road trip

I really love the beauty within the desert.

 

These cactus’ were stunning! With their bright red flowers at the tip of each towering ‘arm’. This Ocotillo was roughly 12 feet tall. It just so happened that we traveled through Joshua Tree NP at the right time as these only flower for a month or so each year.

This is one of my favourites from our road trip.

 


One thing that I have always loved since being a kid, was exploring. Living just a 5 minute walk down a hill from my parents house along the fence-line of a golf course and down to what we called ‘the creek’ (it was in fact the Lerderderg River, in Bacchus Marsh), I would make my way through all the overgrown bushes and tall gum trees and follow the trails, swim in the pools, look for frogs and tadpoles and build tree houses and forts.

A big part of that little kid inside me comes alive when I head into the mountains. I love all the big attractions along the highway but I really finding new places, a little further away from the main roads.

This photo is from the old coal mining ghost town in Banff National Park called Bankhead. During the summer months when the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive circuit is open, its extremely easy to get to there is even a car park right there. During winter though, it is about a 2km walk along the ice/snow covered road, used as a wildlife corridor (from November to April) to get to the site of the former town.

What drew me to this spot was it being a new and unique view of Mt. Rundle. I hadn’t seen too many photos of this place in the winter either so I thought it would be a great spot to check out.

I arrived just before the sun started disappearing behind the surrounding peaks and stayed a few hours until the stars really came out and shone so brightly. I think it would be a great spot to come to out to at night during the summer months when the Milky Way is at its best.

Above is a shot as the sun is setting and the photo below is as the stars began to show. The subject in the foreground is a fireless compressed air locomotive used to bring the coal out of the mines.

Mt Rundle


Tonight was like any other week night in good old Calgary town. Come home from work, listen to some tunes, cook dinner, watch TV then bed. The 1 difference though is that Ash and I caught an amazing light show between TV and bed. The Northern Lights.

It all came about from me checking a Facebook group set-up for people in Alberta called the Alberta Aurora Chasers. (You can find the group here.) I usually check it a few times a night to see if there looks to be a chance of an Aurora show. Most nights when there is activity, it usually tends to be a week night and I know it’s going to kill me the next day so I play it safe and stay home. The other nights that there is actually activity, it is usually overcast. This time I didn’t want to risk it and Ash was happy to come along too.

We headed north east of the city out of the city lights and just as we got off of the freeway we could see a faint arch. We kept driving until we found a place to stop, got out of the car and just stood there in awe as they danced before our eyes. They were the brightest I have ever seen them. It was amazing to share that moment with Ash.

I grabbed my camera, found my subject and my spot but the lights were a lot more faded and washed out than when we first arrived but you know what, I didn’t care because it was still an amazing show. I was pretty happy with what I ended up with. I hope you enjoy it too.

Nic


Here’s a shot of Mount Rundle, one of the more magical looking mountains in Banff National Park. This was taken at Vermilion Lakes just out of the village of Banff.

There are literally millions of photos that you can find of this mountain online, even from this exact spot but it just never gets tiring to look at and even driving through here on Highway 1, I find myself watching it the whole way past. This time I was driving back from another shoot and noticed the reflections in the lake as I was driving past. Even though this was the middle of the day, I just couldn’t resist.

Hope you enjoy.

Nic


The Larches are an extremely popular sight in Alberta during the fall. For those of you who don’t know what a Larch is… don’t worry, I didn’t know myself until I moved to Calgary. They are conifers, like a spruce, a fur or a pine but this time of year, they turn a stunning yellow before their needles fall in preparation for winter. Most conifers are evergreen. They look absolutely stunning!

I had been meaning to get out to see them for the past couple of years but have not had the chance up until now. A bit of planning had gone it to finding a location where I wasn’t going to be stuck fighting the crowds. I wanted to try somewhere new too. There are a lot of photographers around this part of the country but I find they keep shooting the same places so I wanted to see and show you all something different.

