Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Horseshoe Bend at Sunrise: Grand Canyon’s Famous Bend

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids…

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt and many of the great wonders of the world but Horseshoe Bend can compare with the best of them. It is one of those spots that you just see and cannot believe it is real. You should have it on your bucket list. I would also recommend seeing it at sunrise as well for two reasons. 1. You will be pretty much by yourself. 2. The light is not shadowing any of the canyon so you can take amazing photos with a tripod. Here is all of the info so you can do it yourself.

Main Details

  • .75 mile hike that takes about 15 minutes
  • 10 minute drive from Page, AZ
  • Bring a wide-angle lens

Horseshoe Bend-10

I decided to leave about an hour before sunrise from Page, AZ. It was a ten minute drive to the trailhead and there were only 2 other cars, both of which looked like they had people sleeping in them. We set out on the trail which is all in sand and is up and over one hill then down to the viewpoint. It took about 15 minutes because the sand makes it slower going.

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When we arrived at Horseshoe Bend we were the only people there. I set up right in the middle with my tripod and just sat there in awe as I fired away pictures with every change of light. Here is the first photo I took.

Horseshoe Bend-1

The bend itself was perfect at this time as there were no shadows in the early morning light, so everything lit up well.  About 10 minutes later we were joined by a few other people but it was never more than 10 viewing the sunrise with us. 

Horseshoe Bend-2

We even got to watch a young man propose to his girlfriend in the beautiful sunrise light, and I got the chance to photograph them after it was over. We sat at the bend for around an hour and a half until the sun was fully up. Once the sun is up the bend becomes much harder to shoot as the light can make hard contrasts. 

Horseshoe Bend-6

I also saw a small boat and a tent down on the water / beach below. I guess you can boat into the bend and stay, which sounds like it would fantastic and a unique adventure for sure. Be sure to bring a wide-angle lens so you can get fun photos like this.

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After photographing for an hour and a half I packed up my stuff and headed back to the car to get a nap in before visiting Antelope Canyon. All I can say is that you really need to go to Horseshoe Bend for sunrise, the lighting is perfect and you will be able to see this amazing place all by yourself. It is worth losing a few hours of sleep over.

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Niagara Falls in 24 Hours

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls…

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but it’s hard to think of one more impressive than Niagara Falls. Sure it’s a touristy spot, but that doesn’t make the flow any less impressive. I spent 24 hours exploring the city and created an itinerary that you can follow along with below. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.

This post assumes you will be arriving either the night before or early morning. There is an FAQ at the end with information about the different sides of the falls.

9 AM – Maid of the Mist

No visit to the falls is complete without a ride on the iconic boat that takes you close. I recommend getting there when they open and taking the first or second boat that leaves. This attraction is really popular, and you can’t schedule a time in advance, so getting there early and getting it out of the way is your best bet.

The ride to the falls and back only takes about 20 minutes, so it is quick. It is a lot of fun though, and you will get wet from the mist coming off the falls, even with the poncho they provide.

Pro Tip: Everyone wants to stand on top of the boat, but for photos, it can be better to be on the bottom in the front.

When you finish your time on the boat, walk up the stairs they have built right next to the waterfall to get close to the American Falls. Also, be sure to walk out on the observation deck which is at the top of the elevator and included with your ticket purchase.

10 AM – Luna Island

After leaving the Maid of the Mist area, walk through the state park which provides many views of the falls below. Cross the pedestrian bridge to continue towards Cave of the Winds, but before going there, follow the signs for Luna Island.

This small “island” is almost entirely a viewing platform, but the views are directly down the waterfall itself, and they are amazing. This is one of my favorite viewing spots on the US side.

10:30 AM – Cave of the Winds

After leaving Luna Island, you are a short 5-minute walk from the ticket area for Cave of the Winds. Cave of the Winds is a set of stairs and platforms right below the American Falls and which is only open during the summer. A ticket purchase gets you a pair of sandal and a poncho to wear so you can keep a little dry. You will not be dry by the end though, especially if you go to the hurricane deck.

This spot is really fun to explore as it gives you a great vantage point for the American Falls. The highlight is the Hurricane Deck though where you are almost directly under one of the falls, and you get soaking wet.

After exploring Cave of the Winds, head back up to the ticket area and then head left to go to the observation deck for Horseshoe Falls from the American side.

This view is not super impressive when you compare it to the Candian, but it is worth seeing since you are in the area. After this, I would recommend getting changed and grabbing some lunch before crossing the border into Canada for the afternoon. be sure you bring your passports.

1 PM – Rainbow Bridge

Following lunch, you can drive or walk over to the Canadian side of the falls by crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The crossing was smooth both ways when we went since we were not staying more than a few hours on the Canadian side.

After crossing, you can drive up near the casinos and find a parking lot. Parking prices range from $7 to $20 if you want to park close to the falls. Also, you can just park in the lot for Skylon Tower if you want as it is in an excellent location. It does usually cost $15 though.

2 PM – Walking the Falls Overlook

After finding parking, head down to the long walkway that goes along Niagara Parkway and that provides amazing views of the falls.

