Yellowstone in the Winter

Yellowstone Winter Firehole

This past winter I spent five full days exploring Yellowstone National Park by snow coach.  Passenger cars are not allowed at that time. The only modes of transportation inside the park are snowmobiles or snow coaches.  I signed up with Gerlach Nature Photography Workshops led by Barbara Eddy and John Gerlach.  It was a wonderful time with two very knowledgeable leaders.  We were exploring the park daily from shortly after sunrise to past sunset.
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Alaska Revisited


Eagle Portrait on July 4th, 2018.

How appropriate to photograph an American bald eagle on the Fourth of July in Alaska.  In Hoonah, Alaska I was able to slowly approach this eagle which had apparently just eaten some fish.  Yep, we made a return visit to Alaska to visit Denali National Park and cruise the beautiful coastline for a second time in two months.

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Orange Gates of Kyoto, Macaques and Hiroshima

Japanese macaque monkeys inhabit Iwatayama Monkey Park.

These macaques are cute, but before we visit the monkeys we must visit one of the most famous Shinto shrines in all of Japan, the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.  Inari is the patron God of business, prosperity, rice and sake.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto

This was a must-see for me from a photographic standpoint.  Arriving shortly after sunrise I was surprised how many people were already walking around and some already leaving, mostly other photographers.  We visited Japan during a religious period when the Japanese visit many different shrines, so it was extra crowded.  The photos I took were not so much based on composition, but rather taken when people were not walking through my frame.  Reviewing my photos upon my return, I’m disappointed I did not get a much lower angle of view.  For some reason, out of the over 50 or more photos taken, none are from a more unique low perspective.

Orange gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine

Each gate is purchased by a patron in the hopes of bringing good fortune to their business.  They cost thousands of dollars each, depending upon the size.  The name of the donor is inscribed on one side of the gate.  There are also private shrines off to the sides of these walkways.

The largest gates at the shrine.

The further you walked into the shrine, the higher up Mount Inari you climbed, where there were considerably fewer people.  This is yet another visit to an active religious site where the members seem to get no break from the tourists and selfie seekers.  If the faithful are praying for some privacy, peace and quiet, it was not working this day..

When inside the shrine I was told it is considered poor form to walk in the middle of the path as that is reserved for God.

Miles and miles of gates, miles and miles of people.

There are many fox statues scattered about and in the individual shrines.  They are thought to be messengers to the Gods.

Private family shrine

In one section of the shrine there was a person kept very busy keeping walls of candles lit.  The massive colorful cord on the left in the photo below would be strongly pulled on, ringing some bells before praying and clapping twice.  Many elderly women could not pull hard enough to make the bells ring, try as they might.  More foxes are behind the candles, being good messengers to the Gods.  I was concentrating on getting the large cords on the left blurred and now see I covered a foxes face with a candle.  No wonder I’m not making a living at photography.  Too much to remember.

Shinto shrine, pull the ropes on the left to make bells ring.

Shinto shrine abstract, shades of orange.

Shades of orange abstract

It might be time to leave.  How many photos of orange does one need?  My goal when visiting any place is to take a single, simple photo which best depicts the place being visited.  It seems to me anyone viewing the photo below would certainly know it was in Japan, somewhere.

Main entry gate to Fushimi Inari shrine


Macaques at Iwatayama Monkey Park

It is not easy, but if you can get one of these monkeys to look right into your camera lens you can see some very expressive eyes.

Look into my eyes

These monkeys are not in cages and roam freely about the mountaintop.  It is actually the other way around.  If you wish to feed them, you must go inside of a house with fencing over the window openings to feed the monkeys.  They are mostly trained to eat and beg only at the caged house.  Almost 200 macaques are roaming freely.  It is a moderate hike to reach this mountaintop near Kyoto.  I could certainly have spent more time here, just hoping for some more of these expressive photos, but the heat, hunger and plumbing issues eventually required us to leave.  We spent almost $80 to get here by cab, but learned we could return by train for about $5.

The monkeys are free but the people are in a cage to feed them.

Why is it some little boys will always make faces at the camera, especially when dad is not looking.

Boys will be boys.


Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima atomic bomb dome building and bicyclist.

There are two large museum buildings in the Hiroshima Peace Park related to the atomic bomb.  The park and museums are not billed as historical museums and for good reason.  Touring the many atomic bomb exhibits I found not a single reference to Pearl Harbor or the events which led up to World War II.


Azaleas bordering the dome


Beautiful tree adjacent to the atomic dome building

Time for us to move on to our final stop in Japan before getting on our cruise ship to take us home.

Home, James…

Sydney and Its Famous Opera House

View from Mrs Macquarie's Chair

View from Mrs. Macquarie’s Point

Several cities around the world are defined by a single building or structure.  Paris and the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge and Sydney and its Opera House.  Because of this strong association, the convenient location of our hotel and the terrible summer heat wave, I did little else in Sydney other than make short excursions exploring various views of the Sydney Opera House.
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Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain (Good-bye Spain)

Park Guell Barcelona

Park Guell Barcelona

Gaudi Town, Barcelona Revisited

We had visited Barcelona, what I call Gaudi Town, for a week about 90 days ago as the termination point to our trans-Atlantic cruise.  Antoni Gaudi has four wonderful architectural master pieces in Barcelona, including Sagrada Familia which still being built 120 years later, Casa Milá and Casa Batlló.  We will now get to see a fourth major work by Gaudi, Park Güell.  We are concluding a 90 day, clockwise visit to the Iberian Peninsula.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

coyote peeking

A coyote keeps an eye on my approach in Theodore Roosevelt NP

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota requires the visitor to search for beauty within the 36 mile vehicle loop, unlike some of the more spectacular national parks such as Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon or Zion.  On any random visit, a lucky visitor might possibly be blessed with stormy rain clouds, clearing storms or special light. More typically, on a hot clear blue sky day, you must really search for the attractiveness of the park.
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Yellowstone National Park

Buffalo Trio

Our previous attempt to visit Yellowstone National Park was thwarted by the sixteen-day government shutdown in the fall of 2013.  It was to be a fall color tour with reservations at the beautiful Yellowstone Lodge and four other national parks.  For this 2015 trip we felt happy to snag a couple of open nights at Grant Village due to a cancellation.  Continue reading