Zion National Park In the Spring

In the Spring of 2019, my entire family took a road trip from Washington, through Oregon and Utah, eventually to southern Arizona.  We then headed out to San Diego and drove up the Pacific Coast back home.  We had with us 2 toddlers, a baby, and, for part of the trip, 2 teenagers for the 17-day, 4100-mile journey.  This is part of that trip.

We could have planned this better.  Zion National Park is huge and diverse, and there are a lot of things to see and do.  It would be best experienced over the course of several days that included hiking and, perhaps, some camping.  We did none of that.  Instead, we allocated one day and spent most of that inside our car.

Also, it was overcast.  And we weren’t there for either golden hour near sunrise or sunset.

So, we could have planned it better.  Even so, there were still some impressive views from the road.

And we did get out of the car several times during our drive.  Since we didn’t feel it was fair for the kids to be stuck inside a vehicle the whole day, we hiked in a little bit off the road and found a nice and secluded stream.  Of couse, we weren’t prepared for this either, so, being a secluded area, we let the kids trip down to their undies and splash around in the water.

Opposite the little stream, there was a fairly shear wall of rock that Tommy decided to climb and get stuck on.  It all happened so fast, and none of the adults present were dressed to ford the stream and rescue him.  So, we figured that’s where he’d have to live from now on – on the side of a rock wall.  Fortunately, he was able to get himself down.

Spending “the day” at the park did not preclude the kids’ need for a little downtime.  So we interrupted our already limited visit with a return to the b-n-b for some naps.  We returned to the park later in the day and this time hopped on the tour bus that took us deeper inside.  Earlier in the day the lines to ride the bus were way too long to make this a reasonable option.  In the evening of a kind of crummy-weather day, we got right on.

Claire was especially looking like Cindy Lou Who at the time.  She loved riding the bus, and since we basically had the whole thing to ourselves, she could spread out a little bit.  We got out at a few of the stops to try to maximize our tour before there was no light left.  I forget which stop at which we got out and walked around quite a bit.  Our day was getting kind of long at that point, so it was a mellow time.

By the time we got back to the parking lot, the clouds had cleared enough to get a little bit of sunset light.  I’m not sure I’d describe it as a spectacular sunset in Zion National Park, but the sun was, in fact, setting and we were still inside the park.

After Zion, we drove south to Sedona.  The landscape of southern Utah into northern Arizona is probably some of the most beautiful in the country.

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Bryce Canyon in the Spring

In the Spring of 2019, my entire family took a road trip from Washington, through Oregon and Utah, eventually to southern Arizona.  We then headed out to San Diego and drove up the Pacific Coast back home.  We had with us 2 toddlers, a baby, and, for part of the trip, 2 teenagers for the 17-day, 4100-mile journey.  This is part of that trip.

We approached Bryce Canyon through Dixie National Forest.  As much as we wanted to reach our destination for the day, we had to stop for a while and check out this gem.

We were a completely full car at this point, and our two teenagers hiked to the top of hill beside the highway.  That’s them waving at us in the picture below.

As beautiful as this place is, it was only an unplanned stop on our way to our planned destination of Bryce Canyon.

We probably could have spent hours just exploring this one area, but we’d only allotted ourselves a few hours total for Bryce, so we had to move on.  My advice for anyone else undertaking a trip like this would be to give yourself much more time than you think you need at each stop.  Throughout the 2-week trip, we should have reduced our stops by half.

As we approached Bryce, we passed through the famous arch in the rocks, and I was allowed to wait by the side of the road until there were no cars passing by.  Also, it didn’t escape our attention that there was still plenty of snow laying around the landscape.  We’d seen the amazing red rocks of Northern Arizona before, but never imagined their majesty juxtaposed with white snow.  Bryce Canyon was breathtaking.

We also didn’t know how similar the landscape of Southern Utah is to our beloved Northern Arizona.  I’m probably not the first person toe liken Bryce Canyon to a miniature Grand Canyon.

The time spent here could have been more challenging with the kids because it was sunny but fairly cold.  This was supposed to be a trip out of the Pacific Northwest gloom into the Southwest sunshine.  Unprepared as we were, we didn’t know that it would still be snowy in this part of Utah.  Fortunately we happened to have warm (enough) clothes for the kids that we kept having to put on a take off throughout the day.

At four, two and not-quite-one, the kids aren’t much into sightseeing.  I’m not sure they understand why we adults like looking at trees and rocks and stuff for as long as we do.  Still, they were pretty patient, as far as young kids go, and even posed for pictures with us.

Leaving Bryce, someone in our group had the idea that there was something special waiting down the highway away from our next stop.  I suppose it depends on what your definition of ‘special is, but there was definitely not any particular attraction waiting for us.  At this point we were tired and hungry and still a few hours away from where we needed to be for the night, so it was kind of tense for awhile.  When we finally decided to stop and head back toward town, we were still in the middle of incredible natural beauty.

Our destination for the night was a Bed-n-breakfast near Zion National Park, and it was about 80 miles away from where we were.  Although night was already fast-approaching, we had to stop and eat first.

We ended up at a place in the city of Bryce called Ruby’s Inn, where baby Ben picked up a book and read some useful tips for the rest of trip.

Eventually, after dark, we reached our day’s resting spot.  The next day we got up early to head out for that day’s activity.