I recommend walking the whole thing and taking your time as it is awe-inspiring to see it from many different angles.

You can even walk up close to where the water goes over Horsetail Falls which is fun.

5 PM – Tower

When you finish walking along the pathway, make your up to the large tower that looks like the Seattle Space Needle. This is a great observation deck that gives some excellent views of the falls. It does cost $18 though to ride up, but if you have a zoom lens it’s an epic photo spot.

The elevator will take you up to a deck at 160 feet which has a 360-degree view. There is even a restaurant up here if you want to grab something to eat. It is pricey though.

This is a great spot for sunset too if you want to stay up here for longer or come up later.

Dinner – Smoke’s Poutinerie

When you are done near the falls and observation tower, I recommend trying Canada’s famous dish poutine. There is a good spot about a mile away called Smoke’s Poutinerie, but there are a lot of other restaurants around as well.

Smoke’s has a dozen or so different styles of poutine, which is essentially fries with gravy and cheese curds (plus other assorted toppings). Don’t knock it till you try it though its great.

Falls at Night

After dinner, consider walking/driving back down to see the falls again at night as they are lit up.

I thought it would be lame, but it was actually cool to see them like this.

10 PM – Fireworks

If you are staying late, then watch the fireworks show that happens every day over the American Falls at 10 PM. It is only 5-10 minutes long, but it is fun to see. Do note that it doesn’t happen if it’s windy or if it is raining.

Video

Here is a video I made showing all of these.

That’s the end of the recommendations I have for 24 hours in Niagara Falls. Be sure to let me know what I left off and good job making the most of your time in this fun city.

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Skylon Tower on Canadian Side of Niagara Falls

When you visit Niagara Falls, chances are you will spend most of your time on the Canadain side. This is because the Canada side is the side that looks directly…

When you visit Niagara Falls, chances are you will spend most of your time on the Canadain side. This is because the Canada side is the side that looks directly at the falls head on. One of the best ways to view the falls from this side is to take the ride up 160 feet to the top of the tower. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $18
  • Hours: 8 AM to 10 PM
  • Location: On the Canada side of Niagara Falls, it’s hard to miss

After crossing the border, make your way to the large Stratosphere looking tower in the middle of downtown. You can access the parking lot from Murray St, and it usually costs around $15 if you want to park there.

After parking, you will head inside where you can grab your ticket to go up the elevator to the top of the tower.

The elevator ride takes less than 30 seconds, and it has transparent walls so you can see directly out to the falls.

Once you get to the top, you are inside the interior ring of the deck, and there is an exterior ring that goes around the entire outside as well.

When I went, it was super windy so people were not staying out too long, but I braved the wind for a while trying to get the perfect photo.

I would recommend a medium zoom lens if you are a photographer as the falls are somewhat far away, so you will want to zoom in for the best views.

Its awesome to see both Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls from so high up though and well worth the price.

You can also see the Rainbow Bridge when you look out to the east, and you can see down into the city to the west.

I like coming up here near sunset as the views are great. You can even stay till night if you want, which is when they light up the falls below you.

After taking it all in, you will head back down the elevator and on to your next spot. If you are looking for more recommendations you can see how I recommend you spend 24 hours in the city here.

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Compton Gap Hike in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is often said to be a park that you just drive through, however, getting out and exploring on foot is one of the best parts about it….

Shenandoah National Park is often said to be a park that you just drive through, however, getting out and exploring on foot is one of the best parts about it. The Appalachian Trail, one of the premier trails in the USA, has about 100 miles which goes through the park itself. The park is split into two sections though, and most of the hiking is in the Southern part. If you are heading to the Northern section, then consider this great hike in the Compton Gap, which gives you a lot of excellent views with only a little bit of work. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 3.5 miles round trip
  • 1000 feet of elevation gain
  • Leaves from the Compton Gap parking area near mile marker 10

Getting There

After paying the entrance fee and making your way into Shenandoah National Park, head 10 miles to the Compton Gap parking area which can only hold about ten cars. After parking, head across the road to the small path that leads into the forest.

The Trail

The path is almost entirely shaded, with large lush trees all around you. It seems like you are hiking in more of a jungle terrain than you are and it is stunning.

The trail you are on is the Appalachian Trail, and it is marked by white paint lines on the trees. It is easy to follow as it is well trodden.

The trail pretty much goes up the entire way on a gradual incline of switchbacks. It is not too difficult though so just take your time as you go up.

Eventually, the trail will reach its high point, and you will be walking on a flat path for about a quarter of a mile.

From here the trail connects with a four-way intersection. You will want to head right and left before heading back. To the right the trail goes out to the overlook and to the left, it goes down to the columnar jointing which was created by lava.

The right way is easier as you have a small downhill over jagged rocks, but after only two-tenths of a mile, you will reach a break in the trees which is the overlook.

This area is a nice view point as it is clear and lets you see down on the forest below from a set of two rocks.

When you are done, head back to the intersection and proceed to the left (straight in front of you if you are coming back on this trail).

