Rugged headlands near Spillars Cove, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland #79693

Photographing Bonavista Peninsula Newfoundland

Photographing Bonavista Peninsula Newfoundland

Sunset from the rugged coast of Cape Bonavista Newfoundland #79571Cape Bonavista Newfoundland #79571  Purchase

This post is the second of several detailing and giving tips for photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada’s Atlantic province of Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the most beautiful rugged coastlines in all of North America. And the Central Region of Newfoundland arguably has some of the scenic coastal areas in the province. A visitor can spend weeks exploring the area’s countless coves, peninsulas, inlets, and villages. All of these features are perfect for capturing another famous attraction, icebergs. Riding the Labrador Current down Iceberg Alley many of these icebergs and packs of sea ice end up trapped in the maze of inlets. From May through June icebergs of all sizes and shapes can often be seen moving along the coast or grounded in coves.

For Photographers traveling to Newfoundland for the first time, Bonavista Peninsula, Twillingate Islands, and Fogo Island are great places to photograph icebergs. But there is also much more to photograph. Colorful fishing villages, puffin colonies, historic sites, and spectacular coastal trails, to name a few.

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse on the Bonavista Peninsula Newfoundland and Labrador Canada #79620Cape Bonavista Lighthouse Newfoundland #79620  Purchase

Photographing Bonavista Peninsula: Cape Bonavista 

On my recent photo tour of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Bonavista Peninsula was one of my first main stops. At the head of the peninsula, Cape Bonavista has several great spots for photography.  Firstly, there is the squat red and white striped Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. This very photogenic lighthouse sits above the edge of the cape, with the best angles just below its western side. Many photographers also include an old red shack and a wooden fence in disrepair. If there is no wind present good photos can be made of the lighthouse during blue hour light.

Adjacent to it is a monument to John Cabot’s historic first landing on North America in 1497. Although he landed in Newfoundland in 1497, the exact location is still undetermined and disputed.

Double sea cave at Dungeon Provincial Park. Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador Canada #79637Dungeon Provincial Park Newfoundland #79637  Purchase

South of the lighthouse on the unpaved Dungeon/Lance Cove Road are numerous excellent places to pull over and just gaze in wonder at the scenery. This road follows a rugged coastline with endless sea stacks and mini coves. One of the highlights here is Dungeon Provincial Park with its angry-looking double sea cave. This is also a UNESCO Discovery Global Geopark site.

Photographing Bonavista Peninsula: The Klondike Trail

A few miles further south is Spillars Cove and the Klondike Trail. The Klondike Trail traverses some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Newfoundland. It traverses the edge of cliffs with incredible views high above the Atlantic. The terrain is a mixture of rocks, heather, mosses, and grass reminiscent of Scotland, or the Arctic.

Cable John Cove, a Discovery UNESCO Global Geopark, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland #79648Cable John Cove Newfoundland #79648 Purchase

At its east end the trail winds around Cable John Cove. For photographers, this cove is where some of the best compositions are, including The Chimney, an eye-popping tall and slender sea stack, which is also a UNESCO Discovery Global Geopark site. A small colony of Atlantic Puffins also nests on a seas tack in this cove.

Photographing Bonavista Peninsula: Elliston and Puffins

A few miles further south on the main road is the picturesque town of Elliston. Also known as “The Root Cellar Capitol of the World” with 133 documented root cellars. A few of them, like the ones near the puffin viewing site, are worth photographing. The town also has a memorial to the 251 sealers who lost their lives in the Sealing Disaster of 1914. In addition, there is the John C. Crosbie Sealers Interpretation Center. It exists to help bring to life the lives and hardships of sealers in a bygone era. Unfortunately, it was still closed for the season during my visit.

Puffin colony at the Elliston Puffin Site Newfoundland #79588Puffin Colony Elliston Newfoundland #79588

But the real attraction here is the puffin viewing site. The site offers the closest accessible views of a colony of nesting puffins in all of North America. Atlantic Puffins are also the official bird of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A short trail leads to a wonderful cliff-edge view of these squat comical seabirds.

Although on my trip in May, I didn’t see any icebergs in the Bonavista area this is a good location to photograph them. May, June, and early are the prime months to see them throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Check out Iceberg Finder to keep track of current sightings.

Cable John Cove, a Discovery UNESCO Global Geopark, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland #79713Cable John Cove Newfoundland #79713 Purchase

Essential Tips:

  • cape Bonavista is a great area to photograph long-exposure seascapes. Bring a Big and or Little Stopper Neutral Density Filter, or their equivalent.
  • For photographing Puffins, you’ll need at least a 200mm lens. For isolating individual birds a 400mm lens would be the minimum. The photo appearing in this post is heavily cropped from a photo using a 200mm lens.
  • Cape Bonavista is a good location for both morning/sunrise light and evening/sunset light.
  • Iceberg and whale viewing tours are available in the town of Bonavista.
  • Like most of coastal Newfoundland, the Bonavista Peninsula can be very windy. Dress appropriately and be extremely cautious near cliffs.
  • There is ample free primitive camping at John Cabot Municipal Park adjacent to the lighthouse and along the Dungeon/Lance Cove Road.
  • The town of Bonavista has plenty of lodging and all standard amenities.

Rugged headlands near Spillars Cove, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland #79693Cape Bonavista Peninsula #79693  Purchase

Tips for Traveling in Newfoundland

Seasonal Closures: After the weather, seasonal closures were my next introduction to Newfoundland. The official summer/tourist season doesn’t begin here until June 1.

Nearly every provincial park, historic site, visitor’s center, campground, restroom, gift shop, etc., is shut tight until then. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are far and few between. On the other hand, all of this pretty much guarantees that you’ll escape the summer crowds and have most places all to yourself!

Lodging: Since I nearly always car camp on my photo tours, I can’t say much about lodging. However, there are only a few large towns/cities in the province, so you’ll most likely be looking for lodging in very small towns with limited accommodations. Book very early!

Camping: I didn’t find many campgrounds anywhere, aside from provincial and national parks, which were closed. However, free camping is available just about anywhere that isn’t private property. This mainly consists of gravel roads on Crown Land and trailheads.

Rest Areas: There are none! I have to include this since it was such a shock to me. Even driving from St. John’s on the Trans-Canada Highway to the other end of the province there was not one rest area or port-a-potty. Secondary and backroads? Forget about it! Keep that in mind when starting out in the morning after drinking a big mug of coffee, or that breakfast burrito!

Cable John Cove, a Discovery UNESCO Global Geopark, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland #79695Cable John Cove Bonavista Peninsula #79695  Purchase

To see more images check out these galleries:
Newfoundland and Labrador 1
Newfoundland and Labrador 2

Check out our new Newfoundland Sea, Sky Land, Ice Fine Art Folio

Also, Check out the first post in this series:
Photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador/Cape Spear

Coming up next: Photographing, Twillingate, and Fogo Island 

All photos appearing in Photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador/ Cape Spear are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Photographing in Newfoundland

One of two lighthouses at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79487

Photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador/ Cape Spear

Photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador/Cape Spear

One of two lighthouses at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79487 Cape Spear Newfoundland #79487  Purchase

This post is the first of several detailing and giving tips for photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada’s Atlantic Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a destination that will thrill any photographer. It has many characteristics of more popular North Atlantic destinations, such as Scotland and Iceland, including miles of beautiful rugged coastline, colonies of seabirds, and quaint towns with a rich cultural history. It also has very friendly locals with delightfully unique accents. But unfortunately Newfoundland doesn’t have active volcanoes or haggis.

