Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West

fort key west florida
Cannons of Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor is located on the far west side of Key West.  This is extremely accessible (much more so than the Dry Tortugas National Park which requires a date to visit).  You can visit in a couple of hours and then spend more time enjoying the beautiful Florida Keys.  The scenery is similar to what you find at Dry Tortugas.  Ancient canons, very fine brickwork, rusty colored fort walls are all available for the light to play with.

Wandering the corridors, I found many fascinating angles of light and shadows to photograph.  This is an excellent place for landscape photography.  This would also be an excellent place for a photo shoot with a model.

A couple of things are strongly recommended.  In order to get the best light on the canons, I do not recommend coming in the morning.  Instead, just after noon.  In the morning direct sunlight will be shining into these corridors and the contrast is too great.  The indirect light is much more desirable.  The other thing that I recommend is a tripod.  Small apertures and dark corridors require long exposures.  A steady tripod allows you to handle these conditions without a problem.
arches of fort zachary taylor key west
Arches and Cannons
cannon in fort zachary taylor
Cannon Portal
fort zachary taylor corridors
Light and Shadows of Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor Corridors light shadow
Arches, Bricks and light of Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor flagpole
Center of Fort Zachary Taylor:  the cannons just get into shade around noon.

Geiger Beach, Florida Keys

Geiger Beach Boca Chica Key
Geiger Beach:  Pretty but not much of a beach
To get off the beaten path in the Florida Keys, I took a trip to Geiger Beach.  This is a small drive off the main overseas highway.  It is located near the military base on Boca Chica Key.  Here you will find free spirits, some beautiful trees and pleasant water.  Sand is not very common here.

I visited this beach on a February afternoon.  The weather was beautiful.  I was hoping to hike farther along the beach and find some isolation, solitude and a beautiful photographic location for sunset.  Here you do find all of those things but they do not come with a beach.  The trail is very simple at first but after you reach the first estuary, the trail becomes overgrown with trees and vines.  You just walked past the best easily accessible areas.

You can continue going but there isn't any beach reward further down.  Also, you will wade up to your knees in mud in order to cross the estuary and continue the trail.  The 2nd estuary crossing that I reached was very quiet.  I had the entire place to myself and had a wonderful swim.  Was it worth the mud wading?  I'm not sure.  On my way back I photographed this lovely tree at low tide.

Another curiosity located here is a "stone house"filled with bottles, netting and other garbage.  As far as I can tell, it is not inhabited.  This is located near the parking area.
Geiger Beach stone house
Stone House, Geiger Beach

Butterfly Conservancy, Key West Florida

Butterfly Key West Florida
Butterfly Profile from the Butterfly Conservancy in Key West
The butterfly conservancy in Key West, Florida is a popular attraction.  I believe the beach and shopping are more popular.  In the middle of the day, a visit to this small but very colorful and interactive museum is a splendid way to spend one or 2 hours.  They have an incredible gift shop.  After paying admission fee, you can enter the conservancy.  This is a large glass dome filled with plants and flowers of all different colors.  Butterflies and flamingos live here.  If you have ever wanted to get some photographs of insects, this is the place to go.  The lighting is excellent and the subjects are numerous.  Although they tend to move around, you should be able to come back with some good photographs.

Bahia Honda Bridge: Crumbling at Sunset

crumbling florida keys bridge
Road to Nowhere:  Bahia Honda Bridge
After wonderful day at the beach, nothing can be better than a wonderful sunset.  I had planned to take photographs of the crumbling bridge at Bahia Honda state park.  There are several wonderful photographs of this location at sunset.  In general, these are taken from the east, looking into the sunset.  I figured that I would do the same.

I arrived more than one hour before sunset and hiked up to the edge of the old bridge.  Looking into the West, there were no clouds at all.  The skies actually looked very bland and boring.  I immediately had a decision to make: should I stay here and try to make something out of nothing or should I leave?

I decided to leave go to the west end of the bridge, hoping that the different angle of light might improve my circumstances.  Looking to the east, there were some lovely clouds.  As the sun got lower and lower, these took on a lovely yellow color with a hint of pink.  The bridge took on several different colors including orange, gold, yellow, red.  It really was a remarkable sunset.  I took several photographs that are very outstanding.  However my most favorite photograph was a composite of 2 exposures.  Using a telephoto lens I took a picture looking down the center of the bridge.  Because of the small focal plane intrinsic to telephoto photography, the entire scene cannot be captured in focus with one exposure.  Instead I took several to get the foreground and background sharply in focus.  These have been blended into the photographs you see above.

In thinking of the title, I wondered about "the road to heaven"but seeing that this road was really crumbling and broken I decided to use "Road to Nowhere."

Red Sailboat at Bahia Honda state park

Red Sailboat clear caribbean waters
Bahia Honda clear waters and Red Sailboat
I have seen some stunning pictures from Bahia Honda State Park.  When I visited the Florida Keys in February, this was on my "must-do" list.  I arrived on a sunny afternoon.  The water is beautiful.  There are lots of birds to photograph here.  For quite some time, it seemed like that was all there was.  That is okay but nothing spectacular.

