A few years ago, my mother and I went on a genealogy romp through Oregon trying to track down the records of my family. We swung out into Eastern Oregon to one of my favorite nature parks, Painted Hills. I’ve photographed it for many years. Here are a few of the choice images from that trip to revisit this odd geological spot where the winds and rains have worn away the topsoil to reveal amazing colors of the minerals in the ground.
An hour’s drive south of Anchorage, Alaska, Portage Lake is one of the most accessible locations in the state. Tourists pause on their way to Seward to enjoy this glacier fed lake and spectacular glacier. After the visitor’s center closes, you can still walk along the lake and catch the last rays of light as the sun paints the clouds red and orange. Chunks of ice, more than 50 years old, fall from the glacier at the far end of the lake and float nearby, blue and sparkling.
The National Forest Service Begich-Boggs Visitor Center sits at the west edge of the lake. Open daily in the summer, it offers extensive displays on the glaciers and their environmental importance. Naturalist rangers are ready to answer questions and tell you the latest news about the ice worms which live on the glacier. A small bookstore there is well stocked with nature books and videos on glaciers and the local flora and fauna. The award-winning, educational film “Voices from the Ice” shows hourly.
Explore the self-guided interpretive trail just south of the visitor center and learn how the glaciers form the land. During the winter, the lake freezes over and the entire area is blanketed under snow. The road to the visitor’s center is plowed open on weekends. Stay warm inside and look out through huge picture window overlooking the icy lake.
Make time to enjoy a cruise on the MV Ptarmigan sightseeing boat, crossing the lake to within a few hundred feet of the toe of the Portage Glacier, and with luck, you may see large chunks of ice calve into the lake. A ranger usually accompanies the cruise, narrating the trip and explaining glacial geology and the unusual Chugach National Forest, a forest that contains more ice than trees.
At the USFS Williwaw Creek Campground, 38 sites accommodate campers of all sizes from tents to large motor homes. Reservations for the campground are available by calling 1-800-280-CAMP. Campfire programs are offered during the summer.
From the campground, a self-guided nature trail leaves the campground loop and wanders along the creek. This is prime moose and beaver habitat. Early morning is good for finding the moose grazing in the wetland areas. Along the creek a viewing platform juts out and spawning red salmon and dog salmon fill the creek from late July to mid September. Another trail north of the campground heads up the mountainside towards rushing cascades of glacier run-off.
Travel eight miles back to the town of Portage and catch the train to Whittier, or travel the soon-to-be-completed auto route directly from Portage Lake. From the fishing community of Whittier on Prince William Sound, you can board the Alaska Marine Highway Ferries to cross to Valdez and other ports of call or join one of several glacier and wildlife cruises into the icy fjords.
Whatever the season, the Portage area south of Anchorage is an exciting and photogenic place to visit.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Tomb of Christ, is one of the most holy of holy sites in the world. It is recognized by most religions, though argued over, as the site where Jesus was crucified and buried.
It is “owned” by four religions which maintain the structure as best they can, world economics and religious fanatics making one group more wealthy and powerful than another over time. The current curators are the Coptics, Latin (Catholic), Greek Orthodox, and Armenian.
It is also a fascinating structure. It is actually many buildings all brought together under one roof. And it has not always been “this” building but rebuilt many times. Continue reading
The car door slammed, frustration evident not only in his body language but expression. "Trouble?"
Brent deposited the camera into my lap and shook off his hat. "The damn wind."
I looked outside at the field of wild daisies and sure enough, they were dancing around in the wind, white waves upon green stems. "You’re trying to photograph the flowers, right?" He nodded. "Why not try photographing the wind instead?"
His expression twisted strangely. Slowly, the light bulb went off. With a grin, Brent grabbed the camera and was out into the chilly spring air again.
A long time ago a photography teacher told me that if you go out to photograph with a goal in mind, you often miss out on the other possibilities. Leave the agenda at home and stay open to whatever you find. When the wind won’t work with you, why not work with the wind?
Photographing the wind is a real challenge because you can’t see it directly. People rarely think of the wind as a photographic subject. You can’t do morning light on wind. Front light has no effect. Learn to pay attention to the effect wind has on subjects and before you know it, you may not be photographing the wind directly, but you will be photographing the wind.
On a windy day, head out into the forest. The thick bases of tree trunks keep the trees fixed in the ground, but their highest reaches sway back and forth in the wind, and even their leaves shimmer in the lightest breeze.
In the low light levels of most forests, slow shutter speeds are easy to get. Slowed down to 1/2th of a second or even a full second, depending upon the wind speed and tree movement, you can capture some amazing images of the movement of the tree tops. Get down low to look up at the still tree trunk bases and capture the motion high above you. A wide angle lens accentuates the wide tree base and the soaring height of the trees.
If you are catching the motion, blur the movement with slow shutter speeds. If you want to stop the action of falling leaves or crashing waves, choose a high shutter speed. The drama of an image capturing the wind is enhanced if it includes objects in the same picture that move along with things that don’t move. The effect is much more surreal and dramatic.
Capturing the wind’s effect on subjects does mean working with slow shutter speeds. The slower shutter speeds allow your subject to move back and forth across your frame during longer exposures, showing the motion. Blessed with a day with a moderate to low light level, a day with clouds, slow shutter speeds come easily. They can also be found in the morning or afternoon when the light level is lower. On a bright sunny day, you can add a polarizing filter to cut 1 to 3 stops of light for the slower shutter speed you need.
As your subject is moving, you need to make sure your camera is stabilized solidly to enhance the motion effect, keeping the still items still and the moving parts in motion. A solid sturdy tripod will give you the stabilization you need. A light tripod will shake and vibrate in the wind. Watch out for camera straps and camera lens covers dangling in the wind, too, causing the camera to shake.
In strong winds, such as those along ocean coast lines or during storms, you might weight down the tripod for more stability by hanging your camera bag or plastic sacks filled with sand, dirt, or rocks from the center of the tripod. We’ve even used gallon plastic milk jugs or 2 liter soda bottles filled with water hanging from a bungie cord from the tripod.
Looking for wind
As we’ve said, the wind itself is almost impossible to photograph, but its effects aren’t. Winds’ effect on nature helps to mold mountains and hillsides as it blasts away on one side and softly drops off on the other. As it hits the ground, the wind picks up dust and dirt, scouring the land and carrying them along until the wind speed drops or the objects meet resistance. The particles are deposited in piles or ripples, building up slowly over time unless they are blown or washed away. On the top of Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, the winter winds batter the snow covered ridge, lifting the snow in drifts resembling ripples in a lake over the frozen slow.
The brush of wind against the surface of a body of water creates dancing patterns in the water, enhanced by reflections of the trees and surrounding landscape. Patterns become abstract, dissolving in the motion of the wind across the water.
The wind helps plants and trees spread their seeds across the land, scattering seeds of all shapes and sizes through the sky. Look for helicoptering maple seeds whirling down, or dandelion golf ball-like seed heads releasing their seeds into the wind. In the fall, the leaves drift down from the trees to cover the ground below, insulating it naturally against the coming winter.
Grasses sigh with the motion of the wind as it moves across the fields. Clouds are pushed around by the whims of the wind, flying across open skies and lifting and swirling around mountain peaks. Fog moves through valleys at the slightest nudging from the wind, moving through trees and up and down the hillsides. Look for lighter evidence of the wind in dust devils, or the swirl of white caps on the sea or a lake.
Big winds are more dramatic in their evidence and results. In some cases, a slow shutter speed is not as desirable as you photograph the dramatic impact of high winds such as hurricanes and tornadoes, stopping the action in its tracks. In the middle of a harsh storm, photograph the driving rain and/or snow to show the wind’s affects. After a serious wind storm, walk through a forest to find trees uprooted or snapped off like twigs, revealing the power of the wind’s fury.
Nature isn’t the only host for wind’s effects. Look around for flags, windsocks, kites, skirts, and scarfs blowing in the wind. With today’s modern technology, wind mills have made a comeback as they harness the energy from the wind to generate electricity in many parts of the world with consistent high winds. Things that move have little chance against the pressure of the wind.
Exploring the Old City of Jerusalem means going back through time. Not just back but down through the layers of time. A city conquered, crushed, rebuilt, conquered and crushed, then rebuilt again and again and again, visitors to Jerusalem relive the adventure by touring the many layers of history which remain.
Many recent archeological discoveries come from the unfortunate exposure of many of the oldest layers caused by the Arab destruction of the ancient Jewish Quarter during the wars. When Israel won Jerusalem in 1967, archeologists were among the first to move into the destroyed areas, revealing incredible historical finds as they probed the layers. Imagine the process of debating and deciding when to stop at a particular layer in time and when to dig deeper, destroying what lay above, but potentially uncovering even older remains below. Some of their oldest finds date back to the First Temple period (950 BCE) and are preserved in the Museum of the First Temple Period. Continue reading
Growling bears, hissing cats, snorting beavers, splashing otters, howling wolves, calling eagles, screeching sandpile cranes, bugling elk…these are the sights and sounds that accompany you on your tour through the various native species of the United States Pacific Northwest when you visit Northwest Trek.
