NEW PHOTO – Resources

It’s easy when you know how – Fats Waller

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Resources

It always helps to benefit from the knowledge and experiences of others. The background on the services we used and the sources of information we consulted, should provide a good foundation to start your discovery and decision making. If it’s listed here you can assume it has our recommendation.

Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim

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Services

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Rafting

Grand Canyon – Colorado River

A venerable rafting outfit specializing in small rafts and dories. We don’t have direct experience with Oars, but their history in the canyon and the authoritative sources we’ve read, would give us confidence in them if we took this type of river trip. Also covered more in the Trips > Grand Canyon Rafting & Hiking section.

Rafting

Grand Canyon – Colorado River

High quality, long-established, well-run operation. Big motorized rafts. Our guides were outstanding. Their abilities gave us confidence being on the river and they gave us an all around great time Ancillary, but important services were excellent too, such as, the helicopter take-out, Bar 10 Ranch, and plane ride back to our starting point. Lots more information about our experiences in the Trips > Grand Canyon Rafting & Hiking section.


Lodging

Grand Canyon North Rim

Iconic hotel right at the north rim and the only lodging in the vicinity of the rim. Opened in 1928, you can feel the history. Accommodations are fine and we thoroughly enjoyed eating dinner in the high-beamed dining room looking at the South Rim 20 miles away through the huge windows. Great lookout points within walking distance nearby. Like all lodging associated with the national parks, book as early as possible.

Lodging

Grand Canyon South Rim

Another fixture of the canyon designed by famed southwest architect Mary Jane Colter. It was established in 1890, but the current facility, perched right on the rim, opened in 1935. One of several lodging choices in the Grand Canyon Village area, Bright Angel is an “economy option,” as compared to the other nearby choices (Maswik Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Thunderbird Lodge, and Kachina Lodge). Nice rooms and the central building has an interesting gift shop and a good restaurant. Other village services, such as rim transportation, are also located here. A good choice if you will be hiking on the Bright Angel Trail, as the trailhead is just a quarter mile, six-minute walk.

Lodging

Kanab, UT

There would usually be no point in reviewing a large hotel chain as there are websites like Tripadvisor that do a great job. But if you’re staying in Kanab and want a reasonably priced, recently built, quality hotel, we can attest that it checked all the boxes. We were pleased with our stay here.

Lodging

Las Vegas, NV

The reason we’re listing this hotel is that it’s where Western River Expeditions suggests that you stay the night before your rafting trip, if you are arriving to the area by way of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. This is where you’ll depart for the flight to Marble Canyon very early the next morning. The hotel is not on the Strip, which is fine, and it meets the need for a decent room for a night at the group discount rate.

Lodging

Marble Canyon, AZ

Basic lodging in the desert, and the Western River Expeditions meeting place for the short van ride to Lees Ferry. If you prefer to drive here (as we did from Phoenix in 2019, instead of flying in a small plane from the Las Vegas area), this is where you would stay the night before the rafting trip. We were comfortable here and enjoyed the restaurant and gift shop. This is also where you could stay if you were going to explore the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area.

Lodging

Page, AZ

Lovely inn with a lovely host, Kris. Great home base for activities in Page. In addition to the beautiful rooms and tasty breakfasts, Kris was a wealth of information about the area. Her insights came in handy when planning our activities for the day.

Lodging

Sedona, AZ

Same as the Kanab La Quinta above. High quality, good value. The added bonus was discovering the hiking trails in Sedona’s red rock country just a short walk away.

Lodging

Teton Village, WY

Fabulous selection of luxury condo rentals in the Jackson Hole/Grand Teton NP area. Well-run operation, very responsive, and nice to go direct and avoid VRBO fees. We stayed in a 4 BR unit right in Teton Village, which gave us access to all the resort amenities, put us in close proximity to Grand Teton NP, and was less costly than comparable hotel rooms in Jackson. Great for a combo resort/wilderness experience.

Lodging

Yellowstone NP, WY

We stayed at 2 hotels inside Yellowstone because of the park’s huge area and remoteness. Both places offered very basic accommodations and limited services in 2021 due to Covid. But they were each in close proximity to iconic points of interest: the geyser basins and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Old Faithful Inn’s architecture was stunning and seeing it from Upper Geyser Basin reminded my of the hotel in The Shining. But be sure to make reservations well in advance. They sell out in no time.

