Unveiling the Magic: The Essence of Photography Beyond the Lens

The Palouse in Southeastern Washington State with the rolling green hills of lentils and barley. The photo was taken from atop Steptoe Butte.

Capturing Feelings in Photography

Fine art photography is much more than just snapping pictures; it's an art form that allows us to capture feelings in photography; simply put, it's creating moments that transcend the ordinary. This is the essence of photography. As a landscape and travel photographer, I am constantly on a quest to discover and document unique places, whether it's the rolling hills of the Palouse, the mysterious depths of slot canyons, the charm of Cinque Terre, or the lush green cliffs of the Irish coastline. In my travels, I have the privilege of seeing many unique and wonderful places around the globe. I get to experience and witness the power and beauty of nature. I feel compelled to share these sights and experiences with as many people as possible. Through my lens, I strive to present these places in a way that causes viewers to pause and reflect or feel an emotion, even if they have seen these places before. In this post, I'll share some insights into how I capture unique landscape and travel photos, the importance of uniquely composing subjects, lighting, and the creative process behind documenting fleeting moments in time. The creative journey to seek out unique and inspiring compositions is what "separates the wheat from the chaff"; this is how ordinary photographs translate into fine art photography.  

Seeking Out the Unusual

One of the most exciting aspects of being a landscape/travel photographer is the thrill of exploration. I am drawn to unusual and off-the-beaten-path locations that offer a fresh perspective. When I photograph these lesser-known places, my goal is to highlight their distinct characteristics and the emotions they evoke. The key is to immerse myself in the environment, study its nuances, and wait for the perfect moment to click the shutter. This approach not only results in stunning images but also allows me to connect deeply with the landscapes I capture. These magnificent locations fuel my creative journey and provide me with a medium to tell my story. Here are some examples of my unique photo experiences:

The Palouse: Tapestry of Fields 

The Palouse region in the northwestern United States is a hidden gem with its undulating hills of green, providing endless opportunities for unique compositions. This is an area that includes the Southeastern part of Washington State along with the western border of Idaho. In the months of May and June, the hills are filled with lentils and barley, which paint the landscape with bold hues of green. It is a site to behold and capturing this most unusual landscape was a thrill for me. In order to gain aa aerial view, I drove up Steptoe Butte to an altitude of about 3,600 feet. I was mesmerized by the endless rolling hills of green, speckled with a farm here and there. As I stood atop the butte planning the shot, I was overcome with a feeling of awe. I knew I needed to share this view and experience with others. Here are a few images I captured during the time I spent in the Palouse: 

The Palouse in Southeastern Washington State with the rolling green hills of lentils and barley. The photo was taken from atop Steptoe Butte.


The Palouse in Southeastern Washington State with the rolling green hills of lentils and barley. The photo was taken from atop Steptoe Butte.


The Palouse in Southeastern Washington State with the rolling green hills of lentils and barley. The photo was taken from atop Steptoe Butte.

 I know from so many years of photographing landscapes, sunrise presents opportunities for stunning images unlike any other time of the day. After some exploring of the area, I found another butte that held potential for a great sunrise capture. It was an early morning as sunrise was before 5 AM and I needed to be set up with the camera gear an hour in advance. As the sun peered above the hills of the Palouse, the dew-filled fields reflected a kaleidoscope of colors that took my breath away. I was presented with an unworldly moment that lasted only minutes. The photo below speaks for itself in terms of being unique and evoking emotion: 

Sunrise at the Palouse from a butte high above the rolling hills. The horizon is fire orange and the rolling hills are vivd colors from the reflection of the dew on the crops of lentils and barley.

 The Palouse contains so many unique compositions; it's a matter of spending the time to seek out these photo opportunities, which can then be converted into meaningful art. I spent the time to explore other areas of the Palouse, specifically looking for uncommon compositions. The two images below reflect the ongoing journey to find unusual and unique photos. The first one is a field of canola that has the same growing period as the lentils and barley. I stumbled upon the second image while exploring deeper in the Palouse after shooting the sunrise from Steptoe Butte. The photo of the barn and old truck (titled, "Long-Term Parking") is the result of serendipity. I plan so many of my photo shoots but the true joy of photography is in what awaits unexpectedly.  

Field of bright yellow canola flowers with a deep blue sky captured in the Palouse in Washington State.


Photo captured in the Palouse of a bright red barn with a very old orange pickup truck in the yard under a deep blue sky.


