Paria Canyon Overlook

Paria River Canyon overlook as it drains towards Lee's Ferry in the far distance
On my latest outing to the desert, I visited a remote overlook that is both breathtaking and untouched.  Perhaps because the Grand Canyon is so close, this overlook is thought to be second rate.  Indeed, nothing can really compare to the Grand Canyon.  However I would rate this particular overlook as a spectacular sight and certainly worth the effort to reach it.  One can actually drive to this site, no hiking required. 

The Paria River is filled with a huge percentage of sediment.  In fact it is one of the more cloudy rivers in existence and adds the greatest percentage of sediment to the Colorado River just above the beginning of the Grand Canyon National Park.  Following the river out towards the distance, one can see where the Grand Canyon begins at the site known as Lee's Ferry. 

This is part of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  This photograph was taken near sunset but I believe the nice orange and a little bit of purple can help identify the vermillion shade which gives this national monument its name.  I was hoping for some nice clouds as the sun went down but the sky was fairly unremarkable.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed another beautiful desert sunset.

San Diego Zoo @ 300mm!

Snow Leopard at the San Diego Zoo
Going to the San Diego zoo causes 2 big problems for a photographer:  what animals to focus on, what lenses to bring. Of course easy answer is to see "all" of the animals and take "all" of your equipment so that you can be ready for any situation. However that is very impractical in my situation.

I was traveling with my family. This included my son, who is in a wheelchair.  He becomes tired and need some pushing every now and then. There are some enormously steep hills in the San Diego zoo which would be extremely dangerous without some help. Therefore I needed to have enough free hands to help with him. Plus we wanted to have fun as a family. That was the primary goal.

Lens choice:  one could make a case for simply taking an all-purpose lens. Something that will zoom out to wide angles as well as work for close-ups. The most practical lens that Canon makes for this is the 24-105mm f/4 L.  I have this and use it often but this lens does not allow really good close ups. The best for this situation is the super telephoto 300mm f/2.8 IS L.  This thick and heavy lens is spectacular at what it does:  bringing the action in close with unparalleled sharpness and speed.  After much internal debate I decided to take this and only this lens.  Walking around with this by itself is not necessarily too heavy. Sometimes it does attract unwanted attention. While I was at the polar bear exhibit taking some pictures a woman exclaimed "Holy s***, do you see that guy's camera?"  I received a few other comments throughout the day but most of the time people were more interested in the animals. Despite its weight and size, I never seem to be disappointed in the results when I use this lens. I was hoping for the same on this excursion.

I was very pleased with the results. The extremely large lens allowed me to shoot through some of the cages, wires and glass barriers.  Some of the properties of this lens allowed to really focus on the animal itself and in the cage is rendered out of focus in such a way that it looks like there is no barrier at all between me and the wildlife. The portrait of the snow leopard above is an example of this. I was shooting right through the wire cage but the cage does not appear to affect image quality at all.

Everybody had a good time and the photography turned out as well.  Success!  Please see my Animal Gallery for other photos from this outing.
Silverback Gorilla, photographed through plexiglass at San Diego Zoo

Goodbye Maui

I had a wonderful time in Maui. Everything (and I mean everything) went perfect:  weather, waterfalls, scenery, company, adventure, food, fun and more. Please enjoy my favorite photos from this trip.  Visit my Maui Landscape Photography Gallery for full-size photos of this paradise.

Lower Hanawi Falls: Not in the Guidebooks

Lower Hanawi Waterfall, the best on the Maui

The best waterfall in Maui is certainly a debatable issue for experts and locals. For me there is no debate at all.  After visiting multiple waterfalls throughout the nine days of adventure, this waterfall still takes my breath away. Not only was it extremely tall but the water flow pouring over the cliff was enormous and had such power as to fill the entire canyon with mist. The roaring water could be heard from a long ways away.

What made this even more special was the solitude I enjoyed here. Yes, you heard that right: solitude. This was my own personal waterfall for an entire afternoon. There was no one else in sight. How could I be so lucky? This waterfall is not listed in any guidebook that I came across. I searched many. I learned of this waterfall's existence through a lot of research on the island, on the streams, and through the internet.  I'm certainly not the first person to visit this waterfall and I have seen exactly 3 pictures taken by other adventurers of this waterfall. 

This waterfall also required 1.5 hours of hiking, much of it upstream. Although this is not an easy hike, I found it much easier than several that I had done in Kauai.  The trail is not marked. The jungle is thick.  there were times when I was not certain if I was even on the right trail. One challenge I faced after about five or 10 minutes of hiking was a fork in the trail:  
Fork in Trail of Lower Hanawi Waterfall hike
This is the picture of that crucial moment as I contemplated going to the left or to the right. Both trails appear to be equally traveled. There was no sign or other trail marker to indicate which way to go. Using my common sense, I made a decision which turned out to be correct.  However I did not know if that decision was correct until about 45 minutes later when I reached the stream.  At that point I started going upstream until I was stopped by the waterfall.  

My first view of the waterfall took my breath away. Not only is the waterfall enormous, but it had a heavy stream of water pouring over the cliff. Paradise found!  

First View of Lower Hanawi Falls
Of course I kept going and spend plenty of time here taking pictures. There was also an opportunity to skinny dip in these quiet, eden-like garden.  As I climbed over the very slippery rock to the base of the waterfall, the plunge pool was quite a sight to see. The beautiful blue color, the mist-filled air and the noise of crashing water will always be etched in my mind.  
Plunge Pool
What a spectacular adventure:  one I shall not forget.  Certainly a highlight of this year!