And then there was Page…

Page, Arizona, that is.  My adventures in Arizona continued from Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon further north to the Lake Powell area at the border of Utah and Arizona.  My goodness, it was a stunning drive two hours north from Flagstaff that I simply wasn’t expecting.  The “painted desert” view is unimaginable.  The canyons that appear out of no where and create dimension and depth to the landscape you’d never even imagine could be created are stunning.  I had read about the town just south of Lake Powell, Page, that provided beautiful views of the Colorado River, the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell and the infamous slot canyons of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons.  Peter Lik just sold the most expensive photograph anyone has ever purchased and it was taken at Upper Antelope Canyon.  Of course… there’s Horseshoe Bend too.

My time in Page started with a Monday afternoon tour of Lower Antelope canyon with a guide and a few other photographers.  Lower Antelope Canyon is called exactly that because it’s below ground.  We carefully walked down five sets of steep stairs deep into the ground.  It was discovered by the local Navajo Native Americans and the guide was a descendent of the woman that discovered Lower Antelope.  The antelope portion of the name came because antelopes used to stroll along that area.  Less people visit the lower canyon because it is a bit more difficult to navigate, but still worth every minute.  The light peaking through created gorgeous colors in the canyon walls.  We gradually walked up at at an angle and at the end of the canyon didn’t use stairs to exit, but rather just crawled out of the ground as you can see below.

After leaving Lower Antelope Canyon, I found my way to Horseshoe Bend for sunset, which is an area of cliffs along the Colorado River where it looks just like a horseshoe.  It’s been photographed many times and I couldn’t help but go there for sunset to get my own unique perspective of it.  I was a bit frustrated that there weren’t any clouds in the sky to create a dramatic sunset, but I understand, we can’t have it all.  :-)  I underestimated the drop and how dangerous it was to photograph there though!  In order to capture the entire horseshoe, one must hike out a bit and then crawl right up to the edge of the cliff with a 1000 ft drop in front of you on uneven terrain.  That night there happened to be 20-30 mph winds too.  FUN!

After a great night of sleep with more amazing Mexican food in my belly, I awoke to make my way to Upper Antelope Canyon on Tuesday.  Upper is called exactly that because you walk into it at ground level, rather than walking down several flights of stairs.  This canyon is known for the beams of light coming in, so it’s important to take a tour that will have you there at noon given that’s the only time you’ll see the beams.  It was absolutely spectacular.  Crazy busy inside with the guides helping to keep people out of the way for our long exposures (yes, I tipped mine well!!!), but well worth it.

I timed my drive back to Phoenix to arrive just in time for sunset.  I made a few stops along the way and then found a spot north of Phoenix before heading to my hotel that had a lovely mountain view with a few cacti.

I spent a week in Arizona from Sedona to Flagstaff / Grand Canyon to Page to Phoenix.  I must say, I was impressed.

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Grand Canyon Desert View

Continuing on the topic of the Grand Canyon (see last two posts!), I thought I’d share a few photographs from Easter Sunday after the sunrise service and amazing breakfast at El Tovar.  After fueling up with the tasty breakfast and finally getting some coffee, we decided we were adventurous enough to do a bit of hiking down one of the more frequented trails, the Bright Angel Trail.  The trail itself was not difficult or strenuous, but it was certainly a bit scary how close we were to a several thousand foot drop!  We only hiked a little over an hour, which provided great views inside the canyon as opposed to looking down into it.  There were a few times I saw small children with parents that made me a bit nervous, but everyone seemed to do just fine.  With a bit more time, it might be fun to hike down further for the day.  It’s just important to remember that while hiking down seems easy, hiking up is a bit more difficult, especially at 6000 feet above sea level!

After our hike, we decided we’d like to start driving down toward the Desert View Watchtower and visitor center area, which is also the east entrance to the South Rim.  It’s roughly a 25 mile drive and there are several scenic stops along the way, all of which we took advantage of.  We met some fun hikers that were preparing to start their group outing.  I snapped a few photos on their behalf in the harsh sunlight and they went on their way.  The different views provided various looks at different rock formations and the Colorado River.  At one point, we overheard a guide stating that the rapids in the river are so rough at some points that they’re Class 10 rapids – yikes!  From a mile away at the top, it didn’t look so bad.  ;-)

The last stop was mid afternoon (mind you, we were up at 4:00am and there by 6am for sunrise) at Desert View and the Watchtower.  It’s incredible how the view to the east of the desert landscape is so different from the rest of the canyon.  There are also gorgeous views of the colorful canyon walls and the Colorado River from the overlook point.  The Desert View stop also has a visitors center and a small market with gifts, food and camping supplies.  Kara and I took that opportunity to grab an adult beverage (yes, they sold them there!)  and relax with a view of the canyon.  We also ventured into the historic Watchtower and walked to the top.  It was originally designed and built by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1932.  As you can see from the photos it’s very unique inside with Native American art from the Hopi tribe.  The very last image shows a child peeking through the window of the tower, looking down.

