2016 Year In Review Part 2

Posted on January 3, 2017 by Mickey

Part 2 of my 2016 Year in Review takes us from July through the end of the year. Feel free to read part 1 if you’ve haven’t yet!

Colorado and a Kansas gem

In July I took a fairly impromptu trip out to shoot wildflowers in Colorado. In the past 5 years, my Colorado trips have mainly focused on autumn colors, but I remembered how beauitul this shot of Blue Lakes up in the Sneffels range was in 2011 and thought it would be fun to try some new locations for wildflowers. We started out in the San Juans, exploring the Ice lakes Basin and the waterfall at South Fork Mineral Creek campground. The waterfalls there remind me more of the glacial-colored water of the Canadian Rockies than anything in Colorado. I would still love to go back and explore the entire length of them in the next couple of years.

Lower Ice Lakes Basin Falls
Lower Ice Lakes Basin FallsPrints AvailableWaterfalls at Lower Ice Lakes Basin
South Fork Mineral Creek Falls
South Fork Mineral Creek FallsPrints Available
Admiring South Fork Mineral Creek Falls
Exploring South Mineral Creek Falls
Exploring South Mineral Creek FallsPrints AvailableAdmiring South Fork Mineral Creek Falls

After exploring that area, we went north and stayed a night at my favorite campground at the base of Mount Sneffels. The next morning, we went on an adventure, trying to find a waterfall near Telluride called Mystic Falls. We forked left when we should have gone right and ended up at a much lesser known waterfall that I believe is called Upper Mystic Falls. Hikes like this are what adventures are made of, and everyone that was along loved it! I’m sure I’ll go back to find Mystic Falls itself sometime soon.

Unnamed Falls
Unnamed FallsPrints AvailableA little known set of waterfalls near Telluride

We moved up to the Crested Butte area, hoping to photograph the wildflowers there, but couldn’t find a campground. So we drove the 3 hours up to the Maroon Bells in hopes to getting there before the moon rose to capture the Milky Way above Maroon Lake. Unfortunately the moon rose shortly before we arrived and the scene wasn’t what I had hoped. I did come back in the autumn (more on that in part 2) to capture it, but we spent the night in the car, as it was already midnight. Afterwards, we found a campground up at Shrine Pass, near Vail Pass. I had never visited Shrine Pass but heard good things about the wildflower shows there. It did not disappoint! Here was one of my favorites:

Shrine Pass Wildflowers Star Trails
Shrine Pass Wildflowers Star TrailsPrints AvailableStar trails near Shrine Pass, Colorado

As we left Colorado, we drove a different route home so that we could swing through the Arikaree Breaks. We followed a rainbow, which turned into a double rainbow, for almost 2 hours until we reached Kansas and managed this shot near the Arikaree Breaks! This was one of the better shots that night.

Rainbow over Northwest Kansas
Rainbow over Northwest KansasPrints AvailableA double rainbow shows up near the Arikaree Breaks

Sunflowers and another Colorado trip

At the beginning of August, I took a quick drive up to the Manhattan area to photograph any leftover wildflowers. While I didn’t find a good patch of wildflowers to work with, I did find the Flint Hills on the east side of Tuttle Creek Lake to be extremely green for so late in the summer!

Pottawatomie Sunset
Pottawatomie SunsetPrints AvailableA sunset in the Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County

As late August approached, sunflower season began! I had missed out in 2015, due to extra hours at work keeping me from photographing as much as I would have liked, but I made up for it in 2016! I managed to visit 5-6 sunflower fields, included the famous Grinter Farms near Lawrence.

Sunburst Sunflowers
Sunburst SunflowersPrints AvailableSunset at a sunflower field south of Wichita
Pastel Sunflower Sunset
Pastel Sunflower SunsetPrints AvailableA beautiful sunset over a sunflower field near Pilsen
Flight of the Monarch Butterfly
Flight of the Monarch ButterflyPrints Available
Composite of a monarch butterfly as it made it’s way from flower to flower at Grinter Farms.
Grinter Farms Sunflowers
Grinter Farms SunflowersPrints AvailableSunflower fields at Grinter Farms

As late September approached, I decided to take a quick trip to Colorado. It turned out to be a little TOO quick, as the entire time just felt rushed. However, it did allow us to camp at Lake Scott State Park on the way out to Colorado, which gave me some great shots of Battle Canyon!