Then my luck changed: small red sailboat arrived as the tide was going out.  A sandbar just underneath the water level was easy to look right through.  Crystal-clear waters were spectacular.  I tried several compositions with this sailboat and some distant clouds.  Then my luck improved again and a small piece of seaweed rolled by with the outgoing tide.  It got stuck on the shallow sand.  This provided a wonderful foreground object.

All the elements aligned in my favor.  I took several pictures and found this one to be my favorite of them all.  I was certainly lucky.  I was also prepared when the moment arrived.

Fall in Fruita, Utah

fruita bridge autumn leaves
Bridge in Fruita, Utah
Cottonwood trees surrounding a green grassy park on a quiet evening in October.  The skies grow colorful and the trees take on a wonderful glow here in autumn.  Not only are the trees great photography subjects, but there are orchards, barns, buildings and bridges.  Wandering from the campground to the Fremont River and back is a wonderful stroll full of beautiful views.

I wandered through the cottonwoods just before sunset.  Sunrise is a great time for visiting the Fruita barn, which is adjacent to the campground.  While at the barn, you may as well visit the Gifford house to eat a delicious pie for breakfast.
autumn trees capitol reef
Fruita Cottonwood Trees
fruita barn capitol reef
Sunrise by Fruita Barn

Fremont Falls Rapids

capitol reef fremont waterfall
Narrow Rapids Above Fremont Falls
The Fremont River is more powerful than the Virgin River.  I'd grown used to seeing the small and pleasant Virgin flow through Zion year after year.  The Fremont surprised me with how deep, wide and fast it is.  On the east side of Capitol Reef national park, the Fremont goes through a quick series of waterfalls.  Right above the big drop, the water speeds up into a narrow chute.  Here I stretched my tripod legs over the water to capture this photo.

Possessing very dynamic motion, the rushing water shows up more in black and white.  I tried processing a color version, but the color detracts from the power of the water.  

Trail Report: Chimney Rock and Spring Canyon

capitol reef photogenic tree
Desert Textures:  Dead Tree and Badlands
In Capitol Reef there are many trails to choose from.  The chimney rock trail is popular on the west side of the park.  There is a pull out with adequate parking.  After a short level lock, the trail ascends switchbacks high above the chimney rock.  In fact you are on the top of the mesa.  There are several wonderful views of chimney rock as you climb up.  You will need to stop anyways to catch your breath.  The total ascent takes about half an hour.  Several children were going up the trail on the day I went.  It is not too difficult.

Most people turn around after they see chimney rock.  However you can continue along the edge of the mesa for more than a mile and then reached the beginning of Spring Canyon.  Traveling along the mesa, the view to the south includes distant Fruita and much closer gray and red badlands.  These are pictured in my feature photograph along with a photogenic dead tree.
capitol reef chimney rock trail
Gray and Red Cliffs
Spring Canyon is dry.  You go down the wash in a connector canyon until you reach Spring Canyon itself.  It goes to the north and south.  Along the way, beautiful desert vegetation, red rocks and tall cliffs are yours to enjoy.  An incredible Cottonwood tree grows in the middle of this canyon.  It is a spectacular thing to see.

Overall, this is a good hike.  Photographically I tried to focus on some details in the landscape.  I did not find a really broad view that appealed to me.  I liked the smaller scenes.

Spring Canyon Capitol Reef
Desert Garden
Spring Canyon capitol reef cliffs
Deep in Spring Canyon's Tall Cliffs
Cottonwood tree capitol reef
Cottonwood in Spring Canyon
Cottonwood Tree Beautiful Capitol Reef
Cottonwood Heights

Stretching to the Sun

Autumn cottonwood tree with sun burst
Stretching to the Sun
I have never been on a photography workshop.  In my travels, I occasionally will see a large group of people doing the same things.  They often have different types of equipment, from beginning smaller cameras to much larger and capable tools.  In Capitol Reef, I saw one such group setting up for pictures of sunset.  The next morning as I was hiking up Sulfur Creek, I saw lots of footprints.  As I reached the small waterfall, I discovered about 20 people.  Everyone had a tripod and a camera.  They had placed a twisted piece of wood in front of the waterfall.  One by one, the instructor would have person approach the twisted piece of wood and compose a photograph.  I said hello to them and found out that they were from Provo, Utah.  They were part of a photography workshop, as I had suspected. 

While they were all taking the same photograph over and over again, I looked for something that could be a different photographic subject.  It didn't take more than a few seconds to see that the curved Cottonwood tree and the sunshine might be worthwhile.  I found it more satisfying than the twisted piece of wood and waterfall composition.

Notom Sunrise, Capitol Reef

Notom capitol reef autumn
Notom Sunrise in autumn
Capitol Reef National Park as the water pocket folder which runs from north to south the length of the park.  The most frequent visited locations are on the west side of the water pocket fold.  They do not get the early morning light from sunrise.  On the east side, the sunrise directly lights up the landscape.

I was hoping to find a good autumn location for sunrise and drove out here in the early dawn.  The town of Notom is more of a location on a dirt road than any type of established community.  There is a very old cemetery on a hill.  The gravestones indicate some of the residents died in the 1800s.  This hill overlooks Pleasant Creek and the surrounding cottonwood trees.  It was on this hill that I set up my tripod and compose the photograph.  I was delighted with the lovely autumn leaves.