The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

the baths national park virgin gorda bvi
The Baths of Virgin Gorda
The Baths are a national park of the British Virgin Islands.  Boulders as large as houses are stacked up on the beach, sometimes sitting atop one another.  An amphibious trail snakes under, around and over these boulders from the main beach to Devil's Bay on the southern tip of Virgin Gorda island.  This is a wonderful place to enjoy a unique natural beauty.  I took plenty of photos here but I spent more time swimming, snorkeling and lazily watching the water.  Remember to enjoy the moment.
virgin gorda bvi baths boulder caribbean
Devil's Bay, Virgin Gorda
snorkeling at the baths british virgin islands
Fantastic snorkel awaits at the Baths
the baths and beach virgin gorda
Dawn at the Baths

Trail Report: Sandy Cay, BVI

Caribbean island sandy cay bvi
Sandy Cay as seen from the water
Sandy Cay is a national park of the British Virgin Islands.  A visit here is highly recommended.  The islands is a tropical paradise with beautiful sandy beaches and a wonderful trail circling the island.  The trail is not long at all but highly pleasant. On the same island, cactus and palm trees co-exist.   You'll start by landing your watercraft (in our case a kayak) on the beach.  Then walk around the beach to the right where you'll discover a trail leading through the trees.  After a few hundred feet, the trail climbs onto rockier and higher ground.  Here the cactus thrive and you'll have a splendid view back toward the beach.  Keep circling around the trail and you'll drop back into the forest canopy.  Finally, you return to the beach.  Total time:  20-40 minutes.  Memories:  priceless.
sandy cay beach and waves bvi
When you land with your kayak or dinghy, this is what you see.
hiking sandy cay bvi
Looking back to the beach from the high point of the island.
Many Cactus are on this part but a fine trail goes through them.
palm tree island beach caribbean bvi
The trail returns to the beach where you can
go for a swim or take photos of paradise.
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Native crab on Sandy Cay

Sandy Spit, BVI and how I got this photograph

Sandy Spit, British Virgin Islands (as seen from Green Cay)
Few people are lucky enough to visit the British Virgin Islands once.  Even fewer go twice.  Just such an opportunity came to me because of a family member who is passionate about sailing.  He invited me and a few others.  That makes more fun and we divide the cost of the ship.  But I digress.

My first visit to Sandy Spit in 2008 was remarkable.  Here's this tiny piece of beach surrounded by water everywhere.  What could be more beautiful than that?  Taking a photo of this beauty should be easy right?  Wrong.  From the level of a sailboat or the beach itself, you cannot see the island's other side.  You can't see how small and cute it is.  My photos from 2008 disappointed me.

A higher vantage point is needed to show this island in its' best light.  I did some advance research this time.  I checked out surrounding islands and their heights.  Could they be climbed?  Can a ship anchor near enough to allow a visit?  I figures that Green Cay would be an ideal location to shoot down on Sandy Spit.  The best time would be near sunset, so that any smaller boat who visit during the day would be gone.

The boat I sailed on anchored off Little Jost Van Dyke.  In the distance I could see Green Cay and decided to see if I could reach this isle.  With camera in a waterproof dry bag, I started on a paddle board.  Just a half mile away, but with wind and waves blowing against me, this distance was far enough.  A rough rocky shelf surrounds the island.  I tossed my board on the rocks and searched for a trail to the top of the island.  I circled halfway round the island before finding a small trail to the top.

From this vantage point, I finally took the photograph which I hoped to create 5 years earlier.  

Shooting Silhouettes at Cooper Island

cooper island sunset photography sailboat
Cooper Island Sunset
Sunsets:  They're pretty, they're peaceful and you want to remember them.  For many people sunset is their favorite time of day.  We all love to gaze into the dimming sky to see colors that make their debut and disappear 10 minutes later.

From a photographer's standpoint, sunsets present some technical challenges.  The dim light requires larger apertures or a longer shutter speed.  The extreme differences in contrast are another problem.  You cannot naturally have the bright sunset and a dark sailboat each shown in detail.  You must choose which you want to photograph (specifically, which will you expose for).  For most of us, the sky is the star of the show and we should expose for that.

An automatic camera will expose for the whole scene.  In this case, that won't work and you'll lose details in the sky.  I set my camera on manual exposure, take a test shot and check my histogram.  You can also enable "highlight alert" on Canon camera which will flash on and off if highlights are overexposed.  Using this and my histogram, I dial my exposure down to record those lovely colors in the sky.