But that story will have to wait for another time.

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4th of July, 2019

Last night was one of my favorite nights for photography of the whole year.  The 4th of July is the one time I get to shoot fireworks, and I look forward to it very much.  We always get a spectacular show here on Vashon Island; the only variable is where I get to shoot from.  This year, we were invited to a client’s house on the island with a close, direct view of the launching barge.  Before the official show even began, the next-door neighbors were setting off huge shells of their own.

I wasn’t sure if that dock would be a welcome foreground or annoying distraction.  That’s up to you, I suppose, but I like it.

The biggest challenge this year was that there was almost no wind.  This means that smoke built up as the show went on, and I think that takes away from the color and clarity of the bursts.  Actually, there was already a pretty good amount of smoke between me and the show because of the neighbors’ pre-func celebration.

You’re not seeing all the smoke in these pictures because Lightroom’s new(ish) Dehaze feature works very well for reducing its appearance.

This year marked the first time that Tommy (now 4) actually sat through the show. He’s come close before but always lost his nerve at the last second.  He stayed through the whole thing this year and really enjoyed.  As a bonus, Claire (almost 3) and little Baby Ben (who will be 1 in two days) also watched the entire show.  It was a full-family affair.

Once again, Vashon Island’s little fireworks show did not disappoint.  I’ve never been out to see the display at the Space Needle, and at this rate I probably never will.

If you want to learn my technique for shooting fireworks, please feel free to check the little tutorial I put together. It’s totally free!

How to Shoot Fireworks

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Spring Season for Crew

The Spring season for crew has all but come and gone now.  It was another fast and busy couple of months that flew by.  Like last year, it started with our club’s own regatta, the Burton Beach Invitational.  This would be the second annual occurrence of that prestigious event.

It was cold and wet and a very long day, but another success.  Only one rower went into the water this year, better than last year’s three rowers.  So that was another improvement.  Of course, no one was actually injured, and all the other events went off without incident.

Our club is quite a bit bigger this year, with several new, younger rowers.  We have eighth-graders through high school seniors and no lack of enthusiasm on the parts of either rowers or parents.

At different points during this season, our club sent rowers to New Zealand, China and Canada.  Our family and rower didn’t make it to any of those international events due to other commitments.

In preparation for Regionals, we were once again invited to the Vancouver Lake Scrimmage.  This is the same course as the NW Regional Championships, and the event is one week before that, so it’s a great opportunity for our team to practice.  And the weather couldn’t have been better.

Even though it’s just for practice, it’s still a 2k course and can be challenging for our youngest rowers.

Next, we went back down to Vancouver (city in Washington State) for the actual NW Regional Championships.  It’s a very different atmosphere from the scrimmage the week before.  For Regionals, there is an ocean of people at the lake, with events starting every few minutes for the entire weekend. The weather was threatening rain almost the whole time.

Last year our club sent a pair to Nationals, so of course that crew was competing again this year.  Once again they qualified and will be a stronger force at Nationals this year.

We had a women’s single qualify as well, so we’ll be sending 3 rowers to Sarasota for the National Championships.  Technically, Regionals is the last regatta of the Spring season.  Even though the season feels short, it is emotional.  When it’s over, there is both a sense of relief and loss.  Here’s a shot of some of our parents capturing a group photo of the rowers.

Next up is the National Championships in Florida, which I will unfortunately not be attending.  After that, our rower will be home for only 2 days before heading out to Connecticut for the entire summer to train with the Junior National Team.

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Mishmash of Updates

It’s been ages since my last post, and for that I can explain in one word:  Kids.  Not only have they kept me extremely busy, but almost all of my photos are of them now.  I made a decision a long time ago to not use this blog exclusively for family photos, but since I have posted some kid pictures in the past, here are a few of the more artistic-looking ones now.

Tommy just turned four years old.  We were hiking recently and came across this tree.  I told him to lean against it and look casual, and this is what I got.

It feels like Claire is perpetually 2-and-a-half.  She’s definitely been the most challenging personality at home for some time now, but she’s such a cutie.  Here she is standing in our front yard, among the debris from the recent storm.

Baby Ben is a bit past 8 months old now.  He’s not walking yet, but he’s mobile.  That adds an extra layer of security concerns around the home.

Gabrielle continues to excel at crew.  You know she was on the Junior National team last year and won solver at Worlds in the Czech Republic, right?  She’s this weird thing called a “teenager” now and exhibits strange behaviors like “driving” and “having a boyfriend”.  For example, she recently went to a semi-formal dance with said boyfriend.

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that we were dressed up for a Luau in Hawaii.

I supposed there’s been some landscape photography since last we spoke.  There was this crazy hike along the longest sand spit in the country – Dungeness Spit, near Sequim.

They moved four skyscraper-tall cranes down Elliot Bay, past my house, to Tacoma.

And going all the way back to last year, the Island land Trust puts on this neat thing every year on the Winter Solstice.  They put out hundreds of candles around Fisher Pond, her on Vashon Island, and invite everyone to walk around the trail.

It’s pretty and peaceful, but also cold and a bit treacherous in places.  I’m not sure we should have brought the toddlers along.  They didn’t make it very far before fussing, but I did manage to get one picture of them before then.

And with that, we’ve come full-circle.  I’ll try to get another post out sooner than this last time.

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