM with Lacey, the wonder pup, and good buddy Jesse! About 2 miles from our destination we came across a massive water hole in the slick rock that coolant have come at a better time, as I had jut taken the last sip of water in my second 3 liter reservoir. So we stopped, filtered water and even swam for a bit to cool off! It felt great to get the boots off and relax for a bit. Just after sunrise we broke camp and headed out, I could not wait to get back to the car and town for a giant, ice cold diet pepsi!

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 170mm | 3 seconds

•Deathly Shadow•

Deathly Shadow, a glimpse of predawn light among the Utah badlands. A place I’ve visited dozens of times and always can’t wait to go back. On this morning I met up with a couple of really inspiring photographers visiting from Oregon on a tour of the southwest.

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Nikon D810 | Nikon 70-300 | ƒ/8 | ISO200 | 290mm | 1 second

•The Ghost Ship•

The “Sinking Ship” of Bryce Canyon National Park. On my third visit to Bryce, my good buddy Derek and I met up with Dave Swindler of Kanab. The conditions were pretty mazing as we had pockets of dense fog and a break in the clouds allowing some soft sunlight to enter the canyon and highlight the hoodoos and formations. We ran around for over an hour snapping away like tourists!

False Kiva Sunset New Years 2017 copy
Nikon D850 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/11 | ISO100 | 14mm | 1/3rd & 1/20th seconds

•Sacrificial Sun•

Ive visited this amazing, spiritual place many times since living here in Moab, and each time its equally special. Moab received a massive snow storm just a couple of days before Christmas, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it out to shoot during the storm. A couple of days later I had a sunset free and Lacey and I headed out to this place hoping that the canyon and canyon walls would still be clinging to some snow. We were graced by an incredible sunset to close out the year!

Mesa Arch Twilight Sunrise copy
Nikon D850 | Nikon 14-24 | ƒ/16 | ISO1000 | 14mm | 10 seconds

•Collide•

Mesa Arch has been photographed an estimated 1 million times….and that was a completely made up fact, but its been shot 19 ways to Sunday so I really wanted to make something unique here. Ive captured the iconic sunstar, with pretty clouds and I love the image, but this, this image really made me smile to capture and create. Most of the snow had melted off by the time I was able to get out and photograph it but the clouds were perfect, the intense glow from the sun just below the horizon was really special.

 

Happy New Years All! Thank you so much to all of you that have followed my work, my journey and my passion. Those of you that have purchased prints, or taken a workshop, and those of you that have become my friends!

 

I hope you all enjoy this collection of my favorite images of 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

News & Stories

Finding yourself in photography and exploration

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“Ice Cream Sunrise”~White Pocket, Arizona Taken with a Nikon D850, and 14-24mm f/2.8 lens

There’s a lot to be said about self discovery, and finding out who you are and your place in the world. I sure as hell am not a guru on this subject but I’ll tell you that 2017 was a year of personal growth for me, more than any one year of my life.

In 2016 I dropped everything to move across the country with my little family, leaving behind siblings and parents but with all of the support and love I could hope for. We set out to chase a dream, so I could pursue my passion in photography and grow a business that would allow me to flourish personally. At the time I was skeptical, something I’ve never really been but I’ve always worked hard for what I want and achieved it through adversity and challenges. I truly thought “Who the hell is going to want to learn from me, especially paying me for it?” “no one would ever want to learn from me, or take a workshop from me”. Honestly when I moved here to Moab, no one should have, my work was uninspired and boring, reflecting back. I have learned so much about photography in the last 18 months.

It’s been a year and a half since living in the desert and it was about 8 months ago that I had an “Ahah!” Moment, an event that completely changed me to the core. It took a handful of arrogant, elitist photographers to push me to my breaking point, I had a public melt down, and called them out on Facebook. I made an ass out of myself but I still stand by my beliefs, and don’t regret it. But it taught me that I was paying too much attention to NOT ME, and too much to others. I was so worried about others coming to Moab to lead workshops and whether or not they were putting the work in to be legal and legitimate like I was, I was worried they’d impact what I was doing and take away from my progress, and take money away from me.

