Ozarks vs Smokies for fall color?

About 700 miles separate the Ozark and Smoky Mountains.  Both are spectacular places to leaf peep, bike and hike.  Two differences:

  • The Smokies are a little more vertical & perhaps contain a slight edge on iconic trails/views.
  • Smoky Mntn NP is the most visited park in the US!  It’s more crowded.  Don’t even think about staying in the popular park destinations of Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.  They’re grossly, overbuilt resort towns.  Townsend, Tn, is the place to be (quiet, gorgeous).

My time in the Ozarks centered around Buffalo River River NP.  The park was the first national river to be designated by the Park Service and flows for over 135 miles.  With that extended shoreline the possibilities seem endless.

The river is also home to a sh-t ton of spider webs.  They literally glow when warmed by the morning sun.

The cold fall nights and humid air allow for fog to frequently roll in each morning.  Makes for some moody photog ops!

My Drone provided the means to capture the fog from above.

There are also a host of great hikes just outside the park.  Pictured below is your fearless leader doing a self portrait atop Whitaker Point.  Yep, that red backpack is my trusty camera bag.

After several days exploring the Ozarks, I started the 10 hour drive to the Smokies, stopping along the way to hike out to Machine Falls, just outside of Tullahoma, Tn.  Yep, out in the boonies.  Zero crowds!

Drone shot above a nearby lake.  The white cottonballs in the blue water are actually the sky being reflected. Wooo!

Day one in the Smokies and I’m treated once again to fog blanketing the valley & beams of light breaking through! 

The area is also full great rivers to explore. BTW, the spiral brown formation in the lower right section of the photo actually consists of leafs stuck in a whirlpool.  I took a long 10 second exposure which blurred those bad boys.

Lots more fun photos to see.  Click the link: Click for more!

 

 

 

Fall foliage in the Rockies!

People frequently ask me “how” do I get “those shots.” Some inside scoop, specifically for leaf peeping, follows.

Basically, to get good fall color, you first gotta get there “at the right time.” Unfortunately, in the Rockies, it’s almost impossible to predict when the fall color will explode. You’re typically looking for that crazy 7-day period when the lights go “on.”

Unfortunately, the variability of summer rain, fall temps, and big wind storms (that can strip the trees bare) all make predicting pretty much impossible. Meaning I plan very last minute and start driving in when it’s “just right”.

So getting there is half the battle. The other half is catching great light and even better, an overnight snowstorm before the leaves disappear. You want just the right amount of clouds to catch the early morning rays or sunset. Clear blue skies suck!

Every once in a while, I get lucky. Got up early to catch this shot after it snowed all nite. Was this view visible from the road? Nope. That’s where the drone comes in.

Drones have become a leading edge tool to grab unique shots from vantage points previously requiring a helicopter. Kind of the new frontier for adventure photography.

Some other shots taken in flight. BTW, I use a DJI Mavic 3 Cine as my UFO.

That’s not to say, I’m not willing to go low. This photo was taken about 2 inches off the ground. For our photobugs out there, it’s actually two images blending together. One focused in on the nearby leaves, the other focused on the further away trees. I used a small aperture (F22) to create the Sunstar.

I used the same technique below (focus stacking) to get the nearby leaves in sharp focus (shot 1) and then focus out long for the mountain (shot 2).

Ok, now for getting rainbows. When I see it raining, but there’s a clear sun sky behind me, I start looking around!

What makes a great woodland shot? Occasionally, you chance upon some very white, large-diameter Aspens with the foreground covered in ferns. Yellow fever!

Let’s not forget the wildlife!

No, not the moose, the Holstein(or whatever). I was standing about 8 ft from that girl. Actually taken with my iPhone. BTW, I was not close to the moose. Don’t have a death wish. Taken with a big telephone lens.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to be tenacious. I’ve been trying to get a great shot of Mount Crumpet (Rabbit Ears) for years.  Some Steamboat buddies, helped me find the right vantage point (thanks to the Clarks!). Finally got all the elements together. Great sky, changing trees & hint of sunlight on the mountain.

Oh, yes…how to get a good photo of a lake? Two things really help. Go when it’s dead still, so the lake becomes a mirror. II: Have a great sky. The sky becomes the main event!

Check out the link below to see the full gallery. https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Other/Galleries/Fall-in-the-west-2022/n-rrc2QX/

Norway: Snitz in the land of the Midnight Sun

“What’s the best location you’ve ever photographed?”. I get asked that a lot! Usually, I look stumped and can’t answer. Now I can; the Western Coast of Norway.

Part of my attraction is the scenery. You have vertical peaks jutting out of an endless supply of lakes. You find yourself driving from one fjord to another, through an amazing system of tunnels as you pass under mountains to successive bomber views. Nuts! Along the way, every 5-10 minutes, you pass a quaint fishing village.