Located near the foot of Mt. Rainier not far from the town of Eatonville, about 1 1/2 hour drive from Seattle, is the unique wildlife park, Northwest Trek. Founded with a family land donation to Pierce County, Northwest Trek has grown to become one of the best animal rehabilitation and education centers for wildlife native to the area. They have helped restore many animals near extinction back to the wild while preserving others unable to return. Their educational programs are outstanding, done around the state in classrooms as well as at their facility. They even offer training courses for teachers and nature professionals and enthusiasts.
Visiting Northwest Trek is always an adventure. It is an unusual zoological park as they have worked from the beginning to create natural “cage-less” habitats for the wildlife. Visitors walk along wooded paths to step into a small enclosure across the water from the wildlife or from up high enough to allow easy viewing of the animals below while maintaining a distance for their safety and yours. The wolves can be easily viewed from a walkway that passes over part of their enclosure. Manmade barriers are few, and those that are present are usually hidden behind vines or other plants. The animals wander through natural vegetation and ground cover, nesting or resting in trees or areas that are “natural” and not made of cement and man-made materials, giving you a sense of peeking into the real “wild” world.
Plan to spend a whole day at Northwest Trek. The park is divided up into several areas for exploration. The walking tour covers the wildcats, owls and eagles, bears, wolves, otters, porcupines, and many others. A hiking area provides a variety of trails to explore typical Pacific Northwest habitats and creatures where you can spend a few minutes or a couple of hours. Helpful signs identify the different species of plant and animal life. The Cheney Discovery Center provides children and visitors with a chance to get up close and personal as they learn about the different wildlife and how they live. There are hands-on displays and many different exhibits to help visitors better understand the animals and their reliance upon their environment and the responsibility we have to protect it for them.
Eatonville WA 98328
web site: www.nwtrek.org
Hours: The entrance opens at 9:30 AM year around and the closing time varies dependent upon the season. All facilities are open at the same time. Check their web site for specific seasonal details.
Getting There: Northwest Trek is located 55 miles south of Seattle and 35 miles east of Tacoma. Exit I-5 to access State Route 161. You will find the entrance on the east side of State Route 161, 17 miles south of Puyallup and 6 miles north of Eatonville.
Best Time: Spring is excellent for baby mammals and birds in breeding plumage, as well as for migrating birds in general, such as the sandhill crane. Summer is very popular for visitors and can be very crowded on weekends. Fall is great for good looking mammals. Beware of hibernating animals being unavailable during the winter.
Famous for: Close access to animals native to the Pacific Northwest and housed in fairly natural settings. Excellent educational information and facilities.
How to visit: The best access for photographers is to participate in a photographic tour, available for professional photographers as well as for photographic groups. On your own, arrive early and be ready to enter the facilities immediately. Take the first tram at 10:00 AM as some of the larger animals may still be hanging around their feeding grounds, allowing for closer viewing. Then explore the Core Area walking tour before the crowds arrive. During the busiest times, near lunch, avoid the crowds and seek out the shaded areas of the hiking trails to capture interesting closeup subjects, patterns, and textures. Return to the Core Area walking tour late in the day for a chance to catch some of the animals who come out later in the day.
Habitat: The area represents much of the habitat found in the Pacific Northwest, with excellent samples of forest and marsh lands, as well as some open pasture land.
Wildlife: Grizzly, otter, black bear, wolves, skunk, elk, deer, bison, beaver, raccoon, lynx, bobcat, cougar, badger, owls, eagles, turkeys, sandhill cranes, and a variety of native birdlife.
Equipment: Long lenses are highly recommended to get decent images of most of the animals and birds. A moderate lens will work for the closer exhibits. Avoid wide angle lenses as they tend to take in too much of the background and man-made surroundings. A flash with an extender is recommended. A tripod is best for working with the many low light situations. Bring binoculars and/or spotting scopes for bird spotting and viewing distant wildlife.
Most popular is the Tram Tour which leaves every hour on the hour (April – October) from the Tram Station. This open window tram takes visitors on a ride through the largest part of the park, 435 acres, passing through woodlands, open fields, and wetlands. Visitors get a chance to see the animals safari-style, meeting elk, deer, bison, and others, as well as many birds, especially the native wild turkey which tend to put on quite a show during mating season. Sandpile Cranes love to hang out by the Tram Station during migration season, making a huge racket of honking and screeching sounds.
For the photographer, the walking tour, hiking areas, and tram are the best bets for excellent photographic opportunities. For excellent photographic access from the tram, you can participate in a photographic tram tour led by a wildlife specialist and/or wildlife biologist from the park. They can provide excellent educational information as well as bring the tram close to the wildlife for the photographers. Contact Northwest Trek and check their web page for more information.
Fall and Spring are the best time to photograph Northwest Trek. A high overcast day is even better, providing even light on your subjects. Fall offers mammals with their healthy winter coats and fattened up bodies ready for winter. Spring offers great opportunities for baby mammals and birds. These are also prime bird migration times, and many pass through Northwest Trek taking advantage of the water, food, and resting areas.
A tripod is a must, as the light in western Washington State is often low, even during the day. The dense foliage of the forest in and around the park and the trails also make for low light levels. A flash, especially a full-powered flash with a long range and a “flash extender”, is recommended, especially for the dark burrows and caverns for photographing “underground” or night creatures. Working with fill flash helps to overcome some of the shadows found on a bright sunny day, and to add some punch to the overcast days. When working under low light conditions, we recommend pushing 100 speed film 1 stop to ISO 200 or using one of the new higher speed films, but for normal conditions, using ISO 100 should be enough.
Long lenses are preferred for the larger mammals and the eagles and owls as they tend to stay further back in their enclosures. Shorter lenses are needed for the burrowing and smaller creatures as they are closer to the enclosure barrier.
Working with the burrowing creatures, Northwest Trek has provided underground viewing for many of them with glass barriers between you and the animal. The beaver dam is a prime example with a wonderful viewing window into their burrow, a sight rarely seen. Working with glass as interference, you will need to work with an off-the-camera flash cord and hold the flash at an angle to the window to prevent reflection of the flash into the camera.
The access to various owls and the two native eagle species is excellent, allowing visitors to view and photograph birds rarely seen in the wild. The owl enclosures recreate habitats comfortable and familiar to the birds, and the barn owls perch on the facade of an old bar, much as they have become accustomed to do in the “wild”.
A photographic trip to Northwest Trek means arriving early. Organized photo tours usually begin before the park opens, often following the feeding trucks around to get access to the more reclusive animals. If you come as an individual, be one of the first to walk in when they open at 9:30 AM (year around) during the winter so you can take advantage of some morning light. Closing at 3:00 PM during the shorter days of the year in the late Fall through early Spring, you can take advantage of the warmth of sunset when it sets early, if weather permits. It happens fast so you need to be prepared for the light. Storm-light also offers wonderful lighting opportunities for photographing at Northwest Trek. The ever-changing light, sometimes soft, sometimes unusually warm, creates some great challenges and chances for great photographs.
As with all such parks and preserves, watch backgrounds for signs and man-made objects, as well as bright lights or highlights can cause distracting elements in your images. Many animals have been rescued and are injured and unable to return to the wild. If you are photographing images for future sale, take care to avoid ear tags, scars, or other “unattractive” elements unless you have a particular market for such images.
Northwest Trek is also very suitable for organized groups and photo club excursions. Arrangements must be made in advance and they take extra special effort when working with photographers to transport them around before the park opens during the feeding of the animals, bringing the wildlife closer to the trams. Naturalists accompany the group tours, providing extensive information about the wildlife and habitat and answering questions.
Visit the Northwest Trek web site for more information and instructions on how to get there and take advantage of the wonderful facilities they have to offer.
Photographing mountains is like photographing the history of the planet. Mountains wear their history from the inside out and back again. They are great repositories of natural history, archeology, geology, and climate change. They house a good majority of the planet’s fresh water reserves, influence the weather, and determine which side gets the water and which side doesn’t. They are natural obstacles in our path, yet goals to be scaled. Mountains play important roles in our lives, and they are wondrous subjects to photograph.
No matter where you point your camera on a mountain, from great distances or up close, the subject diversity is amazing. For those who enjoy the scenic view, mountains offer spectacular landscapes, clouds dancing around the pinnacle or low around the base, or dark with forests and rocks and patches of white snow. For those who like the closeup perspective, the geology alone can captivate a photographer for years.