ArnicaLakeTrail

This was the most ambitious shoot I have attempted but I was lucky enough to have Miss Maggie-May the boxer to keep me company. It was a 11.2 km round trip and I knew in order for me to get out there to be able to enjoy it for myself that I was going to have to get out there early. I left the house at 3:30am and got to the parking lot at around 5:30am. The sun was due to rise at 7:30am so I had to start along the trail in the dark with my headlamp. It was a nice downhill trek into the fog down to Vista Lake for the first 1 km but from there on it was nothing but up hill as I climbed back out of the clouds up over the ridge of Storm Mountain. I had never really hiked that far and it was absolutely grueling (for me, probably not anyone else). I got there at around 8:00am as the sun was just showing its face. I snapped a couple of shots then did some wandering around the lake, just mesmerized by the sheer cliff face of Storm Mountain over looking this amazingly beautiful setting.

Arnica Lake

The fog caught back up to me and was meandering up the mountain and flowed out over the lake. It was incredible to watch and I got a nice series of photos of it making its way. Luckily enough though, once it hit the lake, the sun managed to burn it off so I didn’t lose my stunning landscape.

Arnica Lake

The fog rolling on to the lake adds a nice soft tone to such a majestic location. I was in absolute awe all morning… So was Maggie-May, can’t you tell?!

arnica lake - dog

Hopefully you love these as much as I loved being out there and taking them. I have a few more I will post later as well as some more from my last little adventure to Peyto Lake.

Thanks

Nic


A few more photographs from my road trip through Nevada and California through Death Valley National Park to Racetrack Playa. I was disappointed that the dust storm had started to tear through when I got there depriving me of some spectacular sunset pictures but I was extremely happy that despite what felt like 100km winds pushing through the playa, that by 3:00 – 4:00am the dust had thinned out enough for me to see the Milky May arching right across the sky. It was amazing being able to enjoy it all to myself. Selfishly, it is one of the reasons I love venturing out on my own. Just that the thought of being the only person to see that particular moment in time.

In the image below you can see a shooting star to the left of the Milky Way.

Milky Way - Racetrack Playa

I could have stayed out there and just admired it all night if it wasn’t so damn windy and cold but I was happy with the couple of shots I was able to get before calling it a night.

Milky Way - Death Valley


Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive notice that my new working visa had been approved. My previous visa had expired at the end of April and so I had been eagerly awaiting this new one to come through. The timing couldn’t have come much better. It was the end of the week and so I was able to sneak away for a weekend and make the most of having to leave the country.

I had been doing some research the past few months on a place called Racetrack Playa, a remote area in Death Valley in California and after checking flight loads and times, I decided this would be my destination. I flew into Vegas on the Saturday and rented myself a 4WD as I knew I was up for some long, rugged driving but I knew what I was getting myself in to so I just enjoyed being out on the road, busted out to some tunes and was looking forward to getting out to my final destination. The image below will give you a bit of an idea of the territory I covered…

map

The drive was amazing. It was as if I was driving through Mars. The mountains out there are dry and desolate and were always there on each side of the highway. The elevation was quite interesting too along the way. About halfway there at Furnace Creek I was driving through the lowest point of the country which was 200 feet below sea level. On the flip side as I was moving closer to the Playa the was sitting over 5,500 feet ABOVE sea level. Saying that though, I wasn’t scaling or driving over any mountains, the road just kept slowly ascending and descending without it being too noticeable.

After travelling for about 3 hours, I came to my turnoff off the highway and on to the back roads. As I said, I had done a bit of research and knew I would have to do a bit of driving on gravel roads but to my surprise, the roads were paved… That lasted only a few minutes though and I found myself driving through some pretty rough gravel roads before too long.

Death Valley

It was a long drive and due to the condition of the road, I didn’t find myself driving much faster than 20 mph. I passed a couple of cars coming back the other way but I loved the thought that I could possibly be out there all by myself. I had planned on sleeping out there in my car so I did secretly hope no one else would be out there and I was fortunate enough to have that come true. It was just me and my camera in the middle of absolute no-where.

A view of the road ahead of me…

Death Valley

I kept driving along and just when I thought it had to be around the next corner, the road just keep weaving through the mountains and valleys. There were certain areas with nothing but sand, there were others with small shrubs and cactus’ and then an area in a valley that was just full of Yuccas or Joshua Trees. It was always changing and some of the plants, cactus’ and flowers truly were beautiful to look at. Finally after driving for some time through the back roads, a sign caught my eye…

Teakettle Junction

Teakettle Junction! On that sign I saw something that made me a very relieved man… No, I wasn’t thirst and in need of some tea but now knowing that Racetrack Playa was 6 miles away was extremely good to know. Weaving through those roads, it was still a fair way off but at least I now knew for sure I was on the right path and knew how far I had left to go. It made me a little at ease too as the sun was preparing to set behind the mountains and I knew I would now at least get to my destination in light so I can scope it out a bit, find some locations to shoot at night and pick a spot to park the car and camp out.

