What’s the difference between Historic and Run-down?

johnwayneApparently, the answer is a picture of John Wayne hanging on the lobby wall.  When I was looking for a place to stay while visiting Arches National Park, I decided to go for local flavor instead of playing it safe.  The “historic” Apache Motel popped out of the list as something different.  Well, if different means staying in a place that feels like it hasn’t seen much TLC since its heyday in the 1950’s then this one fits the bill!

Though this wasn’t the most miserable hotel I’ve ever seen, I wouldn’t recommend it to friends and family.  The only thing I found somewhat charming were the vintage neon signs (like the one shown above) that are spread around downtown Moab.  If the spirit of “The Duke” still lives here, the only evidence might be that someone seemed to be stomping around in cowboy boots all night in the room above us.

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The road from Arches National Park to Moab

Moab itself is a pleasant little town but I can’t imagine what it must be like during the busy season.  While we were there, the streets were humming with Jeeps, SUVs and Dune Buggies and visitors strolled the sidewalks browsing through gift shops or sat lounging in the many restaurants.

This must be the right time of year to visit the National Parks.  It seems that there are many more people in this area for the off-road desert adventures as opposed to families going to the parks.  I understand the lines to get in the park during the Summer can be miles long.  We barely needed to wait at all.  The only down-side was that it’s the rainy season so weather was a little unpredictable.

At the end of the day though, I would love to come back here and spend much more time visiting those magnificent parks!   (But, I think a different hotel next time.)


Dead Horse Point State Park

After a bit of research, I found an answer to a question that was bugging me.  Why is it that Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park are right next to each other and are not part of the same park?  You can easily see from one park to the other.  The answer?  Dead Horse was established as a Utah State Park in 1959 while Canyonlands was not made a National Park until 5 years later, in 1964.

Dead Horse Point is the centerpiece of the state park.  The point is a plateau standing 2000 feet above a gooseneck turn of the Colorado River.  The name of the park is derived from a legend about cowboys herding wild mustangs onto the point.  There is a narrow pass that leads to the point which the cowboys often used to drive the wild horses through so that they could corral them and take their pick of the best steeds.  The legend holds that on one of these round-ups, for some reason they left the un-chosen horses out on the point where they died of hunger and thirst.

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Hikers admire the view at the Visitor’s Center

The State Park is a very nice place to visit with spectacular views at many overlooks.  We combined the visit here with a drive over to Canyonlands which is only a few minutes away.  There is actually only about 30 miles distance separating Arches, Dead Horse and Canyonlands.  A paradise of canyons, mountains and high-desert nature!

Watch your step

This probably is not news to anyone who is an experienced visitor to our National Parks but, these places are NOT  theme parks!  I was totally amazed to see that except for a few spots at Visitors Centers, there were no railings or other barriers keeping us off the edge of sheer cliffs and other life-threatening situations.  I saw numerous instances of tourists perched on stone walls at a canyon’s edge to take a selfie.  One wrong step and off they would have gone!  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to scare anybody away from these gorgeous parks. I was simply speechless at how the majesty of nature is on display without being “baby-proofed”.

This was day two of our visit to the parks in Utah – Canyonlands National Park.  To give you an impression of how big this park is and how vast the canyons are, all I can do is repeat what I kept saying to my wife.  “If this ain’t the Grand Canyon, that other one must be a REALLY BIG hole!”

Canyonlands is actually divided into two pieces.  The area we visited is called “Island in the Sky” because the central part of this park is a huge plateau surrounded by canyons.  Another section of the park called “The Needles” is to the south and is about a 2 hour drive away.  Again, it’s a big park…

RMNP_May 08 2016_0825The first place we stopped, after the Visitors Center, was Shafer Canyon.  The canyon itself was quite a sight but almost as stupendous is the road that leads down to the bottom.  The winding dirt road snakes through the canyon and is well used by automobiles and bicyclist.  I can imaging riding a bike down that slope is quite an experience but, you would have to be quite the ironman to ride back up!  I didn’t see anyone trying that.

Shafer Overlook_Panorama.psdYou really have to see this place to know what I’m talking about.  The vastness is something that really can’t be described in words.  The image above, is the view from the other side of Shafer Canyon overlook.  Almost too much to take in and this was just our first stop.


Dell of the War Woman

After visiting Black Rock Mountain for sunrise pictures, the group from North Georgia Photography Club went out to find Becky Branch Falls.  This beautiful little waterfall is part of the Warwoman Dell Recreation Area, located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, just east of Clayton, Georgia.Black Rock_May 28 2016_0094

Warwoman Dell is named for a Cherokee woman from this area, who was respected by Indian and settlers and advised to the Cherokee tribal council on war and peace.  From Warwoman Dell, we followed the Bartram Trail in search of Becky Branch Falls.

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William Bartram is known as the first native-born American naturalist/artist.  At the time of the American Revolution, Bartram made a journey throughout the Southeast – from the Carolinas, through Georgia and into Florida and also west through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana as far as the Mississippi River.

Our group made the way up Bartram Trail up a short switch back path which then crosses over Warwoman Road to get to the falls.  After crawling over a four-foot in diameter tree that is fallen over the trail, we arrived at the falls.Black Rock_May 28 2016_0139




The falls cascade down a rocky slope surrounded by native azalea and rhododendron and towering pine trees.  There is a small bridge over the creek that was ideal for getting images of the falls but could only accommodate 4 or 5 photographers at a time.Black Rock_May 28 2016_0115

This was a lovely outing and I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the members of the North Georgia Photography Club.  A wonderful group and excellent hosts – Thanks to all of you!!

Once again, all of these images were taken with my new,
Tamron SP 10-24mm  f/3.5-4.5 Di II.


Blue Ridge exploration

Although there are things about Facebook that I don’t like, the ability to keep in touch with people who share the same interests is a wonderful plus of participating in this social media application.  I saw an event posting from the North Georgia Photography Club for a sunrise shoot at Black Rock Mountain State Park.  Since the club is located in Dahlonega, Georgia which is an hour or more drive for me, I hadn’t joined them previously but I knew some of the members so, I contacted my friend Mike Sussman and got the OK to join them.

Black Rock_May 28 2016_0001-001We met at a church just outside the park entrance and, by special permission, were able to get in the gate before the official opening time.  It certainly was a privilege to be able to drive in and have the whole place to ourselves!

We went in to a nice platform that was set up as a scenic overlook which gave us a wonderful, panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains even if it was a little crowded with photographers and camera equipment.

Outings like this are such a fantastic way to visit a location that you haven’t been to previously.  The park is within an hour of so of most of the club’s members, many of them had been here before and knew their way around.  Since the group was also composed of photographers, there was a wealth of experience on the best place to shoot and what settings work best.

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North Georgia Photography Club members at overlook

The group next moved on to the Visitor’s Center and wandered about that area to get another view of the mountains and enjoy the natural beauty of the park.

From here, we all went out for breakfast at Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen in Clayton, Georgia before going on to the next part of our outing.

I will continue the story in tomorrow’s post.

All of these images were taken with my latest lens acquisition: Tamron’s nice ultra-wide angle beauty, the SP 10-24mm  f/3.5-4.5 Di II.  So far, I’m getting great results with this lens.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it has a minimum focus distance of just under 10 inches which I think will make for some neat close-up wide-angle opportunities!




Rocky Mountain Workshop – before and after

Above: A fly fisherman prepares his bait with the Rockies all around

The focus of the workshop that I went on was Night Skies Photography and as you have seen from my post a couple of days ago, that was amazing.  Of course, Rocky Mountain National Park has so much more to offer and I was able to grab some glimpses of the grandeur of this wonderful place before and after the workshop.

Immediately before the night shoot, we did some sunset shots with beautiful mountain streams leading the viewer to look at the majestic peaks covered with snow.

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After our short rest, we also got a few sunrise scenes like this one of the Aspen trees in the clearing where we did our night shoot.

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When all was said and done, it was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Nikon D7000
Nikkor 18-105mm (fly fisherman)
Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (other 2 images)
Processed with Adobe Lightroom


Rocky Mountain workshop – Part II

After spending most of the night shooting the stars, the group returned to the YMCA of the Rockies for a short nap and then… back to the Park.  The sunrise brought a whole new dimension to the beauty of the mountains.

The site we were at provided two different views of equal value.  On one side the sun was rising and you saw the traditional light on the horizon growing in brightness and color.  On the other, all the reflected light.  Not quite as bright but easily just as stunning.  I am coming to appreciate how David Akoubian takes this into account when scouting a location and how he teaches students to “always look both ways” when shooting a scene.  Great advice in any situation.  Always plan for the image you want to capture but never miss an opportunity!

Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 15-30MM F/2.8 Di VC USD  @ 30mm
f/11    1/2 sec   ISO100
Processed with Adobe Lightroom