Newfoundland and Labrador also have one other big attraction that the aforementioned destinations don’t: Icebergs. Throughout the year, the Labrador Current reliably transports icebergs from Greenland and the Arctic down Iceberg Alley, to the coast of Newfoundland. The ever-changing shapes and sizes of the bergs provide an additional element of drama to photo compositions. And considering the exorbitant cost of travel to the high Arctic or Antarctica, photographing icebergs in Newfoundland is a hard-to-pass-up bargain!

Iceberg and Pack Ice near Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador Canada #79746Iceberg and Pack Ice Newfoundland  #79746 Purchase

This spring, I was able to plan my first extended trip to Newfoundland and Labrador. I began by compiling a list of subject matter I wanted to photograph. Topping the list were icebergs, rugged coastlines, seabird colonies, lighthouses, and finally, fishing villages. After countless hours of poring over maps, tourism websites, and extensive Google searches, I came up with a rough itinerary. As always, I built in lots of flexibility to work around bad weather and other unforeseen circumstances.

I had 24 days allotted for photographing in Newfoundland, and the plan was to fly to St. John’s and then drive to my main destinations of Bonavista Peninsula, Twillingate, and Fogo Island. If time allows, I would take a ferry to Labrador, then return to photograph L’anse Aux Meadows and surrounding areas. Lastly came several locations on the Avalon Peninsula south of St. John’s. In the end, I photographed nearly every location and subject on my list.

One of two lighthouses at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79534Cape Spear Lighthouse Newfoundland #79534  Purchase

Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site

Since I was flying into St. John’s I wanted my first destination to be nearby so I could get my bearings after a long travel day.  Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site was the logical choice, as it was just outside of the city and very photogenic. It turned out to be a great choice and also a harsh introduction to Newfoundland weather.

My home in Bellingham, Washington, and St. John’s are nearly the same latitude. But while at home, there was beautiful spring weather, Newfoundland was still gripped in late winter conditions. Temperatures were in the low 40s, vegetation was still winter brown, and the wind was nonstop and piercing cold. I was glad all my winter clothing came with me!

Cape Spear is a headland on the eastern edge of the Avalon Peninsula. It is also the easternmost point of land in Canada and the North American continent, excluding Greenland. It is so far east that you can almost imagine seeing Ireland on the horizon. There is a lot to see at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site. It sports two picturesque but distinctly different historic lighthouses. The site also has a WWII gun battery and radar station. You can also start for a hike on the East Coast Trail or just sit and watch for whales.

Cape Spear also has a visitor center with guided tours of the lighthouses. However, these amenities, and every other throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as I was to find out, were still closed for the season.

Stairway below Cape Spear Lighthouse. Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79521Cape Spear Lighthouse Newfoundland #79521  Purchase

Photographing at Cape Spear

Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site and the immediate surrounding area can be explored in a few hours. The lighthouses, of course, are the main attractions for photographers. But hiking a mile or so north or south from the parking lot on the East Coast Trail is also rewarding with additional photo opportunities.

Essential Tip:  This is a location that is good for both morning/sunrise and evening/sunset light. If the weather is poor and you have time, like I did, it’s worth trying to stick around an extra day or two for good light.

One of two lighthouses at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79526Cape Spear Lighthouse Newfoundland #79526  Purchase

Essential Tip: There are many elements here that you can utilize for excellent compositions. Most notably, the stairs on the trail to and below the lighthouses and the white picket fence along the original upper lighthouse. The bedrock along the bluff, which glows reddish brown in evening and morning light, is also worth including.

Essential Tip: You’re nearly guaranteed to have windy conditions here, so make sure to bring a sturdy tripod. And don’t forget to bring a warm, windproof jacket or coat. Leave your hat in the car because it’ll easily be blown away. In fact, use utmost caution along the top of the bluffs as the winds can easily be strong enough to blow you and or your gear over the cliffs! There are a few compositions here that can tempt photographers to inch dangerously close to the edge.

Cape Bay near St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79492Cape Bay Newfoundland #79492 Purchase

Back down at Cape Bay, it’s worth hiking a short way to Cantwells Cove. The slanted rock formations here and the finger-like inlets are great in the right light, especially for sunrise.

Aside from a steady tripod, lenses from ultra-wide to telephoto will come in handy. Seabirds aren’t plentiful at Cape Spear, but if whales are present, a long telephoto could be useful.

White fence at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada #79461Cape Spear Lighthouse Newfoundland #79461  Purchase

Practicalities for Photographing in Newfoundland

Since this was my first photo tour of Newfoundland and Labrador, I don’t profess to be an expert on the location. However, as you might expect, I did come away with some very useful information to pass on.

Weather:  Newfoundland and Labrador weather has a temperate marine climate. Summer temperatures are generally cooler and rarely hot and humid. During my trip in May, the wind, sometimes very strong and sustained, was a nearly constant companion. Temperatures reached into the low 60s on only a few rare days and were mostly in the 40s to low 50s. One morning in Twillingate I even woke up to an inch of snow!

Warm wind and rainproof clothing are essential. Boggy, marshy terrain is present nearly everywhere in the province, so good waterproof footwear is also a must.

Sea ice in Sleepy Cove Newfoundland and Labrador Canada #79988Pack Ice Twillingate Island Newfoundland #79988  Purchase

Icebergs: Research advised me that May through June was the best time for viewing icebergs. That appears to be true, but I could add a bit to that. In addition to icebergs, there was quite a lot of pack ice present in some locations, which added another dramatic element to my images. Pack ice is most likely an early-season phenomenon and not present during summer. It also moves around quite a bit, especially when the wind changes direction. One day a cove can be choked with ice, and the next day it can be completely free of it.

Coastal areas of central Newfoundland, such as Twillingate, appear to receive the lion’s share of icebergs. There are many iceberg boat tour companies in the area, and I highly advise booking a tour on one. You’ll safely get much closer to bergs this way, and it’s fascinating to see one up close.

Iceberg Finder is an excellent source to keep track of where iceberg are located before, during, and after a Newfoundland visit.

Cape Race Road Newfoundland #80608Cape Race Road Newfoundland #80608 Purchase

Traveling while Photographing in Newfoundland

Seasonal Closures: After the weather, seasonal closures were my next introduction to Newfoundland. The official summer/tourist season doesn’t begin here until June 1.

Nearly every provincial park, historic site, visitor’s center, campground, restroom, gift shop, etc., is shut tight until then. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are far and few between. On the other hand, all of this pretty much guarantees that you’ll escape the summer crowds and have most places all to yourself!

Lodging: Since I nearly always car camp on my photo tours, I can’t say much about lodging. However, there are only a few large towns/cities in the province, so you’ll most likely be looking for lodging in very small towns with limited accommodations. Book very early!

Camping: I didn’t find many campgrounds anywhere, aside from provincial and national parks, which were closed. However, free camping is available just about anywhere that isn’t private property. This mainly consists of gravel roads on Crown Land and trailheads.

Rest Areas: There are none! I have to include this since it was such a shock to me. Even driving from St. John’s on the Trans-Canada Highway to the other end of the province there was not one rest area or port-a-potty. Secondary and backroads? Forget about it! Keep that in mind when starting out in the morning after drinking a big mug of coffee, or that breakfast burrito!

To see more images check out these galleries:
Newfoundland and Labrador 1
Newfoundland and Labrador 2

Check out our new Newfoundland Sea, Sky Land, Ice Fine Art Folio

Also, check out the next post in this series:
Photographing Bonavista Peninsula Newfoundland

Sunset at the rocky and rugged coast of Cape Bonavista Newfoundland #79565Cape Bonavista Sunset Newfoundland #79565 Purchase

All photos appearing in Photographing in Newfoundland and Labrador/ Cape Spear are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Photographing in Newfoundland

Air Canada Sunrise

Newfoundland Photo Tour

Air Canada Sunrise Newfoundland Photo TourSunrise on the way to Newfoundland

Update: Check out the first post about my recent Newfoundland and Labrador trip!