I hope you enjoy this images as much as I enjoyed creating them.  It was a wonderful Easter Sunday from the early wake-up to the hike and Desert View drive to the fun drive back to Flagstaff and dinner downtown.  I can’t say enough about the Grand Canyon, except that you simply have to experience it.  I hope you have an opportunity to!

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Arizona, part deux. The Grand Canyon.

There really is no way to describe the Grand Canyon.  Sure, you can look at photographs created by myself or the likes of other well-known artists, but it still doesn’t quite capture the breathtaking view you’re presented with when viewing it in person.  The second part of my Arizona adventure after leaving Sedona included staying in Flagstaff and venturing to the Grand Canyon for two full days.  I was thrilled to have my long time friend from college join me from Denver for the weekend too!

Friday night in Flagstaff was super fun as we walked around the downtown area and explored shops and restaurants.  A local gave us a great recommendation for dinner and we had a cocktail outside in the back alley listening to live music as we waited for our table.  How fun!  The first photos below show the downtown Flagstaff area.  It’s a very fun college town with an artsy sort of feel in the mountains.  Just beautiful.

Saturday morning Kara and I got up and at ’em early enough and made our way up to the Grand Canyon.  The drive is roughly 1 hr 15 min from Flagstaff.  While we would’ve loved to have stayed in the Grand Canyon Village, we simply couldn’t get a room at any of the inns.   The drive up wasn’t too bad and the drive back from the east Desert View entrance was quite scenic.  We took the first day to explore the “red” Hermit Road bus tour and stop at different outlooks and views.  After finishing the bus tour we got back in the car and started driving down toward Desert View, the eastern most entrance point into the National Park.  We made a few stops with one of my favorites being Lipan Point, where we photographed sunset the that night.  The beauty of the sunset was overwhelming, but sunrise on the next morning, Easter, was even more so.  We awoke at 4:00am in order to get to Mather Point just in time for sunrise photography and joining in on the open non-denominational service.  We followed that with brunch at El Tovar, the most historic inn there and then a bit of hiking down into the canyon.  We made our way back toward Desert View and visited the historic Watchtower with amazing views of both the canyon and the desert.

There really are no words to describe the beauty to the Grand Canyon.  If you have an opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it!

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Beautiful Sedona, Arizona

I had the pleasure of visiting sunny Arizona not long ago and found that I simply couldn’t put my camera down.  I spent time in Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon and finally Page.  I took so many photos that I’ve actually decided to create three separate blogs.  Yes, that many!

Sedona’s beauty actually surprised me.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and had done a bit of research, but until you see it first hand, it really is hard to believe just how naturally beautiful the area is.  It’s surrounded by the well-known Red Rocks and is an outdoor person’s dream.  The higher elevations (~6200 ft above sea level) keep the spring temperatures very comfortable and the sun simply didn’t stop shining.  I flew into Phoenix and made the 2 hour drive north, arriving rather late at night.  The funny part was that I had no idea what I would see when I woke up and looked out my windows.  I was shocked at the enormous red rocks and how gorgeous they are!

My early morning hot air balloon ride was cancelled due to high winds, but I found my way on a few different trolley rides, exploring the area.  I managed to sample some great homemade ice cream at the Black Cow (try the prickly pear ice cream!).   I also ventured out on the Broken Arrow off-road Jeep tour with “Pink Jeeps”.  Their Jeeps have the right modifications and their guides are highly trained and very knowledgeable about the details of the area.  Later in the evening after shooting sunset at Airport Mesa, I found my way to Elote Cafe, which just so happens to be the #1 fine Mexican restaurant in Arizona, #2 in the USA.  It was sooooooo good!  I sampled the Smoked Pork Cheeks and the presentation was gorgeous, but the flavors really won me over.  Even better, the chef and owner, Jeff Smedstad actually served it to me!  Of course, their margaritas were quite tasty too.  If you visit, be sure to order the restaurant’s namesake, elote, for the appetizer!

