Tag Archive for ‘photography’

On the way home – final post from this trip!

On the way home – final post from this trip!

We’ll be on the plane home tomorrow evening after our epic trip in western USA. We’re spending our last night in Napa where the weather is in the 30Cs. We have really been through all seasons in our five weeks away! So here are a few final thoughts from our last few stayovers and some pics.

We strolled around downtown Denver along the pedestrian mall towards the State Capitol on a beautiful late spring day. We came across the local police (hundreds) and friends doing a fun run for the Special Olympics, saw a large bear looking at his own reflection and observed the recipe for Denver Omelet which was supposedly invented to add extra ingredients to stale eggs to disguise their taste!


I liked the idea of the drive by voting below!

Denver votes!

On to Monterey on the west coast where the sea fog kept the temperature down so it was on with the puffer jackets again! The famous Cannery Row (made so by John Steinbeck in ‘Of Mice and Men’) is now very touristy but we had a fabulous seafood meal right on the waterfront. Though there are still some derelict cannery works (lower left) I doubt that the sardine fishermen and cannery workers would recognise the Row. Not far from the main tourist area there were many divers and even more seals. The little chap on upper right below was grabbing and crunching what look like mussels in quick succession – must have been hungry!


A scenic 17 mile drive took us along the coast to the Pebble Beach Golf Course where the preparations were proceeding at apace for the upcoming US Open . Two of us wondered whether more volunteers might be required! We viewed the 1st tee and 18th green – will be fun to remember when we are home watching the golf on tv! Hope it warms up a bit for the players.

Pebble Beach Golf Course

Coming in the spring, we have been fortunate to see a lot of plants in flower and I’ve taken pics of them along the way. As you can see they reflect the nature of the areas we’ve been through – from the cacti in the desert, to the alpine plants in the higher elevations.

Thanks for reading!

Into Weather and Utah – Zion National Park and Salt Lake City

Into Weather and Utah – Zion National Park and Salt Lake City

The weather really turned as we continued on and into a big set of storm cells bringing cold, rain, snow, and wind taking us from spring to real winter weather! As we came through a mountain pass in some sleet en route to Zion National Park, we passed several snow ploughs headed the other way – obviously anticipating a heavy dump of snow.

As we entered the park we had some glimpses of the landscape in fine weather….

but when we woke the following morning it was another story…….

Snow on the peaks and mist and rain – really dreich weather as a Scots lady once said to me – meant the plan for the day had to be amended…..

Drove out of town along the swollen Virgin River (which runs through the Zion Canyon) and along to the trading post and mock up village (shades of the old Ettamogah Pub), someone played Davy Crockett (no sound or sight of Fess Parker anywhere!) and then back into town for lunch – resisted the ad to eat Elk even if it has 0 carbs!

The afternoon looked brighter so we walked to the visitors’ centre and caught the shuttle bus along the Canyon – just as it started raining again. However we did get some views of the famous red cliffs, waterfalls and hanging gardens. I took photos from the bus but they really didn’t do it any justice. Two of us got off the bus hoping to do a short walk along the river but we weren’t equipped for the weather had to head back when the rain got heavier. Took a couple of photos, here’s one….

Zion Canyon

The next day was no better weatherwise as we drove to Salt Lake City through fog, rain and sleet – a really tough day’s driving. The day after we arived in Salt Lake City wasn’t much better either but we did get in some walking….

There weren’t many other hardy souls out but we walked downtown to Temple Square – a 10 acre complex owned by the Latter Day Saints Church. Non-members can’t enter the famous Temple (above left and below) but we did go to the visitors’ centre and to the Tabernacle (below lower right) where we were privileged to hear an organ recital. Before the recital the organist tore some paper and dropped pins to demonstrate the wonderful accoustics. The recital was wonderful.

Temple Square

The gardens in the Square complex were quite stunning and there was a team of gardeners mopping up after the fierce weather the day before. It seemed a very peaceful place – like some other cathedral precincts elsewhere in the world.