I stepped away from social media on a personal level, I unfriended, and un-followed 95% of the photographers I had followed and left anything photography related. For the most part it wasn’t malicious, it was because I realized I was desensitized, and it was preventing personal growth. It was preventing me from even wanting to visit places because others had gone and been there, which is just plain silly. I thought “I cant improve on that”, and then I realized that its art, and I want to create ART, art is subjective, it cant be good or bad, so what was I comparing myself to? For some that desire to compete is a tool to improve but I now believe that if you can see that your personal work is an extension of you that you’ll truly be free to grow.

I didn’t know at the time but doing this, stepping back has allowed me to truly find myself, and discover my own style, techniques and compositions. I became too infatuated with everyone else’s images and progress that it clouded my own judgement and it was becoming toxic. I was fueled by jealousy and anger which is never good. In these last 8 months I’ve really become happy with my work and it has helped shape me into a better, more compassionate, wiser person. It’s allowed me to spend time reflecting on choices and human interaction which is important when you’re an educator.

Most of you know that I’ve left the stability of a day job to pursue my dream full time. Leading photography workshops has become my passion because I enjoy helping people, teaching people and providing memorable experiences in amazing places. I think I’ve finally started to dig my niche in the world, and although I’ve lost some “friends” and acquaintances, along the way I’ve made new and discovered who’s truly there to support me!

This journey has had a lot of ups and downs, financial, physical, and psychological. But in the end, at the heart of it, its been tremendous in teaching me ways to overcome, adapt and grow. Which is really what life is all about, right? Growth?  Learning to become who you are. To experience things, and places and be as happy as you can?

For some, they can go through life existing, coasting through and are fine with that, they can overlook their own short comings, attitudes, and the impact that has on others and that’s fine, but if you’ve ever gotten to a point where you think you know it all, have seen it all and don’t need to learn any more, or care about your impact then you’ve achieved something no one ever has.

I live my life by a few simple rules:

  1. Never stop learning, and growing.
  2. Never be afraid to fail, but hate failing so much that you succeed.
  3. Live like you will die at any time

and I’ll spare you the sappy stuff.

I find my solace, and am at my most peaceful state when I am exploring, and adventuring. Alone, or with my little family or the few good friends I have. Its the time I get to spend just turning off my brain and mentally relaxing, reflecting on where I am, what has happened and looking forward, positively to the future. To me there is no better way to discover yourself than when you can fade away into nature.

Tips & Tricks

Top 10 Tips for Photographing Waterfalls

Have you ever wanted to capture the stunning motion of flowing water falls, and the vibrant colors of the foliage that surrounds them? Or that awesome seascape with waves crashing over craggy rocks? Have you ever been intimidated by using filters?

Well here are my top 10 tips for photographing stunning waterfall scenes any time of year!

  1. Light! I find that the best times to shoot waterfalls with the most even light is around Sunrise, or sunset but an overcast sky can allow you to shoot water scenes almost all day!
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    Taken mid morning during an overcast day. Settings: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8,  ISO100, f/11, 1/3 second, Nisi Circular Polarizing filter.  4 images were taken for focus
  2. Filters! Use a filter to soften and smooth water, but how much smoothing is personal taste! I like to maintain some texture so I aim for 1/3-1 second exposures and can typically achieve that with a Circular Polarizer, and 3 Stop ND combination!
  3. Tripod! Use a solid and sturdy tripod! This is of HUGE importance, and if your tripod isn’t the sturdiest you can help it along by placing a few rocks in a bag and hanging it from the center piece of your tripod! They also make “rock bags” for this purpose!
  4. Mirror Lock-up! Use Mirror lock up mode! This mode allows the mirror to flip up and out of the way on the first press of the shutter. Doing this and allowing the camera to rest for a second will help eliminate some of the motion blur that can be caused by the motion of the mirror slapping up. This can make a huge difference in exposures with longer shutter speeds!
  5. Remote! Use a remote or shutter release cable (the cheap Amazon ones work great!)! You don’t want your camera to move at all throughout the exposure, and in some cases the flowing water will already be a nuisance here so using a remote allows you to be hands off with the camera!
  6. Get low! Getting low and wide helps exaggerate and accentuate the flowing water feeling!
  7. Composition!Find an anchor. Finding a boulder, rock, vibrant leaf or even ripple pattern as your foreground anchor can really help the composition and take a flat documentary photo to a dynamic scene with loads of depth!
  8. Framing!Fill the frame, and frame the scene! Filling the frame is important in landscape photography but the trick is balancing the composition and flow without much “clutter”. Use rocks, foliage or even dodging and burning to frame the scene and direct the eye!
  9. Bracket! Taking multiple frames from dark to light allows you to harness the most dynamic range possible, and sometimes the scene is very dynamic with deep shadows and bright highlights so you can choose what information you need from each exposure!
  10. Work the scene! Move around and look for multiple compositions! A lot of times you may not be as happy with a series of photos at home in the lab as you were in the field so moving around and shooting multiple scenes can sometimes save a trip!

