Monday, October 20, 2014

Napa Wine Train - Napa Valley, California

The Napa Valley Wine Train provides a relaxing three-hour, thirty-six mile round-trip journey from the historic town of Napa, California, through one of the world's most well known wine valleys to the quaint village of St. Helena, and back.

Guests aboard the Wine Train enjoy a freshly prepared lunch or dinner inside a fully restored 1915-1917 Pullman Dining Car or 1952 Vista Dome car as they pass the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley. They also have the option of pre-purchasing a winery tour.

The Napa Valley Wine Train's tracks were originally built in the 1860s to bring guests to the hot spring resort town of Calistoga. While the track to Calistoga no longer exists, much of the rest of the route of the Napa Valley Wine Train is unchanged. The tracks run through the heart of the world famous wine region. During the three hour journey, guests can see five towns; Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena; and numerous wineries through the large picture windows on board.

The Napa Valley Wine Train begins its journey at the McKinstry Street Station in Napa. The Train then travels north to St. Helena, where the locomotive disconnects from the north facing side of the Train and reconnects to the south facing side of the Train in preparation for the return journey. Currently, the Napa Valley Wine Train stops at different locations depending on the day of the week. Guests are only allowed to disembark at these locations if they have pre-purchased one of the Winery Tours.

The day we went on the Napa Wine Train trip from Napa to St. Helena and back was special for two reasons .... it was my wife's Birthday and it was also by chance the 25 year anniversary of the Napa Wine Train. So there were speeches, passengers dressed up in period costume, a 93 year old ex-engineer who came along and a gift of commemorative wine glasses for all passengers. The atmosphere was therefore very good to start with and after a few glasses of wine onboard was even better!

Luke, 93 years young, was an ex-engineer on the train so he showed up to celebrate the 25 year anniversary. He reminded me of TV series character Casey Jones. There was also a group of 3 ladies dressed in Victorian style dress and speaking to them I found out that they used to do fashion shows on the train. These characters really added to the nostalgic atmosphere on the train.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Yosemite - Raw Wilderness

Yosemite National Park in California holds an incredible attraction for landscape photographers so this was very much one of the key highlights of our trip around California. For a photographer, however, it is most frustrating as there is so much beauty in this stunning wilderness you really do not know where to start. You could easily spend many weeks here and still be scratching the surface as regards great shooting locations. Ansel Adams spent a lifetime here documenting the momentous landscapes and I'm sure he felt the same way. In this respect you have to be very selective and focused in your approach and with only about 2 and a half days in the park there was a limit to what I could capture. 

Reviewing all my images during post-processing I began to see a need to present the final images in black and white rather than full colour. The color images were so full of information including colours, saturation, texture, structure, composition, shape, etc I felt that by displaying the images in black and white would restrict the viewers eye to the raw beauty of the wilderness without the added distraction of colours and saturation. Likewise I have used only limited text annotations below each image to focus attention on the image rather than large sections of text.

Small river on the Tioga Pass Road

Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome with climbers on the summit

Tenaya Lake

View from Olmsted Point with Half Dome in the distance

Stunted and weathered tree at Olmsted Point

El Capitan is a giant granite monolith in Yosemite Valley

Cathedral Rocks East, Yosemite Valley

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley from the north side

Eagle Peak, Yosemite Valley

Looking south down Yosemite Valley with the north side of El Capitan to the right  and Cathedral Rocks East to the left

Yosemite Valley looking south toads Cathedral Rocks East

Yosemite Creek with Half Dome in the distance 

Sequoia Redwood Forest, Yosemite Valley

Mirror Lake - completely dry due to recent drought

Sequoia Redwood tree, Yosemite Valley

Half Dome, Yosemite Valley

Merced River, Yosemite Valley leading up to Vernal Fall

Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley

The steep path of Mist Trail leading up to Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley

El Capitan, Yosemite Vallley

Rocky escarpment close to El Capitan, Yosemite Valley

Lone pine trees stand out on the rocky escarpment close to El Capitan, Yosemite Valley

Looking north up Yosemite Valley with an eagle flying high above the valley