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Elgol – Isle of Skye

Travel stock image: Rocky coast at Elgol with Cuillins in background, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The rugged and rocky coastline at at Elgol with it’s view back towards the mighty Black Cuillins as they rise from Lock Scavaig is one of the more iconic photo locations on the Isle of Skye.  As long as one is willing to gamble on good weather, it is well worth the long drive down the winding single lane road.

Snow covered peak on the left is Gars-Bheinn at the start of the famous Cuillin ridge.  Sgurr na Stri is the lower, snowless peak towards the center.  To the left of that sits Loch Coruisk, another marvelously scenic, and isolated, place and Skye.  There is a nice hiking route that starts in the north at Sligachan and passes by loch Coruisk and then around the coast under Sgurr na Stri to Camasunary and eventually finishing here at Elgol.

One of my stupider moments in life happened along the coast under Sgurr na Stri.  It had just finished raining ( = slippery rocks), I was trying to eat a piece of chocolate while at the same time messing with my camera to take a picture of Bla Bheinn rising above the Camasunary bothy.  Well, I slipped and ended up upside down; nothing bad, just a little ‘oops’ moment.  Not wanting to drop my camera on the muddy ground, I couldn’t use my hands to get myself up.  And not wanting to drop the piece of chocolate in my mouth that I had been munching on, I couldn’t talk clearly enough to ask my friend to pull on my backpack to help me up.  So was upside down with my backpack on top of me and unable to move.  Totally stuck, but only because I didn’t want to drop my camera or chocolate.  Finally my friend came to the rescue after a moment of wondering if I was practicing some new form of mountain yoga.  Luckily there was only two of us to witness this event.

Landscape stock photography - Elgol and Black Cuillin, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Salton Sea

photo of old dock in water, Salton Sea, California

I was amazed out how far the water has dropped in the 5 years since I was last at the Salton Sea.  I drove to this location in the darkness of morning, remembering it to be a cool place that I last visited when I was shooting B&W film on a Hasselblad and spending hours and hour in a darkroom instead of hours and hours on a computer as I do now.  How things have changed.  There used to be cool set of the old docks that were on the edge of the water.  Now they are landlocked hundreds of feet from the current shore of the sea.  I also remember this little dock in the picture above could only be accessed by wading through knee deep water.  Now one can drive to only a few feet away.  Change is constant.

Salton Sea sunrise, California

Badwater Dawn – Death Valley

Badwater basin, Death Valley national park, Californai

Winter sunrise over Badwater basin and Panamint mountains, Death Valley national park, California.

This light lasted 3 minutes before the color faded into a washed out and overcast day.  At 6am I counted 19 other photographers within sight.  Quite the popular place to be on that morning.  The next morning however, I only saw 3 other photographers.  Though it was raining so maybe that scared all the others away…

Lone Pine Peak

Lone Pine peak and Sierra Nevada mountains panoramic image

Lone Pine peak in dawn light, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California.

Mount Whitney Sunrise

Mt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada mountains, California panoramic landscape photo

Winter sunrise over mount Whitney and the Sierra Nevada mountains as seen from the Alabama Hills, California.

This is a location that is better photographed in winter/early spring.  Besides it not being 110˚ F as it can be in summer.  The main reason is that the winter sun rises further towards the south, which creates better patterns of shadow and light on the mountain ridges than occur in summer.  And then there’s always something nice about the day’s first light on freshly fallen snow.  I find in summer this scene can also appear slightly ‘tired’ and dry, for lack of a better description.

Lofoten Islands Winter Photo Gallery

Lofoten islands winter photo gallery: click here.

In early January I traveled north into the Norwegian arctic in search of the polar night.  At 68 degrees north, I was unfortunately too low and too late for a true polar night, finding only the ‘polar twilight.’  Twilight would begin around 9:30 AM and last until around 3:00, all other hours of the day I would consider to be night and stars were visible.  It was actually far brighter than I was expecting when the sky was clear, the day being essentially a 4 hour long sunrise/sunset all merged into one before the night’s darkness arrived again.  Needless to say, I got a lot of reading done.

Since there are no tourists to the islands at this time of year and no hostels are open I was left to sleep in my (tiny) rental car as best as I could.  Which wasn’t very good.  Only having a 0˚ C sleeping bag and temps down to -7-8˚ C ensured for some cold nights.  I felt like some contortionist trying to fit inside the car to sleep.  I could fold the back seats down, but there was no possible way for me to get even somewhat comfortable.  Better than an airplane seat, yes, but the cold and my lack of a proper sleeping bag would mean that if I didn’t maintain good blood flow to my feet, they would become super cold.  On one of the nights it snowed so much that I could hardly get out of my parking area in the morning.  Only twice did I get the car stuck in the snow.  Once having to track down some dude in a tractor and ask him for a tow.  His comment, “You’re not the first one today.”  Second time a car full of the young guys came along after about an hour and helped push the car out.  I tried to be more cautious after that but still managed a few close calls.

