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Looking Back – Best of ’10

Barn Covered in Snow

I know this has been my first post since returning from my trip just over two months ago, but thats frankly because I haven’t really touched my camera since then.  Not that I have lost interest, just that I was utterly exhausted from shooting for a month straight.  That coupled with a lack of inspiration I expected coming back from the West to the dreary East.

I figured it was the right time to change up my background on my desktop and the idea came to mind to look back and find my best shots of 2010.  Being my first full year photographing, I thought it’d be nice to look back and see how I had progressed.  I’ve come up with 13 images that were my favorites, trying my hardest not to be biased towards my most recent adventures to the Wild West (It did not help much, but hey I tried).  I’ll keep it in chronological order to help show the progression.

1. Barn Covered in Snow – I like this image because its clean and simple, 30 inches of snow blanketed the area the day before.

Barn Covered in Snow

2. The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, UK – This image was taken on my photo workshop in March, the Isle of Skye has an otherworldly feel to it.  The colors may be a bit exaggerated, but only to add to mystique of the volcanic landscape and its odd formations.

3. Snail on the Bladderwrack – Also on the Skye workshop, a dull overcast day meant macro work on the beach.  Tom Mackie, the workshop instructor and an amazing landscape photographer had mentioned a previous shot he had done similar to this.  I can’t take the credit for the original idea, yet it’s still an interesting image.

4. Loch Alsh – Yet another from my Skye workshop.  Experimenting with finding a landscape within the landscape, I put on my telephoto to find this simple yet deep composition.

5. Springtime at the Rodale Institute – Definitely my most visited place to photograph of the past year, this one is just a clean composition with strong colors and light.

6. Ferns in Black and White – In spring, these ferns begin to blanket the woods around my house. Waking up early one morning I noticed the sun just starting to peak through the woods to create a cool directional lighting effect.

7.  Cabbage-scape – If you have been looking at my work throughout the year, you must have seen I had an affinity for the cabbage for a while.  This was my first cabbage-scape, and still is my favorite.  The Black and White makes it look almost sculpted rather than organic and fragile.

8. Falls – One of only about a thousand images of waterfalls I took this year, still one of my best.  Taken up in the Adirondacks while hiking with my brother.

9. Golden Crown – If you have been following my blog, you would remember this one.  This was one of my favorites of my entire trip to the Southwest.  For more description, refer back to this post … http://wp.me/p11in6-1Z.

10. Mesa Arch, Canyonlands – One of the most photographed locations in the United States today.  To give a sense of how popular it truly is, I woke up at 4:30 AM to get here, got here 40 Minutes before the sunrise, and I was probably the 25th photographer to get there.  This one was taken handheld above my head, the way you see photographers trying to get a shot of celebrities over a crowd.  Just picture 10 photographers with their tripods huddled underneath this image.

11. Balance – This was the image I chose for my background of the over 10,000 images I took throughout the year, which is a testament to how much I really love it.

12. Thors Hammer, Bryce Canyon – This was the first shot I took at Bryce Canyon and yet it is still my favorite.  To think, I would spend another three days and pressing the shutter another 800-900 more times and not finding something I liked more.

13. Blue Wave – To get an idea how far out of the way White Sands National Monument is, I had to drive a full 10-hours to get there from where I had been the day before.  To get another idea of how far out of the way it is, they tested the first ever Atomic Bomb on the north end of the  monument.  This may be a simplistic image that may not do the monument justice to how odd of a landscape it truly is, but I don’t care because I like it.

 

That about does it for my year.  It may be a bit of an understatement considering how many photographs I took this year, but if you like what you see, you are welcome to go through my catalog on www.andrewnorelliphotography.com. All images are available for purchase, and look especially fantastic printed on Aluminum to let the colors shine.


Panorama-mania…Panoramania? Or just a few Panoramas?

It’s been over a week since finally returning from my trip and I’ve been editing non-stop.  It’s a task that I knew I could not take lightly, but I’m not sure I was ready for it either.  Trying to cram in a whole months worth of experiences into a small body of work is task in itself.  Then you have to deal with actually editing them (cloning out dust marks, which is a pain in the A$$), resizing them, color profiling them so they look the same on everyone’s computer screens, and then finally uploading them.  And thats just for my original shots…not including the panoramas that I would have to edit all to match colors and contrast, then have to stitch them, crop them, resize them and all the stuff I had to do with the single images.  Needless to say I am nowhere near finished with all the editing and organizing, but I feel I have made some headway and I’d like to share some of the Panorama’s and hidden favorites that I couldn’t make come to life on my laptop screen.

