Photography

It's the end of the year as I know it... by Josh Trudell

January: It must be time for that weekly blog update…

March: It must be time for that monthly blog update…

October: It must be time for that quarterly blog update…

December: It’s time! It’s time! It’s…oh. Oops.

It is indeed already December, and my blog posts have yet again dwindled like the sands of time as the year has progressed. But, it has been a very busy year, filled with a lot of work and one truly spectacular vacation.

When I started picking out my favorite photographs of the year, I had two thoughts – boy, I didn’t shoot that much and girl, these are all going to be Australia photos.

Looking back over my Flickr feed, I see I have 18 albums – so it averaged out to one every six weeks. Even taking out the six from Australia, there was still at least one shoot per month, on average.

Some of them weren’t huge - such as studying the wasp nest that was torn out of a tree in my front yard – but the amount was about what I had hoped for, considering that I spent much of the year in the freelance writing and graphic design arena to save for Australia. And that album count largely doesn’t include shooting to go with stories – also largely written to save for Australia.

2015 was the year of Australia – building up to, going on and the aftermath chewed up the first 10 months of the year. It was a great adventure, and there is very little I would change about it. I shot as much as I could every day, but barely scratched the surface of this amazing place.

I’m going to address that in more depth later (weekly blog updates!), but for now, these are my favorite photos of the year (in no particular order). 

 

1. This was taken during the San Antonio Cattle Drive, held each year in February. Cattle are herded through the downtown streets of the city. This shot was part of the Native American dances  that were held in front of the Alamo.

1. This was taken during the San Antonio Cattle Drive, held each year in February. Cattle are herded through the downtown streets of the city. This shot was part of the Native American dances  that were held in front of the Alamo.

2. As an experiment, I took a couple of gallons of rose petals out to Pedernales Falls State Park to see what I could create. The shots feel like they might be a first draft of an interesting larger project. 

2. As an experiment, I took a couple of gallons of rose petals out to Pedernales Falls State Park to see what I could create. The shots feel like they might be a first draft of an interesting larger project. 

3. This was just after I got some new camera equipment - I was experimenting with a new 300mm f2.8 for the first time. A lens this size is a lot of fun - worth the effort it takes to carry around.  

3. This was just after I got some new camera equipment - I was experimenting with a new 300mm f2.8 for the first time. A lens this size is a lot of fun - worth the effort it takes to carry around.  

4. This is from shooting one of my year's highlights - the 2015 Summer X Games in Austin. This was a great event to shoot - there was always something to point a camera at, and most of it was spectacular. I wrote about that  here . 

4. This is from shooting one of my year's highlights - the 2015 Summer X Games in Austin. This was a great event to shoot - there was always something to point a camera at, and most of it was spectacular. I wrote about that here

6. Skateboarding is one of the big draws at the X Games - this is another shot from that event. I love that the boarder looks like a hawk (Tony Hawk!) in midair. 

6. Skateboarding is one of the big draws at the X Games - this is another shot from that event. I love that the boarder looks like a hawk (Tony Hawk!) in midair. 

5. Part of shooting the X Games included shooting the concerts - including three songs of Metallica's set. After a day of carrying my gear around in the 90+ degree sun, I was exhausted when they started - but I was ready to go do it all again when they finished. Exhilarated barely covers it.

5. Part of shooting the X Games included shooting the concerts - including three songs of Metallica's set. After a day of carrying my gear around in the 90+ degree sun, I was exhausted when they started - but I was ready to go do it all again when they finished. Exhilarated barely covers it.

7. Wedding shooting is extremely hard photography and delightfully easy - often at the same time. I flew up to New Hampshire to shoot a lovely, low-key wedding. Arriving the day before gave me a chance to scope out the scene - including playing with the rings and the blooming apple blossoms. 

7. Wedding shooting is extremely hard photography and delightfully easy - often at the same time. I flew up to New Hampshire to shoot a lovely, low-key wedding. Arriving the day before gave me a chance to scope out the scene - including playing with the rings and the blooming apple blossoms. 

8. One of my 2015 resolutions was to branch out and photograph more people. I've joined a couple of Meetup groups, and I'm working on building a model photography portfolio. This was one of my favorites from a steampunk-themed railroad shoot at the New Braunfels Railroad Musuem - model is Arbnore Haliti. 

8. One of my 2015 resolutions was to branch out and photograph more people. I've joined a couple of Meetup groups, and I'm working on building a model photography portfolio. This was one of my favorites from a steampunk-themed railroad shoot at the New Braunfels Railroad Musuem - model is Arbnore Haliti. 

9. Now we're getting into the Australia pictures. First up is this sunrise over Cape Tribulation - a gorgeous, isolated beach north of Cairns. The most peaceful place I saw all year. 

9. Now we're getting into the Australia pictures. First up is this sunrise over Cape Tribulation - a gorgeous, isolated beach north of Cairns. The most peaceful place I saw all year. 

10. While we in Cape Tribulation, we took a day tour of the forest with an aboriginal guide. These ants are safe to eat - and as we found out, have a very pleasant lime taste. 

10. While we in Cape Tribulation, we took a day tour of the forest with an aboriginal guide. These ants are safe to eat - and as we found out, have a very pleasant lime taste. 