Lodging

Yellowstone NP, Gardiner, MT

After our final day in Yellowstone we stayed for one night in Gardiner, MT, right outside the northern entrance to the park. This was at Yellowstone Gateway Inn, a charming combination of motel rooms, which looked to be fairly basic, and a few free standing homes. We were fortunate enough to spend our time at a lovely 3 BR remodeled ranch house right on the Yellowstone River. It was awesome to walk right out back and descend a grand staircase to a lovely deck on the river bank. Another advantage was having some restaurants and other services nearby. Much more of a selection than available in the park. If we were visiting Yellowstone again, I would definitely try to spend more of our time lodging at this house, and access the sights in the park from the north gate.

Lodging

Yosemite NP, CA

If you plan to hike to Half Dome, this is the place to stay. Curry Village (sometimes known as Half Dome Village) is an expanse of tent cabins with communal bath facilities. It’s pretty basic, but it’s proximity to the trailhead is the main advantage it offers, especially with the need to begin hiking very early (before the shuttle buses run). Yosemite does offer a wide variety of other lodging options and amenities depending on where you are in the park, but Curry Village is best when hiking Half Dome.


Tours

Boulder & Grand Staircase Escalante, UT Vicinity

In May 2022 we had a guided hike scheduled in Grand Staircase slickrock country with Skye and Craig, the owners and principal guides who have deep and specialized knowledge of this area. Unfortunately, Skye had to cancel because of family health concerns (completely understandable). Although we didn’t connect then, I’m including their web site for consideration if you’re thinking about exploring the Grand Staircase wilderness. Most of the hikes have unmarked routes established by Skye and Greg through years of immersion in this astonishingly beautiful territory. Just looking through the descriptions of their outings fires the imagination. I hope to have another opportunity soon to do one of these hikes.

Tours

Kanab, UT Vicinity & AZ Strip

We used Dreamland for our Toroweap tour in 2019, as well as in 2022 when we visited White Pocket and Toroweap overnight. We were more than satisfied, obviously because of the locations, but also because of Orion, our capable and fascinating guide. Consider Dreamland for lots of other tours in the Kanab/Arizona Strip vicinity including, slot canyon hikes, visits to the Coyote Buttes and Paria Wilderness areas, landscape photography tours, and more. Aside from Orion’s love and knowledge of the Utah backcountry, he gave us a master class in the vehicles and techniques required to traverse the harsh, rugged terrain of rock and sand. We will use Dreamland again for sure when we plan more Southern Utah trips in the not too distant future.

Tours

Moab, UT Vicinity

Navtec is an experienced guide outfit based in Moab that offers many different day and overnight wilderness experiences in Arches and Canyonlands, and surrounding areas. This includes 4×4 tours where standard vehicles dare not tread, as well as river trips through nearby canyons (e.g., Cataract). We spent a day with Buzz, our extremely knowledgeable and passionate guide who drove us through a fabulous portion of the White Rim Road in Canyonlands and up the breathtaking and heart-stopping Shafer Trail to end the day. It was a thoroughly memorable day, not only because of the surroundings, but also because we had a guide equipped with the vehicle, skills and deep familiarity with the park required to navigate the extremely rough terrain. We’ll be back.

Tours

Page, AZ

If you’re visiting Page and want to change things up from hiking and outdoor activities, this is a great choice. It’s almost a must-do if you’re fascinated by gargantuan machines and/or the history of the desert southwest. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and take you down into the bowls of the dam where the mammoth turbines convert water into electricity for many southwest states. The tour runs for about an hour and we found that going in the morning put us in good position to hike the New Wave right nearby in the afternoon.

Tours

Page, AZ

It’s hard to imagine going to Page and not seeing the Horseshoe Bend Overlook and Lower Antelope Canyon. As I mentioned under the Trips section, you can visit Horseshoe at the public viewing area on Navajo land for just a $10 dollar parking fee. We did this several times and enjoyed it thoroughly. We also did Ken’s Tours (see below) for Lower Antelope Canyon. However, for a more immersive experience with less crowds consider Horseshoe Bend Tours. We finally got do this in 2022, after missing out in 2020 because of Covid. Defintely worth the wait.

