As the days get warmer here in Vancouver little by little signs of the imminent change in season are starting to appear. Trees that line the streets of downtown are starting to blossom, tiny white-bandana-faced birds flitter between their branches, the first stirrings of spring. As I wait for the pink buds on the cherry blossom trees to flower I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the last change of season: fall to winter.

The fall months were filled with uncharacteristically sunny, clear days. The typical fog of that time of year, however, did not disappoint. There were days when my office building was completely hidden in fog for the entire day, the streets filled with an eerie mist from early morning into late afternoon. This, for me, was perfect. The combination of fall foliage, orange and pink hued sunsets, and the perfect amounts of fog lingering on the sea wall, made for some very pretty scenery.

Today’s photo is one of my favourites from my afternoons spent scouring the sea wall in anticipation of the perfect fog-to-sunset ratio.

Fall fog
Sarah V

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park

While visiting Grand Teton National Park earlier this year we hoped to incorporate a bit of hiking. We were told most of the trails were still closed for the season due to the snow that refused to melt in the warm spring sunlight. A few of the lake trails had sections where the snow had melted but hiking the entire perimeter of any of them was out of the question. In the end we decided to ignore the snow and attempt the hike towards Taggart Lake.

While the beginning of the trail had pretty much melted into a slush of mud, the higher we climbed the more the snow had remained intact, staking its claim and refusing to melt. By the time we were at the peak of the trail we were knee deep in snow. With the sun shimmering in the snow’s reflection we were led along a winding trail through a forest of pine trees embedded in the cosy white blanket.

A ranger at the visitor’s centre we stopped at enroute advised us a bear and her cubs had been seen in the area earlier that morning. Understandably wary considering we were not willing (perhaps foolishly) to fork out the $100 for bear spray, we called out the standard ‘hey bear’ at regular intervals. About halfway into the hike the sound of children on the trail ahead allowed us to relax a bit. If there were any mama bears out there surely she would snack on the kids first…. ok, I’m joking, but the fact they were making so much noise meant any kind of animal would be scared off pretty quickly.

When we caught up to the noisy children it turned out to be a whole group of school kids on a day-trip to the lake. They were all navigating the deep snow with ease because someone had provided them with snowshoes for the hike. Needless to say our inexperienced snow-hiking was evident due to the hungry-for-legs snow that threatened to engulf our snowshoeless limbs with each step we took. Snowshoes would have been a good idea…

The closer we got to the lake the deeper the snow became and each step had essentially become wading through the snow as if it was a thick mass of water…. :) This meant those with snowshoes – aka the school kids and their well prepared leaders – easily gained the lead and beat us to the lake’s shores. When the lake was finally in sight we saw that the entire body of water was still frozen over from the winter. We eavesdropped on the end of a science lesson (;)) and waited for the group to leave so we could take in the grandeur of the scene before us.
A stack of four mountains provided a backdrop for the frosted pale blue lake in the foreground. The blue ice was crisscrossed by long white snowy lines that we learned were made from animals crossing the lake during winter. The landscape was beautiful and I worried that my camera, which at this point was not full-frame, would not allow me to capture the entire scene and its beauty would be lost. I decided to attempt some shots that could later be stitched into a panorama so that I could somehow do the landscape justice.

So, this image is my panoramic landscape of Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park from that day. I took a series of 5 photos which I have stitched together in Photoshop to make this panorama. You may notice that the ground in the image isn’t exactly covered in knee-deep snow…. For some reason only the hiking trail, which was behind me, remained engulfed in snow – we were just lucky I guess… :)
Sarah V.

Taggart Lake Panorama
The barn at Morman Row, Grand Teton National Park.

