Photography United States

Virgin Islands National Park

Visiting a national park is always cool when you’ve got the opportunity. Virgin Islands National Park is… slightly more out of the way than many of them, but definitely worth checking out.

Getting there involves flying in to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and then taking a ferry over to St. John. The view from the ferry is a pretty good introduction:

Photograph of St. John Island, taken from the ferry leaving St. Thomas Island.

There’s a few options for ferries; if you’ve already rented a car, the Love Island Car Ferry is your best bet, and has a pretty reasonable schedule. Depending on which of their ships you wind up on, it’s worth hopping out after you’ve parked and paid/checked in and going to the upper deck to watch the ride.

Photograph of a decaying, partially-sunken vehicle ferry in Cruz Bay on St. John island.

You’ll be dropped off in Cruz Bay, a dense town that doesn’t offer much by way of walkability, but overflows with options to rent… Jeeps, mostly, though there’s a some variety thanks to the Bronco.

Photograph of a stop sign in Cruz Bay, St. John. It has many stickers added, including letters that make it read "Don't Stop Believin"

Get into the park, though, and there’s a whole lot to do. We’d hoped to do the Snorkeling Trail at Trunk Bay Beach, but it was packed, and hiking there from a parking lot that wasn’t at capacity seemed like a great way to get heat stroke. Instead, we wound up at Cinnamon Bay.

Photograph of the Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground sign in Virgin Islands National Park.

There’s a good setup; a campground, a little restaurant, and, once you walk past the park information signs and some ruins, the beach.

Photograph of overgrown ruins in Virgin Islands National Park. A sign reads "Danger: Unstable Ruins. Do not enter." A rock formation in the ocean is faintly visible through an open window in the ruins.

And oh, what a beach! The Caribbean, it’s got some great beaches, who knew? Though there’s no snorkel trail here, it’s still good snorkeling – almost directly out from these ruins, about level with the buoys, there’s a coral reef that’s fun to float around. (Treat the wildlife well, though! Don’t touch anything, don’t step on any coral, and make sure that any sunscreen and/or bug spray you apply is coral-safe.)

Photograph of Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park.

There’s also at least one stingray out there – we spotted him close to that rock formation on the left in the photo above. Sadly, the only “waterproof” camera I own is my phone, and the water resistance of an iPhone is more “you can rinse it off if it gets dirty” than it is “lol spend an hour underwater.”

Blurry photograph of a deer at Virgin Islands National Park

We also spotted some more terrestrial wildlife; a deer stopped to enjoy the view, as well, just a few feet behind where we’d put down our towels on the beach.

Photograph of a tree-covered pathway next to the ruins at Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park.

And, of course, what would a photography post of mine be without a picture of an aesthetically-appealing pathway?

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Mt. St. Helens

If you’re looking at that and thinking “hey, that looks like a lot of mountain to climb,” you’re right! It is a lot of mountain to climb, and from that angle, you can’t see the half of it. (Literally.)

It’s an interesting hike, in three sections – the woodsy bit at the bottom, the bouldering bit in the middle, and the ash fields at the top.

This last photo was from the bouldery bit, but you can see a wash of the ash fields extending down in the back there.

But now, dear reader, I must admit to you that I didn’t make it to the summit; I got as far as the ash fields and realized that, if I tried to continue on to the top, I’d wind up replacing my “I went on a cool hike!” story with an “I went on a ride in a Forestry Service rescue helicopter” story.

One day, I’ll be back. And hey, it was a cool hike! Anywhere with signage like this is going to be a cool hike.

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Tubbs Hill

I was in Coeur d’Alene a while back, and had the chance to go for a hike around Tubbs Hill. If you’re ever in the area, I recommend it – it’s a nice little hike, and there’s some great views along the way.

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Silver Falls

This weekend, I am attending a wedding and then moving; in place of my usual weekly words, please enjoy a couple photos I took at Silver Falls State Park.

