Tag Archives: AmysEpicAdventure

Florida Highlights – Gators and Vultures

alligator resting at picnic pullout spot, Florida
Alligator resting at the picnic pullout spot. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/4, 1/400 sec, ISO 200, FotoPro X-Go Plus tripod.

This blog continues from last week about our Florida vacation and the highlights of our trip. After spending a week in the Fort Myers area, we headed east to find alligators. Our first stop was the Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, known for alligators, waterfowl and other swampy stuff. If this location sounds familiar, I mentioned this location in my “Buttonbush” blog too. The loop trail is a series of boardwalks through the swamp. A great location to see the swamp safely. Since we visited at the end of the dry season, water levels were low and we did not come across any gators. But we found an amazing number of fun things to photograph. For instance, a spider wrapping up its recent catch to a red shouldered hawk and even a common squirrel. I carried my tripod and two cameras (12-100mm and 300mm telephoto lenses) so I wouldn’t miss a thing.

The loop drive was a 24-mile gravel road through mostly cypress swamp areas. Frequently, the road crossed culverts and almost every culvert had alligators basking in the sun. We saw so many “gators” we decided we didn’t need to visit the Everglades; so we planned visiting the Florida Keys the next day.

Big Cypress National Preserve

After the swamp, we drove south to catch the Tamiami Road for our drive to Homestead, FL. We stopped at the Big Cypress National Preserve visitor center to discuss their scenic drives and pullouts. I often stop at visitor and tourist centers; the employees always have an opinion of the best places and sometimes they are not on the published maps. The Ranger recommended the Loop Road Scenic Drive and since it was on our way to Homestead, we took it. But, before we got to the loop road, we encountered a picnic pullout spot with a canal and many alligators. Watching these magnificent prehistoric looking creatures was mesmerizing. They glided easily through the water and stalked prey silently. We watched an alligator catch a turtle.

Homestead

Florida Keys
Curry Hammock State Park

We rented a room at an Airbnb in Homestead, FL from a lovely couple very attentive to our needs. It felt like home. With limited time in Homestead, we spent one day driving down to the Middle Keys just because we wanted to experience it. We ended up at Curry Hammock State Park and sat on the beach watching the kite surfers and played in the warm water. It was a long drive for just a few hours at the beach, but we were both glad we did it. After returning to Homestead, we ate dinner at Black Point Ocean Grill, a waterfront restaurant with live music and enjoyed our grouper and fish and chips. The next morning we took a detour to Everglades National Park before driving back to Fort Myers. After all, we were so close, how could we not stop?

Turkey Vultures

Turkey vultures in Florida
Turkey vultures picking at rubber in Anhinga Trail parking lot, Everglades National Park.

We entered the Everglades National Park through the main Homestead entrance and drove to the Anhinga Trail. This trail was recommended by my friend, Beth Ruggiero-York from her book, Everglades National Park: A Photographic Destination and it was easy to access. We tried to visit the Nike Missile Site too, but it was only open on weekends. As soon as we drove into the parking lot of the trail, we noticed a large number of turkey vultures and a few vehicles. Some vehicles had blue tarps on them, some vehicles had large numbers of vultures on them. We spoke to the park staff and they recommended putting a tarp (supplied by them) on our car. Apparently, the vultures love picking at the rubber on cars. We witnessed that love… some cars had as many as ten vultures picking at the rubber. We were happy to find our car untouched by the pesky vultures when we returned from our hike.

anhinga bird
Anhinga. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/4, 1/6400 sec, ISO 800, FotoPro X-Go Plus tripod.

The Anhinga Trail is a short boardwalk trail through swampy areas with many alligators. At one point, I photographed a great egret next to the path and an alligator cruised past in the canal beside the egret. The egret was so close to me I had to use my short lens (12-100mm) to get the shot. Notice the photo below with the alligator slithering through the water. Otherwise, I used my 300mm lens to photograph anhingas, gators, and egrets.

Great egret and alligator in Florida
Do you see the alligator in the canal? Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 12-100mm, F/4.5, 1/1600 sec, ISO 320, FotoPro X-Go Plus tripod.