I hope you find these tips useful!

Gear Review · Uncategorized

A Bag Built for Adventure!

Luna and Me butte - CopyF-Stop Bag Review~My bag of choice!

To start of the series of gear reviews I'd like to talk about a brand of camera bags that needs no introduction, that's name has been drug through the mud by thousands of people that had no idea what they were talking about but who's caring employees have stuck by those patient customers while they sorted out their manufacturing issues. F-Stop gear makes camera bags that in my opinion are rivaled by no other, who's bags are designed by photographers for photographers. The Macedonian based bag manufacturer takes to heart the input of photographers from across the globe and applies them to the design.

My dealings with them have always been courteous, kind, and friendly. When I made my first bag order last spring I waited nearly 5 months for my Sexy blue Tilopa but never once did I get upset, despite my incredible impatience. Having worked in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, military electronics and rail car) I am aware of the challenges that can arise at any time. This made me very understanding especially in knowing that I was eventually going to receive a seriously awesome bag.

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All that being said, let's talk about the bags!! I've owned the Ajna, and the Sukha and now currently own the Tilopa and Shinn, both in Blue. Traditionally though I am not too into bright colors, BUT out here in the red desert, sometimes way off grid I wanted something that could potentially save my life or the lives of my clients or loved ones if need be. Its not just about looking cool its about practicality for me.

Luna and Me butte - Copy

My first F-stop bag was a first gen Ajna that I purchased second hand from another photog, it was the tan, and in great shape although on my 6'2.5" 250 lb frame fit like a toddler backpack. Although I took it on a few 5-7 mile overnight backpacking trips and I somehow managed to fit a large pro icu full of gear, a tripod, camping mat, sleeping bag, JetBoil Sapphire, tent, dog mat, dehydrated meals, and water into and onto it. However this bag is not designed or meant to carry 60+lbs of gear, the shoulder straps just aren't thick enough but a fantastic day pack! The ajna was a great bag and it showed me the quality and care that F-Stop puts into their bags, I knew I would always own one!

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Finally months later I received my Tilopa and it was even better than I imagined it would be! It was still a little small for multiple day trips but have done many overnights with it now and with the optional Gatekeepers you can strap all sorts of gear to it, however the Tilopa is a mountain series bag and has very thick and comfortable shoulder straps. It also has TONS of pockets! Weighing in at 40liters and 4.1 lbs it's not an ultralight mountaineering bag, but if you're a strong pack mule like me, you don't whine about it!

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Now I'd like to compare the Sukha and the Shinn, F-Stops two largest bags currently available.

I was gearing up for a 20 mile back country trip through the desert and needed a bag capable of carrying two days worth of enough gear, food, and water for my dog and I. I originally opted for the Sukha but once I received it I quickly realized it wasn't going to cut it. I was packing it full with an XL pro ICU, which consumed most of the internal storage of the bag. A quick chat with the always amazing leadership at F-Stop and the Shinn was on the way! When the Shinn arrived it was obvious that this massive 80 liter bag was going to do the job! I packed it chock full, even organized the ICU to accept my DJI Phantom 3 Pro! But I ended up not packing it in after all.