Interested in an interesting road trip in the Palouse? Click here: State of Washington 

Slot Canyons: The Dance of Light and Shadows

Similarly, Upper and Lower Antelope canyons, with their narrow passageways and dramatic light beams, present a surreal and captivating subject for photography. The slot canyons are physically challenging with their cavernous spaces followed by narrow tight passageways through mazes of sandstone walls. From a photographic standpoint, photographing here was some of the most challenging shooting I have ever done. These slot canyons are on Navajo land and access to these unusual geological wonders is with a Navajo guide only. The guides bring numerous people into slot canyons at one time and it becomes tight and difficult to maneuver, particularly when accompanied by a tripod and camera gear. The canyons are filled with sand which presents a huge potential problem for camera gear. The canyons are dark creating another set of  technical challenges for photographing. 

These slot canyons are on the land of the Le Chee Chapter of the Navajos. The canyons hold tremendous spiritual and cultural significance to the Navajos. The Navajos believe that the walls of the canyons were formed by Holy People rather than by erosion. The belief is that the spiritual world and our world intersect in these canyons, thus the importance of the canyons. Click here to read more about the slot canyons:  Antelope Canyon History

As I walked through Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, I could feel a spiritual presence in the cool dark passageways, even though I have no connection with the Navajo ancestry. I felt that I had been immersed in a special place that provided me with a sense of peace and sanctuary amidst the chaos of all the people in the canyons at that time. What is your reaction to the following photos of the slot canyons?

Upper Antelope canyon with the beams of light radiating in the canyon.
Upper Antelope canyon with the beams of light radiating in the canyon.


Lower antelope canyon with the pink and blue textured sandstone walls.


Lower antelope canyon with the purple and orange textured sandstone walls.


Upper Antelope Canyon with a beam of light radiating down and sand dropping from a large boulder inside of the canyon.


Alstrom Point: The Majestic Overlook Of Lake Powell

Alstrom Point, perched high above Lake Powell in Utah, offers one of the most breathtaking vistas in the American Southwest. This is an extraordinarily remote location and not well known by tourists, tour guides or landscape photographers. The view of Lake Powell is one of the most unusual and inspiring views of a body of water that I have ever witnessed. This site had been on my radar screen for many years because of its stunning view as well as the challenge to get to the overlook. I was elated when I finally had the opportunity to capture this vista through my lens. 

Reaching Alstrom Point is no simple feat, which adds to the allure and exclusivity of this stunning overlook. The best time to photograph Alstrom Point is right before sunset while allowing enough time to drive out of the area before dark.. There is no paved road or well-marked path leading to the point; instead, it requires navigating rough, unmarked trails that wind through a rugged and remote landscape. Traveling to Alstrom Point was an adventure in and of itself as it was treacherous. The drive there requires a guide that has been there many times in the past. During the drive, the landscape transformed dramatically. The terrain was marked by a series of unusual landforms that gave me the sensation of being on another planet. This sense of otherworldliness was heightened by the solitude and vastness of the surroundings. This made the destination even more magical than the images I had seen in my research.

When I finally reached made Alstrom Point, the view was breathtaking and probably the most moving landscape I have ever seen to this day. As well as feeling relieved to have made it safely to the overlook, I was filled with emotion. I could not believe what I was seeing in front of me.  The overlook provided a sweeping vista of Lake Powell, where the water’s edge is framed by intricate patterns of eroded sandstone and striking rock formations. At that moment, I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth to witness this gift from Mother Nature. The sun was setting and the reflection of the aqua blue sky in the still waters of the lake combined with the pink pastels in the mountains were pure magic. The reflection of the colorful sky on the still waters of Lake Powell added another layer of beauty, making the scene even more mesmerizing. The photos below are truly very special landscape images that stir my emotions when I view them:

Alstrom Point at sunset overlooking Lake Powell. The water is aqua blue with pastel colors on the horizon as the sun sets.


Alstrom Point at sunset overlooking Lake Powell. The water is aqua blue with pastel colors on the horizon as the sun sets.

 For more information on Alstrom Point click here: Alstrom Point

What sets fine art photography apart from mere snapshots is its ability to evoke emotions. A photograph of Alstrom Point is not just a representation of a beautiful landscape; it is a testament to the journey, the solitude, and the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. The surreal geology, the brilliant colors of sunset, and the sense of isolation all combine to create an image that resonates deeply with viewers.

Giant’s Causeway: The Mystical Columns of Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, located on the rugged coast of Northern Ireland, is another example of a landscape that transcends the ordinary. The Causeway's interlocking basalt columns, formed by ancient volcanic activity, create a unique and surreal pattern that captivates the imagination. This natural wonder, steeped in myth and legend, provides a rich tapestry for fine art photography.