Inspiration Point

Utah Valley

Zion Canyon

Green River Canyon

Monument Valley Sunset

Rocky Mountain Moonset

Shadows and Clouds

Navajo Arch

Last Dollar Road and the San Juans


Best of…

Because I have been to so many National Parks over this trip, I’ve ended up making so many images that I really don’t know how to pare them down to a small portfolio.  But I figured I would try and make a Best of each park.  I figure I would start out in chronological order and pick either one or two of my favorites from each park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

This may come as a bit of a surprise because you really cannot tell its Rocky Mountain National Park unless I tell you.  This one really came out of my inability to get a sharp photograph, so I decided I would pan the camera to smooth out the moutain range and the glowing twilight clouds.

Arches National Park

Sunrise at Arches

This one came on my final morning in Moab and it may not show the Arches, but I feel it emphasizes the redness in the rocks.

Canyonlands National Park

Golden Crown

This one is one of my favorites of the trip, and its no surprise that it was the lone subject of one of my posts.  It goes into a deeper level than just providing a snapshot of the canyons.

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblins at Sunset

This one I really like because of the composition.  The petrified sand dunes lead your eyes to the odd goblin formations and the light is just stunning.

Capitol Reef National Park

Storm Clouds Coming

I really don’t think I did such a great job of capturing this park.  This scene really doesn’t show a significant part of the park but I just like the composition and the fact that I pre-visualized it the photo before arriving at the spot.

Zion National Park

This park was the most difficult to photograph because it was just raining the entire time.  It also makes it one of the most easy to choose a favorite because I only took a handful of usable shots the entire time I was there.

Court of the Patriarchs

This is not one of my most realistic images.  But I feel it exemplifies the emotion you feel when looking up at these imposing monoliths.  Also not the best editing job and I plan to re-work it when I get back to a usable computer.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Now this one is certainly most difficult because I have so many keepers from this park.  But if I had to pare it down to two images it would be these…

The Tree of Light

Thor's Hammer

It’s no surprise that both of these images feature Thor’s Hammer as it became a favorite subject of mine in the park.

Monument Valley Tribal Park

Monument Valley Sunset

This one is a no-brainer because it is really the only good images I created here due to a lack of time, yet it is still a well composed image with great light and balance.

San Juan National Forest

Golden Aspens

This one shows the most stunning feature of the San Juans…the golden aspens of autumn.  These are just a few of the millions of blazing aspens that I saw in the day that I was there.  Maybe not the cleanest of compositions, but stunning none the less.

Mesa Verde National Park

Kiva

This one is clean and simple, and really one of the few shots I took at this park.

White Sands National Monument

I really just love the balance of this composition and the colors are simple and really add to the feeling of purity.

Wave of Sand

 

Hopefully I did a good job of making images that exemplify the spirit of each park.  Please let me know what you think, whether you agree with my observations.

I am really looking forward to getting home and re-working my images and hopefully creating a portfolio of my trip.  I’d also like to see if any of my panoramas came out as stunning as the vistas that I witnessed.


White Sands National Monument

Dune Shadows in Black and White

I have entered the twilight of my journey, and to be honest I am looking forward to taking some time to do things other than photography.  Before this trip I believed I could photograph ad infinitum as long as I had interesting subjects in front of me, but I feel as though I need a break, both mentally and physically.  That’s not to say I have not thoroughly enjoyed my trip, I definitely have.  I may have not gotten all the images that I believed I could get, but I also think that I bit off more than I could chew attempting to see so much in such a short amount of time.  Not to worry, I have new found knowledge of these places that will allow me to better photograph them in the future should I return.

Now onto my photography.  Yesterday was a long, long, scenic and long day or driving.  I started off in Telluride, which I have mentioned is one amazing place that everyone should visit.  The day previous I had planned to go to Mesa Verde National Park to see the thousand year old Native American ruins.  But due to last minute change of plans I decided I would head up the Million Dollar highway to Telluride, and I do not regret that decision one bit.  So on my way down to New Mexico I made it a point to stop at Mesa Verde for a little while just to take a look.  Mesa Verde is definitely a place that should not be seen quickly, it is spread over a very large area with many interesting cliff dwellings throughout.  I spent about an hour in the park, went to see some ruins, and got to climb down into one of the Kiva’s (a room used for religious practices – something that anyone in my family has heard lots about).  It was quite cramped, yet was also peaceful when the other tourists left.