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Suffice to say though, this bag is awesome, in fact sometimes I use it just for day trips when I don't want to transfer gear back to my Tilopa. I have flown with it as well, even though its an 80L bag but I wouldn't recommend pushing your luck!

SPECS:

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F-stop bags continue to create and produce bags with the photographer, and adventurer in mind, pushing the bounds, and exceeding industry quality standards. The customer service, and management are incredibly friendly and supportive, the company is heading in the right direction and they will always have my support!

 

Uncategorized

The Saga…Part II

img_7805After leaving Mount St. Helens we began our journey back south, and to the coast.

We had seen Bigfoot, a crater, waterfalls, mountains, and drank a LOT of coffee, so we were ready to see the ocean. It’s been a while and the thought of putting our toes in the chilly pacific was sort of an affirmation to us about where life is taking us.

We pit stopped back in Portland with another stop at R.E.I. A quick lunch (Pieology again!) and on our way toward the 101.

To be honest the coastal trip is sort of a blur for some reason but I’ll do my best to recollect it all as it happened.

The drive down from Portland to our first stop was fairly boring but not too long and I was honestly shocked at the state of the upper Oregon coast and the sort of disarray it seemed to be in. It was like they built it all for the Goonies and just left it to rot.

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We stopped in a place called Mo’s seafood near Astoria, OR for our first taste of pacific clam chowder in a bread bowl, not exactly the seafood selection I was used to coming from the east coast but great none the less and very familiar.

After leaving MO’s we strolled the beach and then headed further south towards Yachats, and Thors well which would be the stop for the night. On the way we visited the Devils punchbowl and searched around for critters at low tide!

It was a really awesome place and somewhere I wish I would’ve spent some time with good light!

We also pit stopped by a really cool lighthouse, another place I wish I had the time to wait around and shoot!

Now we were on our way to Yachats a little further south and instead of car camping this night I decided to spring for an ocean front Inn, and I’m so glad we did. The room was awesome, the beach a stones throw from our balcony, tide pools galore and one of the best meals I’ve ever had!!

After dinner the sky looked grey and flat but I decided to take the ten minute drive to Thors well just in case it opened up. On our way it caught fire and we were running behind due to TERRIBLE directions we found online. But I made it just in time for the very last light, not at low tide but a few hours before high tide.

Thors Well, Cape Perpetua, Oregon.

The sky was on fire with soft whispy clouds, the surf was turbulent and waves were crashing and spraying 10 feet over my head but I finally got a frame with the motion in the water I really wanted to convey!

After a few fast, furious and stressful minutes of shooting the light was gone. We headed back to the Inn and I was pretty happy with the luck we had finding it at the last minute and the light we had.

The next morning after our first night in a bed in 5 days, sleeping to the sound of the crashing waves feet away from our balcony we set out further down the coast, and stopped for yet another coffee (coffee #22/46). We took our time stopping here and there but eventually ended up in Brookings, near the famous Wizards hat and Bandon Beach. We scouted the beach for sunset and ended up back at the car finding a quiet place to take a nap since we had hours and hours to kill. After the nap we drove back into town to a few shops, tried some interesting gelatins at a specialty gourmet candy shop and ate lunch at some dive bar. Again another town that time seemed to have forgotten.

Then we headed back to the beach and geared up. Unfortunately low tide and sunset did not coalesce, so I was forced to be further away from the iconic rock than I wished. I made several attempts to get the right streaks and water motion I was looking for. The birds were flying around, landing on the top of the rock adding to the scene. The sky erupted with golden crepuscular rays and textured clouds. Again I was very lucky.

The Wizards Hat, Bandon Beach, Oregon

While shooting the above photo of “Gryffindor” I was kneeling down with my camera fairly low. My knees and tripod feet were sinking in the sand when a rogue wave crashed into me, just missing my camera but filling my waders with cold pacific water. I took it as my time to pack up, and get back to the car and find a cozy place to park and sleep.

Sometimes car camping can be suspenseful, even though you aren’t hurting anyone its still fun to be taboo. Although sometimes paranoia sets in and its tough to sleep worrying about being hassled during the night.

