KKoontz Photography: Blog https://kkoontz.com/blog en-us (C) KKoontz Photography (KKoontz Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:06:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:06:00 GMT https://kkoontz.com/img/s/v-12/u343801756-o173663469-50.jpg KKoontz Photography: Blog https://kkoontz.com/blog 120 120 The Wave https://kkoontz.com/blog/2017/3/the-wave The Wave

The Wave in ArizonaThe Classic Wave Shot


The Wave is an area of sandstone located in Arizona, just outside of Kanab Utah. It was a spot known to just a few people until July 22, 2009. That was the date that Microsoft launched Windows 7, with a beautiful photo of the wave as its desktop wallpaper. Since then, many have wanted to see this formation for themselves putting a strain on the small area.  


Kyle looks over the hike.

Kyle looks over the hike.


Many have called the Wave the “Holy Grail of Hikes”. Not because of the difficult hike, but due to the difficulty in actually getting to go. The Wave sits in the Coyote Buttes / Paria Canyon section of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Only 20 people a day (excluding guides and volunteers) are allowed to the opportunity to hike the area each day. The 20 person per day limit was set up to protect the delicate formations as the demand to see the area is constantly increasing.

To become one of the chosen few, a permit must be obtained. Don’t think that you can enter the area without one, as guides and volunteers are checking daily, and hefty fines are imposed for the rule breakers.

Just 10 online permits and 10 walk-in permits are issued for each day. The 10 online permits are obtained online and the drawing is held 4 months in advance. So if you would like to go in March, you need to apply between the 1st and 30th of November. There is a $5.00 fee and you can select 3 dates. If you are chosen, you have 14 days to respond, or your permit is put back into the system. Remember that the number of people in your party is the number of permits issued. So if a person with a group of 6 is chosen, there are only 4 permits remaining for that day.



Walk-in permits are held via lottery every morning at 9:00 AM at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah. Make sure that you are aware that AZ and Utah are on different time zones! The lottery to obtain permits for are held every day – for the next day. Meaning that a permit issued Monday is valid for the Tuesday hike. Permits for Sat-Mon are awarded on Fridays.

Heidi and I arrived at the BLM office Thursday morning. We had read online that the lottery process starts at 8:30 so we arrived a few minutes early. At 8:30 you are given a short brief and are led into the lottery room where you fill out your application. You are allowed one application per group - up to six people. It is one application per group rule – any duplicates will be thrown out.

We had a group of five that wanted to hike, so Heidi filled out the application and we waited for the drawing. It’s an intense experience waiting and wondering if you will be selected. You find yourself looking around the room wondering who will be among the chosen few. Once your application is completed, you will be issued a number for the lottery. The staff member may also remind you that every time that he drops a bingo ball representing your number into the hopper, your odds of obtaining a permit just lowered. The total number of applications reached 42 on our day. Which as it turns out is pretty average for midweek. But remember, that isn’t 42 people, it is 42 applications and each could represent up to 6 people.

Everyone starts checking their watches and a collective sigh is heard each time a person runs into the room to fill out a last-minute application.

At 9:00 a.m. sharp, he turns the crank, the balls rattle around and a number is drawn. Number 16 is called and it’s a group of two. Eight permits left.

Heidi looks at me at says “It’s just like Bingo – I got this”, and sure enough number 13 is the next number called. We are in!

The staff member looks at our application and addresses the crowd. “Remember that they are nice people, number 13 is a party of 5.” A groan is heard across the room.

Just 3 permits left. The next number is drawn and it’s for a party of 4. Oh no, there’s only 3 permits left! What happens now? The group is given a moment to discuss their options. Will they leave someone behind? Will they only go with 2? They take a pass on the permit. There are smiles across the room.

Another number is drawn and it’s for a group of 3. The lottery is over and people begin filing out, except of course, for the chosen few.

Another brief on the area is given, the rules are explained, and you will be given a map to the area. You pay a $7.00 per person fee and a tag is given to you. Half of which goes on the dashboard of your car and the other must be attached to your backpack while out hiking. We are going!



The trail head is located off of Highway 89 about an hour east of Kanab. The last 8-10 miles is on House Rock Valley Road, which is a rough dirt road that can become impassible in the event of rain.