Battle Canyon Monument Milky Way
Battle Canyon Monument Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way over Battle Canyon
Battle Canyon Sunrise
Battle Canyon SunrisePrints AvailableSunrise over Battle Canyon

In Colorado, one shot stood out well above any other! I may have gone to Colorado for fall colors, but ended up with a great Milky Way shot over the Bells. Initialally I was worried about shooting this shot. There is a lot of moose (and even bear) activity around Maroon Lake, and walking through pitch black darkness from the parking lot to the lake wasn’t ideal. Even though it’s only 100 yards or so, it’s difficult to see in the dark like that. However, I didn’t need to worry. There were a dozen or so photographers with the same idea as me. So I set up shop and photographed for as long as I could withstand the cold to get both a Milky Way and star trail shot above the Maroon Bells. The wind picked up at one point towards the end, so I decided to call time. This was the final shot worth keeping:

Maroon Bells Milky Way
Maroon Bells Milky WayPrints AvailableThe Milky Way rises over the Maroon Bells

A circular trip around Lake Erie

In October my wife had a wedding booked in Ohio. So naturally, we turned it into a weeklong trip! Starting in New York, we drove up through the south of Toronto, where Hamilton’s famous waterfalls are located. We only had time to stop at a few before sunset that night, but the one that stood out was Tew Falls, which was gorgeous in the fall!

Tew Falls
Tew FallsPrints AvailableAutumn at Tew Falls

After visited Tew Falls, we drove the rest of the way up the Bruce Penninsula. At one point, I had to hit the brakes to keep from hitting what was either a very large coyote or a wolf. Eventually, we arrived at Tobermory, which is wedged between Lake Huron proper and Georgian Bay. This allowed us to explore the beautiful Bruce Penninsula National Park, along with seeing the Northern Lights. Unfortunately the photos didn’t turn out good at all, as the aurora had mostly died off before I could get my camera to a place worth getting a shot. But that area of Canada is downright beautiful! Not to mention, having some awesome fish and chips!

Tobermory Lighthouse Sunrise
Tobermory Lighthouse SunrisePrints Available
Sunrise at the lighthouse at Tobermory

After leaving the Bruce Penninsula, we traveled down along Lake Huron, through Michigan to Ohio, where I second shot for my wife at the wedding she had booked. After the 10 hour wedding (killer!), we drove two hours to stay near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area, south of Cleveland. This area is stunning in the fall! I fell in love with the small waterfalls below Brandywine Falls. Below is one of my favorites from that morning.

Cuyahoga Valley Autumn
Cuyahoga Valley AutumnPrints AvailableFall leaves dot the landscape at the waterfalls below Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next, we drove northeast, back to Niagara Falls. Yes, Niagara Falls is a tourist trap. But it was worth seeing! We were exhausted the first night there, but the firework display was only available that night, so we walked down along the river to witness this scene:

Niagara Falls Fireworks
Niagara Falls FireworksPrints AvailableFireworks over Niagara Falls

The colors along the Niagara Parkway were insane!

Niagara Colors
Niagara ColorsPrints AvailableAutumn colors along the Niagara River
Niagara Whirlpool Sunset
Niagara Whirlpool SunsetPrints AvailableSunset over the Niagara Whirlpool

The final morning at Niagara Falls gave us a beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls!

