Idaho – Day 2

On Sunday morning, we drove from Missoula, MT to Coeur D’ Alene, ID. Coeur D’ Alene was beautiful. The following picture was taken from the Coeur D’ Alene boardwalk. This was in a ritzy part of the city. A bunch of yachts were located on the opposite side of the boardwalk.


We continued north towards Priest Lake. This is approaching the US-Canada border.


The following picture was taken on the shore around Priest Lake.


On the northern part of Priest Lake, we drove on some really backcountry roads. Unlike some of the earlier gravel roads, this one was not even listed on the GPS unit. Fortunately, we had a full tank of gas and hours of sunlight so it all worked out.


These are some of the mountains in the most northern part of Idaho.


We then jumped over to Spokane, WA and stopped by the swinging bridge. This was a fun area.


I climbed up on to a huge bolder on the side of the river and took this photo of the swinging bridge and the Spokane River.


The Second Night of Waterdrop Photography

Today, I spent time upgrading my software including the capability to change the sensitivity and time delays from the serial communication between the computer and Arduino board. The code is shown in the previous post. I also switched to my 105mm macro lens to get closer to the action. The electronics, optics, and software seem to work great. I think the next bit of effort will be improving the mechanical setup including the mount and having a more consistent dripper.

This is my favorite image from the night. This occurred by accident. A second drop hit the upward ejection from the first drop causing this splayed pattern. It was a lucky shot.


Here’s a slideshow of the other photos I got tonight.

A Walk with Jade

This afternoon I went on a walk with my dog around some local wilderness trails. My main goal was to revisit an old cemetery (see earlier post) that I stumbled across last weekend. After stopping by that cemetery, I headed a few 100 yards north to the private burial site of Jacob Routh. I took this shot through the fence surrounding this private burial site.

Jacob Routh Gravesite

I also stopped and took some macro shots of blooming wildflowers that I found along the walk.

Yellow WildflowersUnfortunately, Jade isn’t the best photography partner. Every time I tried to take a picture of a flower, she would dart under the lens and lay on top of my intended subject. After pushing her away every time I wanted to take a photo, I finally gave up and just went with it:

Jade Sitting in a Patch of Wildflowers

The Great Smokey Mountains 2009

At the end of October, my family rented a vacation home in Gatlinburg, TN – a small town just outside of The Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I drove from Dallas so I could bring my dog along for the trip. After a few hours of driving, I really started regretting this decision. This happens every time I choose to drive rather than fly somewhere.

I arrived late in the afternoon and had burgers with the family. The next morning I drove into the national park. I specifically chose a side road in an effort to avoid the heavy traffic that plagues the main park roads. A picture of the road is shown below. It was mostly a dirt road covered with the autumn leaves.

Smokey Mountain Road

There were some major potholes that were obscured by the covered leaves. I scraped the bottom on my car several times. This is the first time the car has been offroad. It’s low clearance and acceleration are definitely bad for this type of road. But I made it to the end of the road…


I got out and hiked up the Ramsey Rapids trail. It’s a small trail that passes over a little mountain river and then meanders up the side of a mountain.


I spent some time trying to photograph the cascades. I found this to be really difficult – the sky was too bright and the trees and stream too dark. I decided to setup my tripod and shoot HDR. HDR is a combination of multiple images with different exposures. Ideally, the individual pictures should be exactly the same but with different exposures. The problem with HDR in this situation is any breeze changed the position of the foliage. Anyhow, here’s what I got:

Ramsey Cascade HDR

And from a different angle…

Ramsey Rapids

I headed back home and spent the rest of the day chillin’ with the family at the vacation home. The following day was dreary – lots of rain and mist. Around noon, I drove into the park. With the amount of rain, I decided to stick to the main paved roads. One of the first stops was an overlook of a nearby mountain. This is another HDR photograph.

Smokey Mountains Overlook

I also got a few more opportunities to photograph some rivers running through the park. For this photo, I parked on a small pullout and climbed down an embankment to get near the river’s edge, which was quite difficult considering the rocks were still slick from an earlier downpour.

Smokey Mountain Autumn

The road I was on would pretty much follow an adjacent river, passing over it every 10 miles or so. I stopped in a pulloff and snapped this photo. I guess this is a problematic area because there were 3 or 4 signs warning of slick rocks and dangerous rapids.