Shooting this way causes the sailboats to be silhouettes.  I can live with that.
sunset british virgin island from sailboat
Silhouette Sunset at Jost Van Dyke

Bikini and Sailboat: Sandy Cay, BVI

bikini-clad woman and sailboat Sandy Cay, BVI
Bikini and Sailboat:  Postcard-Perfect Photo from Sandy Cay, British Virgin Islands
I would like to step back from vacation location information and focus on what makes a good photograph.  Everyone would like their vacation photographs to capture how beautiful that beach is or how clear and blue are the waters.  So many times vacation photographs fall short.  I see this all the time as friends will share their pictures with words such as "It looks so much better in real life" or "You had to be there."  Although nothing is as good as being there, I like my photographs to come very close.

Sandy Cay is a national park in the British Virgin Islands.  This small island was donated by the Rockefeller family and is an absolute treasure to visit.  You truly get a sense of Paradise found.  That is what I was hoping to convey in this photograph.  I isolated a lone sailboat with a beautiful woman walking into the water.  These 2 are balanced on either side of the photograph.  I included enough of the beach to show how beautiful it is as well as how empty it is.  I hopee to communicate a feeling of giddiness and glee at finding such a beautiful place in the world.  

Trees in Buckskin Gulch

hiking buckskin gulch utah slot
Entering Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch is so spectacular.  Much better than I anticipated and a very rich area for photography.  Here share photos which all have trees as a common theme.I was quite surprised to find so many beautiful green trees and buckskin.  The narrows do not allow any of these to grow but there are small portions throughout buckskin gulch where the canyon becomes wider and allows enough sand and sunlight for this small oasis to thrive.
utah slot buckskin gulch
Rolled Up Mud Buckskin Gulch
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Around the Next Bend

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

white beach sailboat bvi jost van dyke
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, has the Beach Beach in the World!  (no exaggeration)
Jost Van Dyke has several places to visit and to anchor for the night.  By far, the most beautiful on the island (and perhaps all the BVI) is White Bay.  Two amazing beaches stretch for miles separated by a small rocky prominence.  Sailboats come and go.  Sections of the beach are empty, virgin.  Others have lively bars and restaurants.  Here you can sink your toes in the sand and know that there is no better place in the world. 

From a photography standpoint, the surrounding green hills and colorful boats are like icing on the cake.  These provide more photo subjects to mix into the beautiful beach scene.  In the photo above, I tried to capture these elements.  I crouched low on the sand and photographed some incoming waves.  In one corner I positioned the lovely red sailboat and in the other I included some palm trees:  Snapshot of paradise!
sailboats in white bay jost van dyke bvi
High Above White Bay, Sailboats and the BVI stretch out in the distance.
If you want a workout, there is a road that climbs above White Bay and onto a high ridge.  You'll see a few goats along the way to the top.  Up above, you can get a different perspective on White Bay and the BVI in general by seeing far into the distance.  Sailboats and green islands are in every direction. 
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Another White Bay shot, this one from the rock point.

Loblolly Bay, Anegada, BVI

loblolly bay beach umbrella bvi
Loblolly Bay has a place for you
Anegada is the favorite of all the British Virgin Islands for many people.  Here you get away from any hustle and bustle of life even more than in the lower BVI.  Being extremely flat and surrounded by a protective coral reef, Anegada has marvelous beaches.  Cow Wreck is my favorite for being alone.  Loblolly Bay can be all yours if you arrive before noon.  That's what I did and found an empty swath of white sand and turquoise waters.  Loblolly is also known for excellent snorkeling. 

For this photograph, I hoped to capture a piece of paradise.  I also wished to make it inviting, like it was just waiting for you to come.  I moved the bench slightly, so as to be in the shade of the umbrella and composed the shot with a sweeping bay and beach in the background.  I was careful to get low enough to separate the umbrella from the horizon, putting it up with the clouds. 

Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, BVI

BVI beach anegada cow wreck
Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands
Sporting an atrocious name, Cow Wreck Beach doesn't attrack many visitors.  On the north shore of the northern-most British Virgin Island, this beach is hard to reach.  Most visitors take a plane, a sailboat and then some ground transportation to sink their toes into powder-soft white sand.  Of all the beaches in the world, this is one of the most beautiful and lonely. 

If you ever get to Anegada, be sure to visit Cow Wreck.  It's much less crowded than Loblolly bay and truly gives you an "at-the-end-of-the-earth" feeling . . . and that's a good thing.

Paria Mud Cracks

Mud crack Paria Wash Utah
Paria Mud Cracks:  when the mud is moist, these are extremely slippery!
It had rained the previous week.  The mud was still moist and very slippery.  This is what I hoped for:  dramatic puzzle-piece mud cracks leading through the canyon floor.

In composing this photograph, I wanted the cracks to take center stage.  I wanted them to lead to another interesting photography subject as well.  I found a very shallow pool and a rock standing in front of a dark wall.  I tried several compositions with a 16-35 mm lens but I was not satisfied.  I switched to a 17 mm tilt shift lens and took several pictures, shifting the lens up and down in order to have a very good view of the mud cracks at my feet.  These were stitched together in Photoshop.  Black-and-white processing seemed appropriate for this dramatic subject.

