070. Photo Essay: Applecross, Scotland

The answer is yes.

Yes, you should visit Scotland. And you should go to Applecross.

If you enjoy beautiful, rugged scenery, and if you enjoy camping, either in a tent or in an adorable wooden hut, or even a B&B or hotel, you will find a comfy place to lie your head in Applecross.

It's one of the most beautiful places to explore, and the switchback road that leads you there travels over the Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle), one of the highest roads in the UK. (It's also part of the Northcoast 500 route)

Like most of Scotland, the diversity in landscape is astounding. You can enjoy a mossy woodland hike next to a babbling brook, and moments later, listen to the ocean waves crashing into the rocks below your feet. There is something for everyone there. I have now visited Applecross twice, and each time was a new experience.

Here are some photos from autumn 2016, and towards the end of the post, I'll share some photos from this weekend (April 2017).

As you can see, Autumn was incredible gorgeous, and offers a variety of colors and textures within the scenery. So when I headed back there this weekend, I was very excited to see what Spring time would hold!
I wasn't disappointed, and in fact, the moody weather gave the trip a very dramatic tone. We experienced everything from stormy, foggy weather to beautiful sunshine!

In terms of wildlife, you will find herds of red deer, sheep, "Highland Cows" and many other critters. As for weather, wear layers!! Since weather changes so quickly, you have to be prepared for anything. 

I also recommend booking your campsite far in advance. Since space is limited, you want to make sure you have a place to sleep!

If you enjoy art, I highly recommend the gallery/cafe at the "bottom of the hill" - it's called the Bealach Cafe & Gallery. Stop here on your way in or out of Applecross. Enjoy a delicious cuppa and fresh scone with jam/butter, and peruse the beautiful fine art selection. I was actually shocked the first time I walked in. It's full of Scotland artists, and the work is absolutely breathtaking.

Applecross has gained quite a reputation, so in the summer (high tourist season) be prepared for a lot of traffic and busy campsites. I can HIGHLY recommend late autumn and spring time if you have the option to visit then! It's much less crowded.

If you're looking for things to do in Applecross, your main activity will be camping/hill walking and site-seeing. Let's face it, you go there to get away and you want to enjoy nature!
My favorite hikes are easy to get to from the Applecross campsite. 
The first one is a woodland walk, that follows the River Applecross. From the Applecross Campsite, go north on Shore Street towards the "Applecross Walled Garden & Restaurant," (but don't turn into there) and before you get to the bridge that crosses the river, there's a small area to park on the left side of the road near the water. Park the car and walk towards the bridge. At the bridge you will see a small gate and a sign for "River Walk" (Roes Walk). Many of the woodland photos above are from this trail. The trail hangs by the right side of the river most of the way.

I also love the Coral beaches trail (near Culduie), which is more remote. Follow the road south to Ard-dhubh from Culdie. On your way here, keep an eye out for seals when it's sunny. They like to lay on the rocks! There's roadside parking near a small sign and trailhead that says "Coral Beaches." The trail crosses the moors and curves around the peninsula, following a trail through some beautiful birch trees. Stay on the path towards Ard Ban when you see the sign. It leads to a beautiful small beach near three old cottages (one is in ruins). There's a beautiful view towards Raasay and beyond.

At the end of the day, enjoy a pint on the water at the Applecross Inn, and try their AMAZING homemade sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream. 

Happy camping!

056. Photo Essay: Isle of Skye, Scotland Part 2

The following images were from my second trip to Skye in the fall of 2016. 

As I mentioned yesterday in Part 1, my love for this island is boundless. The incredible diversity of Skye incites curiosity and adventure.

During this trip, we had a couple nights of camping, and we also stayed at a friend's self-catering home while they visited (perfect timing). It was so much fun to share this beautiful island with good friends.

It couldn't have been better - staring out over the Loch as the sun set, curled up with a glass of wine and some sticky toffee pudding (the national desert of Scotland). Waking up to a beautiful sunny morning, sitting in the observatory and painting the coast.

Photo courtesy of my friend Rich.

That is my heaven.

Since I have discovered my love for watercolors, I've had so much fun going on hikes and painting the scenery! You'll see lots of my paintings mixed in below.

Most of these images were captured on my Canon 7D, some of them are from my LG G4.

055. Photo Essay: Isle of Skye, Scotland Part 1

Today I'm headed to the my favorite place in Scotland: The Isle of Skye!

