Category Archives: Photography

Walking Over Volcanoes

Mt Ruepehu

Mt Ngauruhoe

Coming over to New Zealand I hadn’t really planned on doing too many hikes.  Since this expedition was more about surfing and snowboarding I wasn’t really interested in doing any more walks after the amazing Milford Track which is considered one of the most beautiful walks in the world, and after doing it, I can see why.

However, I was told of a day walk on the north island that was suppose to be New Zealands best day hike, and it went across the Tangariro National park which is basically a massive volcanic area that has several peaks, one of which was used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.

I drove down from Auckland mid week to the center of the North Island south of Lake Taupo. I arrived late, around 8 pm and decided to sleep in the van at the car park at the end of the track.  I had arranged a ride from the end of the track to the beginning so I could just walk back to the van.  It generally takes 6-8 hours to complete the track and goes over 2 volcanic peaks over a 18.5 K (11.5 miles).

I made a quick dinner and had the back of the van open for about 30 min while I cooked at dusk, which was a big mistake because the mosquitoes where vicious and huge.  The whole night I was awoken by buzzing in my ear, and had to use a flashlight to try and find them.  I must have killed 30 throughout the night.

The next morning I was picked up by a shuttle and driven to the start of the track about 22 k away around the volcanic pass.  I started the walk with about 50 people around 9 a.m.

Fog In Crater

Fog In Crate

The morning and beginning of the track was fairly clear and sunny, but as we climbed up to the pass the clouds rolled in and socked in most of the good views of Mount Ruapehu and the summit walk to Mt Ngauruhoe. I was pretty annoyed wit the cloud cover, and knew I was missing some spectacular views.

Foggy Crater

Foggy Crater

Once over the pass, we walked out to a huge flat crater.  At times is was so foggy I couldn’t see feet in front of me.  Once in a while the cloud would blow through and a clearing would open up, and the scale of the place could be felt.

Quick Clearing

Quick Clearing

Once through the crater we climbed up onto the Red Crater.  This massive hole in the ground would be what one would think a volcanic crater would look like.

Volcanic Valley Looking To The East

Volcanic Valley Looking To The East

Volcanic Valley

Volcanic Valley

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

We walked up and over the Red Crater and descended down a steep ash slope to emerald pools.

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool and Red Crater

Emerald Pool and Red Crater

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Volcanic Flower

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Red Crater

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Red Crater

Red Crater

The rest of the walk was out and down the volcanic plane and down the backside of the mountain through bush and then forest and finally back to the van.  It took me 7 hours and several blisters.

Valley

Valley

View Looking North

View Looking North

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

The Track

The Track

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Milford Sound, and Friends Come To Visit!

A Friend from San Diego has been doing a 2 week trip around the Islands of New Zealand.  She contacted me and we figured out how to meet up.  She drove the length of the South Island and arrived in Queenstown.  For the first time in almost 5 months, I saw a familiar face.

I met Becky through some old colleges at Reef.  She is one of those people that is just fun to be around.  I was supper excited that I was going to get to hang out with her and I wanted to try and get a few days of road trippin’ in as well.  Becky wasn’t alone, her friend Christine is also on the trip.  They are friends from Uni and both grew up in Florida.  We had a good little crew.

The night they got in, we had a big night out in QT.  I took them to a variety of bars, pubs, lounges and a club.  I was really hoping to get them hit on by a bunch of 18-20 year old English / Euro guys with spiky hair.  Instead they just ended up singing in a drunken boys choir in one of the more notorious young QT bars.  Its hard to describe, but it is ridiculous and funny as hell.

The next day was a pretty down day, as we were all hung over. The girls went on a jet boat ride in the early afternoon, and then came back to my place, picked me up and we drove up the Remarkable road to the ski field for sunset. The road was incredibly muddy and slippery. The camper van that the girls had rented did fine, and I’m glad they got to experience the stupidity of the drive up and down.

We got back to my place around dinner time, and I made the girls my favorite meal that I have developed here. Lamb marinara sauce and pasta. We had planned on heading out for another night, but all felt groggy after the meal, and from the night before. Plus we decided to head to Milford Sound early in the morning.