As it was still raining we thought we’d take a look inside the Family History Library which is just outside the Square. We were slightly reticent to go any further than the display area, but were made to feel really welcome by the volunteer helpers who are LDS people there on missions. In the end we spent several hours there – all joined the Familysearch web site aided by our our individual helpers, some of us found they had famous ancestors or relatives….. quite a fascinating experience! It is a huge facility with records or access to them from all over the world. If you visit Salt Lake City and are interested in family history have this on your destination list.

Family History Library

Outside Temple Square and the other LDS facilities, the downtown seemed much like any other city, including having an obvious homeless problem (interesting sign above regarding panhandling (begging)). For those who were wondering about alcohol in Salt Lake City we had two evening meals in the city, one in a pub (Irish!!) that served alcohol and one in an alcohol free diner style restaurant…we had an excellent meal in the latter and not so good food in the former…but don’t know if there’s a generalisation to be made from this one example!

Next post will be back to the National Parks – Grand Tetons and Yellowstone…here’s hoping the weather lifts a bit!

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Our next stop was on the shores of Lake Powell, a huge expanse of water formed by the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam. Much of it is in Utah – we stayed south of the border near Page in Arizona – below is the view from our window taken in the late evening with shadow on the water and the desert beyond still in sunlight. Quite an incongurous sight, especially with the large marina in view as well. Apparently several million people visit the lake area every year from all over the US and some from further afield too for aquatic activities and hiking.

Lake Powell

A highlight for me of these few days, was our trip to the upper Antelope Canyon – which is a slot or crack canyon. It is east of Page and, as it is on Navajo lands, we were only able to visit by guided tour. It was extremely well organised, nothing allowed except a camera and 14 or so people in tight groups were taken through the 100 metre walk in single file by our navajo guides starting in the narrow opening (below left).

The narrow canyon is formed by water finding cracks on the surface and running down into the sandstone aided by flash flooding during rain periods making the narrow ‘corridor’ deeper and forming the beautiful graceful flowing shapes of the walls. As it is open at the top wind blows sand in and through it too. We went through on a windy day and ended up rather gritty from the sand coming through above us. The guide had his face very sensibly covered!

There has been some spectacular photography in this canyon – a few images have apparently sold for milliions!! We all had fun with our cameras and with the filtered light, graceful curves and the colours of the sandstone it was hard not to get some beautiful shots especially as our guide helped too. Here is a collage of some of mine (except lower right which the guide took for me! ).

Upper Antelope Canyon

We also took a memorable boat ride through the lower Antelope Canyon which has now been flooded by the the Lake. It was a windy, cold and dull day as you can see from below! Here the canyon is wider and there were many (most likely freezing) kayakers there too. Apparently it is wall to wall aquatic craft in the summer. The Lake is quite low now as can be seen from the “hanging” boat ramp which is too far above the lake to be currently used. Cherrie is coming back up the walkway from the marina where we caught the boat – the whole marina and the walk way are “moored” to the ground above highwater mark and rise and lower with the level of the lake. This year’s snow melt is just starting to impact on its level.

Lunch in a locals’ diner where we were probably the only tourists! It was the young chef’s birthday and he was embarrassed when the whole room sang Happy Birthday.

You might recognise the next photo.

Horseshoe Bend

It is Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado downstream from the dam wall. We were way high above it on a viewing area as you can see from the size of the boats on the river in the middle of the photo above. We could just make out campsites and people fishing too. Quite spectacular! It’s an incised meander for the geographic tragics like me.

Above is the walk to the Bend (with only a few others too!!!) and the trio at the overlook. There were the usual game or silly people climbing rocks without guards to get a better view!

Outside the Antelope Slot Canyon – taken by Cherrie
And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

As I’m sure everyone knows the Grand Canyon is simply huge – in its size, its geological and human history and spectacular scenery. Even though we had all visited before, the Grand Canyon is (to use an unfortunately overused descriptor) truly awesome. This year is the 100th anniversary of becoming a National Park and though we were visiting early in the season once again we were surprised by the huge numbers already there.  Kudos to the National Park Service not only for its conservation measures but also for its traffic and people management skills. It would be shambolic without them.

Our first view this time was from a flight above the canyon in a small plane. Not to be boring but the Canyon is about 450 river kms long, up to 29 km wide and 1.6 km deep.


