Willow River State Park, Wisconsin

Willow River State Park

I often wonder how rivers and streams keep flowing relentlessly without stopping and taking a pause. They are always in the transient state, and travel far and wide. Couple of weeks back, we had visited Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. This state park is less than an hour drive from Minneapolis. Park has a beautiful waterfall, and you can check out its picture in my previous blog. (Check the shot of another waterfall – Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota – here.) There are good, well marked trails leading to the fall and pretty view of the river itself.

Being summer, there were many people and families with kids having fun in the water. Some were simply relaxing, enjoying the falling water, and there were few like me, who wanted to capture the beautiful scenery. I wanted to avoid people in my shot, which proved difficult for me. Hence, i decided to capture smaller streams of the fall, and i was not disappointed with the long exposure shot like this one. Hope you like this week’s photo from my adventures. Have a wonderful week.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Flowers in Focus

This photo is a contribution for this week’s challenge: Focus

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Friend



Need i say more about this shot?

This shot is inspired by this week’s photo challenge – Friend.

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Thank You: 1000 Followers Now

1000 Followers on WordPress

Few days back, i received this notification from WordPress that my blog site has 1000 followers now. A big thank you goes to all of you who have shared their love and warmth with my contributions all these days. This blog site has been possible only because of all the inspiration and motivation that you provide through your feedback and interactions. I constantly get encouraged by your appreciation and kind words. This keeps me going.

Now that summer is here, i am planning few trips during upcoming long weekends, like a visit to Door County in Wisconsin in Memorial Day weekend and a road-trip to Badlands, Grand Teton, Yellowstone National Parks, Devils Tower in Wyoming during July 4th weekend. Like last year, this year too, theme for my travelogue continues to be nature, and national and state parks of USA. I will continue to share my experiences along with photographs with all you beautiful people out there. If you have questions regarding planning these trips, do post your question below and i can help you. Till then have fun and take care good care of yourself.

Below photograph was shot by me in the summer of 2012 when i had visited Madrid, Spain.

Madrid Bull Fighting Arena

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5 Reasons to Visit Mount Rushmore at Sunrise

Mount Rushmore South DakotaSo, now you know when you should visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial! Really early in the morning, preferably at sunrise. More so, if you are a photographer and want to take really cool shots of the Memorial and the Black Hill in the golden hour.

Like the Statue of Liberty in New York, Mount Rushmore is one of the iconic symbol of heritage of United States. Located in Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial celebrates American history with 60-foot sculpture of the heads of four USA Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Among them, they span more than a century.

Now let us look at why you should visit Mount Rushmore at sunrise:

  1. Golden Sun Rays Fall Directly on the Faces – Most important reason. Sculpture of four Presidents face east. So, at sunrise, when the golden rays of the sun fall directly on the monument, granite rocks are bathed in the orange and yellow colors, creating a dramatic effect. Throughout the day, you will have various amount of shadow over the faces, which does not make a good shot from the photography perspective. At sunset however, sun will be behind the monument so there is shade over the face of the monument.  Unless you want to capture the colorful sky at the golden hour or the twilight colors with a silhouette of the monument, you may not want to shoot at sunset. That leaves us with morning sunrise. Remember monument opens up at 5 in the morning itself. Though we were at the monument around the sunrise at 5:30 am, sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. It rained as well for few minutes. Hence, the shots I took are not what I had expected for. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience to wake up at 3:30 in the morning, drive for almost 1.5 hours from Wall, city where we stayed and reach Mount Rushmore at 5:30 am.                      Mount Rushmore South Dakota

2. Avoid the Heavy Crowd – We visited Mount Rushmore during the Memorial Day weekend of 2016, expecting heavy crowd. But we were in for a surprise and beat them all by reaching really early in the morning at sunrise. This also means that in your selfies or shots of the monument, there is least probability of anyone walking into, making it the perfect travel photo. I am pretty sure as the day would have advanced, there would have been more souls eventually. It is one of the most visited monuments in USA. No wonder Mount Rushmore is crowded throughout the year with visitors. Do you know how many tourists visit the Memorial each year? Nearly three million. But early in the morning, when we visited, there were probably not more than two dozen people till 7 am.                                                                                                                                   Mount Rushmore South Dakota