We left about 8:30 am and headed south, then west, then north for the sound. Its only about 40 klm away from QT , but having to drive around mountain ranges, then on an extremely crazy pass road makes the trip about 3 hours.

I don’t think pictures really does this place justice. The cliffs are so big, the terrain so steep and massive. Milford Sound is one of those instances that truly mystifies the brain, kinda like thinking about geologic time. One cannot comprehend 40 million years. This is simply a place that you need to visit to understand. With that said, here are some pictures that miss the magic.

On Road to Milford Sound

On Road to Milford Sound

Pass Road Vista on Way to Milford Sound

Pass Road Vista on Way to Milford Sound

Pass Road Valley on way to Milford Sound

Pass Road Valley on way to Milford Sound

There where massive avalanches that forced the road to Milford Sound to close 4 days before we traveled it.  I cannot fathom what these avalanches could have looked like falling from the upper mountains, but they are surreal looking laying at the valley floor.  They would have fallen from the peaks above and fallen 4000 vertical feet to a lush green rain forest valley below.  Nothing in the mind can comprehend 3 story mounds of snow laying in a green forest, all I my mind could reason was that the snow was trucked in.

Looking Back at Pass Road

Looking Back at Pass Road

Waterfall on pass road before Milford Sound

Waterfall on pass road before Milford Sound

Welcome To Milford Sound.  Rated one of the top most beautiful places on the planet, and one of the most visited places on the planet.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound.  This is the tallest mountain in the world that starts at sea level.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound. This is the tallest mountain in the world that starts at sea level. 1692 Meters (5,551 vertical ft.)

The Ferry We Took On Milford Sound

The Ferry We Took On Milford Sound

Milford Sound is technically a fjord.  It was carved by a glacier during the last ice age.  A classic feature of a fjord is U shaped valleys.

Classic U Shaped Valley At Milford Sound

Classic U Shaped Valley At Milford Sound

Looking Inland From Milford Sound (fjord)

Looking Inland From Milford Sound (fjord)

Looking Back From Ferry at Milford Lodge and Granite Mountain

Looking Back From Ferry at Milford Lodge and Granite Mountain

U valley Along Mitre Peak

U valley Along Mitre Peak

Today was a pretty hard day to shoot pictures.  It was actually too sunny, the light was harsh, and the mountains created very dark shadows.

Waterfall and Valley Looking Back to Land

Waterfall and Valley Looking Back to Land

Another Ferry On The Sound (fjord)

Another Ferry On The Sound (fjord)

This waterfall is twice as high as Niagara Falls!

This waterfall is twice as high as Niagara Falls!

Same Waterfall With Ferry For Scale

Same Waterfall With Ferry For Scale

God Rays At Milford Sound, Looking Out To Sea

God Rays At Milford Sound, Looking Out To Sea

Across The Fjord, More Waterfalls Off Granite Cliff

Across The Fjord, More Waterfalls Off Granite Cliff

Ferry For Scale

Ferry For Scale

At this waterfall the boat pulled the bow right up to the cliff edge and gave everyone a cup to catch some pure NZ snow pack run off.  I’m glad I stayed back to snap pictures, that has got to be cold!

98% Pure Water Capture

98% Pure Water Capture

Same Waterfall

Same Waterfall

The ferry took about 30 min to reach the mouth of the sound, we then turned around and started heading back into the land.

Looking Back Into Milford Sound

Looking Back Into Milford Sound

Sea Lion Pups Lounging

Sea Lion Pups Lounging

Cliffs

Cliffs

Time for a drink.

Time for a drink.

The Girls. Becky on the left, Christine on the right.

The Girls. Becky on the left, Christine on the right.

We got back late to my place this night and basically just crashed out.

The next morning the girls headed up to Wanaka (about an hour north) to visit one of Becky’s friends that is over here from San Diego running a ski race camp.  They all took the day and headed up to Treble Cone another NZ ski field.  I had to stay back and do a little design work, but ended up meeting them at the ski camp lodge for a night of hanging out in Wanaka.

I met Megan, Becky’s friend and several other American ski coaches.  We had a mellow night out and I we had a good night sleep at the lodge.  The next morning the girls went skydiving and had there amazing experience with that.  You can follow them along there trip through NZ and Australia here.