BTW there are zero billboards and practically no stop lights. Just unspoiled postcard views.

But that’s not the most compelling part.

It’s the light! Located very far North (further than most of Alaska) in late summer, it never gets dark. The sun sets around 11 pm and comes up again around 3 am. During that time the sky can stay red for hours. Sunsets and sunrises never seem to end. Magic for a photographer.

And amazing hiking? Try treking up a 2,500-foot mountain at 930pm, arriving as the sun sets and seeing nobody. No crowds! Pretty surreal.

Ok, what’s the catch? Well, it typically rains every 3rd or 4th day. You can get slammed by weather. And as you may have guessed, to take advantage of this great “light” you’re staying up through the Norweigan nights (basically remaining on Central Standard Time). And yes, the food is crazy expensive (however the fish is top-notch).

My trip started in the Village of Senja, a quiet fishing village.

11 pm and families are out enjoying the great color!

A few hours later it’s still red out there, and the tide is out, creating this great river effect. Normally the entire foreground would be underwater.

The tidal action creates these cool lines along the beach.

Taken with a drone over 1,000 feet up. A perspective you seldom see from the road.

Talk about getting a different perspective! Here’s the view atop Mt. Husfjellet. The climb up takes about 90 minutes (& can be pretty muddy after a rain)!

With the frequency of rain and cool lighting it’s pretty common to see rainbows. Lot’s of rapidly changing weather.

Plus a good share of hidden waterfalls.

My family joined me mid trip and we proceeded South to the Lofoten Islands.

Great to see kayakers out exploring the fjords. We spent a half day doing the same!

Lots more to see. Click the gallery link. https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Other/Galleries/Norway-2022/n-FX5WwV/

 

Snitz winter tours America’s Southwest

I’ve never had the chance to photograph some of my favorite Colo Mntn spots covered in snow.  Ergo the San Juan Mountains located in Southwest Colo (think Telluride/Crested Butte).

For instance, I’ve shot Mount Sneffeles many times, but getting back there in the winter isn’t easy. Requires a snowcat or a Jeep with some massive tires. Worth the effort!

BTW there are more uncharted jeep roads (with about 2ft of untracked snow on them) to explore. The shot below was taken with a drone (about 30ft above the road).

The drone provides a pretty unique perspective when the sun is about to set. Love the shadows!

Speaking of sunset, it was full moon time on my trip. Everything lined up just right!

The two shots below were both taken about 35 minutes before sunrise (just outside the town of Ridgeway).

Interesting, how different some iconic views look when covered with the white stuff!

Then there are those crazy (& I do mean crazy) ice climbers. This dude was going up an 800ft high ice flow (just outside of Ouray, Colo). Any fall would be a game-changer (& not for the good).

Next stop, the Moab area (which includes Arches and Canyonland NPs).

A previously hidden view I discovered while flying the drone. I had no idea what this plateau looked like till I got approx. 800 ft above the trailhead.

The photo below (Arches NP) looks like it’s taken at a lake. Nope, the image was created by getting down really low and photographing across a 3 x 4ft pond.

Another bomber reflecting pond.

Yes, every so often you can find a waterfall in the desert!

This place is aptly named Goosenecks State Park. Looks even better from above.

On to Arizona! My exploration focused on two areas, Lost Dutchman State Park and the Kofa National Wildlife Preserve.

This image was taken near my tent at 4 am. The cacti in the foreground are called Cholla (actually jumping Cholla). If you brush up on them, they release their barbed needles. Good luck getting them out. Incredibly nasty plants. I was darn lucky to avoid any accidents!

BTW, for our photo enthusiasts. The photo below was taken by shooting 13 images of the Sky (ISO 8,000, F 2.8, 17 secs) and stacking using Starry Landscaping Stacker Software. The foreground was shot 90 minutes later during twilight. The images were then merged in Photoshop.

The Cholla make great foreground objects and almost glow during sunrise or sunset!

This guy is a Balloon Cactus plant.

This shot features the Saguaro cactus (the really big guys).

 

 

Snitz’s Sedona photo/hiking adventure

Sedona, Ariz is one of my fav places to hike.  Gorgeous scenery, awesome weather (excepting summer), and little driving required (most hikes 10 mins from town).  It’s also a great place for nature photog! Some of my favorite places to shoot include:

Crescent Moon Picnic Area:  Great views along Oak Creek overlooking Cathedral Rock. https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/crescent-moon-ranch-at-red-rock-crossing

Upper Red Rock Loop:  Several awesome pullouts provide a view of Cathedral and Bell Mountain.

