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Last fall I took a trip out west to photograph a few of the incredible national parks of the west….and one castle built by one man. It was an amazing trip that took ten days, through three states (Colorado, Utah, and Nevada) and seven nationals parks. We captured some of the iconic and also some of the lesser known views that these national parks have to offer as well as a few other stops along the way. This trip was part of my larger project to visit all 59 National Parks and with my recent trip to Death Valley National Park, I’m currently sitting pretty at 31. Enjoy!

Arches National Park: As its name suggests, this park showcases thousands of natural arches. The most famous of these formations is likely Delicate Arch, pictured here at sunrise. In order to get the reverse angle, it required some nimble scrambling along the face of a harshly sloped rock wall that had me appreciating the traction on my new hiking shoes. We also photographed the Skyline Arch and a few of the lesser known but equally as beautiful monuments.delicate arch in arches national park at sunrise

a reverse view of delicate arch in arches national park. Image by Ben Weldonskyline arch at sunset in arches national park. Image by Ben Weldon

Canyonlands National Park: Canyonlands is essentially right next door to Arches in Moab, Utah. Canyonlands requires a few days to truly explore the canyons themselves versus simply seeing them from the vistas along the road. Make no mistake, the vistas are beautiful, but we only spent a day at the park and I’d really love to visit again to hike down into the canyons to see the views…and retrieve the lens cap I dropped by accident.

a visitor appreciates the view atop mesa arch in canyonlands national park. Image by Ben Weldona vista at canyonlands national park after sunset. Image by Ben Weldoncanyonlands national park at sunset. Image by Ben Weldoncanyonlands-national-park-02

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve: So the most interesting thing about the Great Sand Dunes is probably how the sand got there and is still being studied. These are colossal mountains of sand that have built up over thousands of years as grains of sand blew east from the southwest and came to rest at the base of the Rockies in Colorado. Pretty darn cool.

the sun rising over great sand dunes national park and reserve in the fall. Image by Ben Weldontwo visitors walk towards the giant sand dunes at great sand dunes national park. Image by Ben Weldon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: An impressively deep canyon that was carved out by the Gunnison river. Like Canyonlands, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is more of a stop-and-see park unless you have a few days to spend hiking into and out of the canyon. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to hike into the park but we did get to appreciate the view from the top.

a view from the top of the black canyon of the gunnison national park. Image by Ben Weldon

Capitol Reef National Park: West of Arches and Canyonlands, Capitol Reef is made up of a more diverse set of rock formations than the other parks of the area that tend to have one prevailing type of feature. An excellent park to be sure and one that I will definitely be visiting again.

red rocks at capitol reef national park. Image by Ben Weldoncapitol-reef-national-park-02a reef looking rock face at capitol reef national park. Image by Ben Weldon

Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Canyon is hands-down my favorite National Park and I will never be able to photograph it well enough. Call me Ishmael. Despite the fact that it is along the way to nowhere, I’ve been to Bryce 3 times. It is literally breath-taking. This is the closest I’ve come to capturing the park the way it looks in real life but it still doesn’t compare to seeing the park in person. We woke at 4am to get set up and ready for the sun to rise.  I will work the rest of my life to capture this park the way it should be captured, but I suspect I will never be successful and I like it that way.

bryce canyon

Great Basin National Park: So, Great Basin is awesome for a number of reasons. Firstly: It’s a lush mountain in the middle of a desert. I can’t stress enough how weird that is to see. Second, none of the water that drains from the top of the mountain ranges in the Great Basin area drains to the ocean. The Great Basin is one of the only places in the world where that is the case. Finally, just outside the park is the almost ghost town of Baker, Nevada and along the road leading up to the Park are eery art displays created by the locals. If we heeded the warnings of every horror movie ever, we would have turned around immediately, but we did not, and fortunately we emerged from the park unscathed.
road side art of a model t ford near great basin national park in nevada. Image by Ben Weldonroad side art on the way to great basin national park. Image by Ben Weldonstella lake and wheeler peak in great basin national park. Image by Ben Weldonwheeler peak in great basin national park