Sunrise Plunge
Sunrise PlungePrints AvailableA beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls
Horseshoe Falls Sunrise at Niagara Falls
Horseshoe Falls Sunrise at Niagara FallsPrints Available>A beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls

Our final stop in our trip was to Watkin’s Glen, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I had seen photos of Watkin’s Glen for years and always wanted to visit in the fall. Severe drought limited the water flow, but it was still insanely gorgeous! The most famous scene in Watkins Glen is at Rainbow Falls, just under a mile up the gorge. Here are both vertical and horizontal versions of this gorgeous part of Watkin’s Glen.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen
Rainbow Falls of Watkins GlenPrints AvailableRainbow Falls is stunning in the autumn
Fall at Watkins Glen
Fall at Watkins GlenPrints AvailableAutumn colors dominate the landscape at Watkins Glen

To bring an end to 2016, I did go out and shoot a final Milky Way scene that I had been planning for a while. I’ve always wanted to get a shot of the Milky Way over the the Kansas Turnpike. So I went out one early evening in November to get this shot:

Kansas Turnpike Milky Way
Kansas Turnpike Milky WayPrints AvailableThe Milky Way rises above the Kansas Turnpike

As you can see, 2016 was a wonderful year! Looking forward to 2017, I already have two trips planned. In April, my wife and I will travel to Virginia for a few days. She will be going to a photo workshop, while I hope to get out to the Shenandoah Valley National Park for a couple of sunrises or sunsets. And in August and September, we will take a 15 day trip to Turin, Italy, where we will explore Switzerland, northern Italy and perhaps Austria, western France or southern Germany as well! Who knows what else will be planned as the year gets going! Not to mention all of the Kansas road trips I’m sure I will do! So keep checking back for new work and blog posts. I’ll do my best to update often!

Posted under: Kansas, News & Updates

2016 Year In Review

Posted on January 2, 2017 by Mickey

I usually pick a top 10 list of photos for my Year in Review features, but this year seemed to be defined by experiences. First off, I had a goal of traveling Kansas extensively. I’ve done this for a few years now. The reason is simple: to publish a book titled Kansas is Beautiful. My goal with this book is simple. I plan to create the most beautiful book about Kansas ever created! Needless to say, I spent a lot of days getting up at 3 a.m. to visit places all around the state for sunrise. Or spending the majority of the night out under the stars in the Flint Hills or western Kansas. Depending on a number of factors, I hope to release Kansas is Beautiful either in 2017 or 2018.

In addition to my Kansas travels, I also went on a few adventures. Between two trips to Colorado, a quick trip down to Louisana and a big week-long trip around Lake Erie, through New York, Ontario and Ohio, I was blessed to see a lot this year!

Winter and Early Spring

My photography in Kansas usually slows down in the winter, limited to sunrises, sunsets and the occasional snowstorm. The winter of 2015-2016 turned out to be a bit of a dud. There was little snow, with the exception of a wonderful wet snowstorm on Easter Sunday. And so the best of my work began in February, as warm temperatures came early in 2016. It started by heading up to Cowley State Fishing Lake to capture the Milky Way just before sunrise in late February. I didn’t expect the falls to be flowing, but they were! So I grabbed a shot of the rising Milky Way over one of the most famous of Kansas waterfalls.

Cowley Falls Milky Way
Cowley Falls Milky WayPrints Available
A late February Milky Way rises over Cowley Falls

On my way back from shooting the Milky Way at Cowley Lake, some fog developed as I made it back to Wichita. I raced on down to the Keeper of the Plains and managed the sunrise shot below. It was a best seller throughout 2016.

Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the Plains
Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the PlainsPrints Available
Sunrise color penetrates the fog at the Keeper of the Plains

At the end of March, the annual burning of the Flint Hills began. I captured quite a few shots of it, but the one below was my favorite.

Burning of the Flint Hills
Burning of the Flint HillsPrints Available
The annual burning of the Kansas Flint Hills

Western Kansas and a trip to Bayou country

In early April I took a few days off work and went west. Stopping at Cedar Bluff State Park, Castle Rock and eventually my main destination of Monument Rocks and Lake Scott State Park. Monument Rocks is one of the most fascinating landmarks Kansas has to offer! Some of my best shots this year were taken out that way. Below are a few of them.