The next stop in this tour was Samuel H. Boardman State Park, a massive stretch of coastline covered in amazing sea stacks, natural bridges and secret beaches. Although by the time we arrived it was grey, wet, and lifeless. We peaked around a little and decided to continue on to the redwoods knowing wed be back  on the way to Portland and hoped to have better weather later on.

Truthfully at this point I was beginning to burn out, mentally, physically, and creatively. Normally my creativity is in directly relation to my ambition, and my ambition was at a low.

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By the time we got to The Jedediah Smith Redwoods the fog we’d hoped for was long gone, and the weather was a mix of grey, and stark sunlight. We hiked around but decided to try elsewhere, the Del Norte Redwoods, where the Rhododendrons were blooming making for a really nice forest scene, although without the fog, it was less interesting and I struggle tremendously with forest scenes. I just do not shoot them enough to see interesting compositions naturally.

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Del Norte Redwoods, California

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After hiking around for several hours, with hundreds of mosquito bites we called it quits.  But I needed to make a decision, did we stay near the redwoods to come back for the possibility of fog in the morning, or did I head back north toward Samuel H. Boardman to hopefully catch better weather and maybe even some morning light and color?? It was a big roll of the dice for me. I decided to head back north, and find a hotel not far from SHB.

On the way back we stopped to check out what would turn out to be the best tide pools we had been to yet. Keep in mind that Lacey is a marine biologist and no star fish were harmed. (One big name female photographer unfriended me over this….).

 

But when we woke up to the sound of rain I knew I made the wrong choice, as per usual with weather. But Lacey convinced me to head out and try anyway, in the pouring rain we made our way to the spot, but along the way I experienced one of the saddest, most heart breaking moments and deepest connections with wildlife I have ever had. If you don’t know me well, perhaps this will help shape your idea of what kind of person I am despite my blunt brashness.

As we drove down the 101, nearing the Natural Bridge pull off we noticed a squirrel dragging itself across the road in the cold, pouring rain. This alone was enough to break my heart, but it was quickly apparent that it was just hit, and paralyzed from the waist down. I stopped the SUV in the middle of the road to prevent it from being struck again. I ran to it, and slowly picked him up, he didn’t fight, instead he curled up, stared at me and slowly took his last breaths as I shielded him from the rain. I sat there on the cold guard rail stroking his head until his eyes closed forever. I found a big fern in the woods near by, surrounded by a thick mat of moss, and cleared a small area to lay him down, to be reabsorbed by the earth. I was heart broken, completely overwhelmed by my passion for nature and animals. I know it may seem silly to you but for me, it hit home.

After this, we stopped back at the hotel, cleaned up, grabbed our gear and decided to head back to Portland where wed spend our last couple of days hitting the gorge again, finding better compositions at a few falls that I previously wasn’t too happy with.

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Latourel Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Back in Portland we had our first Ramen experience at a mega hipster spot but were completely blow away by how good it was.

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We also decided to check out the Portland Japanese Gardens, and they were awesome, the famous tree was seemingly no where to be found, until I bent over to fix my shoe and looked over at the 4′ tall maple.

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The Mighty Tree, Portland Japanese Gardens, Oregon

This trip was really special. 8 Days exploring the west coast, and photographing so many beautiful sights with the love of my life. I feel that the imagery I have created as a result of the trip is some of my most meaningful and most true to myself. Its always an amazing feeling being overwhelmed with inspiration and beauty.

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Oregon, Washington and California Oh My…the Saga Part I

June brought two things, my 30th birthday and my long awaited and overdue trip to the Pacific Northwest.

We flew into Portland from Salt lake after driving from Moab on a Friday morning getting us to PDX around noon. I met up with photog phenom Paul Bowman to pick up my massive box containing dehydrated meals, my drone and other supplies I didn’t want to fly with. He also let me borrow his copy of “Curious Gorge”, a very detailed guide to the Columbia River Gorge. This was crucial in mapping out my hit list.