11. I originally shot this on an iPhone, then came back the following night to try and capture it again with my camera. The light and dark - chiaroscuro - makes for great contrast on both sides of the image. 

11. I originally shot this on an iPhone, then came back the following night to try and capture it again with my camera. The light and dark - chiaroscuro - makes for great contrast on both sides of the image. 

12. The best part of the trip for me was scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. I learned to scuba this year for the sole purpose of diving and shooting the reef. It took three or four dives before I became comfortable with my camera underwater - this was a Canon DSLR in a Ikelite case - but by the end, I was feeling more confident. It was an amazing experience - like sitting at the bottom of the world's best fishtank. 

12. The best part of the trip for me was scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. I learned to scuba this year for the sole purpose of diving and shooting the reef. It took three or four dives before I became comfortable with my camera underwater - this was a Canon DSLR in a Ikelite case - but by the end, I was feeling more confident. It was an amazing experience - like sitting at the bottom of the world's best fishtank. 

13. Our friend the koala - also seen on the cover of my  Australia calendar . This was in Kuranda - something of a tourist trap, but fun to wander through for a day. 

13. Our friend the koala - also seen on the cover of my Australia calendar. This was in Kuranda - something of a tourist trap, but fun to wander through for a day. 

That's it - I hope you enjoyed them, and I'm looking forward to shooting more in 2016!

Cosplay Workshop by Josh Trudell

Remember those New Year's resolutions we were all excited about six weeks ago? Go to the gym, eat less, be kinder, etc., etc.?

While my gym membership is gathering a bit of dust, I did check off at least a start to one resolution last weekend. I wanted to try more photography with models - experimenting with light and movement and so on. 

In an excellent coincidence, it happened that Jennifer Lynn Larsen and Mika Nicole, two wonderful models, decided to put together a workshop in February for photographers interested in cosplay photography. 

That's a tricky subject to shoot, because it can be a fine line between powerful and alluring to ridiculous. Jennifer and Mika led a workshop in helping photographers communicate with their models. It was definitely worth attending bringing home some important points to get both people on the same page. 

Jennifer and Mika also modeled for us, starting as Dark Phoenix (Jennifer) and Jean Grey (Mika), then 1960s Catwoman (Jennifer) and Harley Quinn (Mika). Below are some of the results.  

 

I've got a lot of things to work on, but this was a really fun exercise. I'm looking forward to working with them again. 

San Antonio Cattle Drive by Josh Trudell

Cowboys and longhorns on Houston Street in San Antonio. 

Photographing the longhorn drive in downtown San Antonio was a treat – it’s a nifty juxtaposition of cattle and civilization.

I got there about 20 minutes before the parade started, and the sidewalks were already filling up quickly. I knew I wouldn’t be able to move far without losing my streetside spot once it started, so I staked out a spot on the curb and waited.

Without any official numbers, I’d guess there were between 75-100 longhorns, with several groups on horseback, bands, youth groups and one sheep herder helping to round out the parade.

With a relatively limited amount of mobility, I tried several tactics to help vary the shot selection, including shooting up to get some of the buildings behind the cattle, reinforcing that juxtaposition. I also zoomed in, looking for details and patterns.

Part of the celebration was a group of Native American dancers in front of the Alamo – colorful tornados spinning and whirling to the music. In my mind, events like this are great, no-stress practice. I wasn’t assigned to it by any publication – I was just out shooting for fun, and it made for a rewarding afternoon. 

If you'd like to see more photos, you can find them on my Flickr page

Post it, note it, post it.... by Josh Trudell

A few notes, as I’m trying to pick up all the confetti from the Patriots winning another Super Bowl:

Take a peek: If you happen to be visiting San Antonio City Hall and Municipal Plaza, take a minute and look around. The photography exhibit – curated by Public Art of San Antonio and including some work by yours truly – is up, and after getting a chance to walk through, I’m humbled to have some of my work included.

At San Antonio City Hall with one of my prints - part of a small series called Canyon Waves.  Photo by Julia Selwyn

At San Antonio City Hall with one of my prints - part of a small series called Canyon Waves. Photo by Julia Selwyn

There are some wildly different styles and a lot of really creative work.  We got a “friends and family” tour of the installation last week, and it was fascinating to meet and talk with other photographers and see how they created.

My pieces – a series of black-and-white prints from Arizona and Utah - are near the City Manager’s office, but there’s art all over the building. Bureaucracy never looked so good.

Throwing their megapixels on the table: Canon announced recently that they have a 50-megapixel full-frame body coming soon, and the Sony rumor mill is churning about a 50-MP model of their own.

I’ve been quite happy with my 24.3 MP Sony, but I had to wonder – potentially how big a photo file are we talking about here?

According to Photography Life, it’s roughly 8700x5800 pixels. 8700 pixels = 120 inches = 1 10-foot across file. Ten. Feet.

Wallpaper, anyone? And whatever a photographer has left over from buying that camera had better go into hard drive space, because those are going to be some huge files.

Isn’t it about that time?: Less than a week until the first sign of spring – Truck Day! I'm thrilled the Patriots won, but bring on the Red Sox (and spring).

Movieola: Mid-February always seems to be the dumping ground for stuff that might have been good, but ran into some fatal flaw and couldn’t overcome it. Examples include Daredevil and Ghost Rider – we’ll have to see if Jupiter Ascending can overcome it.

