Trip across the USA

This is a photo-journal of a 13 day road trip across the country from Sacramento CA, to Frederick MD, where I stayed with my brother for 10 days before embarking on an 11 day drive back (which is another story) to California.

I took a more indirect northern route, through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, down the Mississippi to Iowa, across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and on to Maryland. I planned stops at several National Parks, Monuments, and State parks – including Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Devils Tower, Custer State Park, Wind Cave, Mt. Rushmore and The Badlands.

I will focus mainly on describing the photo opportunities that I saw along the way, along with the camera and lighting related details connected. I shot mainly Fuji Velvia 100 speed slide film, along with Fuji Provia 400, and a little B&W infrared.

All the images on these pages are rather small and saved as medium quality Jpegs to keep the file sizes down.
So please click on any image to see the full size high quality version.


Day 1 – Sacramento CA to Elko NV

I left on September 23, the first day of fall, but it felt like going straight from summer to winter. The Sierra’s were misty, cold and drizzly wet, which limits any picture taking opportunities, so I got over them quite quickly.

Having driven around and across Nevada several times, I have noticed that by far, the most important element in photography is the sky. Much of Nevada is a barren lonely wasteland, but anything looks good against a dramatic sky. Some might characterize much of Nevada as “in the middle of nowhere”, but on occasions I would say that the middle of nowhere is a pretty cool place to be.



Here is a shot by Lovelock NV, showcasing that stormy sky that hung around all day. There is a lot of drama in that sky. For these wider shots, I use a 24mm f-2.8 Minolta wide angle lens.






I liked this scene of the roadside flowers in front of this mountain range just south of Winnemucca.




I went across Nevada on Interstate 80, which has a speed limit of 75mph. This means that the cruise control needs to be set at about 80mph to avoid being run over by traffic. But at that speed you can really burn up the miles pretty quickly, which I did, since I did not see many photo-ops. Here are some shots from past trips around Nevada. 

I stayed at the Motel 6 in Elko, which is about as basic as you can get. No frills here. Motel 6 is cheap, and you certainly get what you pay for.


Day 2 – Elko NV to Brigham City UT

Nevada continued for another day under heavy dark clouds. There are numerous parallel mountain ranges, mostly running north/south in Nevada. Here are a couple of views of the East Humboldt range, just before Wells NV. A very long train happened to be going by at the time.








Right at the very isolated Nevada/Utah border, is the little town of West Wendover, distinguished by its cluster of gaudy casino/hotels. I guess it’s for all those people in the Salt Lake City area who like to drive only 2 or 3 hours across the salt flats in order to throw their money into the Nevada casinos. At the Utah border, the high rise casinos suddenly stop as West Wendover NV ends, and Wendover UT starts.

Just as a wild guess, I would say that West Wendover generates about 1000 times more money into its city coffers than Wendover.


Next came the Bonneville Salt Flats, also known as - Great Salt Lake Desert



Just mile after mile of flat white landscape. You don’t want to go walking out there, since some of it might be soggy if it has rained any time recently. As I found out.




I saw this interesting scene on the way to Salt Lake City. It looks like the salt has accumulated at the base of the fence posts. Kind of looks like a snowy scene. This was on the other side of the freeway from Great Salt Lake.











Heading north from Salt Lake City, the sky turned gunmetal grey, and looked like it was going to explode in thunder and lighting. I stopped at a rest stop to take this picture.





On the other side of the freeway from Brigham City is a road that eventually goes out to Salt Lake, called Bird Refuge Road. It offered some great views of the northern extension of the Wasatch Range. On shots like this, I like to use a polarizer filter. It really tends to help separate the clouds from the blue sky, and helps with color saturation.










I really like this "reflective" scene. Although I usually use a polarizer filter when there is bright sun, one has to be careful not to overdo it. In some situations it can dampen a water reflection where you can see right through it.  Not here though. It was about an hour before sunset, so the lighting was very pleasing.


For the non-wide shots, I typically use a 50mm f-1.4 lens.





I don't know just what the crop here was, but this field had a nice rusty red look about it, which qualified it for a photo op.





I stayed at the Howard Johnson Inn at Brigham City. It was a pleasant stay. Several steps above a Motel 6 at only a few dollars more.


Day 3 – Brigham City UT to Jackson WY

Logan Canyon in Utah was quite colorful, with some spots simply ablaze in color. The higher altitudes in the western states generally peak with fall colors first… mostly in late September. This was pretty much the case in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some pockets are more colorful than others of course, but late September was around peak time.

Here are a couple of scenes along the very steep Logan Canyon, which winds through the Wasatch National Forest in NE Utah to Bear Lake, by the Idaho border.











Logan Canyon, of course, follows the path of the Logan River







Bear Lake straddles the Utah/Idaho border.






We enter Wyoming, and ascend to Salt River Pass at 7610 foot elevation. There was a little scattering of snow around, as we see on those branches to the right of the picture, but late September had not produced any major snowstorms yet. The only real snow was on the higher peaks of the distant Salt River Range.






A big sky Wyoming view just off of Highway 89, which goes up through the Star Valley. This was somewhere by the tiny town of Smoot.






The town of Afton WY boasts of having the world’s largest elk antler arch. Here is solid evidence of that claim. It is quite impressive. But as we will see shortly, Jackson WY gives Afton a run for its money in the antler arch competition.







Here was an eye-catching sight from downtown Afton. I saw a variety of wildlife on this trip, but little did I know that this was going to be the only "bear" I would see along the way.







Here are several more assorted shots from around south-western Wyoming. Most of these were in the area of the Snake River, not far from Jackson.

















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