Heading out of Colorado and into New Mexico, I had my sights set on Alamogordo, not too far from the Mexico border, where I would base myself to hit White Sands National Monument.  It was quite a longgggggg drive, but I got in just after dark, passing the site of the World’s first atomic bomb explosion on the way.  The next morning I woke up at the usual 6 AM to get over the the park well before sunrise at 7 AM to scout out locations, but when I get to the entrace…the gate was locked!  Sign said “Park Opens 7 AM.”  Damn!  So I wait, and wait…finally 6:45 a lady shows up to unlock the gate and lets me through.  Never being here before, coupled with the very little time I had to find a good location was a recipe for bad photography.  I got out of my car and ran into the dunes, and what I found was dune after dune covered in footprints…not a good sign.  Nothing is more unappealing then a well-trodden sand dune.  I finally walked far enough to find some dunes that were footprint-free and got a few shots…one in particular that I really liked.  I really liked the contrast of the dark blue shadows with the bright white sand.

Wave of Sand

After taking a look at my mornings shots I found this one that I shot of the shadows cast over a dune and something clicked in my head…this one looked familiar.  Then I remembered the first shots I took on this trip at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the shape is what reminded me of it.  I guess this trip is coming full circle, huh?  Or maybe I’ve been away too long and I’m seeing something thats not there. You decide.

Dune

Arch

So after the shoot, I headed back for a nice free hot breakfast at the motel, with a few cups of much needed coffee.  I remembered there was a Wal-Mart in town and since I have been away from most major cities for a while I had been looking for one, for a specific reason.  I have become sick of my satellite radio playing the same songs over and over again.  I needed to pick up a few CD’s, in particular…Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Anthology.  Believe me, there is nothing better than blasting some Tom Petty out on the open road.

Now that I am thoroughly off topic, at the beginning of the trip, my brother had asked me to pick him up some chili peppers, so through a friends advice I decided I’d take a drive out to Hatch, NM, the Chili Pepper Capital of the World.  As you pull off the highway, the road into Hatch is littered with little shacks that fire-roast their Hatch Chili’s to order.  I ended up going into one of the stores and buying up all types of Chili products.  After filling up the car with my Chili’s I headed into town to get one of my favorite foods, Chili Verde.  In Hatch, even the gas station serves awesome Chili Verde.

I headed back to Alamogordo to rest up then head back out for the late day sun to cast some shadows over the dunes once again.  I finally got around to buying new batteries for my Medium format film camera because I wanted to try it out.  I would have done so sooner if it were not for the fact that the viewfinder is busted so I would basically be shooting blind.  I was not about to let that ruin the fun though.  I headed out into the dunes with just the film camera loaded with one roll, figuring I wouldn’t go far and be back pretty quickly.  I had yet again forgot that you can’t find a clean sand dune unless you walk pretty far off the path.  I ended up walking for about twenty minutes before I took my first shot and by the time I had finished the roll it was getting pretty late in the day so I had to hoof it back to the car to reload and bring out my D700 too.  Once I got back and reloaded I set out again, walking as briskly as I possibly could to get back to some clean dunes.  By that time I had become pretty fed up seeing so many interesting dune formations ruined by foot prints and sled marks.  I ended up getting a few decent shots anyways, but I was expecting a bit more.  The sun slowly set as I scrambled to find any excuse to photograph a dune in the interesting light and came up empty.  I walked back to the car mentally and physically drained…mostly from the constant walking over sand, which is one hell of a workout.

Dune Forms

Luckily…and I mean this with a bit of sarcasm, the White Sands Missile Range will be having Missile tests tomorrow morning and the monument will be closed til 10 AM.  That means a nice day to sleep in, get a good breakfast in and then probably head back up towards Santa Fe, where I’ll be staying Friday and Saturday.  On the way, I hope to hit Truth or Consequences, NM for no other reason than to say that I’ve been there.  Then further north I plan on going to the VLA (Very Large Array) Telescope.  It may not sound familiar, but I am sure you have seen it before.  It is a large grouping of Satellite dishes, featured in the movie Contact.

