Alan Pelletier Photography

Explore the world through my lens

​Sunset tour of South Maui – February/March 2018

A re-post from my blog page at my former photography web page.

Sunset Kamaole Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 44mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO100

Aloha! Earlier this year my wife and I spent two wonderful weeks on Maui at the end of February and beginning of March. It was our second trip to Maui and we stayed in Kihei, which is known locally as South Maui. We stayed in a studio apartment that was only a short walk to Kamaole Beach Park and within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants. Much of the time was spent relaxing on the fabulous local beaches, but I did get some time to take photos.

Early morning rain soaked hibiscus
Sigma Marco 105mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO400

The weather included sun, clouds, and rain on most days and not in that specific order, which provided fantastic opportunities for photography each day. Fortunately, most of the rain was light and fell after dark.  Being on the southwest end of the island most of my photos were taken at sunset. I did try to get out twice for sunrise; however, with Haleakala looming in the east at elevation 10,000 feet all of the pre-dawn colors were long gone by the time the sun made its appearance.

One of the many things I enjoyed was the number of beaches and their accessibility. It seemed like there was a beach every half mile where we stayed, beaches we visited included Kamaole, Kalama, Ulua, Baldwin, Makena, and Kanaha. Access was not limited to just that from the streets as most of the resorts that dotted the shoreline in between the beaches provided public access along the shoreline as well.  Providing beautiful walks along the ocean that we took full advantage of, including two long walks to Wailea from our resort.

Sunset Ulua Beach
Nikon 24-70 mm, 27mm, f/11, 1/13s, ISO100

Each beach offered a unique quality or experience that we enjoyed, such as Makena State Park Beach that our niece is named after.  It is a large crescent-shaped beach with the remnants of a volcanic caldera located at the north end of the beach.  Here on our first day, we spotted 45 sightings of humpback whales as it was peak season of their annual migratory visit to the Hawaiian Islands. We participated in two whale watch tours with Ultimate Whale Watch in Lahaina.  The whale watch tours were excellent with the second being more memorable as it provided more favorable weather with plenty of whales, including one group with over 10 whales.  For the whale watch tours, I brought my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephotos lens that provided the reach to get some spectacular shots.  Getting the shots was a challenge despite the long lens, the primary issue was the inflatable tour boat that constantly moved, not knowing where or when the next whale would surface, and taking photos among other photographers on the boats as well.  I chose to use aperture priority, continuous shooting mode, and auto ISO compensation and setting this feature with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500sec in hopes to improve my chances to get sharp images.  While this did provide some great images, the number of out of focus or missed photos greatly outnumbered by winners, which is expected. 

Whale Tails
Tamron 150-600mm, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO100

Another highlight of our visit was finding green sea turtles at Baldwin State Beach located near Paia. A friendly passenger on our flight to Maui mentioned that sea turtles can be frequently seen at this beach. We were not disappointed as we made three separate visits and spotted beached turtles each time.  The turtles typically beached themselves at the north end of the beach and were not bothered by all the beachgoers, including pesky photographers like me.  I used my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens to get tightly cropped images of the turtles.

Taking a break
Nikon 70-200 mm, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO320
Kite Surfer at Kahana Beach
Tamron 150-600mm, 450mm, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO100

 

Other activities that we enjoyed included visiting downtown Lahaina with all the different shops and vendors.  Three we made our second visit to the Lahaina Inn one of our favorite restaurants on Maui. We also made stops to Lappert’s Ice Cream shop and fell in love with Lava Java for our morning shot of caffeine. I also enjoyed photgraphing the kite surfers at Kahana Beach, a popular destination of the more advanced kite surfers.  For these photos I used my new Tamron 150-600 mm telephoto lens, and probably spent nearly 2 hours sitting on the beach firing off hundred of action photos. Lastly, we frequented several local fish restaurants in search of the best fish taco and found that Paia Fish Market served the best fish taco and was conveniently located a mile from where we stayed.

 

Pleasant Surprise

You visualize a photograph and arrive at the location only to have the weather conditions throw a curveball, instead of a gorgeous sunset you’re faced with thick clouds.  That’s happened to me plenty of times and as I have done before, I simply adjusted my expectations and took some photos.  Thinking, who knows perhaps one of the photos will turn-out.  My recent image posted on IG of downtown Hartford is an example.  