Smokey Mountains Road

This was my last photo inside the park. I spent the evening hanging out with the family prior to driving back to Dallas starting the following morning. Overall it was a great trip and I was happy to see some autumn colors for the first time in years.

The 2009 Yosemite Trip

A few weeks ago I flew out to California to meet up with some friends from graduate school. We spent a few nights in Curry Village at the heart of Yosemite National Park. Curry Village is the cheapest option for staying in the park. It consists of a bunch of campsites, quasi-permanent tents, and cabins. We stayed in one of the quasi-permanent tents.

Because Yosemite is in the middle of bear country, we had to take several precautions with anything that might smell appealing to a bear. This includes any type of food or flavored drink as well as deodorants, toothpaste, and perfume. These items all had to be stored in a bear locker just outside the tent. I was reluctant to go to sleep without my perfume but I managed.

On the first day, Karen and I arrived in Yosemite early in the morning. We explored around a little from the car stopping at some of the main overlooks. The following picture was taken at the swinging bridge pullout. I didn’t notice the reflection of the waterfall when I was taking the picture but it turned out pretty well.

Yosemite Falls Reflection

Eventually we got out and started a hike to Upper Yosemite Falls. This was a tough hike – very steep. I tried this hike last year with Russ and utterly failed because we didn’t bring enough water. Well, I repeated the same mistake this year. Karen and I got close to the top but decided to turn back once we ran out of water.

Here’s a picture of Karen about 1/3 of the way up. We started in that valley behind her. And by the way, Karen was kicking my butt on the hike – even though my strides are 2x as big as hers.


Here’s a picture of the Upper Yosemite Falls with some of autumn colors in the foreground.

Upper Yosemite Falls

After returning from the hike, we went to the Curry Village front office and got our tent for the next few days. Shortly afterwards, we met up with Amy and Shrikant and had pizza for dinner. After that hike, I had no problem falling to sleep that night.

The following day, Shrikant and I headed out pretty early to get some photos. We left Amy and Karen thinking it would take them an hour to get ready. However, about 5 minutes after we left, Amy and Karen were ready to go. They caught up with us about 15 minutes later but Shrikant and I had trouble explaining ourselves later.

Anyhow, leaving early was a great decision as we got some good shots of the sunrise, including the picture below. This was taken as the sun was rising over the distant mountains and illuminating the tree and surrounding fog.

Burning Tree

The following photo was taken in the same area. This is actually the same tree as above except the sun is now to the left of the image. We saw a lot of good autumn colors during this trip (mostly yellows).

Foggy Autumn

The four of us then spent about 45 minutes driving to Glacier Point – an overlook 3000 feet above Yosemite Valley. Here’s Amy, Shrikant, and Karen at one of the overlooks. That’s my shadow – the only way I like to be in a photo. The waterfall above Shrikant’s left shoulder is where Karen and I hiked the previous day.

Glacier Point Friends

If you want proof that I was at Glacier Point, here’s a photo of all four of us.

Glacier Point Group

After spending 30 minutes or so exploring Glacier Point, we headed back down the mountain and towards Mariposa Grove to see the Giant Sequoias.We hiked around Mariposa Grove for about an hour taking pictures of the Sequoias.


A good portion of our time at Mariposa Grove was spent taking a dozen photos with Shrikant, Amy, and I doing the “Blue Steel” pose from Zoolander. Shrikant was the best – it’s obvious that he’s spent some time in front of a mirror practicing.

Blue Steel Sequoia Style

We headed back to the campsite to pack up and eat dinner. My friends had to leave around 10pm in order for Shrikant to catch a flight in Phoenix the following afternoon. After we finished our pizza and packed up, I wiped the tears from my cheek as my friends drove away. I fell asleep almost as soon as I got back to my tent. Unfortunately, my sleep didn’t last long as a bunch of screaming woke me up around 2am. It sounded like some of my neighbors were scaring a bear from their campsite. It took me a few hours to get back to sleep.

The following day, I woke up and headed to Tioga Pass – a road that goes up into the mountains. I drove all the way into Mono Lake, California. I passed some nice Aspen trees along the way.

Mono Lake Area Color

I drove around the Mono Lake region including the Silver and Juno lakes. This area was beautiful. If it wasn’t so difficult to get there, I’d definitely consider buying vacation property in the Mono Lake region. Here’s a picture of some people on the shore of Silver Lake. Here’s a map of the Silver Lake area.