To capture the essence of Giant’s Causeway, I focused on the intricate details and overall grandeur of this most unusual location. The stone columns themselves, with their hexagonal shapes and varying heights, offer endless opportunities for creative compositions. Many of my compositions from Giant's Causeway were shot from a low angle (sitting on the ground) which served to emphasize the height, texture and scale of the columns. In planning my shoot, I also used a wide angle lens which provides perspective and scale in the final images given the expanse of the formation.

I knew from my research that I needed to be on site for late afternoon shooting. The setting sun bathed the entire landscape with a warm golden glow. This lighting enhances the textures of the basalt columns and cast dramatic shadows, adding depth and dimension to the images. As you will see from the images, this warm lighting was critical to creating photos that transcend the ordinary.

Lighting is a fundamental element in photography that can make or break an image. Understanding and harnessing the power of light is crucial for capturing stunning landscape and travel photos. The beautiful lighting that nature presented during my shoot of Giant's Causeway made all of the difference in terms creating exceptional photographs compared to just nice images.

Here are a few photos of Giant's Causeway from my portfolio:

Giant's Causeway on the Irish coast. These are hexagonal shaped stones of basalt that are in varying sizes, patterns and heights in the photo. There is a warm golden glow over the scene.



Giant's Causeway on the Irish coast. These are hexagonal shaped stones of basalt that are in varying sizes, patterns and heights in the photo. There is a warm golden glow over the scene and the Atlantic Ocean is in the background.

Giant's Causeway on the Irish coast. These are hexagonal shaped stones of basalt that are in varying sizes, patterns and heights in the photo. There is a warm golden glow over the scene and the Atlantic Ocean is in the background..

If you would like to read the history of Giant's Causeway as well as learn the folklore surrounding this wonder, click here: Giant's Causeway

Documenting Fleeting Moments

Photography is about seizing moments that are ephemeral and ever-changing. Each click of the shutter freezes a specific point in time, creating a visual record of a scene that may never be the same again. This transient nature of photography adds a sense of urgency and excitement to the process, as well as a deep appreciation for the beauty of the present moment.

When I photograph landscapes and travel destinations, I am acutely aware of this fleeting quality. A sunrise over the Grand Canyon, the bustling energy of a Paris street market, or the tranquil stillness of the Louisiana cypress swamps are all moments that can be gone in an instant. Capturing these scenes requires a combination of planning, patience, spontaneity and many times pure luck.

For instance, when photographing the Willamette Valley in Oregon, I might wait for the perfect moment when the fog lifts, revealing the vineyard-covered hills in all their glory. In the Florida Everglades, I might position myself to capture the dramatic interplay of light and shadow as the sun rises over the wetlands. Each photograph becomes a testament to the beauty of a particular moment, inviting viewers to share in that experience.

Planning is the "secret sauce". It's the essential element to making sure that I utilize the natural light most effectively. I often scout locations in advance, considering the direction and quality of light at different times of the day. By doing so, I can anticipate the best lighting conditions for my shots and be ready to capture those fleeting moments when everything aligns perfectly. 

The Creative Process

The creative process in photography involves more than just technical skills; it's about seeing the world with a unique vision and translating that vision into compelling images. This process begins with observation and curiosity. I constantly seek out interesting compositions, patterns, and perspectives that can turn an ordinary scene into an extraordinary photograph.

Creativity also involves experimentation. I often play with different camera settings, lenses, and post-processing techniques to achieve the desired effect. For example, using a long exposure can create a sense of motion in flowing water or clouds, while a shallow depth of field can draw attention to a specific subject in a busy environment. Post-processing allows me to enhance the mood and atmosphere of an image, bringing out the colors, contrasts, and details that make it truly stand out.


Photography offers endless possibilities for capturing and creating moments that resonate with my collectors and followers. Whether I'm exploring unusual places like the Palouse and slot canyons or presenting iconic locations like New York City and Manarola in a new light, my goal is to create images that inspire or simply cause pause for reflection. By understanding the importance of lighting, documenting fleeting moments, and embracing creativity, I can transform the way people see the world through my lens.

What sets fine art photography apart from mere snapshots is its ability to evoke emotions. A well-composed photograph can transport the viewer to another place and time, stir up memories, and even provoke a visceral reaction. This emotional connection is what makes photography a true art form. As you continue to journey with me through my photographs, I hope to inspire you to look at familiar places with fresh eyes and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the world around us. Each image is a testament to the endless possibilities of photography, a celebration of both the seen and the unseen, and an invitation to capture and create your own moments of magic.

When I am photographing, the inspirational words of Ansel Adams always come to mind: “You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”   ~Curt

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