Day 4 and 5 Photo Safari Yellowstone and Grand Tetons

June 25, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

May 4, Day 4: - You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks!  We had breakfast at the hotel and a 6:30 departure after which we crossed into Wyoming on I-90.  We stopped at the Wyoming Visitor Center and picked up maps and checked highway conditions, then headed for Devil’s Tower via US highway 14 near Sundance and Wyoming highway 24.  Driving along route 24, we encountered a small herd of antelope and one seemed to want to race us.  I had slowed down to a crawl, and it darted into the road ahead of us and would race down the middle of the road, veer off the road, and if I attempted to slowly move by, it would dart back onto the road and race down the middle again.  We arrived in time for some photos of Devil’s Tower with the sun just peeping out from behind it.  Backtracked out the same way until we intersected with US 14, where we drove US 14 to Moorcroft and picked up I-90 again.  About halfway between Gillette and Buffalo, we stopped at a rest area along the Powder River.  Discovered the reason for its name was due to the sediment it carried.  An old saying about the water was that it was too thick to drink and too thin to plow.  Not far from this location was the famous outlaw hideout of Butch Cassidy, the Logan brothers, and Jesse James.  About 30 miles east of Buffalo, Wyoming, near Crazy Woman Creek, we stopped to photograph the Big Horn Mountains in the distance.  Drove on to Story, Wyoming for the night, were we stayed in a relative’s cabin.  285 miles 20 MPG

May 5, Day 5:  Spent a very peaceful, quiet night in the wonderful little community of Story, WY and left around 7:00 AM this morning enroute to Silver Gate, Montana.  After getting onto I-90 we drove north to Sheridan where we turned onto US highway 14 south.  If you have never driven this route, I highly recommend it.  We drove through Big Horn National Forest, and climbed the mountains to Granite Pass. Along the route through the mountains, geologist had determined the age of the rock and placed signs along the way showing the rock that was 300 to 500 million years old.  There was not much traffic and the views were spectacular.  I had been disappointed that Beartooth Highway was not yet opened; but this route proved to be just as spectacular in its own ways.  Saw and photographed moose and snow scenes along the way.  Once out of the mountains, we headed for Cody, WY.  Between Greybull and Cody, we detoured off the highway and drove through McCullough Peaks looking for the wild horse band that lives there.   No luck finding them; but enjoyed a beautiful but dusty drive.  Had lunch from the cooler along the way, and picked up the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in Cody.  Again, another spectacular highway if you have never driven it before.  So many beautiful vistas, and just before the end we were treated to a view of Pilot Peak through the trees.  Arrived in Silver Gate, Montana and checked into our cabins that would be home for the next 5 days.  The Pine Edge Cabins of Silver Gate are the best kept secret for Yellowstone visitors wanting to photograph the Lamar Valley.  Henry, the owner loaned us his own personal spotting scopes and binoculars for the entire time we were there.  A huge bison was waiting to welcome us, and two moose and an owl came around at night.  285 miles  18 MPG


Day 2 and 3: Photo Safari Yellowstone and Grand Tetons

June 25, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

May 2, Day 2:  You can read the entire blog and view photos on our website. If you enjoy the account, Please . . . share it with your friends. Photos from the trip can be viewed at: http://astilesphotography.com/f390536220 Thanks!  We got up early with a target departure time of 7:00 AM.  Got packed and had breakfast at the hotel, and were on the road again by 6:45 AM.  About 10 miles west of Columbia, we left I-70 in favor of Missouri Highway EE and drove north through the farmland on two-lane roads.  Found a pretty little cemetery along the road and stopped for photos, giving everyone a chance to check camera settings and practice some exposure bracketing.  We continued north and west on backroads, crossing the Missouri River as we drove past huge farms, ethanol plants, and the fertile river bottom land.  Stopped for coffee in Carrollton, Missouri and was asked by a couple of old gentlemen where I was from. I told them, and they said they were trying to figure out my license plate, which is retired military. We talked while everyone else got their drinks, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them.  I explained where we were headed, and they seemed to appreciate the fact that we had gotten off the Interstate in order to see the “real” Missouri.  On US highway 65 we found a beautiful old church in Van Horn Township.  Pleasant Hill Christian Church had been built in 1880 and was now abandoned.  I talked to a young man who was cleaning up the cemetery who told me his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all buried there.   We enjoyed watching the Amish farmers along the way and one agreed to us taking a photo of his horse and buggy.  Continued west and picked up I-29 and drove north.  North of St. Joseph, near Rock Port we crossed the Missouri River and entered Nebraska, picked up US Highway 75 and headed north through vast farm lands and the Omaha Indian Reservation.  Near Blair, NE we found an old barn sitting all alone on a hill to take a few photos of. We then continued north, crossing the Missouri again and into Sioux City for the night.  453 miles  26 MPG

May 3, Day 3:  After breakfast in the hotel, we headed north on I-29 and turned west onto I-90 at Sioux Falls.  Found an old abandoned farmstead in Plankinton, SD and took some photos.  We wanted to make Rapid City, SD for the night, so we drove mostly on I-90 this day.  We took a detour through Badlands National Park, and while the light was not good at midday, we enjoyed the rugged beauty of the park; and found a town of white prairie dogs at the little homestead museum prior to entering the park.   Leaving the park, we had to make the obligatory stop at Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD for ice cream and coffee.  We stopped in Rapid City, SD for the night after 441 miles because we wanted to drive to Devil’s Tower the following morning.  17 MPG – climbing uphill all day


Photo Safari Road Trip 2016

June 25, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I am guessing there are many out there, like myself, who have wanted to travel across and photograph the United States.  Also like me, they may be a little hesitant about doing a long road trip due to expenses, time required, and uncertain opportunities for photography.  This blog recounts a trip that my wife, 2 sisters, and I just completed, and hopefully, it will answer some questions and allay some trepidation, and encourage others to take similar trips.  The best way to see the USA is slowly.