Today and tomorrow I'll be sharing some of my favorite images from this island. I traveled here in the late winter of 2016, and once more in the fall. Regardless of what time of year you visit, there is so much beauty to take in.

This rural island on the west side of Scotland has one of the most diverse landscapes I've ever seen. Everything from lush forests to rocky coasts.
It's home to approx 10,000 people, and this low population means that nature rules. 

These images were captured with my Contax 645 on medium format film (a couple of the dusk shots were on my iPhone).

049. Photo Essay: Berlin

Today I'm going to share images of my trip to Berlin! 
The one thing that stood out to me the most in Berlin was the stark contrast between "new and old." The city is filled with relics of the past, in architecture and monuments, yet there is a contemporary city sprouting up. There was a lot of construction when I was there (March 2016), many new skyscrapers being built.
A friend of mine lives there and took me on a walking tour of downtown Berlin, offering local insights. 
Unfortunately I was sick with Bronchitis while I was there so I had to take it a little easy.

Out of all the European cities I've visited, Berlin was the cleanest, most well organized and labeled. It wasn't overly crowded (in fact, it kind of felt empty at times, probably because it was winter).

There's so much history to discover there, and I felt very introspective while walking around.

Cool fact: the Berlin Wall is obviously gone, but they kept a few "pieces" in tact. They also left the original brick foundations in tact, which cut through the new roads and sidewalks like a vein. 

041. Photo Essay: Stockholm, Sweden Part Two - 24 Hours in Gamla Stan

24 hours in Gamla Stan

Welcome to Part Two of my Stockholm post! As I mentioned, I stayed at my friend's house for a couple days outside the city, but I wanted to have at least one full 24 hours IN the city to explore. So I booked a room at the STF Hotel Gamla Stan. Very affordable, clean, and quiet. I also booked a Swedish Massage at the Luxury Spa at First Hotel Reisen, which was an amazing experience (cliche, I know).

Here's how I recommend spending 24 hours in Gamla Stan.

The wonderful part about traveling during winter is that most places are cheaper and way less crowded. It's honestly the only way I could afford traveling through Europe for 2 months. The downside is, while out exploring, you are often freezing! 
Thankfully, there are plenty of cute little coffee and pastry shops to pop into to warm up (and have a treat... what better excuse!)

The city has such a good energy about it. It's clean, well organized, and once you get into "old town" also known as Gamla Stan, you are transported back to medieval Europe. It's on a little island in the middle of Stockholm (accessed by bridges).

This eclectic mix of new and old, makes Stockholm so much fun to explore (especially for photographers!)
I spent most of my time in Gamla Stan, as there is so much visual and cultural interest there.
Tons of little shops (most of it is pedestrian-only), restaurants, art galleries, and museums.
But even just the people watching is ace, and the old architecture is alluring.

Spend a few hours wandering around the old city. The narrow cobblestone streets and alleys wind between old stucco'd buildings. There's so much to see and you can get a good sense of the place by wandering without itinerary. Stop into any of the coffee or pastry shops for a morning snack/early lunch.

Eventually you'll want to check into your hotel. I enjoyed the STF Hotel Gamla Stan, and it was about $60 including breakfast. Located right on the end of Gamla Stan and easy to access. Even at night I felt safe walking alone in the area.

My friend knew about a really cool place called the Aifur Krog & Bar, which was basically a Viking-style restaurant. It's pricey, but if you have the chance, you MUST have dinner here!!
(NOTE: It's extremely popular so you will need to make reservations!! Even in the dead of winter.)

Seating is family style (large tables) among roaring fireplaces, candle light, live musicians perched on cushions, and the food...oh man the food... 

As a vegetarian eating in a viking restaurant, I was a little nervous. I ordered one of the few options without meat, the stew.

Hands down, it was one of the best things I've ever eaten. I practically licked my steel bowl.

After a rousing dinner, make your way to the Ice Bar. (https://www.icebarstockholm.com/book-icebar/)
It's not in Gamla Stan, but you can get there with a 20 minute walk or by bus.

Located under Hotel C, you walk in, pay the entry fee ($22), and you are escorted through to the very cool (literally freezing) Ice Bar! A very unique (and strong) cocktail is included in your entry fee, but you can buy more as needed/desired. They provide the warm gear for you to wear, which you definitely want, because even the seats are made of ice!