Heading Home

We felt accomplished. We fulfilled our mission to see alligators and to visit the Everglades, so we headed out to drive back to Fort Myers. We stopped one last time at our favorite alligator picnic spot and then drove to our airport hotel. We ate an early dinner at the hotel to prepare for a 6am flight heading west the next morning. Our Florida vacation was over and we returned to Flagstaff rested and relaxed (except for the normal airport nonsense). We are ready for summer in Flagstaff.

So many alligators! Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/5, 1/640 sec, ISO 400, FotoPro X-Go Plus tripod.

Florida Highlights – Gulf Coast

Englewood, Florida
Florida’s Gulf Coast, iPhone photo.

My first time in Florida was 35 years ago and that trip was centered around visiting family and going to the newly opened Epcot Center. This year, I returned to the area with my husband and the trip was full of beaches, wildlife and seafood. Our 10-day trip was relaxing and I thought I would share some of the highlights here.

Matlacha

Kayaking near mangrove trees
iPhone photo of Rod kayaking along the mangrove trees.

When we planned our trip, our goals were to see Sanibel Island and the Everglades. We didn’t want too much planned and chose to make up the itinerary as we went. As a result, we booked flights into Fort Myers and found a small Airbnb in Matlacha with kayaks. Matlacha is a small island between Cape Coral and Big Pine Island and an inexpensive alternative to Sanibel Island. During our first day, we recovered from jet lag by taking out the kayaks. It was as easy as walking out the back door. With the protection of Big Pine Island, paddling was a cinch and we investigated the mangrove trees up close. In addition, dinner was a short walk from the house where we ate fresh gulf shrimp on the waterfront and enjoyed local brews.

Sanibel Island

Shells on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Shells on Sanibel Island

Our interest in Sanibel Island came from Rod’s research before our trip. He read about great shelling on the island and his research was right. We spent hours at several beaches on Sanibel Island in search of the best seashells and I grabbed a few photos of waterfowl too. We spent another morning at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge capturing photos of egrets, osprey, herons, pelicans, ibis, and cardinals. I spent so much time photographing birds, Rod got a little bored and took a nap in the car.

Englewood

Rod and I at the Cowboy Chord Club ready to jam on our Ukes.

We visited Englewood, FL to participate in the Cowboy Chord Club, an acoustic jam group. I’m sure it seems kinda funny that we went on a vacation with our ukuleles and crashed a Meetup group, but we had fun! The group took song suggestions so Rod and I were able to rqeuest a few of our favorites to play. Afterward, we talked to the locals and were encouraged to check out their beach; so, we did. We found a waterfront restaurant with fresh fish and live music before we headed to the sun filled beach. As a result of low tide, many shells were visible and we shelled for a few hours before driving back to Matlacha. On our drive back, we found an alligator in a pond in front of a church. We made a quick U-turn to capture photos.

Marco Island and 10,000 Islands Boat Tour

Great Egrets captured from a moving boat in Florida.
Great Egrets captured from a moving boat. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/5, 1/5000 sec, ISO 400.

The tour on Marco Island named “10,000 Islands Boat Tour” was the only thing we scheduled before our trip besides the Airbnb, flight, and rental car. As It turns out, we were the only passengers on the boat, so I guess we didn’t need to schedule it so early. The tour was okay, we opted for a longer tour and later realized we didn’t get all that we were promised, however, we did see a lot of wildlife and get to visit one of the 10,000 islands that receives very few visitors. For example, we saw egrets, dolphin, osprey, heron, pelicans, a tern and spent more time shelling (our favorite past time). Capturing the birds from a moving boat was a new challenge and much harder the photographing birds in flight. (See “For the Photogs” below for details on photographing birds.)

Cape Coral

burrowing owl image captured with a tripod in Florida
Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter, F/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 250, FotoPro x-go plus tripod.