Mountains are exciting to photograph today because they are associated with wilderness. Anywhere you go in the world where there are mountains, you may still find wild streams, uncultivated trees, wild animals, and natural areas. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to tame a mountain, to build buildings and to develop them. Hundreds of years ago, the prairies and the plains of North America were also wild places but today these have been almost completely taken over by agriculture and cities, and the wildest places we have left anywhere in the world are in the mountains. The elk, bear, wolf, and many birds and other animals used to range the prairies and low lands of the planet, but now humans have pushed them into the mountains, their last sanctuary.
Mountains are big rocks. Most people think of mountains as tall craggy spires, but mountains come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes like the sharp pointing peaks of the Cascade and Rocky Mountains or the rounded and strange formations in the Garden of the Gods, Colorado. Mountains come in red, green, white with snow, dark in silhouette, golden with trees, and all colors in between.
Where the sedimentary layers are exposed, you can find a wide range of patterns and textures. Understanding the geological forces behind what you are seeing helps you recognize photographic opportunities representative of those forces of nature like the basalt formations, earthquakes, earth shifts, and more.
Mountains Expose Their Age
The shape of the mountain is based upon its age and wear and tear from wind, rain, and glaciers. Older mountains have been exposed to the weather for a longer period of time so the sharp points have been rounded and the highest points worn down. The Ozark and Appalachian mountains are considered the oldest mountain ranges in North America. Only a few thousand feet high, they have been ground down into rounded “hills” over time.
Contrast that with the newer mountain ranges of the West, the Rockies, Cascades, Sierra Nevadas, and the Alaska and Brooks ranges. The Olympic Mountains of Washington State are rising approximately one centimeter a year. The volcanic action of Mt. St. Helens, also in Washington, and active volcanos along the Aleutian Range in Alaska are changing mountain range profiles all the time.
The newer ranges are formed by volcanic action as well as shifts in the plates of the earth, called tectonics. The plates of the earth’s surface collide, with one shelf rising as the other pushes under, and the higher shelf becomes the mountains. As one plate pushes upward, the sedimentary layers are revealed, exposing its geology. Here you will find fascinating layers, textures and patterns to photograph.
Long dormant volcanos tend to feature round, smooth tops. The explosive force of a recently active volcano reshapes the mountain’s profile, changing dome crowns into giant holes, sometimes filled with water or ice. The force of the blast can dramatically change the surrounding landscape as mud, rocks, and ash are smashed into neighboring mountains and areas. Lava flows down the mountain sides, changing the landscape even more as it sculpts and cools.
As lava cools, it forms a volcanic rock known as basalt. As it cools and shrinks, cracks develop along the blackened surface, forming a cluster of hexagons like a honeycomb. These cracks extend the full depth of the rock, making vertical columns of basalt. This is common throughout the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, Devil’s Postpile National Monument in California, Hawaii, and other volcanic areas.
But volcanic action isn’t just millions of years old and found in the rocks. It is found today on many active volcanos around the world. Hawaii still features red hot lava flows spilling into the sea and changing the shape of the islands. Mt. Rainier in Washington State is considered active, though barely. Even if the volcanic activity isn’t visible to the naked eye, it is still going on. On March 23, 2004, a series of small earthquakes rattled the Three Sisters volcanic center in central Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. While these were minor earthquakes, the experts say that the regional seismic network detected approximately 100 earthquakes up to about 1.5 magnitude centered five kilometers west of South Sister volcano. Since 1997, the ground has been uplifted by 25 cm (about 10 inches), believed to be “the continuing intrusion of a modest volume of magma (molten rock). The magma appears to be accumulating at a depth of about 7 kilometers (4 miles) below the ground surface and now measures about 40 million cubic meters (about 50 million cubic yards) in volume.” They are expecting more earthquakes in the area as the Earth’s crust shifts and moves to accommodate the heat and gases.
Mountains in Motion: Glaciers
Glaciers leave their marks on the landscape in many ways. Their surging ice flows pick up rocks large and small and transport them along their path to deposit them miles away. Glaciers are formed when the snow falls and accumulates faster than it melts and builds up over years or thousands of years. The weight of the snow on top compacts the oldest layers of snow into ice at the bottom, putting the most pressure on the lower parts. When the mass gets large enough, it starts to slide downhill under its own weight and the process continues for hundreds of thousands of years to form a river of ice that may be hundreds of meters thick and may move several meters a day. Between May 1956 and the summer of 1957, Alaska’s Muldrow Glacier surged four miles, and at its maximum speed moved almost ten inches a minute. The world’s fastest moving glacier is currently Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, moving 35 meters a day.
The ground underneath the glaciers are worn by the constant movement of the ice. Any rock or mountain section that is loose or weak is picked up and carried along with the glacier and those bits scour the landscape they pass over, like sandpaper, wearing it down. Tiny particles of rock are formed and collected in the glacier and the “rock flour” remains suspended in the water. These particles scatter the light and give the blue color to high mountain glacial lakes such as Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada.
Glaciers leave behind characteristically U-shaped valleys, as opposed to water carved valleys which tend to be deep gorges like the Grand Canyon. Into these valleys come plants and animals, protected by the refuge created by the glacier’s path.
Water cuts as it flows through a valley, but it’s not as “tough” as ice. While a glacier actually grinds its way through the mountains, a stream will cut through the softest part of the rock layers, leaving the hardest stuff behind. Narrow canyons and gorges with rough sides are smoothed in the places where water has polished it and rough in places where the rocks have broken off. As snow melts from the mountain tops and sides, small branching streams carve into the sides as they seek the path of least resistance, creating a network of branching patterns.
The areas of the mountains with the hardest rock resist the water’s forces so the water pushes around them, sometimes causing pillars to separate from the main mountain like in the Grand Canyon and the Garden of the Gods.
Wind takes longer to erode, a matter of force, being even weaker than water. Wind picks up light particles of sand and dust that sandblasts the mountains over time. Areas exposed to the direct wind get worn away more quickly. Wind that has time to pick up sand and dust and spread itself over a wider range creates softer, rounder mountain peaks. Where the wind meets resistance or loses its strength, it leaves deposits of sand and dust, piling up into new sedimentary layers.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll
While we can’t see deep beneath the earth’s surface, earthquakes and shifts in the earth’s surface can be photographed indirectly by finding the cracks in the rocks and mountain’s sides, or in crevices that form as the ground shifts underneath.
The Canadian Rocky Mountains offer many excellent examples of the forces of nature at work. These mountains were formed by the movement of two tectonic plates against each other, resulting in the uplifting of the mountains on one side, and the side that lost the war against the stress forces slides down and under the winning side. The upper layers are shoved skyward, often exposing their strata, or layers, to examination. These Mountain are jagged and almost torn looking as the weaker edges tumble away as the push from the planet’s Pacific plate continues to grind forward.
As the two land masses fight against each other for space, earthquakes result and the land shifts under the pressure to conform. Cracks form, great crevices, rough and ragged, splitting open to reveal the layers of sediment and stone exposed in lines, twists, and curves. The forces can be read like the lines in the palm of your hand, telling the story of the land.
In Israel, there are three “craters” which tell all of the above stories in combination. The original mountains were formed ages ago through the great pressures in tectonic shifts from the Syrian-African Rift, forcing the land masses on either side to rise up and tear each other apart. Seas covered them repeatedly over the millennia. Where the sedimentary layers were made of the hardest rock, they resisted the pressures of the water and tides. The limestone layers left behind by the receding sea were soft and didn’t withstand the wind and rain, so over time, they wore away leaving the stronger edges rising up from the desert floor, creating a crater which is really a mountain turned inside out. Along the edges of Maktesh HaGadol, Maktesh HaRamon, and Mahktesh HaKatan, you can see the layers of hard rock sediment pushed up by the geological forces. On the inside, they drop away to the bottom layers of what once was a mountain. The colors in the sand and grains left behind by the layers that once covered the mountain paint the crater floor with intense shades of black, red, green, and pink.
Weather Makers and Takers
Not only do mountains create weather, they stop the weather. Mountains have sides. Where the western slopes of the Olympic Mountains meet the sea, the mountains hold back the rain creating a temperate rain forest with trees covered in layers of green mosses. On the other side is a dry, rain shadow area, creating good pasture land that gets moderate rainfall of 16 inches a year compared to the 150 inches of rain on the seaside’s Hoh Rainforest. The same is true for other large mountains ranges like the Cascades and Rockies. On the weather side you will find luscious green forests accommodating the high rainfall, and on the other will be harsh desert lands.