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Consider this a continuation of my previous post; same vacation, different day.

I was trying to come up with a clever caption, but I got distracted by making half-formed ‘Barsoom’ references instead.

This was actually one of the last things we did while I was over there; a nice little walk in the woods. That picture doesn’t do it justice—the walk started in the “it’s not spring yet” portion, but as we made our way downhill, we started to see actual greenery.

We saw so many dogs, but I didn’t take their pictures, that’s an invasion of privacy. Dog privacy.

We had pretty good luck with the weather—it was nice and sunny while we were at the top of the hill; the wind picked up a bit right as we were getting to the shore of the reservoir, just enough to give the trees some fun movement.

Again, I kinda wish this was a live photo, there’s something really pleasing about the way trees move in the wind.

Reservoirs are a fun bit of infrastructure; for the most part, they don’t really look like infrastructure, right up until they really do.

I’m just now realizing how damp and unpleasant it must’ve been to actually get over there to do the graffiti.

There’s little pieces that are obviously man-made, sure, but for the most part, it’s easy enough to just let nature handle it.

I linked to my post about Detroit Lake earlier, and it’s actually kinda eerie how much this photo looks like the view from the campground we stayed at there.

And then there’s the unofficial pieces that people add.

This is one of those things that isn’t all that funny but makes me laugh nonetheless. I just read it as being very plaintive. Please, somebody, just play ball with this tree, it’s so sad.

And, despite the signs posted every fifty feet along the path on the way in, ‘this is our water supply, don’t swim in it, people drink this,’ there’s always a rope swing.

I’m not kidding, either; apparently this thing gets taken down every week over the summer, and within a couple of days, somebody’s put up a new one.
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Wickham Park

I recently had the opportunity to visit a friend of mine over in Connecticut. I’ve never been to New England before (the closest I’d been previously was an hour spent in a New York airport, and given that I can’t even remember which airport it was, it clearly wasn’t the most fun visit), and I was pretty excited to see the sights.

Seriously, I’m never going to stop enjoying panorama photos.

The first place we went that made me glad I’d brought my camera was Wickham Park; it’s up on more of a hill than I initially realized, which made for a good panorama at the top.

I have an impressive number of photos of paths in my collection.

A bit lower down, there are a few different ‘gardens’ around the park; the first one we wandered around was the ‘marshland’ theme, if I’m remember correctly.

Every once in a while, I wish my DSLR could take a Live Photo, because the sound of all the birds when I was taking this one was pretty great.

Honestly, I think the top and bottom of the hill were the best parts; the gardens in between were… not all that impressive.

The “Oriental Garden”, for example, featured a rather sad pagoda and a very slimy pond.

I also didn’t bother taking any pictures of the “Irish Garden,” which looked like what happens when someone in the 1930s makes a garden, and it becomes too ‘historic’ to tear down for being a racist caricature. An aesthetic that was rather undercut by the sign at the end, which says it opened in 2016.

The “Scottish Garden” was a bit more interesting in the statuary, but rather lacking in actual plant life.

When we visited, I read through the pamphlet a bit, but it mostly boiled down to a list of all the different gardens, a brief mention that it was named after the rich fellow who’d established the place, and the fact that it’s a private park, owned and maintained by Bank of America on behalf of the family’s estate. (“Everything around here is owned by some bank of another,” I was told.)

Oh, you thought I was done with the panoramas for this post, didn’t you?

But hey, it’s sitting on some pretty land, and I do like seeing parks that’re at least somewhat open to the public, so who am I to complain?

(Technically speaking, this is also a panorama, just not as intensely so as they usually are.)
(It also wasn’t taken at Wickham Park, but still.)

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Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park has been on my ‘places to visit’ list for quite a while. Honestly, I’m not sure how it wound up there, but I’m happy it did – from what I saw, it’s a pretty cool place.

These are some Hanna-Barbera looking rocks.