Our plane flew about 1000 feet (300m) above the top of the Canyon and we had a great view of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers running through it and yes the water colour does vary.


Looking really closely we could just make out some of the famous rapids ( above right – the white water about a third of the way down) and a few boats moving down the river. From this height the rapids look quite benign but many are evidently very challenging with huge waves, big drops and big rocks. Brave souls who take that on now in kayaks, zodiacs or similar, imho; but braver still were John Wesley Powell and colleagues who travelled in four small wooden boats along the river and took on the rapids in wooden boats in 1869. Nine set out and six returned.

Took lots of photos out of the window – they are never great in my opinion but give an idea of the scale of the Canyon and the erosion by the river over millions of years as the plateau was uplifted and then wind and water did its bit.

We did a couple of walks along the South Rim – the North Rim (behind the trio below, bottom pic) is a bit higher and is closed in the winter – we could still see snow on it from the plane.

Rim walk flag

The rimwalks are well organised with shuttle buses dropping walkers at sites along their routes and the many information markers that can be read along the walks. The flag at the Visitor Centre was half mast for peace and police officers memorial day.

Deer view

Not only are the geological shapes spectacular but the colours are amazing as well – generally there is a reddish colour but there are lots of shades of brown and grey as well. In the top left pic a path can be seen snaking its way down into the canyon floor and there is a close up below. It apparently takes 4-6 hours to walk down and 9-11 to walk back up – or – if you book far enough in adavnce – you can ride a mule down and back.  There is accom on the canyon floor. Or for the truly fit, there is also a rim2rim2rim ultra running course which is around 45 miles (72km) which you could also do! I believe the record is about 6 hours!!


There are always a few jokers who go out over the fenced view points to look over the edge or more likely to take a selfie or photograph someone else……


We had our own private venue for happy hour – just outside our rooms – even if a bit chilly by the evening!

End of the day

Next post will be also along the Colorado – from Lake Powell.

To Sedona Az, via Las Vegas

To Sedona Az, via Las Vegas

What can I say about Las Vegas except that is kind of gruesomely fascinating in its glitziness and the fact it is a huge city dedicated to entertainment in the middle of the desert. We stayed at the hotel in the set below (no guffaws please!) which was extremely comfortable, we were high up and had a great view over this oasis in the desert.

Las Vegas

Took a walk along ‘the strip’ and wondered about what all the people who must be staying in all the seemingly hundreds of high-rise hotels were doing, as the strip was crowded but not heaving. Some obviously walking like us, a few stopping the show girls who would pose for $s, some on the gondolas or similar, some in the many entertainment venues and from our quick look lots and lots in the gambling facilities even in the middle of the day!

Onward to Sedona we travelled along a new highway, had a scenic view of the Hoover Dam and a conversation about a whizz bang three wheeler vehicle, our route crisscrossing parts of the old iconic Route 66. Stopping for coffee (in the golden arches again!) and supplies in a supermarket in Kingman we spotted a man with a gun in his holster in the car park. Decided against taking photos of that!

to sedona 2

Continuing on through rain and snow (some debate in the car as to whether it was fine hail or snow – the backseat meteorologists decided it was snow!) we turned south at Flagstaff down the Oak Tree Canyon (Route 89A) to Sedona. We ended up dropping 4500 feet (1500m) over about 30 miles (50km) through steep red coloured canyon walls and contrastingly coloured green oaks and pines. A fantastic drive which lived up to expectations of being one of the most scenic drives in the USA. We crossed the big iron bridge into Sedona and into more fabulous scenery.

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The town is surrounded by red rock buttes and mesas (more geography!) steep canyons and pine forests where the trees are more scattered than dense. Taking a walk along the road we read on a series of signs about the numerous western movies that have been shot in the area, we could almost imagine John Wayne galloping out from behind a mesa! Views everywhere – even sitting outside a coffee shop or from the servo getting fuel. One of the local wildlife rescuers had a hands-on display of rescued snakes – couldn’t go near them myself but liked the expression of the girl who was game enough to handle one – and there’s Cherrie in the background taking her own photo too.