Temple Basin Mountain Scape

Landscape photos from the trip.  Its so easy to take beautiful pictures when nature puts on a show every moment of the day.  Its has also sculpted some pretty cool rock piles as well.  Enjoi!

Big Peak

Big Peak

Forever Mountains

Forever Mountains

Down Hill Backside

Down Hill Backside

Good Morning Mountain

Good Morning Mountain

Reflect

Reflect

WoW

WoW

The Bridge

The Bridge

No Words To Describe

No Words To Describe

Fluffy Gully

Fluffy Gully

Purple Mountain

Purple Mountain

Bouncing Light

Bouncing Light

Temple Reflect

Temple Reflect

Rolling Sunset

Rolling Sunset

Nature's Park

Nature's Park

Falling Into Shadow

Falling Into Shadow

Colored Snow

Colored Snow

Ice Dune

Ice Dune

Temple Colors

Temple Colors

Temple Peak

Temple Peak

Razors at Temple

Razors at Temple

Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

Light Pockets

Light Pockets

Tow

Tow

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The Temple Basin Trip, The Mountain Riding Part

Welcome to Temple Basin!

Welcome to Temple Basin!

This is basically a photo essay of the trip.  My previous entry was all about Temple Basin as a place.  This entry is all about my trip there.

Got the van 3 days ago.  First trip is a biggy, hope she stays in tact and keeps runnin'

Got the van 3 days ago. First trip is a big one, hope she stays in tact and keeps runnin'

After purchasing the van, I quickly made a few modifications (put up curtains, dropped in a plywood floor (that isn’t at all fitted) and got her ready to go on a 6 hour drive, loaded with snowboard/ski gear and 4 guys.  There are 3 mountain passes to go over to get to Temple basin, and with the 1800 cc petrol engine, I was more than apprehensive about how the pope mobile would preform and endure.

All Packed Up

All Packed Up

One of the many amazing views on the road to Temple

One of the many amazing views on the road to Temple

After 6 hours in the van, getting stopped at the entrance to Aurthur’s Pass to chain up because it was puking snow in the upper mountains, we finally pulled up to the goods lift at Temple basin right around sunset.

Load her up.  This is the other car load of guys that is in our groups gear.

Load her up.

Too much weight, take some of that beer out of there, we can send up a seperate beer load. Ahh that sounds nice.

Too much weight, take some of that gear out, what leave the beer for another load!?! No, leave the gear eh!

Goods Lift Shack

Goods Lift Shack

Kea On Shack Roof

Kea On Shack Roof

The Bird on the roof is called a Kea.  They look a lot like a dull colored parrot.  They are real cheeky little bastards.  They will gnaw on anything shinny. This includes sports equipment and car emblems.  A lot of the tourist vans and cars are all scratched up from the birds chewing on the chrome around windows and on the front grill.

Once we got our gear loaded into the lift, we drove the van back to the parking lot along the pass road about 1k away.  We threw our packs on and began the 800 M (2600 ft) climb to the lodge.  It was getting dark fast so we needed to high tail it.  Luckily the moon was out and was very bright.  We had a surreal snow covered, moon lite hike up to the lodge.

Couldn't figure out my flash on this photo, but it still gets the point across.

Couldn't figure out my flash on this photo, but it still gets the point across.

The Long Walk In

The Long Walk In

Once off the steep goat path, you start to see the lights of the lodge.  A sigh of relief that where almost there.  That feeling is shattered about 10 min in when I realized that we are walking on a ridge with knee deep snow and are at least 45 min away.  As we got closer, we could see people skiing.  The main run had 2 flood lights on it, but at the top of the lift there was no light.  All we saw where small beams of light jittering down the hill.  I shit you not, people where skiing with head lamps on!  I guess powder is powder and you ride it when ever you can, day or night.  I knew at that moment this place was unique.

Foot Bridge Over A Riven On the Way to the Lodge

Foot Bridge Over A Riven On the Way to the Lodge

Once we got up to the lodge, we had to grab all our gear out of the goods lift shed and carry them up another 300 meters of deep snow to the lodge.  I was completely exhausted.  We had a quick dinner, unpacked, got our bearings around the lodge, and I passed out.  This whole time I had a wicked chest cold.  Hiking long distances was not very enjoyable.