(I was told by a friend that you should really try to stay for the whole day, especially sunset, and just see what it all looks like with different lighting conditions, but unfortunately wasn’t able to do that this time; next time, though…)

I also climbed some rocks, but the ones I climbed were… less vertical.

The park was established in the 1930s by FDR. At the time, the Works Progress Administration – among other things – was running a poster campaign intended to inspire the American people, I believe along the lines of ‘look at all this neat stuff our country has!’

Panoramas are fun.

As far as I can tell, Joshua Tree didn’t get any of those posters, unfortunately; something about the federal government very busy all of a sudden.

Seriously, these rocks are fun to climb. I wish I’d brought some proper climbing clothes, I would’ve… probably injured myself much worse than the scraped elbow I got.

A lot of the posters that were produced are lost now, more’s the pity. It was an interesting aesthetic, and I’m a big fan of the whole “advertising for the national parks” thing.

The nice thing about making these with a DSLR and Lightroom as opposed to my phone is that I can pause and wait for people to walk by.

Apparently somebody else was as irritated by all this as I was, because there’s a modern imagining of what a WPA poster for Joshua Tree would’ve looked like; they’re for sale in the park’s information center.

Fun fact about the Joshua Tree: they don’t form rings in the way that other trees do; when scientists want to figure out how old one is, the preferred method is to measure the height, then divide by the species’ average growth rate.

The moral of the story here is that our national parks are a treasure, and we should continue to support them. (And expand them! Write to your congresspeople about it.)

I titled this photo ‘support’ before I started writing this post, so it’s really just an amazing coincidence that I worked it in right after I talked about supporting the parks.

After all, who doesn’t love a whole bunch of beautiful nature?

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Detroit Lake

This past weekend, I finally got a chance to visit another of Oregon’s tourist destinations: Detroit Lake. It’s a pretty cool place — used to be a valley, and then, y’know, industry happened; two dams later, there’s a lake. Normally the water level is a bit higher, but (I’m told) there was a storm early in the season, for which the folks in charge of the dam1 drained some water so they wouldn’t have overflow problems. Unfortunately for them, the fish were spawning at the time, and wound up taking advantage of the raised river level, and per the “don’t kill thousands of fish” directive, they were then required to maintain that higher river level. So the reservoir drained faster than usual, and the season got cut off earlier than usual. Bit of a bummer for the local businesses.
Presented in no particular order, some of my favorite photos from the trip:

  1. US Army Corps of Engineers, maybe? 
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You may not have heard, but there was an eclipse recently. While I wasn’t going to go out and buy one of those expensive camera filters for doing proper eclipse photography, I did have an extra pair of eclipse glasses and some duct tape, so I made do. (The photo above is without the filter; during totality, which I was in the zone of, you can look at the event with the naked eye… or the naked lens.)

This is right before totality began – just a sliver of the sun was still showing, but without a filter, that’s still a lot of light.

I was switching off lenses throughout – I had a prime lens with the makeshift filter attached, and a kit zoom that I used when I wanted no filter but didn’t want to deal with the duct tape. This is that kit zoom, no filter, at its maximum zoom level.

Finally, here’s what it looked like through the filter.
I’m not going to talk about it being a ‘life-changing experience’ or anything, but I will recommend checking out some of the recordings – I believe NASA put out a 3D livestream that I assume is archived somewhere, and lots of better photographers than I am got some good photos, I’m sure.
And hey, next time there’s going to be an eclipse in the US, go check it out.1

  1. But, y’know, make sure to get your campground reservations a year early or so. 
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Quarry Cove

Technically speaking, this is part of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, but that’s a bit long of a name, and I rather like “Quarry Cove” better. I’m also quite happy to have had another opportunity to get my camera out.