Airport Mesa Viewpoint (& attached trail):  Not to be confused with the airport viewpoint above.  This hiking spot has only about 8 parking spaces.  It provides trails with 360-degree panoramic views of the entire valley!  After a rain, reflecting pools form on the rock face providing great ops to shoot low and reflect the mountains. https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/sedona-airport-loop-trail

Don’t be afraid to use your telephoto lens to capture some far-away action.  This shot was taken shortly after dawn with a 300mm lens.

Boyton Canyon to the Subway:  The Subway is a detour off the main path that while impressive may prove a bit hair raising for some hikers.  Requires a good level of fitness and some climbing experience. https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/boynton-canyon-trail

Seven Sacred Pools hike. Great foregrounds. After a rain look for reflecting pools (shoot low). https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/soldier-pass-to-brins-mesa-loop

Some of my favorite hikes also include:

Easy/Moderate

Doe Mountain Loop https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/doe-mountain-loop-trail

Long Canyon, Deadman’s Pass, Mescal Loop https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/mescal-mountain-long-canyon-deadmans-pass-mescal-loop

Secret Slickrock (easy short/great for sunset) https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/secret-slick-rock-trail?ref=result-card

Sugarloaf Loop https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/sugarloaf-loop-trail

Moderate/Hard

Hangover Trail https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/hangover-trail-out-and-back

Sterling Pass https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/sterling-pass-trail

Devil’s Bridge via Chuck Wagon Trail (great view, overrun with tourists…everyone flocks to this, I’d skip) https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/devils-bridge-via-chuck-wagon-trail

Hard

Bear Mountain https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/bear-mountain

Click here to see my original gallery photos: https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Other/Galleries/Sedona-2021/n-XpLtXs/

 

Caddo Lake: Apocalypse Now?

Caddo Lake, located in Northern Texas, is becoming one of the most photographed Cypress Forests in the United States.  This unique landscape is both gorgeous and pretty darn mysterious looking.

The wetland lake area is massive encompassing over 25,000 acres and stretches into Lousiana.   By the way, since 1965 apparently, there have been literally hundreds of Bigfoot sightings on the lake.  Not kidding!

Each fall (Mid November down there), as the colors of the Cypress trees change, legions of leaf-peeping photographers converge on this place… including T Snitz Esq!

There are essentially two ways to view the lake.  The first is from shore, inside the Caddo Lake State Park.

20 minutes before sunrise.

Five minutes before sunrise.

The background forest begins to glow about one hour later!  Badabing.

Occasionally you’ll see some folks out paddling in the park.

To view the main lake, you need to be on a boat.  It’s difficult to view from the shore in most spots. Dawn patrol. Fisherman locked and loaded (with Coors Light)!

It’s pretty spooky out here.

The colors really pop when the sun is obscured by clouds!

An Egret keeping watch.

Saying goodbye to the Bayou, I had the op to drive through the Ozarks on route home to Illinois.  Armed with a Mavic II Pro drone…got a great vantage point to view the fall color.

See the rest of my pics by clicking the link: Link to the photo gallery

A final word of caution:  Caddo Lake is rapidly getting discovered.  Motorized boat rentals which typically come with a guide (lake can be difficult to navigate) are already getting booked up for next fall!.   For serious photographers looking for a guided experience, many photo workshops for next fall (2022) are likewise already full. Ergo, plan your trip now!

 

Fall colors explode over the Rockies

Every fall the Colorado Rockies erupt with bright colors, making late Sept & early October prime viewing.  It’s hard to pin down the exact week for peak color in advance as the previous winter’s snowfall, rain and fall temps all impact when/how the leaves turn color.

Three primary ecosystems produce the amazing light show.  Large groves of Aspen trees turn yellow, with Cottonwoods typically morphing into an orange or bright red.  Bushes and ground covers often can create a yellow, orange or dark red carpet which enhances the foliage display.

We started our travels in Steamboat Colo. The ski area is surrounded by hundreds of farms and there are great ops to grab photos of horses, cattle, and such.

Speaking of animals, Bullwinkle here was not photographed in the wild.  The photo was taken in the backyard of our Steamboat townhome!

Numerous hikes in the area feature Aspens against the background of changing underbrush.

BTW, a clear sky provides a great op to produce star stars.  For our photos buffs, the trick is to reduce your aperture to F22 and position the sun so it’s just peaking around a stationary object (like these trees).

My hands-down fav place to photograph in Steamboat during fall is the top of Rabbit Ears Pass.  The photo below was taken with the help of a Mavic II Pro drone.  I’m finding that drone photography is a game-changer.  Aeriel photography allows the capture of views that were impossible before (unless you rented a chopper or fixed-wing aircraft).

This year, for the first time, I decided to explore fall color in Crested Butte.  The area is home to some of the largest Aspen groves in the US.  Ground zero for viewing is the dirt road that rises over Kelber Pass.  The best shots were also taken with a drone (often flown one or even two miles away!), which allowed me to position the camera exactly where I wanted it!

