When I announced on Facebook what our first stop was coming out of San Francisco, I was immediately inundated with comments “you’ll have the best time”, “it’s a photographer’s dream”, “I’m so jealous” …

Yosemite National Park was all it was promised and more.

If you are planning on visiting Yosemite to camp, the first piece of advice I can give you is to book an RV space well in advance, as the park we eventually booked in to was quite a distance away. But more on that later …

We arrived into Yosemite mid-afternoon, which in retrospect did not give us nearly enough time to see and photograph this amazing park.  Honestly, I’m not sure if a full week would have given us the time I wish we had.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

With only an afternoon and evening to play with, we worked hard at highlighting certain areas where I was confident I would get the photographs I wanted to take. We drove some of the more accessible roads and visited the lower Yosemite falls which were beautiful and spectacular for their surroundings despite being a lot smaller than Victoria Falls, Iguasu Falls and Niagara Falls.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Following the advice of a friend, we made the decision to drive to Glacier Point – one of the road accessible summits with a vantage point of the park and valley. What was originally planned to be a short stop, look out and photograph turned into a late evening overlooking the valley – about three hours in all. Meat and cheeses (from Napa Valley) came out for a light supper as we photographed the Milky Way rise over Half Dome, one of the peaks in Yosemite.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Galactic photography is quite simple though it is counterintuitive to many other forms of landscape photography. To find the colour and swirls in the sky, I use an application called Star Walk – which shows you an accurate representation of what is in the night sky as your phone is pointed in that direction. That allowed me to pinpoint the location of the Milky Way Rise.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Then, setting my ISO to 1600 and setting my aperture at about F4 – F5.6, I was able to run with shutter speeds of around 20 seconds to get the depth of colour, brightness of stars and the swirls of the Milky Way into my photograph.

I recommend playing with your white balance settings while doing this.

It was late when we finally had enough of galaxy photography and it was a long, winding, (and as we were tired,) very dangerous drive to the RV park we were booked into.

After a minor sleep in, we then drove back west to Highway 101 to begin our journey north. By taking this route (Yosemite, Redwood National Park and the Oregon Coast,) we set ourselves up with a drive rivaling our Albuquerque to Phoenix route – and it was a journey that was just as spectacular.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

If a full week is needed for Yosemite, another is needed to enjoy the coast between Redwood and Astoria. This is a two-week vacation we’ll definitely come back and do one day.

We had a couple of hours to enjoy Redwood as we really needed to get to Portland, but the time we spent was enough to have us start planning a return journey.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Likewise, the Oregon Coast is one of the most scenic and beautiful places on earth and I wish we had a lot more time to spend – and could have gone north as far as Astoria (famous for the movie The Goonies) but instead we turned inland to get to Portland in time for classes.

 

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

While the Oregon coast itself is one of the most RV friendly drives we’ve had on tour, the city of Portland itself is one of the least RV friendly cities – with narrow roads and very sharp turns – difficult to navigate when you’re driving a building. In comparison, even fast food restaurants along the coastal road had special park for RVs and the roads were designed for travelers like us.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Portland is the city of roses and also the city of bridges – and while we were there, the annual Rose Festival was occupying Waterfront Park, our workshop location. While it didn’t interfere with our workshops, it did provide many opportunities for fantastic photos, especially with our Night Photography and Advanced Photography classes.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

Our night photography class was especially fun, as we walked the waterfront and found some vantage points from one of Portland’s 1,367 bridges.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

In Portland we discovered something else we hadn’t seen – a village of houses built on the water with garages for their boats. I envy their lifestyle and surroundings.

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

The downside of our time in Portland was that a toothache turned into the need for an extraction which meant that some of my walk and take photo time has been spent with dentists and oral surgeons and in recovery. This means that this week’s article is perhaps a little shorter than it is usually, but I promise to make up for it next time.

In truth, the recovery has stopped us from visiting some places that were high on our list to photograph – Mt Rainier, Columbia River Gorge and more of the Oregon Coast. I wish I could be sharing photographs of these places – but on the bright side, it’s providing me with another excuse to come back to Oregon.

Seattle is next followed by Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City in Utah. Spread the word, come and see us and use the code WEEKEND60 to get 60% off workshops in the next few weeks.

See you next week!

Luke

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard

(c) Luke Ballard