Announcing even more exciting news for this spring. From May 7 through May 30 I will be photographing in an entirely new and long-anticipated location, Newfoundland Canada! It’s been several years since my last trip to one of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, Nova Scotia, and I’m beyond thrilled to explore some new territory!

This timing of this tour coincides with the annual arrival of icebergs drifting down from Greenland and the Arctic. Coastal Newfoundland is known as Iceberg Alley and is one of the best places on Earth to see icebergs outside the Arctic and Antarctica.

Of course, there is much more to see and photograph besides icebergs. Other subject matter will include, lighthouses, colorful fishing villages, important cultural and historic sites, sea birds, and possibly even whales.

Below are some of the main locations on my shoot list. Newfoundland is a big province so all locations are tentative

Cape Spear and Avalon Peninsula
Bonavista Peninsula
Fogo Island
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

Any other locations or subject matter you would like me to include?
Contact me and I’ll do my best to include them!

Sunset over Lime Kiln Lighthouse and Haro Strait. Lime Kiln Point State Park San Juan Island Washington #79304

Photography News Spring 2023

Sunset over Lime Kiln Lighthouse and Haro Strait. Lime Kiln Point State Park San Juan Island Washington #79304Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse SanJuan Island #79304  Purchase

This spring I have some very exciting photography news to share with everyone. Although it has been a while since my last post, a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Among the photography news are new image additions, new locations scheduled, and a field class with North Cascades Institute.

New Locations Scheduled for Spring 2023

Vancouver Island British Columbia. This month we will be photographing in Ucluelet on the coast of Vancouver Island. Although I live within viewing distance of Vancouver Island this will be our first photography trip there. Over the years I’ve mainly photographed coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. So the beaches, sea stacks, and coves of the Ucluelet area will be a real treat!

Newfoundland. In May I will be spending most of the month photographing along Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley. My last trip to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces was in Nova Scotia in 2016. But even before that trip, I’ve been itching to visit Newfoundland

May and June are the optimal months for viewing icebergs along the coast. So, hopefully, I’ll be in the right place at the right time to see and photograph some large bergs. While icebergs are high on my shoot list there is plenty more subject matter available.  Below are some of the locations I have so far penciled in.

  • Twillingate
  • Fogo Island
  • Bonavista Peninsula
  • L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
  • Cape Spear
  • Gros Morne National Park

New Images

 There is also some exciting news in the new images department. Check out the New Additions gallery to see selections from these recently added locations.

  • Orcas Island
  • San Juan Island
  • Deception Pass State Park
  • Bellingham Bay

Sunset over Cattle Point and Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Island Washington #79196Cattle Point sunset San Juan Island #79196  Purchase

Sunrise clouds over Deception Pass, Deception Pass State Park, Washington #78952Deception Pass #78952  Purchase

In addition, I’ve also been busy working on some entirely new and fun subject matter. During the dreary winter days this year, I began working on some studio setups of culinary still life.  Although I’m primarily a landscape and nature photographer, this subject matter harkens back to my days working in commercial photography studios in Chicago.

Spices and dried orange slices on a blue stoneware plate, with cinnamon sticks, and star anise resting on an antique spoon #79064Spices and dried orange slices #79064  Purchase

You can see some of the first additions in the Culinary Still Life gallery.

Outdoor Field Class

On Saturday, June 3 I will lead a one-day field class through the North Cascades Institute. Entitled Mindful Photography at Baker Lake this class will be a continuation of the same class I lead in 2021. The course will emphasize using photography to see and interact with the natural environment.

North Cascades old-growth forest Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Washington #77662orOld-Growth Forest North Cascades #700662  Purchase

Baker Lake in the spring is an ideal location for this course. Walking along an easy trail we’ll pass through forests of giant old-growth trees, rushing streams and waterfalls, and spring wildflowers.

This class has a limit of 15 participants, so sign up early!

New Fine Art Print Paper

Lastly on the photo news list is an update to my Fine Art Print offerings. For those opting for a fine art print that will be matted and framed, I’ve replaced traditional chromogenic prints made on Fuji Crystal Archive paper with a Giclee-style paper.

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta Fine Art Giclee Prints

I’ve always been partial to the look and feel of old-style darkroom prints made on fiber-based paper. So after conducting some testing, I’ve chosen to offer prints made using Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta. It is widely available in all the sizes I offer. And it is one of the highest quality giclee papers available, with a very heavy weight and soft luster finish, characteristics that resemble traditional silver gelatin darkroom prints.

Photography News Spring 2023

Sunrise from Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park Utah

Southern Utah Travel Tips

Southern Utah Travel Tips

Sunrise from Panorama Point, Capitol Reef National Park UtahCapitol Reef National Park #75488  Purchase

*This post is a fairly long read

Have all my recent  Southwest Utah image additions inspired you to visit some of these locations? Are you thinking of just a leisurely vacation, or maybe a full-blown photography expedition? Well, read on, in this post I have some practical advice on how to make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful! And just as importantly how to responsibly visit these special places.

*Most of the tips in this post are for camping and adventure-oriented trips. Since I rarely stay at motels or lodges on my excursions I can’t offer reliable advice on them.

There are two things you must keep in mind when visiting Utah’s national parks and monuments.  The first is, THEY WILL BE CROWDED! Secondly, all those people are putting incredible stress on every aspect of the environment. From litter, vehicle air pollution, traffic jams, crowded trails, souvenir hunting, and even unsightly graffiti and vandalism, all our parks are under extreme pressure.

Zion Shuttle Bus at Court of the Patriarchs Zion National Park UtahZion National Park Shuttle Bus 

To meet these challenges the National Park Service, Forest Service, and many state parks now employ reservation systems, entrance quotas, and even lotteries to enter, camp, and hike in popular areas. Also, many parks are now on a shuttle bus-only system for getting around. Gone, perhaps forever, are the days when you can just arrive at a national park have your pick of a campsite, and drive your car to an uncrowded scenic vista at leisure.

Of course, there are still plenty of spectacular areas that are wide open for random camping and exploration and are also free from entry fees and reservations. Just keep in mind that many of those off-the-beaten-path destinations can be more difficult to get into, and out of. For these areas advanced research and planning are essential. Know your limitations before you head out!

Autumn sunset on The Watchman Zion National ParkZion National Park #76741  Purchase

Limit Your Southern Utah Destinations

Yes, the Golden or Grand Circle tour of national parks is a spectacular must-do trip for many. While on the road I’ve often overheard people talking about how they are doing the entire tour in five days, or less. To me that’s insane! With an itinerary like that you’re pretty much spending all your time driving from park to park every day with little time left to stop and actually enjoy the parks.

Limit your destinations to within the time you have available. Southern Utah has so much natural beauty to explore that it would be a crime to try and cram everything into one trip. Pick one or two destinations and set aside enough time to really enjoy them. You can always come back on another trip for new experiences. Love it or Hate it

There is no way around it, you will need to use for reserving just about everything on your trip. It covers campsites, trail and climbing permits, lotteries, museum entrance fees, and lots more. can make your trip less stressful, or incredibly stressful.

Many people including me see as a monopoly akin to Ticketmaster for outdoor recreation. For one there mostly are no alternatives you can use for making reservations. Secondly, they charge service fees for all transactions which are often more than the actual fee for the activity. So planning a visit to Arches or Zion is now comparable to getting tickets for a popular concert.

Emerald green pools in The Subway, Left Fork North Creek, Zion National Park UtahA Lottery/Permit system is in place for the Subway hike in Zion #76842  Purchase is great if you plan every detail and day of your trip far in advance. With reservations in hand, you just show up at the park or campsite worry-free. But if you’re like me and you require flexibility in your itinerary then you’re in for a bit of a challenge. This is not only due to limited availability but also to accessing the app. while on the road. Even with an excellent cell signal, the app can be excruciatingly slow. Of course, you can also call directly but the wait can be frustratingly long to speak to an actual human. Also when you’re on the road there are often huge dead zones where you’ll be out of luck.