The following morning I ventured out on a run (which was more difficult than I had planned with the higher elevation and heavy winds!) and then checked out of my hotel, making my way downtown to catch some coffee and check out a few galleries.  I highly recommend a visit to Lou DeSerio’s gallery, just down from the official visitor’s center.  He studied with the famed Ansel Adams years ago and his photography of the area is stunning.  He also offers half or full day private workshops.  After the gallery visit and a stop by the visitor’s center, I made my way out to a few different stops, including a hike at Cathedral Rock.  I finished out the day as I made my way up to Flagstaff with the scenic drive up 89A with the switchbacks, cliffs and cozy cabins along the way.

What an amazing part of the world.  If you have the opportunity, even if it’s just for a day trip from Phoenix, I highly recommend a visit to Sedona.  As you can see from my photos below, its beauty will win you over in a heartbeat.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

View of the Red Rocks from Chapel of the Holy Cross

View of the Red Rocks from Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Inside Chapel of the Holy Cross

Inside Chapel of the Holy Cross

ME!  Outside Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Yes - I braved it and handed my camera to a complete stranger!

ME! Outside Chapel of the Holy Cross. Yes – I braved it and handed my camera to a complete stranger!

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Average view, looking down the road.  You see this everywhere!

Average view, looking down the road. You see this everywhere!

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ICE CREAM!!!

ICE CREAM!!!

I was up front for the Jeep ride - this is the crew in the back, getting the briefing before our adventure.

I was up front for the Jeep ride – this is the crew in the back, getting the briefing before our adventure.

Yep, our Jeep crawled all over those rocks - and they're bigger than you'd think!

Yep, our Jeep crawled all over those rocks – and they’re bigger than you’d think!

A quick stop, checking out fault lines at Broken Arrow trails.

A quick stop, checking out fault lines at Broken Arrow trails.

Such a view!

Such a view!

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This was way too much fun!

This was way too much fun!

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Sunset from Airport Mesa.  Definitely make the quick drive up to watch sunset and get a nice view of the city!

Sunset from Airport Mesa. Definitely make the quick drive up to watch sunset and get a nice view of the city!

Hiking out at Cathedral Rock

Hiking out at Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock hiking - nice trails.  Lucky - no snakes!  :-)

Cathedral Rock hiking – nice trails. Lucky – no snakes!🙂

More hiking at Cathedral Rock

More hiking at Cathedral Rock

From the Cathedral Rock trails

From the Cathedral Rock trails

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Bell Rock to the left

On 89A on my way up from Sedona to Flagstaff with a quick stop at one of the overlooks.

On 89A on my way up from Sedona to Flagstaff with a quick stop at one of the overlooks.

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Winter Walk On Marginal Way

At times, one just has to embrace the winter and try to imagine it’s warmer, even at the beach.  I love to go on nice long walks and last weekend a friend called and invited me to join her and Tuxy (the cutest labradoodle) for a stroll.  We loaded up in my old Jeep and off we went about a half hour’s drive north to Ogunquit, Maine for a walk at Marginal Way and on the beach.

We have had so much snow that I wasn’t sure how this would work. Do we take snow shoes and poles with all of the snow?  The great part is that the pathway was so well packed that so long as we stayed on it, we didn’t sink into the 4 feet of snow.  Unfortunately I’m not exaggerating the depth.  We noticed that if we stepped off the well traveled areas we sunk right down into the snow. Tuxy, short for Tuxedo (check out his coat), was having a blast in the snow as he ran ahead of us and explored new areas.  Thankfully he didn’t jump in the water for a swim!  He even had a little puppy crush on this super cute lab puppy that we met.  How adorable is that little guy?!

All in all, we covered around 6 miles with our walk.  Just before hopping back in the car, I grabbed a few photos of the lobster boats in the basin area at Perkins Cove where we parked.  They’re so representative of Maine. Soon we’ll all be sitting out on picnic tables eating lobsters, sipping our local craft beers.  That time can’t come soon enough!  :-)

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2015 Daytona 500 – Fun in the Sun!

I’ve been a race fan for the better part of my life (trust me, longer than you think!  ;-)  ) and I had the opportunity to join my sister and a friend down at the Daytona 500 this year.  First, I was just SO elated to be going to the race.  I mean, it’s the Super Bowl of NASCAR racing, all in the first week of the season!  Second, let’s face it, we’ve had a bit of snow in New England and well, I’m over it.  Yeah, I’m done with it.  More than done with it.  The thought of sun, fun and racing sounded fabulous.

We all arrived on Wednesday, a few days before the weekend events and it gave us an opportunity to not only “set up camp” in the infield but also catch the fun “Twin 125s”, qualifying and meet some of our neighbors.  It was cold. I mean, really cold, the first few days.  Thank goodness for neighbors with awesome bonfires!  We had Sprint Fan Zone passes which got us out onto the field and in the pits before the big races, as well as watch the opening act with fellow Michigander, Kid Rock!