Pollution affected by weather in the mountains is becoming a major concern. Not only do the mountains stop weather, they act as a barrier to halt air pollution from passing over. Instead, the mountains catch the polluted air from the cities below, and the pollution is trapped in the falling snow and rain. As the mountains are a major source of fresh water, this trapped pollution becomes a health problem. Acid rain is formed by the rain water passing through the toxic air, depositing the poison on the mountain below. Acid rain is destroying much of the plant life and trees in the Smokey and Blue Ridge Mountains on the east coast of the United States, and it wears down the rocks. The Athabasca Glacier in the Banff/Jasper National Parks of Canada feeds water to three oceans and it is under threat from pollution’s effects, too.
Photographically, the increase in particulates in the air creates dramatic sunsets and sunrises. Air pollution also creates a haze, making it difficult to even see the mountains in the distance, or the valleys below when you are in the mountains. If you are planning to travel to photograph mountains near high pollution zones, like the Blue Ridge Mountains, consider visiting after a hard rain or during the winter when the storm winds clear the air.
Wide angle lens are excellent for sweeping views of valleys and mountains rising up, giving a wide striking sense of scale. Take care to notice everything in your viewfinder as all of it will be on the film. Anything distracting will pull the eye away from your main subject: the mountain. Experiment with getting low to the ground to allow wildflowers or rocks to sit in the foreground and loom large compared to the smaller perspective of the mountain in the background.
A long telephoto lens compresses the distance and brings the mountain closer to the camera in the photograph. The mountain appears to tower over things in the foreground. This is a different perception of size and scale. A long lens can also be used to highlight only a part of the mountain that is of interest, a crag or crown of interest, or a rock formation on the side of the mountain.
Few people consider mountains worthy of macro or closeup photography, but these techniques can be used to photograph the sedimentary layers, cracks and crevices of the mountain’s characteristics. Watch the angles of lines when working with cracks and layers in stone to keep them at pleasing angles in the viewfinder, either parallel or on the diagonal to the edges of the frame. Look for repeating patterns in the gravel and crushed rocks. Look closely and you can find mountain images in the mountains with the repeating and echoing patterns.
While the geological formations are fascinating and make excellent subjects for photographing the natural history of a mountainous area, take time to leave the analyst behind and become an artist. Look for echos in the shapes and patterns that repeat themselves between the background and foreground. Look for fascinating patterns and shapes, recognizable subjects and abstracts that attract your attention. Patterns can be found in the lines and designs, cracks and crevices, and also in the shifts of color. Lichens add colors to the rocks and are part of the story of the mountains and their exposure to the weather. Common mountain patterns feature S-curves, strong vertical and horizontal lines, jagged edges, triangle and pyramidal shapes, branching, and fractals. Learning to recognize the patterns in nature will help you find even more compositional opportunities within the mountains.
Light on the mountains is something very special. Mountains that are quite high will catch the first and last rays of sun long before or after the surrounding landscape, so the last light of the day will strike the top of the mountain just as the sun disappears over the horizon. This is the time when the sunlight travels the greatest possible distance through the atmosphere, losing all the blues due to scattering as it passes through. What is left is a red or pink color that can turn the glaciers and peaks a wonderful glowing red color called “alpenglow”.
It usually lasts a few seconds to a minute before it fades and disappears. Don’t give up when you see the sun has set because the best part of the show may come a few minutes later. When you see a sunset, not only watch the sun go down, but turn around and see what is being lit by the sun. That quite often will be the much more exciting picture.
Weather creates dramatic light in the mountains, often different from what is seen below in the valleys. Mountains create their own weather, changing minute by minute. Storm light, dramatic storm clouds, crepuscular rays, and fog can all be found in the mountains. Photograph through snow and rain as they act as a giant diffusion filter, softening the effects.
Look for a vantage point where you can see a series of ridges, one behind the other, usually early in the morning or late in the day, the farther ridges will be a lighter color because of the haze over the longer distance. Photograph them with a medium to long focal length lens to fill the frame with the layer patterns of mountains. The telephoto lens compresses the perspective and makes them appear closer together.
If you are in a place where you don’t have that vantage point or you don’t have layers of ridges, you can fake it with double or triple exposures, adding a sense of drama. This works particularly well with silhouettes. A sunset sky and the jagged black silhouetted mountain stack up in the frame. Pay attention to the profile of each exposure so the second or even third exposure complements the first. The viewer will see all the layers at once but you have to remember while you’re composing.
Clouds and fog add an interesting dimension to your images of mountains. They can act as separators between mountains and ranges of ridges. If the mountains are all monochromatic, the nearest ridges fade and disappear against the farther ridges. Fog or clouds that sit in the valleys between the mountains separate the layers and add some visual interest to the photograph.
Look for opportunities to photograph the sun as it peeks above or drops behind a mountain. The burst of light at that instant is magical. The mountain itself becomes a silhouette, and the sun makes a star burst that can turn an ordinary afternoon into a special photographic memory.
Climb Every Mountain…
Mountains have winding roads, tunnels, rivers, waterfalls, streams, and a diverse climate and plant life range as you pass through the different altitudes. Make it a habit to keep your eyes open as you drive or hike, and stop often to look around to see what’s in view. The profiles and outlines of the mountains capture the drama of the erosion that they have undergone. Mountains can be photographed by themselves or in combination with other things. Explore their history and delight in their revelations. Most of all, photograph them well.
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City represents the second smallest area of the Old City. The Armenian Quarter is the smallest. The word “quarter” is not meant to represent the four parts of the whole Old City, but the sleeping “quarters” of the different populations. Currently, there is the Moselm Quarter, Christain Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Armenian Quarter, and a small area near the Citadel called the Citadel Area. The Jewish Quarter is the newest and offers interesting architecture combing the old ruins with the new construction, and hosts some of the best archeological remains.
The Jewish Quarter
Restored since 1967, the Jewish Quarter is an area of contrasts between old and new, traditional and modern, preserved and reconstructed. Access into the area is mainly up the staircase on the southwest corner of the Western Wall Square (check out the excellent perspective of the Western Wall at the top of the staircase) or through Misgab Ladach Street or the Jewish Quarter Road, both heading south from David/Bab el-Slisileh Street into the Jewish Quarter.
There are many amazing archeological museums and uncovered ancient ruins within the Jewish Quarter worth exploring. Highlights include the Wohl Archaeological Museum and the Museums of the First and Second Temple Periods. You may photograph within these facilities with permission only. Other highlights include the Cardo, the Broad Wall, the ruins of the Hurva Synagogue, and the Burnt House.
Between the Jewish Quarter Road and Habad Street you will find The Cardo. The Cardo is the restored and semi-reconstructed remains of the ancient Roman entrance into the city. Originally constructed by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 135 CE, the Cardo was the main street of the city of Aelia Capitolina, built upon the ruins of Jerusalem, and completed in the fourth century. Hadrian’s city plan is essentially the format of the city today. The “Cardo Maximus”, meaning “main street”, began at Damascus Gate and continued to the south to the exposed part of the road today. The original width was about 73 ft (22 m) and about half of the width is revealed today. Along the reconstructed remains you get a feel of the ancient street and the small shops that would have lined it, evidenced by some of the shops occupying part of the Cardo.
Photographically, most of the Cardo is undercover, so a flash is recommended. Watch for details in the textures and patterns of the columns and walls. Along the road there are interesting archeological remains and remnants including an ancient water storage cistern and an interesting reproduction of an ancient mosaic city map.
On Jewish Quarter Street, in the middle of the length, you will find restrooms to the east along a narrow street. Past the restrooms on Tiferet Israel Street you will enter a triangular square which reveals the archeological remains of the Broad Wall, a 23 ft (7 m) thick wall believed to be built by Hezekiah, King of Judah (700 years BCE), to protect the city against an Assyrian invasion, as mentioned in the Old Testament (II Chronicles 32). An interesting map of the different occupied areas during the history of Jerusalem helps you to understand the historical layout of the city during its different incarnations. The main interest of the Broad Wall is understanding the layers of history upon which the city is built. Do take time to look up and around at the new construction of homes around the Broad Wall. Passing south along the road past the exposed area you will be on Tiferet Israel Street leading to the Burnt House and the staircase to the Western Wall.
Most of the people living and working in the Old City are very helpful. Be aware there are official and unofficial “tour guides” prowling for tourists. If you choose to go with them, settle your price in advance. If they become belligerent, walk away. Police and security are around, but not always easily found. Most merchants speak English and can help you if you have a problem, too.
One block south of the street to the Broad Wall along Jewish Quarter Street you will find a narrow staircase that heads up to the ruins of the Hurva Synagogue. Occasionally you will find some religious Jews worshiping within the entrance to the ruins, and others just paying tribute to the ruins. An arch remains among the ruined walls and alcoves of the synagogue. Originally built in 1700 with money borrowed from the local Arabs, in 1720 the synagogue was burned down by the Muslim Arabs in retaliation for failure to repaid the loans. In 1862, a modern synagogue was built on the ruins, it’s high dome a landmark in the Jewish Quarter until its destruction during the 1948 War of Independence by local Arabs, leaving the arch as it stands today. Difficult to photograph on a bright sunny day, arrive early in the morning or in the late afternoon to capture some soft light and clouds that may appear at that time of day. The arch can be used to frame some of the surrounding buildings for an interesting perspective.