Essential Tip:   Always check out in advance the websites of the parks or monuments you plan to visit. Entrance fees and reservation policies are changing nearly every year. For example, in January 2020 Zion National Park implemented a lottery system for hiking the popular Angel’s Landing trail. Park websites will also prominently post any alerts to road and trail closures.

Sunrise view of Thor's Hammer and colorful hoodoos seen from below the canyon rim at Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UtahBryce Canyon National Park #76510 Purchase

BLM Options in Southern Utah

If your trip relies on camping and you’re out of luck in the reservation system don’t despair! The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) manages huge tracks of the desert southwest. Most BLM land offers free campgrounds and random camping. In fact, some of my favorite camping spots are on BLM land and are often my first choice. With good maps and instinct, you can often find a free campsite all to yourself in spectacular surroundings.

But just remember these spots are almost always primitive, with no water, restrooms or outhouses, picnic tables, or garbage receptacles. Always be prepared, and make sure you have plenty of water and a full tank of gas.

And don’t forget, if you can pack it in full you can pack it out empty!

Learn the Rules & Beat the Crowds in National Parks

You’ve made your reservations, arrived at the park, paid your entry fees, and set up camp. Now you are ready to have fun and explore. Great, but here are a few tips before you head out.

The first thing I do after arriving at a national park is to read the park newspaper and pay a visit to the visitors center. As I’ve mentioned many times already, all National Parks are in a constant state of change to keep up with the ever-increasing amount of visitors. You’ll need to get all the current information available regarding trail and road status, shuttle bus schedules, COVID policies, and more. It’s also a good idea to visit any interpretive exhibits to gain a better understanding of the park’s natural environment. You may also need further permits and reservations for certain trails and areas only available at the visitor center.

Sunrise at Towers of the Virgin Zion National Park UtahSunrise Zion National Park #76619  Purchase

The Early Bird and Late Bird Beats the Crowds!

To beat the crowds it’s a good idea to adopt the methods of professional photographers, get up early, really early.  You will definitely not regret this tip. The busiest times in any national park are between 10:a.m. and 5:00 p.m., give or take. Those hours are also the worst times of day to view wildlife.

If you want to enjoy that amazing scenic vista or trail and have it all to yourself then you need to be up and about before sunrise. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a crowded park and enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise with hardly anyone else around. Several hours later the light will be all washed out. Plus you’ll be in a mosh pit of other gawking visitors.

This also, for the most part, goes for sunset. Most people are back in camp or town having dinner while the light warms up again for the evening show. My standard schedule is to be at my desired location at least an hour before sunrise or sunset. I’ll spend the middle part of the day scouting or relaxing before heading out again for sunset.

Essential Tip: If you’re planning on visiting several national Parks or Monuments over the course of a year then an annual America the Beautiful pass is a good investment. Most park entrance fees are in the $35 range, so you can save quite a bit on a Utah parks tour.

Best Times to Visit Southern Utah

This of course depends on the nature of your trip. I plan my trips for photographing seasonal events like fall colors or peak wildflower blooms. I need to be in specific areas within a specific time frame and have a flexible schedule. Others may simply want a leisurely sightseeing vacation. However, the parks will be very busy in whatever season you choose.

Devils Garden, Arches National Park, Utah #57917La Sal Mountains from Arches National Park #57917  Purchase

Spring in Southern Utah

This is one of the best seasons for visiting Utah’s Parks. In spring the temperatures are relatively mild and comfortable. Desert wildflowers are out and new green leaves on trees are a brilliant contrast to the red rock of the region. Also, in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the snow-covered La Sal Mountains provide a stunning backdrop. For these reasons, spring may also be eclipsing summer as the busiest time of year.

Spring comes early in the Southwest and I think March to mid-April is the best month to visit in the spring. February can still be pretty chilly, especially in the high altitudes of Bryce Canyon. And by the end of April, it’s already beginning to get uncomfortably hot.

Cottonwood trees in fall color Zion National Park UtahFall color Zion National Park #76599  Purchase

Fall in Southern Utah

My favorite time to visit Southern Utah is in the fall. Like spring the temperatures are mostly mild and the fall colors are spectacular. Fall is also one of the best seasons for canyoneering. The weather is much more settled, reducing the threat of flash flooding.

Fall comes late in the Southwest. Early to mid-October can still be quite warm, and color doesn’t reliably arrive until mid-to-late October. The best time to see fall colors in Zion National Park is during the first weeks of November. Of course, elevation plays a key role here. At higher elevations groves of aspens can be at their peak color in late September.

Sunset Arch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument UtahGrand Staircase-Escalante National Monument  #76373  Purchase

Summer in Southern Utah

I would avoid a trip anywhere in the Southwest during summer. The heat is nearly always oppressive, and it can be deadly if your trip involves hiking or backpacking. Despite the heat, summer may be the only option for some, especially those with families. For this reason, this summer is usually the most crowded season in the Southwest.

Summer is also the monsoon season in the Southwest. Summer monsoon season is not recommended for those planning canyoneering trips. Slot canyons in particular are extremely hazardous this time of year. A calm sunny day is no guarantee of safe travel. Storms can form many miles away and dump huge quantities of rain in minutes. All that water creates deadly flash flooding in canyons, which of course is how they were formed in the first place.

Fresh dusting of snow on Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest UtahFresh snow in Red Canyon #32093  Purchase

Winter in Southern Utah 

This is rapidly becoming the new popular season among those desperate to escape the crowds. Some locations like Bryce Canyon, which sits at around 8000′, can be magical with a fresh dusting of snow on the red and orange hoodoos. Lower elevation areas can still be chilly but not uncomfortably cold.

Road conditions can be the biggest concern for a winter visitor. Main roads and highways are generally well maintained. However, it’s the unpaved gravel, dirt, and sand roads that are a problem. All of those roads turn into an inescapable quagmire after heavy rains. While the winter rains and snow are more moderate than the summer monsoons, there is not enough solar energy to dry them out enough for safe travel.

Halfway Hollow trailhead to Harris Wash and Zebra Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument UtahTrailhead Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument #75933  

Safely Visiting Southern Utah

Any trip to the desert Southwest can easily turn into a disaster. As the legendary polar explorer Roald Amundsen once wisely said:

“Adventure is just bad planning*”

*Unlike today back then the definition of adventure was not synonymous with fun, e.g. the Donner Party had an epic adventure.

Although you’re unlikely to fall into a glacial crevasse or die in a blizzard, there are some serious life-threatening conditions to be aware of. The tips offered below are fairly basic starting points to get you thinking. They are not all-inclusive of hazards you need to be aware of on a trip to the desert.

Water: Always, always carry water, everywhere you go. It’s frightening how easy it is to get quickly dehydrated in the desert. I carry a hard-sided 7-gallon water in my vehicle and top it off every chance I get. On hikes, I carry a 3-liter hydration reservoir in my pack filled with a sports drink.

Buckskin Gulch Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness ArizonaFlash flood debris high in slot canyon #37342 

Weather: To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip careful weather monitoring is essential. This is especially true when hiking in any slot canyon or dry wash. Flash floods can occur from storms many miles away. Just like filling up on water and gas before you head out to a remote spot you should load up on several weather forecasts.

Sun:  Even on a mild spring or fall day the sun can feel burning hot. Unless you’re hiking in a deep canyon with tall walls it can be difficult to find shade. Always carry and use plenty of good sunscreens. Heat and sunstroke are serious issues that can come on very quickly in the desert. Know the warning signs and immediately get in the shade and drink plenty of fluids if you or your companions are in danger.