After about an hour, I was frozen to my core, so we decided to head out.
You can enjoy exploring the city a little more, or head to Sjätte Tunnan, and amazing underground "pub" who serves some of the best mead I've ever tried! It's located back in Gamla Stan. It has a very old world feel, and very delicious beverages. (They also serve viking style food but I missed the cut-off.

Excuse the creepy lighting!

Excuse the creepy lighting!

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You'll never run out of things to do, see and taste in Stockholm, especially in Gamla Stan.
A 2 day trip would still leave you wanting more. 

Happy traveling!

040. Photo Essay: Stockholm, Sweden Part One: The New City and Surrounding Area

There's so much to share about Stockholm and the nearby areas that I need to split this post into two parts. Today, I'll share photos and experiences about the "newer" part of Stockholm (which is still really old) and the countryside. Tomorrow: Part Two, 24 Hours in Gamla Stan, the "old city!"

Even in winter the countryside is gorgeous. There's a stark, quiet beauty to it (I love black and white film, and those things go hand in hand!)

Stockholm was one of those places that I had always dreamed of visiting. Any photos I saw of the city were so enchanting and inviting. Last March I had the chance to pass through during my travels, and I was not disappointed. 
I got to meet up with a good friend, who was gracious enough to give me a tour of the city (new and old) and even let me borrow his jacket when it randomly started to snow on us! 

I was staying at his house, just outside the city, so we also had a chance to explore the countryside.

Here are some of my favorite images from the trip that I think capture its personality.

I'm not much of a museum lover, but there is one experience you CAN'T miss in Stockholm. That's the Vasa Museum.

It contains the oldest preserved Viking ship in the world. It's worth the $15 entry fee.
You can't understand the scale of this ship until you're standing next to it!

Bottom left: tiny people ants for scale.

A "miniature" replica of the ship (actual ship shown behind it).

A "miniature" replica of the ship (actual ship shown behind it).

The detailing and craftsmanship is stunning.

The countryside around Stockholm is dotted with ancient Rune Stones. They were originally used as Viking memorial markers (not burial sites though). They've since been preserved and "labelled" - usually there's a little sign next to them (in Swedish).

There's so much incredibly rich culture to explore in Sweden. Having only a few days there is difficult, especially in winter. But even then, you can see a ton just by driving or walking around!

Tomorrow: Party Two, 24 hours in Gamla Stan!

033. Photo Essay: Tønsberg, Norway

During my Europe trip in February/March 2016, I visited some friends in Norway for a couple days, in a cute little town called Tønsberg. Despite the freezing temperatures and very deep, wet snow, I found it to be incredibly relaxing. It was a nice escape from the city. There was such an interesting mix of architecture - even in a small rural town there were some excellent examples of Functionalism (for architecture nerds out there).
I REALLY hope to go back in warmer weather and explore the forests, as I hear they are rich with flora and fauna. 

I didn't do as much site-seeing as usual when I was there, because of the harsh weather, but I made sure to explore at least a little!

027. Hike Recap: Hanging Lake in Colorado

If you're looking for inspirational landscapes, it's hard to go wrong with any hike in Colorado. The natural beauty of the mountains is easily accessible from Denver, but ask anyone for a recommendation and you're bound to hear about Hanging Lake.

This hike is strenuous, but SO worth it.
Drive towards Glenwood Springs on I-70 (about 2.5 hours from Denver), take exit 121 and return to I-70 going back towards Denver (yes, for some reason there is no exit directly from I-70 West)

After reaching the car park (get there as early as possible in the summer, as it fills up fast), follow the signs towards the trailhead (about 10 minutes).

Once you get to the trailhead, the vertical climb begins. You will be hiking up, up, up UP for a mile! I was very winded, so we took it slow. In May the ground is still muddy from melting snow, but not bad. There are some man-made stone steps here and there, but also some very rough terrain scattered. 

The trail follows a waterfall/creek the whole way. There are a bunch of bridges that cross over the water as well. Close to the top there is an amazing spot for a beautiful panoramic view.

Keep going up, and you'll soon hit the lower lake of Hanging Falls! Several waterfalls pour down into the gorgeous blue waters.

You're not done yet! Back on the trail, instead of heading back down, turn right and climb up the steep boulders above the falls. There you will find Spouting Rock, the incredible "source" of the Hanging Lake waterfalls.