We made a quick stop at R.E.I. and lunch at Pieology (pretty damn amazing pizza place, imagine chipotle but pizza). Then we stopped at Walmart, where we stocked up on snacks, water and a memory foam pad to lay in the back of the SUV we rented, which was key for comfy car camping, and luckily Walmart return policy is pretty great because I didn’t want to have to ship a 50# package home hah. Then we were off to our first stop, the famous and massive Multnomah Falls, right off the highway. The dogwoods were blooming and the mostly overcast sky allowed me to find a nice composition including the little white flowers, with plenty of tourists standing on the bridge.

Multnomah Falls

After soaking in our first taste of the CRG we headed east to the #1 stop on my list. I recall seeing pictures of this amazing waterfall a decade ago, well before I even thought about photography.

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Elowah Falls is incredible, the massive plunge through columnar Basalt, the moss covered boulders and trees, the ferns and cool water. However I wasn’t quite ‘seeing’ the falls the way I wanted to. I spent a few hours below the falls rock hopping and crawling around looking for just the right shot and I really thought I had it. But when we got to that nights car camping location in Eagle Creek and had a chance to import my cards and review that days images I was saddened by what I had captured. I knew I’d have another shot later in the trip so I wast too upset. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that even being overwhelmed with inspiration it still takes a few hours or days to really connect and translate my visions to photographs.

After leaving Elowah falls it was late evening and we needed to find a place to hunker down. Our next stop was punch bowl falls and eagle creek the next morning. We eventually found an un-reserved drive up camp site in Eagle creek tucked right up to the bathrooms and showers that were OUT OF ORDER! But it was totally fine. Lacey immediately changed into pajamas and readied the rolling bungalow while I put the jet boil on and made some delicious Mountain House Beef stew and imported my cards while being feasted on by Jumanji sized mosquitos.

A few hours into the night my buddy Shayne arrived from Southern Oregon to join us for a couple of days, we had been friends on social media for a while so it was awesome to meet and hang!


Here’s Shayne checking out Spirit Falls!

We woke up bright and early to start the hike into Punchbowl Falls it was a pretty wet morning but nice and overcast. Along this awesome and sometimes sketchy hike is Metlako Falls, a stunning waterfall that I would’ve loved to photograph but the view point, a large outcrop of the gorge wall had collapsed last year, making the iconic view of this fall or even a clear view of it at all impossible.

Eventually we arrived at punchbowl falls, stopping first at the falls below and being confused thinking to ourselves “is this it?!?” We walked a little further to where the gorge narrowed above the white water and realized it was just around the corner. We geared up in our waders (Shayne in his shin high muck boots lol) we waded into the frigid water, revealing an amazing view of this really unique fall, warm light, haze and mist from the plunge, moss covered walls and logs.

Punchbowl Falls, Columbia River Gorge Buy It Here!

I used my Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR, D810 and Nisi 150x150mm polarizer

Just a few minutes after taking the image above, while wading across the rapids using my tripod for support my filter holder and polarizer slipped and fell into the raging water below. At first I didn’t realize what had happened, I was focusing on my feet when I heard a “kerbloosh”, I did a quick visual assessment “tripod-check, camera-check” looked back at my feet then realized “SHIT!” and by then it was too late, the 6″ glass plate was swept away. I was devastated, my second morning of an 8 day trip to shoot waterfalls..with no polarizer…I was immediately sure the trip was now a waste of time.

Shayne and Lacey joined me in searching all around the rapid water, in log jams, Boulder jams, getting completely soaked searching through waist deep water to no avail. It was gone for sure.

The next few hours was stressful, we hiked back out with hardly a word as I fumed in frustration. When we made it back to the cars and to cell reception I called around the camera shops in Portland to see if there was any sliver of hope for finding a filter holder and polarizer for my 14-24. Nisi wouldn’t be able to get a replacement to me in time. As luck would have it one shop had a holder and polarizer…or so I thought. When I arrived an hour and a half later (thanks Portland traffic and shitty drivers) they only had a filter holder, the polarizer they THOUGHT they had was in fact NOT for the 14-24. So I rented the filter holder and was off back to the Gorge.