Coyote Gulch BackpackerThe author after a tussle with mud and quicksand in Coyote Gulch #76355

Quicksand: Yes it does exist, but in my experience, it’s not like what you see in old western tv shows and movies. You will encounter it mainly along streams in canyons, especially after heavy rain. If you’re walking on a bank along a creek that suddenly quivers like jello and liquefies under your foot that’s quicksand. It’s easy enough to extract your foot if you’re alert and don’t proceed any further. If you get both feet in it you’ll have more trouble extracting yourself and may lose a shoe. But you won’t slowly sink to your death like in the movies.

Essential Tip:  Always know your limits, do your research, and don’t get in over your head. Online trip reports can easily mislead you, The experience level of whoever wrote the report can be very different from your own. I’ve read some trip reports promoting the Sneak Route into Coyote Gulch as an easy alternate entry point. In reality, it is close to a technical canyoneering route with a great deal of exposure, and it usually needs ropes for a safe entry and exit.

Utah State Route 95 in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area UtahUtah State Highway 95  #74968  Purchase

Cell Signals in Southern Utah:

It should be obvious, but don’t depend on being able to get a good cell phone signal in Southern Utah. There are huge dead zone areas, especially in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon Recreation Area. Mountains, buttes, and canyon walls can easily cut you off from a signal. Even in some small towns and national parks the signal can be spotty.

Unpaved Roads in Southern Utah

As I mentioned above unpaved roads can easily become a trap for you and your vehicle. Nearly all dirt roads are completely impassable after rain and during winter. When wet these roads become a gooey mess of mud that even a monster 4×4 would have difficulty getting out of. Even a small puddle in an otherwise dry dirt road can get you stuck.

Some roads cross deep sand which can trap all but 4x4s and some cross very rough sections of slickrock. Even some of the best-maintained gravel roads can be challenging. Hole in the Rock Road, a wide heavily traveled road south of Escalante, is routinely covered in bone-jarring washboards. After I drove over 20 miles of washboard on this road I thought my truck would fall to pieces when I stopped.

Moki Dugway Bears Ears National MonumentMoki Dugway, some roads have steep unguarded drop-offs #74769

Essential Tip:  This should be common sense but if there is a road sign that states “4×4 vehicles only” it means it! Getting a tow truck out to a remote area can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, assuming you can find a ride back into town to get one!

Hiking in Southern Utah with Maps and GPS

I’m not a big fan of GPS devices, I don’t use them and have always relied on physical maps on hikes. When hiking in some complex canyons such as those in the Escalante drainage it is extremely important to not completely rely on maps or GPS. While both can be important navigation aids you will be using your navigation skills and common sense to find the correct route.

Cairn on trail in The Needles, Canyonlands National Park UtahCairn marking route on trail Canyonlands National Park  #74696

Many of these areas can be a maze of side canyons obscured by thick vegetation, losing the correct route is much easier than you may think. Even the most detailed maps and GPS may not contain the info needed to make a wise choice in navigating them. The tall narrow walls of some canyons can also block out a good signal for your GPS. Also, trails in canyons marked on a map or in a guidebook can be nonexistent by the time of your visit. A well-marked easy-to-follow trail can disappear overnight in a flood.

Essential Tip:   In some areas, small rock cairns are necessary to mark the correct route. Do not remove them. And don’t add additional decorative cairns.

Essential Tip:  Before heading out to a remote area pay a visit to the nearest ranger station for the latest weather report and current info on road and trail conditions. You can also check in with the local outdoor store or guide service for a second opinion. These folks live work and play in the area and could offer valuable info not available elsewhere.
* However it’s been my experience that the young clerk at the local gas station doesn’t have a clue to offer.

Leave No Trace, Physical  Digital & Archeological

I’ve been adding this topic to the end of many of my posts. However, in light of my recent firsthand experience, I’m bumping it up and expanding it. In addition to traditional LNT, I want to talk about Digital LNT and Archeological LNT here.

If you’ve never come across this term you definitely will on your next SW trip. Its most basic definition means to take only pictures, and leave only footprints. Sounds like common sense and common courtesy to the environment and future visitors right? In the Desert Southwest, the leave only footprints part has an important twist to it.

Cryptobiotic SoilCryptobiotic Soil  #74929 

Cryptobiotic Soil:

If you haven’t heard of LNT then you probably haven’t heard of Cryptobiotic Soil. In the desert, this crusty popcorn-like soil is everywhere. It is the key to preventing the desert from being blown away into oblivion by wind and washed away by rain. The term relates to the thin crust of soil held together by fungi, lichens, cyanobacteria, and more. Undisturbed on its own it prevents the loose soil and sand beneath it from being eroded. It’s this soil that also gives plants a foothold in a tough environment.

This soil is incredibly fragile and can be destroyed by the slightest footprint. Regeneration can take decades under optimum conditions. So stay on the trail and don’t be a Crust Buster. If you absolutely must leave the trail where this soil is present then walk on durable surfaces like stones or slickrock.

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

    • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
    • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
    • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
    • Leave what you find.                                            
    • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
    • Respect wildlife.  
    • Be considerate of other visitors.

House on Fire Ruins Mule Canyon Cedar Mesa Bears Ears National Mounument UtahRuins in Bears Ears National Monument #74879  Purchase 

LNT for Archeological Sites:

The Southwest is home to many fascinating archeological sites that are both historically important and culturally sacred. It is awe-inspiring to see these sites in person, and it’s extremely important to make sure they remain intact for future generations. Learn more about them at the Bears Ears Education Center

    • Leave All Artifacts in Their Place
    • Don’t Disturb Fossils or Bones
    • Don’t Touch Rock Art or Add Your Own
    • Stay Off Walls and Structures
    • Dogs and Archeology Don’t Mix
    • Camp & eat Away From Archeology
    • Avoid Building Cairns
    • Don’t Reveal GPS Info

Giant sandstone alcove adjacent to Jacob Hamblin Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76264Glen Canyon National Recreation Area #76264 Purchase

Digital Leave No Trace

While the principles of LNT are pretty easy to understand and practice, DLNT is more difficult to implement for some. The basic idea is in response to the onslaught of crowds, resulting from everyone posting pictures on social media of locations from their latest trip. DLNT offers some guidelines to help moderate this trend, or at least make people a bit more aware of their actions.

For me, this is a tough one to deal with. I am painfully aware that I’m part of the problem. I have been wrestling with my response for quite some time. Since my livelihood is landscape and nature photography it’s just not that simple for me to stop posting pictures and writing posts like this. If I stop marketing my photography then eventually my family and I are living on the street.

So what to do? At the very least I will be vaguer when applying captions and titles to social media posts. For example, the above photo was captioned Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is a huge area of complex canyons. Using just this caption info you’ll probably never be able to identify the location where the photo was made. However, a determined reader would probably find a few clues as to where it is both from this post and elsewhere online.

Below are some digital leave-no-trace guidelines offered by the folks at Leave No Trace. I encourage you to click the link to learn more about the guidelines below.

    • Think Before You Geotag
    • Be Mindful of What Your Image Portrays
    • Encourage and Inspire Leave No Trace on Social Media Posts
    • Give Back to Places You Love
    • Shaming is Not the Answer

Owachomo Bridge Natural Bridges National Monument UtahNatural Bridges National Monument #74920 Purchase

Next Up: Southern Utah Photography Tips

Thanks for reading, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Southern Utah Travel Tips are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Southern Utah Travel Tips

Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National Park

New Additions Fall 2021

New Additions Fall 2021

Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National Park New AdditionsGrand Teton National Park  #74160  Purchase

After nearly three weeks of editing and processing files from my recent SW trip the first group of new additions is ready to view. It is always fun to relive the trip by processing new images.  Since returning home it has rained nearly every day, with some newsworthy storms causing flooding. So working on photos from the warm dry Southwest provides a nice respite from the soggy weather outside.