Before leaving Matlacha for the Everglades, we were told about burrowing owls in the Cape Coral area and went out to find them. It turns out we had driven past them for days! Since they are protected, stakes are places around their perch to protect the area. The more we drove, the more we saw them in empty fields, front yards, along busy roads…everywhere. I photographed them in many of these areas but preferred the empty fields. The front yards with groomed grass didn’t give the photo a natural feel. Read about how I used my tripod capturing these images, in my blog titled: Benefit of Using a Tripod. Stay tuned for the next post – Florida: Gators and Vultures.

For the Photogs:

To photograph flying birds, a minimum of 1/2000 shutter speed is used to stop the movement of the bird wings. However, when photographing stationary birds, the shutter speed can be slower. In addition, when I was on the boat, I shot at 1/5000 sec. shutter speed and the captain slowed down the boat too. It was still a tough shooting situation. Even though the captain slowed down the boat, the waves were unpredictable and always hit the boat when I was ready to press the shutter. For maximum success, used continuous focus, continuous shooting mode (burst), and image stabilization when photographing birds. As you would expect, it takes lots of practice and timing to capture strong images of wildlife. Good luck!

Reddish Egret in Florida
Reddish Egret. Olympus OMD1 Mark II, 300mm, F/4, 1/1250 sec, ISO 200, FotoPro X-Go Plus tripod.

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Fall Colr
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, .5 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Dried leaves

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 100, f/4, 1/100., 8 image focus stack in-camera.

Not long ago, I spent a morning in Sedona photographing fall colors. Whenever I travel alone, I do check in with my husband at the start and end of my trip. Checking in with him is more for my benefit; knowing someone is aware of my location makes me feel better. My husband is very optimistic that I will be safe regardless. Photographing alone does require discipline, after all, hitting snooze on the early alarm is tempting, after all, no one is meeting up with me. But I stayed disciplined and left before dark to drive to Westfork in Oak Creek Canyon.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/8 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

When I find a scene that interests me, I love working the scene for a while. Constantly challenging myself and looking for better angles or compositions. If there were people around me, they would hear me talk to myself saying things like, “what if I used that rock as foreground…” And then adjust my composition. Walking along the quiet path was relaxing and I didn’t feel a pressure in the world. I worked each composition for as long as I wanted with no time restrictions of leaving. I hiked up the side of the canyon along a small trail with awesome fall colors and scrambled down low when I found mushrooms. It was a fun and rewarding day. Sometimes, creativity is sparked just by shooting alone.

Michigan, Week 2

Manistee Beach

Manistee Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/22, .5 sec., Singh-Ray 3-stop GND filter.

I’ll be honest, my trip to Michigan didn’t go exactly as planned. At the last minute, Rod had to cancel and I was ill prepared for a 2-week solo trip. You would think after a solo 10-week trip on the Pacific Coast, 2-weeks would be a cinch. It wasn’t. The Pacific Coast trip was planned out months in advance with extensive research and plotting of locations. For this trip, I scrambled to research all I could the night before each destination with limited phone service or Wi-Fi. After my first week in Munising photographing waterfalls and attending a workshop, I drove east to Grand Marais and then spent five days at a cabin in Manistee, Michigan. I learned to enjoy time alone and struggled a bit too.

Agate Beach rocks.

Agate Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/100 sec.

Grand Marais

Sable Falls

Sable Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/22, 2.5 sec., Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer.

Grand Marais is a small community of about 400 residents and the only place to eat dinner after Labor Day was at the local Brewery. I dined on their famous whitefish dinner and chatted with a few locals. This Lake Superior town was cold, with a high in the 50’s and strong winds. I walked along Agate Beach looking for agates until my hands froze from the moist air and wind. With my pretty rocks, I returned to my B&B to research the next day’s photo destinations. In the morning, the B&B provided a family style breakfast with all the guests and I really enjoyed conversing with someone other than myself. I spent the morning photographing Sable Falls, Sable Dunes and hiking to a beach on Lake Superior before leaving the Grand Marais area for Manistee.

Manistee

Sand dune

iPhone photo of the sand dunes 1/2 down.