Shooting: I’ve got some fun plans on tap in the next couple of weeks, including some cosplay photography, the cattle drive through downtown San Antonio and a trip out to Enchanted Rock. I’m especially looking forward to the cosplay photography – I’ve been hoping to do more work with models this year.

And the Australia countdown continues…

New Exhibit! by Josh Trudell

I'm happy to announce that Public Art of San Antonio has chosen seven of my photographs to be part of a exhibit at San Antonio City Hall starting in January 2015.

The exhibit will be running until July 2015, and will feature several photographers from around San Antonio. I'm told there will be a reception in late January - I'll update my Facebook page when I have more details.

The photographs that were chosen are black-and-white images, taken during my trip to Arizona and Utah in 2013. 

This comes at a great time for me - I've been trying to figure out what my next steps might be while I'm preparing for a big trip next fall (Australia! WOOT!). I'm looking forward to working with PASA - I've heard nothing but good things about their work. 

On that note, happy Holidays to you and yours!

 

Magazine Cover Shot! by Josh Trudell

Today’s lesson: Don’t be afraid of taking on something that’s going to push you – it can lead to some really good things.

Such as the magazine cover above – my first magazine cover shot, hitting stores in the next week or so.

Late in the fall of 2013, I was asked if I had any ideas for this issue. I pitched five ideas, hoping they would pick one. Instead I discovered they were a bit short on copy – and they wanted all five – plus a sixth - with photos.

Three months of interviewing and photographing later, I had a phone full of stories and memory cards full of images. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all in print.

Even though each piece in the magazine runs well over 2,000 words (in some cases too far over, the inner editor says), there were some anecdotes I had to leave out, either because of length or because they didn’t speak to the story I was writing.

John Clark of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association was one of the people I spoke with. Standing in his garage as he carefully rebuilt a 1949 M-38 Jeep, John shared some of his experiences in the Air Force and then rebuilding old Jeeps and trucks at his home.

This is one of his stories – it’s one I couldn’t use in the magazine, but it is a good story about a good deed, and it was worth sharing.

(Edited lightly for clarity)

“There was a World War II veteran named James Priddy from over in Lockhart, Texas. He was really a good friend of mine. He and his wife did a lot for the community of Lockhart. They were up in their 80s.

Mrs. Priddy had passed away…this was a couple of years ago.

We were at a memorial service for Mrs. Priddy. And I said to his daughter. “You know we put our military vehicles in the Chisholm Trail Roundup Parade, and I want to ask your dad if he’ll honor us with his presence.”

And at the time, Mr. Priddy was about 84, he was getting dialysis three times a week, he was suffering from the frostbite he had gotten on his feet in World War II, he had everything in the world wrong with him, but he was just the kindest, gentlest, most cheerful man.

No matter how bad he felt, if you asked him how he was, he’d say, “’Bout fair to middlin.’”

His daughter talked to him and she said, “Yeah, Daddy would kind of like to be in the parade.”

I said, “Well, I’ve got to talk to him first and let him know what we’re going to do, because going from a wheelchair to riding in one of those M-37s on a 100-degree day is not easy, especially for someone in his condition.

I went to him in the nursing home and said, “Mr. Priddy, what do you think about riding with us in the parade. You think you can do it?” and he said, “Well, I will if I can.” I knew when he said that that if it was at all possible, he was going to make it.

I had just finished redoing that blue truck (an Air Force truck for one of the other members). And I was talking with Priddy’s daughter and she said, “This isn’t going to work.”

“What do you mean this isn’t going to work?”

She said, “Daddy was in the Army. He wasn’t in the Air Force. He’s not going to want to ride in an Air Force truck.”

And I thought, Oh, no. After all this we went through, which was nothing compared to what he went through.

But I called Danny (Kaiser, another member of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association) and I told him what the problem was. He said, “What’s the problem?”

I said ‘Danny, we’ve got to have an Army truck.’ ”

And he said, “Well, Madison’s got an Army M-37. And Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, it will show up in front of the nursing home to pick up Mr. Priddy.”

I went with Madison (Hughes, another Lone Star MVPA member), and we pulled up in front of the nursing home, and sure enough, there was Jim sitting there in his wheelchair, ready to go, with his VFW cap on.

We got him in the truck, and I said, “Mr. Priddy, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you.”

He said, ‘What’s that?”

I said, “Well, I wanted to find you a nice blue Air Force hat to wear in the parade, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. The only thing I could find for you to wear is this old black hat.”

He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I pulled out a new black cap that said US Army: World War II. He put the cap on.

“Mr. Priddy was sitting there in the truck, waiting for the parade to start. He never complained or anything. He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I didn’t disturb him, and he’d just look off in the distance for three or four minutes, then he’d look down at that hat again, and turn it around and put it back on his head.”

He was riding in the passenger seat of that M-37 with signs on the truck that said Jim Priddy, U.S. Army, World War II, and I thought, ‘What if nobody cares? What if they’re just sitting there and say, ‘There’s another parade vehicle.’