In May the waterfall was GUSHING and the air was incredible "misty" - you WILL get wet! But it's an amazing experience to walk up behind the waterfall. You won't regret it!

020. Photo Essay: Deep Roots

Once upon a time there was a beautiful elven maiden who loved to walk in the forest. The trees loved her in return, for she brought them beautiful songs. As she passed by, their deep roots would stretch further into the earth, and their branches would shiver with joy.
One day while wandering below the boughs, she decided to visit her favorite place to gaze at the mountains.
The cliffs overlooked a large valley, surrounded by mountain peeks that seemed to go on forever. The sun was setting as her piercing eyes crossed the valley.
There, far below, in a little clearing beneath the great Pines, sat a mortal man, playing his flute in the warm sun. The trees around him were shivering and dancing to the music.
"I must go to him," she thought, as she turned and her swift feet carried her down the slopes.

Today I'm sharing my favorite styled photoshoot from 2014! This was a personal projects during one of my busiest weddings seasons. I had wanted to create an elven-inspired photoshoot that I could submit to magazines and photography blogs to be featured (a very common practice for wedding photographers), while creating a beautiful set of images for myself.

I hired a model, went to the thrift store and collected goods, got some flowers from the local market, and worked with a local bridal shop to borrow a beautiful gown. It was such a fun day and I'm still dreaming of the beautiful warm sun as it set over the mountains.

Inspired by one of my favorite Tolkien poems:

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."

This session was shot on 35mm and 120mm medium format films. 
To date, this is my favorite photoshoot I've ever done. Why? Because it was 100% from my imagination, not for a client. To me, that is when I make my best work.

013. Photo Essay: Ireland

In September 2014, I had the opportunity to go to Ireland for a week with my friend. This was a dream come true because I had once seen a photo of the Cliffs of Moher in a magazine and thought “I need to go there before I die.” It was the first time I left the country since 2005 when I went to Japan (another story I’ll share in the future!).

I was dreaming of misty green rolling hills and ocean fog. The kind of scenery you see in movies. We ended up with sunny, 75F degree weather almost the whole week! Not that we complained.

We were in Ireland.

I took my medium format film camera (not my digital) for this trip because I really wanted to soak in the experiences. When I use my digital camera, I can get distracted by what’s on the back of the LCD. With film, you take a shot and go (of course, you have to know how to properly expose, but is that part of the fun).

Camera details: Contax 645, 80mm f/2 Zeiss lens. Films: Kodak Portra 400 & 800, Fuji 400h, Kodak Tmax 400, Ilford Delta 3200.

We flew into Dublin, drove across the country to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher, stopping along the way in beautiful, quaint little towns, spending the week with a very loose itinerary (booking our B&B’s as we went), and experiencing the beauty that surrounded us.
When I travel, I prefer to do it spontaneously - planning as I go. UNLESS there is something specific I want to see (like a special landmark or something that requires pre-purchased tickets). Traveling in this carefree way is not everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, my friend was in the same mindset. The week was perfect!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was renting a pub that was converted to a self-catering B&B! It was called Conroy's Bar in Aglish. It was a tiny, quiet town (I mean seriously... like 15 buildings). Perfect for relaxing and a great stop from East to West coast!

I hope to return to Ireland some day - it's such a beautiful country!

You can see my full set of images here.

I highly recommend going in September, it was glorious weather and everything was lush. 

005. Photo Essay: The Not So Wild West, Part 1

I wanted to title this post, "The Wild West," but I couldn't do it without giggling. Thus the "Not So" was inserted so that I could live with myself.

This is a collection of images from a 3 day trip from Colorado to Utah (specifically Arches National Park). While there are certainly areas of Colorado and Utah that are considered "wild," it's a far cry from the images of cowboys that were once conjured by the word West. Today, the areas we know as National Parks in America are flooded with tourists throughout the year, and it's hard to visit one without running into at least one other person. Go somewhere as popular as Arches National Park, and you're faced with traffic - both on the road and on the trails.

My boyfriend visited me in May when I was still living in Colorado, so we decided to do a little road trip and check it out. We found ourselves going off-trail as often as possible in order to avoid the crowds, and I captured these images along the way.

(Part 2 is forthcoming, when I take a trip to Zion & Yellowstone National Parks, and/or Sequoia National Forest in 2017).