At least I could use my grad filters that I knew I’d need once we hit the coast a few days later. By now (4 hours later) I had calmed down and decided I wasn’t going to let the lack of my immensely useful tool interfere with my trip.

The next big ticket item on our list was the elusive and almost famous “Mossy Grotto” as its become known. The trail head started on a paved walkway that turned into a series of never ending steep switchbacks. The hike was brutal, and the directions we had were shaky at best and when we came to the “Indian fields” there was no visible trail, so we skirted the tree line at the top of the steep gorge until we found a path. The path was near verticals and supremely sketchy. Thankfully there was plenty of trees to slip, run, slide, and fall into on the way down until you reached the rock slide section. You basically surf down that, until it flattens out. Then you climb through a jungle of poison oak and vines, spin around three times and pat your belly, and you’re magically there! Shayne decided to stay back, regretfully due to his intense fear of poison oak coming to life and swallowing him whole I think.

We were all alone, truthfully my head wasn’t right at the moment so I was really surprised to make the images I did in there.


Jurassic• Buy It Here!

Sodden Land• Buy It Here!

It was a truly amazing place that I hope doesn’t become destroyed.

Our next stop was Spirit falls just across the bridge of the gods in Washington, and not far from Panther Creek. But after the Grotto we were whooped! We found a little “Mexican” joint for dinner and searched for a place to crash. We found a quaint little RV park that was willing to let us car camp for only ten bucks and have access to wifi and showers! It was awesome! So we bedded down and got up at first light to grab breakfast at the nearby Railcar, a stop at the store to grab some vital supplies and then make the short drive up the mountain side to the Spirit Falls trailhead which was confusing to find as the old original trailhead that was on private property was now heavily marked with signage. After walking around for a few minutes to find cell service we found a bar (the only time I’ve been thankful for Lacey’s Verizon coverage) we learned that the private property borders on public land and land owned by a private company that was ok with the foot traffic.

We scrambled down the steep path alone loose volcanic rock and dirt gripping to trees like Tarzan on the way down. We eventually made it to the amazingly beautiful Falls, the water a stunning blue, the moss a vibrant green. It was heaven but we weren’t alone, a lone polite Chinese man was there ahead of us making photos, to be honest I was surprised there weren’t more people.

Lacey hung around in her hammock while we shot away.

After shooting from height above the water through a crotch in an old evergreen we scrambled down to the rocks below.

I was really surprised that when we got down there almost level with the water that we weren’t being blinded with mist and spray from the powerful water. Which was fine as it made making photos a lot easier!



Here’s my with my Nikon D810, 14-24, and Really Right Stuff TVC-24L and BH-40 ballhead.

The result of the above behind the scenes image soon to come!

With a lot of hesitation we decided to start the trek back up that really steep and loose path, and I was so glad that I am still in Ok shape otherwise I would’ve surely died down there LOL!

Panther creek was next on the hit list, and I was really excited for it! It was a short drive, maybe 30 minutes up a narrow windy road with tons of what seemed like avalanche debris all over the road. Eventually we found the pull off where there were several cars already parked. The hike to the upper Falls was surprisingly short and fairly easy until the short scramble down some boulders where others have left rope to help with the descent.

The path winds through a dense evergreen rain forest that opens up to an overlook of the upper Falls and a scurry down a loose path to the base.

I really struggled composing this massive Falls, I stood on logs, and even waited up to my frank and beans in the frigid water.

Again Lacey was all about the siestas😂


Photo Credit: Shayne Strigle

I’ve since seen some really special and unique images of this fall that I don’t think I would’ve ever seen, and I am not overwhelmingly happy with my rendition but I did my best at the time. I really wanted to capture the dark moodiness of this place.


Forgotten Earth• Buy It Here!

After buzzing around the upper fall searching for other compositions and shooting while there were clouds covering the sun for a while we scrambled down to the lower Falls where again I struggled to “see” a striking composition right away. I ended up wading across the freezing water and finding a moss covered log to help me frame the fall and lead the eye. The log behind me in the behind the scenes image below.

