Dave Newton

Bucket List Spots in the Western US by Dave Newton

- ‘The famous Horseshoe bend - when limited time and a chance dash to a location actually paid off with great light!'


Dave Newton is an international award-winning professional photographer and filmmaker and represents EIZO as a ColorEdge Ambassador. For 2022 we will be following his journey on the road as he travels the world with his family, Jess, Isla, and of course Otis in his recently converted truck!

Bucket List Spots in the Western US

And so on to the US. After the craziness of a month-long trip around the world, I thought two weeks in the US might be a bit more slow-paced. How wrong I was! If anything, it just got faster still. We started the trip in San Francisco, a vibrant city full of visual excitement. Staying at the top of Nob Hill meant lots of up and down to see places. If you’ve not been to San Francisco before, you may be surprised to find how hilly it actually is. And they’re not long shallow hills either, but steep, short killers!

Before the trip started properly, I had a couple of days of recovery that I used to get up early for some sunrises down at the water. The Golden Gate Bridge rightly gets all the plaudits and attention, but the Oakland Bay Bridge is just as beautiful, especially as the sun rises behind it. From San Francisco we found our way to Napa Valley, along with Sonoma, they are the high-end wine capitals of the American West with some world-renowned wines coming out of them. I don’t drink, at least I hardly ever drink. But I figured when in Rome...

- ‘Looking down California Street to the Oakland Bay Bridge - a classic sunrise shot of San Francisco that I couldn’t pass up while there’

One highlight from Napa Valley was a morning hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. For those that have never been hot air ballooning, I urge you to do so. Photographically it’s glorious and challenging all at once. You can’t stop a hot air balloon, or really control where it’s going, so it’s complete potluck what you get, and you need to have your eyes open all the time ready to capture the landscape as it skims by beneath you.

- ‘The abstract patterns of vineyards of Napa Valley from the hot air balloon'

After the lush greens of Napa Valley, we flew on to Arizona, where I grabbed the chance straight off the plane to visit somewhere I’d always wanted to see - Horseshoe bend. Fortunately, I had a free couple of hours and Horseshoe bend is best seen in the afternoon before the sun sets. I drove out to the parking lot, made the hike in double-quick time, and had about an hour there. Not ideal, but better than nothing and the timing worked really well - one of those few times when you turn up and everything is just about right straight away!

The landscapes of this part of the USA are absolutely incredible, as is the wildlife. In fact, I’m convinced that if they were found somewhere less “sanitised” they’d be top of most people’s travel bucket lists. But since it’s the US, it seems to be seen as less ‘exotic’ than other places around the world. It’s a pity and I’d urge you to move it up your list!

- ‘Last light falls on the rocks in Arizona bringing texture, detail and interest to the stunning landscape’

We moved on from Arizona for a flying visit to both Arches National Park and The Grand Canyon. Of course, the Grand Canyon is world famous and rightly so. I did chuckle when one of the guests referred to it as “the big ditch” which somewhat downplays quite how big of a ditch it is. If you have even a passing interest in the landscape and geology, then you could spend a lifetime exploring around there and still barely scratch the surface. Taking a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon is a must and it’s a fantastic way to get an overview of the area (please excuse that terrible pun!).

Shooting from a helicopter is very challenging - especially the tourist ones, as you’re always shooting through a window you because you can’t open a door. The best tip is to wear dark clothes - black is ideal - as it will help kill reflections off the inside of the window. You’ll also want to keep your shutter speed higher than you imagine - there are vibrations in a helicopter, and it can play havoc with keeping things sharp.

With the excitement of the Grand Canyon over, it was on to another bucket list location - Yellowstone National Park, with the incredible sights of Old Faithful Geyser, Grand Prismatic Spring, and the wildlife. Sadly, it was only one day in Yellowstone, but we still managed to see a grizzly bear with cubs! As soon as a bear is spotted near a road, all traffic stops and becomes a logjam. On the upside, it makes it easy to see bears as it acts like a bush telegraph as you travel through the park!

- ‘Grizzly bear mother and three cubs in Yellowstone National Park’

- ‘I’m sure there’s an unwritten rule that says when hummingbirds appear, you’re duty-bound to photograph them! Even at 1/5000sec the wings are still not frozen’

Near Yellowstone is another spectacular national park - the Grand Tetons - with a view made famous by Ansel Adams at Snake River Overlook. Of course, I had to stop and have a look there on the way back from Yellowstone and I was even compelled to switch to black and white.

Ansel Adams’ famous view is no longer possible (fortunately or there would be tripod holes where he shot from) because of tree growth blocking out the river, but there are still options to find with a bit of a rapid scout around. And that’s really part of travel and landscape photography - the ability to move around quickly and find locations to shoot, sometimes when you have little time because you’re moving on. And so that brings us back to the truck and why it’s such a nice way to travel because it does provide time to explore more than you sometimes get.

- ‘My take on an Ansel Adams classic - Snake River overlook, the Grand Tetons. It required some work to find a spot to shoot from here as tree growth since Ansel Adams’ time means the river view, that provides the wonderful foreground ‘S’ is quite obscured’

As I type this we’re just beginning a little tour of Denmark, Sweden and Norway before I fly off again to go around the world twice in succession in October and November and then to the South Pole in December. So next up will be Northern Europe in Bebe before it gets exotic once again!

If you have questions, don’t be shy, feel free to reach out to me either through EIZO or through our social media channels:

@globaltraces on Instagram and Facebook, or www.globaltraces.co.uk for a website.

If you want to see more of my work specifically, then @photopositive (Insta and FB) or www.photopositive.co.uk will get you there.

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