Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

There are a few places in the world where you can dig your toes in the sand, enjoy the cool ocean breeze through your eyelashes, and feel the stress of your world instantly plummet into the earth below.

Waimanolo Beach in Oahu, Hawaii, is one of them.

Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, HawaiiWaimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii @ February 2007 | Canon EOS 5D & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/180

By the way, this is one of the few images I’ve set up for print sales. I’ll have to do more at some point… ah, the ever-growing list of to-do’s!

The Holocaust Memorial, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and certainly in Europe. I think for Europe, Madrid and Berlin are in a running for first in my heart! One of the things I love about Berlin is the clash of old east and west, which is found in the architecture, the food, the people, the politics… everything! That’s precisely the reason I’m so anxious to visit Istanbul as well; to see firsthand the intermingling of the Roman and Ottoman empires over the years, and the visual feast that this conflict has bestowed upon the city.

But this is about Berlin. Completed in 2004, the Holocaust Memorial, also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is an ominous site to behold. It’s a bizarre experience, and while there, wandering amongst the stelae (the concrete slabs), you find yourself trying to figure out the symbolism. What does it mean? What’s the significance? C’mon, I’m a reasonably smart guy, and I don’t get it!

Looking it up in Wikipedia though, you soon realize that this is entirely the point. From the wiki entry: “According to [architect] Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.” I’d suggest that he has succeeded.

The structure is somewhat difficult to photograph as well. Ignoring the people mingling around that you may want to avoid, there are tall buildings, uninteresting trees, and the ever-present construction cranes dotting the Berlin skyline. The concrete slabs are a dull grey, and of course the mid-day sun doesn’t help. I spent quite a bit of time wandering the labyrinth, and only took away a few frames. This is one of them.

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, GermanyThe Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany @ April 2009 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/125

In recent entries where I’ve used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2, some readers have asked if I’d post a preset. I have only one preset that I saved some time ago that’s the basis for nearly every B&W image I’ve posted here, but keep in mind that this is meant to just be a starting point. For each image, I’ll start with this and usually adjust the shadows, almost always add a few control points to darken or lighten specific parts of the image. I’ll usually randomize the border and occasionally adjust the size (I don’t like that it crops in on the image so much; I wish the filter cropped just as much as was needed then added a white border, instead of slapping the white on top of my photo), and then finally adjust the grain. The preset has the Grain per pixel set to 500, which is the highest (smoothest) setting; I will dial it back to get the “grain” feel that I want for any particular photo.

So, this is more a starting point than a preset, but since you’ve asked for it, here you go. Click here to download my Silver Efex Pro 2 preset for free!

The Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

Several years ago on a trip to Maui I had driven to the other side of the island on the “Road to Hana”. The weather was pretty miserable that day, with almost constant could cover and drizzling rain. On my way back from the waterfalls, the sun finally broke through the clouds, illuminating the mountains and fields below. I came to a screeching halt (literally), jumped out of my car and flew across the road to capture the image below. The light only lasted a few seconds and when the excitement was over, I paused to look around and see where I’d stopped.

A roadside fruit stand was just a few steps away, and the two young proprietors were watching me with curious interest. I went up and said hello, and they just kept staring at me. I finally realized how odd it must have looked, seeing me slam on the brakes and run across the street to snap a picture. I mumbled something like “great light… had to shoot it” and showed them the camera. Their eyes lit up with relief and they responded “oh! We were thinking, has this tourist never seen a cow before?!”.

Yeah, sometimes we look a little odd getting that shot.

The Road to Hana, Maui, HawaiiThe Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii @ February 2007 | Canon EOS 5D & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 200, ƒ/6.7, 1/1000

The Journey Ends… Anderson, South Carolina to Medford, Oregon

Since We Arrived

Sorry for the radio silence; we’ve been settling in at our temporary Medford, Oregon home and starting our hunt for a permanent place, setting up shop here, recovering from the drive and playing with the kids. But now I’m back :-) And since I didn’t have a decent internet connection at our last night on the road in Winnemucca, NV, this entry covers the last two days of our journey!