I do not know where I will end up tomorrow, but I do know is it is one step closer to coming home.


San Juan Mountains – Million Dollar Highway, Last Dollar Road and One Hell of a Trip

Star Trails from Monument Valley

Today was the first day which I had nothing planned.  I woke up this morning thinking I would take a short two hour drive over the Mesa Verde National Monument to check out the thousand year old cliff dwellings.  But then I thought, I would only be there for a couple hours and I did not want to just sit around doing nothing for most of the day, waiting for sunset to see if I could find something to photograph.  That was not something I wanted to do, I figured I would take a friends advice and take a drive up through the San Juan mountains…to Ouray, then through to Telluride.  I have been told it is some of the most amazing scenery in the state of Colorado, but nothing could prepare me for the first hand experience.  Heading up north from Durango, you take the Million Dollar Highway…one of the most dangerous and yet most beautiful roads in America.  Going through mountain pass after mountain pass, it is an experience you can never expect…entire mountainsides painted gold with the endless blazing yellow Aspens.

The road down from the mountains to Ouray is a ever-winding two lane road cut out of the moutnainside, with nothing more than a few inches of steel between you and thousand foot cliffs.  Once you drop into Ouray, you get a sense of a town stuck in time.  It reminded me of Swizterland.  After Ouray I headed for Telluride, a town I have only heard of and had yet to experience.  Driving down the road from Ouray, I felt I was leaving something behind because the direction I was heading seemed flat and boring.  I could not be more wrong, as the road soon headed upwards and doubled back around to the other side of the mountains that surrounded Ouray.

Golden Aspens

The Last Dollar Road

Switzerland, USA

Just as I was driving down the road I noticed a small sign so I slowed down to see what it said…”National Forest Access : Last Dollar Road.”  Now anyone else probably would’ve just kept driving, but I have heard this name before.  I decided I would head down the 4WD road just to see what it was like.  I was not to be disappointed.  The road winds through the mountainsides, past giant ranches, rolling meadows, and infinite Aspen groves.  The views were absolutely mind-blowing.  I felt as if I had been transported to Switzerland.  After I finally made it to Telluride, about two hours later due to stopping the car every few feet to photograph, I headed through town, which is also amazing.  Kept driving through to find a hotel, and didn’t see anything until I headed clear through town.  At the end of the road theres a little sign that says Private Property: Public Access to Bridal Veil Falls.  It sounded like something interesting so I headed up, and since I just had an amazing time on the Last Dollar Road, I was in the mood for some more 4WD action.  Switchback after switchback and I start to see the falls up the mountainside.  This small house perched atop a cliffside, with two falls flowing just underneath it, it looks like something out Lord of the Rings.  I have definitely seen this house before in a movie.

Bridal Veil Falls

I’d say it was a pretty successful day, not so much photographically, other than a few snapshots, but just the experience was worth the trip.  I would suggest hitting up Telluride to anyone who is ever in the area.

Tomorrow I am heading to New Mexico for White Sands NM, Santa Fe, and the surrounding areas.


Monument Valley

While I am sad that I had to leave Bryce Canyon, I felt it was time to go as I had exhausted my options for photographing the hoodoos.  I will have to save the rest for another time back, which is most certainly worth it.  After heading up to Bryce Point for one last sunrise over the hoodoos, albeit an extremely windy and cold sunrise, I had to pack up and head out.  Monument Valley was my next destination.  On the way, I would pass two destinations that I orginially planned to hit, the Paria Wilderness, aka the Wave, known for its petrified sand dunes that resemble a wave form, and the Antelope Slot Canyon of Page, AZ.  The Slot canyons are some of the most interesting geological formations that I have seen.  They almost look like a martian landscape, thin wavy canyons cut through for millennia by water.  The light that enters the canyon is magical and ever changing.  You can see shafts of light peak down from hundreds of feet above and then see amazing differences in color ranging from magenta and red, to orange, yellows and blues.  Although I decided it will have to wait for another time, as it is pretty expensive to hire a guide to go in, and is also very touristy and not very fun to photograph so I’ve heard, I was instantly regretting not stopping, as I drove by.  I figure I could have made some magic happen down in those canyons.  But I drove on, to Monument Valley, another masterful example of natures work on a landscape.