Our goals were to spend a total of 15 days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks at a time when young animals were available for photographing; and to explore the Plains some for photographic sites, and perhaps some spring storms.  We allowed a total of 22 days which we hoped would allow us to avoid the summer traffic jams that plague Yellowstone after Memorial Day.  I will write about 1 or 2 days at a time, and try to post at least one new segment each week.

May 1, Day 1:  6:00 AM – we packed up our Chevy Silverado Crew Cab, putting suitcases and cold weather gear packed separately into the bed with a cover on it.  We also included a small cooler with snacks, a case of water, and a box with non-perishable food items, coffee and filters, and some wine.  Plenty of room, as we all packed as light as possible, planning on doing laundry once during the trip. I had to pack my camera, lenses, and tripods in the back as well because I was driving.  The other three kept their camera bags and tripods in the cab with them, and there was sufficient room for everything. Unless noted differently, we ate lunch each day from our cooler filled with summer sausage, grapes, cheeses, crackers, and other fruits and goodies.

6:30 AM we pulled out of the driveway in Stockbridge, Georgia and headed north on I-75.  Our goal was to make as many miles as possible the first day, and then venture off the Interstates as we entered and crossed the Great Plains.  At Chattanooga, TN we picked up I-24 and followed it north through Paducah, KY to where it intersected with I-57, then north to I-64 west to pick up I-70 and crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri at St. Louis. From there, we followed I 70 west to Columbia, MO where we stopped for the night around 5:00 PM.  700 miles total.  I had planned on a possible gas mileage of 18-19 MPG and was pleased to find our average had been 22 MPG for the day.


Cruise or Photography Trip?

February 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Should you spend your money of a cruise, or on a photography trip you plan yourself?

An excellent photographer, and my first photography instructor, Jim Henderson, once posed the question: “What do you want to do, go on a cruise, or go take photos?”  I think that is a perfectly valid question everyone should ask themselves.

I love a good cruise.  The food is great! I do not have to worry about anything, other than sleeping and eating, and going wherever I am told to go.  If I want to dress up for dinner, I can. Or, if I want to eat a burger or pizza I can do that too.  I can schedule and pay for shore excursions, be where I am supposed to be, and get driven around with a guide and delivered back to the ship on time.  The itinerary is all planned out before I even begin.  I can attend lectures, musical or humorous skits, gamble my money away in a casino, and meet a lot of people I might never meet otherwise.  But I cannot go somewhere, set up and wait for the light, and take photos.  In fact, on some shore excursions I have been on I could not take photos at all, except for those taken through a moving bus window!  One thing I will say about cruises is that the offer a means of scouting areas where you want to come back on your own and do some photography.

If I want to go and take photos, I will arrange my own transportation and lodging, plan the trip myself, and ensure I have all the time available for taking photos.  I may not eat as well as I would on a cruise.  I may not have room in my luggage for a suit or a tuxedo; and there may not even be a restaurant available above one or two stars on the travel guides.  I will not have someone telling me I have to be on Deck 4 at 7:18 AM with excursion tickets; but I can be up and on location before sunrise to take photos. If I want to come back that afternoon or the next day, I can do that too.  Or, I can go to my next location. The itinerary is totally up to me.  For me, these two activities are diametrically opposed.

If you want to chill out, let someone else do the planning and driving, while eating and relaxing, then by all means schedule yourself a cruise.  However, do not expect to get a lot of snapshots of anything other than people doing the same thing you are doing.  To me, there is a huge difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

If, on the other hand, you want to go take photographs, then sit down and plan a trip to whatever location you are interested in.  Put some time into the pre-planning and planning phases.  Research the location for where the best locations are for sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, or whatever your interests are.

In the end, you will probably spend about the same amount on either trip, so if your goal is to do photography, skip the cruise and do your own trip planning.


Landscape Photography

February 12, 2015  •  2 Comments

How does one create landscapes that capture the feeling of place?

I sometimes do photos for friends, and enjoy trying to capture their character in the shot; and I have had quite a bit of success at this, especially with young children.  However, when it comes to landscapes, I find it much more difficult to capture the feeling of a place.  I want the viewer to be able to feel the same emotions I felt when taking the photo. I want the viewer to be led to the same thoughts I had as I gazed upon the scene.  Anything short of that leaves me feeling as if I have failed.  While the scene may be beautiful in lighting and color, awesome in its panoramic view, and in razor sharp focus, if the viewer does not feel what I felt when taking the photo, then I consider myself to have failed.  And fail I do. Frequently!  This causes me to give a lot of thought as to how I can portray the feelings of a view to the viewer who is not there.  Unfortunately, this usually happens AFTER I have taken the shot and left the location!  How does one accomplish this?  Does anyone else out there share in this frustration or experience???  In the accompanying photo, I wanted to capture the feeling of isolation, solitude, or loneliness I felt while looking at the lone bison foraging through the snow down in the valley.  Not sure if I did or not.

My goal for 2015 is to learn how to transmit my feelings, thoughts, and emotions of a place to my viewers.  All comments, suggestions, commiseration on this subject are welcomed.

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