When it came to the big race day we moved around a bit, catching the start from the Fan Zone, watching parts of the race from the back stretch at the tiki bar (oh yes, really), moving back to the motorhome for lunch and then finishing up the last 40 laps or so with our friends, the notorious “Daytona Kentucky Boys”, on top of a motorhome between turns one and two.  My only regret – not bringing my camera up on top of the motorhome!   What a finish!  We saw them just feet away from us going three wide at 200 miles per hour around the corner.  It was amazing.  There was a big wreck in the last lap and Joey Logano was first to cross the finish line … classic stock car racing!

What will I remember from this experience?  The racing was amazing, but the people I was with and the new friends I made were what really made the experience memorable.  I’m thrilled my sister, Jessica and her uber-generous friend, Jen, invited me to join along.  Jen – you’re a rock star. THANK YOU!!!!  :-)  The people we met, from the folks next to us that shared their campfire, to the guys down the way that let us curl up close to their heating lamps the first night when it was SO cold, to the Daytona Kentucky Boys that entertained us and introduced us to “goeta” (so yummy!!!)…. they are what really made the experience what it was.  I can’t wait to go back!

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Mission Gratitude

For the second year in a row, I volunteered my time, talent and gear as a photographer at Boston Symphony Hall to support Mission Gratitude.   This event is an annual fundraiser for the Home Base Program, which helps returning war veterans heal the “invisible wounds of war”, like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain trauma.  I can’t think of a better organization to support.  They are partnered with Massachusetts General hospitals and the Red Sox Foundation to support these veterans and their families, all at no cost to the veterans.  When I hear the stories and think about what these soldiers have been through all while protecting and defending our beloved country and our freedom, I feel grateful, thankful and inspired to do whatever I can to help.

The schedule of events for the evening was a bit different this year, but still just as fun as last.  Last year, there were several performers while this year, there was one, Mr. Harry Connick Jr. himself.  The night started with a meet and greet with Harry and distinguished guests.  There were roughly 40 guests invited for that meet and greet, including the most recent Medal of Honor recipient, Ryan Pitts, and his wife.  What an honor it was to shake his hand.  At the end of the meet and greet, you can bet that I quickly handed my camera to the other photographer and went in for a quick photo with Harry.  I’ve been a fan of his for over 23 years!  His album, Blue Light Red Light, came out in 1991 and it forever changed my perspective on “big band” music.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  :-)

After Harry went backstage to prepare for the concert, I made my way out to the more general cocktail area to spend some time with Red Sox Legends Tim Wakefield and Jim Rice.  They were so gracious to spend a full hour out on the floor with folks, chatting and snapping photos.  I lost count of how many photographs I took of them with guests that evening.  Folks were so thrilled to just shake their hands!  Spending an hour with them was super fun too.  They have such great senses of humor!  Of course, I totally snuck in for a selfie with them before they left!

At the end of the cocktail hour, I noticed a very tall man to my right who looked to have a very large body guard with him.  It turned out, that was the newly elected governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker.  He took some time to chat with Tim and Jim, and then shortly after that, Ryan Pitts.  I was thrilled to capture a few images of their time together.

The program started and was kicked off with introductions and a call to action to support Home Base, followed by a wonderful standing ovation and a very moving speech from Ryan Pitts.  He is one of nine living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.  His story is amazingly moving and gut wrenching.  The trauma he experienced is unimaginable.  I can only hope that his story helped push even more people to donate to Home Base.  After he spoke, Tim Wakefield and Jim Rice joined one of the hosts of the evening on stage and had a call to action for donations.  It was absolutely fabulous watching hands raise and considerable donations being provided.  They were even lucky enough to get a baseball signed by Tim and Jim!

There was a short break and then Harry Connick Jr and his big band joined the stage.  What a performance they provided!  It was also wonderful to hear Harry speak of his personal connection to the military with his sister being a career officer.  He appeared to be more than happy to help support the program and really engaged the audience with some of his classic songs, going as far back to the score of When Harry Met Sally.  Yes, he wrote the music for it!  I have a few awesome photos from his performance that I’m waiting for approval to share… in the meantime, I’ve been approved to share two from his meet and greet.

What a night!  If you’d like to learn more about the Home Base Program, please check out their website: http://www.homebaseprogram.org.  Please do consider supporting this wonderful organization!