This first group of new releases contains images from the following locations.

Red Canyon Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area New AdditionsFlaming Gorge National Monument  #74267  Purchase

New Additions from New Locations

Flaming Gorge was an interesting location in that it was on the very edge of the Colorado Plateau. Since the Red Canyon area was nearly deserted it was also a welcome relief from the crowds of Grand Teton National Park. Crowds are an ever present issue when visiting national parks, especially in the Southwest. Even in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall there is no escape.

Steamboat Rock Dinosaur National Monument New AdditionsSteamboat Rock Dinosaur National Monument  #74439  Purchase

Dinosaur National Monument was another first time visit location for me. It’s always exciting to explore and photograph new territory.  In Dinosaur I was like a kid in a candy store! This was especially true on the thrilling ride to the remote camp at Echo Park. A sometimes rough 13 mile dirt road ends at a beautiful primitive camp alongside the Green River. Along the way are historic ranches and Fremont Petroglyphs. At Echo Park the scene is dominated by the imposing monolith of Steamboat Rock. Overall this was one of the most enjoyable and memorable locations on the entire trip.

Mesa Arch Canyonlands National ParkMesa Arch Canyonlands National Park  #74540  Purchase

More New Images Coming Soon

In several weeks I should have another group of new additions ready for viewing from the following locations.  Also among this group are some new locations as well as with some I’ve photographed in several time before.

  • Bears Ears National Monument Utah
  • Natural Bridges National Monument Utah
  • San Rafael Swell, Crack Canyon
  • Goblin Valley State Park Utah
  • Factory Butte Utah
  • Capitol Reef National Park Utah
  • Coyote Gulch Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Utah

Aspens in fall color Grand Teton National ParkAspens Grand Teton National Park  #74050  Purchase

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in New Additions Fall 2021 are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Weathered and twisted Juniper tree (Juniperus osteosperma) at dawn on rim Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park Utah

Fall Southwest Photography Tour 2021

Autumn along the Virgin River, The Watchman in the distance, Zion National Park Utah Fall Southwest Photography TourVirgin River Zion National Park #09187   Purchase

Fall is here and the air is finally free of wildfire smoke! So after delaying several summer photo trips we’re excited to get back on the road for a lengthy photo tour. This year the bulk of the trip will be to locations in Red Rock Canyon Country and the National Parks of Southern Utah. Listed below are some of the locations on the itinerary, generally in order from beginning to end.

If you have any locations or subject matter which interests you in, and we can include them in our itinerary, let us know. Also let us know if you will be in any of these areas in October, it would be great to meet up with you!

  • Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Flaming Gorge
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Cedar Mesa/Bears Ears Wilderness, Anasazi Ruins
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, slot canyons, and arches
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Great Basin National Park

*This is an ambitious trip so some locations may be omitted due to time and weather considerations.

Buckhorn Wash barrier style pictographs, San Rafael Swell Utah Fall Southwest Photography TourBuckhorn Wash Pictographs, San Rafael Swell Utah #42086  Purchase

Sandstone Monoliths of the Upper Cathedral Valley in evening light, Capitol Reef National Park UtahCapitol Reef National Park #2901  Purchase

Weathered and twisted Juniper tree (Juniperus osteosperma) at dawn on rim Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park UtahCanyonlands National Park  #27457  Purchase

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Fall Southwest Photography Tour 2021 are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Squaretop Mountain Wind River Range Wyoming

Rocky Mountains Photography Tour

Rocky Mountains Photography Tour

Backpacker on Titcomb Basin Trail Wind River Range Rocky Mountains WyomingBackpacking Wind River Range #66803

Update 8/162021: Due to wildfires and heavy smoke and haze, this trip has been delayed.

This summer’s Rocky Mountains Photography Tour will start on July 9. I was once again hoping to head north to Alaska and the Yukon Territory. But since it looks like the border won’t be open in time, it is on to Plan B. So this year I’ll be revisiting some locations from 2019 and 2020.

These locations will mainly the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness in Idaho, and the Wind River Range of Wyoming. I’m also planning a lengthy backpacking trip to the Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. That location was on my itinerary last year but I swapped it out for Glacier National Park instead.

White Clouds Wilderness Rocky Mountains IdahoBoulder White-Clouds Wilderness  #68945  Purchase

Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness Idaho

On last summer’s visit to the White-Clouds I was only able to visit the north section. This year I’ll be backpacking in to the south half to photograph the Boulder Chain Lakes Basin and the some of the highest peaks in the wilderness. This area is also part of the popular White Clouds Wilderness Loop. For my purposes though I will be doing an out and back trip instead of the loop. I’ll also have plenty of time budgeted for layovers at the best locations along the route.

Squaretop Mountain Wind River Range WyomingSquaretop Mountain Wind River Range #66997 Purchase

Wind River Range Wyoming

Ah, what can I say about the Winds? This will be my seventh trip there and I still can’t get enough of this spectacular mountain range. It’s a backpackers’ dream. Thousands of lakes, 40 peaks over 13,000′, miles and miles of trails in the subalpine along the Continental Divide, plus easy cross country travel to boot!

This year my plans will include parts of the Hailey Pass-Washakie Pass Loop, Desolation Valley, and Baptiste Lake. Also on the itinerary will be a return to Cirque of the Towers and Deep Lake. I’ll also be returning to the Green Lakes area for more new photos of the Green River and Squaretop Mountain.

Castle Reef Mountain Sun Canyon Rocky Mountains MontanaCastle Reef Mountain Montana  #68136  Purchase

Bob Marshall Wilderness Montana

Known among locals and avid backpackers as “The Bob”, this wilderness destination in the northern Rocky Mountains has been on my must photograph list for decades. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is a huge swath of land straddling both sides of the Continental Divide. An important part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem it is home to the largest intact population of Grizzlies in the lower 48.

Last year It was on my itinerary but I took a pass due to an unusual opportunity to obtain backcountry permits in Glacier National Park. The destination on this trip will be a multi-day backpack to the famous Chinese Wall. This is arguably the signature feature of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, a 12 mile long 1000′ high limestone escarpment on the Continental Divide.

U.S. Highway 93 Lost River Range IdahoU.S. 93 Idaho #68984  Purchase

A Flexible Itinerary

For an ambitious trip like this several caveats need to be mentioned. First of all if it becomes clear the Canada border will open before the end of July it will be back to Plan A, as in A for Alaska.

Secondly, as with all of my trips that include multiple long backpacking excursions, some locations may be modified due to weather or time constraints. There are already indications of a major wildfire season in the making, so smoky conditions or closed off areas may change my plans.

Finally, if you are in any of these areas in July or August and would like to meet up in the wilderness, or in town for a coffee or beer, feel free to contact me!

If you enjoyed reading Rocky Mountains Photography Tour please share it with your friends, colleagues and family.

Photos appearing in Rocky Mountains Photography Tour are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Rocky Mountains Photography Tour

Shore Acres State Park Oregon.

Photo Highlights 2020

Photo Highlights 2020

The infamous 2020, it’ll go down in history as the year everyone, including me, wanted to bludgeon to death, and bury in the molten core of the earth where it would be incinerated into oblivion. Yes, it sucked beyond belief, all the way to its ugly end. Let’s all get down on our knees and pray 2021 will be better!

Despite all the endless lows, I’m sure there were at least a few high points for everyone. For example, during the spring lockdown, Coleen and I got to do a bit of virtual traveling by binge-watching a bunch of British Drama shows on Britbox. After watching Shetland we began to dream of visiting that hauntingly beautiful part of Scotland! Also, we were able to complete a load of long overdue home improvement projects. So all was not lost.