I was fortunate enough for one day of good weather.  The remaining days I would classify a somewhere between bad and ‘I wish I had a warm house to sit in and some decent food to eat and not be stuck in this freezing car being rocked about by the wind and buried under snow.’

Å I lofoten, Lofoten islands, Norway. Winter travel photography

Footprints Everywhere! Wanderings Among the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Panoramic landscape photo - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley, California

Mesquite Flat sand dunes, Death Valley national park, California.

It was a frustrating exercise in futility wandering among the dunes, in search of the Dune that I had in my mind.  The Dune with that perfectly sculpted ridge, gently rounded and allowing the late afternoon shadows to gently fall across.  The untouched patterns of a thousand years of wind blown into the sand, like a sea of snakes racing into the distance.  The Dune, rising alone into the sky above all others, casting ever growing shadows as the sun determines the day has been long enough.

Judging by the amount of footprints, half the world must also be searching for that perfect dune.  I wandered for miles and hours.  In straight lines, circles, and zigzags.  To the tops of the highest dunes and into the lowest valleys.  North, south, east, west, and at one point, clear across the whole of the dunes.  My water bottle empty, mouth dry, I still wandered.  And everywhere, footprints!

It’s mostly my fault though.  The Mesquite dunes are right on the side of the road in a fairly popular national park, so what should I expect other than that lots of people walk among them. If  I was in some middle of nowhere place in north Africa and experienced the same, then I would be a bit more frustrated.  And winter is the best time in Death Valley as the temperatures are tolerable.  This year especially, with higher than average rain has probably drawn more people to the park to see the normally dry lakes not dry.

California landscape photography - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley national park

Panoramic landscape photo - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley, California

California travel photographer Cody Duncan - Self portrait on sand dunes in Death Valley

Autumn in the Lofoten Islands Photo Gallery

Landscape stock photography: Reflections of autumn trees in Steinbakkvatnet lake, Hinnøya, Vesterålen, Norway

Photo gallery of Lofoten Islands in autumn: Click here

I’ve created a stock image gallery of Lofoten islands, Norway from September and October 2009.  Most of the pictures are from Moskenesøy, Flakstadøy, and Vestvågøy islands, with a couple from Vesterålen as well (such as the above photo of the lake).  I spent about 2 weeks at Stamsund, one of my favorite places in the world where I’ve returned to again and again since 2001 (I should probably just try and move there one of these days).  I rented a car for a couple days with a fellow traveler and Lofoten addict so I was able to get out to some of my favorite beaches at Utakleiv and Unstad, as well as the nearly tropical looking beach at Ramberg.  I also got to explore a few new areas, such as Gimsøy, where I had never previously been on my normal hitchhiking journeys through the islands.

My last few trips to the islands had always been in the late winter/early spring so I decided it was time for a change of scenery from endless snow to actually having some color in my photos.  Weather wasn’t always so good, hence the need to stay for 2 weeks just to get a day or two of sunlight and blue sky, but I think I had pretty good timing as far as the turning of the trees.  I think it’s always something magical to watch the snow level creep lower and lower down the mountains each night until one day the first big snow storm comes and turns the whole world white.

travel photographer: Scenic beach at Ramberg, Flakstadøy, Lofoten islands, Norway

Ramberg Beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten islands, Norway

Travel stock photo: Snow covered rocky coastline at Stamsund, Vestvågøy, Lofoten islands, Norway

Autumn snow on rugged coast at Stamsund, Lofoten islands, Norway.

If you have any trouble seeing the below slide show, please let me know.

Racetrack – Death Valley

Night photography at Devil's Racetrack playa, Death Valley national park, California

5 minute self portrait on a cold night under a nearly full moon out on the playa at the Devil’s Racetrack in Death Valley national park, California.   I took two seperate 5 minute exposures with the Nikon 24mm tilt-shift lens to get the ‘square’ format.  One upper, one lower.  No tricky Photoshop needed.

I had my stopwatch going to measure the exposure but since I was afraid to move my arm and risk putting it back in a slightly different location I had to count in my head as best I could. When I got to 5 minutes in my head I took a peak at my watch, 4:57, and quickly ran back to the camera.  Pretty good internal clock. I could have left the scene earlier, but some ghosting would have occurred as I was gone a greater percentage of the overall exposure, so I wanted to remain as close to the full 5 minutes as possible.

The Racetrack is better know for the ‘moving rock.’  Unfortunately, that section of the normally dry lake bed actually had some water, so I couldn’t go there as footprints last a long time out there…

Isle of Skye – Coire na Creiche

Waterfall at Fairy Pools, Coire na Creiche, Isle of Skye, Scotland

River at Coire na Creiche, Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye.  Better known as the location of the ‘Fairy pools,’ a series of crystal blue pools of water and waterfalls flowing out of the rugged peaks of the Black Cuillins.  It had been raining for a week strait prior to my visit so the ‘pools’ were are bit more like rapids than normal, but at least I got lucky with a bit of sun on a short November day.

Waterfall at Fairy Pools, Coire na Creiche, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Waterfall at Fairy Pools, Coire na Creiche, Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland