Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Park Rangers

We owe a lot to park rangers. Every time we visit a park, we stop at the visitors center to ask for suggestions from the people who might know the park best. Most rangers offer a bit of helpful advice and some go a bit further to make suggestions and point us towards locations that we didn't know about. Occasionally we find a ranger who knows the park like the back of their hand - one who wants to share what s/he knows and has a wealth of knowledge that is truly impressive. We've been blown away by the fantastic rangers at some of the visitor centers. So - we depend upon the rangers to offer advice that you just can't find in the literature the parks offer. Thank goodness for park rangers.

Of course, sometimes you get a ranger who hasn't hiked the trails and really doesn't know how to find answers to your questions. Most of the time, they'll find someone who does know the answer, or they'll find a book or even make a call. Unfortunately, we were unlucky the other day. We asked for directions to Devil's Cave, and the ranger gave us a hand-drawn and photo copied trail map - nothing out of the ordinary, there. Those maps are often much better than the ones printed in the bulletins and passed out to visitors. She told us to follow the marked trail to the edge of the map... then, we were to follow the railroad marked on the map until we reached a side trail - she drew a dotted line to show us it's location. The smaller trail would branch off and lead us to the cave, which she marked with an X. I noticed that the trail marked on the map was 2.3 miles, one way, aand that the line she'd added looked as though it added a few miles to the total distance - so I asked her how much further we'd need to hike in order to reach the cave. She told us that the cave was 2.3 miles from the trail head. All right - so I thought maybe her drawing wasn't to scale. No problem. We also noticed that the "old railroad" she mentioned was marked as a road on the map. We asked about that too. She told us it was a railroad - not a road. So we drove over and parked at the trail head. We hiked 2.3 miles along the trail and found the bridge that was marked on the map. Her drawing showed that we should pass the bridge (not cross it) and continue along the railroad. Well... the railroad wasn't a railroad at all. It was a road. Suddenly, we weren't so confident about her directions. We hiked another mile along the road before turning back. No side trail, so cave. Nothing. We wanted to explore as many locations as possible, so hiking along a road (which we could just as easily drive to make the most of our time) seemed pointless. We returned to the visitor center.

The ranger asked if we'd found the cave, and when I told her we hadn't she asked if we'd crossed to the other side of the bridge. But the map she gave us was so clearly marked - showing that we should NOT have crossed the bridge. So... needless to say, we didn't ask the ranger for any more advice. Instead, we returned to our hotel in the evening and did a quick google search for the GPS coordinates of the cave. Devil's cave is located just about 100 yards from an entirely different trail head. Right. Ah well - we had a good laugh. Thank goodness for good park rangers - and nevermind the rest. I'm just glad someone is taking care of the parks. Besides, all that hiking was excellent exercise. :)

Our trip to Tennessee was great - despite the wild goose chase. :) We found some beautiful arches and waterfalls - and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine. The weather was gorgeous! A nice change from this freezing stuff we've returned to! Cleveland is freezing cold - and we cleared five inches of snow from our driveway when we got home. High winds are making it feel even colder. Ah well - Florida in January. I'm ready!

Happy New Year to all of you. Thanks once again for stopping in to read my blog!

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Monday, December 29, 2008


Our photo shoot was canceled yesterday, so we threw a few things into the car and drove south to Tennessee. The drive took most of the day. Today, we'll check out three parks we've been wanting to visit - Pickett State Park, Frozen Head State Park, and Falls Creek Falls State Park. We don't expect to get many good shots, since the skies are likely to be clear and the season is not ideal - but we'll do some exploring so we know where to go when the conditions are just right.

It's great to be back out. Unplanned trips are always fun - and tonight we'll have dinner with my little brother, who lives here in the great state of Tennessee.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Photoburst Image of the Day

Promise has been chosen as photo of the day at PhotoBurst. This is a photo from our summer trip to Yellowstone. Take a look at the photoburst website if you can - it's worth your time. You'll find hundreds of fantastic images from a wide variety of photographers.