Big mistake on my part. The people started cheering. One old guy was in a wheelchair, and stood up, and saluted. That sure makes it all worthwhile.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I had known Mr. Priddy for years, had known he was in World War II, but didn’t know anything about it.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, “Jim and his wife were over in our house the other night, and did you know, Jim was in some big battle in World War II. I think he might have been on Normandy Beach or something.”

That got me interested in finding out what he’d actually done. He was a Purple Heart veteran, and nobody knew it. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded there Dec. 24, 1944 in the Ardenne Forest. He never talked about it much.

What people knew about Jim Priddy and his wife, they were very active in the Lions Club, He was in the Masonic Lodge, and he had run a feed and grain store in Lockhart for several years.

Anytime people needed help in Lockhart with any kind of civil program, they were always ready to step up and help out.

That Saturday, the people of Lockhart saw the whole story.

Two judges stands, one in the middle of the parade, and one that the end. When we got to the first one, they made a special announcement, “This is our Jim Priddy, from Lockhart.” Everybody cheered that day.

His daughter said, “With the state he’s in, I figured he’d be dog-tired and sleep for a week. I never saw so lively and animated and feeling so good as he did that day.”

He passed away six months later.

He never had a chance to see the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, but he had his day in Lockhart.

Note: James Priddy passed away in January 2012.

Emptying out the Glacier notebook by Josh Trudell

Goat Some leftovers from this trip.

Sell my soul for cell service: AT&T was worthless in the park, getting zero data or cell service. The only hotel with decent wifi strength was the St. Mary Lodge and Resort, which is just outside the edge of the park. The hotels actually in park have pathetic wifi – if you were up for sunrise or up past 10:30 p.m., you could hope to get online, but it was virtually impossible otherwise.

(Yes, I know – in one of the great outdoor playgrounds, shouldn’t I be outside enjoying it? I completely agree – but it would be nice to e-mail my wife or see how the Sox did that day.)

Beer me: Highly recommend the local beers, especially the Going to the Sun IPA. That’s a fine beverage.

Bear me: There are bears (and moose, and other possibly-violent-when-provoked critters). Go hiking in a group. Don't bother with bear bells - ding, ding, dinnertime! - but bear mace is a good idea.

(Not) Bare me: Temperatures change quickly – I noticed a drop of 10 degrees just driving from Columbia Falls to Lake McDonald. Layers are key. (and good socks with liners for your feet.)

Winnah, winnah: Be kind to your servers – they may well have more advanced degrees than you.

For example, our charming waitress from Estonia at St. Mary’s Lodge, who had just finished her masters in etymology with a focus in folklore. And was two weeks from getting married. A word of advice to her new husband - good luck keeping up with her, but she's a keeper.

Class acts and great folks: We didn’t always get the best weather, but I can’t say enough about the group, which is really what makes these trips fun. Jim and Susie Kay kept the ship rolling, and the conversations and camaraderie from everyone were priceless. I can’t wait to do it again.

Glacier National Park, Days 6 and 7 by Josh Trudell

Glacier-National-Park-Day-7 Up long before the sun, we settled in to shoot the sun coming up behind us , which just happened to be lighting up Mount Grinnell and the lake. It’s a tough way to start the day, really.

The 50 mph wind gusts were chilly, but they also kept the mosquitoes away. (It was a little disconcerting later on to be editing photos from the trip and realize what I had thought was a spot on my lens was really a giant mosquito).

After doing our best to capture it, we moved onto a hearty breakfast and then the longest hike of the trip - 10 miles round trip to Iceberg Lake. My tender feet were complaining a bit, but I wasn't going to miss anything if I could help it.

Iceberg-Lake-TrailThe hills leading to the lake had many thick patches of beargrass - stalks with large white bulbs on the end - and colorful wildflowers.

Sadly, a driving rain forced us back not long after reaching the lake, which sits in a steep-walled bowl at the foot of Iceberg Mountain and Mount Wilbur. The aquamarine water and white ice made a dazzling combination, even in the rain.

After a quick lunch, we quick marched out of the rain squall and enjoyed the fresh air and open spaces on the way down to a celebratory Going To The Sun IPA. My feet celebrated in some comfortable shoes and a long hot shower.

On the last morning, we were again up for sunrise, but cloud banks denied us. With the wind having died down, we each got some memorial mosquito bites to mark our time there.

With the howling winds of the last couple of days, the smoke had finally blown away from the park, and I tried to take advantage of it while on my way back to Kalispell.

From Many Glacier, I headed around the western and southern edges of the park, photographing fields of wildflowers and enjoying the beautiful drive.

With my feet still a little tender, I stopped along the way and gingerly walked out to Running Eagle Falls. It was my last photo from the trip, but ended up being the lead photo in a story I wrote about it (which you can read).

It is a beautiful spot. Harsh direct sunlight on the foaming water made the whites tough to capture, but multiple filters helped.

Sitting in the Kalispell airport - which is remarkably comfortable for an airport this size - it was easy to decide to come back here someday soon. There's still so much to see.

Glacier National Park, Day 5 by Josh Trudell

Day-5-1
Day-5-1

Sometimes, when everything else fails, you just have to go over the fence. We started our next to last day with plans to hike the Grinnell Glacier trail. Unfortunately, we found that once up on the side of the mountain, our plans were thwarted: Photographically by haze from wildfires and physically by 80-mph gusts swirling around the mountain.