Tours

Page, AZ

Seeing Antelope Canyon where the lower section begins at Lake Powell is a real treat. The entire kayaking trip was about six miles and three hours long. A great way to spend a morning near Page and an experience we’ll always remember. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable.

Tours

Page, AZ

A high-volume, but high quality operation that runs short (45 minute) walking tours through a signature one-mile segment of Lower Antelope Canyon. It’s crowded but orderly with plenty of photo ops next to the amazing sandstone formations. The visitors center also has a very nice gift shop with lots of quality Navajo crafts and art.

Tours

Yosemite, CA

Good selection of full-day and half-day tours to see highlights of Yosemite Valley and points beyond. We took the Glacier Point tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hosted by a very knowledgable and passionate national park guide. Reasonably priced but it’s best to book well in advance.


Transportation

Grand Canyon

As mentioned in the Trips section, you may find the need for transportation from one Grand Canyon rim to the other. For instance, If you hike across the canyon on the Corridor Trails (Rim-to-Rim), you’ll need to take the shuttle for the 212-mile drive back to your starting point – that is, unless you decide to make the return hike or have made private transportation arrangements. This is an established operation that has long been part of the canyon’s infrastructure.


Supplies

On-line

This is the gear provider associated with Western River Expeditions, and is mainly focused on what you’ll need for your rafting trip. They have men’s and women’s packages that have the core items specified by Western River as being required on the river. You certainly could buy these types of goods at REI or another reputable outfitter. That’s what Janet did, while I opted for the convenience of buying the Red Rock men’s package. We were both happy with our choices.

Supplies

On-line, Stores in 39 States

REI

REI has been our go-to outdoor outfitter for everything from hiking boots and poles, to – you name it. There are other good outfitters as well. Lots of choices out there.

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References

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Books

Belknap’s Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide

Buzz Belknap & Loie Belknap Evans

All the river guides carried this on our trips, and for good reason. It’s and incredible storehouse of river knowledge – geology, history, rapids, side canyons – all packed into a innovatively organized publication. It was recommended to bring with our other gear and we’re so glad we did. Every night in camp I would record where we stopped during the day, our camp location, and so on. Having this resource, both before our trips and on the river, helped enrich and give context to our experience.

Books

Death in Yellowstone

Lee H. Whittlesey

Written by a different author than the other “Death in ..” books. Not quite as well-done as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite editions but still really good. The chapters on the perils of the boiling hot springs and big animals (bears, bison), as well as other conditions endemic to Yellowstone, have some amazing stories and information. Like the other books, it fires up the imagination and prompts the question, “What makes people do the things they do?” Read this before you go.

Books

Desert Solitaire

Edward Abbey

Along with The Emerald Mile, another of the few books that are pillars in the literary canon about the American Southwest, specifically Southern Utah. Abbey spent time in the late ’60s as a park ranger in Arches, before it became a national park in 1971. His passionate writing about the landscape, his reverence for the desert, and his anger over the relentless encroachment of commercialism on the wilderness ring even more true today.

Books

Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide: Grand Canyon National Park

James Kaiser

One in a series of guides to several of our national parks. This is a good compliment to the other resources here, in that it adds a lot of color about the North and South Rims. I got the inspiration to visit Toroweap Overlook from reading about it in this guide. Many good insights about navigating the rim hot spots including, best times to visit, avoiding crowds, fees, and more. Also good overviews of the ecology, climate, flora, and fauna of the canyon.

Books

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite

Michael P. Ghiglieri & Charles R. Farabee, Jr.

Companion book to “Death in the Grand Canyon”. Equally as authoritative, well-researched, and entertaining. Authored by a career National Park Service ranger and superintendent, and the same Ph.D./river guide who co-wrote the Grand Canyon book. Every bit as good. So many spellbinding stories of calamity with practical advice and park background built in. A must read if you are visiting Yosemite and really want to do a deep dive before you go. Or, just for the enjoyment of reading a great book.