3. Extended Sightseeing Time in Your Travel Itinerary – This one is probably a no-brainer. Once you have checked off Mount Rushmore from your your list in the morning, you are still left with the entire day of sightseeing. Most of the people – tourists, and not travelers – wake up little late in the morning and by the time they have visited the first spot of the day, half day is over. Advantage of visiting Mount Rushmore at sunrise is that you have plenty of time to enjoy other nearby spots. Some of the nearby attractions definitely not to be missed and within the driving distance are:

  • Wind Cave National Park (approx.. an hour)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (approx. 45 min),
  • Badlands National Park (approx. 1.5 hrs),
  • Custer State Park (approx. 35 min),
  • Needles Highway (approx. 15 min),
  • Crazy Horse (approx. 25 min)
  • Beautiful landscape of South Dakota with pine trees and hills

Mount Rushmore South Dakota

4. Enjoy the Morning view of Black Hills in Mist and Fog – There could not be a better time for you to enjoy and photograph the Black Hills, grappling to wake up from its slumber and still shrouded in the fog and mist and soothing sun rays,. You should definitely walk down from the hill, approximately one and a half miles from the town below – Keystone – if you want to the soak in the morning view of the majestic landscape.Black Hills South Dakota

5. Unofficially Free Entrance – Purposefully I saved this travel hack for the last. On the official site of Mount Rushmore, it is mentioned that there is no entrance fees to visit the Memorial but there is a parking fee to park your vehicle. For cars, motorcycles and RVs, the parking fee comes to $11 per vehicle. However the ticket counter for the parking booth opens up only 7 am, which is mentioned at the counter. So, we drove in and parked our vehicle, without paying any fee. We were expecting that when we exit, we might have to pay at exit counter, if any, or someone might come to collect the fees. But guess what? There was none. And we literally visited Mount Rushmore for free. Enter anytime before 7 am and you will save the $11 parking fee. Interesting, isn’t it? This is really doable during summer when sunrise occurs very early. So, remember this when you visit Rushmore next time.

Only drawback of visiting the Monument early in the morning – may be insignificant to many but a critical one for some like me –  could be that the restrooms open late in the day, probably at 7 am. So, if you need to use the restroom, you might be in for a trouble. Only option is to drive down the hill to Keystone and pray that atleast one of the touristy establishments is open. It was beyond my logic to understand why they keep the restrooms locked at Mount Rushmore when the Monument itself is open by 5 am. Keep a note of this and plan your date with four Presidents of United States accordingly.

Have you visited Mount Rushmore? How was your experience like? Do share your experiences so that readers have more information.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting

Sunset in Bloomington Bush Lake

This was the sunset shot i took at Bush Lake, Bloomington, which is close to my house. It is part of this week’s challenge: Reflecting.

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Danger of Flash Flood in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon in Utah

There are canyons and there are slot canyons. If Grand Canyon is one of the most popular and extraordinary canyons in the world, then Antelope Canyon, which is a slot canyon, is one of the most photographed geological formations in the world. Definition of slot canyon mentions “slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by the wear of water rushing through the rock“. Slot canyons can be significantly deeper than they are wide. Known for its beautiful color and texture, Antelope canyon, to me, seems to be sculpted by nature only for the shutterbugs and cameras. When the rays of sun fall inside this slot canyon, this place turns into a magical wonderland in photographs.

If you search for the photographs of Antelope Canyon on internet, they will leave you mesmerized and in awe. In case, you are searching about this place for the first time, it will be irresistible for you to not gather more information about this slot canyon. There are two parts of Antelope Canyon, located in the state of Arizona in USA – Upper and Lower Canyon. Upper Canyon is the most famous and visited one. It is just 200 meters in length, about 37 meters in depth and is so narrow that at certain spots, only a couple of people can pass at one time. Such dimensions of Antelope Canyon not only make it unique but also makes it dangerous when weather is not permissible. During rain, within minutes, this beautiful place can witness flash floods. It is possible that thunderstorms and rain might have occurred miles away from Antelope, upstream of the canyon but the water can funnel inside the canyon with tremendous force carrying debris, rocks, sand and other stuffs. In the past, there have been few deaths inside the canyon due to flash floods. When planning for a visit to Antelope Canyon, it is always advisable to check the weather reports and any forecast of flash flood, and never ignore the instructions of your guide. Else this dangerous beauty may not give you a second chance.

