This past Fourth of July weekend, I was able to cross off one of the major national parks that had been on my bucket list for a long time. Hint: It contains stunning wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers, and it got its name from its glaciers. That's right- Glacier National Park is the spot!
It is very remote (as are many national parks) and one of the only major airports nearby is Calgary International Airport, which happened to work out because got to experience Canada Day (July 1st). What better way to celebrate Canada Day and 4th of July than at the national park that sits on the US-Canada border!
On the US side is Glacier National Park which covers over 1,500 square miles of Montana's rugged wilderness. The park spans the border to Alberta Canada, forming the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and noted for its various ecosystems ranging from prairie to tundra. Here's how I was able to cover many of the major sights in this park in a three day weekend.
Check out the behind the scenes video (Caution: there may or may not be a bear attack in this vlog):
What are your favorite things to see in Waterton- Glacier National Park?
As one of the most historic cities in the US, Boston has many interesting sights and iconic buildings dating back to colonial times. Boston is a metropolis that has a town-like quality, making it easy to walk or take the MBTA to many of the photo destinations. Some tourists only spend a weekend here, but I recommend allocating more time to properly delve into the history behind each monument. I spent four days total, but felt like I could spend at least a week to fully experience the city and surrounding areas.
Boston is a city with personal significance to me as I spent two years living in the Boston area as a youngster in my pre-photography days. I finally revisited the city this past May thanks to a work conference. I am surprised at how much it has changed and also remained the same. Since my last time here in the late 80s, the city underwent a bit of a makeover with the completion of one of the largest public works projects called the Big Dig.
The iconic swan boats are still here but the central artery has been replaced by a beautiful park, making the city less congested and even more picturesque. The city is spirited and invigorating. The Bostonians are friendly and their accent started coming back to me as I toured the wicked smaht universities in Cambridge to the harbah-front historical buildings. Below are the top sights to photograph.
Explore the streets of Boston in our behind the scenes video:
Music Credit: Fun! "Some Nights" | All videos shot with iPhone 6 | Editing: iMovie
Here are the top sights to photograph in Boston:
1. Acorn Street
Located in the Beacon Hill area of Boston are charming row-houses, and the most famous street for photography: Acorn Street. It is a cobblestone street that feels like time stood still.
2. Boston Common & Public Gardens
The Boston Common is the oldest urban park in the US, great for people watching and with plenty of photographic opportunities. I visited in Spring when the tulips were in bloom and the swan boats were cruising the lake. There are excellent photo opportunities at sunset when the cityscape is reflected in the Frog Pond.
3. Freedom Trail
It is one thing to study US history in class and another experience to see the history come alive in the location where the real events took place. The city provides many historical re-enactments of the events that shaped America and led to our independence. Considerably the most famous historical tour is the Freedom Trail, which is a walk through Boston's major historic monuments.
The walk can be done alone or with one of the spirited guides - many of whom dress in the fashions of 1700's Boston and provide interesting stories about each site. The Freedom Trail can be done in as little as an hour and a half for some people, but for me it took about a full day to get the most out of each site. The walk is not only fascinating, but each stop made for excellent photo opportunities. All you have to do is follow the red brick trail.
4. Charles River
The Charles River divides Cambridge and Boston and is very picturesque. The riverfront has a walkway which offers many photo opportunities of the skyline and sailboards, as well as great people watching. During the regatta season in October, the river is filled with boats which makes for an interesting photo shoot.
5. MIT - Stata Center
Being one of the top schools in the world for the sciences, it is no surprise that the MIT campus also offers some of the most interesting modern architecture. Aside from the most famous building on campus (the Great Dome), the Stata Center is my personal favorite. Built by Frank Gehry, it is geometric, colorful, puzzling, and glorious.
6. Harbor - Water taxi
For about $12, I took a water taxi which lead me to some of the coolest skyline views of the harbor.
7. North End
The North End is Boston's Italian community filled with family owned restaurants, delicious cannoli shops, and coffee bars. Compared to other US cities, the Italian food is well represented and a visit to these eateries is a must. The architecture and row-houses looks like a movie set, perfect for photographing. The streets here are narrow, so there are no tour buses on this part of the city. By the way, the Freedom Trail crosses right through the North End, so plan to spend extra time here for food.