Books

Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon

Michael P. Ghiglieri & Thomas M. Myers

Written by a long-time river guide with a Ph.D.in Ecology and the medical advisor for Grand Canyon National Park. An utterly awesome, exhaustively researched, and authoritative guide to the perils of the canyon and how to prepare for them. Not just lurid, true stories, although they are told expertly, but also essential information for being there. Lots of history about the park, as well as behind the scenes look at search and rescue operations.

Books

The Emerald Mile

Kevin Fedarko

A well-deserved place in the pantheon of lore and knowledge of the Southwest, in general, and Grand Canyon, in particular. Incredibly well-written with great story telling. As I mentioned elsewhere, this is in my top five all-time books, and that means across all subjects and genres. If I had to pick one book that combines the best of Grand Canyon history, need-to-know information, forces of nature, off-the-wall characters, impending disaster, conservation politics, boat design, dam technology, and public land management in one riveting place, this would be it.

Books

There’s This River

Christa Sadler

A thoroughly entertaining compilation of short stories from Grand Canyon boatmen and women recounted by the editor. My favorite was about a guide who, after reaching camp, climbed up into the cliffs to get a bit of relaxation, when he encountered a full-grown big horn sheep. He called out “baa baa” to see what would happen. The sheep charged him, but stopped just short of knocking him into the river. So what did he do? He called out “baa baa” again, and the sheep chased him all the way back to camp. “I remember when I had my first beer …”

Books

Yosemite: The Complete Guide: Yosemite National Park

James Kaiser

In the same vein as “Grand Canyon: The Compete Guide”, above. Equally well-organized with useful insights about the park and how to get to most out of being there.


Nat’l Land Reservations

Essential resource for obtaining permits, passes and reservations for many activities, campsites, etc. on federal & state lands. “Recreation.gov is a website run by 12 different US Federal and State Government organizations. The website allows for booking camping and RV sites across the United States. The site has listings for 4,200 facilities and activities and over 113,000 individual reservable sites across the United States according to the website in 2021.” – Wikipedia


NPS Main

Main entry point into the world of the U.S. national parks. This portal can help you get ideas about which parks to visit. The entries below are for the individual parks in the Western U.S. with copious information and specifics within. We encourage you to make these sites a core part of your discovery once you have chosen a particular park(s). Most of your questions about trails, alerts, lodging, maps, permits, and much more can be found here. A year in the comments column indicates that we have either visited a park, or intend to do so. Our trips are, or will be, chronicled in A World Beyond.

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WY, MT, ID

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State Parks

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(Dead Horse Point, Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin)


Tribal Parks

AZ, UT

2020, 2022


Flash Floods

S. UT

Consult this National Weather Service flash flood forecast before considering a hike in any slot canyons.


Web/App

All

Great resource to discover and explore information about almost any trail anywhere. Lots of free content with more maps and services possible by registering an account. An app is also available for smartphone. You really should have this handy in your toolkit.

Web/App

All

There is so much more to see than we think or know about. Atlas Obscura makes visible the hidden wonders that exist wherever you may be going in the world, or even if you are staying close to home. Sometimes I’ll run across a place I hadn’t known about on a photo website (like 500px), and consult Atlas Obscura to find out more about it. An example is the Wahweep Hoodos near Kanab, UT. The app is also very handy resource to have when you’re traveling.

Web/App

All

A young family went on a year-long round-the-world adventure, including epic hiking in many of the national parks we’re exploring here. They turned that into this very professional and comprehensive website that should be a part of your trip discovery and planning. They have recommended itineraries to consider along with all the tips on hikes, lodging, and more. Check out their list of the world’s top twenty day hikes.

Web/App

All

Very well-put-together site, from background about Zion, to hikes in every sector and surrounding areas, to the photography. I get the distinct impression Joe has done most, if not all, the hikes himself, and that he’s a highly credible source of information. We’re going to try again to hike Angel’s Landing soon; we were unable to score a permit for our May 2022 trip. But if we are unsuccessful again, I will be consulting Joe’s thorough descriptions of literally dozens of hikes to formulate a backup plan.

Web/App

All

This app made all the difference during our 2021 trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. With unprecedented wildfire smoke everywhere out west, we came to depend on the smoke forecast to guide our activities. If not for this visibility, as well as very helpful weather updates, our trip might have literally been a bust.