Lucky for me, my cousin Andy has a cabin in Manistee overlooking Lake Michigan. The five days in this small community with beautiful beach views and a historic downtown was peaceful. The cabin is a 15-minute drive south of Manistee in a small neighborhood of mostly summer residences and is a bit secluded, so it took me a few days to feel comfortable returning after dark. The highlight of his cabin is the view of Lake Michigan. The lake is a 100-foot drop from the cabin down a steep sand dune. I attempted many times to get to his beach, but only made it ½ way. I feared I wouldn’t be able to make it back up and was afraid of being stuck down there. The view was great from halfway down too!

Vogue Theater

Manistee’s Vogue Theater. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 3.2 sec.

One evening the clouds broke so I drove to the 5th Avenue Beach to capture sunset. I barely made it. I ran along the beach with my tripod looking for foreground subjects. After sunset, I sat in the parking lot to watch the bi-monthly Mirrorless Minutes Podcast on YouTube. The host, Jamie MacDonald is entertaining and after spending a few days on his Meetup in Munising, MI, I enjoyed the image share of our workshop. After dark, I went downtown to photograph Manistee’s historic buildings including the Vogue Theatre. It was quiet and dark and I took joy in capturing the brilliant lights of the theatre.

Ludington

Ludington Lighthouse

Big Sable Lighthouse. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f7.1, 1/800 sec.

Ludington is a town south of Manistee with a large state park and Big Sable Point Lighthouse.  Getting to the lighthouse required a 4-mile round trip hike that was relatively flat until I climbed a sand dune to capture a better angle of the lighthouse. Before I returned to my car the winds picked up. So, I made my next stop Stearns Park in Ludington to photograph choppy waves hitting the pier and river light.

Crashing waves

Crashing Waves. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 400, f8, 1/3200 sec.

It was easy to keep myself entertained during the day, but at night the woods around the cabin were dark and I felt very isolated. I spent more time than normal on the computer processing photos and reading a book I purchased in town. At the end of the 5 days, I headed south to South Haven to visit family.

South Haven

Lake Superior

Lake Superior. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/10, 1/500 sec.

Several of my family members live in South Haven. Visiting this town where my parents went to high school has always been a special place. Now overrun by the tourism industry, it doesn’t hold the same memories for my parents, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Normally, I visit Sherman Dairy and Crane’s Orchard but I spent more time relaxing with my Aunt Lee instead. I did have the opportunity to visit Fenn Valley Vineyards with my cousins though! The only photos I captured in South Haven were for my aunt. She owns a rental cottage and needed a few new images. It was fun watching her straighten every crease in the curtains and fluff every pillow to capture the perfect image.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 800, f/8, 1/20 sec.

Before I left, we placed the new images in her brochure too. If you find yourself travelling to South Haven, check out The Retreat at Belvedere Beach!  https://www.retreatatbelvederebeach.com/

For the Photogs!

mushroom

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, 16mm extension tubes, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1.6 sec.

Mushrooms are everywhere in the Upper Peninsula. I see some varieties in Flagstaff, but we don’t have the same moisture as Michigan, so there are far more mushrooms and fungi everywhere. While at Wagner Falls, I spotted this mushroom. I enjoyed photographing it so much, I went back on day two to perfect my composition. Here is an image of the shooting scenario and the finished image.

Me capturing the orange mushroom. PC: John Thomas

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 6 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

Waterfalls of Michigan

Munising Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, 5 sec., Singh Ray Bryan Hansell Waterfall Filter

Three days into my Michigan trip, I received a FedEx package from a good friend with a Waterfalls of Michigan book. A guide to more than 130 waterfalls in the Great Lake State. Of these 130 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there is only one in the lower peninsula, how will I photograph them all? Well, I am sure I won’t, but I will enjoy the ones I get to. For my two weeks in Michigan, I am spending a week in the Upper Peninsula, this is new territory for me and I love it. I rented a small AirBnB apartment in Munising and have six waterfalls within five miles! Originally, this trip was designed to be with my husband but last-minute changes didn’t allow it. So, I am off solo again travelling through the state where I was born in search of water images. I selected two waterfalls a day to

Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/11, .8 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter

photograph.