With the scenic lookout hazed out, we walked down the trail to Grinnell Lake, where we had some lunch as the ground squirrels tried to cute their way into some crumbs. (I cannot confirm or deny if they succeeded.)

Hiking back, we wandered up a small side trail to Hidden Falls, a tight little gorge. Sensing an opportunity, we slid a little closer to the falls than might have been prescribed by fences and captured several frames.

Camping out on the edge while we shot was a little interesting, but thankfully the ground wasn’t wet enough for us to slide.

After making our way back to the hotel, we walked outside again to the little creek joining Swiftcurrent Lake to Lake Sherburne, which has a dynamic waterfall rushing through several tiers.

One of the things I worked on this trip was my use of neutral density filters, and this was one place where I felt it really made a difference having one on my camera. The hot whites in the foam were calmed down, and being able to create a two or three second exposure created that silky look.

In the photo at the top, I'm experimenting with black and white conversions with that photo. I may end up making it available as a print, once I fine tune it some more - the dark area in the middle could use more detail.

After another evening enjoying our balcony view of the mountains, we hit the sack early – preparing for our longest hike of the trip.

Glacier National Park, Day 4 by Josh Trudell

Montana-Day-4 Up bright and very early, we were hoping for a sunrise over the waterway joining Lower Saint Mary Lake and Saint Mary Lake, just a short walk from our hotel.

It didn't blossom quite as much as we hoped, but seeing the sun rise over the mountains is a wonderful way to start any morning.

After breakfast we rolled into Many Glacier early – the last stop on our trip, and one of the most interesting places to visit in the park, with trails to three peaks radiating up from the bowl around Swiftcurrent Lake.

We could have taken the rest of the trip and just studied the lake and the backdrop of Mount Grinnell and the Lewis Range. Perched on our balconies overlooking the lake (bragging a little? Okay, maybe a little), we were able to watch the clouds and light shifting from moment to moment.

Some of the most dynamic images from the trip were made while sitting out there. It could be a retirement home for photographers.

Since it wasn’t quite time to retire for the evening, we got in a bonus walk to Swiftwater Falls – a nice combination of rushing water and wildflowers.

Glacier National Park, Day 3 by Josh Trudell

Montana-3 The time between blog entries lately has been roughly equivalent to the time between Red Sox wins this year. Is it time for spring training yet?

I did promise myself that I would wrap up the entries for this trip, so here we go.

After two days at Lake McDonald, we started our path toward the eastern side of the park, starting with a morning photographing Avalanche Creek.

Still plagued by smoky haze obscuring the skies, we focused on the waterfall, which the trail follows for about the first mile before veering away from water until it reaches Avalanche Lake.

Montana-4The lush landscape around the creek is full of tiny details – new leaves, tiny saplings, dripping moss – all with a background of rushing water. It makes for tons of elements to play with. I love those little details – photographically, I think they can make places seem more tangible than wider shots do.

We could have spent all day just puttering around this set of falls, but after a couple of hours we decided to mosey down the road a bit. We had hopped back and forth over the Continental Divide before, but today we crossed it for good, making our way to Virginia Falls.

If you like photographing moving water, this is a great hike – the two-mile-plus trail runs parallel to rushing water for most of the way, ranging from small drops to the more than 50-feet multi-tiered monster that is Virginia Falls. The wind kept showering our gear with spray from the falls, but we all climbed around the falls, getting our feet wet and trying to capture the beauty

We crashed that night at St. Mary Lodge and Resort, wiped out after a full day of hiking and shooting. A noticeable improvement: Wifi was only available in the main building, but it was much faster than anywhere else we stayed.

Glacier National Park, Day 2 by Josh Trudell

Trudell---Goats Work, work, work…let’s get back to talking about something fun – like hiking and photographing in Glacier National Park.

I try not to think of going on these trips in terms of goals – that implies work, and that takes a lot of the fun out of it. But, for lack of a better term, a goal for this trip was to get some good frames of one of the big three that are often seen in Glacier – bear, moose and elk.

Driving up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, we were on a narrow stretch of road when two bear cubs tumbled across the road two cars in front of us as their mother trudged after them. The cubs then ran back to her before all three of them made their way across the road, over a nearly vertical edge, and out of sight.

No chance for photos, but it seemed like a good omen for the rest of our trip.Trudell---Marmots

Another good omen popped up when marmots – promptly dubbed minigrizz – were spotted near the trail. One adventurous type walked right up to the board-covered trail, peaking its head over the edge.

Our goal that day was Hidden Lake, near the top of Logan Pass. It was fun and a little strange to be slipping and sliding on slushy snow in July, but it made the walk entertaining. Getting up the trail early was a definite benefit – by the time we started heading back down, the slippery trail was full of people – some dressed more than questionably for hiking in Montana. Flip-flops were not the best idea.

When we reached the top of the pass, mountain goats ambled down from their perch on the sheer sides surrounding us and nibbled on the grass peeking through the snow.

The original plan was to hike over the pass down to the lake, but the trail to the lake was closed – ironically, because a bear was in the area feasting on the fish. We consoled ourselves with photographing the baby goats following their parents down the hillside to nap on the ledges and the teenage marmots wrestling just below us.