Downtown Hartford
70 mm, f/16, 1s, ISO 100

I had wanted to capture the buildings and city lights along the Connecticut River set against a beautiful clear blue evening sky after sunset.  Checking the weather forecast before I left work to take photographs, I knew to expect clouds instead.  Nonetheless, I still drove to Great River Park in East Hartford and found a location for my composition. Using my 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens I decided to grab an image of the Connecticut Science Center and Gold Building.  I also noticed that some of the trees along the Connecticut River still had some yellow autumn leaves that would complement my image.  I also took several long exposures to smooth out a high flowing Connecticut River to hopefully enhance my photograph.

I downloaded the photos the next day and made some quick Lightroom adjustments.  However, that feeling that I didn’t get the shot I planned impacted my decision to set aside this photograph.  A few days ago I was reviewing my images taken the last few weeks a came across the photo and upon a second look, I decided it was pretty decent.  I made some more adjustments and posted it on IG.  It turned out to be a popular photo,  a very pleasant surprise.   Fortunately, I took a second look as I usually do.  It’s that second look that provides fresh eyes and in this case settling aside the disappointment of not getting that initial image that I visualize. 

Looking around Summerville South Carolina

Glorious sun light
Iphone 8+

I spent Thanksgiving with friends in Summerville South Carolina, my third visit since they moved from Connecticut. It’s located about 45 minutes outside Charleston and is one of the more popular communities near Charleston.  I brought my camera gear, but choose not to get a car rental and drive to different photo locations as I have done on previous trips. My decision not to get a car rental was in part due to my short stay only through the weekend and my effort to find images that are readily around Summerville instead of driving to popular photographic locations at one of the great beaches in the state. 

 

Downtown Historic Summerville
122 mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 400

In doing so I wanted to improve my skills in finding different compositions.  I also wanted to take photos of the Thanksgiving dinner itself, the preparation of the food, the table settings, and other images to capture one of my favorite holidays.  I wanted the photos of Thanksgiving to be creative rather than your typical snapshot.  It would also get me out of my comfort zone of taking landscapes that I typically capture.

Focus on the silverware
190 mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400
Green Bean Salad
140 mm, f/4, 1/1200s, ISO 1600 

For Thanksgiving, I used my two workhorse lenses a 24-70 mm f/2.8 to capture the dining room and kitchen and my 70-200 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens to isolate subjects within the dining room and to take close-up images of the food. For the dining room shoots, I used a  shorter focal length to provide a sense of size and openness within the dining room.  Being indoors with both strong light and shadows I was frequently changing my manual settings, particularly my ISO settings to ensure a proper shutter speed to get sharp images.  I took photos in both portrait and landscape format to give me different perspectives of my subject.  When working with the telephoto lens I wanted to isolate and compress my subject, selecting longer focal lengths with larger aperture settings. 

Thanksgiving Table
90 mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 1600

Taking photos of the food was a new experience for me, which I actually enjoyed and upon reviewing my results may consider taking more photos of food.  My telephoto lens was my obvious selection as I wanted a tightly cropped and compressed image of the food.  I also wanted to use the light and shadows to add ambiance to my images and help emphasize the subject.  Section of a larger aperture to create a shallow depth of field also helped draw attention to the subject by creating separation from the background.

Curving the turkey
200 mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 1600
Autumn Decoration
200mm, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 400

The next day was Black Friday and instead of navigating through crowded box stores and malls we decided to browse the smaller stores in the historic district of Summerville.  As my wife and our friends were going in and out of the local shops I set off on my own to find some photos. Walking around the shops and side streets I searched for compositions opening my mind and eyes to potential subjects. Looking for unique items, patterns, and visualizing smaller compositions within larger subjects. It was partially sunny providing some challenges in setting my manual settings depending on the presence of the sun. This provided different images such as back lighting of trees hanging onto their autumn colors or diffused lighting to capture the tonal quality of an image. All my photos were captured with my 70-200 mm telephoto lens. 