Monument Rocks Sunlight
Monument Rocks SunlightPrints Available
Sunset over Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks Milky Way
Monument Rocks Milky WayPrints Available
A Milky Way panorama over Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks Star Trails
Monument Rocks Star TrailsPrints Available
Star trails over Monument Rocks

In later April, my wife, Valerie Shannon Photography, booked a wedding gig down in Louisiana. So we took a couple days off and hit the road to see the Bayou Country. I don’t feel like I photographed all that many shots that would be considered some of my best, but it was still a fun trip to a new location. One of the better images from the trip was capturing this fox running across Oak Alley Plantation’s grounds early in the morning. The giant oaks in the south are something to behold!

Oak Alley Plantation Fox Panorama
Oak Alley Plantation Fox PanoramaPrints Available
A fox runs across the grounds of Oak Alley Plantation

A meteor shower, waterfalls and a trip to Big Basin

As warmer weather set in and May arrived, so did the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. I took 2-3 nights off work and set about shooting a number of Milky Way scenes with meteors. I didn’t manage very many meteor shots, with the exception of the one below, but was pretty happy with a few of the Milky Way shots.

Flint Hills Meteor Milky Way
Flint Hills Meteor Milky WayPrints Available
A meteor flashes across the sky in the Flint Hills
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse Star Trails
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse Star TrailsPrints Available
Star trails over Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

This shot with it’s silhouette of trees in front of the Milky Way and light pollution won the award of best Night photo KLM Airlines June photography competition.

Prairie Trail Milky Way
Prairie Trail Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way shines above the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway near Mushroom Rock State Park
Windmill Milky Way
Windmill Milky WayPrints Available
A windmill at Mushroom Rock State Park is defined by the lights of the Milky Way

Spring rains brought with them the rushing of waterfalls. I managed to bring my visited waterfalls in Kansas tally to over 70 this year. The four below were some of my favorites.

The Hollow
The HollowPrints Available
Butler Falls Deluge
Butler Falls DelugePrints Available
Heavy rainfall at Butler Falls
Geary Falls Fog
Geary Falls FogPrints Available
Geary Falls shrouded in fog after a decent rain
The Floodgates Opened
The Floodgates OpenedPrints Available
Santa Fe Falls are at full force after heavy rains

In late May, I took a wonderful 3a.m. trip to the Gypsum Hills for sunrise. My favorite shot from that little road trip was this sunrise shot from the edge of Big Basin.

Big Basin Sunrise
Big Basin SunrisePrints Available
Sunrise over Big Basin in the Gypsum Hills of Kansas
Golden Glow
Golden GlowPrints Available
Warm light basks the Gypsum Hills east of Little Basin in golden tones as the sun rises

The Flint Hills and a surprise visit by the Northern Lights

In early June, I took a trip up to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to shoot the Milky Way. I wrote a long story that involves being stranded at Quivira for half the night. What I didn’t bargain for was capturing the faint Northern Lights showing up!

The Northern Lights in Kansas
The Northern Lights in KansasPrints Available
The Norther Lights at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way Panorama
Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way PanoramaPrints Available
The Aurora Borealis shows up on the left of this Milky Way panorama at Quivira

As the month of June moved on, I took a few trips out to the Flint Hills to admire how green everything was in 2016! My favorite sunset of the year happened on a trip to Texaco Hill, as seen below.

Flint Hills Spring Sunset
Flint Hills Spring SunsetPrints Available
Sunset at Texaco Hill in the Flint Hills
Texaco Hill Sunset
Texaco Hill SunsetPrints Available
Sunset at Texaco Hill in the Flint Hills

As all Kansan’s know, June also means harvest time. Golden wheat fields dot the landscape. And combines are out in full force! I managed two shots I was really happy with this past harvest.

The Sunrise Before Harvest
The Sunrise Before HarvestPrints Available
Sunrise at a field ready to be harvested near Wichita
June in Kansas
June in KansasPrints Available
Lightning crashes down around a John Deere combine

To continue reading my 2016 Year in Review, visit part 2!

Posted under: Kansas, News & Updates