Silver Lake Area Color

I grabbed a sandwich at a gas station and ate my lunch on the drive back to Yosemite Valley. I got back around mid-afternoon. I spent the next couple of hours photographing various sites in the valley. This is a church (I think) in the Valley. I bet this would be a great photo in the winter.

Yosemite Church

As I was driving out of the park towards my hotel, I snapped this last photo inside a bunch of yellow trees. Ironically, I think it turned out to be one of my best photos from the whole trip. Notice the green orb in the photo? That’s caused by reflections among the glass elements of the lens. It’s usually only a problem when shooting directly into the sun like I am doing here. Anyhow, I will eventually photoshop it out.

Yellow Tunnel

I drove to my hotel in Mariposa, CA and enjoyed the comfortable bed and my own personal bathroom. I had a great hamburger and watched a few hours of tv prior to going to sleep. The following morning I drove to Sacramento and caught a flight back to Dallas.

2009 Montana Trip – Monday and Tuesday

With an extra day to burn in Montana, I chose to rent a car and drive down to Yellowstone. The drive to Yellowstone was great. However the park was packed with people! I quickly decided to drive to the Grand Tetons National Park in the hope that it would be less crowded. I did make a few stops along the way. I snapped this photo just as a small storm blew in over the lake.


After hours of driving through road construction, I finally arrived in the GTNP. A lady at the convenience store was ultra helpful in guiding me to some of the scenic areas around the park. As I needed to get back to my hotel in West Yellowstone at a reasonable hour, I chose to drive around the main loop in the national park.

I took a small side road to the top of Signal Mountain, which is essentially a hill compared to the neighboring Grand Tetons. Here’s a picture looking northeast – away from the Grand Tetons.

Signal Hill Overlook copy

I continued driving and stopped several times to take pictures of the Grand Tetons. Unfortunately, I was there in the middle of the afternoon and the sky and mountains were extremely hazy. Most of the pictures aren’t worth showing. After considerable photoshopping, I was able to get one image to look decent. This is a picture from Mormon Row with the Grand Tetons in the background.

Mormon Row, Grand Tetons National Park

Afterwards, I drove back to Yellowstone and arrived at Old Faithful right around sunset. I took a few photos and headed to my Super 8 hotel in West Yellowstone, which was terrific by the way. On Tuesday, I drove around Yellowstone, saw a few bison, and then headed back to Butte to catch my flight at 1pm.

Overall, I had a great trip and I’m looking forward to my next trip to Montana, which may be in the winter when Tim and I are planning on doing a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone.

2009 Montana Trip – Sunday

Unlike the previous days, we woke up relatively late and headed back to Logan’s Pass in Glacier National Park. While driving up the Going to the Sun Road, we stopped at an overlook of the nearby valley. I snapped this photo of a snow melt waterfall.

Glacier Waterfall 2 copy

Fortunately, we arrived at the Logan’s Pass Visitor Center early enough to get a parking spot. It would have been impossible a few hours later. Tim, Dorothy, Ian, and I hiked to Hidden Lake. Shortly after starting the hike, some Bighorn Sheep crossed the trail.

Big Horn Sheep

We also passed some wet areas from the snow melt.

Glacier Melt

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Hidden Lake. We were hiking in overcast skies so not the best photography.

Hidden Lake

On the way back, I took quite a few photos of the fields of wildflowers.

Glacier Field

Glacier Wildflowers 2

The rest of Sunday was spent traveling back to Butte, Montana. As my flight back to Dallas was on Tuesday, I decided to check out Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Park on Monday. Pictures from Monday and Tuesday’s adventures are coming…

2009 Montana Trip – Saturday Afternoon


We made it back to the car in one piece. I was pretty tired, which was surprising as I thought the past months of spinning (cycling) would have kept me in shape. I couldn’t imagine how tired Tim probably felt as he carried Ian the whole hike.

We drove into the depths of Glacier National Park via the Going To The Sun Road – an incredible road that winds through the mountains of the park. It’s quite an engineering marvel. After about half an hour, we arrived at the Avalanche Picnic Area. We stopped and had some sandwiches.

Our next adventure was the Trail of the Cedars – a well maintained trail that winds through a forest of cedar trees culminating with scenic overlooks of Avalanche creek. The following photo shows the wooden boardwalk of the Trail of the Cedars.