At Munising Falls yesterday, a sweet retired man said, “You look like a professional, can you help me? When I view my photos, how do I delete one?” Not that he really needs a professional photographer to answer that question, but I helped him with that and a few more questions on his digital camera. Then, I hiked 2.5 miles round trip to Chapel Falls. I think I stopped every 50 yards to photograph all forms of fungi. My macro lens got a great workout. Even other hikers stopped me and said, “I saw you photographing fungi on the way to the falls. Did you see these yellow mushrooms?” Michiganders are such nice people! He directed me to the yellow mushrooms and I spent 30-minutes capturing images with my tripod up as low to the ground as possible.

Yellow Mushroom. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/3 sec.

Today I drove to Wagner Falls, two miles from my apartment. There was one car when I arrived and they left soon thereafter. I scooted under the deck to get a few images from the rivers edge as well. Although it was raining, it is more on the misty spectrum than pouring; much preferred for photography. Tomorrow, I start a meetup through Olympus Mirrorless Adventures and we will photograph six more waterfalls in the area. I can’t wait!

iPhone capture of my setup.

For the Photogs:

So, what does it take to capture a “milky water” waterfall photo? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Do your research. Find out the direction the waterfall faces. If it is in direct sunlight, go early or late in the day so the sun won’t be on the waterfall. In Northern Michigan, the sky is graced with clouds frequently, so sun is not an issue.

    Chapel Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

  2. Gear. In addition to your camera and len(s), don’t forget a tripod. The milky water is captured by using slow shutter speeds and a sturdy tripod is a must. Last, bring a circular polarizing filter and neutral density filter or get a Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer (combines polarization with neutral density in one filter).
  3. Try all angles. Some waterfalls have viewing decks, others are best viewed at the river’s edge. Regardless, look at all the angles. When I went to Munising Falls, there was the main accessible path then two paths that branched off. The path to the left stepped up 30 stairs and only 1/3 of the viewers when up to see that angle. The path to the right stepped up 100 stairs and had the best view of all! I had this view to myself for a long time, most visitors did not climb these stairs. Be careful if you are on a viewing deck any foot traffic on the deck will result in vibrations that move your camera.
  4. Take your time. When other visitors are at waterfalls also, I make a point of setting up my camera, tripod and filters in the background. When the crowd thins down, I step forward, reframe my shot and capture several images at different focal lengths and different orientations (horizontal & vertical). Then I step back again and review. I make sure all the other visitors have a chance at a good image too. I often take a moment and think to myself on what else I can do to make a better image. Then do that something different. I just keep shooting. That is the advantage of travelling alone.

Taking Photos on a Family Trip

Hayden Trailhead. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/1600 sec.

Taking photos on a family trip can be difficult. Fortunately, my husband and children are artistic and enjoy nature themselves.  I travel alone specifically for photography but for family trips, I employ a few strategies to make photography possible. On a recent family trip to Telluride, CO for the Imogene Pass Run, I applied these three tips and the result was a win-win for all!

Tip #1 – Don’t plan to photograph everything

Austin at the start of the Imogene Pass Run. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/500 sec.

After all, it is a family trip and when you are taking photos you are not engaged with the family. The Imogene Pass Run is a 17-mile run over Imogene Pass from Ouray, CO to Telluride, CO. These Rocky Mountains are stunning and the aspen trees had a hint of gold as they started their fall change. On race day, I had a schedule to follow but while waiting for runners to pass, I practiced “mental photography.” I scout where ever I go, knowing I can always come back in the future. At the start of the race, I hiked ½ mile onto the course to capture the runners and discovered Box Canyon. This canyon is huge with granite walls and a waterfall. I didn’t have my tripod, so, Box Canyon is now on my “to-do” list. I did

capture fun photos of the race both from the start and the finish.

Tip #2 – Divide and conquer

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 800, f/13, .8 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

When the race was over, Austin was ready for a nap and I was ready for photography. So, my husband and I hiked up to Bear Creek Falls south of Telluride. This 2-mile hike offered scenic views of the rugged cliffs and the waterfall was spectacular. It was late in the day so we didn’t have as much time as I wanted so, I added it to my “to-do” list.

Tip #3 – Involve the family

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/10, 1/125 sec.

