a collection of stories
a collection of stories
thoughts + visuals // a place to reflect on my journeys and share my experiences
// Bryce Canyon National Park • September, 2017
5D MkIII • 105 mm • f / 7.1 • hand-held — posted on April 3rd, 2018
I adore this park.
I wish I had more time to explore the trails that weave in and out of its cascading spires. Having crammed it into a day that started in Vegas, followed by a drive through Dixie National Forest and lunch in Escalante, is a mistake I wish I could take back.
Though a drive through Southern Utah is one of the most incredible road trip experiences out there, there’s just too much to see. The sunset we witnessed was incredible and the view tremendous in its own right, but the FOMO that came with such a short visit haunts me still.
I need to go back to Bryce.
// Kaua'i • April, 2017
5D MkIII • 24 mm • f / 5.6 • hand-held — posted on April 2nd, 2018
Hanging out the side of a Hughes 500 helicopter hovering hundreds of feet over the windward face of Mt. Waiaeleale — an experience like nothing else in my life thus far.
Let’s start with the basics: strapping yourself into the back seat of a doors-off helicopter is a uniquely disturbing experience. There’s no leg room, no storage compartments, and no doors. You can’t communicate with anyone unless you speak directly into your headset (which can only be activated by touching a button), and you can’t stick your limbs out the side of the vehicle while moving because they’ll break off (not entirely sure how accurate that is — but we were warned not to do this). Furthermore, the helicopter itself feels like a nimble, metal basket. The slightest bit of turbulence and the entire craft can move several feet in any direction.
Extrapolate this setting a bit and place a camera in the hands of a hungry photographer (hence the desire to ride a doors-off helicopter) — vertigo, motion sickness… smacking yourself in the face with the butt of your camera… these are all little nuances that come with riding one of these ridiculous vehicles. To make matters worse, you can’t really get a wide-angle shot that doesn’t include the top-side propeller unless you hang your torso out the side of the craft.
I know this all makes it sound like a terrifying and needlessly stressful experience, but all of these factors fade away so quickly once the sights of the island steal you away. For me, I settled in as soon as our pilot took us over Waimea Canyon. After that, our flight took us over the Nā Pali coastline, Hanalei Bay, and ended with a tour around the base of this incredible mountain.
I’ll never forget our pilot taking us to this spot, parking the helicopter in place, and letting us all quietly stare out in awe at this lone waterfall cascading thousands of feet down the side of Mt. Waialeale’s green cliff face.
// North Rim • September, 2017
5D MkIII • 135 mm • f / 2.4 • hand-held — posted on March 30th, 2018
Standing at the edge of such a deep chasm was a surreal experience.
While scouting for a place to sit and watch blue hour settle in front of us, we came across this perch that jutted out 6,000 feet above the canyon floor. It was the final hour of daylight, and we had just finished our dinner at the Grand Canyon Lodge.
With the rocks still warm from the afternoon sun, the cool air escaping from the chasm below presented an incredibly stimulating contrast of waking comforts — quickly reminding me of how it feels when the sun warms your face on a cold fall day. For the next hour, we'd hold-tight to that comfort while staring-out into the endless sea of rock before us.
With each passing minute, we watched this landscape change from warm rust and copper-toned peaks to icy and dormant silhouettes; the subtle multi-lingual chatter of tourists far off our only soundtrack.
// Monument Valley • October, 2016
5D MkIII • 24 mm • f / 6 • hand-held — posted on March 29th, 2018
I remember the first time I visited this valley. It was on the tail-end of a 5500 mile solo road trip, and was tacked-on last minute after a friend of mine — who I stayed with in Santa Rosa earlier in the trip — had suggested that I go after telling me it was her favorite place in the US.
I had heard about Monument Valley before, but only from the movie Forest Gump and the side of a few vinyl-wrapped Travel America RVs. Furthermore, my visit came before Instagram became the unofficial destination-lust, bucket-list, trophy-toting sharegasm that it is today. Needless to say, I didn't have much of a visual relationship with the valley leading up to my first drive down US Route 163.
I entered from the south side of the Navajo tribal park, which begins in Northern Arizona (it's an unassuming drive through flat desert fields — a tumbleweed or two crossing the road wouldn't be out-of-place here). Shortly after the first bend, a few monoliths appear — large, rocky, volcanic plugs sprouting from the earth on each side of the road. At first glance they seem like typical rock formations, but upon closer inspection, the realization of how slowly they meander-by revealed just how large these structures are. The tallest reaching 1,000 feet.
The journey inevitably leads to two of the most iconic vistas in America: The Mittens & Mile Marker 13 (better known as Forest Gump Point). I didn't really know what I was doing when I arrived and ended up driving right past The Mittens without even knowing it. I drove straight through the park to Mile Marker 13, parked my car on the side of the road, and observed one of the most photographed roads in the US. I then got in the car, and started my long drive home.
It wasn't until my second visit in 2016 that I got to witness sunrise over The Mittens (pictured above). This visit was inspired by what I had seen on Instagram as more and more professional photographers had begun sharing their stunning and ethereal takes on this classic piece of Southwestern-American history. I didn't realize how accessible this particular vantage point was until I returned (I always thought it required an off-road drive, hike, or horseback ride). Oddly enough, it's located right at the edge of a public parking lot next to the Oljato visitor center.
I arrived around 20 minutes prior to sunrise with the monuments silhouetted against the blue hour sky. After parking, I stood near this rock waiting for the sun to pierce the edge of the earth. What seemed like a deafening eternity leading up to sunrise quickly faded into mid-morning light moments after the sun came into full view.
Morning golden hour is special, but it's true that the greatest payoff for any morning sunrise is the immediate moments that bookend the sun's first glance over the edge of the horizon.