The photography part of the year was certainly very memorable for me. Since most of my subject matter takes me to remote wilderness areas I was able to get out and photograph while respecting safety guidelines. So let’s dig into some of my favorite photos made in 2020.

Vote For Your Favorite

As always feel free to vote and comment on your favorite photos.

Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington Photo Highlights 2020# 1  Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington #68412  Purchase

Shore Acres State Park Oregon Photo Highlights 2020#2  Blue hour at Shore Acres State Park Oregon  #68598  Purchase

Shore Acres State Park Oregon Photo Highlights 2020#3  Shore Acres State Park Oregon  #68501  Purchase

Shore Acres State Park sunset, Oregon Photo Highlights 2020#4  Eroded sandstone formations at Shore Acres State Park Oregon  #68579  Purchase

Shore Acres State Park Oregon#5  Eroded sandstone formations at Shore Acres State Park Oregon  #68560  Purchase

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness Orergon#6  Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains Oregon  #68794  Purchase

Sunset storm clouds Bridger-Teton National Forest Wyoming#7  Storm clouds at sunset, Scab Creek trailhead, Wind River Range Wyoming #69049 Purchase

Mud Volcano Yellowstone National Park#8  Clearing fog at sunrise, Mud Volcano Yellowstone National Park #69423  Purchase

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park#9  Sunrise over Lake McDonald Glacier National Park #69738  Purchase

Boulder Pass wildflowers Glacier National Park#10  Wildflowers at Boulder Pass Glacier National Park #69970  Purchase

Subalpine Larches North Cascades#11  Subalpine Larches at Stiletto Lake, North Cascades National Park #70206  Purchase

Liberty Bell Mountain North Cascades#12 Sunset over Liberty Bell Mountain North Cascades #70526  Purchase

If you enjoyed reading Photo Highlights 2020 please share it with your friends and family.

Want to learn more? Take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Photo Highlights 2020 are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info! 



Nooksack Ridge in winter North Caascades Washington

Essential Winter Photography Tips

Essential Winter Photography Tips

Nooksack Ridge in winter North Cascades Washington Winter Photography Essential TipsHeather Meadows North Cascades #64748  Purchase

Note: This post is a bit longer than some of my others since there are a lot of winter photography tips to share on the topic.

A successful winter photography trip is all about planning and timing, especially if you’re photographing landscapes. As I outlined in my previous post, winter photography presents some unique challenges to the photographer, but if you can get past them a whole new world rich with rewards will be open to you. Few experiences can match getting out of your tent at dawn after a storm has cleared to photograph a trackless pristine winter scene in perfect light!

Winter Photography Tips, Front Country or Backcountry:

When planning a winter photography trip your location options are the same as the rest of the year, front-country or backcountry. However, in winter a backcountry photography location involves more risk and preparation.

Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park Winter Photography Essential TipsIcefields Parkway in Jasper National Park #43396  Purchase

Frontcountry locations can be accessed in several different ways. It may be as easy as driving up to a classic viewpoint along a road or in a national or state park. But keep in mind many of those locations may be closed or on unplowed roads in winter.

Utilizing ski area chairlifts is a great method for accessing winter landscapes. They can get you higher up to views usually accessible by hiking trails in summer. They’re also a good way to shave off some miles and elevation when starting a backcountry trip. Some ski areas offer a discounted one-trip-only lift ticket. But if you’re a skier a full-day ticket is the way to go. It will enable you to do some early morning photography, have fun skiing all day, then make one last trip up for evening light. Getting on and off a chair lift can be tricky though when you have a pack full of camera gear.

North Cascades winter backcountry camp Winter Photography Essential TipsNorth Cascades Winter Backcountry Camp  #47098  Purchase

Backcountry locations involve more planning, more gear to carry, and efficient means of travel. Don’t even consider getting into a winter backcountry location by just walking in snow boots. Nothing is more exhausting than trudging through hip-deep snow! Snowshoes, skis, or split-board snowboards are the best options.

All the gear for a full-day backcountry photography trip can be reasonably carried in a mid-size backpack. If you’re planning an overnight trip expect to carry at least 25% more weight on your back. But if that seems doable don’t forget that snowshoes or skis can add up to an additional 5-7 pounds on each foot Any way you look at it you’re in for a good workout!

A well-timed overnight backcountry trip will put you in an enviable position. Photographing a pristine landscape at sunrise just after a fresh snowfall is a magical experience, making it well worth all the effort!

*Essential Tip: To photograph pristine landscapes arrive as early as possible when photographing near ski areas, or other popular locations. After a fresh snowfall skiers will flock to the slopes in hordes. Often within an hour after sunrise slopes will be completely tracked out. The popularity of backcountry skiing has exploded over the years. So even relatively remote areas can be tracked out quickly.

Also, be aware of reckless drivers on roads leading to ski areas. Many skiers throw caution to the wind when it comes to getting first lines.

Wells Grey Provincial Park in winter Winter Photography Trip PlanningWells Grey Provincial Park British Columbia #3683  Purchase


In winter the sun of course is in a lower latitude. And for photographers that means more opportunities for the golden light and side lighting. Also, since the days are shorter there’s a lot less waiting around in the cold for good light. The golden hour lasts longer in the morning and starts earlier in the afternoon. But even in the late morning and early afternoon, the angle of the sun can still present wonderful photographic opportunities.

As a bonus, you don’t need to get up as early in the morning. But if you’re camping out you’re in for nearly fourteen hours of darkness. You’ll also have less travel time available, requiring some locations to be an overnight trip. Of course, waiting until late winter or early spring means longer days and warmer temperatures. However, during the transitions of seasons, the weather will also be more volatile, which could also provide opportunities for dramatic light.

*Essential Tip: Set your camera meter on manual. Camera meters are set for a base exposure of neutral gray. All that white snow will trick your camera into exposing the scene too dark. There are numerous methods of compensating for this, but for me, the easiest is to set the camera on manual and overexpose +1 stop. Also, always check your exposure on your camera’s histogram view, and adjust your exposure accordingly.


Ideally, you’ll want to be on location just as a storm cycle concludes, leaving the trees* and landscape covered in fresh snow, with the remnant clouds bathed in glowing morning or evening light.

*Essential Tip: Trees that are free of snow tend to lose detail and become silhouettes against a snowy white backdrop. Try to get on location before the snow melts off tree branches.

Your first challenge is to become a bit of an amateur meteorologist.  You’ll need to regularly keep track weather of patterns and trends for your desired destination. Make sure you use several sources, such as NOAA, Weather Network, AccuWeather, Mountain Weather Forecasts, etc.

Observe storm patterns and satellite images on weather sites. Watch the direction they come from and where and how long they last. Also, take note of temperature fluctuations before during, and after a storm. Winter storms often start warm and wet, followed by colder dryer conditions. Look at the bigger picture and find out the seasonal patterns of weather. Let’s take a look at why this is important.

Ice encased trees Winter Photography Trip PlanningSnow-encased trees North Cascades  #33243  Purchase

Regional Weather and Snow

Pacific Northwest storms often dump huge quantities of heavy wet snow in the mountains. Quickly fluctuating temperatures can change the snow to rain in an instant, or vice versa. This is especially true in November and December, the stormiest months of the year. However, January and February have cooler and more consistent temperatures, with more calm periods between storms. Making this a better time to visit locations such as Mount Rainier or Mount Baker. In March the storms ramp up again with more variable temps.
Rocky Mountain states and provinces have a completely different scenario. The big difference is temperature. This far inland it’s much colder and dryer. The snowfall amounts will be a lot less, even in major storms. And even more importantly the snow will be dryer and less likely to accumulate on trees. So your window of opportunity to photograph that fresh snowfall may be much smaller.
In the Rockies, the cold dry conditions are a great benefit for photographing other winter subjects, such as ice. The consistently colder temperatures freeze waterfalls lakes and rivers, something that is quite rare in the coastal ranges. 

