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Light in Denali

 

Natural Lighting

Nikon D800; AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED @ 38mm, f/5.6, 1/800 (-1/3EV)

This photograph was taken from a ridge in the Toklat River Valley in Denali National Park. The weather shifts frequently and rapidly in Denali–a relatively well-experienced phenomenon. Here clear sky has been covered by a light layer of clouds, but the bright midday sky shines through on certain aspects. The contrast is exceptionally high, adding depth to the visage of a place that already awes in its endlessness. Watching these patterns unfold, flow over this place, it’s easy to get lost, a challenge to your significance.

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East Fork, Upper Toklat, Denali NP

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A creek edges off the east fork of the Upper Toklat River. Nikon D800, f/2.8G 24-70mm @27mm, f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 200

A mile or so off the road in Denali National Park, we descended into this rocky river shoal. This creek flows calmly off the Toklat as winds start to creep up the valley. Just before starting in, we were warned of the wind tunnel this river valley could become. As we walked south following the river, the gusty breeze turned to a gale, sand and water whipping us in the face. Despite it being past 11PM, I put my sunglasses on to protect my eyes from the projectile mist. We stared west, considering a river crossing to escape the wind. The river was too deep this late in the day, so we decided to head back for the hills. There was no protection nearby. The only aparent hope far out of our way. Foolishly, we decided to set up camp behind a short corner and a large shrub that killed only a bit of the howling air, not nearly enough. We wondered if we would sleep as we dawned our masks. Hardly did.

The photo was taken earlier that day (around 10:30 PM AST) looking south up the east fork of the upper Toklat River valley. Below is a shot from the north side of the river, taken the night before we crossed daringly through. You can see the wind whipping a particulate of concrete off the shoal.

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Nikon D800, f/2.8G 24-70mm @ f/9.0, 1/250s, ISO 160 (12:00AM Midnight AST)

 

 

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Nature in Eastern Washington

Shot in Nature 12

I love taking these up-close, detailed, not-quite-macro shots when I’m out hiking or walking around. My friends often find me in odd positions, dirtying my jeans, elbows, and everything else to get the right angle on the subject. Sometimes the back-bending results in something great. This is a random collection of those shots.
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The city of modern architecture, Chicago


Architecture surrounding the Michigan Ave Bridge

 

Without lying, I can’t say that I did much in my day in Chicago but point my lens upward at the towering buildings, the rows of immense skyscrapers. We had nearly perfect weather, a deep dish pizza and some Goose Island tastes, what a great Chicago day. If I had more time, I would have swam Lake Michigan and cooled off from the high-80s heat.

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Utah’s hills, I-70

While taking a cross-country roadtrip, one sees and feels many things. I had the pleasure of watching sun fall slowly behind these hills, just north of I-70 while completing the Denver – Salt Lake City leg of my trip across the country. Only wish I had time for Moab, Arches, Canyonlands…
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A whirlwind cruise through Paris

Part of the sweeping Arc de Triomphe vista

More than 30 million people visit Paris every year, making it the top tourist destination in the world. After an action-packed, heat-stroked three day trip around the sites, I know I hardly even skimmed the surface of what one of the cultural centers of the western world has to offer. So I’ll be brief.
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Sacre Coeur approaching from the front

My brother Oliver and I ended a quick jaunt through Europe with a food and site-filled whip around this immense city. Coming from Amsterdam, it was a big change.

We started by trying to get a vibe for the city. All senses on high alert, we wandered from Gare du Nord to Montmartre where we saw the Sacre Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart) just after being nearly assaulted by some tourist-hustlers with friendship bracelets. The Basilica is worth seeing, and despite having my camera, I was one of the only people obeying the no photography signs inside this place, so please enjoy the exterior architecture shots.

Sacre Coeur from the northwest corner

Cafes, boulangeries and patisseries line the winding streets at the top of Montmartre, near the Sacre Coeur Basilica

A man walks with his bag down a street in Montmartre

The late afternoon invites friends and lover to the banks of the Seine

Sun falls behind the buildings of another beautiful winding Parisian street

The Eiffel Tour is rather prominent in this otherwise short and flat city

From Gare du Nord we took the subway to Champs Elysees where we stayed in a fifth floor cupboard. It could have been cooler, but it was actually pretty fun. We walked up the Avenue des Champes-Elysees past the Arc de Triomphe and down toward the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel). Determined to climb the thing, we found the shortest line, paid 5 euro and made our way up to the second level, where we bought lift tickets, huddled in an anxious line and made it to “the top.” The Champagne bar had closed, saving us a minimum of 15 euro each on a top-of-the-world toast. I have to say, we were at first hesitant about the lines and the cost of the tower, but it was well worth the experience and the view.

The view from the center of the Eiffel Tour blueprint, looking straight up. The signs on the way up remind you of the extensive use of pylons for in its design and construction.

Guess where this is taken from!

Taken from really high up, looking at the Seine River, Place de Trocadero and downtown Paris in the background.