Web/App

All

Another very handy app to have, especially in the national parks, is PictureThis. It’s an amazing tool that quickly identifies most any plant or flower you may be curious about. To me, a region’s flora contributes every bit as much to my experience as do the geological features and animals. If your phone has a connection, simply snap a photo of the plant and the app will return information about it. If you can’t get a connection, take the photo and use the app later when you are in range.

Web/App

AZ, UT

Wonderful resource from a venerable organization dedicated to protecting the canyon and Colorado Plateau region. Has well-presented information on epic hikes, but goes further with news and commentary on the threats to the desert southwest, Native American affairs, and the ongoing projects they sponsor. Beautiful photography as well.

Web/App

UT

This site is a great source for anything having to do with hiking in Southern Utah. The region is a mix of National Parks (the Utah big 5) and hiking across vast tracts of public lands, such as the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. These can all be combined into an epic, immersive experience of the entire state. Includes dozens of hiking routes, detailed maps, and much more.


Videos

YouTube

Academy Award winning documentary chronicling Alex Honnold’s unprecedented 2017 free solo ascent of Yosemite’s 3,200 foot El Capitan. Free solo means no ropes or use of any other climbing technology. Just you against the wall. A heart-stopping account of one of the most astonishing and dangerous feats of human athleticism and endurance of all time.

Videos

YouTube

Ten minute overview of the Half Dome day hike produced by the National Park Service. This short video really got me excited about the idea of doing it, and was a good starting point to understand its scope and challenges. Really well done and worth the time.

Videos

YouTube

A young couple who travels the world and shares their experiences in highly engaging and well-produced videos. I only came upon them recently, but Alex loves them and they claim to have 1 million subscribers.

Videos

YouTube

A group of 20 and 30-something guys who chronicle their epic hikes in the western U.S. and other locations, like the Alps. The videos are high quality and their laconic, dude-like banter is entertaining. Videography is really good and with their triathlete-level of hiking (really trail running), it’s amazing they can do such a good job. The biggest benefit is seeing these places up close and imagining how it would fit into a future trip.

Videos

YouTube

Storm photographer Mike Olbinski’s five minute time lapse clips of massive maelstroms spinning up in the desert southwest and plains. Set to eerie music, his expert photography and sense of drama give these storms a turbocharged malevolence as they approach with bad intent. Yikes!

Videos

Website

A paean to the Grand Canyon and the man who saved it, Martin Litton. Also a poignant profile of his dories, the signature boats of the Colorado, which Litton also established, and that continue on the river today with the Oars organization. Twenty two minutes of joy for Canyon lovers.

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Photography

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When I began our trips to the southwest several years ago, I knew I wanted to return home with landscape photos that did this epic place justice. At the same time, I didn’t want my desire for good photos to become the sole focus of my attention. After all, I was on a fast-moving adventure with others, and it was essential to soak in the experience as it happened. This is definitely a balancing act, one which I’ve adapted to over time.

On our earlier trips, I used higher-end point-and-shoot cameras and kept things simple by shooting in auto mode. Most of my Grand Canyon photos were taken with these cameras. I wanted to have prints of the best images on my walls, but discovered that small camera sensors presented limitations on the size and quality of the prints I could produce. However, for posting these images on this website, the possibilities expanded dramatically, especially by using Photoshop for some basic post-processing.

Still, after two trips to out west I wanted better image quality than I was getting. I felt that these places were so special, and our trips so infrequent and uncertain, that they should be captured with a full-frame sensor camera. I also realized that, if I went in this direction, I would have to invest the time and effort required to become educated on photography, from equipment to configuration, and from capture to post processing. As a result, I’m now using a Sony A7II full-frame mirrorless camera body. It’s a few generations old, but at 24 mega-pixels, with a host of still-advanced features, it meets my needs at a really good price point.

Along with the A7II, I’m using three Sony e-mount lenses that cover most of a landscape photographer’s needs, also at good price points. One is a 24 – 105 mm zoom (f/4.0), which is great for the vast majority of my shots. It can go wide, and also long enough to capture mid-distance scenes. For longer distances, I have a 70 – 300 mm zoom, mainly to capture wildlife. I’d like to be able to go farther at times but this lens is relatively lightweight, which is an important consideration on long hikes. The third lens is a 20 mm (f/1,8) prime, mainly for night sky shots. There are other good 3rd party e-mount-compatible lenses, such as those from Tamron, that are a bit less expensive but are also well-regarded.