 

I got here, early afternoon, when the sun was high in the sky and the light, very unflattering.  I felt like I missed out on the slot canyons and I immediately wanted to go back.  But I did not, as it was two hours in the wrong direction and I was here so I might as well take a look.  After heading on the scenic drive, which was unpaved and hellish to drive through, I noticed all those great scenics that I had seen of the Valley…the Yei Bi Chi Totem, Hunts Mesa, were all off limits to anyone unless they hired a guide.  I was instantly crushed as the Totem was the one thing I was hoping to photograph.  With the sand dunes in front leading your eye to this thin Totem pole lit by the reddish glow of sunset, but it was not to be.  According to the Navajo, who own the land in Monument Valley, the land is very sacred and they want to keep it as unspoiled as possible.  I understand that and respect their traditions and beliefs, it’s just a pain to come all the way here and then realize that.  So I decided I would head out and set up camp at the campground down the road.  I came back later for sunset and was absolutely amazed with the following results.  While it is nothing unique, the images I took really satisfied my photographic appetite and soon made me forget about those slot canyons.

Monument Valley Sunset

Now I sit here under the untouched night sky of northern Arizona and can realy feel the majesty of the great outdoors.  It’s really amazing how much light pollution can have an affect on the night sky.  I sit here with almost a complete new moon…only two days old, a mere 2% of it lit by the sun, and I can make out the dark side of the moon.  Even after staring at this computer screen, I look at the sky for no more than five seconds and I see more stars than I have ever seen before.  Even the faintest of the faint stars in the sky, I can make out clear as ever.  That truly is amazing in my mind.  As I let my eyes adjust further, I notice the Milky Way splitting the sky in two.  Tonight will most certainly be a night to try some night photography and star trails.

 

If you look at Monument Valley on a map, you probably will see no major town for at least 30 miles in any direction, and you can really feel like you are at peace out here…and that is probably how the Navajo like their sacred lands to be.

 


Bryce Canyon – Sunrise #2

Heading out this morning I really did not have much of a plan as to what I wanted to capture, only that I was going back to Sunset Point to see what else I could find.  The one shot that I did want to get was that of the Silent City, which because of its eastward facing walls would start to glow before sunrise.  I ended up getting that shot well before sunrise because there were no clouds in the sky, it’s amazing how bright it gets even before the sun hits it.  I cannot show you the results because I shot it as a panorama, and as many of the panoramas I have taken on this trip, to stitch them together on this laptop would most likely result in a fried computer, so those will have to wait til I get home.

(On a side note, I can not fathom how much time it will take me to edit through all these images back on my home computer, but I am not looking forward to it.)

But back to this morning.  Once again the temperature was a tad above Absolute Zero, or at least thats what it felt like.  After I got that first panorama I headed down into the canyon to hit up my favorite spot of the canyon so far, Thor’s Hammer.  It has been the subject of a lot of my shots so far at Bryce, which you probably have seen.  Maybe it’s because it’s so close to the overlook, or maybe because it can command such attention as a main subject.  Either way, I shot another angle this morning just before the sun met the horizon so you get that glow just on above the horizon.  My only gripe with the shot is that I did not fully isolate the head of the Hammer from the rocks behind it, it would’ve looked better if it had been set fully against the Pines in the background, but I think thats just nit-picking.

Thor's Hammer

The second shot, and my favorite of the two was taken on the way back out of the canyon.  Just as the sun had peaked over I was struggling to find a suitable viewpoint.  I knew that since my filters were all scratched up and dirty, any shot taken directly into the sun would result it far-below my standard of image quality.  So just as I was heading up I saw this little Pine tree perched off the trail, glistening in the still golden sun.  I decided I would backlight the tree to make it really glow, thus providing the shielding of the sun that I needed.  Of course I had to add Thor’s Hammer into the frame just because…but also it had this distinct glow about it because of the light reflecting off the red sandstone behind it that just made it look like it was on fire.  I think it ended up being a pretty successful shot, what do you think?

The Tree of Light

Anyways, that was it for the morning.  Nothing else that really struck a chord with me, but tomorrow I will find a different viewpoint to shoot the sunrise over the hoodoos.  As for the rest of the day, I will head out on a long hike to see if I can find something else to photograph.