Hunting for bears and moose…

Our trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks earlier this year provided us with some of the best wildlife viewing of any of the US and Canadian national parks we have visited so far. When we decided to make the trip over the border specifically to visit these national icons, Yellowstone being the first national park established in the US in 1872 and Grand Teton the equally beautiful sidekick, we had endless (overly excited) discussions about the different types of animals we hoped to see during our visit. Needless to say bears and moose were on our long list of wildlife to tick off. Neither of us actually believed we would be lucky enough to spot either of these animals despite the ‘rumours’ of plentiful bear encounters in Yellowstone. We had heard the stories, that bears are everywhere throughout Yellowstone’s valley’s, that they would even sit on the side of the road presenting themselves specifically for tourists such as ourselves. Still, there was doubt in our minds. We have been in bear and moose country before, sat and waited in the ideal places at the ideal times of day, and still no bears and no moose. We had begun to think that bears and moose – moose in particular seeing as though we have previously seen bears outside of the wild – were a myth. Although we secretly hoped these stories of bear littered roads and moose springing out of the bushes to say hello were true, in reality neither of us honestly believed we would see either animal. Well, we were wrong. Not only did we see both bears (both black and grizzly) and moose, we were lucky enough to see a whole bunch of other animals as well: Bison, deer, fox, coyote, beaver, wolves (heard them, does that count?), bighorn sheep, elk, eagles, marmot, squirrels, chipmunks, and more. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to photograph all of the wildlife we spotted but I did manage to capture a few.

The number of wildlife photographers in the parks was astounding, Yellowstone in particular. Needless to say when I pulled out my baby 300mm lens next to their massive 500mm + lenses I felt a little inadequate… :) A reminder that I am more focused on landscape photography at the moment than I am on wildlife photography made me feel a bit better ;) It did not, however, stop me from impulsively hiding my equipment whenever any of them strutted past with their big lenses though…. I did eventually gain solace in the fact that those lenses looked ridiculously heavy and come morning, I’d say they were a little tender after hiking around with such a monstrous beast mounted on their shoulders all day. I’m Joking, I would never think that. Ok, just a little :).

So, here just a few of the images I have processed so far. I have included both landscape and some wildlife images. As you can imagine there are thousands of photographs to sort through; consider this the first instalment.

Sarah V

The Barn Tetons BW

Geyser patterns Yellowstone  Geysers Yellowstone

Old Faithful Yellowstone

Jackson Lake Yellowstone 3

Frozen Jackson Lake Yellowstone 2

Waterfall Yellowstone

Geyser walk Yellowstone

Bear Lamar Valley Yellowstone 2

Bison Lamar Valley

Bison face

Deer Lamar Valley

Yellowstone river sunrise fog

sunset Snake river

Oxbow Bend

Frozen Jackson Lake

Fox Yellowstone

Moose Grand Teton

For the past few months the majority of my focus has been on everything but photography. At least that is what it has felt like. Until recently I have found it difficult to find time to actually sit down and really assess the images I had the great fortune of capturing on our travels through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on our way back to Canada. This past week I (finally) finished all of my assessments for my degree – now, we wait. The best part of finally being settled back in Canada and finishing uni is that I can get back to doing what I love most: creating photographs.

Today I am sharing a panorama from our travels through Grand Teton National Park. The most iconic image of Grand Teton is the well-known John Moulton Barn with a backdrop of the Teton Ranges – I’ve decided to go against trend and show a different image of this gorgeous park. My panorama was taken from the popular Snake River Overlook at sunrise. The overlook takes in the whole valley complete with the Snake River winding through it, and the Teton Range as a backdrop. It is a stunning place to watch the sun come up. The overlook is littered with photographers at sunset – you have to arrive early to get the best position otherwise you risk dirty looks from other photographers when you set up (apparently) too close to them. I have had the opportunity to visit quite of few of the spectacular national parks the USA has to offer and Grand Teton did not disappoint.  It’s up there with my top favourites so far: Glacier National Park and Zion National Park. The mountain range, lakes, valley, and wildlife are outstanding and I would recommend this gorgeous part of the world to anyone.