This path leads downhill and becomes steep after the first tenth of a mile. Remember that you have to go back up all of the elevation you are losing right now.

The end of the path is a set of steep stone steps that take you down and around the rock formation.

I was impressed by the columnar jointing as it was bigger than I anticipated and it looked like something you would see in Devils Postpile in California or Giants Causeway in Ireland.

There are two main rocks here, and you can spend some time checking them both out.

Once you are done, it is 1.7 miles back out to get down to where you parked. Hopefully, you enjoyed this nice short hike in the Shenandoah National Park, be sure to spend more time on the trails if you can and let me know what your favorite is in the comments.

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Maid of the Mist In Niagara Falls

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This…

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This famous boat ride, which takes you directly into the mist of Horsetail Falls is one of the best things I did during my time there and even though it is busy I highly recommend it. Check out all the information and my tips below.

Details

  • Cost: $18
  • Hours: 9 AM–5 PM
  • Location: American side, inside of the Niagara Falls State Park

Maid of the Mist is located in the shadow of the Rainbow Bridge, right in the middle of the Niagara Falls State Park. The ticket booth is at the top with the observation deck; then you have to take an elevator down to the boat.

Ticket Tips – You can’t reserve a particular time online, but the boat does run every 15 minutes. If you go during a holiday weekend though I recommend you get there right when they open as the tickets often reach capacity pretty quickly. You can buy a ticket online if you want to skip the line but they are not time specific, so you can’t guarantee that you will be able to get the time you want this way.

Honestly, I just recommend going early during the day as getting on one of the first two boats (before 10 AM) usually means that you will get a pretty good ride that isn’t too full.

Maid of the Mist

Once you get your ticket and make it down the elevator, you will be given a poncho and loaded onto the boat for your 20-minute ride.

I recommend grabbing the bottom level at the front of the ship as it is an excellent viewpoint and not as busy as the top deck that everyone wants to be on.

The boat heads out and goes past the American Falls first. You get a great view of the falls and can see Cave of the Winds as well.

Proceeding onward, the boat inches towards Horsetail Falls. It doesn’t take long to get there, and before you know it, you are surrounded by the mist.

While you don’t get crazy wet on this trip, you will definitely be a little wet, even with the poncho.

Also, I recommend bringing a GoPro; there are times you can use your phone without it getting wet, but a lot of the time you will want to keep it under the poncho.

After sitting in the mist for 5 minutes, the boat turns around and takes you back to the dock. Also of note, if you are on the Canada side, you can do the same thing, it is called the Hornblower Cruise.

When you get back to the dock, be sure to walk up the steps to the platforms they have made near the American Falls. It is a cool addition to the trip to see the falls like this.

When you get back up to the top of the elevator, be sure also to check out the observation deck.

The deck is one of the better views on the American side of the falls. Let me know what you think of this boat ride in the comments and be sure to have fun with this unique experience.

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Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Museum

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can…

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can see it from the ferry without paying or that you can just look at it from Manhattan, and those are great options, but there is something magical about being on the island and looking up at this iconic statue. Add to that a visit to Ellis Island and this is a trip worthy of your time/money. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $18, more to go inside.
  • Hours: Generally the first ferry is 8:30 AM and last is 5 PM
  • Location: Ferry leaves from Battery Park

Getting Tickets

If you are going on a busy weekend, I would recommend getting tickets online before you go. This is especially true if you want to get a specific time or want to go inside the statue. If you wait until the day of, then you might not be able to get the times you want or go inside.

Tickets are handled in Battery Park inside of Castle Clinton National Monument. If you buy them online though, you can just print your own tickets and head directly to security.Security is the same as you would see at an airport, with metal detectors and x-ray machines.

Statue of Liberty

Once past, you will be able to board the boat for the islands. From Manhattan, the boat stops at Statue of Liberty first then Ellis Island. Coming from New Jersey, it is the opposite.

As you approach the island, you will be able to get a lot of great photo ops of the statue.

When the boat docks you are free to roam around the small island, and if you have tickets to go in then you can do that here as well.

We didn’t get tickets to go in, so we just walked around the outside on the walking trail they have set up.

The statue is smaller in person, but it is still really cool to see it. When I was there, I wished I would have bought access to the pedestal (you can’t buy inside access on the island itself) as it would have been fun to get a little closer.

We didn’t spend more than 30 minutes exploring but it was well worth it to be so close to such an iconic piece of American history.

From there we got back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, if you don’t know, is where all of the boats caring immigrants stopped on their way over from Europe. It is where people were interviewed and processed to become US citizens, and it is an important part of our history as well.

There is a large museum on the island that talks in detail about what it was like to make the journey and the process to come into the country.

I found this to be fascinating as I knew little to nothing about it but was excited to learn.

The best part of the museum is the old processing area. It is beautiful with its arched ceilings and large windows.

The also had examples of ship manifests up here which was cool to see.

After exploring for about an hour, we got on the boat and headed back to Manhattan. You could easily spend a half day at Ellis Island just by itself, so if you are into genealogy and history be sure to book enough time.

All in all, this is a great tour in New York City and one that I recommend you take. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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