TrailOfTheCedars copy

After maybe 15 minutes of hiking, I came to the Avalanche creek. The colors of the water are incredible. Unfortunately, there was a large crowd there so I didn’t have much of a chance to setup my shots. Actually, I think it was a crowd of Asian tourists. I think it’s funny that you are more likely to meet foreign visitors than Americans in our national parks. Anyhow, here’s two pictures of the Avalanche creek.

Avalance Two Avalanche Creek, Glacier National Park

After returning back to the car, we retraced our drive on the Going to the Sun Road. At one point, we stopped and I snapped some shots of snow off the side of the road. Remember it is early August and there is still significant snow around. I can’t even fathom how deep the snow must get during the winter.


We continued to Logan’s Pass – the highest point of the Going to the Sun Road. We stopped at a scenic pullout to get some landscape pictures. As luck would have it, some mountain goats came to visit us. Actually, they came to the parking lot to lick the anti-freeze that had dripped onto the pavement. It turns out that anti-freeze isn’t harmful to the mountain goats. It must be how they survive the brutal winters. These mountain goats grazed in fields of wildflowers. It turned out to be the best half hour of photography during the whole trip.

Glacier Goat

Mountain Goat Kid


After shooting the goats (photographically), we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant just outside the park. We then headed to the Many Glacier area of the park. It was around dusk when we arrived in the area. We saw a black bear snacking on some berries near the road. Unfortunately, the bear was obscured by the tree. This was the best photo I got.

Black Bear in Many Glacier, Glacier National Park

A few minutes later we saw another bear. Again, I didn’t get the best photo as it was already getting dark and I was shooting from the car. Even though it has some brown fur, we think this was a black bear as well.

Brown bear

After the long day, I believe we were all happy to head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Next: Sunday’s Adventure Coming Soon

2009 Montana Trip – Saturday Morning


Although basic statistics would deem it impossible, I woke up again around 4:30am. Tim and I headed out to Two Medicine Lake to get some sunrise pictures. Fortunately, no clouds were around for this morning’s sunrise. Unfortunately, zero clouds also mean a pretty dull sky. However, I was happy to shoot with the morning light. Our first stop was at the lake’s edge.

Two Medicine Lake

We then did a short hike on the southern side of the lake. I spent most of my time shooting flowers and other plant life along the trail. The morning dew was still around so it gave some nice macro shots. A macro of a dew-laden, purple wildflower is shown below.

Dew Flower

After the hike, we returned back to the car so we could pick up Tim’s wife and kid who were still at the hotel. On the way back to the car, we checked out the Two Medicine Ferry. It would have been cool to ride the boat but it was pretty expensive.

Two Medicine Ferry

Arriving back at the car, we took a few minutes to have breakfast. Dorothy and Tim made some great breakfast muffins consisting of ham, cheese, and other goodness. This guy stopped by to see if he could get a piece. I told him hell no – go get your own breakfast muffin!

Glacier Squirrel

So after breaking the squirrels heart, Tim and I headed back to the hotel. After picking up Dorothy and Ian, we headed to St. Mary’s Lake and to the St. Mary’s and Virginia Falls hiking trails.


These relatively short trails took us to two terrific waterfalls. After hiking maybe 15 or 20 minutes in some pretty dense forest, we finally came to the water. The color of the water was awesome (as you can see).

St Marys Fall2

The trail followed the river for a little while taking us right to St. Mary’s Waterfall. We spent a good time shooting around this area. The Troutman’s were taking family pictures while I shot the falls from every angle possible. Two photos of the falls are below.

St Marys Falls copy

St Marys Falls4

We continued on to Virginia Falls. We spent some time at the base of the falls. There were no people at this falls so we could relax and enjoy the scenery. Tim and I headed up the short trail to the first fall and snapped some photos. Here’s one of my pictures:

Virginia Falls, Glacier National Park

But the picture of the day goes to Tim. He had the creative idea to have me position an empty water bottle to make it look like I was pouring out the waterfall. Check this out…

Tim Troutman Creativity
by Tim Troutman

After spending a good amount of time at Virginia Falls, we headed back to the car. More on Saturday afternoon coming soon…

2009 Montana Trip – Thursday and Friday

In early August, I packed my bags, dropped the dog off at the kennel, and headed north…. to Montana. My good friend, Tim, lives in beautiful Butte, Montana which is smack dab between two of America’s greatest national parks – Glacier and Yellowstone National Park. For my visit last October, our time was devoted to exploring and photographing Yellowstone. For this August trip, our goal was to spend the weekend in Glacier National Park.