I waited and waited and waited for cloud cover to help even out the light and make a nice soft exposure, after ten minutes of being sprayed and keeping my camera covered I caught a break and made a nice image!


Elegance• Buy It Here!

Again I wanted to really get the mood here.

Shayne needed to get back home so we packed up and high tailed it back up the sketchy path.

After getting back into town we stopped for lunch and the biggest iced Mocha Octo-Shot espresso I’ve ever had, I was seeing sounds I swear. Shayne needed to start his drive back south while Lacey and I decided to head north west to Johnston Ridge and Mt. St. Helens ground zero to capture the Milky Way. There was a moon but I knew it would eventually set and leave a window of Galactic Core awesomeness as long as the halo of clouds cooperated. It didn’t.. lol

Mount St. Helens Tree Abstract copy

We arrived just before sunset and I found some really cool old shattered tree stumps and small flowers to include in my composition. The really popular shots of here usually include “IN YO FACE” Indian paintbrush but they had just started to bloom while I was there, and I wanted something unique.


•Rebirth• Buy It Here!

After sunset we had hours to wait for the moon to set and the Milky Way to align with the crater so we went back to the car and grabbed some Z’s. It was sort of eerie being up there without another human being in sight, I didn’t expect that because I see so many images of the place. I set an alarm to get up and shoot the Milky Way and I again used the stumps in my composition, which didn’t really turn out as great as I had hoped. I chose a vertical composition because the Milky Way was mostly vertical and the stumps and mountain, it just seemed to make sense at the time, and why I didn’t lower my tripod to include more sky in the frame I have no idea. I wish I had been thinking clearly.

After shooting this scene we climbed back in the car for more sleep before we’d start the long drive back to Portland and then onto the PCH down the coast for a few days. But that will be for another post, another time.

Writing this made me realize how much ground we covered in 3 and a half days but man was it fun!!

Stay tuned for the Saga part II!!

View the whole gallery here!

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I Finally Joined the World of Blogging!

Lake Blanche Milky Way Horizontal copy
Buy it here!

I Finally decided I was ready to blab to the world about what I do, ha as if anyone would want to ready about that!

If you have been following me for any period of time on social media you’ll know that I flipped my world around last year when I moved myself and my little family across the country from upstate NY, to Moab, Utah. I know, I know, big change right? It been pretty incredible though, aside from the day job that sucks my soul from me like one of those face eating alien larva.

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Aside from that its been quite a journey, I launched a full scale attack on the southwest photography workshop industry and have grown so busy I can hardly handle my day job let alone write this blog! My bosses boss was kind enough to let me cut my hours to 3, 11 hour days so that I can keep my benefits but have more time to focus on growing this little photo biz.

Lately I have been hyper focused on improving my Website search ability, via SEO tagging, setting up a Yelp, Google page, and I am even working on a trip advisor page! Aside from working on getting this blog launched, and physical marketing to the tourist information hot spots, and the 4×4 billboard I drive around! Which is pretty awesome!

Kane Creek Jeep MIlky Way - CopyMoonscape Jeep - Copy

I have a lot of plans in the works, including scouting the Idaho/Wyoming area during an extended weekend leading up to the Solar Eclipse, Death Valley in the spring, Zion, Bryce,  and other parts of New Mexico! The rest of this year is all about continuing to establish myself in this world, leading regular groups, and private workshops into Arches, and Canyonlands National parks, Goblin Valley and Deadhorse Point. I also have a pretty awesome Fall Colorful Color-ado workshop in the first week of October that I am extra excited about after scouting last fall and earlier this year. Stay tuned for more announcements soon! I will also be beefing up my mailing list with more frequent emails.

I also plan on doing more processing tutorials and filming more of my workflow and image assembly, so stay tuned to my YouTube!

Things are growing and happening fast and I have really enjoyed it all even if its stressful and scary at times, but Ive done my homework, Ive paid my dues and I am doing my due diligence! Hoping that the good Karma stays on my side and that good things keep happening! I have done a lot of things in my life, and I have always dedicated all of myself to whatever it was, and this I am sure is what I was meant to do!

Please stay tuned!