Mike's Blog

Remembering Iceland

Back in late September, I traveled to Iceland for our annual photo workshop. A country that I have visited each of the last five years. I cannot think of any other location that offers so much to the landscape photographer. The terrain ranges from mossy to barren, from black sand beach to glacier covered mountains. There are continuously alternating weather patterns, full sun to dramatic clouds, rain to snow and brilliant rainbows too numerous to count. Then, there are the waterfalls. If there is one feature that makes Iceland a must-see travel destination, it is the multitude of beautiful waterfalls. One of the more famous is Seljalandsfoss, pictured above. We were lucky as the setting sun broke through the cloud cover to light up the falls in a wonderful orange glow at sunset.

Another of the great waterfall areas is Kirkjufellsfoss, below. This was my first visit to this place and it did not disappoint.

About those rainbows, finding a rainbow is not a difficult task in Iceland. The constant cycle of rain and then sun during the day provides plenty of opportunities to photograph a rainbow, which in the image below, happened to be arching over the famous black church at Budir.

Our workshops to Iceland are scheduled in the fall when the landscape colors burst out. Below, the lava field waterfalls known as Hraunfossar, are surrounded by the spectacular fall color.

Another reason we schedule fall workshops here is to increase the opportunity to see the Northern Lights as the nights grow longer in the fall. We additionally schedule during the new moon to maximize the visual effect. During this trip, we contended with a number of cloud covered nights, but finally on the last night there, the skies were clear enough to see the fantastic natural light display. The lights seemed to burst out directly overhead to form lines and waving sheets of color. My advice to landscape photographers….get thee to Iceland!

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Wet and wild British Columbia

Our JKPW workshop on Vancouver Island, British Columbia in late August was a wildlife focused thrill ride. We spent most of our time on the water, either searching for whales and black bears along the coastline or traveling to a First Nation area where grizzlies roam the streams and rivers in search of food for the coming winter. The grizzly above was one such hunter, looking for the salmon that gathered after spawning.

Black bears also were on the search for food along the island coastlines, turing over rocks for anything edible.

This area of Canada attracts a tremendous amount of wildlife, including a large population of eagles, sea lions, harbor seals, wolves, and shorebirds.

Whale sightings were numerous. We watched gray whales and pods of Orcas and encountered a curious humpback who spent a good 20 minutes taking several looks at us strange humans, coming incredibly close to our boats without every touching us. Pretty amazing for such huge creatures.

In the Strait of Georgia we followed a pod of Oracas as they glided by a landscape with Mt. Baker in the background.

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New to Badlands

My first visit to Badlands National Park in South Dakota was a real eye-opener. I had always pictured this park as a vast area of colorless, barren landscapes. What a wondrous surprise to discover beautiful vistas full of color and wildlife. The landscapes are quite breathtaking and the variety of wildlife rivals many other National Parks in the U.S.

Bison, bighorn sheep, fox, coyote, pronghorn, prairie dogs (lots!) and many species of birds live here. Watching families of bighorn sheep romp around the rocky hillsides can occupy an entire morning or afternoon and the hundreds of prairie dogs are endless entertainment.

But the true magic of this park, is the scenery with rocks that turn fire red at sunset and colorful mounds that have been created by thousands of years of erosion. For landscape photographers, Badlands is a must-see location, highly recommended.

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The White Horses of Camargue

In southern France, in the Camargue area, one of the oldest horse breeds in the world roams the wetlands and marshes. I’ve always wanted to photograph these horses galloping through the water, an iconic image of this location. I had my opportunity in May and what an incredible adventure it was. Photographing a group of running horses headed towards you is very exhilarating and being very close to them as they charge by, like in the image above, is a bit intimidating. Born with black and dark brown coats, they turn white as they reach adulthood.

These horses are strong as well as beautiful and capturing them in action was a joy.

This area of France offers other photographic opportunities including the nature park, parc ornithologique PONT de GAU, a preserve for a tremendous number and variety of birds. Hundreds of flamingos gather there and the park contains numerous rookeries for herons and egrets. The park is a bird photographers dream.

As a bonus during this trip, it happened to be the same week as an annual gypsy festival in the town of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Thousands of gypsy’s from around the world gather here to celebrate their patron saint and hold processions through the town.

A final session with the horses at sunset produced this image and a wonderful memory of this visit to France.

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South Carolina workshop

Our JKPW South Carolina Beaches and Plantations photo workshop ended a few days ago. A talented group of photographers was on hand to capture images of the great landscapes around the Charleston, SC area. The photograph above was from one of our favorite locations, the Morris Island Lighthouse Inlet. This black and white image was an 8 second exposure to smooth out the waves crashing against and through the boards and pilings of this wooden wall protecting the beach.

The image below is also of the Morris Island Lighthouse, using a jetty of rocks as a leading line to the lighthouse just before sunset.

Our first evening of the workshop included a boat trip to a barrier island with a “boneyard” beach of dead trees that have been overtaken by the ocean due to erosion. Our group found many compositions using the collection of trees standing and laying along the beach at the water’s edge. The boat ride home included the chance to see a number of dolphins playfully showing off alongside our boat.

Another favorite photographic location is the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. This church, built in 1753, suffered a hard history, being burned down by British forces in the Revolutionary War and believed to have been burned again during the Civil War. Now the ruins of the church provide some wonderful photographic opportunities.

The city of Charleston is also a prime subject for photography and our photo group used the backdrop of the city to capture the setting sun were the Cooper and Ashley Rivers meet to flow into the Atlantic.

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