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You can’t go to Louisiana without visiting a swamp. It took us until the last couple weeks of the program, but we did eventually get around to it, and boy was it wonderful. Some of the best weather (in my opinion, at least) that we’ve had the whole time – it was a cool summer day, and the brief spat of rain we had while we were out there was very light, of that nice kind where you never get wet enough that it won’t dry off after a couple of minutes. It was wonderful.
I brought my camera, of course, because how could I not? By the end of the tour – it lasted a couple of hours – I’d snapped almost 500 pictures. It was one heck of a trip, and I’m incredibly glad that I went. (It also turned into one heck of a road trip getting back – the Atchafalaya Bridge had a couple accidents in the direction we were heading, and we wound up taking a detour that more than doubled the actual length of the bridge. It was an Adventure.)
As I write this, I have been sitting down for a couple hours, working away at sorting those pictures. By the time this goes up, I’ll have posted a few on my Instagram, because I’m not above a bit of shameless self-promotion. For the ones I kept for this here site, head below the fold.

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New Orleans

Recently, we (the REU group) spent a day in New Orleans, wandering around and basically being Touristy McTouristface.1

Anyhow, I took my camera with me – how can I be a tourist without it?2

So, if you want to see some pictures of New Orleans looking pretty, head below the fold. (And I’ll add that ‘in pictures’ is one of the better ways to experience the French Quarter – it’s old, the water table is very shallow, and that means that it’s a rather fragrant area, even after the invention of sewers.)

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So, not mentioned in my last post was the fact that, before going to Myrtles Plantation, we’d tried to go to the Louisiana State Capitol Building. Not that we were prevented from going or anything – it’s open to the public. (Though, admittedly, the fact that the main doors are blocked off is a bit foreboding.) The problem was more that it was very rainy, and we figured that the view from the top wouldn’t be the best through the clouds.

So instead we put it off for the next day. The weather was a bit better then – still cloudy, but not rainy and gross, and the clouds actually made it better, in my opinion.

The Louisiana State Capitol Building was constructed in the 1930s, and it looks like something out of Gotham City. It’s very cool. Photos below the fold.

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Myrtles Plantation

I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere that I’m doing a bit of traveling this summer, though I’m definitely too lazy to go back and find where, exactly, I mentioned that.

Still, it’s a thing. I’m spending the summer in Louisiana, doing research on neural networks at Louisiana State University. Which is a full-time job, 40 hours a week, 9-5 and all that, but my weekends are free and I do occasionally leave my room in my free time, so I’ve got some photos to show y’all.

This first set are from Myrtles Plantation, which markets itself as “the most haunted house in the American South.” Went with my family, when they made the trip down here to visit – my sister is a big fan of all things spooky.

I brought my camera with me, of course, because what’s a paranormal investigator without a camera? Photos are below the fold – I’m not a fan of making people load lots of images on the front page, even with the new CDN up and running. It’s rude to people on mobile, or with metered connections.

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Los Angeles Against the Mountains

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing a bit of traveling this summer. The first trip was down to Los Angeles, because that’s the only place where you can go to get an Austrian Visa-D, if you live on the West Coast.1

Anyhow, while I was there I was able to meet up with a family friend and take some pictures out in Santa Monica. There’s a conference center there, the Serra Retreat Center, and it’s got some awesome views. Take a look, and feel free to click on any of these pictures to see them in a larger size:

One of the things I wanted to do while I was in LA was look at the mountains. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I read the essay after which I titled this post: Los Angeles Against the Mountains.

I read the essay for an English class I took, fully expecting to hate it – I have an inherent dislike of anything that’s intended to be ‘literature.’ I was wrong: the essay was a fascinating look at an aspect of Los Angeles that I’d never considered. Long story made incredibly short, the mountains over LA are unstable, and the city has to deal with flooding that gets turned into pseudo-pyroclastic flows by the amount of rubble put out by the mountains. It’s a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.

  1. Because heaven forbid we be able to turn in a stack of paperwork and get our fingerprints taken anywhere less than a thousand miles from home.