Ever Considered Quitting Your Job?

Story and Photography by Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

Have you ever considered quitting your job to go on an epic adventure?

After graduating college and working a full-time IT job for over a year, I needed an escape. I was tired of spending 9+ hours a day in a windowless, grey server room. A plan slowly started to form. This trip would span the entire Western US, and would allow me to finally see the landscapes I had been dreaming of for years.

After I had saved up enough money to support this journey, I made the terrifying decision to quit my comfortable job and dive head-first into the unknown. With a couple dozen locations plotted on a map, I hit the road in my 2004 Chevy Malibu. My goal was to come home with a great Portfolio and begin my life as a Professional Photographer.

In June of 2016 I embarked on a 4 month long photography roadtrip across America.  Along the way I visited 15 National Parks, drove over 14,000 miles, and took thousands of photographs.  From the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, to the rugged mountains of Glacier National Park, to the rainforest of Olympic National Park. It was an incredible journey across the Western US. One highlight of the trip was North Cascades National Park, in northern Washington. I arrived in the North Cascades in mid-September, about 3 months into the roadtrip.  Having had little time to research this area, I decided to wing it.  My first destination was Picture Lake.  I arrived just in time!  After snapping a few photos, a rainstorm hit Mount Shuksan.  It was a good reminder just how quickly the weather can change in the mountains.  Satisfied with 1 good photo, I continued on up to Artist Point.  Little did I know this would be one of the most dramatic sunsets of the entire roadtrip!

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© Peter Zelinka

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© Peter Zelinka

As I walked around the Artist Point area, the storm clouds began to break up.  I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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© Peter Zelinka

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© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

After the sun set, I drove back down to Picture Lake.  Surprisingly, the sky had completely cleared up and I was able to capture a few Long Exposure photos.

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© Peter Zelinka

Photo2The next morning I drove down to the North Cascades Visitor Center, where I saw a beautiful painting hanging above the entrance.  The Ranger at the front desk mentioned that the painting was based on Cascade Pass.  I now had my next destination.  Unfortunately, the trailhead was 23 miles down a rough forest service road.

My little Chevy Malibu was not happy with the rugged, washboard road.  When I finally arrived at the trailhead the weather was cold and grey.  It would soon be dark.  I set up camp and waited for daybreak.  As I laid in my tent on a dark, rainy night I heard the sound of rocks tumbling down the mountains.  It was very unnerving.  I kept dreaming I was crushed by falling boulders.  When I woke up, the clouds had covered the surrounding mountains and the rocks were still falling!  I pulled out my telephoto lens and captured some video.

I waited all day for the clouds to break and the sun to come out.  At least the conditions allowed for a few cool photos!

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

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© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

At 4pm I got my chance!  The clouds were slowly breaking apart, revealing the blue sky above.  I packed up my camera gear as quickly as possible and began the 4 mile hike up to Cascade Pass.  I reached the pass just in time!

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

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© Peter Zelinka

While I was scouting out different angles for the landscape photos, a  deer snuck up behind me!

Satisfied that I had captured the scene from the painting, I headed back down the mountain.  After a good night’s rest in my tent, I was ready for a new adventure.  My next destination in the North Cascades was Blue Lake.

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© Peter Zelinka

I couldn’t believe how beautiful the water was!  The blues of the lake contrasted beautifully with the yellow of the larch trees.  I spent 40 minutes hiking around the lake, looking for the perfect vantage point.  After getting some nice photos, I felt like something was missing.  Then I had the “brilliant” idea of going for a swim; that would make for an interesting element!  So I set my camera to Timelapse mode and went down to the lake shore.  It took me a while to work up the courage to jump in.  Finally I was ready!  I jumped in and began swimming.  The water was ice cold!!  I only lasted about 10 seconds before I had to turn around.  My limbs quickly started to go numb and I didn’t think I would make it back to shore.  Thankfully the sun was shining brightly, I was able to warm up in the light in a few minutes.  The things we’ll do for a photo!

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© Peter Zelinka

Satisfied with my Blue Lake shoot, I headed to the Washington Pass Overlook.  With a beautiful, clear sky overhead I decided to capture some Star Trails.  Light slowly faded from the sky and the faint stars became brighter and brighter.  Eventually I dozed off, after staring up into the night sky for what seemed like hours.Photo17

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© Peter Zelinka

Before leaving the North Cascades I visited a hot spring buried deep in the rainforest.  Soaking in the natural hotspring was incredibly relaxing, especially in the early morning fog.  Unfortunately, this spring stunk of sulfur.  The closest thing I’d had to a shower the whole week was my quick dip in Blue Lake.  Now I smelled even worse!!  I was ready to get back to civilization and shower!

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

If you’ve been considering doing something similar, I’d highly recommend picking up the book: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book gave me a blueprint to quitting my IT job to become a professional photographer. Embarking on a new adventure can be terrifying, leaving everything and everyone you know behind. In my experience, it was well worth it. Living on the road is so different from most people’s lives. You truly have complete freedom over your life. Swimming in pristine alpine lakes, spending the night alone under a sea of stars, hiking through the mountains, walking along the coast, watching the sun rise over the mountains.

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© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

© Peter Zelinka

If you are interested in reading more about my trip, head over to www.peterzelinka.com  for detailed blog posts on my journey.  I recently published a post with some tips for living on the road. You can also visit my Gallery to see photos from the expedition.