I arrived in Butte, Montana late Thursday evening. As Tim would have to work on Friday, I got a rental car to explore around Butte during the day. I knew that Friday’s travels would involve some rough roads so I was hoping for a high clearance vehicle. What I got was a Ford Mustang. I know this is a tangent, but the Mustang was a major disappointment, even for on-road driving. BORING! In terms of road driving, my Infiniti M45 is a buttload more exciting, that is,

ExcitementInfiniti M45 = Buttload + ExcitementMustang

and the M45 is just a huge family sedan. The Mustang is overrated! Ok… Focus Garret!

After spending some time catching up, Tim and I planned out a Friday excursion in and around Butte. Most of my driving would take me on gravel and dirt roads despite the Crapstang. I hit the sack around midnight and was sound asleep by 12:03am.

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2009

I’m told that serious photographers live to shoot during sunrise and sunset. Being the photographer wannabe (“want-to-be”), I staggered out of bed around 4:30am, showered, and headed out on the excursion we planned the previous night. My first destination was Delmoe Lake, which Tim calls “The Secret Lake” although it’s not really a secret so don’t get too excited. I think they called it a secret lake because it is in the middle of nowhere and very few people know about it.

Although I considered the 4:30am wake-up one of my life’s greatest achievements, I quickly found that soul-wrenching effort was all for naught: clouds obscured all the photogenic light associated with a sunrise. I ended up hiking a little bit around the lake looking for good macro pictures. When the light’s not there, I’ll often turn from focusing on landscape to macro photos. Needless to say, most of my pictures sucked almost as much as the man-eating mosquitoes that were gorging themselves as I strolled around the lake. Here’s one of those suck images from the lake.


After getting back to the car, I spent the next 45 minutes scratching my mosquito bites while driving to my next destination – the Georgetown Lake area. I came across this great waterfall just next to the road. Well, waterfall might be the wrong term… it was something between waterfall and steep white water. I thought to myself that it would be a blast to ride down on an inner tube. I saw a makeshift memorial near the top of the waterfall. I bet someone was equally as stupid and had the same idea or the poor dude slipped while exploring. I snapped this photo of the white water behind the hillside of wildflowers.

Flowers Water

After thoroughly photographing the whitewater, I zoomed in on the wildflowers and switched to my macro lens – the best lens ever. Most of those pictures were lame but I did find this cool bug on one of the wildflowers.

Yellow Bug

I continued on, driving toward the boonies on some random dirt roads. These roads were lined with barbed wire fences, which often had bird nests built on the posts. This gave me a chance to shoot some birds (uh… photograph birds, I wasn’t giving the finger to fence posts). I saw these blue birds along the drive. I could hear the baby blue birds in the nest although the momma bird seemed a little wary about the nerd staring at it from a Crapstang.

Blue Bird2

I continued driving. I got a crazy idea to head up a nearby mountain on the available dirt roads. It was pretty stupid considering the rough road and the 2 mm ground clearance of the Crapstang. If I got stuck it would be a long walk back to civilization (no cell phone coverage there). I took the chance anyways. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t take the 4 wheeled crapper any further and had to turn around. I did take a few shots of some mountain streams, like below…

Mountain Stream

When I finally got off the mountain, I continued to explore the open fields of Montana. I came across an osprey nest just off the road. Like the blue bird, the osprey seemed somewhat wary about the pasty white nerd staring from below. As I stepped outside the car, the osprey took off. I waited for a while and the osprey came back. I snapped this photo of its landing.

osprey 2

About this point, I started my way back to Tim’s house. I passed this abandoned house on the side of the road. This is a fairly common scene in Montana – an old dilapidated house with mountains in the background. I actually went in the house. There was essentially nothing inside – just the basic frame of the house.

Ghost House

And this ended my day of photography. Tim, Dorothy, Ian, and I drove up to Browning, MT – a small town about 20 minutes from the east entrance to Glacier National Park.

Description of Saturday’s adventure is coming soon.