Having the Sony full-frame mirrorless gear has been a game changer for me, but it does come with much to consider, including:

  • Time & Effort – Once you start using other shooting modes, like aperture priority, and begin swapping lenses for specific purposes, you have entered a new world. There is much to learn, and one question always leads to three more questions. Pretty soon, you find yourself becoming devoted to a bonafide avocation. Still, if you want to minimize complexity and investment, you could use a full-frame camera in auto mode with a multi-purpose zoom lens, such as the 24 – 105 mm I mentioned above. You could also take your photos in JPG, instead of RAW, format to let the camera process the photo (instead of doing the post-processing work). Nothing wrong with that. Eventually, if you feel the desire for more control over the process, as well as more artistic freedom, you can grow into that.
  • Risk – A rugged point-and-shoot, such as my Olympus TG-5, is a great choice for getting decent photos in wet and harsh environments. But now that I have the Sony full frame gear, I want to bring it with me. If I’m hiking. I’ll now need to deploy additional measures to protect my equipment, such as rain covers, secure camera clips and straps, a photographer’s backpack, etc. If I do another rafting trip, I’ll need to have a waterproof compartment, and consider a trip specifically geared towards a photographer’s needs (e.g., the Gary Hart workshops under Instruction below).
  • Quality – To get the absolute best image sharpness and quality, a tripod is required. All the photography teachers I’ve referenced hammer that point. They also consistently say that morning and evening light are the best, and that bright daylight can be harsh and unforgiving. However, because I need to combine my photography with the experiences I happen to be moving through with others, I rarely use a tripod or avoid daylight shots. My strategy is to try to set the exposure with a fast enough shutter speed that still allows the depth of field and tone curve I need (using aperture priority mode). My goal in the field is twofold: spend less time on dialing in the settings and focus more on the composition. In addition to the photography, I also want to leave space to be in the moment, experiencing my surroundings. With this in mind, I find that I can take enough photos without slowing down too much, so that I have a good chance of finding some keepers when I get home. Using Photoshop to make adjustments on the back-end, this approach generally works well for me. Of course, if I know I’m going to be at a site for a while or in low light, I will definitely use a tripod and take all the steps required to eliminate camera shake (delayed shutter release, disabled steady shot features). In fact, I wouldn’t bother shooting a sunset or the Milky Way without these. Same for multi-exposure shots, such as in high dynamic range or extreme depth of field situations. All of this said, I’ve been able to produce large prints for my walls that more then satisfy my aesthetic sensibilities. They also look pretty good on the Web after I’ve resized them.
  • Cost – Clearly, moving to full-frame gear from a point-and-shoot can be a significant investment. Once you dive in, you are likely to find indispensable, as well as attractive, accessories you didn’t think about when you began. In other words, it all adds up. Consider whether your photography needs and objectives warrant making this commitment, or whether taking an initial intermediate step (e.g., using an older generation, full-frame unit in automatic mode, with an all-purpose zoom lens) makes sense.

My intent is to give you some insight into the choices I made to improve as a landscape photography enthusiast and why I made them. If you find yourself moving in a similar direction, the resources here are the ones I found (and still find) to be essential in guiding me.

Update: In 2021 I upgraded my Sony body to the A7RIII and used it on our visits to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Everything I said above still stands. However, there is no doubt that upgrading to this incredible camera as part of my photography evolution was a good move. Besides the almost doubling of pixels (to 42 MP) on the full frame sensor, it’s packed with additional, useful features. It was also a beast on our hike to Delta Lake in pretty rugged conditions. Taking advantage of a B&H sale certainly helped, too.

Instruction

Great site to learn about landscape photography when you start getting more serious. If you need to know what the exposure triangle or back button focus are, as well as dozens of other important photography and post processing topics, this is the place to go. Thorough and well-organized. Most of the content is free and downloadable. There are more advanced courses and resources for a fee, such as Photoshop fundamentals for landscape photographers, which I purchased.

Instruction

Professional photographer who also guides photo tours to the western national parks and several international locations. He also writes educational articles for Sony, whose equipment I use. I got to know Gary during the pandemic when I arranged photography lessons over Zoom. Great teacher and authoritative source of all things photography.

