Photography and commentary by Paul Yarnall


A Visit to Iceland, the land of Fire and Ice

The world may be shrinking, but that is largely in the context of the digital revolution.  If you want to SEE the world with your own eyes, it is still a pretty big place.  Luckily, modern air travel does help shrink the time to traverse great distances and large bodies of water.  Late last spring I saw some featured photos of Iceland in one of my photo mags.  I reminded myself that this little island in the North Atlantic needed to get moved up on my list of “must visits”.  Some digging on the internet found the photo tours offered by pro shooters Colby Brown and Ken Kaminesky.

I prefer to be my own guide whenever possible.  Serious photography is a solo sport. In some environments a photo partner can be a safety consideration, but with a group of shooters one is immediately faced with “competition for composition.”  Someone is always in the way.  Then, there is traveling in a too small bus with nine other photo enthusiasts loaded up with the requisite gear. Really not my idea of a good time, BUT with professional guides you have the benefit of their local knowledge and support resources.  They know where the best photos are and the best times to be there.  Interesting hotels are waiting for you every evening.  Food is put on the table for you.  This frees up a lot of time and effort on the planning side and on the experiential side.  Like life in general, you make compromises and keep moving.

Colby, Ken, and our driver, “Siggy”, were always congenial, helpful professionals.  If you like shooting with like minded enthusiasts you won’t be disappointed with their tours.

Susie and I arrived a day before the tour to allow adjusting to the jet lag of a 5 hour time difference and a red eye flight from Boston to Iceland.  We were rewarded with a beautiful and calm first day, and we used it to play tourist in charming Reykjavik.  The “official” tour spanned eight days, and we stayed on a few extra days to experience more of Reykjavik, let Susie get in some Icelandic golf, and visit the famous Blue Lagoon spa before departing back to the States.

We did not get close to seeing it all, so we may have to go back!  Visit the gallery Iceland! to see the highlights of this “land of fire and ice.”

Eight Glorious Days In Colorado

I am again reminded of the increasingly rapid passage of time when I see my last posting and gallery was from last early spring. I still take plenty of pics… thousands since then and of those there are a few I think you will enjoy.

This little travelogue gallery shows a few highlights of a truly epic dual sport motorcycle adventure I shared with my brother Dave this past July. Farther down in the postings below you will find Riding the Continental Divide… A Two Wheeled Adventure. That experience in the summer of 2012 whetted my appetite for more of the great riding found in the western states. When I learned of the Backcountry Discovery Route series produced by Butler Maps, I immediately focused on the Colorado Route in particular.

It is a little confusing to people when I describe exploring our great land on two wheels in a way that purposely avoids paved roads as much as possible. For one thing there is little to no traffic. Another is getting to see miles of pristine “wildness” where the only sign of humanity around you is the primitive path you are on. It is well worth the dust, the heat and cold, and the tired and sore muscles at the end of each days ride.

Dad was a motorcyclist, and my siblings and I all grew up riding. My brother Dave is perhaps the most talented rider of the four of us. He is as equally at home on a race-bike at NASCAR speeds as he is in the woods on a dirt bike with knobby tires. I pestered him relentlessly to go on a dual sport adventure with me until he finally relented. On the faith of my assurance that he would have a good time we set about getting him the right motorcycle and other equipment he needed for the adventure. I hoped I could deliver.

The published Butler Colorado route starts in the southwest corner of Colorado at the “four corners” and works its way east and north finally ending at the Wyoming border. Since we had to trailer our motorcycles to Colorado, we needed a start and finish that was the same place. I modified the route by creating a loop of 1000 miles. Half was 90% of the Butler route and the other half I pieced together sitting in front of my computer. This part of our route was “untested,” but turned out to include some pretty great trails.

A friend of Dave’s lives in Buena Vista, CO, a small town right on the route, and he provided a spot to park our truck and trailer. Thus we started our adventure heading west out of Buena Vista and descended out of the mountain trails north and east of Buena Vista eight days later with 1000 miles and half a dozen 12,000′ passes in between.

This gallery, Paul & Dave Do the COBDR, shows a few of the highlights of the epic ride. To tell a better story, I included some of Dave’s photos, too. He has a good eye!

Oh yeah… I think I delivered on my promise that my bro would have a good time. Dave is ready to do it again!

The next new gallery will appear shortly and covers our recent trip exploring Iceland… an island of endless photo ops!