After sliding down the hill, we motored back to our roost at Lake McDonald Lodge. The location is gorgeous – if for some reason you aren’t enthralled with the scenery, you should know that Internet access is as slow as the stuffed animals on the walls.

After dinner, we went back out, photographing a rushing stream and ending with the pink glow of sunset over the lake.

Glacier National Park, Day 1 by Josh Trudell

Glacier-National-Park-Day-1 So, that plan of updating from the road while shooting in Montana? That didn’t quite pan out for a couple of reasons.

One is that AT&T has absolutely zero service in Glacier National Park. Couldn’t call, couldn’t e-mail – nothing. (Which was beneficial, in a way – while it’s fun to occasionally hit Facebook with the Good Morning sunrise photo, it helps to stay locked in).

Second was that I had forgotten how much work a trip like that can be. It’s more rewarding than any day in any office, but being up and focused pre-sunrise to post-sunset makes for a long day.

So here are some thoughts from the trip in the usual day-by-day breakdown format. (Most recently, that was used for the trip to Italy.)

Getting to Glacier National Park was pretty straightforward – one hop via United to Denver, then a second hop to Kalispell, MT. If you’re headed to Glacier, it’s easier to skip downtown Kalispell and fuel up on gas and food in Columbia Falls.

Driving into the park is an experience. From the flat area around Kalispell, the road snakes into a mountain pass before rising into some rolling foothills. The road rises gradually before diving to Lake McDonald, where we started the trip.

My workshop was led by James Kay Photography, and included some brilliant photographers: Carrie LaPow, Claudia O’Grady, Michael Blanchette and Lynda Holman. With Carrie’s daughter and Claudia’s significant other along, we had a varied and interesting group of people. Jim and Susie Kay are wonderful photographers in their own right, and did a great job keeping the troop organized and moving along.

After meeting at the Lake McDonald Lodge, where we spent our first two nights, we went out and photographed a nearby fast-moving creek that emptied into the lake. It was a good trial run for us to get a feel for each other, and for me to get a feel for the gear I rented.

The lenses – a 16-35 Zeiss 2.8 and a 70-400 zoom, both of which I’ve rented and used before – worked like a charm. One of the lessons I had taken away from my last trip was getting a more reliable, sturdier tripod than the $50 Sony I had been using. To that end, I rented an Induro tripod with a Kirk BH-3 ballhead.

The tripod immediately ran into problems, as a joint on one leg refused to completely go back together after being extended. Luckily, I was able to hobble along for the rest of the trip with only two joints that could extend. (Jim offered to lend me his tripod, but I didn’t want to damage anything else.) BorrowLenses.com did issue me a partial refund for the tripod, too (not a full, since I was able to use it.)

So with a slightly red face – because really, who wants to be the kid whose toys break on the first day? – I took up shooting the stream with the others, and we captured some nice extended exposures.

Little did I know that this would become a week of photographing water practice…

Emptying the Italy notebook... by Josh Trudell

fountain Shooting: I had initially planned to rent two lenses for this trip – a big telephoto and a wide-angle. In an effort to keep the budget under control, however, I only rented one – a 16-35 2.8 Zeiss wide-angle. I’ve used this lens before and been very happy with it, and it proved its worth again.

Having a good wide angle for the narrow streets (and canals) of the old cities and for the vistas from the Pathway of the Gods trail made it the best choice. I don’t think I would have pulled out a big zoom more than once or twice if it had been in my bag.

No pictures, please: The guards are STRICT about pictures in the Sistine Chapel, constantly letting people have it (of course, these people are trying to be sneaky with their cell phones, too.)

That was the only place in the Apostolic Palace (or anywhere else) that I saw the photo guards come down hard, though – virtually everywhere else was very receptive. If you ask the waiters, you can often get some pictures of the cooks working in the kitchen, which can make for some fun shots.

Food in Venice: Small bar/cafés are popular, and it's easy to get a quick sandwich to go, put it in a backpack and have it later. Pizza by the slice is also a popular snack. Take advantage of the small to-go cafes - they are much cheaper than any restaurant.

The coolest single moment: Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica. Just a few steps in, you can stand where Charlemagne was crowned head of the Holy Roman Empire. Turn right, and there's Michelangelo's Pieta.

Italy: Day 12 by Josh Trudell

Coast-Towns-2 I had a mission on our trip to Italy.

For years I had been seeing beautiful images of the Amalfi coast lit up by the evening sun, and I was determined to get one of my own.

After our hike across the Pathway of the Gods, we were ready for a relatively quiet day, so we took the bus from our hotel (after another fabulous Luigi breakfast) to Ravello.

Ravello, nestled between the coast town of Amalfi and the mountains, has a road to it that makes the narrow and winding coast road look like the Autobahn. It winds up the side of the cliffs on hairpin turns, past gardens cut into the hillside, before reaching a brief flat shelf in the rock.

Walking from one side of town to the other meant crossing the shelf, from views of the Med on one side to views of the rising hills on the other.

The shops there are filled with red coral jewelry, made from the offshore coral beds. The necklaces, earrings and brooches were beautiful, but pricy. Wandering through town, we found the Villa Rufulo – a huge building/park with beautiful flower gardens overlooking the Mediterranean.

Hustling back down the hillside, we made it to the waterfront just as the sun began to edge downward, lighting up the hillside buildings. It’s a little touristy around the waterfront, but the views made it worthwhile.