Prior to the trip we discussed what to do the day after the race. Our son loves driving to Silverton so we added that to our plan. We also planned on finding a few spots with water for me to photograph. Austin did the research and took us to hot springs, mountain lakes, and waterfalls. At each stop, we all went exploring; me with my camera/tripod and them with iPhone’s.

The trip was a success. I didn’t capture the same number of photos if I had been alone, but it was a great compromise.

Bubbles. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160 sec.

Water moving over textured rock. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/16, 1/8 sec.

Spokane

Spokane Falls

Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/18, .4 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Filter.

Clock tower at Riverfront Park

Clock tower at Riverfront Park. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/16, 25 sec.

Spokane is a city I visit often, after all, my sister lives here. I arrived a few days early from my big trip in need of people to talk to, a place to call home and to cheer her on in her 1.2 mile open water swim at Coeur d’Alene Lake. The first three days in Spokane were relaxing as I caught up on photos, played ukulele with my nephew (him on guitar) and became addicted to Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I guess I should binge all the seasons before I go home since I don’t have Hulu?

Back to Work

Spokane Falls

Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .4 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer.

When the weekday rolled around and everyone went to work, so did I. I spent hours photographing this beautiful river city. I went hiking in Coeur d’Alene with a friend from my days as a high school teacher but the smoke from summer fires around the state made landscape photography difficult. Most of my photographs so far are from the downtown area including Riverfront Park, Spokane Falls and downtown neon lights.

When my sister went downtown with me to photograph neon, I was in the middle of the street to capture an image of the street lights. She told me the road was closed to traffic. Well, when the bus came around the corner at me I realized she was wrong! I got the shot then cleared out of his path quickly.

Spokane's Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters sign

Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters neon sign. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/13, 2 sec.

Even though I have been to Spokane before, I haven’t always photographed it. So, I went to Google like I do in most cities. My sister drove me around to areas she thought would be strong subjects and then I added a few from my Internet searching. These scouting times are easily done in midday sun. I have one last morning to capture images and I can’t wait to go to High Bridge Park and Manito Gardens.

Downtown lights

Downtown Spokane Lights. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/9, 2 sec.

For the Photogs!

Spokane Falls

Upper Spokane Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .6 sec., Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer.

When I am out taking photos, I love to look for textures and colors. That is what prompted this photo. Part of Spokane’s Upper Falls this riffle stood out to me from the opposing textures and color. I was on a bridge looking down at the water and used my 40-150mm lens. If you take photos off a bridge, watch for other pedestrians or runners. Every time one would cross the bridge, the bridge would shake. I waited until they cleared the bridge and stood very still myself when I took the shot. Like all my water images recently, I also used the Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .6 sec.

La Push

James Island, La Push. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/160 sec., Using high-res mode creating a 50 mp image.

One last fun story from my trip. Throughout my trip I have spent many hours practicing the ukulele. Since I can now change chords quick enough to play a tune, I decided to practice on my last night while I waited for sunset. Normally, I practice when campers around me are away. As soon as I tuned the uke, my neighbor came out asking if I was a musician. Well, that is not what I would call my playing to be and I don’t sing. Well, he and his wife are musicians and they asked me to play with them. So, we had a jam session with a guitar, autoharp, concertina and my uke. Lauren traded off on the guitar and concertina (like an accordian), Shery played the autoharp. Good thing Lauren would tell me when to change chords. We played two songs and Lauren sang, he also kept the chord changes simple for me. Then, the fog settled around James Island and the sun began to set and I ran off to photograph my last sunset on the Washington Coast for now.

Enjoy this image from La Push, Washington. Oh, and one of the best meals from the entire trip was here in La Push at Rivers End Restaurant. I ate the Seafood Louie salad with shrimp, crab and smoked salmon along with a cup of clam chowder – delish. Excellent finish to an excellent trip!

Seafood Louie Salad. iPhone

Last Days Solo

Last sunset

Kalaloch Sunset, iPhone

Dry Hoh Rainforest

Dirt covered plants. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/8 sec.