The next morning the weather was crap.  It was cloudy and completely socked in.  On the plus side it was snowing….always a good thing.  So we decided to do a little avalanche transceiver training. Most of the guys in our group had one, but only a few of us where trained on them.  I had rented one from a ski shop in Queenstown, and had no idea how to work one.  Luckily one of the guys had a friend that was up at Temple and had just taken a 3 day avalanche course.

Find the Pack Buried in the Snow.  Use Those Probes (glorified tent poles)

Find the Pack Buried in the Snow. Use Those Probes (glorified tent poles)

Break in the Clouds Monday

Break in the Clouds Monday

Monday afternoon there was a short break in the clouds, and we began to see the potential of the mountain!

First pow runs on Monday

First pow runs on Monday

They opened the lifts in the afternoon for about 2 hours, and I got about 8 full on fresh track pow runs in.  They where short but sweet.

Looking back at Ski Patrol, the goods lift shed, and the valley from the lodge.

Looking back at Ski Patrol, the goods lift shed, and the valley from the lodge.

There are all these cool low lying roofs and wind lips surrounding the lodge and buildings.  Even though the weather was pretty bad for the first 3 days there was plenty of objects to play on and build things off of.

Icicles make the perfect drink stir

Icicles make the perfect drink stir

After a day of waiting for the weather to break and some jump building, we settled in for some dinner and drinks.  I did a little design work.  Nothing like designing snowboard equipment when your held up on top of a mountain someplace near the bottom of the world.

The next 2 days where pretty similar. Bad weather, mixed with pockets of quick clearing.  On the 4th day (Thursday) however the sky opened to reveal heaven.

Mountain Sunrise

Mountain Sunrise

Today was the day, bluebird and about a foot of powder waiting for us.  The third lift at the mountain is off the main lift and around a steep mountain side.  It is located on the north facing basin wall of Temple Mountain.  I hadn’t been over there yet, and was chomping at the bit to check it out.  We knew that a walk path needed to be dug, and heard that if we helped they would close the path once made while they where getting the lift operating and they allow the diggers to get about an hour to themselves on the run.

We waited by the start of the walk path with shovels in hand, waiting for the ski patrol that open the lift.

Digging to The Downhill Lift

Digging to The Downhill Lift

Still Digging, Faaa, this is a long walking path

Still Digging, Faaa, this is a long walking path

We finally dug the walking path, and got down to the lift.  They would have closed it off for us, but since pretty much everyone at the mountain was helping to dig (or at least acting like they where) we just all waited for the patrol to get the lift operating and started making runs down the steep.

Mark, the skier in our group had some heart, and was in it to drop some big terrain.  He didn’t have to go far to find it.  This is just to the lookers right of the lift.

Mark Sizing it Up

Mark Sizing it Up

Mark Dropping It

Mark Dropping It

Some of the terrain to the left of the lift.  This is the lower section.  Above are several wide, very steep chutes

Some of the terrain to the left of the lift. This is the lower section. Above are several wide, very steep chutes

The Boys Chillin

The Boys Chillin'

Probably one of the best parts of the New Zealand club fields is that there just aren’t that many people up there skiing with you.  We were there with 85 people, and 25 of those where there for an avalanche course and not riding.  85  –  25 = 60.  We where riding a mountain the size of a medium western US ski resort with 60 people!  No need to race to get fresh lines.  Relax, rehydrate, have a smoke (although I don’t recommend that) no rush here.  Only thing that will track out the snow is the weather.  Awesome!

Thursday was possibly one of the best days on a board I have ever had.  Just incredible!


Thursday Mountain Sunset

Thursday Mountain Sunset

Mother nature didn’t let me down and put a show on all day.  She didn’t even let up as the day ended, it just got better and better.

I was shooting the mountain from outside the lodge.  I had my tripod out and camera bag open.  Guess who showed up, those cheeky little bastards, attracted by my shiny expensive gear.