Sedona 2

The red of the rock formations comes from the weathering of iron oxide – ie rusting really – and makes for stunning colours by day and at sunset too. We jostled for a place among a crowd to see a sunset from a viewing point on a hill. Sedona is also an area known for the presence of a number of vortices (or vortexes, I think similar to ley lines elsewhere) which are thought to produce energy and promote self-healing through meditation or ritual. Quite a number of shops display information about them. There’s a big community of artists whose work is displayed in quite a number of galleries in town too. We kept reading about the wildlife we might see – did see some birds including this little hummingbird feeding at a ranger station and Cherrie saw some tarantula legs protruding from under a rock!


The closest we came to seeing these little animals was when they were spotted by the two rotarians. Despite appearances they are not pigs but are called javelinas and are related to deer, antelope and hippos!

To Death Valley!

To Death Valley!

We headed off from Yosemite, descending from the cooler heights of the Park area to the more moderate temperatures of the Central Valley, overnighting at Bakersfield (associated with lots of things but for music aficionados the late Merle Haggard and Buck Owens – sadly (?) no available concerts by local performers for those in our group interested in the genre!) and then on to Death Valley.

Our route along Highway 99 to Bakersfield took us through miles and miles of nut and fruit trees, grapevines and other produce too. Very intensive farming, all irrigated via the mighty Central Valley Project which brings water hundreds of miles from Northern California. No photos to show – a new zoom lens I bought for the trip failed (or is DOA as an expert in a camera shop in Fresno told me) and so for the rest of the trip I’m relying on a little prime lens. We left Bakersfield turning east to Mojave and then northwards for Death Valley. For the geographically minded there is a shorter route to Death Valley across the mountains from Yosemite but it is still closed from the winter.

En route

Couldn’t resist a shot of this shiny new truck, the driver was delivering health drinks to the service centre as we were getting gas (petrol) (around $US4 per gallon). As we drove eastward it became (unsurprisingly) drier and more desert like as we entered the Mojave Desert. We passed thousands of wind generators and huge solar farms en route as well as an interesting clothes shop near Mojave (note the models!) and a field of stored non operational aircraft near there too, obviously the dry air is good for storage. Those who know us might be surprised at the destination of choice for morning coffee – yes – you’ve guessed – it’s the golden arches! Some confusion as to the order – straight lattes or cappuccinos served hot without any additives except milk but we’re becoming more adept at ordering.

As we continued on to Death Valley we passed through a huge mineral area where various salts, borax and other mineral products are produced from the huge dry salt lake, all transported out of the desert by train – surprising to see seemingly uninhabited desert we’d been driving through. We were also very surprised to find a sign to Ballarat. Just the place to eat our picnic lunch while gazing into the distance trying to find Ballarat!


It’s now a ghost town which can just be seen behind Cherrie’s head as she takes a photo of the Ballarat Road sign. Named after Ballarat in Victoria, I would guess because miners moved to and from both places looking to find their fortune in gold, it once boasted seven saloons and three hotels and a morgue but no churches! Truly the wild west!

Death Valley sign.jpg

The temperature as measured by the car climbed as we proceeded north, by the time we got to Burnt Wagons inside the Park, it was 106F (41C). Burnt Wagons was where gold seekers who were seeking a short cut to central California in 1849 burnt their wagons (nothing else to burn there) and dried the meat of some oxen in order to survive to struggle on westward. Don’t know how many did survive. Not far away there are some sand dunes which as you can see it is not advised to walk after 10am due to the heat, nonetheless there were car and bus loads of people all heading out into them.

Heat 1.jpg

Furnace Creek  lived up to its name – very hot! It’s below sea level and spectacular in the starkness of the huge salt pan surrounded by towering mountains some still crowned with snow. Nonetheless we woke on our second day to see a rainshower over Furnace Creek (top pic below).

Death Valley salt flats.jpg

We visited Badwater Basin where there is a small basin of salty water and a huge salt pan which is 282 feet (86m) below sea level but from which you can also see Mt Whitney the highest point in mainland USA (not including Alaska). You can just see the snow cap in the lower right pic. The little white dot above Richard is a label of where sea level is and Wayne and Cherrie are gazing at it leaning on a sign warning people about heat and dehydration, which did not seem to make a big impression on walkers.