My last days on the Washington Coast were at Kalaloch in the Olympic National Park and La Push just outside of the park on the Quileute Reservation. When I arrived at Kalaloch, I was eager to visit the Hoh Rainforest. Our family visited 20 years ago and it was spectacular. Of course, August is a dry month for the Hoh so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect to find 83-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and sunny skies. It was so dry all the ferns were covered with dirt and parking was almost impossible with the influx of visitors. I made a new plan.

Last Waterfall

Marymere Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/13, 10 sec., Bryan Hansel Filter.

The next day, I woke up early and drove to Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park to photograph Marymere Falls before the sun came over the treetops. This was an almost 2-hour drive and it was worth it. Walking to the falls a fawn and doe greeted me on the path. They were within 10-feet and didn’t run off. I enjoyed the moment instead of grabbing the camera. Even when my foot slipped in the water, I just laughed. Luckily, I had dry shoes in the car. After the falls I went sightseeing in Forks and La Push – don’t blink or you might miss them! La Push was my next destination, so I was happy scouting the area. I walked on the

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/18, 20 sec., Bryan Hansel Filter.

beaches and watched the fog banks come and go.

While driving back to Kalaloch, I thought about this trip from the first night in Tehachapi, CA to this point with only one last night in La Push remaining. It has been an amazing journey and as my stepmom said, “Empowering.” I can not agree more. Even though my seven-week (49 day) solo journey is complete, my sabbatical is just beginning. On August 20, 2018, I will not report to work at NAU but instead Boston with my sister. I will continue to blog about my travels and photo challenges as I continue to photograph water and waterfalls.

Things I learned:
  • last morning

    Kalaloch Beach, last morning

    How to build a fire with wet wood, thank you Firestarter.

  • Hiking alone is empowering and I don’t need to hyperventilate.
  • My only limits are when I limit myself
  • My husband is still my best friend.
  • Family still comes first and my future trips won’t be for this long away from them.
Things I will miss:
  • Doing what I want when I want. I only ate when I was hungry and didn’t plan for the next meal. Some meals were cheese and crackers, others more elaborate.
  • Taking naps when I’m tired.
  • The open road and all it offers. Many people asked me why I wasn’t traveling out of the country on sabbatical and I thought there are so many places near home I haven’t seen or photographed.
  • Being popular at campgrounds with the “cool teardrop.”
What I look forward to now:
  • Rialto Beach

    Rialto Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/1600 sec.

    Showering without wearing flipflops and taking showers without hitting the button to reset my 30-seconds of water.

  • Changing clothes standing up instead of in a W5’ x L8’ x H3.5’ bedroom. And just being in a room larger than this if it is cold outside!
  • Not having to plan for charging camera batteries/laptop in the car when I drove (not all campgrounds had power).
  • Washing dishes in a sink and/or dishwasher.
  • Not buying ice every 4-5 days.
  • The remainder of the year to continue photographing water, studying imagery, reading, learning new photo techniques and teaching workshops.
  • Learning new strumming patterns on the ukulele and a few new songs. I almost memorized the ones in my book.
  • Eating Mexican Food.
  • Sorting my photos to find the ones I overlooked!

Water reflections

Reflections. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/5 sec.

Tomorrow morning, I drive approximately eight hours to Spokane. Tonight, I will eat out at the only restaurant in La Push!

Ocean City

ocean city beach sunset

Cloudless Night. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/20, .8 sec.

My tarp finally got rained on as I packed to leave Cape Disappointment. On the way to Ocean City, I drove through rain, fog and mist. It was beautiful. In Ocean City, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was only 80 miles from Cape Disappointment. What a difference. After setting up camp, I sat in the sun and read for an hour just to soak up some rays. The Ocean City campground was two blocks from the ocean so I shot sunset for two nights here. The first night without clouds and the last night with excellent clouds.

falls creek falls

Fall Creek. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 6 sec., with Bryan Hansel Singh-ray Filter.

Ocean City is a short drive to Lake Quinault, part of the Olympic National Forest and there are many waterfalls. I was so excited to photograph there, I woke up very early and was on a trail by 7:30am after the 1-hour drive. My first location was Falls Creek which is on the edge of a tent campground and I was very quiet to not wake up any campers. It was a pretty fall, but I struggled getting a composition I liked. So, I hiked to Gatton Creek Falls. It was a mile to the falls and a bridge crossed over the top. The only problem with this tiered fall was access to it. I could not find a trail I was willing to walk down without going swimming so I headed back a little discouraged.

