Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Part 8: Have a Bryce Day

Bryce Canyon was pretty low on my list. I had never heard much about it but several folks I know talked it up. And what the heck, it was on the way to Arches from Zion so I thought I should check it out.

After driving to a few of the overlooks, I decided to go for a hike into the canyon. All I can say is WOW. The place is magnificent. It feels as if there is a magic to the land. Formations and views that shouldn't really exist except maybe in a Road Runner cartoon.

I combined two of the suggested hikes. The Queen's Garden and the Navajo Loop. The park paper calls it "The World's Best 3-Mile Hike!" It took over four hours to get to the bottom and climb my way back to the top. It seemed like I had to stop every 50 feet or so to take another picture. Good thing too, because I needed lots of breaks before reaching the top. The guide listed it as a moderate hike. All I can say is good thing I quit smoking 4 years ago.

When I got to the top, I treated myself to a beer, it was bliss.

Tomorrow, I head to Arches. It was at the top of my list. Now it seems like it's got a lot to live up to after Bryce Canyon.

Right now, it's a little after 10 at night and a fellow from Germany just invited me over for a beer. It'll be the second best beer I've had all day!

- Posted from my iPad

Location:N Camp Ground Rd, Bryce Canyon

Part 9: The Road to Arches

I was on the road fairly early from Bryce Canyon... Well after breakfast at Ruby's Diner, it was probably a little after 8 am. Btw, if I didn't mention it before the "Ruby" family seems to own the whole town. What little town there is, anyway.

I decided to take the scenic route, that would bring me off the beaten path...

It also brought me through Capitol Reef National Park. Now this REALLY is Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote territory.

After all the stopping to shoot photos it probably took me about 8 hours to get to Moab where I checked into the first campground I could find (nothing was available in the park).

After that I headed into Arches National Park and after a bit of scouting, I picked out a spot to shoot my first Arch. The daylight was waning, so this was gonna be it for the day. I stuck around for about an hour after sunset for some more starlight pictures and as I walked back up the trail, I nearly bumped into another photog that was trying his hand at star trails. My headlamp pretty much messed up his shot as I headed back up the path in the darkness. We got to talking and then ended up having dinner and a beer together back in town at a fine dining establishment known as Bucks. Sorry I messed up your shot, Keith! I probably should have at least paid for his beer!

After that I got back to the camp and turned in at around 11:00... in what became a very long night...

to be continued...

- Posted from my iPad

Location:McCormick Blvd,Moab, Utah

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 7: Zion Country and Beyond!

I'm writing this from my campsite in Bryce Canyon. This is a much quieter spot than the one I had just outside of Zion, yesterday. Guy was snoring 2 tents down and it was LOUD!!

Spent much of the day shooting and hiking in Zion. It is impossible to convey in photos just how big and fantastic this place is. Parts of it seem Middle Earth like. I wonder if Tolkien was ever here.

Around 3 in the afternoon, I decided I better start heading to Bryce. Haven't seen any of the park accept the campground yet.

After I set up e tent, and was politely told by a ranger that I had set up in an RV area (he let me stay where I was, though) I headed out to get something to eat. This "town" if you can call it that, doesn't have much. In contrast, the town just outside of Zion was a happening little place. Anyway was in a weird little restaurant that was packed to the gills with a bus load of tourists. It looked like it was gonna be a long wait. A couple came in after me and we decided to share a table. It didn't seem right me taking up a whole table by myself. They were from Oregon and were also on a photographic journey. And guess what? They paid for my dinner!

It's amazing the amount of photogs I have met on this trip. Some are professionals, while others, it is their passion/hobby. One guy in Yellowstone put it best. He said "This is my boat." All of them have been willing to share their excitement, enthusiasm and tips with me. When you are standing outside with a stranger at 5 in the morning, you both realize you're a little crazy... I mean passionate.

Anyway, the fire is dying, time to go to bed, it's gonna be a cold one... Supposed to be in the 40s tonight!

Here's a few parting shots of Zion National Park...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 6: On the Road (and in the air) Again

Yesterday was a day of travel. It was another early start at around 4:30 am, because I wanted to get in some more practice at some star lit landscapes. This was from the same location I was at the previous morning (an area known as Mormon's Row, about 20 miles north of Jackson). I should have started even earlier. Soon dusk was approached and the stars were getting washed out. On some of the shots you can see the light from a car streaming by way off in the distance on the horizon. I'll have to see if I can photoshop those out later. I also used my headlamp to throw a little light on the buildings.