I published daily trip reports during the adventure.  They are collected together into one PDF file which is available for download here.

An additional resource is a collection of hotels organized around major towns near the route we took. They are available here.

Making Lemonade

With a reduced client load and Susie retired, for the past several years we have elected  to take extended vacations during the winter months.  Last year we hauled our camper from New York to California, then crossed the southern states back to Florida before making our way back to Canandaigua. A lot of miles, even in four weeks. (Best of the West)

This year we were delayed for various reasons, and our departure near the end of March turned it into an “early spring” rather than a winter jaunt. I had a vague notion that I wanted to spend some time in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park area and I wanted to spend less time driving.  Other than that, it was “follow our noses.”

As luck would have it, winter was refusing to leave. Our first morning en-route we awoke to 6″ of heavy wet snow blanketing everything.  So much for spring.  We diverted towards the Carolina coasts where it was marginally warmer and definitely no snow.  This led to a visit with new friends who own Tregembo Animal Park in Wilmington, NC.  The unseasonal and persistent cold spell had delayed the park opening, but we were treated to a private audience with the heartier animals.

Onward south, we spent a few days in the Beaufort, SC area where I took advantage of a full moon and clear skies for some night and dawn photography… one of my favorite photographic genres.

A rendezvous with friends in the quintessentially southern town of Savannah, GA led to some street photography and a long climb up the Tybee Island Lighthouse.

We finally were able to head west toward the Smokys.  The mountains were disappointingly leafless, so I was forced to look for photo ops that did not need the greenery.  A rainy day spent at the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum turned out to be terrifically photogenic and a very rewarding experience – highly recommended, even if you are not motorcycle crazy like me.

I always look forward to “getting away” so I can focus on seeing the world through my lenses.  I never know what I am going to see, but I try to shoot it in a way that captures a story.   The weather was not terribly cooperative on this trip, but I had some fun.  If all you have is lemons… make lemonade!

Please visit Eclectic Bits of the South.


Ecuador 2012 – Exploring off road on motorcycles and more

Sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a small country, a bit smaller than Colorado for a comparison. Considering the land mass of the planet and what a tiny fraction of it Ecuador is, it is curious that I have been there four times since 2005. The first time was to visit the Galapagos, the second was for a wedding, the third was to help lead a photo tour, and most recently to experience a self guided dual sport adventure on motorcycles.

The common thread to every visit was my long time friend Jason. Jason is a certified gringo with blonde hair and blue eyes who has dual citizenship and speaks perfect Spanish. Our shared love of motorcycling, and dual sport riding in particular, was a big motivator when we discovered Ecuador Freedom Rentals in Quito. They rent cycles and specialize in arranging guided and self guided tours of this geographically diverse little country. I would not do such a tour alone or without someone fluent in the language. This adventure was meant to be!

This collection of images is another travel documentary with the emphasis on recording our experience rather than creating gallery grade images. About half of the images were taken with my iPhone 4s. The others were taken with my Sony NEX 7 system. The Sony is my concession to the harsh realities of travel and motorcycling in particular, and the need for a small, lightweight, camera system. I learned a costly lesson after hauling my big Canon and lenses on my last cycle adventure last summer on the CDR (Continental Divide Ride  gallery). The NEX 7 did a fine job and was much easier to ride with. Neither is an equal to my Canon gear in terms of image quality but, the best camera is always the one that is with you.

Our adventure was much shorter in length and duration than the CDR experience… 600 miles vs 2100 and four days vs fourteen, but it was no less memorable. Each day was a couple of hours longer than I would have preferred and the roads were, in general, much worse. So fatigue was with us every day as we neared our hotel.

Our adventure started and ended in Quito, nestled in the Andes at 10,000 feet. Our course would take us down to the tropic climate and geography of the coastal regions and back up to the cooler and drier Andes several times. The villages we would pass through were often only separated by tens of miles, but the roads following the tortured contours of the chaotic mountains would be two or three times greater in distance. Sometimes we enjoyed a few miles of pavement and more miles of wide gravelly roads, but we spent a great deal of time on extremely narrow “two track” which could be very steep, very rocky, very potholed, very muddy, very foggy, or some combination of all of these. And yes, VERY remote. The first aid kit issued to us with our bikes included powerful injectable pain killers. Serious injury could take the better part of a day to reach treatment!