Western (Wailing) Wall
While photography is not permitted during Shabbat (Friday sunset until Saturday sunset), the Western Wall is open 24 hours a day to explore and photograph. Life at the Wall is never ending, with people of all varieties turning up. From barefoot hippies to overdressed Hasidic, you will find everyone and anyone at the Wall. The colorful flow of people, representing all the nations of the world, create an interesting tapestry to photograph. Not all desire to be photographed, so do take care and ask permission when possible. In general, with the high security, the Western Wall is very safe, but do pay attention to the temperment of the crowd, obey the security police, and use common sense.
Close to the wall, women are only allowed within the smaller women’s section, and men are confined to their section to the north. Approaching the wall, you are required to wear a hat or head covering. Some people frown upon any behavior considered disrespectful, but they usually respect your right to be there. Expect to be thoroughly inspected through the security check points at all entrances into the Wall area.
Photographic elements include the Wall itself, especially capturing the many notes stuffed into the cracks in the wall with a long lens, as well as the people praying or visiting the wall. Women may photograph the men’s section from within the women’s section by standing upon one of the many chairs lined up along the divider so female family members may watch bar mitzvahs and other ceremonies by the men. Men typically do not stand on the chairs or look into the women’s section unless it is to tease or harass the women who pray in the traditional style, a form objected to by most Orthodox Jews. For over 15 years these women praying in the ancient traditional ways, and have kept a 24 hour vigilance at the Wall as their case moved through the court system. In 2000 they were finally given permission by the court to worship in the ancient fashion, with prayer shawls and kippas. It is still being debated and the threats of the resentful men continue from time to time. Occasionally the harassment can turn violent with rock throwing, so take care to avoid injury or confrontation. With the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque overhead, Arabs tend to throw rocks over the wall to the worshipers below, too, so do take care. The Wall can be a hotspot, so closely monitor the crowd and the situation to keep yourself safe.
To the south of the Wall you will find the Ophel Archaeological Garden, also known as the Western and Southern Wall Excavations. Uncovered in the 1970s, this area reveals much about the architecture and lifestyles of the Herodian, Byzantine, and Arab periods of Jerusalem. These areas go back to the Second Temple periods, representing some of the ancient streets and routes the pilgrims took to visit the Temple from the main part of the city below it. Look for the patterns and textures in the stone walls, with some stones using weight alone to stand without cement or mortar. For the labyrinth areas of Byzantine dwellings, and for tunnels and low light areas, a flash is a must. The area is not a popular tourist destination, so using a tripod is not usually a problem, but do watch out for the occasional tour group.
A crowded narrow street leads from the Jaffa Gate to deep inside the Old City of Jerusalem, a cobblestone divider between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish Quarters. It descends the gentle slope of the hill toward the Via Dolorosa, the painful path and last walk of Jesus of Nazareth as he carried the cross to his own crucifixion some 2000 years ago. Two narrow stone inclines bridge the steps in the center of the street, spaced just right for the wheels of the handcarts the merchants use to deliver their wares up and down the pitch.
The street is lined with shops, hundreds of shops, none more than a few meters wide. The smells of exotic spices and fresh-baked pitas, the sounds of an oud playing somewhere in the distance, and the calls of the vendors assault the senses. The merchants stand in their doorways or sit on the stoop, smoking a cigarette and inviting passers-by to come in and “Look, please, would you like to look in my shop? It will only take a moment. You don’t have to pay anything to look.” But you can see the lack of enthusiasm and interest in their eyes. Business is not what it was before the latest Intifada. Three years ago, the streets were so crowded it was at times impossible to move without turning sideways and pushing yourself along with or against the flow of people. Today, you can walk side-by-side through empty streets. Where merchants were once busy showing their carpets, hand-dyed scarfs, and olive-wood figures, today they sip tea and hope someone will buy something and pay their rent for the day.
In the doorway of one unnamed shop stands Bedui, the importer and collector of handmade metalwork from all over the Middle East. As we enter he smiles politely and offers to help us. It’s a few moments before he looks at us more intently and says, “I remember you, you were here before, you’re the one with the camera.”
Indeed, I was. Lorelle is amused, because she’s the one who’s always recognized, but this time it’s me, although my camera is buried deep in my pack, nowhere to be seen. We had spent at least an hour in his shop more than a year ago, and he allowed me to photograph his endless array of handmade silver and brass teapots and necklaces and spoons and jewelry boxes and thousands of other objects I don’t even know the names for. We had bought a few things from him, too, but not a lot. He remembers us and wants to know how we have been, and what we are doing in Jerusalem, where are the pictures, and how he can help us today.
I tell him I’m looking for something small and lightweight, something nice, and not too fancy, that I want to send to a friend of mine in Oregon. I want something handmade. Of course, he has several ideas, and runs around the shop, moving urns out of the way so he can climb on a footstool to reach one of the top shelves somewhere. He brings three or four things out for our examination, dusting them off as he winds through the tangle of clutter, a couple of small teapots, an ornamented box, and an intricate silver plate. When I tell him that I like one of them very much, he mentions that he has a similar one in brass, if I would like to see it. Yes, I thought I would. He calls softly to his partner to find the teapot, and they search around and finally find it in the window. But it is only visible through the window from the street. We decide we like it, and ask to see it up close. With not a break in expression, he coos and oos, waddles back inside the shop and he and his partner begin the laborious process of clearing a path through the eclectic clutter of vases, tea pots, tea cups, metal plates, pots and pans, all once sparkling with brass, copper, and silver, now tarnished and dull with layers of oily dust. They struggle to move the things aside without tipping anything over, a great domino possibility in the making, but nothing falls. Within a few minutes, he brings out the small item and I find that it is poorly made, a cheap imitation of what I want. We regret, especially after all the work, that this is not what we want, but is there something else like it, better made? Again, with only smiles of appreciation for us passing his threshold, he hunts around for more treasures from which we can choose.
In the end, our hands dusty and dark from touching all the interesting pieces he digs out from the collage of brass, silver, tin and trash, Lorelle helped me choose a small sugar bowl from his vast selection. Handmade in Iran and brought to Israel by one of the many immigrant families who come here to escape persecution or to find income over the years. It’s a beautiful piece, part of a set, although the other pieces have been lost or hidden over time, the tragedy of so many things. Lives and pieces of lives scattered across time and space.
Photographing in Alaska is not just a joy, in many ways, it’s a privilege. So few places are left in the world with easy access to nature, Alaska is very special.
There is one main highway that basically circles the state, passing by some of the most beautiful and wild areas left in the world. Along that highway and the few that branch off are national parks and nature preserves featuring some of the tallest mountains, smallest and largest animals, and rarest and most fragile plants.
For us, the best time to travel to Alaska for wildlife and scenic photography is spring and early summer, which ranges from May to July depending upon weather, and fall which ranges from August to September 15. Most parks and campgrounds close by September 15 or the first sign of snow.
Spring brings newborns, wildflowers, and the first blush of growth pushing up from the freezing snow and ground. Fall brings healthy fattened wildlife out and about, rut season begins as elk and deer bash heads with their great antlers, and bears snuffle through the last of the berries alongside roads. The tundra, trees, and vibrant bearberry turn golden and red, creating flames of color across the countryside.
Winter is amazing for those who can endure it and have the skills for managing camera equipment in subzero temperatures.
I’ve put together the following list of resources for learning more about photographing and visiting Alaska to help you with your next visit. We recommend that you arrive ready for any weather, good solid hiking or walking shoes, sun lotion, sun glasses, bug sprays and creams, hats, and as much camera equipment and film/storage as possible as Alaska is often a once in a lifetime visit.
- Alaska – Wikipedia
- Chugach National Forest – Wikipedia
- Mount McKinley – Wikipedia
- Portage Glacier – Wikipedia
- Home, State of Alaska
- Alaska's Portage Glacier
- Denali National Park
- Frommer's Alaska
- Denali National Park and Preserve – Denali National Park & Preserve (U.S. National Park Service)
- Travel Alaska – Official State of Alaska Travel & Vacation Information
There is much to photograph in and around the walls of the Old City. This article is designed to only cover the Old City, but close to the various gates you will find some interesting photographic opportunities. Here is a sample:
To the east, accessible through St. Stephan’s Gate (Lion’s Gate), you will find an interesting Muslim/Arab Cemetery. Much of it is abandoned and in ruin, but some renovation occurs from time to time. Take care to not disturb any of the graves and be subtle in your photographic efforts as some may not appreciate your presence in the cemetery, especially during times of political tension. Avoid visiting the area on Fridays and during Muslim prayer times. From the cemetery are excellent views of the Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat) and Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus.