Kea Birds

Kea Birds

Kea In Flight

Kea In Flight

Friday was due to be another epic day.  They where to open Bills Run.  This is part of the mountain that faces west and is protected from the morning sun.  To access this area you have to go up the main lift, walk the path that we dug out, strap up and ride down to downhill lift.  Take that up, traverse across the temple basin and hop to  the ridge separating the two areas.

Bills is amazing.  Big open semi steep powder fields, wind lipped heavenly gullies, big vertical rock cliff faces and rollers all over the place.  the snow was waist deep and lighter than anywhere else due to the shade the face has most of the day.  After slashing the pow for half the day, the boys decided to build a gap jump over one of the gullies.  It ended up being about a 30 foot gap with a solid 40-50 foot air to a slightly flat landing, but with 3 feet of powder to land in no one was complaining!

Ash celebrating his good build work and scoping the jump

Ash celebrating his good build work and scoping the jump

Riley's Air

Riley's Air

This was my first real attempt to correctly shoot action, and particularly snowboarding.  I have been around snow photography a bit in the past at Windell’s but never really dove into the technical side to learn.  I need a lot more practice.  I missed a lot, and my timing needs to get better.  Picking angles is difficult too.  You pro photogs out there, I have always admired you guys, but I now have a new deeper respect for the skills you have.

Phil D. Spinning it Out

Phil D. Spinning it Out

Ohh ya, there where 2 of us named Phil up there.  This is Phil Dominick.  They call him Philthy….funny as that name became my nickname while I was at Reef.  Interesting coincidence.

Riley Again.  Apparently I was ok shooting him

Riley Again. Apparently I was ok shooting him

I haven’t really been on snow for a season in a long time, almost 6 years.  In that time I really got away from snow sports as I was in Southern California and took the time to learn to surf.  I learned that after that much time away, a lot of the technical riding I used to be able to do has left me. I also learned a lot about myself, and how age and the experience of past injuries effects my decision process.  I slowly accepted that I can’t do the big, risky things like I used to.  After a week of being annoyed that I wouldn’t push myself, I finally excepted, and then started to appreciate the fact that I really just enjoy riding fast, making turns and picking out lines I want to hit.  But I had to go for broke one last time, and decided to hit the powder jump and spin one last big 3.

Backside 3.  On my 167 Cadillac powder board, with a powder stance.  Not the smartest thing I have ever done.

Backside 3. On my 167 Cadillac powder board, with a powder stance. Not the smartest thing I have ever done.

I didn’t land it cleanly, and I have to admit it felt good.  With a head full of steam and blood boiling with adrenaline I stormed back up to hit it again and land it.  I strapped on my helmet cam and dropped in.  This time I stupidly speed checked and slipped off the runway about 15 feet before for the lip.  At nearly full speed I got bucked.  All I remember in the air was “ohhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” I just wanted to clear the gully.  So I tucked my knees up and put the board perpendicular to the landing area in front of me.  I cleared the other death side of the gully by a few feet and landed to an abrupt stop.  My face slammed into my knee, and the whiplash action had enough force to break the mounting points on my helmet cam.  It seems that I can’t get away with anything without getting hurt or breaking equipment, which in effect ends up costing me lots of money.

As I was sitting icing my eye, a local Kiwi skier slid up and scoped out a drop.

Yep, That's a Big Drop

Yep, That's a Big Drop

Wow....I'd Say 50-60 Ft.

Wow....I'd Say 50-60 Ft.

Get on the Bus, eh!

Get on the Bus, eh!

This was my favorite line of the trip.  I found this nice little bit of frsh light untouched steep power and dropped the line twice.

This was my favorite line of the trip. I found this nice little bit of fresh, light untouched steep powder and dropped the line twice.

I wanted to hit the cliff just to the lookers right of this, but sometimes is so damn hard to know exactly where to drop looking from the top.  how do those crazy big mountain riders know where to go?

Couple of guys showing the scale of the line. Thanks fellas!

Couple of guys showing the scale of the line. Thanks fellas!

One of the guys in our group, Jesse (his blog on temple:http://jessesimons.blogspot.com/2009/08/temple-basin.html) is going to Otago University for photography.  He had his camera out more than I did.  It was nice having someone that knew what he was doing up there.  He is shooting Phil D here.  If Phil was an animal he would be a mole.  He seriously averaged building 3 jumps a day.  At any given time you could find him digging by himself someplace on the mountain.  He is dedicated, you have to give him that.