Now that winter has arrived I am saving up my money and beginning to plan my next adventure. I’m currently teaching private lessons on photography, as well as working at a local camera store. I can’t wait to get back on the road! Some trip ideas include: a summer driving up through Canada to Alaska, a Spring or Fall month-long trip to the Southwest, and a Fall color trip to Southwest Colorado from September to October.Photo22

NATIONAL PARKS: White Sands National Monument

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Glowing gypsum dunes in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

White Sands © Jerry Ginsberg

Although the big state of New Mexico has just one lone national park within its borders (Carlsbad Caverns — see NANPA eNews December, 2016), there is a national monument that offers another opportunity for some terrific landscape images.

At just a few miles from the comfortable town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, the White Sands National Monument is an easy drive of only about three hours from Carlsbad Caverns National Park. If flying in, you might check for flights to both Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas.

White Sands is located in the Tularosa Basin, in the middle of the famous White Sands Missile Range. Because of its location, the dune field is closed to the public on days when a test launch is scheduled. Check in advance to avoid disappointment. Even then, launch schedules can change, and they take priority over tourism (and even us photographers).

Few National Park Service units have names that are so very descriptive as White Sands National Monument. The sand making up these terrific dunes is actually a granulated form of the mineral gypsum, and it glistens sparkling white, especially in the bright New Mexico sunlight.

Even though you’ll be driving the unpaved gypsum tracks within the dunes, they are hard-packed and suitable for any standard passenger car.

Hiking through these semi-firm dunes is only slightly less strenuous than doing so on the more typical loose sand found elsewhere. As you traverse a small part of this enormous 275-square-mile dune field, the rolling shapes seem to come at you in endless waves. Continue reading

From the Viewpoint of a Tamron Image Master

Story and photography by David Akoubian

© David Akoubian

© David Akoubian

SPONSORED- I have been an avid birder long before I was a photographer. When I finally started photographing birds autofocus was non-existent. Photographing birds in flight was just a dream, mostly I did stationary birds. As I made the transition to digital just after the turn of the century, I started getting my hopes up that I could photograph stationary and moving birds. It wasn’t until the past few years though that everything came together for me, photographing all kinds of birds moving and stationary without breaking the bank. Continue reading

NANPA Weekly Wow: Feb 20-26

Great Kiskadees Beak to Beak, Hidalgo Co., TX- © Cissy Beasley

Great Kiskadees Beak to Beak, Hidalgo Co., TX- © Cissy Beasley

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: It’s All in Your Perspective

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

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Hessian Lake – Bear Mountain State Park, New York. © F.M. Kearney

It’s something that usually isn’t given much conscious thought, yet it’s like that one obscure ingredient that can make or break a recipe. Its effects aren’t as obvious as your choice of aperture or shutter speed, but nevertheless, it is just as important. What I’m referring to is perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, your perspective is controlled by your viewpoint — not the focal length of your lens. The only reason the perspective of wide-angle and zoom lenses is so different from normal is because they “view” drastically more or less of the scene. Focal lengths ranging from the mid-teens to the early twenties can provide dramatic landscape views. This is great if you want to include a very close foreground and a background that might be miles away. Sometimes, however, a scene might call for just the opposite kind of perspective. Continue reading

Superior Photo Destination: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Story and Photography by Tom Haxby

Council Lake

Early winter snow contrasts with fall color on Council Lake in the Hiawatha National Forest. © Tom Haxby

If you seek a remote place for wild and scenic photographic opportunities, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as the “UP” to locals, is one of those below the radar places with something for almost any photographer. This narrow peninsula is bounded by the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan to the south and the scenic Lake Superior coast forms the northern boundary. Continue reading

NATURE’S VIEW: Still waters and golden light

Story and photography by Jim Clark

For a few years now I have taken my workshop attendees to explore Taylor Landing, an isolated historical boat landing located along Maryland’s lower eastern shore. With the scenic vista of Johnson Bay and the tranquility of a morning shoot, the landing has become a favorite.

A small bay that opens into the much larger Chincoteague Bay, Johnson Bay borders along the western shore of the coastal barrier island of Assateague. The water is protected on three sides, and, weather permitting, it can become very still and flat, with nary a ripple to be seen.

Autumn Morning @ Johnson Bay 11192016 Taylor Landing MD (c) Jim Clark_13

Pre-sunrise moment on Johnson Bay, Taylor Landing, Maryland. © Jim Clark

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NANPA Weekly Wow: Feb 13-19

Howler Monkey, Honduras © Lance Carter

Howler Monkey, Honduras © Lance Carter

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2017 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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From the NANPA President

cbolt_portrait_jan2014We live in a time where the wisdom of the ages is spoon-fed to us through the oracle of internet memes. If you use Facebook or another social media platform, you’ve undoubtedly seen and shared wise, funny or utterly bizarre statements pasted over a photo — often of a confused looking cat, oddly enough — that tug at the heartstrings or strike the funny bone.

A lot of these wisdom bites are throwaways, but occasionally one comes across the crawl that sticks with me. I recently noticed this one: “If one lights a fire for others, it will brighten one’s own way.”

According to some half-hearted internet research, the original quote seems to have come from a letter written in the late 1200s by a Japanese priest and spiritual leader named Nichiren. I’m not sure that the honorable Nichiren would have cared that his quote was passed around on Facebook, but I’m grateful for the insight, regardless of the messenger. Continue reading