Instruction

Go here to get unvarnished reviews of cameras, lenses, and other photography equipment. Also runs photo tours and workshops. I consult this site, especially when I need a thorough understanding of a lens I’m considering, what specs are important or not, the pros and cons, and comparisons to alternatives. Really helpful in my decision making and giving me confidence that I made the right choice.

Instruction

I found this website, geared to night sky photography techniques, while reading comments on 500px (see below). Lots of instruction on how to get great foregrounds in pictures of the milky way. I haven’t put this to use as of this writing, but it won’t be long before I do. Very glad I happened upon this information.


Book

This book is a great compliment to all the other sources here, especially because it translates all the bewildering principles and facts into an easily consumable and practical plan of action. Kelby is a widely read author on the subject of landscape photography and he boils down all of his experience into the most important things an enthusiast-level photographer (like me) needs to remember. And he does it in a very down to earth style.


Images

I learned about this site from Scott Kelby’s book. It has works from photographers all over the world employing all kinds of techniques in all kinds of genres. Of course, I’m looking mostly at the landscape photos, of which there are spectacular additions every day. Many of the contributors add their camera and lens settings used for their images, as well as comments about the location and other background information. Great way to learn from what other talented people are doing.

Images

I mentioned Gary in the Instruction entries above and I’m doing so again here to call your attention to his stellar photo galleries. I learned about Gary from an article he wrote that was posted on Sony’s website, and which had an incredible shot of a rainbow over the Grand Canyon. There are many more to check out here.

Images

This is another website of stunning photography work mainly focused on storms in the southwest. Truly jaw-dropping images. These photos inspire me to up my game even more in future trips to the Colorado Plateau.

Images

Focused on landscape astrophotography, mainly milky way in the desert southwest. This site has amazing galleries as well as the information about low-level landscape lighting that I broke out above in the Instruction entires. For understanding what great night sky photography looks like start here.


Tools

One of three key elements in landscape photography planning, particularly for night sky shots, is knowing where the dark sky locations are. It’s astonishing how much light pollution there is and a true revelation to see what the heavens look like without it. This tool will help you find truly dark night skies, with more opportunities the farther west of the Mississippi you go.

Tools

Another miracle of technology and another foundational element in planning your landscape photography shots. This tool puts you on location virtually and lets you visualize where everything is. For instance, if you want to get a shot of the iconic Grand Teton mountains under a full moon, you can use Photopills (below) and Google Earth together to.determine the time and position of the moon rise and and then determine the direction of the moonlight on the mountains to take the optimal photo. Just fire it up on your PC and see for yourself.

Tools

Possibly the best app I’ve ever used, photo-related or otherwise. If has an array of tools to help plan night sky photo ops anywhere in the world at any time. It has all the data on sun, moon, and milky way times, phases, and locations in an intuitive and fun to use smart phone interface. There are several other great tools as well (e.g., Photographers Ephemeris). It’s highly recommended to use such planning tools so you can make the most of your precious time on an epic, but infrequent, adventure.

Tools

Photoshop has become the go-to suite for photographic post processing, to the point that it is one of those brands whose name has become synonymous with the whole product space. And for good reason. It’s an amazingly powerful set of image processing tools, of which the photography segment is only a part. My main point in introducing Photoshop here is that, for more serious students of photography, capturing the image is only half the equation. The post processing work is what really allows you to refine and polish an image, to put your stamp on it so to speak. It’s truly a thrill to watch what appears to be a bland, flat image, transform into a deep, rich rendering of your experience. And it requires harnessing only a small set of the powerful capabilities available. Photoshop is actually part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools. There are others, like Lightroom, that have complimentary features and can also do many of the post processing tasks required. Check it out.


Store

There are many photo and video gear providers around and there is always Amazon. But B&H is the top destination for serious photographers. Their mega-store is located in west-side Manhattan on 9th Ave. between 33rd and 34th Streets. I’ve done most of my business with them through their website, and they have responsive customer service. If you’re starting to get serious about photography consider checking them out, but beware of the temptation to load up your shopping cart.

Copyright © 2022 Craig Spielman, All Rights Reserved

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