The Last Two Days

(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign)

Before hitting the road, we took some time to check out Salt Lake City. The geography of the place is simply stunning—as we drove in the evening before, we weren’t sure what to expect, but coming through the mountain pass dropping into the city, we were massively impressed by the vista below. A huge valley, or basin, surrounded by snowy mountains (in June!) with the enormous Great Salt Lake in the background is truly breathtaking. It’s easy to see why Brigham Young decided to settle there in 1847!

The big thing to see in SLC is, of course, the Mormon Temple and its surrounding structures. We parked under the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and once we rose through the parking labyrinth into the building lobby, were immediately struck by the opulence of the place. We actually rode past the lobby on the elevator to the top floor viewing area, but after chatting with the lovely ladies in the sky about the best viewing spots in town, we knew we had higher elevations to ascend to. Back on the ground we toured the building lobby, which was celebrating a 100 year anniversary so was filled with tour guides dressed in old-world clothes extolling the history of the structure. It used to be the Hotel Utah, one of the “finest hotels in the land”, but was ultimately converted to the Memorial Building that it is today. Amazing details in the carpeting, filigree, lighting and more are a feast for the eyes.

The building is celebrating it’s 100 year anniversary, and so the lobby was full of guides in period dress telling visitors about the building’s history.

Tour guide in character at the John Smith Memorial Building (formerly Utah Hotel)Tour guide in character, John Smith Memorial Building (formerly Utah Hotel) @ June 2011 | Panasonic Lumix GF-1 & Lumix G 20mm ƒ/1.7 @ ISO 160, ƒ/1.7, 1/30

We toured the grounds and saw a bride and groom posing for photos in front of the Temple. We took an escorted trip to the top of the Church of LDS Business Building for quite possibly the best view in the city (just ask for an escort in the lobby!), where we gazed upon the city some more.

Finally we headed out of the city for our next long drive, passing the Great Salt Lake and heading towards the awesome Salt Flats. We stopped for a stretch and a photo or two, before settling in at the Salt Flats Cafe for lunch. The cafe sits at the entrance to the Bonneville Salt Flats, known as the home of the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. In the summer, the flats are cleared and prepped for speed trials and other such fast-car goodness, but for now people just tear off in their 4x4 vehicles and coat their undercarriage in salts. I was hoping to have a little fun in the Audi, but the salts were quite wet and a storm was coming in as well, so we decided against getting stuck in the muck.

Rain Storm Coming at Bonneville Salt Flats, UtahRain Storm Coming at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 50mm ƒ/1.2L @ ISO 160, ƒ/7.1, 1/1000

With hundreds of miles still to go, we got back on the open road, heading from Utah to Nevada via Beverly Hills (as you do), experiencing the desolate land of northern Nevada, before finally setting in at Winners Casino in Winnemucca, NV (yes, that’s actually where we stayed… why not?!). It’s a town full of desolate things, but also one graced with an abundance of Basque restaurants. Yeah, you read that right. Apparently a handful of Basque sheepherders settled in Winnemucca over a century ago, and never left. We picked one at random and enjoyed a beautiful meal at the Martin Hotel, where you sit at long tables with other guests and are fed entirely too much food! My one tip for this place is GO HUNGRY. Do not visit expecting to just order a starter as your main. The menu is brief, with a handful of options only, and they all include everything else, from salad to appetizers to bread and dessert and even wine. The food was very good — I won’t say amazing, but it was very good — and we enjoyed the ambiance and our neighbors at the table very much.

We finished up the night by throwing away a fortune at the penny slots at Winners. A dingy, smoky, run-down casino and penny slots—fantastic.