The Arc de Triomphe in all its glory at sunset. A full moon rises beneath the Arc.

On the way back from the tallest point in Paris, we hit the Arc de Triomphe in all its glory. You can see a full moon rising under the Arc. The next morning brought an early trip to the Louvre to beat the lines. We beat them, but only with our Museum Passes. Already at 9 there was maybe an hour long line for those buying a regular single entry ticket. The Paris Museum Pass was well worth it.

The facade of the Richelieu wing of The Louvre stands high above a short glass pyramid.

For all you may have heard about The Louvre, it is truly remarkable. In 4 hours Oliver and I saw one floor of each of its massive wings, catching the Mona Lisa in the early morning before it got “too crowded.” You could spend days at The Louvre and never run out of new art and history. The building itself is a work of art.

Notre Dame perched above the Seine on Ile de la cite.

We visited Notre Dame.

The front of the Notre Dame de Paris

A humanesque chimera juts out of the northern wall of Notre Dame

The pulpit of Notre Dame de Paris. More than 700 years old!

And climbed the tower to see the vast city once again, under the protection of hundreds of chimera (gargoyles).

A chimera sits quietly at Notre Dame. Looking northwest, you can see Sacre Coeur at the top of Montmartre in the background,

The main hall at the Musse d’Orsay

Musee d’Orsay had great air conditioning. Also the class of impressionist galleries.

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The main entrance of the Chateau de Versailles. They used some gold. It looks nice.

On our final morning, we took an early train to Versailles, only to be beat to the line by… hundreds of visitors. The Palais was yet to open and already had an hour and a half wait. We perused the massive gardens and enjoyed some beouf tartare at a bistro in town. Good decision.

A tiny chapel juts out of the east wing of the Chateau de Versailles. Wow.

After all our sweaty adventuring and excellent French, we ate some food. Thanks to the recommendations of friends we dined well around the city, despite recent suggestions that the culinary heart of the city needed a few hundred joules. These photos are from a meal at Le Relais de Venise. It’s a simple place with excellent food. You have two decisions: 1) How do you like your steak cooked? and 2) What kind of wine do you prefer?

Self portrait with Oliver. Taken at the Relais de Venice.

Oliver slicing into some steak frites at the Relais de Venise.

Down the hatch!

I hope you enjoyed this post. To see more of my pictures from Paris, go to the Paris Gallery, here!

If you have questions or comments, please leave me a note! Don’t forget to follow me if you like what you’ve seen!

The sunset of sunsets: Oia, Santorini, Greece

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As sunset approaches, as the sun falls over this equatorial Disneyland, the crowds flock. You’ve seen the pictures, you’re looking at more now. There’s something mystical about this place. That something is slightly lost as thousands gather daily, herded from cruise ships by tour bus on this small, but bustling, unprotected island at the far end of the Greek archipelago.
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Maybe it’s the windmills, the brilliantly painted rustic, adobe walls, the bright blue domes perched perfectly atop white walls.

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Whatever it is, this sunset drags in the crowds (see below if you don’t believe me. Sure, people travel to experience Santorini, but this is the number one stop for any visitor to the island. If sunsets are famous–and maybe they are–this is very possibly the most famous sunset in the world.

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I would be a fool to argue against such a distinction. But sunsets are special because they invite you to lose yourself in the world, to admire pure beauty and to undertake the admiration singularly. In an era of constant electronic distraction, the information rat race nudging us all to “stay connected” and multitask, sunsets are powerful. Perhaps the crowds become a distraction, in some way making the visitor it’s not just there’s, clamoring to get that one seat at the edge of the ruins that puts everyone else out of site. I fought that urge. I didn’t feel like it was mine. But it was special, it was breathtaking.

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I was lucky enough to spend a few days with my family on the island. This gave me the ability to head over one morning for sunrise. Somehow this was a singular experience, devoid of another soul. I watched as sunshine intermittently broke through a cloudy sky and in a sweep, illuminated the Oia cliffs. The colorspray was just as awesome, if not better than sunset. If you visit, go in the morning. Enjoy these photos and see all of them in the Santorini gallery.

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You can approach from Thira on stone paths through Imerovigli until you tread on volcanic rock toward the most unlikely of places. Looking left of the trail, the oceanic caldera ripples, inviting you to take a refreshing 1,200 foot plunge. Warning: not for those weary of height.

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In broad daylight it seems just as magical, just as improbable and unreplicable.

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See all my photos from Santorini here!

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Exploring Quebec City

Rue Haldimand

A world heritage site since 1985, Old Quebec City is one of the most beautiful, well-maintained and abundantly touristic places you might ever go. The cobbled streets, wet with melting ice, glimmer under the moon and a bright night sky. A person can walk these streets endlessly. Many turn and snake unpredictably within the ramparts of the old city, ushering visitors unknowingly in circles and spirals through streets cleanly lined with grey stone buildings. These buildings are mostly single-family homes or apartments, boutique hotels and shops. Restaurants, pubs, churches and government fill the rest.