Face Canyon, Lake Powell

Lake Powell Narrow Slot
Face Canyon Narrows
Face Canyon is a beautiful location in the southern portion of Lake Powell, also known as Glen Canyon recreation area.  Before the Glen Canyon dam was completed, these narrow slot canyons were much like Buckskin Gulch or Antelope Canyon.  As water has filled the canyon, these narrows have become very unique indeed!  Although the walls of the canyon are close enough to permit touching both sides at the same time, the water is profoundly deep.  This is not something that can be waded.

I discovered this particular branch of Face Canyon while traveling in a kayak.  I made 4 visits to this location.  On my 2nd visit I attempted to wedge my tripod against the wall so that I could take a photograph.  The walls are too steep, too slippery.  On my last attempt I realize that is photos would have to be taken handheld.  This is difficult to do when you are sitting in a kayak and a slight breeze is blowing in the canyon.  The kayak gently floats.  This small movement blurred many of my photo attempts.  I realize this was a problem and took multiple photographs, hoping that I would have something worthwhile at the end.

The water is more clear at the opening of the canyon and becomes more filled with debris upstream.
Lake Powell face Canyon
Deep Red Beauty:  Face Canyon Narrows
Reflection Lake Powell
Reflection on Glen Canyon

Trail Report: Norris Geyser Back Basin

Norris Geyser Basin Light Blue Pool
Emerald Pool at Norris Geyser Basin
Yellowstone has too many nooks to explore in a lifetime.  Having visited Norris Geyser basin occasionally over the last 30 years, I've always wanted to explore what they labeled "back basin."  This is a longer trek than the "porcelain basin" to the right.  The first think you reach is the beautiful Emerald Pool.  Though lacking the green emerald color, the light wonderful blues make it a highlight.

Next comes the highest geyser in the world, Steamboat Springs.  I wasn't shooting off for me so I worked my way down the ramp to the lower basin.  I liked the view back up towards Steamboat and shot the following picture when the cloud came into the right position.
Norris Geyser Back Basin
Hot Drainage below
Steamboat Geyser
Then several lovely pools followed.  Echinus is the largest and the most red/orange.  Several in the shades of green and blue come here and there.
Echinus geyser red pool orange
Echinus Geyser is really a pool
Norris Geyser Basin Crater Spring
Abstract detail shot at Crater Spring
Finally came a wonderful finale.  The ranger had said Vixen geyser was erupting every 15 to 20 minutes.  My family and I saw the end of an eruption from across the basin.  When we arrived, we sat down and waited about 3 minutes before the show repeated itself.  This eruption is so close to the boardwalk we got slightly wet and loved the up-close show.  Amazing.  Overall, I'd highly recommend this walk (easy on boardwalk) for anyone.  It's a little over a mile and gets away from the Yellowstone crowds.  You can have a geyser eruption all to yourself!
Norris Geyser Basin Vixen
Vixen Geyser Eruption
norris geyser basin steamboat
Steamboat geyser was all steam on this day!
Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★★ Mild
Trail Condition:                   ★★ Mild, paved
Trail Hazards:                      ★★ Mild:  inclines
Trailhead:                              Norris ranger station
Time Required:                     3 hours
Distance round trip:              3 miles
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★ Not really, 2 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★★ Good, 3 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★ Fair, 2 Stars

Two Beautiful Pools

Crested Pool in the Old Faithful area
Yellowstone Park is filled with natural wonders.  On my recent trip to the park, I saw 2 beautiful pools into beautiful locations.  Yellowstone Park is known for wonderful colors and fragile beauty.

Crested Pool is not far from Old Faithful.  As one of the first attractions you will find as you are walking away from the lodge, adjacent to Castle geyser.  What makes this cool so lovely it is the thin eggshell white crests that surrounds the water.  Surrounding that is a wonderful orange matte in the shape of an amoeba.  In the distance, the fire hole river and some climbing mountains give wonderful setting.

Farther north in the park, and Norris geyser basin, Emerald Pool is on the way to Steamboat geyser.  I usually think of emeralds as green but this is a very lovely turquoise color instead.  The colors can change over the years.  When it was named, I assume it had a green color.  (For another example like this, black pool in the West Thumb geyser basin is actually a beautiful blue color.)
Emerald Pool in Norris Geyser Basin

Artist's Paint Pots, Yellowstone

mud bubble artists paint pot yellowstone
Bursting Bubbles
Occasionally we see proof that mother nature has a wonderful sense of humor.  One location which always makes me smile, laugh and giggle is the Artists Paint Pots in Yellowstone National Park.  Not only are bubbles popping right and left.  The mud is thick and spews out in all directions.  Silly sounds of popping, bubbling, guggling and more surround visitors.  And the smells . . . sulfur is unmistakable.