Outdoor Seating
200mm, f/3.5, 1/1600s, ISO 400

For the first 30 minutes, I did not press the shutter release but soon started to capture images especially those zoomed in close to focus on certain elements within a subject.  Perhaps it was different location and subjects that presented themselves to me that took time for me to visualize.  It’s easier to visualize sweeping landscape photos or as I like to call them National Geographic photos.  Finding beautiful photos in the smaller details of our surroundings can be more difficult, but we just need to look around because they’re all around us.     

Kale
200mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 400

Also finding beautiful images in places where we live or work may not be easy or seem ordinary compared to images posted on Instagram of exotic locations around the world, but again we just need to open our eyes and mind to the beautiful images around us.  This experience of looking around and finding pleasing photos was very rewarding and I encourage those new to photography to do the same.  Where ever you are there’s a photo to take and as they say the best camera you have is the one with you, including your phone, which I use myself.  All images posted were taken with my Nikon DSLR camera, except the first photo of the American flag taken with my iPhone, which is my favorite photo.  

Apple Cider and Pushing Myself and ISO

Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill

Recently, I visited  Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill in Old Mystic Connecticut to sample some apple cider and take photographs.  I enjoyed my visit and taking photographs as it was not my typical landscape subject.  First a little more about Clyde’s, it’s the last steam-powered cider mill in the USA that’s been in operation since 1881 according to their website.  It’s listed as a National Historic Landmark that is still family owned and recently featured on NBC world news.  The old cider mill is a very popular destination, especially being located near other attractions such as Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium.  The parking lot is usually full, so plan on parking on the side of the street as I did during my visit.  

At Clyde’s, you will find the old mill house where they press apples into apple cider, a store to purchase all sorts of apple products, wine tasting, as well as other vendors providing kettle corn and craft items just to name a few.  They also sell hard cider located in the basement of the old mill house.  One of their main attraction, besides watching them make the cider is trying their apple cider and apple cider donuts at the store.  I indulged myself in a cup of warm cider with two donuts that I enjoyed sitting on the porch taking in the sights and sounds of the place.  

After enjoying my mid-afternoon treat I explored the old mill house to take some photographs.  The apple press was not operating as they schedule breaks in between actually apple pressings, a good opportunity to photograph the equipment inside without crowds.  

Peering into the Old Mill House
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

Peering through some open windows and doors I was fascinated with all the older equipment and the overall feel of the old barn with all it’s exposed roughly sawed wooden timbers, much like the old barn when visiting my grandparents in Maine.  I also was intrigued by all the light and shadows inside the barn and how they played with the old equipment and items hanging on the walls.  Normally I have my tripod with me, but not this trip.  Determined to take some photos I proceeded to challenged myself to get some photos without my tripod or any flashes or lighting.

Shadows and Light
70 mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 2500

Using my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with vibration reduction and setting a high ISO, higher than I’m accustomed to using.   I started taking photos of the old metal press first, checking my results and adjusting my aperture to get a soft background while keeping a higher shutter speed as I was hand holding my camera and trying to lower the ISO as much as possible to reduce noise.  I chose to spot meter most of my photos, exposing for the highlights to avoid blowing out bright areas of the scene.  I also bracketed a few sets of photos using 5 shots with 1-stop intervals providing 2 photos overexposed, 2 photos underexposed, and a single neutral exposed photo.

Apple Press 
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000
Spiining Wheels
102 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, ISO 2500

Next was all the piping, valves, flywheels, and belts that look interesting in the lighting, how the black cast iron metal and brass fittings provided a contrasting effect, and the oil sheen on the equipment glistened in the light.  I also visualized how the photos would look like as black and white images.  Some of this equipment, in particular, the flywheel and belts reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse where they had an old White engine that turned a sharpening wheel.  I can still remember the old engine sputtering as it turned the sharpening wheel.  

Fly Wheels and Belts
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000

Looking around I noticed all the wall hangings and how the light and shadows were creating interesting images, including these clay jugs hanging from the ceiling.  Using my lens to zoom in and out, capturing different aspects of the interior of the mill.  Then I walked around the other buildings taking additional photos.