Getting back to the photograph… We woke up in the dark, dragged ourselves out of the ridiculously comfortable bed at our lodge, and drove the thirty minutes from the adorable town of Jackson to the Snake River Overlook. We arrived to find the overlook completely empty except for a good sized herd of deer that were rather unimpressed by the disturbance of their breakfast. Even though the snow had cleared for spring it was cold, I mean really cold – it may as well have been snowing. My hands were numb for the entire duration of the shoot and I had to dance around like a lunatic in an attempt to stop my constant shivering. The sun took a little longer to rise than I had expected so we spent a good hour setting up, moving and setting up again, dancing around in the dark, and listening to a pack of howling wolves in the hills behind us as we waited for its arrival. Needless to say I was very happy when the sun finally made its appearance and hit those mountains. We were there for a good couple of hours and left with a lot of images to sort, process, and eventually merge into one panoramic image.

The final panorama I have here today is a merge of 5 photographs that have been processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. (I’ve also included a photo of myself and my assistant/groupie/husband – can you tell we’re still freezing even with the sun up?)

Teton Panorama

S and S freezing Teton-1

Sarah V

Sometimes you just know when you’ve got the one you came for – you’ve been there for (insert here however long you have spent at a location trying to get ‘the shot’ you’d envisioned) trying out different angles, heights, shutter speeds, etc and then suddenly everything just falls into place.

Flinders Station, Melbourne = photographed a ridiculous number of times each day.

Like every other photographer I wanted to capture an image that was different to all the rest. There are countless ways one can try and achieve this – but what I saw when I looked at the scene was a kind of antique look. I can’t count how many frames I went through before the crowds and cars were willing to cooperate. Eventually I was able to get some clean space in the bottom frame while still having people and some cars present in the photo without looking too messy. For what I wanted this was perfect. At post processing I ended up blending a couple of exposures together to get the line of ‘car trail’ I felt the photo needed for some interest. Knowing what look I was after it took me a while to process the black and white levels and sepia tint to exactly the antique look I’d envisioned. The final touch was a little vignetting and once that was applied I got that feeling – you know, the one in your gut when you know the photo is exactly what you’d envisioned. For me that is one of the best parts of photography, that transient happiness you feel when you realise you were able to create something you think is lovely.

So, here is my ‘Flinders Antique Creation’ – it is fast becoming a favourite of mine and I’m glad I decided to add it into my printed portfolio recently.


Sarah V

Amazing Raisins

Panorama Granite Bay

I’m a few months behind on my photo posts. Thanks to one lovely girl who reminded me why I post my photography :) I decided to get my act into gear and actually make time to do something I love.

So, to today’s picture.

I have actually shown this panorama here before but felt the need to show my revamp of this stunning landscape. I owe a lot of credit to Trey Ratcliff’s Lightroom pre-sets (thanks Trey) which formed the starting point for the revamp of this panorama.

Firstly, I think I should mention just what was involved in the production of this particular panoramic image. If anyone out there reading this is in to HDR photography you will be all too familiar with the merging process and how draining it can be on one’s computer. You should, then, appreciate the fact that this image was a panorama made up of HDR images – so for anyone not familiar with the process of HDR this shot is made up of a total of 15 photographs. Enough to wake that computer right up and get it working :)

Once all of the merging and stitching was done in Photoshop (I really need to try out Photomatrix…. – in time maybe) I took it into the main editing space and made a few adjustments then called it done.

Fast forward a few months and I was the proud new owner of Lightroom. It took me a little while to get used to using this for all my post processing but once I got the hang of it I was in love. Then, as a regular reader of (Trey Ratcliffe) I found his pre-sets for Lightroom to play around with (which I think I have written about here before….. it’s been so long now I don’t remember! Forgive me:)). I decided to try out the ‘Amazing Raisins’ pre-set on this panorama and immediately fell in love with the outcome. I could tell that after some tweaking to the adjustments I just might have a really cool HDR panorama after all.

As you can see above, the outcome is pretty interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in my area yet – so I’m pretty happy with it.

In fact, a few months ago I (finally) got my portfolio printed and it’s one of the main shots featured across a double page – it looks awesome if I do say so myself ;-)

So there you have it – revamped Amazing Raisins HDR Panorama of Granite Bay, Noosa. I hope you like as much as I do.

I promise not to leave it too long before my next photo upload. I have a few I’m excited to share.