We are appreciating a bit of sunshine after weeks of heavily overcast skies - thank goodness! We visited relatives before Christmas, and the return trip was horrific. Black ice coated the roads outside of Cleveland, and we managed to travel about 4 miles in two hours. The trip took six hours - nearly three hours longer than usual- and we made it home around 1am. Luckily, I've had lots of practice driving in bad weather.

It's time to prepare for a photoshoot this weekend, and I hope to get some more processing done now that the holidays are behind us. I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Computer vs. Wilderness

I love to spend as much time as possible in the wilderness, but I can't do anything with the photos I take without the help of my computer... which will only run for about 6 hours without being charged. Of course, I can't process images until I'm back at home with my good monitor. So, when I'm not traveling, I try to process as many images as possible - in an attempt to keep up with my ever-growing collection of images. I don't think I'll ever really catch up - but I can't complain. :) This shot was taken along the road on our last trip to Utah. We were somewhere Southwest of Salt Lake city - in the middle of nowhere. Exactly where I love to be.

The processing was difficult, since I was dealing with such a broad range of light. The prickly sage brush added another challenge. It's branches cut into the sky, which needed to be processed separately in order to retain detail in the highlights. I had to make sure I didn't leave a distracting "halo" around the edges of the plant, and I wanted to make sure the sky looked as natural as possible. We were lucky to get such gorgeous skies on the last day of our visit. These clouds continued to move in, and by nightfall, the skies were heavily overcast and it began to rain.
And then there is illustrator. As I said the other day, I'm working on learning the ins and outs of a program that I've used sporadically over the years. The image below is the result of a few hours of experimentation. I'm afraid it's not much - but it's a start. :) I had fun with it.

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Friday, December 12, 2008


Today, I'm working through a series of Adobe Illustrator tutorials. I have some experience with vectors, but not enough to call myself proficient. I am going back to the drawing boards (so to speak) and taking some time to learn some tricks. I'll be creating some images for my stock portfolio. I've been using PhotoShop for 15 years, so Illustrator shouldn't be too difficult. ;) I hope.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Workouts and Work

We had a couple of good workouts this week - a 60 minute run on Monday, and 30 minutes on the bike plus an upper body workout on Wednesday. We hope to get another run in tomorrow - and if we can pull that off, we'll have met our goals for the week. It's always difficult to find time to work out, but we try to stay in shape for our trips. You have to be ready for that 1.5 mile dash between car and location at 9,000 feet, you know - because you left your only charged battery in the car, and the sun is setting. :) The last time we were in Colorado, I did just that - I made the run and got the battery, but missed the sunset. I'm telling you - running at 9,000 feet is a whole lot different from running at 1000 feet here at home.

I spent a good part of the week processing stock photos and submitting them. I need to update my website and work on a couple of articles. I hope to get those done before we leave for Florida in January. We'll be heading for Dry Tortugas National Park. I haven't been to this park before, but we've been to Florida a few times. I'm looking forward to warmth and sunshine. This shot - titled "Reclaimed" - is from our last trip to Bahia Honda. The odd shape in the water is an old rope that has provided a home for all kinds of flora and fauna.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Peek a Boo

This is a shot from Peek a Boo canyon taken during our last trip to Utah. I found myself testing the limits of my tripod in this slot canyon. I wish Jay had taken a photo of me shooting this canyon, just so you could see what I was working with. In this case, I shortened the legs of the tripod as much as possible, and then pulled them outward until I could rest the legs against the walls of the canyon. In some cases, I also had to balance precariously in order to set up a shot or wedge my head in behind the camera. The slot canyons are a challenge to shoot - but that makes that all that much more appealing to me. :)
For this shot, I tried to show some of the depth of the canyon. The fantastically patterned walls surprise you at every turn - there's always something new around the bend.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Financial Crisis

We had a few days off this weekend, so we decided to spend some time shooting another stock series. I'll be submitting images to agencies this week, now that I've finished processing the images. Our studio setup provides a perfect black or white background - depending upon our needs.

Shooting smoke is very easy. The smoke is lit from behind with a single flash unit - and it stands out beautifully against a black background. We lit tiny sticks of incense inside our little log cabin to create enough smoke to make it look as if the house is burning.And for those who have some equity in their homes...

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