Old Jugs 
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 2500

Downloading my photos the next day I was eager to see the results and how the higher ISO would impact my images.  In general, I was shooting with an ISO between 2500 and 6400.  Certainly not that high given that newer cameras can go much higher.  However, as mentioned higher than I typically use and with subjects having lots of detail framed tightly using my telephoto lens.  I processed the photos in Lightroom (LR) and upon inspecting the first few images I was impressed with the quality of the images.  Looking closely and did notice noise in the images, but after making adjustments, including noise reduction and sharpening in LR, I was very pleased with the final results.  While I did take several bracketed shots and processed them as an HDR images, I felt the results were not realistic and preferred selecting a single image to work with that provided more realistic results.  

Valves and piping as B/W
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

As for my Black and White photos, again I used LR to convert my color images.  Typically, I make a virtual copy of the color image and reset my settings to start with the flatter image and then convert to B/W photo.  I like to apply different presets, and adjusting the contrast and tonality of the image to enhance the darker and lighter areas as well as the texture in the image.  

Wall Hangings
70 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, 2500 ISO

An important take away from this experience is knowing how far I can push my camera’s ISO setting and still get quality results, especially without a tripod.  I recommend experimenting with your camera’s ISO setting to determine it’s upper limits and still get acceptable photos.  Please let me know what processing method you use to reduce noise in your images.  Or other tips when shooting in low light situations. 

York Maine and the Seacoast Century

In September I traveled to York, Maine to participate in the Seacoast Century hosted by the Granite State Wheelmen. The event is held each year on the third weekend of September and this year marked the 45th edition of this awesome cycling event. Riders choose from 25, 50, 65, and 100-mile routes, with the 100-mile route navigating along the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastlines. All rides start and end at the Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire with over 1,000 riders registering this year with options to ride either Saturday, Sunday, or both days. I have participated in this ride almost every year and have participated in at least a dozen. I typically ride the 65-mile route with a detour to visit Nubble Lighthouse making it about a 75-mile ride to the lighthouse and back to Hampton Beach. This year my wife Shawn joined me and we left Friday afternoon after work with a car packed with cycling and camera gear. We stayed in York Maine one of my favorite towns in Maine. A beautiful coastal town with a quintessential New England fell, wonderful beaches, and of course the ionic Nubble Lighthouse.

Waiting for sunrise

York Harbor Sunrise

I was up early on Saturday and wanted to take some quick sunrise photos before the ride. Not having a lot of time I quickly drove to York Harbor. Garbing my camera gear I notice a fair amount of high-level clouds on the horizon and quickly scanned the beach for compositions. I was immediately drawn to the rocky coast to the left as I approached the ocean, noting several large buildings part of the York Harbor Inn. Identifying my potential composition I set-up my tripod and camera. However sky was still colorless, so I took some quick photos to frame my image consisting of the rocky coast and the York Harbor Reading Room. Then waited for the sun to make its dramatic appearance, but as the sun approached the horizon the colors only slightly improved. Beginning to think that sunrise was going to be a bust, the colors started to pop and quickly filled the sky. Being patient always pays off. I took several photos with my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and several with my Nisi filters for some long exposures. I probably spent about 45-minutes taking pictures and finally decided to pack-up to make it to the bike ride. 

Golden Sunrise

As I walked to my car I looked back and notice a family walking on the beach in silhouette against a golden sunrise. My camera was packed, so I quickly snap a few photos with my iPhone and the results were pretty decent, so much for my Nikon.

The Ride

I arrived at Hampton Beach State Park a bit late after 8 AM when all riders are required to be on the road, guess I had too much fun taking photos and most of the riders had already departed.  The weather was mostly clear and a bit cold, low 40’s, but forecasted to rise to the upper 60’s in the afternoon.  After deciding what layers of clothing I needed for the ride, I picked up my registration package, filled my water bottles, and headed out of the parking lot turning right onto Route 1-A to Nubble Lighthouse.  There were only a few cyclists were on the road, but having done the ride so many times I knew the route.  As usual being on the coast, there was a slight headwind to challenge me.  As I approached North Hampton I began to warm up, especially my fingers and ready to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Ocean Boulevard

Entering North Hampton I  passed by the Beach Plum ice cream shop that I typically visit post ride for a well-deserved chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  From North Hampton, the ride proceeds through Rye with awesome views of the ocean where I stopped several times to take some quick pictures with my iPhone.  Continuing along Route 1-A the ride enters Portsmouth taking Route 1-B to the New Castle area.  I particularly enjoy this part of Portsmouth with all the older New England style homes and great views of the harbor.

