Welcome to my Mountain to Sea Photo Journey’s 2019 Travels and Photos review. This was my third year on this journey and the best year to date. Unlike the first two years, this year the weather was almost perfect.
In each year’s photo travel reviews, I strive to provide a realistic view of life on the road as a photographer who travels the United States in an RV.
Where I Traveled
Let’s begin this year’s review by looking at the roads I traveled, places I photographed, my campsites, and some of the major events I encountered during my travels.
Notice- I have currently experiencing issues with Google My Maps displaying here. Please follow this link to my 2019 Travels and Photos map until I can resolve this issue.
A year to slow down
After traveling full time for two years, I decided to spend an entire summer and part of fall in the Tetons and Yellowstone areas. Although I had photographed these parks 19 times previously, there was still so much to capture including a very special Yellowstone happening.
Arizona is such a beautiful state that I decided to dedicate more time to exploring and photographing it than trying to visit new locations.
Top 2019 photo destinations/subjects
In addition to the above destinations, I also made stops at the following places since they were on my travel route.
As mentioned above, this year I had incredible weather with very few wildfires and floods. Also, this was a superbloom year for wildflowers in certain areas in the desert southwest.
Picacho Peaks is an Arizona State Park about 45 miles from Tucson, Phoenix directly off Interstate 10. Although it is known for its “Peak”, the park is also a favorite Arizona destination for poppies.
So with it being a superbloom year, I had to try and photograph Picacho Peaks. As I mentioned in my 2017 travel report, I sometimes find it challenging to photograph new places and Picacho Peaks turned out to be one of those places.
Challenge 1– Certain areas at Picacho Peaks, not all, were covered with poppies but poppies do not open until midday. By midday all three days of my visit, the light became too harsh for great photography.
Challenge 2- I struggled to create good compositions that included the poppies and the Peak because I was afraid to walk off the trails. After two rattlesnake encounters before noon of my first day, I was sticking to the middle of the trail!
After photographing Picacho Peaks, I headed north to another area known for great wildflowers, Bartlett Lake. Here the hillsides were absolutely covered with poppies and other flowers. What an incredible place Bartlett Lake was for experiencing Arizona wildflowers.
I will definitely be back here for a longer stay in the future and also camp here next time.
Heading north on Interstate 17, it was just to hard to pass up Sedona with it’s great dispersed camping spots and amazing red rock scenery. Once again, the weather was perfect. I spent a few days again photographing Sedona’s landmarks along with the Midgley Bridge.
Grand Canyon Again
I had photographed the Grand Canyon in both 2017 and 2018 but always left feeling I had not created that perfect image of the canyon. Maybe it is not possible to capture the grandness of the canyon, but I had to give it one more try.
My score at the Grand Canyon was still Grand Canyon 3 Maria 0! I came away with some good tourist type shots but not that elusive “wow” image.
Northbound through Page
It was now time to begin heading towards the Tetons and Yellowstone. However, it was still a bit too cold there so I made a stop in Page to take the photographer’s tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon.
The canyon was spectacular but the tour was rushed and too crowded with little opportunity to create any decent images. In fact, this tour received so many complaints that the company no longer offers it. By the way, years later,I have yet to work any of the Antelope Canyon images to tell you how bad it was.
Update: The route through the Upper Canyon has been changed significantly since I did the tour to alleviate some of this overcrowding issues I encountered.
I made a brief stop in the Tetons primarily to photograph grizzly bears and other spring wildlife before heading to Yellowstone. In particular I wanted to photograph 399 with her 2 year old cubs.
I was too late as 399 kicked her cubs out just a couple days before I arrived. However, all was not lost as the park was absolutely beautiful.
Not only was I able to capture wonderful landscape images but also photographs of grizzly bear Blondie’s cubs and grizzly 699 with her cubs. Blondies cubs can be viewed in my Wildlife Portfolio.
It was mid June and time to head to Yellowstone where I had two places high on my bucket list, one being Steamboat Geyser. Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world, can go years between eruptions, in fact it once went 50 years between eruptions.
In 2018, Steamboat began erupting on a more frequent but still on an unpredictable basis. Therefore, I knew I had to try to capture a Steamboat Geyser eruption before it became dormant again. There may not be an another opportunity like this in my lifetime.
It took 9 days of sitting at the first Steamboat Geyser overlook from sunrise to sunset before I was able to capture Steamboat erupting. See the first image below.
Although it was exhilarating to be so close to Steamboat Geyser when it erupted, as a photographer, this was not the best way to photograph it.
A few weeks later I was able to capture my second Steamboat Geyser eruption as shown in the second image. In fact, over the summer, I was able to photograph three different eruptions!
Mammoth Hot Springs
My second image on my bucket list was Canary Springs in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. This image held sentimental importance to me as this was one of the very first places I ever photographed in Yellowstone.
That was also the day my mother died unexpectedly. For some unexplainable reason, I felt compelled to return to Canary Springs and create a “wow” image of it.
In addition to the above two photographs, I also captured some of Yellowstone’s geyser basins which you can view in my Yellowstone Portfolio and also in my Yellowstone Gallery. For those of you interested in photographing Yellowstone, read the following posts for great insider tips:
Heading South for Winter
Sadly the cold air was coming in fast and it was time to say goodbye to one of the best summers of my life. Of course, as I headed south, I could not resist making one final stop in the Tetons.
After the Teton stop, I literally had one day to get all the way to Lake Powell, Arizona to escape a major cold front that had 65 mph winds. Towing a trailer, I almost made it but fell short so I had to get up at 4 A.M. the next day to finish the drive while I could still safely travel.
At Lake Powell, I spent a couple days camping at Lone Rock waiting out the winds before I headed to the Tucson area for my winter stay.
Tucson and Beyond
Once in the Tucson area, I photographed the following locations along with other sites.
San Xavier del Bac Mission
San Xavier Mission is a beautiful historic landmark and the oldest church in Arizona. It had been high on my list of places to photograph but I have never been in the Tucson area at the right time of year to photograph the mission until now.
The mission was such an incredible place that I just had to write about it in the following post: Christmas Day at San Xavier Mission
I also spent a few days in Saquaro National Park which was not that great. Sadly the park is surrounded by too much development today. When I was there decades ago, it was such a different place.
Next up was a trip to Bisbee, Arizona, a town I had heard a lot about. However, nothing can prepare one for all the staircases and colorful architecture of Bisbee.
To get a glimpse of Bisbee, please check out: Quaint Bisbee.
While in the area, I also spent time photographing Tombstone, Arizona but found it to be too commercialize and lacking authenticity for my taste.
Lastly, I headed to a place I had read about a few years prior where tens of thousands of sandhill cranes winter.
Welcome to Whitewater Draw
As a person who loves sandhill cranes, I was in crane heaven. The shear volume of cranes, especially as they took flight in the early morning hours, left me speechless. Photography was a bit challenging as I detail in The Sandhill Cranes of Whitewater Draw. Despite it’s challenges, I will come back here anytime I am in the area during the winter months.
Photo Journey-Third YEAR THOUGHTS
This was the year where my dream journey and reality converged and I could not have asked for a better year. Not only was the weather good, but by revisiting destinations and spending longer periods of time in each location, I was able to do a much better job photographing them.
The gypsy in me, however, still wanted to see new places.
Good Bye 2019 -Hello 2020
As December came to an end, a knee injury that occurred in the fall of 2018 became unbearable. As much as I wanted to continue my travels, I knew I needed to take a break and have my knee fixed. With that in mine, I planned to travel to my home in Florida for a few months. Little did I know those plans would rapidly go up in smoke in 2020.