Finally, there it was. I was confident that was it in the distance and I was right!

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley

As I was approaching Racetrack Playa, a dust storm was coming in behind me. I was hoping it wouldn’t be coming in my direction and that it was going in the opposite direction but I wasn’t so lucky. It hit just as I got to the Playa but having been through 2 dust storms in Palm Springs both times I had been there I knew at least what I was in for. Saying that though, the wind was incredibly strong and it was coming in quite thick. I just hoped it wasn’t going to settle in all night and the next morning.

The photo below is the dried lake bed of Racetrack Playa with the dust clearly visible in the background. The reason I came all the way out here was to see the Sailing Stones which I will talk more about in my next post but these stones move along the lake bed most likely due to being pushed by the wind… Having a dust storm and 80-100km/h wind push through shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.

Racetrack Playa - Death Valley

I will leave it at this for the moment but I will be post more pictures in the next couple of days of the Sailing Stones and also some amazing pictures I am extremely happy with of the Milky Way I was able to get in the middle of the night once all the dust had started to clear away.

Thanks for following my adventures, I am very excited to bring you the rest of the photos.

See you all soon.

Nic


This image is from a couple of weekends ago when I stayed out in the mountains. The conditions were too treacherous at Bow Lake but as I drove along Highway 1 back towards Calgary I came across this spot. I pulled over and spent most of the time just enjoying being back amongst the fresh mountain air. To my surprise, out of no-where, a couple of Moose started walking towards the river. I had seen a Moose once but it was absolutely incredible to see them come out to the river and take a drink. These are the moments I have really enjoyed whilst exploring out on my own. It is cool to think that I am the only person who saw that, it really makes it special.

It has been a crazy few weeks and I have so many images to process and play around with including some from Australia too. I will eventually get to them though I am sure.

Thanks for stopping by.

Nic


I jumped in the Jeep late Sunday afternoon and decided to head out with my camera out east, through the prairies to the Badlands. I had seen some pictures of an old ghost town called Dorothy that had an old wooden church that was falling apart. I thought it would be great to check out and get some photos and so with Maggie May keeping me company, we hit highway 1 and started our 2 hour journey to Dorothy.

My good old iPhone GPS was in fine form as it always is taking me through back roads and dirt roads and just when I thought all was lost I came across the the little town of Dorothy. The final part of that drive was pretty awesome driving through the canola fields and at the end scaling down the valley on the dirt road and across the Red Deer river. To my absolute disgust though, the church had been fully renovated! No longer was it leaning to the right or were its weather boards showing its age. It was just sitting there, all perfect with its new windows, coat of white paint and standing upright. I was shattered! All wasn’t completely lost though. I did come across this grain elevator. Most likely built in the early 20th century, showing its wear from long winters and hot summers out here in the badlands.

Next I headed towards Drumheller. I thought since I was out here I may as well make the most of it. The day was coming to an end and I had always wanted to check out an area out there called Horseshoe Canyon. On way way though as the road ran inside the valley along the river, I came across the site you can see below… They are called the Hoodoos. Rock formations shaped by centuries of wind, rain and snow. They are quite an awesome sight to see.

Further along I went until I reached the canyon. The road that took me out there was the one that headed back to Calgary and it was quite a while out of Drumheller, I just about gave up hope as when I looked around all I could see were crops and flat land. It didn’t look like there would be any canyon in sight. Finally I saw the sign and was relieved that I hadn’t missed it. I spent a bit of time there, walking around, admiring the shapes and colours and watching the sun say its goodbyes for the day. I found a really cool spot where I set up my tripod and took a while lot of shots but coming home and checking out my photos more closely, it made me realise just how much I need to invest in a better high quality lens. Unfortunately, alot of my photos either were too grainy when I tried to lighten them up which had the perfect sunset or were too light and didn’t do the beautiful sunset any justice at all. This is the only photo I could really salvage.