The following morning on check-out, I couldn’t resist outing the hotel’s graphic design department (OK, that’s a bad joke… probably a shift manager did this) for their outright theft of a watermarked photo and blatant disregard for taste in graphic design, which got a fun little conversation going on Twitter here, here and here.

The desolate road awaited, and as this was our last day in the car we were anxious to go! The landscape changed dramatically, and when we ultimately entered Oregon we felt, as you might imagine, that this long journey was finally coming to an end. There was an impressive drop into a huge valley along the way, and a gorgeous little lake in the middle of nowhere that begged a quick photo stop. As we got deeper into Oregon, we were met by lush and beautiful forests and the Klamath Lake. The ride from there into Medford, over the Falls Highway on OR-140 was stunning, but being so close to the end we didn’t stop—besides, I see loads of weekends spent up there in our future!

Finally, finally arriving in Medford, after 2,872 miles, 11 states and 8 days, checking into our cute little 1-bedroom furnished cottage that will be home until we find a proper one, was a great relief. The drive was fantastic, but it’s always good to be home—even if you’ve never been there before.

ARRIVED!! 2,872 miles, 11 states in 8 days. This is our temp home in Medford, OR while we search! #sc2or

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

The Ride… No Details Today

I’m sitting on the slowest internet connection known to man here in Winnemucca, Nevada, so my normal routine of recapping yesterday and linking to our Instagram photos just isn’t going to happen. I can’t even switch to tethering 3G off the iPhone as the only connection here is on Edge. I’ll have to do a last-two-days recap tomorrow, when we’ve settled into our temporary digs in Oregon. I will, however, share one lovely photo from yesterday.

Bonneville Salt Flats

As we drove west through the never-ending flats, we stopped a few times for sunny photos, but it was when we reversed direction and drove the three mile runway towards the International Speedway that a storm we’d left behind suddenly faced us down and rushed in with a temper.

Incredible white sand and distant mountains shrouded in angry clouds made for a striking vista.

The Storm Approaches, Bonneville Salt Flats, UtahThe Storm Approaches, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 50mm ƒ/1.2L @ ISO 160, ƒ/10, 1/640

Today is our last day on the road! From here in Winnemucca, we get off the Interstate again and head through a series of smaller roads leading to Southern Oregon. It’s been a great journey, but it’ll be good to rest again.

Salt Lake City, UT

The Road Less Traveled

(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign)

Yesterday’s drive was an odd one. For the longest time, from Steamboat Springs, CO towards Utah along US-40 we barely saw a soul. The scenery was pretty, but nothing to compare to the day before in the Rocky Mountains, of course. We stopped for an early lunch in Craig at a fantastic joint called The Op Bar & Grill, where the burgers were fat and gorgeous.

Once back on the open road, there wasn’t much to shoot, which was fine by me as I wasn’t feeling terribly well. Too much running around in the Rocky Mountains at altitude, I think. Eventually we crossed into Utah and rolled to a stop in Vernal, which is a town with a serious dinosaur fetish.

This town has a serous dinosaur fetish #sc2or

Somewhere beyond that, Utah started getting really pretty. The mountains in the distance and the red rocks in the foreground were very picturesque. I kept looking for a place to get the “perfect photo” from, but just couldn’t find it. It seemed all the best spots had loads of power lines or ugly buildings or some other eyesore in front of them, and as mentioned before I wasn’t feeling so hot, so I just wasn’t in the mood to go exploring. Which is a shame, because now I feel like I missed some great opportunities.

I did make a few iPhone shots from the moving car, and inadvertently got a lesson in the iPhone’s HDR technique. Ultimately though, we were pretty much bored out of our skulls.

Tragically, where Utah gets exceptionally pretty, we literally could NOT pull over to shoot at all. A huge stretch of US-40 is under construction, and there’s just no where to stop. Which was truly sad, because we saw some amazing scenery. *sigh*… just not my photo day.