Finally, a few of my favorite images from this trip were created at stops not in National Parks, but along the way. Here are a few of those scenes as well as a few images from Bishop Castle, a castle built by one man over the course of forty years. It was really interesting and though the history is too much to write about here, take a look at the images and swing on over to their site to read more about the man and his castle.

curecanti national recreation area in the fall. Image by Ben Weldonu.s.-national-parks-03
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It’s hard to believe Death Valley didn’t become a National Park until 1994. The park is home to much of the same remarkable variations in scenery and history as other parks that gained their National park status decades earlier. Death Valley is, of course, primarily known for its inhospitable climate which is why this year’s super bloom is especially notable.  The unusually wet winter (that is, by desert standards) ushered in a growing season that hasn’t been seen in a long time in Death Valley. The rain gave way to a display of beautiful wildflowers that are currently blanketing the valley floor.  Given how rare this super bloom phenomenon is, combined with the fact that it gave me an opportunity to check another National Park off my list, I jumped at the chance to fly out for a few days and photograph. I knew I had a small window to photograph the super bloom but when I called the park ahead of my trip, I was surprised when the Ranger told me to “get there fast because we have no idea how long this is going to last.” Over the course of three days, I tried to see as much as I could of the roughly 8500 square mile park. On one day, I was laying on the salt encrusted floor of Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level and later that afternoon was sitting 6483 feet above at Aguereberry Point watching the sun set. In that time I also visited Rhyolite, an abandoned mining town on the edge of the park, got lost in several canyons, slept in a car to capture a sunrise, hung out with some native death valley lizards, and of course, appreciated the beautiful flowers that I may not get to see again in my lifetime.

Enjoy the photos! Captured here are the following locations in Death Valley National Park: Rhyolite, Aguereberry point, Zabriskie point, Titus Canyon, Golden Canyon, The Devil’s Golf Course, The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Amaragosa Range

wildflowers of the death valley super bloom. Photo by ben Weldon of Ben Weldon PhotographyMesquite sand flats at death valley national park at sunset. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographyvisitors take selfies on the devils golf course at the base of the armadas range in death valley national park. Photo by ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographyremains of a building in the ghost town of rhyolite near death valley national park. Photo by ben Weldon of Ben Weldon PhotographyThe mesquite flat Sand Dunes a Death Valley. Photo by ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographysalt floor of Badwater Basin in Death Valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon PhotographySunset over the mesquite flat sand dunes in Death Valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographywildflowers of death valley during the super bloom. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon PhotographyEntrance to Golden Canyon at Death Valley National Park. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographychuckwalla in titus canyon at death valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographythe trail along golden canyon at death valley national park. Photo by Ben Weldon Photographyvegetation along aguereberry point in death valley national park. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographydried and cracked mud in golden canyon at death valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographyview from the exit of golden canyon at death valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographydeath-valley_015titus canyon path and walls in death valley. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographysunset at aguereberry point in death valley national park. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photographydeath valley sun setting at aguereberry point. Photo by Ben Weldon of Ben Weldon Photography

 

surfers on mauiEarlier this year we had the pleasure of traveling to Hawaii for several shoots on Maui and Oahu. One of those shoots was a series featuring surfers on Maui’s north shore. When picturing Maui it’s almost impossible not to conjure up images of surfers riding the waves along the island’s gorgeous coastline. I was more interested in photographing the moments just before the surfers enter the sea and spent three evenings on the rocky shoreline east of the town of Paia. Each afternoon, surfers would appear on the cliff above me. Then, barefoot and holding their brightly colored surfboards, they’d climb down the steep hill, and scramble across glistening boulders to the point where the waves met rock. As the seawater erupted in mini-volcanos around them, the surfers went through their own unique preparations, staring intensely out at the sunset and timing the tidewater as it drew in and out. Finally when the ocean settled for moment in some imperceptible way (at least to my eyes), they dove in. It was an incredible experience capturing this ritual as it repeated over and over again in slightly different and amazing ways. I’m excited to share just a few of our favorite images from the series.