New Castle

After passing Prescott Park, riders cross the Piscataqua River and enter Kittery Maine.  The route in Maine takes Route 103 passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and stopping at Fort McClary State Park for a rest stop that provides snacks, water, and other goodies.  A bike mechanic is also available to address most mechanical issues.  Leaving the rest stop we continue north on Route 103 to York passing the Wiggly Bridge, a small pedestrian bridge on the York River.  Riders then turn onto Route 1A passing York Harbor then onto Long Sands Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and ocean.  The 65-mile route turns back before reaching Long Sands Beach, but I always continue on to reach Nubble Lighthouse, after all, it’s only a few more miles.

Long Sands Beach

Prior to getting to the lighthouse, I took a detour to join my wife and ride together to the “Nub”. At the lighthouse, it was crowded as usual with the parking lot full and at least two tour buses offloading passengers with cameras in hand. We rested for a short time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and weather and took more photos. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was being renovated and was completely wrapped in scaffolding.  After we proceed to Short Sands Beach looking for lunch, passing the pavilion we looped back around to Long Sands Beach and stopped at the Stones Throw restaurant and got a table directly in front of the beach. After having fish tacos and relaxing, I decided not to head back to Hampton Beach, but cruise around York for the afternoon. I still managed to get in 50 miles for the day. During our exploration, we hike the Cliff Walk at York Harbor a beautiful 1-mile walk out and back along the rocky Maine coastline. We saw plenty of Monarch butterflies fluttering among the flowers along the walk, a common sight during the weekend.

Short Sands Beach

Portsmouth

That evening we meet some friend for dinner in Portsmouth,  a fun town with a historic downtown area with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. I usually make going to one of their great restaurants part of my annual traditions, nothing’s better than having a great meal after a long ride. We meet at the Dolphin Striker on Bow Street and dined on fresh New England seafood. I had Haddock Piccata served with spinach, leeks, tomatoes, and fettuccine. Both the food and conversation was excellent, including a conversation with the owner. For dessert we went to one of the local bakeries, Breaking New Grounds coffee shop and enjoyed some dark German chocolate cake.  Another great bakery  is Popovers serving their namesake large popovers along with other fabulous baked goods.  In year’s past, I have eaten at several other great restaurants such as Jumping Jay’s Fish Cafe and Surf Portsmouth for seafood. Another favorite is the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro & Bar a very popular restaurant serving very tasty and satisfying dishes such as their pineapple fried rice, which I would highly recommend.

Sunday fun day

Long Sands Beach Sunrise

Sunday morning I got up early again to take photographs of the sunrise this time at Long Sands Beach. So hard to get up before sunrise, but never regret it afterwards. The sky had plenty of high-level clouds, great potential for dramatic, sunrise.  It was fairly windy and the temperature had dropped significantly from the previous day. Parked my car along the seawall and set-up my gear. Sunrise was very dramatic with lots of reds, yellow, and blacks offering great drama and contrast. For my photos, I used my Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens without filters.  

Sand Piper

I return to the hotel and we went out to breakfast at St. Joe’s Bakery off Route 1 and enjoyed a freshly made bagel egg sandwiches.  After we drove to Long Sands Beach for a walk along the beach.  The temperature was much warmer and the sky was clear.  There were a fair number of others strolling along the beach, some with their dogs, and a lone surfer.  Afterwards, we paid a visit to Stonewall Kitchen conveniently located next to our hotel.  We sampled some of their jams and other products and purchased a few jars of jams.  We also purchased some freshly baked scones with wild blueberries and enjoyed them in the outdoor courtyard with some coffee.  Outside in the courtyard was a flower garden with Monarch butterflies fluttering around, which I spent time taking photographs. 

Long Sands Beach
Monarch butterfly

Afterward, we went to the outlets in Kittery and picked up some bargains then drove to Portsmouth for a late lunch at the Green Elephant restaurant. Before sitting down for lunch we spent an hour walking around Prescott Park taking some photos of the harbor and the beautiful flower gardens. Lunch at the Green Elephant was fantastic as usual and as we started heading home south on Route 95 we witnessed a brilliant sunset. 