Saying that though, I was lucky enough to be the only person there and loved just taking it all in. Sometimes photos, and in this case in particular, really do no justice to the beauty that is in front of you.

As always, thanks for reading.

Nic


After an amazing night at Tom and Yolande’s on Saturday night, I decided to stay the night on the couch. With the sun rising so early this time of year and no curtains in the living room where I was sleeping, I thought enough is enough and I got my ass up and out of bed. I decided I wanted to to go for a drive and take some pictures and was up and out of there at 5.30am on a Sunday morning!

I headed towards the mountains. There is a road I heard about that isn’t eaxactly close but I was keen to check it out nonetheless called Highway 40, the Kananaskis Trail. I had about 1.5 to 2 hours worth of driving to get there and then it would be a good 2 hours back up to highway 1 to head back to Calgary. Ash got called up the night before and I had nothing else to do so I thought why the hell not. What I was most hopeful about and what I really wanted to see were some Bears. I read that there have been quite a few spotted lately on the side of the roads munching on dandelions so I was hopeful.

It was a little foggy to begin with but it was so calm and tranquil at that time of morning. It was a beautiful drive!

As I got further out of the city, the cars got less frequent and I found myself for quite a long time being the only car out there. With the sun only just coming up and very little traffic on the road, the animals started coming out. I had my eyes peeled the whole time as I had heard Deer are like Kangaroos and are spotted more often than not when the sun is rising or setting so I was a little cautious. I was lucky enough to see a large group of them crossing the road up ahead so I quickly pulled over and got out my camera. I was able to get a few snaps in.

Further down the road, I came across this big fella. A Moose! He had no antlers unfortunately but it was extremely cool to see him nonetheless.

It was so cool to see them out in the wild. I was feeling good about coming across some Bears. Things were looking promising.

Further along, I came across this cool train engine just sitting in the middle of a field by the road. The one thing I have loved about driving around Canada has been the random stuff I have seen. Driving through the country, there are a tonne of abondoned houses and barns and building. I saw a tram in the middle of the desert driving through the salt flats in Utah which was awesome to see but this was just as amazing. I had no idea what it was doing there, how it even got there but it was really cool to see it just sitting there in the middle of nowhere.

After driving for a couple of hours, which included a few stops along the way to take some photos, I finally made it to Kananaskis country. Not long now till I get to drive through the valley with mountains on each side of me, still being early with no other cars out there and being able to enjoy it all to myself. I got to the entrance of the park and the gates were closed. This couldn’t be true! I wish I took a photo. It was true, the gates were bolted shut and the highway which closes each year on December 1st wasn’t going to open up again till June 12th. Just 3 days later!!!! Talk about shit out of luck!

I was disappointed, I won’t lie but I really had a great morning out there. It was such a beautiful drive and I know the Kananaskis Trail is going to be even better but I am looking forward to going out there with Ash and discovering it together.

I thought I may as well make the most of it and take the long way home. Rather than go the same way I came, I took some back roads. Probably not the best idea taking that route while out on my own, no phone reception and no-one knowing where I was but I liked being out there with no-one around. Just me out there in the Jeep soaking in the great outdoors!

I liked it for about an hour until I started to freak out that I hadn’t see anyone and scared myself a little, I will admit. I thought if my car broke down, I might find myself in a bit of strife. Then finally, I saw a car and some hikers and I could finally enjoy myself again. It was so great being out there with the clean fresh air out of the city. Deer, Moose, more Deer and even a Bald Eagle. The only thing that eluded me was seeing a Bear. There were so many Deer out there, it was cool to see. This next picture was probably the best shot I got for the day. It came out a little grainy but if you look to the bottom right you can make out the Deer next to the road. I wish it came out a little clearer but I loved that I got this shot in the spare of the moment. It couldn’t have been in a more picturesque location.

So that was my day, well my morning anyway. After all of that, I was back home by 1pm and took the rest of the day to chill out and relax on the couch. I am definitely not a morning person but I have to admit that I enjoyed getting away early in the morning, doing so much and still getting to bum on the couch to finish off my weekend. This may just become a new little hobby of mine.