If you have a car, you can travel to Har Hamenuchot (Mountain of Rest) not far from Yad Vashem. It is the largest Cemetery and it covers much of the mountain top in western Jerusalem. Other smaller cemeteries are found through out Jerusalem, some ancient with names barely visible on the stones, other new, shining white and pristine. Take care not to intrude or disturb visitors as you photograph, and be prepared to be told to put away your camera, but for the most part, you may photograph if the cemetery is empty.
Around the Gates and Wall of the Old City
All around the gate areas of the Old City you will find many interesting scenes and people. Jaffa Gate is a very popular entrance, close to the Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters, and one of the few entrances through which cars are allowed. You will find interesting people, in ceremonial and traditional clothing during holidays and holy days coming and going through these entrances. Lion’s Gate is the beginning of the Via Dolorosa and the entry way for many religous processions following the last walk of Jesus. Damascus Gate hosts a huge market area outside of the wall on most days offering a colorful spectacle of people and wares. Dung Gate is the southern entrance into the old city and leads directly to the Western (Wailing) Wall. During religious holidays, this gate is also a popular entrance for colorfully dressed groups.
Churches, synagogues, and cathedrals are found throughout the Old City and within a few blocks around the Old City. Some are open to the public and may allow photography. Ask if you are in doubt. The Mt. Zion area is interesting with David’s Tomb, the location of the Last Supper of Jesus, and other religious and historical sites. The area of the Garden Tomb, north of the Old City from the Damascus Gate, is considered by some Protestants to be the actual crucifixion and burial site of Jesus, offers a more natural and scenic area.
Jerusalem has more than its fair share, appropriately, of museums. There is a museum for just about any interest, from religious relics from the different religions of the world to archeological remains from all the periods of the world. They also have a wide range of modern museums dedicated to Jewish and non-Jewish art and more modern tastes. Two museums bear special mention and should be on your "must see" list. First, YadVashem is the famous Holocaust Museum. Under massive renovation and construction since the beginning of 2000, it is still an amazing museum that steps into the horrors of Hitler and the Nazi devastation of the Jews of Europe and elsewhere.
From a photographer’s perspective, the historical museum offers amazing stories behind the photographs, as well as stories about the photographers themselves. In one display, a German photographer was permitted to spend a few hours (on his day off) in the Warsaw Ghetto and photograph whatever he saw. As you walk across the bricks from the Ghetto, his images tell the story of the horrors of life there. Starving children, unable to stand, lying by the side of the road waiting for death. Old people, maybe not even 40 years old but aged by their situation, stare empty-eyed into his lens. The Germans were meticulous about recording everything they did on paper, and through the camera, so many of the images displayed come from Germans and Nazi documentation. For photo journalists, this is a master’s class in photographing man’s cruelty.
Outside of the historical museum, Yad Vashem has a lovely park with other memorials in the form of statues, artwork, and trees. Trees are planted all around the hillside honoring those who gave their life, money, and time to saving European Jews. In spring, many of these bloom in gentle pastels of white and pink. While currently under drastic construction and improvements, much of it is still accessible. The construction
is supposed to be complete by 2003 was completed in 2005, making it not only the largest museum of its kind, but the most extensive archive and resource for Holocaust material and studies.
The Israel Museum is another highlight to see. While some of the exhibitions change from time to time, in general it is dedicated to the history of the Middle East and Israel with artifacts from many of the holy sites and archaeological ruins around the country. Photography is usually permitted through much of the museum, though not by professional photographers without permission. Pay attention to warning signs restricting use of a camera. In the outdoor courtyards are found many columns, mosaics, and stone carvings allowing for closeup photography of intricate stone work. Working in direct sunlight, consider using a diffusion cloth and/or fill flash.
There are many different ways of viewing the myriad perspectives of Jerusalem. If there are any specific symbols that represent Jerusalem, among them would be scenic views of the city with the golden Dome of the Rock highlighted, Orthodox Jews with their long beards and black hats and suits, and the Western (Wailing) Wall. But for each visitor and resident, Jerusalem means many things. Here are a few more interesting perspectives to help you tell your story and find your perspective on the Old City.
Many of the streets are sloped, allowing for interesting perspectives looking up the slope or down over the view through the street towards interesting builds. Look up and see interesting overhanging “window boxes”, small rooms built out from the wall to provide more room within, and often to increase the light coming into the home. Interesting stone arches connect buildings and support walls throughout the city, casting shadows onto the narrow streets. Laundry can be seen drifting in the slight wind hanging from windows and balconies.
As with any old town, pay attention to the stonework and the electrical wires criss-crossing the walls. Shop signs are fascinating with their combinations of English, Hebrew, and Arabic. Grafiti isn’t common, but it is found from time to time, often political in nature, but usually teenagers expressing themselves in all three languages in many different colors.
Long lenses allow isolating the specific subjects of interest, and wider lenses allow for street scene perspectives. A flash is recommended, including fill flash for filling in harsh shadows.
In Tel Aviv, around the intersection of Ben Yehuda and Allenby you will find many professional camera shops within a block or two in all directions.
For serious professional assistance and supplies, the Brothers Judean is located at 10 Ben Yehuda, down a small alley-like stairway to the west. It can be hard to find. Look for the sign down the narrow break next to a building atop the open staircase going down. For more information call 03-517-4829 or email email@example.com. Web: jugend.co.il
Jerusalem is a city of levels, some going deep below the surface of the streets and others going high above them. There are many access routes to the rooftops of the city, but most are hard to find in the maze of back streets. One easy-to-find roof access is just off Habad Street south from David Street. As you walk up the slope from David Street, you will come to St. Mark Street on your right. To the left you will see a metal staircase going up. This takes you to a safe roof top area. Walk north up a slope in the roofs and turn left (west) to a raised roof top creating a large platform. One of the highest points within the area, it offers a dramatic view of the Al-Aska Mosque and Dome of the Rock with Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus rising up in the background.
Sunrise is excellent for the warm, golden light touching the many minarets, domes, and cathedral towers. Sunset light illuminates Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus, turning the Dome of the Rock into a glowing golden ball. Arrive at the top of the hour, especially at 9:00 AM and noon and the ringing of the bells will vibrate to your bones, and your hair will stand on end as you listen to the bells blending with the Muslim calls to prayers.
Do watch your step and take care not to trip on any of the rubbish or fall off the roof edges. Most areas are protected with railings, but do take care. Speak softly as your voice can easily be heard by those living below and around you, and take care not to stomp too hard or make too much noise to bother those below.
In addition to the views, again, look for photographic details like curtains in the windows, laundry drifting in the wind, and patterns and textures in the stone walls, electrical wires, and building details. You can use a variety of lens lengths here to capture the wide angle views around you as well as using long lenses to concentrate on the distant details.
Tower of David Museum/Citadel
Originally a citadel, or fortress, built in the Herodian period, then destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, next to Jaffa Gate is the Tower of David Museum. Pilgrims used to mistake the 17th century Turkish minaret along the southern edge of the fortress as part of the ancient tower of King David. Thus it became known as the Tower of David, though Israelis use its traditional name of the Citadel. Crossing the ancient moat, one steps back into the 5,000 year history of Jerusalem. You can easily spend hours exploring the restored fortress and all the exhibitions within. English films and tours are available. Call for specific times.
The central courtyard is an archeological ruin providing interesting photographic opportunities. Climb up and walk the ramparts and the high towers for some dramatic and interesting views of the new and old parts of Jerusalem.
The walls are very thick and offer interesting pattern possibilities. They also keep the temperature cool, so bring a sweater or sweatshirt even during the summer if you are prone to the cold. Bring a flash to photograph within the rooms of displays (ask permission first) and to overcome any bright sunlight outside. Due to the high walls, the courtyard is in shadow much of the day except midday. Use caution with a tripod as the walkways are narrow and can be crowded on busy days.
The Ramparts are the wall sections around the entire Old City. There are two sections of the city wall which are accessible: The North side and the West and South sides. The Northern section begins at either Jaffa Gate or Damascus Gate. The Western and Southern section begins either at Tanners/Dung Gate or by the Tower of David and Jaffa Gate. Walking along the top of the wall offers some interesting perspectives on the Old City as well as the surrounding new city area. There are some very high steps, but in general it is an easy walk.
Long lenses will isolate interesting views of the buildings and towers, and moderate to wide angle lenses will give you a wider scenic view. Opening at 9 AM, during the winter you can catch a bit of the warm morning light, or take advantage of winter clouds for gentler light. Winter allows for some sunset light when the sun sets early, as the wall closes at 4PM. The wall can be windy as it is exposed, and during the summer it can be very hot with direct exposure to the sun. It is narrow in places, so take care if using a tripod.