8. Harvard and Harvard Square
The Harvard campus offers some interesting architecture sights. Some of my favorites were the Harvard Lampoon Building- a domed shaped building with windows that look like a face, the Le Coubossier Building, and the Library are all standouts. I took the Harvard tour (which was about $10) which is a student-run tour which covered all the major sites on campus in under an hour.
However, the tour did not come with access to the interiors of the campus buildings. If you have some student or faculty friends, they may be able to let you in to see the interior of the library and the freshman dining halls (think Hogwarts), which are both stunning.
9. Observation Decks
Boston features many skyscrapers, roof-decks, and towers which offer a bird's eye view of the city. The Prudential Tower has an observation deck, as well as the Custom House Tower, and the Bunker Hill monument. If you choose Bunker Hill like I did, be prepared to walk up 294 steps in a dizzying spiral staircase which leads to an enclosed observation room. Although, the view at the top did not disappoint.
To purchase the images from this gallery, check out our Travel Photos page.
Navajo Nation is filled with so many natural wonders that we had to do a part two blog post. The road trip through this region continues with a trip to Monument Valley and the Petrified National Forest.
Monument Valley- Day 2
No trip to Navajo Nation is complete without seeing where the West Was Won: Monument Valley. Featured in numerous western movies, Monument Valley is the iconic landscape of the Southwest. The drive to the park is about an hour north of Canyon de Chelly, and the monoliths start around the town of Kayenta. The entire desert gradually turns into red sand as the park gets closer.
Monument Valley is right on the Arizona/Utah border. The park usually can reach three digit temperatures in summer, but on this cool January day it was 40 degrees with freshly fallen snow in the valley that added a decorative touch to the monuments. We made a brief stop at the View Hotel, a fitting name for a hotel that literally has the best view of the park. The horizon is unobstructed of anything man-made. The most famous monoliths that dominate the skyline are the left and right mittens, and three sisters. Inside the hotel, there is a gift shop which has the most extensive amount of Native American crafts that I have seen: turquoise jewelry, dream-catchers, blankets, and pottery.
We took our 4x4 SUV through the unpaved park loop, a 17 mile dirt road that passes through the monuments. Overall, I was surprised at how wide-open this park felt. I could hear my echo throughout the park and there were hardly any tourists or remnants of modern life in sight. It was a pure American adventure.
Petrified Forest National Park - Day 3
Forest? Wait, isn't this the desert? Well, not 217 million years ago it wasn't! This park has trees and fossils that are literally frozen in stone with some of the most beautiful natural art.
On the route back to California, we took highway 40, which happens to pass through the Petrified Forest National Park. The park is not to be missed. Upon entering the park, the first thing we saw was the painted desert - a pink and red landscape with wavy desert hills. We continued onward to find that the landscapes got even more surreal.
It is hard to imagine that this bone-dry terrain was once a swamp with large conifer trees that existed when the earth was a Pangaea and Arizona was located near the equator. The logs from the conifer trees crystallized by absorbing the minerals from the water. With time, they became as hard as rocks, although still look like wood. The bark contains semi-precious stones with different colors, like mustard yellow, burnt orange, and hot pink - making them a treasure trove for souvenir hunters in the park to this day. They are quite beautiful to look at and definitely give a sense of how dramatically the earth has changed over time.
Another notable sight at the Petrified National Forest is the Blue Mesa - an area that looks like a purple moonscape. The area is so fragile that hiking is not allowed. The ground is made of "conglomerates" or a collection of cobbles and pebbles cemented together that were carried in a stream laid down 225 million years ago. The ground is covered in purple, clay-like sand that feels like quicksand when you step on it. Fossils have been unearthed of dinosaurs and reptiles. These hills are shaped like tepees and you can see the striations of rock. It is because of all the colors that this area was dubbed the painted desert.
Overall, the Navajo Nation is filled with spectacular sights to photograph. If you can make it within three days like we did, then you will have no problem fitting in these sights. Of course, it is best to spend more time in each park as it will allow you to experiment with different lighting and take the hiking trails which gives you a closer look into the park. Exploring this area will definitely make you feel as though you have entered a whole new world without leaving the USA!
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