As the sun came up, I drove several miles north to get another view of the Tetons in the early morning light...

...And then just before 8 am, I got in the car and headed back to Cody. It was about a 3 and a half hour trip back up through the lower part of Yellowstone. As I drove by some beauty spots that I had missed before, I had to ignore the urge to pull over and take some more shots. I was mostly successful.

Good thing Cody has a small airport. I got there about 40 minutes before the departure and still had to turn in my rental. Flew outta there on a small commuter, connected in Salt Lake City, then onto Vegas. During that flight I met a very nice couple from Montana and we chatted for most of the short trip. I even bored them with some of my photos.

Once in Vegas, I headed to Advantage Rental Car where I let the guy convince me into getting an upgrade (10 more bucks a day) into an Altima. He explained that the compacts didn't really have any extras and with all my traveling, I would really want something more in a full sized vehicle. My last rental, a Hyundai Elantra had a Sirius-XM radio, and man, did that really spoil me. I figured I'd better get the upgrade.

To my disappointment just a regular radio. From what I can tell the big perk is keyless operation.


After about 2 more hours of driving (now with the trusty but previously neglected iPod plugged in), I got to the Comfort Inn in St George, Utah. They couldn't find my reservation. I thought I might have to be setting up my tent somewhere in the dark, and I was pretty exhausted. Luckily I had the confirmation number and they had it... Not under Easton, but under my wife's hyphenated last name... O'Connor-Easton! When I had called to make the reservation the day before, they had asked if I had used Comfort Inn before and I gave them our phone number so they could check. It was under my wife's name. I guess they didn't think to change the name to the guy that was making the reservation or the name on the credit card I was giving! I always knew that hyphenated last name was gonna come back to haunt me!

Diane... I love you and I miss you and even though you couldn't make the trip, it's like you're still with me! I just don't have anyone teling me where to drive... Except of course the GPS, which I have named "Diane 2"

Btw, when I started yesterday morning it was 28 degrees, and 14 hours later when I was driving out of Las Vegas it was 103!

So, now it's on to Zion National Park!

- Posted from my iPad

Location:St. George,Utah

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 5: Teton Time

Spent the day on Thursday shooting the Grand Tetons from several different locations. Of course the best time is sunrise, but you can only be in one spot at a time, so many of the shots I got were from midday.

Here's a few...

And I even took some shots where there wasn't a Teton to be seen!

And ended up eating dinner in Jackson at The Cowboy Bar. In case I didn't mention it before, cowboys are big in these parts. The barstools were all saddles which gives new meaning to the phrase "saddling up to the bar." Despite the cowboy motif, my beer had a slight sic-fi bent...

That's OB-1 as in Obiwan Kenobi from Star Wars in case you didn't get it, or possibly aren't a nerd.

One last parting shot. Advice for the bathroom...

Oh, and in case I never mentioned it, you can click on any of the pix for a bigger view. The app I am using for the iPad likes to use these incredibly small thumbnails. When I tried to enlarge them a bit, the photos became kinda digitally artifacty.

And no, "artifacty" is not a word.

More tomorrow...

- Posted from my iPad

Location:U.S. 191,Jackson,United States

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 4: I Think I Hear a Mountain Lion

Yesterday, I did one last tour of Yellowstone. It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to see some nice clear blue water, especially after spending a few weeks covering all the muddy streams and rivers left over from tropical storm Irene. Saw several more Bison but no other wildlife accept for the small butterfly that kept landing on me and my camera.

Next, I headed through Grand Teton National Park to Jackson, Wyoming. Right now, I am waiting for the sun to come up to light up the mountains, but thought I would try getting the shot under starlight as well. While standing out here in the dark, I could hear something rustling around in the weeds. I hope it doesn't eat me!

- Posted from my iPad

Location:Antelope Flats Rd,,United States

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 3: Buffalo Bill Country

Finding the time to post these blogs is a little tougher than I thought it was gonna be. Right now, it's a little after 5 in the morning and I wanted to post a quick update before I was on the road and out of cell service again... Well, now it's almost 6 am because the app on my iPad just crashed as in was getting ready to post! So here's a quicker update...