The doors, windows, and walls of Jerusalem are fascinating. Especially the doors. Some are ancient, some are just worn from use. All offer great photographic opportunities in color, texture, and patterns. A moderate to wide angle lens is recommended as the streets are narrow and you can’t move back very far. Fill flash or full flash will help fill in some shadows and low light areas. A tripod is a must for longer exposures in the low light. Look for interesting door knobs, locks, handles, door bells, knockers, and address blocks or tiles. The styles of the doors and architecture changes from area to area, with the newer and more substantial looking doors found in the Jewish Quarter and the older looking doors found in the Arab areas.
The market areas of the old city represent the heartbeat of the area. During the morning and afternoon they are filled with people shopping, browsing, and passing through on their way to home, work, prayer, and social events.
Several market areas are worth exploring within the old city. These market areas, many dating back hundreds of years, feature amazing architecture and are stuffed to overflowing will all kinds of fascinating items. As you wander the streets, don’t just stop at the entrance. Look deep within the shops to find interesting ceilings, walls, and merchandise worth exploring. Some shops are deep and long, featuring a wide range of products not visible from the street. Most shopkeepers speak English. They will invite you in, so take advantage of the offer and explore their diverse goods, looking for colors, textures and patterns to photograph.
Look up into the roofs and ceilings of the market "halls" (streets) to find interesting patterns and textures. From the many sloped streets you will find interesting perspectives looking out across the old city through the narrow confines of the streets.
Pay attention to details as well as scenic perspectives. Examine the stone construction of the walls, street, and ceilings. Note the complexity and confusion of the power lines as they crisscross the streets and walls looking for ways in and out of the buildings constructed long before electricity was even imagined.
Many merchants, with permission, do not mind people photographing their wares, but politeness also begs that you actually pay attention to their wares. Spend a few minutes in the shop, and talk to the shopkeeper about his business, and you will often receive not only permission, but possibly the invitation to sit and share a tea or turkish coffee over conversation, making the experience pleasant for all. If you are not in a mood to purchase or chat, make sure your photographic endeavors do not interfere with their business.
Damascus Gate is a prime area for photographing the market activities. Explore inside and outside the gate and along the outside of the northern wall. They sell everything and anything and it changes from day to day. Colors, patterns, and textures create anarchy before you. Take care to simplify your composition to create more dramatic images. Be cautious about obviously photographing the Moslim women, but the men don’t seem to mind. Ask if you feel nervous about what you are doing. Most of them speak English, or one or more of the languages of Europe. A few words of Arabic will get you big smiles, too.
Look up and look down as well as all around. The merchants display their wares from the ceiling, along the walls, and crowded around their doors. There are many subjects to photograph along the market streets, and don’t forget to capture a picture or two of the blatant tourist offerings including t-shirts saying things like "My grandparents went to Israel and all they brought back was this t-shirt" and "Israel Army". Some even include reproduced famous mosaics and artwork from Israel. A touch of the modern in such an ancient city.
Have fun with your exploration of Jerusalem. Have someone in your party dress up as Arafat or a Jordanian in a traditional headscarf, or drape themselves in colorful scarfs. Or photograph people or your fellow travelers as they pick up the various items and explore the marketplaces. A person dressed in western clothing next to traditional Arab clothing provides an interesting constrast and helps tell the story of the new meets old.
During prime shopping times in the morning and late afternoon as people head for home, Damascus Gate and the surrounding Arab market areas can be overcrowded. Take care to keep your equipment close to you and out of the way. Keep watch for workers hauling supplies through the street in oversized carts, occasionally pulled by a donkey. There are many garbage collecting or street cleaning micro-vehicles that cruise through the narrow streets at high speeds, crowding everyone to the side with little regard for safety. Security checks are usually found near the Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, but occassionally there will be random inspection checks. You may have to open your bag for inspection. Just stay calm and answer their questions politely.
Explore the area outside of Damascus Gate as well as inside the gate and down the staircase street. At the base of the main street it splits into a Y. Head towards the right, southwest, along Suq Khan e-Zeit, to explore more of the Arab street markets and shops. If you head straight onto El-Wad Road, you will connect with Via Dolorosa, and eventually straight on to the Western (Wailing) Wall.
In the middle of the Old City are the biggest "suqs", or markets. Suq el Attarin and Suq el Lahhamin parallel each other and are filled with tourist shops as well as shops offering spices, toys, clothing, fabric, sweets, pharmaceuticals, household products, music, and everything and anything. For most living in the Old City, this the key source for their household items.
The streets connect with David Street which heads west to Jaffa Gate. This street, which becomes Bab el-Slisileh Street (Street of the Chain), heads east to connect with El-Wad Road. Along David Street and Bab el-Slisileh you will find merchants offering traditional tourist fares such as wood carvings, scarves, silver work, chess/backgammon boards, jewelry, and religious items. Few products actually come from Israel or Palestinian workers. Most come from other Arab lands like Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt. You will also find a lot of clothing and handiwork from India.
Do look for hand cross-stitch work, usually found on pillow coverings or small bags, often in vivid primary colors featuring flower-like swirls and geometrics. These are often made by Palestinian or Beduin women. Red is a favorite color, often embroidered against black or upon various shades of red. They also create rough but lovely woven rugs and blankets, along with embroidered and applique patchwork quilts.
Beduins also specialize in intriguing, rustic stone jewelry. Some feature intricate silver work around the polished stones. Some of the work is also featured in small boxes of rough silver covered with small stones. Some shops feature tile and ceramics done in some of the lovely traditional arabic styles. A few shops offer to have your name scribed onto a tile (to be mailed or picked up later after final firing) in English, Hebrew, or Arabic.
Other photographic elements to watch for include the various colors, textures, and patterns of the nuts, spices, fruits and vegetables, and even the great trays of sweets and candies. Use a macro or medium length lens to get close enough to fill the frame with the patterns. Fill flash might be needed for low light situations and dark shadows. Along with the interesting textures of the stones in the walls, pay attention to the details of the doors as you explore the area. Even if the shops are closed, their metal or wooden doors with worn painted metal bars and ancient locks create dramatic images.
Titusville, FL 32782
Office: (407) 861-0667
Visitor Center: (407) 861-0661
Hours: The refuge is only open during daylight hours.
Getting There: From I-95: take Exit 80 (SR 406) east through Titusville. Cross over the Indian River Lagoon. The refuge entrance sign is visible on the east side of the causeway. Continue east for 4 miles to reach the Visitor Information Center.
Best Time: Winter is the best for access, cooler temperatures, bird migration, and mating seasons. The Atlantic Hurricane Season is June-November bringing tropical storms or hurricanes which may affect your visit and the accessible areas. Excessive winter rains and occasional storms can bring flooding. Area is closed during rocket or shuttle launches.
Famous for: Spring and fall migration of songbirds and warblers; over 300 bird species; at least 15 endangered or threatened species including the southern bald eagle, Florida scrub jay, peregrine falcon, and other animals such as the West Indian manatee and loggerhead sea turtle; over 500 different types of wildlife are found on the refuge.
How to visit: The best way to explore the refuge is by car, though there are walking and hiking trails throughout the area. Begin at the visitor’s center to pick up a map and see the displays. A 6-mile self-guided auto loop called Black Point Wildlife Drive crosses the refuge and is excellent for birdwatching. The hiking trails range from.5 to 5 miles in length. From the Cruickshank Trail (stop 8 on Black Point Wildlife Drive) an observation tower and a blind are found near the parking lot. If you have boat access, you can explore the water side of the island by canoe or motor boat, though speeds are restricted for protection of the manatees.
Habitat: Of the refuge’s 140,000 acres, about 70,000 acres consist of brackish estuaries and marshes. The remaining lands consist of coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. As a coastal area, it is in a position between subtropic and temperate zones.
Wildlife: A stop over for hundreds of migrating birds, it is also a refuge for rabbits, armadillos, and other small tropical animals. The marsh areas are home to a wide range of insects including mosquitos, dragonflies, damsel flies, and aquatic life such as frogs and fish.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a unique protected area. Its establishment was to provide a buffer zone around the launch pads of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The reality is that modern technology lives side by side with some of the oldest and rarest creatures on the planet. Located on the east coast of Florida, it’s tropical climate and wide variety of habitats attract a diverse bird population making it popular for bird photographers.
If you time your visit, you can not only enjoy the wonderful wintering birds, you can also catch a launch of a rocket or space shuttle. While the refuge maybe closed during a launch, there are many spots around Titusville and the waterfront to watch, including from the causeway bridge.