Zabriskie Point

Hardly any vegetation anywhere but the landscape is beautiful in its topography, starkness and the colours of the rocks. Particularly spectacular is the landscape around Zabriskie Point – as we and about 400 others saw as we climbed to the viewing point! I think I did well to keep the pics peopleless!


Waiting for the wives taking photos! Such patience!



Onward and upward to Yosemite and on with the cold weather gear. We stayed at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite which is in fact outside the Park near the exquisitely named hamlet of Fish Camp. Set among tall trees, where even a communications tower was camouflaged to look like a tree, it was a great place to step off to Yosemite.

Tunnel View

Despite the cold, it proved to be a really good time to visit the park. The snow melt was well underway and all the waterfalls were running furiously. The view over the valley at Tunnel View was spectacular against the vivid blue of the sky, opening up the vista of a huge glaciated valley with spectacular cliffs and huge rocks carried there in bygone ice ages and waterfalls descending from hanging valleys standing out against the grey of the rocks and the green of the trees. (Guess who was a geography teacher in a past life!) The Merced River runs down the middle of the valley.


The photos don’t do justice to the majesty and size of the valley. While the valley was crowded with people the day we visited – or seemingly so to us, though apparently nothing compared to the summer – people are really dwarfed by nature, both physically and in its timeliness. Spot Cherrie in left hand pic below against the size of the trees and the valley sides. Bridal Veil Falls (which is the one that can be seen in the Tunnel View photo at the top) is so fierce that it produces its own wind and temperature microclimate, with ‘mist’ and then ‘rain’ as you approach it. Thundering noise too.

Bridal Veil

The famous El Capitan had many climbers inching their way upwards the day we visited. Hard to spot with the naked eye and not visible on my photo, we took turns to look at some through a telescope. It was astonishing just how many were climbing. Some take days to do it – I can’t imagine being suspended up there at night.

El Capitan

I can’t really begin to describe the vegetation. The huge sequoias are just that – huge! Many other pines and firs are there too – lovely piney aroma all around from them. Many of the ponderosa pines are suffering a disease that causes them to die – bits fall off and then the tree may fall over. Apparently a big problem at the moment. Also parts of the park were extensively damaged by wildfire last year. Devastating to look at, and a huge problem where there are dwellings etc but fires have always been part of the landscape and needed for regeneration – so as we have in Australia there are planned burns in the off season to reduce the undergrowth now. The dogwoods were out and their splashes of cream decorated parts of the valley.

dogwood 2

The native Americans had stories about the valley’s creation and it’s been a national park since 1890 in the modern era. These pics are of a pioneer centre where buildings from various parts of the park have been gathered together. I found the covered bridge interesting – I’d always though the cover was for people crossing it but apparently its there to help stop the bridge deteriorating in the weather.

Pioneer Centre

It was chilly as you can see – but for the next stop we will need to de-layer! Death Valley – here we come!

36° north – Japan -a week in January

36° north – Japan -a week in January

Here is an overdue post from our week in Japan at the beginning of January. Coming from 36° south, it was much colder than our heatwave conditions downunder though not freezing and there was no snow.  It was great having a small boy (and his dad) with us and doing and seeing things from his perspective.

A few days in the Shimoda area (south of Tokyo) started our trip. This was the port where the Black Ships from the US first came and the replica which sails from the port was a wonderful pirate ship experience for our small boy. We adults enjoyed the spectacular scenery of the Izu peninsula and small boy found kite flying on the beach was great fun!


The Sagaswakan Ryokan in Izu was a fantastic experience for us all. Tranquil Japanese gardens surround the ryokan which is set beside a river  and provide the entry to a traditional inn where we all changed into the yukata (like the boys below), slept on tatami mats and bathed in onsen (hot baths).


We had a private onsen connected to our room (outside) which I thought wonderful. Small boy and dad also tried several of the larger ones spread through the inn.

Early morning light coming through the garden and over our onsen provided some lovely light in the traditional bathroom and atmospheric shadows on the wall outside.