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Diezel

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for dogs, especially labrador retrievers.  I used to have two, a yellow named Kacy and a black named Tucker.  They were my babies.  Seriously, like kids for me.  If you’re a pet parent I have no doubt you understand.  When I discovered Kacy had cancer it was the most heartbreaking news I had heard in ages.  I really didn’t know how I was going to get through it, but of course I did.  When I learned of Diesel’s diagnosis with cancer and his “parents” asked about my rates, I jumped up right away and volunteered my services for a photo shoot.  While I can’t do it often, I do think it’s important to help out, especially during such a difficult time.  I wanted them to have photographs that they could cherish for years and remember the wonderful times with Diezel.

We had a late afternoon session planned at a local establishment, Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, New Hampshire.  What a pleasure it was to see the great trails, the waterfront access and of course, the old wagon up on the hill!  At the time that we met, the sun was starting to lower and provided a nice glow.  We went for a nice walk, played catch and even did a bit of “sit, stay!” work.  I think it’s safe to say we had a wonderful time.

To date, Diezel is still doing well.  Let’s all send a few prayers out for him and his wonderful parents!

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Happy First Birthday Charlie!

One of the most fun and challenging subjects to photograph is a one year old.  They’re adorable with their goofy faces and expressions, sometimes looking like someone 70 years their senior and sometimes looking like a doll.  They run around with no sense of time, responsibility or worries and just enjoy the moment.  Or hate the moment and scream and cry.  Thankfully the session with Charlie was wonderful and he was a real trooper, making his way through a pumpkin patch and then ripping apart a birthday cake.  I’ll bet he was thinking “dang Mom and Dad, it’s GOOD to be one!!!”!

Our day started at a local pumpkin patch and apple orchard.  We planned it out and called around to see who allowed photos and thankfully Mack’s Apples (Londonderry, NH) was more than accommodating.  Charlie and his parents arrived, looking dapper, and we had some gorgeous sunshine to work with along with some super fun fall colors.  With a one year old we need to move fast while we have smiles and we certainly did.  Fall colors, pumpkin patches, apple orchards… doesn’t get much better than that!

After leaving the orchard we headed back to Charlie’s house for a little cake smash session.  Thankfully, I’m fully portable and I was able to bring a backdrop, stands, lights and all right into their home.  It’s hard to travel with a one year old, especially when they’re covered in cake.  :-)  Portability is key!  I decided to work with a white paper backdrop for two reasons.  First, we had great color with the balloons, confetti and the cake and we wanted that to come out.  Second, it’s fully disposable!  Cleanup involved lifting Charlie up (carefully and at arms length!) and then just cutting the paper and wrapping it all up to capture the mess.  Easy!  Charlie got a quick bath in the kitchen sink and we were done!

Happy first birthday Charlie!  Huge congratulations to Kristen and Pete on making it through year one!

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Boston Harbor Wedding: Andrew and Kris

When I first learned of the date of Kris and Andrew’s wedding, I wondered just how the weather would work out for us.  Mainly, because they chose to have the ceremony and reception on a fabulous boat in the Boston Harbor. Umbrellas? Winter coat?  Sunscreen?  You just never know that time of the year!  As it turned out, the day was gorgeous, unusually warm at 80F and sunny and they had the PERFECT late September wedding day!

The day started with the ladies getting ready at the Westin, just a few blocks from the Seaport wharf downtown Boston.  With a suite and plenty of space to move around in, I had a bit of time to capture a few details with huge windows and great natural light before we moved on our way to the Seaport Elite vessel.  It was wonderful watching Kris’ two daughters, along with one of her best friends (and also the officiant!) help her get ready.  I could tell they were just as excited as she was and they were so attentive to her needs that day.  They helped carry everything out to the SUV that drove us over to the vessel and then onboard.

Once we boarded the boat, we found our way to the small (and I do mean small!) suite where the ladies could get dressed and hide until it was time for the ceremony.  The nerves were building and everyone was getting SO excited!  Kris had a few moments with parents and close family while I grabbed a few photos of the groom.  Soon, it was time!  As Kris walked to the top deck of the boat with her mom, walking her down the aisle, she simply radiated joy in the sunlight as she looked at Andrew with the gorgeous Boston skyline in the background. One of my favorite moments was when her mom gave her away.  It was so touching!

After the ceremony, the introduction and first dance was followed by the toasts and then a tasty buffet dinner and cake cutting.  That’s when the DJ started to really kick up the tunes and get the crowd moving!  It was nearly all 80’s rock and roll and it’s safe to say that the guests loved it (ok, so did I!).  I’ll bet there were some sore feet at the end of the night!  The night ended with a final heartfelt dance by the bride and groom as the boat docked.  The last dip of the bride by the groom says it all!

Huge congratulations to Andrew and Kris!

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