We stopped in Sinclair to refill the windshield wiper water (lotsa bugs!), and were a little surprised at this photo display of hunting trophies on the wall there. I’m not anti-hunting, but somehow this seems a bit tasteless. I’m sure not everyone agrees, but there you go.

We finally arrived in Salt Lake City, where we stayed in another private apartment found on airbnb.com. What attracted us to this place was the promise of rooftop views of the city and the lake, and the views definitely didn’t disappoint. We also met up with fellow photographer Nicole S Young for dinner, (she just completed a new ebook on (micro)STOCK, available from Craft & Vision), and she captured a rare picture of Alenka and I in the same photo on this trip. Oh she also let me fondle her X100. Very very nice.

Salt Lake City at Twilight

Truth be told, we wanted to be up on the roof at sunset, but as you’ve figured out by now, this just wasn’t my best photo day. We were late and by the time we were on the roof, it was well past sundown. But, twilight is still a beautiful time to shoot.

Salt Lake City, UT at TwilightSalt Lake City, UT at Twilight @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 5D Mk II & 14mm ƒ/2.8L Aspherical @ ISO 160, ƒ/4, 0.5s

Today we’ll do a little sightseeing in Salt Lake City, then head out past the Great Salt Lake and then to the Salt Flats. We’ll stop somewhere in northern Nevada for the night, then it’s just one more day to Oregon!

Sunrise From Above; Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii

One cold morning in February 2007, I got up really, really early to drive up Haleakala in Maui before my flight home later that day. You’d think in Hawaii, where it’s generally warm and lovely, there’d be no need to pack a parka or gloves or 18 layers of long underwear. But you’d be wrong. The temperature does get ever so slightly colder as you climb from sea level to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). I almost couldn’t wait out the cold, even though I was wearing nearly every piece of clothing I’d packed. Fortunately I did though, and shot through the very cloudy sunrise, which made for a spectacular view.

As the inky black moved to blue and ultimately red, my lens was treated to the kinds of hues you don’t find on any color wheel.

Haleakala Volcano, Maui, HawaiiHaleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii @ Feb 2007 | Canon EOS 5D & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM @ ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1.0s

The first photo was taken at some of the earliest light of the morning. The next one is roughly 30 minutes later.

Haleakala Volcano, Maui, HawaiiHaleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii @ Feb 2007 | Canon EOS 20D & 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS USM @ ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320

Shortly after this, the sky washed out and the color sank like a stone to the ocean, ten thousand feet below.

Sunset in the Rift Valley, Kenya

Several years ago I visited the Rift Valley in Kenya, Africa, spending two weeks with an orphanage and visiting schools around the valley, photographing the children for an aid organization. I found it a stark, desolate, and beautiful place.

This is one of my favorite Sunset photos I’ve ever made. To me, the beauty is in it’s simplicity. The image is almost comically postcard-centric; it’s a view we’ve all seen before. But the rich colors, the silhouetted Umbrella Thorn Acacia Tree, and the mountains in the distance make it an image I’ve returned to again and again.

Sunset in the Rift Valley, Kenya

Click to fill your screen with this photo!

The recent blog format

I’ve been meaning to ask; what do you think of this new method of posting photos, where you can click to pop-up a larger view? Are any of you clicking on it, or are you getting what you want from the 800-pixel view as you see it above? I ask because while I really like it myself, it doesn’t give me the flexibility I had before of linking to my SmugMug gallery. I have been thinking about how to redo this blog, now that I’ve been posting (nearly) daily, and posting individual images instead of galleries.

I’d like to go back to the SmugMug galleries, but add each daily image into a single “blog gallery” one at a time. One of the key advantages is I can offer prints for sale through there (if any of you are interested). The problem though is if I post through SmugMug, it makes it harder to stage the releases days in advance since all the photos would be visible in the gallery before they are posted here.

Anyway I have to figure this out and welcome your input. I hope, by the way, that you’ve been enjoying these daily photos. Traffic is certainly up, which is nice to see :)