Even though I wanted to photograph waterfalls, I reminded myself how beautiful the trail was and tried to find other things to photograph. I came across chicken mushroom and moss growing on the side of a tree stump and pulled out the macro lens.

chicken mushroom and moss

Chicken Mushroom and moss. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 60 mm, ISO 200, f/9, 2.5 sec.

Mosquitos were buzzy around, but my deet must have worked as I survived without a bite. Capturing the macro shots reinforced my thoughts of the beautiful trail and improved my mood. I took off in search of more falls.

Waterfalls

willaby creek falls

Willaby Creek Falls Final Photo. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 5 sec., with Bryan Hansel Singh-ray Filter.

The trail to Willaby Falls was non-technical and I didn’t feel that I was going to fall in. I stepped off the trail slightly to get a better angle and had fun capturing images here. In the photog section below, I discuss the first photo upon arriving at the scene to my final photo. When I am photographing beautiful falls like this, I try to remind myself to look not only through the camera but with my eyes as well. So, often I will pause and just admire without looking for a composition or changing an aperture. I just take in the beauty.

merriman falls

Merriman Falls Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/10, 8 sec., with Bryan Hansel Singh-ray Filter.

Lastly, I drove to Merriman Falls. The 40-foot drop contrasted with Willaby Creek Falls and required a different approach to capture an image. Next to the side of the road with only a pullout (no sign) this waterfall was magnificent. The entire falls were hard to photograph because by this time, other people were around. Another photog was there capturing couple’s photos as well, so I worked around them and captured small scenes of the falls.

Comforts of Home

Amy selfie

I’m waving hello! iPhone photo.

I watched Neflix! This campground had free wifi and I enjoyed it thoroughly: backed up photos, caught up on email and watched a few movies on Netflix. This was my first TV for almost 6 weeks. After six weeks, my car and trailer are dirty. Even though I was rained on, the dirt roads and sea spray have done a number on my car. It still surprised me when a total stranger said, “That is a dirty car,” to me at the gas station. Peer pressure worked and I drove through a self-serve car wash 15 minutes later. Of course, the sea spray hit again that night shooting sunset. After 4500 miles, what do you expect?

car on sand

Car on beach, iPhone photo.

Oregon’s beaches are public property and the state owns them. In Washington, it seems similar and they let you drive on the beach! So, I had get my Renegade on the sand. When I sent the photo home to Rod he was concerned that I would get stuck. But, I didn’t.

I spent an afternoon in Ocean Shores a few miles away and walked several miles along Damon Point. Damon Point has spectacular crashing waves, agates, shells and driftwood. I even found a marble that I’m taking home for our cats. I grabbed fried oysters in town to complete my west coast seafood checklist and headed back to camp to prepare for sunset.

For the Photogs!

willaby creek falls

Willaby Creek Falls First Photo. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/10, .8 sec.

When I photograph waterfalls, I like to start with a sample image once I am setup. I often use aperture priority mode and take a sample shot to help me view the scene. Once I take a shot, I am more successful on composing by analyzing if that is the story I want to capture. I say to myself, “what can I do to make this better.” With the image on the right, there is a lot to do to make it better. At first, I shot from the trail with the tripod above a bush. Then I noticed a dirt path off the trail and I examined what would be the best location to capture the photo. If your tripod isn’t as tall as you, make sure you view the scene the same as your camera. I often pull out my iPhone to “view” the scene at different heights to determine where to setup the tripod. Once I was away from the bush, I put on my Bryan Hansel filter from Singh-ray. Yes, I love this filter! I played with horizontal and vertical orientations until I found just the right composition. I knew before I captured the photo I would crop a small portion from the foreground because there was a distracting reflection that I could not avoid otherwise. View the final Willaby Creek Falls photo above in this post.

Ocean city beach at sunset

Ocean City Beach. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/80 sec.