Jesse and Phil D. Shoot

Jesse and Phil D. Shoot

Another Epic Sunset, Friday

Another Fantastic Sunset, Friday

Rope Tow Sunset

Rope Tow Sunset

Another all time day coming to an end…..and another amazing sunset.

The boys heading back to the lodge after a long day of riding

The boys heading back to the lodge after a long day of riding

One of My Happy Places

One of My Happy Places

The Next Morning, Saturday, we had to pack up and prepare to head down and back.  We where going to try and get a half day of riding in since we heard they where opening the top of the mountain.  We got most of our gear rounded up and got it to the goods lift to be carried down early in the morning.

Mark with gear ready to head down

Mark with gear ready to head down

Stuff comes up, unload, reload, stuff goes down

Stuff comes up, unload, reload, stuff goes down

Grizzled, sore hiking legs, sore entire body for that matter, goggle tan, stinky, black eye, and completely euphoric.  Happy!

Grizzled, sore hiking legs, sore entire body for that matter, goggle tan, stinky, black eye, and completely euphoric. Ahh.

Where not done yet.  One last day of hiking and riding.  Today we head to the top!

Temple Mountain.  Over the downhill lift. from top of a knife ridge at the top of the mountain.

Temple Mountain. Over the downhill lift. from top of a knife ridge at the top of the mountain.

Upper Bills Basin

Upper Bills Basin

The ride-able terrain at Temple seems to never end.  This is a whole other mountain to ride above Bills.  Unfortunately the sun baked the hell out of the snow the day before, and the cold morning froze the top layer making the face an icy crusty mess.  Not good riding at all but incredible views!

Everyone else was traversing across the open face, but I decided to try and walk the ridge line.  I had to climb a chute that turned into a vertical wind lip the last 20 feet before the ridge, it was hairy to climb, but I made it with just frayed nerves.  I was rewarded with some amazing views.

View From the Ridge

View From the Ridge

Backside of Downhill. Looking down from the ridge

Backside of Downhill. Looking down from the ridge

I started to walk the ridge, and found that is was not an easy hike.  It was very steep on either side and not much of an even path to walk.  At one point I was straddling the ride, with my board sunk in as an anchor, and my hands painfully clenched around the heel loops of my bindings.  On one side my leg was hanging over a 100 ft sheer vertical cliff wall, and on the other side was a pepper rock chute that was impossible to exit through.  I could have tried to continue on, but it would have been one foot in front of the other, and no fall zones on either side.  Plus there was a semi gusty breeze that pretty much frightened me back.  I wish I had the “where with all” to take out my camera and get a picture of that scene as it must have looked ridiculous, but I was a little nervous at the time.  Probably the most precarious position I have been in on a mountain.

I headed down an easier exit point and hiked across the basin to meet up with the rest of the crew.  We made one final hike up to the peak and had a snack.  The ride down was icy and a good indication it was time to head out.

On the way home, driving back through Aurthur’s Pass, I snapped a picture of a mountain that just hangs over the valley below.

Arthur's Pass Mountain

Arthur's Pass Mountain

I’ll be back in this area come spring.  Its an amazing mountain land, and I can’t wait to return.

I took the boys back to Dunedin and crashed there for a night.  I got home, unpacked, did laundry immediately and showered and shaved.  My black eye was really coming in now, and goggle tans always look ridiculous.  Just souvenirs of a remarkable trip!

Boohya!

Boohya!

Painted Mountains

Not sure what setting my camera was on…..but these pics freakishly look like paintings.  Any of you Photogs out there, if you have any info on why these would come out this way, please enlighten me.  My camera was pretty much set up the same way it has been since I arrived.

More snaps of the view from the Remarks road.

This looks like a painting.....It freaks me out.

This looks like a painting.....It freaks me out.

Just a photo I swear.

Just a photo I swear.

I didn’t even bring this into Photoshop….no filters.  I really don’t understand how the picture could have such a painted illustrated look to it.  My only explanation is that the light is just right.

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These don’t have the same effect, but have some pretty awesome scale.

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