Throw in the maniacal country bus and truck drivers, loose livestock, blind turns, steep drop aways with no guard rails of any sort, and you had a riding experience that challenged us every second to stay alert and focused. Our survival demanded no less.

Yes, it was intense. Did we have a great time? Oh, yeah.

While in Ecuador I also got to spend time with Jason and Elizabeth, their new son Paul Andres, and to explore Guayaquil and Baños with them. Please visit my Ecuador 2012 gallery to see images of this latest adventure!

Note: While on the cycle adventure I created daily reports much like I did for the CDR Adventure.  I have combined these into one PDF document that you may download here.




Ireland by Sea… Circumnavigating Ireland with Adventure Canada

Susie and I have traveled with Adventure Canada before and we were never disappointed.  Their model is pretty unique.  Find a “small” ship designed for  about 100 passengers, equipped with a dozen indestructible zodiacs, five star food and service, and great cabin accommodations.  Then, staff up with experienced leaders and  experts from relevant fields, (history, biology, photography, cultural, etc.), create an itinerary that leaves no time for boredom, and head out to sea!  The adventure starts immediately!

We learned of a few remaining cabins for the Circumnavigation of Ireland in April and decided Ireland was a must see. We picked up our ship, the Clipper Adventurer, south of Dublin… in fact at the very same port, (Cork), that the Titanic left for its place in history.

Over the next ten days we worked our way around Ireland anchoring at key locations and then going ashore via the zodiacs. Sometimes our destinations on shore were all within walking distance.  Other times there were first class buses waiting to take us to various points of interest inland.

I am the first to admit that I am not fond of crowds, don’t like buses, and go a bit crazy trying to do serious photography when traveling in a gaggle, BUT I have learned to be a bit more circumspect and consider that the likelihood of getting to all these places on my own are between nil and not likely.  The fact is Susie and I loved this adventure, learned a great deal more about Ireland’s history and culture, made a few new friends, and still managed to get some decent photography.

As always, when on the move this way, you don’t have the option of coming back to some location when the light is better or the weather is better, (or worse).  If you are given lemons… make lemonade!  I was patient and consistent.  Before the trip was over, I was “the guy with the tripod”.  Folks actually started watching out for me to avoid walking in front of a shot.  Most folks anyway, but it only takes a second or two to get your shot, so like walking in a bad neighborhood, I always tried to be hyper vigilant for who and what was near me and shoot accordingly.  And I always thanked people who gave me a moment.  Good manners has its own karma.  What goes around comes around.

Please visit Ireland by Sea for the best of that trip.

Catching Up!

Well, here it is – a day after Christmas. There are only a few days left in the year 2011, and I can’t bear to admit how long it has been since my last contribution to this site. No, I haven’t forsaken photography. It is true that I did not get as much time exploring out of my “home zone” compared to previous years. So the sheer number of images is down, but not my intent to create better images. Photography is all about “what have you done lately“. So to cap off the year, I am introducing three new galleries that cover my period “in absentia” from these pages.

Full Moon and Other Stuff reflects my continuing love and fascination with night photography, especially during a full moon. We were lucky to have a number of full moons this past summer with clear or wispy night skies, and I forced myself to suffer a little sleep deprivation in hopes of getting some unique images.  One of them, (Three AM), won an Honorable Mention at this years “Right Place Right Time” exhibit at the Finger Lakes Gallery and Frame in Canandaigua. Being tired for a few days was rewarded to some degree.

The “other stuff” is mostly old equipment hidden in the hills of the Southern Tier, and a shot from Susie’s always beautiful garden.

I was fortunate to get a call from friend, Peter Ryan, early in the fall selling me on the idea of hunting down a long list of old mines and ghost towns in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.  Hmmm… it wasn’t a tough sell.  I was ready to get out of Dodge, (or was it go to Dodge?).  Anyway, Four State Affair picks the best of the ten day shoot, travel, shoot , travel process that is heaven for a shooter and hell for anyone unfortunate or not crazy enough to want to shoot everything in sight for days on end. There is absolutely amazing stuff slowly disappearing with the passage of time and what is often erroneously identified as progress. Photography helps preserve it.

Finally, after years of hints from ever patient wife, Susie, I arranged for a few days in New York City. We went as tourists and we saw an obligatory Radio City Music Hall show with the Rockettes, (they are amazing!), along with some of the normal tourist destinations. Of course, I brought one camera and lens…. just in case. I was drawn to the World Trade Center Memorial.  It is impossible not to be moved by the place and the enormity of what happened there.  New York, New York is a small collection of some of the places we visited.