Prescott Park
Portsmouth Harbor

Trusting your instincts

Today one of my recent IG posts was featured, which is a pretty good thing to have your photo acknowledged by others.  The funny thing is, it’s a photo that I almost didn’t post. I took the photo as I was wrapping up taking images at Moore State Park in Paxton, MA. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon following a wet morning and the waterfalls were full of water.  I spent probably 2 hours purposely taking photos of the waterfalls and fall foliage.  You know setting up your tripod, checking your exposure, deciding composition, filters, etc..  I took several different compositions and noted the time and wanted to go a different location for sunset.  So I packed my gear and quickly attached my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens as I wanted to get some last shots walking to my car.  As I passed the old mill house I noted the striking dark shadow of a tree falling on the side of the mill and quickly took a few shots without much thought.  I downloaded my photos the next day and made some basic LR edits and set it aside.  A couple of weeks passed and I opened the photo cropped it and then deliberated on posting it, thinking it was a decent photo but that I had better ones.  I finally did post the photo this past Monday and to my surprise how well it was received.20181013-155651_-_dsc1697

Thinking about it, my hesitation in posting this photo is attributed to forgetting the moment of spontaneity as I pushed the shutter release. During that moment, I was attracted to how the shadow of the tree played with the old mill’s weathered siding and framing the composition to capture the window as well.  That as time passed after taking the photo I over analyze the image when I should have just trusted my instincts.  One of my favorite sayings hanging in my workspace is “Don’t believe everything you think”.  My lesson to myself spend less time in my head and do more from the heart and let go of comparison.  Not every photo is going to be a winner and that’s okay.  Even now I find myself thinking on how to end this blog so I will end by giving thanks to all those that liked my photo and @Style_and_decay for the feature.

My Recent Trip – Sedona Red Rocks

This fall has been a busy travel time for me as it is my preferred time to travel just after summer with beautiful weather, warm temperatures, and fewer crowds.  My travels took me from the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona, to the coastline of southern Maine, and a trip to Europe to visit Lisbon and Dublin.  In this post, I’ll cover my trip to Sedona and in subsequent blogs cover my trips to Maine and Europe.

Returning to Sedona is always a special event filled with anticipation of enjoying the Arizona weather, hiking, biking, and of course taking some photographs.  On this trip, I flew to Sky Harbor (Phoenix) by way of Southwest Airlines connecting through Chicago, which was fairly uneventful with the exception of local thunderstorms possibly delaying my connecting flight to Phoenix and only having 20 minutes to enjoy my dinner.

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Chicago Midway Airport

Flying into Phoenix is always amazing at night as the plane enters the greater Phoenix area and seeing all the city lights and highways filled with flowing traffic that quickly turns to darkness beyond the city limits.  I only waited about 15 minutes for my shuttle ride and we were off on the 2-hour drive north on I-17 to Sedona.  Pulling off exit 298 to drive the 7 miles to the Village of Oak Creek (Village) is a beautiful drive, but it was dark as it was nearly 11PM.  However, the night was clear and lights that from Cottonwood and Jerome to the northeast were visible.  Finally, as the shuttle passed the Red Rocks Ranger Station I knew I was just minutes away from ending my journey to Sedona.

The following morning, Thursday, I was up early still being on east coast time and took care of some personal business, but did note that the skies were hazy, not the normal clear blue skies that I’m accustomed to, nonetheless, it was good to take up the Arizona sun.  img_1256-2My first destination was Red Rock Crossing off Verde Vally School Road to take photos of Cathedral Rock.  Upon pulling into the parking lot for the Baldwin Trailhead the reason for the hazy conditions was apparent as smoke from a wildfire burning north of West Sedona near the Secret Mountains was clearly visible.   The fire was burning in very steep and remote area that limited firefighting efforts to aerial drops and ground personnel setting backfires to contain the fire.  The fire was eventually fully contained and suppressed.