Thousands of shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds pause to feed and rest during their migration along the Atlantic Flyway. During the spring and fall, a spectacular migration of passerines invade the refuge. These include many different warblers and other songbirds. Brown pelicans, wood storks, mottled ducks, eight different species of herons and egrets, and many other waterfowl breed in the area, with huge populations during the winter months.
After you check out the interesting Visitors Center and explore the nearby trails, drive the 6-mile auto loop, Black Point Wildlife Drive, to check out the marsh areas and observation tower. With binoculars and/or a spotting scope you will be able to observe the wide range of species which winter here. Most of the birds will require the use of a long camera lens (400 – 600mm) and sturdy tripod, especially the hawks and Osprey which sit up high in the trees.
The marsh areas are excellent for birding, allowing the viewing of many waterfowl including Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, and the Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers. White and Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Turkey and Black Vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Kestrel, and Northern Bobwhite are found throughout the shorelines and in the nearby trees. Among the wading and shorebirds you can find Killdeer, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, and a variety of gulls and terns.
Heron and egret are prevalent. The most common species are the Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Tri-colored Heron. The Wood Stork, Glossy and WhiteIbis are found here year round along with the Anhinga. Roseate Spoonbills and the Greater Flamingo are occasional visitors, found in the spring among the beach and mangrove tree shorelines, and the palm and hardwood hammocks, or in the p ine uplands. The cool weather winter months (October-April) are the best times of year for finding the birds. The best viewing is early morning and late afternoon.
Boynton Beach, FL 33437-4796
Email: loxahatchee_r4rw @fws.gov
Web Page: FWS Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
How to get there: The refuge is located near Lake Worth, Florida, west of Boynton Beach on Lee Road, just west of US 441. From 1-95, west on US-98, south on US-441 for 14 miles to refuge entrance on right. Or, from 1-95, FL-806 west, US-441 north for 2 miles to refuge entrance on left. Cypress Swamp and the Visitors Center are located north of the Headquarters area entrance road.
Hours: The refuge is open every day from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 am to 4 p.m between mid-October and mid-April, and closed Mondays and Tuesdays for the rest of the year.
Best Time: Bird viewing is best Fall through Spring.
Famous for: Representing the most northern part of the Everglades habitant, Loxahatchee is home to the American alligator and the endangered Everglades snail kite. In any given year, as many as 257 species of birds may visit the refuge.
How to visit: Begin with a visit to the Visitor Center. The natural history displays help you understand the importance of the park. Walk the half mile Cypress Swamp board walk for an up-close view of the wetlands and wildlife. A 12 mile bicycle trail runs along the L-40 levee (main levee) between the Headquarters and Hillsboro Areas. There are walking trails, a canoe trail, bike trail, a butterfly garden, and observation towers to explore. The wildlife is accustomed to people.
Habitat: Four hundred of the 147,392 acres feature cypress swampland, the largest remaining remnant of a cypress strand that once separated the pine flatwoods in the east from the Everglades marshes. Lichens thrive in the swamp environment. Baton rouge lichen, French for “red stick,” is one of the most popular. The giant leather fern, the largest North American fern, is found here and can grow as tall as 14 feet. Wax myrtle, coastal plain willow, pickerelweed, buttonbush, pond apple, and primrose willow trees grow throughout the refuge.
Wildlife: Birds are the primary attraction for Loxahatchee. In the swamp areas you will find herons, egrets, ibises, moorhens, coots, and limpkins. Less easily spotted birds are the purple gallinules, least bitterns, sora rails, and even an occasional roseate spoonbill or sandhill crane. Other birds found throughout the refuge include Carolina wrens, common yellowthroats, cardinals, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers. Less common birds can be spotted including the yellow-billed cuckoo, common flicker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, screech owl, and great horned owl. During the spring and fall migration, warblers, vireos, and other species can also be spotted. Two endangered species, the snail kites and wood storks, are found here. Look and listen closely for pig frogs and cricket frogs, as well as the Florida red-bellied turtle and soft-shelled turtles. There are anoles, fish, snakes, raccoons, river otters, and bobcats. Alligators may be seen almost anywhere on the refuge, though most often sighted near the boat ramp, in the ponds in front of the Cypress Swamp by the Visitor Center, and in the impoundments of Compartment C.
Tuesday, February 18, 1997
Loxahatchee NWR, FL
At first light, I was at the refuge, which is just west and a bit south of Lake Worth, Florida, or just a bit east of Lake Okeechobee. This refuge is for those who don’t mind walking, as the roadway is less than a mile long, and goes three places: the visitor center with its Cypress Swamp boardwalk, the Marsh Trail parking, and the boat launch.
The Cypress Swamp Boardwalk behind the visitor center is a whole different world. Almost half a mile in length, this is a short loop through part of what remains of the huge swamp that used to separate the east coast of Florida from the Everglade grassland interior. Most of the old-growth cypress trees, here included, were logged early this century, and what is here is second growth. Nonetheless, the trees are everywhere, and bromeliads (airplants) abound. Every tree supports at least a dozen of the various airplants, including the Stiff-leaved Wild-pine, Reflexed Wild-pine, and lots of Spanish Moss. Crimson and pink Baton Rouge lichens color the trunks of many of the cypress trees. The giant Leather Fern is here, with fronds that can grow up to 16 feet long. Interestingly, the fern got its name because the spores completely cover the underside of some of the leaves, giving them the look and feel of brown suede leather.
The drumming sound of a Pileated Woodpecker echoed through the swamp, and I finally spotted him high in a cypress snag. I had been told by Kevin Karlson at the Everglades that there was a pair excavating a nest cavity just behind the visitor center, but I never located it.
The Marsh Trail is a grid pattern of ponds which are managed to provide just the right amount of water and plants for the various bird and animal life. There are three main north/south routes and four or five east/west dikes, and all can be hiked. Common here were White and Glossy Ibis, and most of the herons. I saw a pair of Mottled Ducks, a Northern Harrier, many American Coots, Common Moorhens, and Purple Gallinules, although most of the gallinules appeared to be immatures with mottled coloring on their heads. There were at least four American Alligators on the banks along the walk. I was unable to find the American Bittern that Kevin said he saw each day.
Behind the Administration building, I found four Loggerhead Shrikes, as Kevin had told me. As the sky was a dull white, I didn’t attempt any pictures for want of a better background. I found a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the trees there, as well.
Back at the boardwalk, I found eight 2-foot alligators on the green bank across a small pond in front of the visitor center. I was able to shoot a nice grouping with the 500 and 700mm lens, and I used a little Project-A-Flash at -1.7 stops for catch light in their eyes. A woman next to me noticed a tiny (2 inch) alligator head in the water not 10 feet from me. I added an extension tube, and moved as close as I could focus to photograph him. As the light was very low, I used flash.
The light today was very dim, the wind strong, and the little rain was cold and discouraging. Even so, I’d rather be out in the weather than back at a job. And while I wasn’t able to shoot a lot of the things today that I saw, there is still tomorrow, and I will be back at first light (the gate opens at 6:00am) to try again.
Thursday, February 20, 1997
Loxahatchee NWR, FL
This morning was beautiful, the light golden, the sky blue with puffy white clouds. The winds were calm, and I made photographs of a Little Blue Heron fishing in the blue water with a perfect reflection below him. I made similar pictures of American Coots, Common Moorhens, and Pied-billed Grebes swimming in the green reflections of the trees on the far banks. I shot a Purple Gallinule in good light in the grasses. And I got some shots of the Loggerhead Shrikes over by the Administration building. Northern Rough-winged Swallows were on the power wire.
When the light got too bright, I disappeared into the Cypress Swamp and made photos of the trees, scenics, and habitat shots of the swamp. I had to time the photos when the sun would drop behind a thin cloud so the shadows would not be so harsh. I made a few looking straight up through the cypress trees with all their airplants, and then the cable release latched. At 6 frames a second, film goes fast. I think I have about a dozen identical photos looking up in the swamp before I could shut the camera off. I hope they’re good.
In the swamp, I saw several snakes. One, a Florida water snake, banded variety was curled up at the base of a bush growing out of the water. Another was a brown water snake. I found a turtle with its yellow and green head sticking up. I watched anoles for quite some time as they ran and chased around the trees and the ferns. Several would display their bright red dewlaps, the colored skin flap which is normally hidden under their throats. The dewlap doesn’t fill with air like a frog’s throat, but a bony or cartilage plate pivots down and forward, stretching the red skin with it to show off the color to attract a mate.
Evening light was good, although not as good as morning because of all the clouds. I photographed a Glossy Ibis in good light. And I found and photographed a female alligator with her mouth open facing into the sun. At sunset, I watched about a 100 White Ibis fly off into the color. I photographed the oranges and the blues on the water with the grasses and reeds in patterns.