Coast-Towns-1I ran out onto a pier stretching into the water, where I took a couple of panoramas – plus these gents – but wasn’t really capturing the look I wanted.

Back on the beach, however, the water, light and waves came together for one of my favorite photos from the trip.

It was a great capper as our last full day in Italy – the next day, we caught an early car and train for Rome in the pouring rain (the only day it rained), and began our journey home.

Italy, Day 11 by Josh Trudell

Pathway-3 Where do they go?

They go up…and up…and up.

Rousing ourselves, we fueled up with another wonderful breakfast from Luigi’s kitchen and made our way to the center of Praiano, where we began climbing the steps up to the Sentiero Degli Dei – the Pathway of the Gods.

The trail runs from Bomerano to Positano – starting from Praiano, we were roughly in the middle. If we had taken the bus to Bomerano to start, we would have had an easier starting point and walked longer, but we opted for the many, many stairs – at least 1,900, by some accounts - up to the trail from the Praiano city center.

If every Stairmaster has these views, they would be a lot more popular. Looking up and down the coast, we could see for miles – clouds swarming over a mountain to the north, waves crashing on the coastline, sunlit seaside villages to the south.

Pathway-2If you have an issue with heights or vertigo, this hike could be a challenge. The trail isn’t much more than a goat path – with actual goats – in spots. The four-legged friends (with an occasional shepherd) hung around the trail, munching on grass as we passed by.

Able to look straight down in spots, we could see cars winding along the twisty coastal road far below. There are occasionally wooden rails in place, but more often not.

The trail winds past a couple of monasteries in mixed repair – one seemed to be open, while another was shuttered. Most signs of man were smaller, though, especially looking up the hills – the ruins of a stone house on a high meadow, or a trailside shrine built into a small cave.

As we walked, the wind and rain caught up to us briefly, but luckily not long enough to be soaking or dangerous.

By the time we reached Positano, our feet were sore from the rocky hike. The 1,600 steps from the trail down to the road, while wider and easier than the hike up, were still challenging. We were happy to call Luigi (which he told us to do before we left) and he came to pick us up.

Sore feet or not, if someone asks you to hike the Pathway of the Gods…you say yes.

Italy, Days 9-10 by Josh Trudell

Pensione-Pellegrino Every stop on a trip could start like this.

After being welcomed to our hotel, our host pours us glasses of cool limoncello and offers us fresh, homemade, incredibly good midafternoon pastry/desserts.

After most of a day’s train and car ride, we made it to our final stop – the Amalfi coast. Specifically, Pensione Pellegrino in the town of Praiano.

Luigi Rispoli, our host, welcomed us warmly, to say the least, helping us with our bags, offering some limoncello and a midafternoon snack. From our ocean front balcony, we could see the water crashing into the rocks on the coastline.

This is a good example of the benefits of traveling during “shoulder season” – the prices were much more reasonable than they might be during high season.

Since it was so late in the season – Luigi told us we were the last customers of the year – the kitchen at the inn wasn’t fully operational for dinner. He drove us into town for a late dinner and picked us up when we were done –one of the many above-and-beyond services he offered while we were there.

As we had prepared for this trip, I had seen those click-friendly slideshows of the most beautiful abandoned places in the world – one of which is in the Valley of the Mills in Sorrento, an hour-long bus ride from where we were staying.

Down in the overgrown chasm, vines and branches wrapped around the stones of the old flour mill and sawmill, almost completely hiding them.

The Valley of the Mills in Sorrento.

I could have spent hours exploring this, but eventually lunch became a pressing issue, and we headed out to the waterfront for lunch.

Stone buttresses that have been holding up this part of the coast for centuries lined the shore from our vantage point on a floating restaurant.

Content to window-shop among Sorrento’s many shops and take it easy, we relaxed before our big plans for the next day – hiking the Pathway of the Gods.

Italy, Day 8 by Josh Trudell

Rome-Drive-by-1 Our British friends from Venice had recommended a tour guide to take us to some of the secret spots around Rome, so we got in touch with Fabrizzio and spent most of the morning being driven around the city.

One of the sites we found was a rather dull looking parking lot, sandwiched between several apartment buildings. It didn’t look like much, but it’s the site of one of the most famous murders in history.

This is where Pompey’s Theater was, Fabrizzio tells us. This is where Julius Caesar was killed.

With our minds a trifle blown, we continued on, finding spots that we probably wouldn’t have reached after four days of beating our feet against the slate sidewalks. We had stocked up on comfortable shoes and socks, but even with them, our feet were worn down.

Rome-DriveBy2

I indulged in some guerrilla shooting as we rolled along in Fabrizzio's open air cart - perching the camera on my knee and taking pictures as we drove by. I've occasionally done this in the past - not in an attempt to embarrass anyone, but to try and capture people how they really are, without posing.

We ended at the church of St. Ignatius, a beautiful church somewhat off the usual tourist tracks. Having Fabrizio with us was a benefit much like our Colosseum guide – a Rome resident with their own perspective on the glories around them.

After a siesta, we went back to Castel Sant’Angelo and I started my usual trip ritual of night photography. Every time we visit a city, I try to carve out at least one evening for night photography, and Rome is a heavenly spot for it.