a teenage surfer puts on his fins and watches the waves roll in at sunset on mauia body surfer in Maui climbs across rocks toward the sea and the sunseta young surfer stands on the rocks at Mauiwide shot of the rocks at mauiyoung teenage surfer holds his green and white board and steps from the rocks into the ocean on Mauia young surfer times the waves as he prepares to jump in to the ocean with his board in hawaii

We recently had the opportunity to exercise our manifest destiny (look at me, referencing fifth grade social studies-Ms. Anderson would be so proud) when we traveled westward to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a pair of lifestyle shoots. The first shoot took place in the shadow of the magnificent Grand Teton Range at an old homestead called Mormon Row. The second was shot above the Spring Creek Ranch on a mountain that has gorgeous views of the entire range. Both locations were spectacular and in the case of the shoot at the base of the mountains, we had to be prepared for a storm that swept in very quickly over the mountains. Fortunately, we were able to get the shots we had planned and protect our gear (and our talent) before the wind and the rain really started. The storm provided an awesome backdrop for the images and the shades of colors it painted the mountains and the fields really blended nicely with the wardrobe choices. In post we worked to accent those colors so the elements of each scene really blended together. Here are a few selects from the shoot. Enjoy!

lifestyle image of a couple in a field at mormon row near jackson wyoming with grand tetons in backgroundadvertising image of a couple over looking the grand tetons in wyoming by photographer ben weldonimage of a couple in the wyoming prairie by lifestyle photographer ben weldonimage of a wyoming couple kissing at sunset on a wyoming mountainlifestyle image of a couple in the midwest by lifestyle photographer ben weldonadvertising photo of a man and woman walking through a prairie at sunset towards a car with mountains in the background. Image by Ben Weldon.Lifestyle image of man lifting woman over split rail fence at a ranch in WyomingLifestyle landscape image of a man and a woman leaning against a split rail fence in WyomingCouple at the base of the Grand Tetonslifestyle image of a couple standing against a log cabin in wyoming

This past April, we traveled down south for a week of shooting in the Florida Keys. We spent our time building our new travel and lifestyle portfolio. Despite having shot in most regions in the U.S. this was my first time visiting Southern Florida and The Keys and I was excited to experience the area. My goal was to capture beautiful scenes that showcase the relaxed lifestyle and I wanted to paint those scenes in a vintage Americana style. My vision for the shoot included a dock as a key part of the images. So we searched for the perfect location, and were able to secure an incredible house in The Big Pine Key with one of the longest docks in the Keys. To add to the vintage look, I was also able to make use of the old school glass coke bottles which have seen a revival lately. This was an idea I’ve been trying to incorporate into a lifestyle shoot for a while after visiting some antique stores in the Philadelphia area and seeing these bottles gathering dust in a corner. Apparently Coca-Cola has reintroduced a new version of these bottles into the market so we didn’t have to look too hard for them. I was happy we were able to bring together all the elements into this shoot, the space, the props, and the style and am really pleased with the final images. Below are just a few of my favorites from the shoot.
florida keys sunset by travel photographer ben weldonice bucket of vintage coke bottlesclose up of coke bottle and ice bucket full of coca cola bottles on dockice bucket of coke bottles on dock near oceancouple kissing in water next to two vintage coke bottles by advertising photographer ben weldonman with coke bottle on beach near a dock

coca-cola cap in the sandcouple sits on a dock in floridahammock hanging from palm trees at sunset in the florida keyshammock and palm trees in the florida sun by Ben Weldoncouple sits on a dock in the florida keyswoman drinks tea and looks out at ocean in florida keyswoman drinks tea on porch overooking a dock and the ocean in floridaa dock at sunrise in the big pine key in the florida keysPalm trees and old theater sign in Floridavintage cars in floridvintage red car in a field in floridvintage red car in florida