Onwards and back to Tokyo the snow covered peak of Fuji seemed to accompany us and captivated small boy who was sitting in the back seat of the car with me.


In bustling Tokyo we did the usual sightseeing, watching master cooks at work, eating and shopping. Small boy enjoyed the many playgrounds and relaxed by watching movies on his iPad!


A last set of photos are from the Nezu Museum in Tokyo. The museum has a spectacular new entry way and building, the angles of the construction and the timber and glass  seem to bring the outside right in which is a major advantage given the extensive traditional gardens which surround the museum. Small boy found the gardens a wonderful place to explore after a fairly quick trot through the featured porcelain exhibition!


A wonderful week in great company!










Around the Mediterranean – final leg

Around the Mediterranean – final leg

The final leg of our Mediterranean odyssey took us around the southern Greek coastline,  up through the Ionian Sea and along the Croatian coastline of the Adriatic Sea to Slovenia and finally to Venice in Italy.

Here a four sets of images to complete the voyage.

From the port of Itea in Greece, we travelled through the olive groves to one of most visited archeological sites in Greece if not the world – Delphi – home of the Oracle of Apollo. Quite a number of school groups doing their end of northern hemisphere school year excursions were visiting, the students showing various degrees of interest in their surroundings, but fortunately for us we were there early in the season and the crowds not too bad.


The setting is spectacular, on the side of a mountain with fantastic views out over the valley below. No wonder it became a place with such special significance. The Oracle remained silent while we there though it is possible that instead of channelling its voice through a priestess it now channels digitally as per the lower left photo above!

Onward up the coast to the beautiful old city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.  The first day we were there was lovely – great weather and not too many tourists (like us!!) – and we had a wonderful walk around the walls of the old town taking in the deep blue of the water and the  warm hues of the buildings, especially the roof tiles.  We ended the day with a delicious seafood meal in one of the many restaurants in the narrow alleys of the old town. The next day was wet and the old town so crowded we were glad we had been able to see it the day before.


Two photos from Koper in Slovenia which I think  represent the new modern chic of the country that is now a democracy and member of the European Union, and its recent past as part of eastern bloc Yugoslavia with its emphasis on industry as the drain cover with its somewhat severe representation of work indicates.

Love the outdoor dancing lessons!!


Finally ……to Venice …… Beginning with a wonderful early morning sail into the city through the Grand Canal with views like the one below of St Mark’s Square.


As always the waterways of Venice were crowded with water vehicles, the iconic sleek gondolas but also the ambulance, firefighting, furniture delivering and garbage craft among others. Time obviously hanging heavily on their hands the two gondoliers above looked like they were consulting their oracles!!!

As you can see from the umbrellas, the weather turned wet and cool, so as at the start of the cruise the coats were out again!


Following the finish of our cruise  we have had a week in a very soggy Normandy and are now enjoying warm sunny weather in the UK (yes really!!!). Hopefully I will manage a few images for these to be posted sooner rather than later!!







November 2015 @ 36°South

November 2015 @ 36°South

This is an overdue entry for a wonderful week’s workshop of seascape photography run in November by Len Metcalf using Narooma as a base.

We were up early every morning for sunrise and out quite late each evening for sunset at different beaches around Narooma – no mean feat at that time of the year with day light saving – but worth it I think!

South Coast Seascapes005

Sunrise, Smugglers Cove, Narooma

It was interesting to see how the photography of the group members evolved over the week and the ways in which different people viewed the same locale as reflected in their photos. Mine tended to the minimalist – a genre which I have decided I like and might pursue.

South Coast Seascapes011

Late evening, Mystery Bay

I like the simplicity of the images with their pastel colours, horizontal lines and suggestion of what lies beyond. I found Len’s instruction, particularly in composition and techniques such as long exposures, and the class critiquing sessions, really motivating.

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Late evening #2, Mystery Bay

We all tried a variety of genres, including HDR, assisted by Len’s offsider Brian Bird. Here’s one of my HDR attempts:

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Camel Rock sunrise

Some more images from the week:

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Mystery Bay by moon

Dalmeny sunrise

Camel Rock sunrise

and finally

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Mystery Bay at dusk