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Waiting to take a photo

I grabbed my camera gear and headed to the flat rocks along the banks of the Oak Creek below Cathedral Rock.  The location is popular for photography with iconic views of Cathedral Rock; however, I was still looking forward to taking some images as I suspected with recent rains that great reflections were a definite possibility.  I spent a few hours taking photos, including several long exposures of the Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock as a backdrop.  For most of my photos, I used my trusty Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens and my newly purchased Nisi filters.  I primarily used the 3-stop and 6-stop ND filters to create a smooth appearance of the Oak Creek.20180830-194135 -_DSC9434-Edit

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Glowing wildflowers

My second day I decided to photograph sunrise from an area near the Red Rock Ranger Station in hopes of taking some images along the Dry Beaver Creek but was unfamiliar with the hiking trails.  Realizing the time and distance to the creek, I spotted a nearby ridge line and quickly proceed to find a vantage point for a sunrise image.  I managed to take several photos, but the images were lackluster.  Not every outing produces images, but I still enjoyed my morning exploring a new area.  I proceeded back to the ranger station and noted all the newly bloomed wildflowers from the recent rains and took several photos of flowers.  In particular were these wild yellow mini sunflowers that were amazing in the morning light. During this walk, I used my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens as I prefer it for impromptu photographs.

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Red rocks on fire

Later that evening, I drove to the Schnebly Hill Road trailhead to hike up onto a vantage point to photograph uptown Sedona during sunset.  Having hiked to this vantage point during previous trips, I quickly found my preferred location and set up my tripod for some sunset photos.  While waiting for sunset I took several photos of the surrounding Red Rocks during the “Golden Hour”, which locally is referred to as “Sedona Time” where the red rocks are lit on fire against the blue Arizona sky.  Most of these photos were taken with my 70-200 mm lens.  As the sun settled over West Sedona, the clouds added drama to the scene, in particular creating a stunning background for Capital Butte.

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West Sedona

As the sunlight faded the lights from both uptown and west Sedona began to illuminate the scene below me.  I decided to hang around and grab some images during the “Blue Hour” following sunset.  My favorite time to take cityscapes as the urban lights complement the dark blue sky.  For these photos, I used my 24-70 mm lens.  After, I proceeded back to the trailhead under a beautiful starry sky overhead.  The Arizona night sky is so much brighter with more stars than the sky back home in Connecticut.

The following day was Sunday, the day before Memorial Day and I went out for a bike ride for my weekly treat of a raspberry mocha at Starbucks in West Sedona.  As I was returning to the Village, I noticed the long slow moving traffic proceeding north on Route 179 to Sedona.  Sedona is the second most visited place in Arizona after the Grand Canyon, so I decided to explore the nearby town of Cornville for the day to avoid the crowds.  I drove along the beautiful Page Springs Road with numerous vineyards along the Oak Creek to the Bubbling Pond Fish Hatchery.  A location I noted in previous trips, but have not visited.  I parked my car and grabbed my camera gear and proceeded to see what photographic opportunities waited for me.

At the hatchery, several large ponds raise fish to stock the adjacent Oak Creek and several nature trails provide opportunities to observe local wildlife, in particular, waterfowl and eagles.  While I did not spot any eagles, I did see numerous ducks in the fish ponds and some herons flying overhead.  img_1323Sorry, no photos as I did not bring my longer lens on this trip.  Along the backside of the property adjacent to some marshy fields, I spotted a large Western Tiger Swallow Butterfly.  I took several photographs of the butterfly and some dragonflies as well.  I meander over to the Oak Creek, but the banks were full of vegetation with only a few open spots that were taken up by people fishing.  Being monsoon the clouds started to thicken up and the wind picked up abruptly, so I proceeded quickly back to my car.  As I drove back to Sedona, I pulled over to capture an image of a thunderstorm over the Red Rocks of Sedona to the northwest from Cornville Road.

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Mansoon rains over Sedona

Memorial Day was my last full day in Sedona and I made plans with my friend Terry Moore to hike on a new trail near Bell Rock and try to find a way to circumnavigate the upper slick red rock of Bell Rock.  As with most hikers, we proceeded up the north side of Bell Rock up onto the slick red rock along marked trails.  Then progressed to the west finding our way along some unmarked trails and ridgelines facing Courthouse Butte to our west.  This portion of the hike was the most difficult portion of our hike as the trials were unmarked and at times narrow; however, we did manage to get to the south face of Bell Rock where the red rock widened and flattened.

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Looking south to the Village

At this point, we were treated to a fabulous view the Village to our south.  As we proceed to the east side of Bell Rock we ascended a short climb through a narrow passage through the rocks and then back down to the flatter wider portion of the slick red rock.  Finally, we made it back to the north face of Bell Rock and went back to our vehicle parked at the Courthouse Vista trailhead.  Being still early we decided to hike near Cathedral Rock from the Yavapai Vista trailhead.