So make sure you educate yourself about the various conditions in different areas, it’ll help get you there at the right time and decide where to go for different subject matter, not to mention when it’s time to hightail it out to the safety of a motel.

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Route Finding:

Well-groomed summer trails to your favorite mountain vista will be under several feet of snow in the winter. There won’t be any trail markers visible, leaving it up to you to find the route.

White-out conditions are especially dangerous. There will be no visible distinction between sky and snow, and it’s very easy to get turned around in a matter of seconds. When traveling on skis in these conditions there can often be a strange and frightening sensation of sliding backward when you’re moving forwards! Even in good weather, a familiar route in winter will look much different than in summer. I’ve been up to Artist Point by Mount Baker dozens of times in the summer. But it always amazes me how unfamiliar the route looks in winter.

Check with park rangers for special winter routes and advice, or go online to local winter recreation forums for advice. For example, due to avalanche dangers, the Paradise area at Mount Rainier has different winter routes specified by the park service.

I’m a firm believer in using a map and route-finding skills, and not relying on GPS, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets. In winter especially you must develop a new set of skills and common sense to get around safely. It is unbelievably easy for things to go wrong in winter. Dead batteries, or losing your phone or GPS in the snow mean disaster.

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Winter Photography Tips, Safety:

Avalanches are the biggest hazard on a winter photography trip in the mountains. Never travel alone in any area that is susceptible to avalanches! If you are caught in even a small slide your chances of getting out alive are very slim. However, the science of learning to identify potential hazards is too complex to explain here. 

Visit your local outdoor recreation store to get information on avalanche awareness and safe winter travel in your area. Most likely they will also offer avalanche safety courses or direct you to an organization that does. A good short course will go a long way in keeping you alive and safe. Plus you’ll have fun and probably meet some future travel partners.

Afterward, and before heading into the backcountry, you’ll need to invest in the tools needed for safe travel in avalanche-prone areas. Namely an avalanche beacon*, avalanche probe, and shovel. Expect to pay anywhere from $350-$450 for all three items. Most outdoor retailers sell these items both separately and in a package, which offers a bit of saving on cost.

*Do Not purchase a used beacon that was manufactured before 1990! These older beacons use a different frequency and are not compatible with newer models.

Also, exercise extreme caution on lakes or streams. A snow-covered surface may hide dangerously thin ice.

Frostbite and Hypothermia are the next biggest hazards of photographing in winter. Landscape and nature photography practically requires sitting around in one place waiting for the right lighting conditions. This alone is an invitation to hypothermia. But remember, hypothermia is not limited to winter conditions. It can occur in temperatures of 50º and even higher in windy wet conditions.

When you’re working up a sweat hiking or skiing it is very easy to quickly lose heat and become chilled when resting. Even on a sunny day. Unless you quickly put on dry clothes or an insulating layer hypothermia can quickly set in. Learn what the signs are and act quickly to get warm.

Frostbite or frostnip are serious concerns anytime the temperature gets below freezing. Fingers and toes are most susceptible. Tight-fitting boots and gloves are the biggest causes since they hinder crucial circulation. Tingling numbness and loss of feeling are danger signs.

To prevent both hypothermia and frostbite it is essential to stay dry and wear properly fitting clothes. Keep your core body well insulated and warm and your extremities will fare better.

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Dress for Comfort and Safety:

Always dress in layers. to stay warm and dry you’ll constantly be shedding layers when active, and adding layers when sedentary.

Baselayers are the foundation. You wear it all day and it keeps body heat in and wicks sweat and moisture away. Merino wool is preferred over synthetics. It stays fresher longer and retains heat better than synthetics.

Midweight layers can be a synthetic sweater or vest, or a lightweight down sweater. Keep in mind that when you work up a sweat down will absorb that moisture, causing it to lose its insulation properties. For that reason, synthetic is preferred for this layer.

Insulated jacket. This is where you’ll want to invest in a good down product. When taking a break or standing around waiting for the light you’ll lose body heat quickly. A nice puffy down jacket or parka will trap that heat and keep you warm and cozy.

Shell Jacket and Pants. These can be either hardshell or softshell, but hard shells are preferred for stormy conditions. Just make sure they are well made and are both water and windproof. A lightweight article without insulation is the best and most versatile. Look for lots of easily accessed pockets and waterproof zippers.

Gloves and hats. I always carry two pairs, a fleece liner glove, and an insulated ski gauntlet glove with leather palms and fingers. Mittens can be better for warmth but they’re difficult for performing minor tasks like buckling and pulling zippers. A good beanie hat is essential to keep your head warm. Use a lightweight version or headband for uphill exertion and a heavier one for sitting around.

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Winter Photography Tips, Gear:

Keep it simple and organized: Try and keep your gear to a minimum and keep it organized. One of my absolute biggest frustrations with shooting in winter is dealing with buckles, straps, snaps, and zippers. Every item you’re wearing or carrying seems to latch and get tangled onto these fasteners. Trying to cope with the problem is compounded by the necessity of wearing gloves. Try and choose gear that has a minimum of these things and keep important items in easily accessible pockets or compartments.

Keep it out of the snow: When photographing try and lay your pack, spare jacket, or another large item on the snow, then place needed articles on it to keep them dry and in view. It is incredibly easy to drop a filter or lens cap in the snow right in front of your feet and never find it again!

Keep it dry: Bring along several good microfiber lens wipes and or large cotton bandannas. No matter how hard you try things will get wet or snowy and having an absorbent fabric on hand is indispensable.

Keep Batteries warm: This should go without saying but batteries will quickly lose power in cold temperatures. Modern lithium-ion batteries hold a charge longer and are better than traditional AA or AAA types. Regardless keep them warm in a pocket close to your body.

Keep your camera cold:  Needless to say, your gear will be in cold temperatures for most of the day. Bringing a camera in and out of a car, a warming hut or a lodge will quickly warm it up, causing harmful condensation to form on the lens and camera body.  If this happens, always wipe your gear dry immediately. Better yet, protect them in plastic ziplock bags before bringing them inside.

Tripods:  Using a tripod in deep snow can be challenging. Manfrotto makes tripod snowshoes that will attach to the legs of most tripods. I have a pair of these but have never used them simply because they’re a pain to attach and don’t work well in all the various snow conditions I encounter.

When setting up my tripod I cautiously spread the legs only about halfway or less and sink them into the snow almost monopod style. Since this position isn’t very stable I’ll use a remote to trip the shutter. Spreading the legs out increases your chance of bending, jamming, or breaking them. Be warned that this may not be the best technique but it works for me.

Handle with care: The lower the temperature goes the more susceptible everything is to breakage. Plastic items are the biggest concern, but metal items can become brittle too. Never overtighten anything! Not only is it an invitation to breaking but it will be more difficult to unfasten when wearing gloves.

Filters: Polarizing filters should be used judiciously. It’s very easy to darken a blue sky too much against a white landscape. And just like using them throughout the rest of the year, be careful of vignetting on a wide-angle lens.

If you regularly bring graduated neutral density filters you’ll probably use them in a reverse manner in winter. Meaning the land will need to be darkened instead of the sky. I rarely find a need for these filters in winter, and never take their added weight into the backcountry.

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Helpful links for Winter Photography

For more Winter Photography Tips check out :
Gearing Up For Winter Photography

Ever wonder what it’s like photographing landscapes and nature for a living? Check out my blog post:
What is it like to be a Professional Landscape Photographer?

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Winter Photography Tips