I would be remiss not to mention what fun it was to take the train from Albany into Penn Station, Manhattan.  I saw three eagles along the Hudson, and we hit speeds of 108 MPH! (Confirmed by my GPS, yet hard to believe).  And since we walked right by B&H Photo on the way to our hotel, I had to visit this legendary photography store.  What an amazing place!

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I do have some goals for in 2012. I will be moving the site to a new host soon, and at some point I will change how the site looks and functions. It is too hard to get to the older galleries now, and while I have been pleased with the look of the galleries, they are Flash based, and that makes them non functional on portable Mac based platforms. There is no small irony in this since I LOVE my iPhone and iPad, but alas, none of my galleries will display on those platforms.  The three introduced here WILL work as they are HTML based, but sadly they are not quite so sexy.  For now  though, it will have to do.

Stay tuned!

Lance Keimig Night Photography Workshop

In 2009 while I was frantically trying to capture Trinity Bay in the fading twilight, I was forced to take longer and longer exposures. There I “discovered” the surreal ability of modern digital camera sensors to “see” in a way I could not. Since then I have captured a few more wonderful images in the wee hours when most photographers are asleep or perhaps slumped in front of their computers. My process was driven mostly by trial and error and random opportunities.

When I learned of a workshop led by Lance Keimig to focus on night photography, at a reasonable cost and a rational distance from home, I signed up. There is nothing like committing time and money to make you focus!  Night photography is not technically complicated, but the results are more predictable when you apply an established methodology. Given the fact that typical exposures can run from a few minutes to half an hour or longer, the usual strategy of plinking off a few more shots does not apply.

What do you do while you are waiting impatiently for a looong exposure to finish? Well, you walk around in your scene with a flashlight “painting” in light to create your own unique version of that time and place. Great fun!

A night workshop leaves a lot of daylight hours to fill, so I also collected a few “normal” daylight photos while exploring historic and scenic Sleepy Hollow, NY. Check out my Sleepy Hollow collection here.

Footnote 4/22/11: There were 16 of us at the workshop and stalking around the cemetery at night. Two of my shots, #8 and #14, were inspired by fellow attendee Roman Hirsch, a shooter with a great eye and imagination. I added my own twist to them but I wanted to acknowledge Roman here.

Catching UP, Two new Galleries and Three Shows

As much time as I devote to photography, I am more than a little embarrassed for my sporadic efforts in keeping this blog current. To those of you who have followed my imagery, I apologize for the long “dry spell” here.

Photography is but one of the passions in my life, and sometimes one of them has to make room for the other. Truthfully, most of my galleries are generated out of travels to new and stimulating places, and I haven’t been anywhere very exotic since the great African photo safari of last spring. In part I can blame the high cost of traveling these days, but then there is my lifelong love of motorcycling which was re-energized with the addition of off-road riding. That has diverted a lot of time and resources. (Ask me if I am having fun, though!)

My wife and I spent five weeks this winter driving to Phoenix to pick up a new-to-us camp trailer, making our way to Florida, and finally back to the frozen north a few weeks ago. I took photos when I could, but a 200 mile a day driving average did not allow for much “focused” photography. It really was a bit of a blur in retrospect.

Between that trip and some local shooting in the Upstate NY area, I collected a few images that I think you may enjoy and created two galleries for them.

Upstate NY 2010 includes images from Rochester, Watkins Glen, and points in between. I am learning that there is great photographic opportunity in my backyard, but I still have to get out there to take advantage of it.

Winter Trek 2011 picks a few highlights from Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida. Not particularly exceptional imagery, but I can at least share some of the interesting places we did get to see. Think of it as travel highlights.

Finally, an accomplished group of local photographers invited me to display my work along with their own in three upcoming local shows. If you live in the Upstate region I cordially invite you to visit. There will be some outstanding photography on display.

April 1-28, Finger Lakes Gallery and Frame , 175 S. Main St., Canandaigua, NY. Reception 4/8, 5 to 7 PM.

July 1-30, Booksmart Studio, 250 N. Goodman, Rochester, NY. Reception to be announced.

August 8 – Sept 13, Mill Art Center & Gallery, 61 N. Main St., Honeoye Falls, NY. Reception 8/4. 6 PM

I hope to see you there!