Petit Champlain Streets

We stayed on Rue Saint Louis, just inside the Saint Louis gate and comfortably within Vieux-Quebec, seemingly in another place and time. After settling in, we put on our hiking boots to safely navigate the snow-and-ice-covered hills above the Saint Lawrence River. It was night and the streets were mostly deserted. We took our first left onto Rue Sainte-Ursule which humped concavely into our first bit of treachery. Sainte Ursule is the namesake of the Ursuline Convent which was built 1639 and is the oldest women’s learning institution in North America. The convent itself is unbecoming, it cleanly matches the typical homes in the city and fits nearly in the center of Vieux-Quebec.Other than its white-enameled metal roof, it would attract no special attention to the otherwise ambivalent.

Rue Saint Ursule

Somehow we reached Rue Saint-Jean without slipping on the only lighted-salted ice luge of a street. Rue Saint-Jean is probably the most touristy of the streets within the city, otherwise well-preserved. Boutique shops, Irish pubs, a Starbucks, a McDonald’s and other restaurants fill the street with brightly lit and colorfully painted signs. We were headed for poutine, something rib-sticking to help us recover from an eventful day of cross-country skiing in the mountains north of Quebec on route 175. At the recommendation of our exceedingly hospitable bed & breakfast host, we found Ashton, or Chez-Ashton, a Quebecois fast-food chain specializing in burgers, sandwiches and, well, poutine. At first glance its a mix between McDonald’s and Arby’s. This impression led to the awkward exchange of glances between two calorie-depleted souls. It was too late to call an audible, so we ordered a large poutine and got down to work. I’d have to say it was the rubbery cheese curds covered in Chez Ashton’s spicy gravy that replenished and rejuvenated me.

Quebec City Hall

Energized and ready to explore some more by the light of the moon. We continued down Rue Saint-Jean until we reached Saint Patrick’s Pub (there are a lot of Irish pubs in Quebec) and split left, onto an unlit street (Couillard) working our way toward the tip of the wall, where we would peer out at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Saint Charles rivers. The rampart (wall) was adorned with canons. As we continued to the right, up the hill along Rue des Ramparts, we passed twenty more canons, each facing perfectly out toward the river, where the British would most certainly come from when they invaded during the Seven Year War. Unfortunately the canons did little to protect French Quebec in 1759, as the Battle of Quebec saw British invasion from the hills west of the fort.

A wider perspective of Old Quebec

Walking against the ordered one-way streets, we passed the Notre-Dame Basilica and turned up Rue du Fort. Impeccably lit in the brisk winter night, the formidable Chateau Frontenac immediately impressed itself upon us. This is the most notable piece of architecture in Vieux Quebec. Built under Canadian sovereignty in 1893, it towers high above the great stone walls on the Saint Lawrence banks. After some lustful wandering around the Frontenac, we got on the next main street, which, to our great surprise, was Rue Saint Louis. We followed this a few blocks until we reached our bed & breakfast (B&B Saint Louis), where we comfortably retired, exhausted and without dessert.

The next day allowed for much more exploration, hours of walking about the city in bright winter daylight, a deep blue sky and yellow-cast stone buildings. I dragged Emily through a tour of the Quebec Parliament building, which was breathtaking and politically intriguing. We took a very affordable trip up to the Observatoire de la Capitale, where we caught incredible views in every direction around the city. We trudged our way through the snow-covered hill to the top the of citadel–Emily post-holed her way up a cliff while I took the well-traveled route and kept from falling. The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame, was destroyed during the Battle of Quebec, rebuilt from 1786-1822, and burned to the ground in 1922 but was again rebuilt and restored by 1933. Making time for a quick stop through was well worth it for glimpses of the elaborate interior–similar in elegance but smaller than its counterpart in Montreal.

The Glorious Notre-Dame Basilica

Our last meal in the city was designed for celebration. Legende provided our tastebuds with plenty of joy as we moved through nine seafood preparations (a shrimp nugget, scallops in pesto, sturgeon gizzard salad, sea snail salad, Arctic char terrine, smoked sturgeon, smoked salmon, mussel salad and a smoky sea clam chowder), seared duck breast and delicious bread with a meat jus butter. This grand display of local and traditional ingredients was the perfect way to end a week-long trip through wintery Quebec, matching our wonderment and indulgence at Au Pied de Cochon.

Chateau Frontenac Towers above the Quartier Petit Champlain

If I had to do it all again, I would.
During our trip in, we took a planned diversion to drive route 354, along Riviere Sainte-Anne. Covered in ice patches and with snow blowing off the crests of plowed embankments, it was a little treacherous and slow-going. But it felt worlds away, with small farms and quaint village centers marked by their church steeples and bridges. That feeling is what would compel me take more time to explore the coastal, colonial towns out past Saguenay, past the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River and along Atlantic Ocean. And after prefacing our stay in Quebec city with a two-night camp in the wooded Reserve faunique des Laurentides (in the Laurentian Mountains), I would happily do that again.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO,