Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to leave the country in order to see some amazing places. These three gorgeous places do not disappoint when It comes to scenic beauty.
#5: Mount Shasta
No your eyes aren't lying, this is a real place. Go there. Go Now. Just start walking south from the Oregon border, you'll see it, trust me, its nearly 15,000 feet tall.
#4: Page, Arizona
Arizona may be known as the Grand Canyon State, and for good reason, but did you know that there's a party just as compelling near the AZ-Utah border, just an hour and a half from the big hole thingy.
#3: Devil's Tower, Wyoming
America's first national monument. I just got back from visiting it nested in the Wyoming Black Hills. I'm still not convinced its real.
A few years ago, Jeff Tapp told me about Crazy Horse Memorial, a sanctuary in the Black Hills that was at the top of his list of places to see. The facility is home to the construction of the largest sculpture in the world. The sculpture itself is a tribute to the great Lakota leader Crazy Horse who is one the most widely revered Native American Heroes.
On a whim, this last Sunday, we packed up a few of our things and hopped in the car with one thing on our mind: The Black Hills. We drove over a thousand miles and finally reached the entrance to Crazy Horse Memorial to find that the entirety of the region was under a blanket of thick, unrelenting fog. The luck was not with us.
We didn't have it in our plans to stay another day as we needed to head to Wyoming that night and return back to Illinois via North Dakota the next day. We left the facility without getting a glimpse of the sacred mountain. As we drove slowly through the extremely dense fog toward Wyoming, we decided that we'd come too far to not see the memorial, and agreed to return to the Black Hills again after spending some time at Devil's Tower.
It was one of the best decisions we'd ever made. Not only were we able to see the incredible memorial, but we were also invited to take a ride up the mountain to see the face of Crazy Horse and view the incredible progress that started 68 years ago. The view from the top was not something that cannot conveyed with any number of words or images. The detail of the 87 foot tall head of Crazy Horse is remarkable, and the whole experience of Crazy Horse Memorial is unlike anything else, I can't recommend it enough.
I'll make a separate post about devils tower, but here's a sneak peak.
Our 26th President was truly a badass
Any person who in the second paragraph of their book writes "Once I killed a grizzly in this manner," and "All night I had lain in my buffalo-bag," deserves our utmost respect. (Presumably this buffalo's bag was borrowed, we don't know for sure.)
You might ask yourself: "How did the frail, asthmatic son of a wealthy New Yorker end up with this sort of cowboy lifestyle?"As it turns out, at the young age of 27, Theodore Roosevelt lost both his mother and his wife in a twelve hour period. In the same house! WTF!
This traumatic experience prompted Theo to say " Fuck it, I'm going West and I'm gonna get my ranch on in the Dakota Badlands." (he may have worded this differently.)
If you haven't already guessed which National Park the title is referring to, it's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in the badlands of North Dakota, and it is a diamond in the rough.
When I arrived at the park, on a cool April afternoon the snow was coming down at a decent clip, peppering the roaming bison (pictured in the heading) and foliage alike.
I made a quick pass around the area before heading to the visitors center to pay my fee. When I entered I was pleased to find out it was one of the many free weekends hosted by the National Park Service due to the park services' 100th anniversary.
On one of the walls, a notice had been posted of newborn wild horses that were now present in the park, I peed a little with excitement at the thought of capturing images of tiny horses in a snowy landscape. I booked it out of the visitor center and began my journey to find itty bitty horses.
To Be continued!
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are amazing. Truly mesmerizing. I could spend a year there and not be bored.
However, getting to the big dune takes a LONG time. At least an hour of trudging on unforgiving wavy sand dunes, it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Here are a few logistical tips for photographing them.
Tip #1 - BRING A LOT OF WATER
Remember, your in the fucking desert, it's trying to kill you. Water can help you not be dead.
Tip #2 - DONT GO ALONE
So you can see the big dune from your car right?
"Everything's dandy, I can just head out there alone, I mean I just gotta walk dead straight for a few miles and I'm good."
famous last words
As soon as you get over the first little dune, guess what? You can't see your car anymore! And if you get too caught up shooting like I ALWAYS do, you'll soon be disoriented and then you'll die. And it won't make for a cool obituary. "In a tragic sand dune accident... Jimmy couldn't find his way out." Everyone will just be like "Why didn't he just leave the sand?" They'll never understand.
You can really only see your tiny lil car from the very top of star dune, so if you get lost, I guess go to the big dune and try to get un lost.
go with a group. Hopefully they are a sensible bunch, and you'll be less likely to be munched on by coyotes.
Tip #3 - BRING ALL YOUR FUCKING BATTERIES
I guess this ones not super related to your survival, but it's important.
Don't be that guy/girl whose completely out of batteries because you shot 8000 pictures through the night. When the epic sunrise comes, AND IT WILL you will hate yourself.
(My battery died directly after taking this last shot. It got way more epic but I missed it)
That's it for now, there will definitely be a part 2 coming soon.
Last year in April I made a drive from Portland to San Francisco. I had a early flight scheduled out from San Francisco to Las Vegas to shoot a music video. I drove all night and made it there a several hours before my flight. I used this opportunity to scope out a location for a sunrise shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge.
I had a few criteria when selecting a location to shoot the bridge:
- I wanted a perspective well below the bridge
- It needed to be close enough to the bridge so that even if I shot really wide the bridge would still be prominent in the frame
- Foreground elements (in this case rocks) near the water to show motion
- I wanted to get a few different shots, One before sunrise, where the lights of the bridge were still lit up and hopefully a nice contrast with the blue water. And Also I wanted one later on where the sun had risen a little more and that golden light illuminated the scene
I did a bit of research and found a perfect location, Marshall Beach
As luck would have it, there was an abundance of sea foam present that I focused on for the blue hour shot, as I figured the blue water would contrast nicely with the white foam. I was extremely lucky with the location of the sunrise as you can see it's sun star as it rose through the bridge.
One of the easiest and most impactful ways to instantly improve your landscape photographs is to get the camera low. I mean super low. I'll give you an example:
In this photo of half-dome which I took in late October, my camera was literally an inch away from the water. Why?
- it makes my foreground object (in this case the leafy log) much larger and prominent in the frame
- allows me to establish a relationship between the foreground and background
- the motion in the water creates a powerful leading line to the mountain in the distance.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting Death Valley National Park, and it was unlike any place I'd ever been. I understood immediately why the unbelievably warped terrain was deemed "amargosa chaos" years ago. It's truly an alien landscape.
I was heading to the park from Las Vegas around 8 pm, hoping to photograph the Milky Way. Death Valley has very little light pollution and on a clear night it's one of the darkest places in the United States.
I realized I had forgotten my flashlight and decided to pull into a Home Depot in Pahrump. I asked a gentleman if he could point me in the direction of the flashlights, he decided to show me where the lights were at. As we walked through the aisles we got to talking, and I showed him some of my photographs. As soon as he saw my style, he began telling me different locations around Death Valley to visit, he had an amazing amount of information! There was one place in particular where he thought I'd be able to get my Milky Way shot, at Dante's View.
I purchased my light, said thanks, exchanged information with him, and headed straight for the place he had recommended. After driving up a mountain in unbelievable darkness, I turned off all my lights and after a few moments, I was greeted with the most stunning Milky Way scene I had ever scene.