Sarah V


Recently, I started using Lightroom instead of just plain Photoshop – ‘plain Photoshop’ might not be the correct terminology here but you get what I mean - I still take my images into Photoshop after the initial edit in Lightroom. I love the preset option available in Lightroom and have made great use of it in recent months. While I’m still finding my way around, and until I can come up with some fabulous presets of my own, I have made good use of the download available from Stuck in Customs photographer Trey Ratcliffe. They have been a useful tool as a starting point for creating some very impressive results on my images.

A favourite I keep going back to is named ‘A surprising touch’ (or something along those lines…). It creates an almost surreal look to a photo that makes it look dreamy and magical – at least that is what comes to mind with the image in today’s post.

I took this shot on a cold and rainy day in Victoria. In truth I had been looking for a line of trees for a while and had to suppress a jump for joy when I came across this spot. I initially made the call to “stop the car, I want to get a shot of that stream” thinking of an image consisting of flowing water and tree trunks (this sounds odd but it worked in my head at the time….). All I can say is checking out all of your surroundings (and not just the shot you stopped for initially) can sometimes pay off. Barely containing my excitement I snapped well over a dozen shots of these trees at different angles, most of them bracketed because at the time I really wanted to create a HDR of the scene. I got back in the car pretty excited about what I would create later out of the shots I’d just taken.

As it goes I never ended up making the image into HDR after all. In fact, I ended up with something that worked even better for this scene.

Park trees surprising sml

If you’d like to check out the presets available at Stuck in Customs here is the link – – They really are a fantastic starting point for creating fantastic impact in your photos.

Sarah V

This has to be one of the more unusual photos I have shared (and taken for that matter).

The shot was taken in the Otway National Park. As you can see, we came across a number of cows on the road while driving. It was actually quite funny because they just kept coming and would randomly cross the road in front of us. Some crossed the road so close to our car we thought they were going to walk right in to us. Leaning out the window of the car to take this photo felt almost risky they were coming so close.

I wouldn’t normally take a photo of cows being herded along the road but with this lot I just couldn’t help myself. The looks they gave us were so nonchalant it was almost comical.

What I really like about this shot, and why I decided to share it on the blog, is the fact it is almost structured when it can so easily be messy. The cows are forming a line that corresponds with the road and its lines, but there are a few stray cows in the middle of the road in the background giving the photo some interest as well.

Well, I like it :)

Sarah V

Melbourne street art

Melbourne’s street art is something that a lot of photographers have on their ‘shoot list’ when they visit the city.

This somewhat controversial form of art has a pretty large presence in this city. Whether you are a lover or hater of this form of art it is hard to ignore the fact that a lot of what makes it onto these laneway walls is amazing art in its own right.

When we visited Melbourne earlier this year I knew I wanted to try and capture the decorated laneways. When trying to shoot something that has been captured by so many people in so many different ways trying to find a fresh and alternative angle on the scene can be difficult. I knew I wanted to capture the graffiti but not necessarily make it the main feature in all my shots. The laneways themselves, the people and businesses that occupy them, were equally as important to the pictures for me as the graffiti was.

These photos are some of my favourites from the laneway shots.

Image Image Image

Sarah V

Naming a particular shot for filing is always hard. Anything I come up with is either boring and standard or something I think people would giggle at given the chance to look through my (brilliant :)) filing system. I know what I call the photos so I guess that is all that matters. My brilliant name for today’s photo – ‘swirling sunset’ clever I thought :)

Shot down at the Noosa National Park, sunset as you can see (and of course my brilliant naming system gives this away!!), this was one of the photos I took while waiting between panorama shots. The panoramas didn’t work out the way I wanted but this one kind of grew on me. The tide was high and the waves were rushing over the rock pools with great speed. I liked the flow of water and thought I would try and make it the main feature in this shot. There was a storm brewing on the horizon but it never amounted to anything. There was some lightning but it must have moved on pretty quickly because we didn’t really get a show in Noosa.


While it can be a little tiresome taking similar kinds of shots in the same sort of areas it is always fun to experiment with different main features.

Hope you like!

Sarah V