Sometimes, rising before or at sunrise is required to view exceptional color. Both these shots were also taken at Crested Butte.

DON’T STOP NOW.  CLICK THE LINK TO SEE MORE PHOTOS!!  Link to more PHOTOS!

 

 

 

 

Wildflower Explosion in Colo’s Rockies

Each summer, the upper elevations of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains come alive with spectacular wildflowers.  The exact timing is dependant on the previous winter’s snowmelt and Spring rains.  Generally speaking mid to late July provides a 2-3 week window of bomber viewing.

The images below come from our home base in Steamboat Springs, Colo.  My favorite viewing spot is the trail up to Rabbit Ears.  And my favorite time?  Err…20 minutes before dawn (aka 5 am).  If you want to catch the best light, be prepared to drill it early.

On route up the trail.

The first wildflower meadow about 20 minutes into the hike.

Rabbit Ears in full glory!

Let’s not forget the Flattops Wilderness area, a 50 minute drive Southwest of town.

July is also the time to catch Steamboat’s annual Balloon Rodeo .

Our next stop is considered by many to be the epicenter of Colo wildflowers; Crested Butte.  There are too many awesome spots to mention, but high on my list is the meadow just outside the riding stables.

Telluride doesn’t have the plethoria of wildflowers but still has among the best mountain peaks in the state!

Next July, you owe yourself the op to take advantage of Colo during the bloom!  Don’t miss it.  More photos!  See the link below!

Link to more photos

Spring in Yosemite!

Exploring Yosemite in late April provides blooming wildflowers and waterfalls running at full power! It also means smaller crowds, especially if you go mid-week (highly recommended).

Combining those flowers with a breaking storm and the iconic “Tunnel View” is bomber!  BTW, for our photo buffs: I captured these images using a technique called “photo stacking”.  I take multiple photos (one focusing close up on the flowers, then a second focusing on the mountains in the background) and combine them digitally into one perfect sharp image (Photoshop).

“Valley View” is another fav vantage point in the park.

Half Dome (below) along with El Capitan (2nd below, taken on an earlier trip) are the two most well-known landmarks in the park.

The park’s two most photographed waterfalls are Bridalveil (shown framed by a rainbow below) and Yosemite which drops over 2,400 ft. Click photo or link at the bottom for high res versions of these images (& to see the entire gallery).

The full moon shown below was captured about 10 minutes before sunrise.  The alpenglow lighting produces some amazing colors, yes? Light at a low angle (pre-dawn or post-sunset) reflects off particles in the atmosphere to create this phenom. Click photo for high res image & full gallery.

The Hites Cove Trail, approx 10 miles outside the park features a boatload of poppies and an airforce of colorful butterflies.

What kind of flowers below?  Lupine!

Click the link below to see more photos(see them in high resolution)! https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Nature-Travel/Galleries/Yosemite-2021/n-L2MW9h/

Snitz hits Death Valley & points West!

I just returned from my first trip to Death Valley.  I also had the op to visit some bomber places on my drive out there!

The trip began in Steamboat Springs, Colo.  About three hours Southwest lies the Colorado National Monument, located in Fruita.  The 23-mile scenic drive has a series of spectacular vistas.  Absolutely worth checking out as you venture West on I70.

The following day, I took some remote jeep roads into the mountains to explore the San Rafael Swell.  Accessed off I70 this area is known for an amazing overlook referred to as “The Wedge”.  The image below was taken immediately after a breaking snowstorm with a drone.  The best part of the canyon can only be shot effectively remotely.  I flew about 1 mile into the canyon to get this perspective.

Day three (& another 3 hours West) lies the town of St George, Utah, and Snow Canyon (often referred to as the little sister of Zion Nat Park).  This uncrowded State Park features interesting pools of water that form immediately after a good rain or snowstorm.

The image below was taken with a drone, looking North.

And finally, the main event: Death Valley. There are certainly some amazing sand dunes:

But also some otherworldly landscapes, like Badwater Basin (shown at dusk and under the Milky Way below).

Talk about unusual, “Race Track” (NW corner of the park) is known for unique rocks that appear to be walking along the clay desert floor.  In reality, ice forming under these bad boys, along with fierce winter winds actually cause the movement.  To grab this shot under the Milky Way, a buddy and myself ventured out on the 2-hour drive to the destination at 1 am!  Then we walked about 2/3rds of a mile to find a suitable rock.  BAM.

At sunrise, a few minutes down the exit road, we were greeted to this crazy image.  The jagged foothills to our east formed the unusual shadows below.

Want to see more!  Click the link for more images (full Death Valley Gallery): https://www.snitzerphotos.com/Nature-Travel/Galleries/Death-Valley-2021/n-Z2KGRD/

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