Despite the darkening skies, a boisterous game of soccer was taking place in what would have been a moat around the castle. The building, once the largest in Rome, is the tomb of Emperor Hadrian and his family, among other leaders.

After photographing the castle, we went back to the Colosseum. It is photographed by everyone who visits Rome, but I had to take a shot at it. We were lucky enough to be there on the night of the full moon, and my favorite shot of the trip is this one:

Italy

The Colosseum was under construction, but the moon peeking through the arches really got to me.

It is worth noting that the light vendors around the Pantheon repeatedly frigged up some shots, but that seems to happen near every major landmark in a city these days.

Italy: Day 7 by Josh Trudell

Colosseum I didn’t say it.

I really wanted to say it.

But I didn’t say it.

Standing on the floor of the Colosseum, the crowd buzzing in anticipation, the urge to bellow, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!” was very, very hard to resist.

But I managed to restrain myself, much to the relief of my traveling companion and the guide, who had probably seen that done far too many times.

The Colosseum has always been a place for “bloody spectacles,” said our guide, Camilla Verdacchi, who led us to the basement of the great stadium, where we could look up at the crowd above.

“It's really incredible how many people died here,” she said. “It was not the circus. It was not the theater — it was the amphitheater, a place for bloody spectacles.”

Verdacchi's entertaining expertise and bypassing the huge lines trying to get into Rome's biggest attraction made paying for the tour a no-brainer.

Big is no joke, either. The Colosseum's three decks once held between 50,000 and 80,000 people, which is all the more impressive for a building put together by hand with basic tools.

Sadly, much of the outer marble façade was stripped over the years by needy foremen working on buildings in other parts of the city, but there is still a grandeur surrounding the massive stadium.

Our tour led us through the Forum, including the area believed to be the cremation site of Julius Caesar, inside a nondescript low stone hut that is all that is left of a once-massive temple. Even 2,000 years later, however, the grave was graced with flowers.

After wandering through the remnants of the Forum, we ended our tour on the third deck of the Colosseum (another perk of the tour – general admission only gets you into the first and second decks). The decks were noticeably lower and wider than the steep-walled modern-day parks.

Beard

It was only a few steps from the Colosseum to the Capitoline Museums, where we browsed through huge statutes and fine art virtually undisturbed.

*Portions of this post appeared in a story I wrote about the trip to Rome for the San Antonio Express-News, titled “Plenty of spectacles, history in Rome.”

Italy: Day 6 by Josh Trudell

Pompeii Building roads. Arguing over lunch. Putting out laundry. Leading ordinary lives – before they were buried under hundreds of feet of ash.

From the ruins of Pompeii, it’s hard to miss the decapitated mountain that snuffed out all those lives – Vesuvius sprawls in the distance, looking more like a group of smaller mountains rather than one massive peak since its explosion.

Taking a brief respite from Rome, we hopped the train and headed out to the ruins.

It’s a relatively easy train ride from Rome to Pompeii, but it is three hours long, with a change in Naples. The journey was worth it, though.

Despite being buried under the ashes from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius for hundreds of years, restoration and preservation efforts showed what was once a busy, prosperous city. The narrow stone streets are grooved from chariot tracks — except where they stopped as a rebuilding project was halted by the explosion.

As we came to an intersection, open buildings on opposite corners held what appeared to be benches and counters with holes that once held hot food — they appeared to be competing chariot drive-through restaurants.

The narrow streets open into the main piazza, a wide grassy area that, with the open plateau the city rests on, gives Pompeii the feel of a park.

In comparison, Herculaneum – another town destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius - is wall-to-wall with the modern-day town of Ercolano on three sides. Laundry hanging from neighboring apartment buildings flutters over the edge of the ruins.

We initially were unsure about stopping in Herculaneum - by the time we left, Pompeii it was getting late in the afternoon, and we were hoping to stop in Naples for pizza on the way back to Rome.

But the stop for Ercolano is only a couple of stops from Pompeii, so we jumped off the train and enjoyed the short walk through the city streets. We were glad we did. The mosaics and paintings were better preserved than what we saw in Pompeii, with bright blues and reds still marking the tiles.

Far fewer people were touring the site, and more of the city was available for simple wandering.

Studies have suggested that Herculaneum's condition is better than Pompeii's because ash helped prevent buildings from collapsing, creating an airtight seal that lasted until major excavation began at the site in 1738.

As we ducked into and out of the narrow doorways, the difference between the two communities became clearer — Pompeii was more of a commercial hub, with wider streets and bigger buildings, while Herculaneum was a bedroom community.

pizza Stopping in Naples – where pizza was invented – was an adventure all by itself. With the city suffering ongoing garbage disposal issues, the piles of trash on the street corners were huge. Combined with a lack of streetlights – we walked six blocks from the train station and didn’t see a light – it was a challenge.

The pizza, however, was excellent. Da Pellone only serves pizza – huge slabs of fresh crust with cheese and sauce in true Neapolitan style, and it was fantastic.

The cooks were kind enough to let me shoot a few frames of them cooking, too, which was a real treat.

*Portions of this post appeared in a story I wrote about the trip to Pompeii for the San Antonio Express-News, titled “Under the Ash Lay a Prosperous Pompeii.”