 

This hike includes one of my favorite trails, the Hiline trail that takes you out to a fantastic vista looking across the open high desert to Cathedral Rock and toward West Sedona as well across Route 179 to Red Rocks near the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The trail quickly ascends from the trailhead, but then levels of until the vista.

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Cathedral Rock from Hiline Trail

We decided to continue to Cathedral Rock descending down onto the open high desert and crossing over onto the Templeton trail.  The Templeton trail hugs the eastern face of Cathedral Rock until it merges with the Cathedral Rock trail.  Looking for more adventures and panoramic views, we ascended up to the saddle between the large rock pillars that make-up Cathedral Rock.  At the saddle, the panoramic views are fabulous as one can see the red rocks to the east toward Route 179 and the Red Red Crossing area off Verde Valley School Road to the west.  We descended back down Catherdal Rock trail sidling down the steep slick rock face to the Templeton Trail.

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Easy does it!

As we were hiking back we could see thick thunderstorm clouds north of us near Wilson Mountain and they were moving toward us.   We picked up our pace frequently checking behind us as the clouds were closing in on us. We made it back to the parking lot without getting wet, but the thunderstorm clouds were overhead at this point and as we drove back to the Village the skies opened up with rain.  20180902-125418 -DSC_1059_AuroraHDR2018-edit

 

In all, we hiked approximately 10-miles enjoying the scenery as well as our conversations along the way.   I need to mention my admiration for Terry as he is 70 and still very active, what an inspiration.  It was a great day to end my trip to Sedona and looking forward to my return in January as I plan to run up to the Grand Canyon for some winter photography.  If you have any questions about where to go or what to see in Sedona, please drop me an email.

First Photo Blog

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Welcome to my blog/photo website.  My name is Alan Pelletier a photographer residing in the State of Connecticut.  Photography is a serious passion that I started in college and have continued throughout the last 25 years.  My photographs mostly include images that I have captured during my travels both here in the northeast as well as other locations in the USA and some recent oversea trips.  I enjoy taking mostly landscape photos capturing the light as it reveals beautiful scenery especially those at sunrise or sunset.  I enjoy taking photos of our beautiful National and State Parks, scenes along our coastlines and beaches, some street and night photos, as well as seasonal photos from local scenes here in Connecticut.  I hope to post more blogs about my travel and photography and that you follow along.  The image in this post is of York Harbor in York Maine taken this September.

What’s in my camera bag?

I currently shoot with a Nikon D750 DSLR, which I recently purchased last fall.  This serves as my primary body.  It’s normally fitted with an MB-D16 battery grip to take photos in portrait view, as well as, provide an extra battery for extended photo taking.  To mount my camera on a tripod I use an L-bracket from Really Right Stuff (RRS) and I would highly recommend using an L-bracket for mounting your camera on a tripod in either landscape or portrait view.  My tripod is a Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 carbon tripod equipped with an RRS B-40 ball head.  I also use a Sirui carbon monopole with an RRS MH-01 LR head that I use on long hikes, sports photography, or birding as it is light and portable.  

As for lenses, I have Nikon and Tamron lenses, including the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8,  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8, and Tamron  15-30mm f2.8 VC lenses that are my primary lenses in my camera bag.  In the bag is a Sigma 105MM f2.8 macro lens as well.  My primary camera bag is the medium Tenba shootout bag that provides sufficient room for my battery charger, SB-900, filters, and other assorted items.  This bag is comfortable and convenient to travel with and fits in the overhead storage bins on airlines.  I also have a Tenba roller camera bag that is useful in urban settings.  

While not in my bag, as it’s a bit big, but I take on local outings is my Tamron SP 150-600mm ATX DI G2 f5/6.3 telephoto lens for extended reach in wildlife and sports photography.  Other lenses that I use include two (2) prime Nikon lens, the 35mm f2.0 and 50mm f1.4.  I usually carry an assortment of filters, including circular polarizing, neutral density, split neutral density and a 77 mm variable neutral density filters.  Lastly, for flash photography, I have both the SB-600 and SB-900 Nikon speedlites.