However, when we went to Antelope Canyon, there was no danger of flash flood. It was a beautiful spring weather, and the Antelope Canyon was as adventurous, exciting and magnificent as we had read and imagined, and we were certainly not disappointed. Above shot for this week’s post – danger – is from the inside of Upper Antelope Canyon which i had clicked. In my next posts, i will write more details of our lifetime experience to Antelope Canyon, and how to plan a visit. Till then, enjoy this shot, and shoot if you have any question.

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My Wanderlust for America’s Famed Southwest on a Roadtrip

Wilson Arch, Utah

Few years back, when i started reading and watching about the national parks of USA, i was awestruck by the beauty of the arid, hot and desolate landscape of Southwest region of USA. Despite being a desert where vegetation is so limited and population sparse, America’s Southwest is one of the geographically most diverse and dramatic places in USA, and probably on earth. Miles of nothingness except the red rocks or canyons or elevation (mesas and buttes, too) make this region very beautiful for travelers and photographers alike. Not to forget conditions can get hostile within hours here, if proper care is not taken.

In April of this year, we went on a over week-long road-trip to America’s Southwest covering national parks in the states of Nevada & California, Arizona and Utah. Our itinerary included Death Valley National Park, Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. If you see our trip map below, you will find that these places can be explored as part of a complete loop with around 2000 miles of driving and with Las Vegas as the airport for flying in and out. Though we spent some quality time in these parks, i have a wanderlust to come to these parks again next year or later this year, because these parks are so inspiring, adventurous and lot fun to photograph. In my future posts, i will share details of how i planned for this trip (with our 20-months old daughter), about our experiences and more photographs from our road-trip and parks.

Southwest Trip Map

Shot at the top of this post is of Wilson Arch located 25 miles south of Moab in Utah. We were travelling on highway US 191 North from Monument Valley in Arizona to Arches National Park in Utah. Before entering Moab, which is like the base for visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, you will find this arch on your right hand side. We made a brief stopover at this huge formation, formed by the erosive forces of nature, before visiting the famed arches of Arches National Park. It is worth mentioning here that around 2000 known arches, both small and large, exist in the park.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Green


This is my contribution for this week’s photo challenge: Green

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Split Rock Lighthouse Atop Cliff

Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most recognized and photographed landmarks in Minnesota. Located at an hour’s drive from Duluth and 3.5 hrs drive from Minneapolis on the scenic North Shore drive of highway 61, this lighthouse sits atop a cliff on the Lake Superior (more entries for this week’s challenge are here). Built in 1910 after the loss of 29 ships on the Lake Superior, the beacon of this lighthouse is lit up on November 10th of every year for few hours to commemorate the sinking of ship Edmund Fitzgerald. This is a wonderful opportunity to photograph the lighthouse with its beacon lit up on the Lake Superior. Even though i have made a couple of trips to the lighthouse, i am waiting for November 10th, when i will be able to make another photographic trip to capture in its full glory. Above photograph was shot during the fall color trip of 2016, when the colors of changing leaves add to the beauty of the iconic landmark.

Lighthouse is nestled in the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park of Minnesota. Though i have never been inside the lighthouse, i have captured it from the shores of Lake Superior, from where you can capture this picturesque view.

Best Time to Photograph: Any day of the year is a good time to visit the lighthouse. November 10th is a special day to photograph it with its beacon lit up. Sunrise and sunset is another beautiful time of the day to shoot the lighthouse. During winter, you can capture the grand view of the lighthouse, with its cliff and the lake covered in snow. Full moon night could be another memorable night when you can compose an interesting postcard shot of the lighthouse. Few of the viewpoints from where you can photograph the lighthouse are mentioned here.

Admission Fees: If you are interested to get inside the lighthouse, it costs $10 for adults. Kids below 4 years enter for free. However, if you only want to photograph the lighthouse from the shores of Lake Superior, you just need to pay $5 for entering the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. I have bought the annual pass of Minnesota State Parks costing $25 and it allows me unlimited access to all the parks in the state.

To plan your trip, visit the official site for more information.

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