After a big day in Yellowstone on Monday, I decided to hang out in Cody yesterday. The main downtown area is maybe about 5 blocks long, but the actual town stretches several miles in all directions. Yeah, they even have a Walmart! But most of the downtown either caters to cowboys or cowboy wannabes with plenty of saloons and shops selling cowboy hats and boots. As a matter of fact, the town is named and was partially founded by one of the most famous cowboys of all, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

Just outside of the main downtown area is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a really fine museum all about BB and the Old West.

As the day wound down, I returned to some of the overlooks I had seen on Monday just outside of town and after the sun set, I had never seen so many stars! I'll try to post some of the star shots later. They need a bit of tweaking.

Oh, and many of the shops sell Bear Spray. I didn't buy any and this is probably the closest I'll get to one, courtesy of the BB Museum...

- Posted from my iPad

Location:Cody, Wyoming

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 2: Yellowstone!

Sunday night, when I got to the motel from the Cody airport it was dark. So I really wasn't aware just how different my surroundings were until I got up Monday morning and took a look out of my motel door...

Well, it was like waking up in a different world! I think one of my first thoughts was how BIG everything is out here. Soon, after breakfast I headed out to Yellowstone. Its about 60 miles away to the East Entrance, and it's not exactly a quick trip. Especially because I kept getting distracted by the sights from the road and I would have to stop the car to grab a few photos. This area, not far from Cody, is called "Holy City" because it supposedly resembles the ancient city of Jerusalem...

Finally, I arrived at Yellowstone. The place is massive. I did the southern part of it, which consisted of a stop at Yellowstone Lake, a short mile hike to Natural Bridge, a lot of steaming boiling water holes and I finally ended up at Old Faithful at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Here are a few of the highlights...

I stayed for 2 eruptions of the famous geyser and hit the road again at about 6 pm. It was overcast and I was loosing light pretty fast. But it seemed every time I travelled another mile or so, there were more sites to see, so it was pretty slow going and i wasn't going to be able to do the Northern part of the park until another day. Fortunately, my delays put me in the exact right spot when the sun started breaking through after a brief rain. There was an amazing rainbow, that I was taking a picture of as I was driving, looking for a place to pull over. Once I found a spot, the rainbow had already started to fade, but behind me was a breathtaking sunset and a perfect way to cap off my first visit to Yellowstone...

For many of these shots, including the one above, I took multiple exposures, so I can process some "HDR" type shots when I get back. Speaking of getting back, I didn't get back to my motel room until almost midnight, so today I am going to explore Cody, before returning to Yellowstone tomorrow!

- Posted from my iPad

Location:Yellowstone National Park

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ric's Epic Adventure - Part 1: The Adventure Begins

After a very long Summer, my 2 week vacation is finally here. This is the first time I had 2 weeks in a row off since the early '90s, and man, am I pumped!

Right now, i'm waiting to get on the first of three flights that will eventually take me to Cody, Wyoming, where I will be trekking to Yellowstone National Park tomorrow. This will be the first of several National Parks I intend to visit and i'm hoping to get a lot of great pictures.

Anyway, I seem to have gotten off to a less than auspicious start. As I made my way thru airport security I was told that I was randomly selected for a more thorough search! Maybe I was looking suspicious with my giant backpack filled with photo gear.

After making it successfully thru the screening process, I'm told by the kind folks at Continental Airlines that my backpack will probably not fit in the bin, so it is going to have to be gate checked. Not good... Be back soon...

On the plane now... It's a smallish commuter to Cleveland. My seat is both a window and an aisle. I was able to move the camera and 3 lenses into my padded messenger bag, so i'm glad I brought it. What I didn't bring was a jacket. I left it in the car when my wife, Diane dropped me off. She called just before I boarded to let me know. It may get down to the 20s in and around Yellowstone so, I may already know what my first purchase will be.

That's it for the first report. Just touched down in Cleveland and I have full bars so I'm sending this puppy now! This may be a bit of a learning process since it's the first time blogging from the iPad!

- Posted from my iPad

Location:Albany International Airport and the sky!