My uncle Dennis, his son Kyle with his girlfriend Maria joined Heidi and me for the hike. Our group was joined by a friend and volunteer of the BLM – Brent. Brent makes the hike every Friday, not only to check permits, but to make certain that people are safe. His stories of people underestimating the hike or heat are amazing. While most people in decent shape can make the hike, getting lost, not bringing enough water, exhaustion from underestimating the distance, and injuries are the main causes of turning a good day into a serious situation.



While Heidi and I typically do our hikes alone, it was great having Brent along. So much so that I really recommend that if you do get a permit that you check in town or with the BLM and hire a guide for your trek. Not only for helping you to stay on the trail (which isn’t really well marked), but there is so much else to see in the area and these sites are often tricky to get to and can lead to people getting lost. Hikers have died in the area and its backcountry and having someone who knows the area means a safer and more enjoyable trip.



Most people travel to the Wave and back which is about a 6 mile round trip. As Brent will tell you there is so much more to see. With other stops we figured we did a little over 10 miles and were there over 8 hours as he guided us to places such as The Second Wave, Melody Arch, Top Rock Arch, The Alcove, and others. Make certain that you do your research on the area. The solitude and lack of people make the hike that much more enjoyable.

You are exposed to the sun on most all of the hike. While it was just 60 degrees when we were there, sunscreen is a must. I can’t imagine the folks that do the hike on 100+ degree days. There is a lot of deep sand to hike through and remember that you’ll be tired on your hike out.



After reaching the Wave, we saw a few other people and Brent headed over to make certain that they had their permit and that they were in good shape for the day. The Wave is incredible. Though just a small portion of the area, it is a one-of-a-kind. I think everyone tries to figure out exactly what went on here and how this was formed.

Photographers had the tripods lined up, trying to get the right angle and spot, and I felt rewarded for carrying all of my camera gear. The Wave is best photographed morning and mid-day. After a few clicks and running around, the gear was packed up and we continued onward, and upward.

Scrambling up along slickrock we went on to other sites and were offered a view from high above the Wave. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with an incredible view as well as Melody Arch, Grotto, Top Rock Arch, to name a few.


Hamburger at the Wave

Hiking back down, Brent continued to point out other features that are unique to the area and how they may have been formed. We all were busy pointing and asking questions about this or that feature.

Once back down, we passed by the Wave we posed for a few more photos before hitting the trail back to the car. We all left with smiles, as we were among the chosen few.





Some links/pages –



Water – bring a lot


Consider a guide

Take photos along the way, and looking back. These might be needed on the trip out.

(KKoontz Photography) Kanab Utah North Coyote Buttes The Wave Arizona The Wave Utah Vermillion Cliffs National Monument https://kkoontz.com/blog/2017/3/the-wave Wed, 08 Mar 2017 23:23:52 GMT
Biscayne National park https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/3/biscayne-national-park Biscayne National Park 

Park 29/59 wasn’t that great and I hate saying that about a National Park. While doing the research for this park, we came across this:

(From http://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm)

Boat Tours, Paddle-craft Rentals and Select Conveniences Temporarily Unavailable

Glass-bottom, snorkel, diving and island boat tours, and rentals for canoes and other paddle-craft, are temporarily unavailable. The park is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and regrets the inconvenience.

So….we went anyway and found that there isn’t much to do at Biscayne when you are land-locked. The park Visitor Center looks like a small marina and there is a short walking path that leads out towards the bay. Nice quick stroll down this path, and while you have a nice view of the bay, to your right you will find boats pulling out of the marina adjacent the park as well as a great view of a power plant. Jets from the nearby Navy Base do provide some entertainment as they made several passes while we were there. Pretty loud, but interesting to watch as they went about their business.

Because we were staying in Florida City we did make another attempt (Perhaps we missed something?) at the park on a Saturday, and wow, was it packed! Picnickers, and birthday parties filled the grounds! It looked like any local city park on a summer’s day. Not exactly a National Park experience.

I get the fact that this park is to protect the bay and that most of the park is under water. I’ve seen images that are very interesting and places that I might like to explore. Perhaps it is a great place for local schools to come and learn about the bay but for visiting park guests from out of state, not really worth the stop without being able to experience the bay itself. Take a pass.

More images here.

(KKoontz Photography) Biscayne Biscayne National Park https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/3/biscayne-national-park Fri, 06 Mar 2015 22:38:55 GMT
fineartamerica https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/1/fineartamerica A friend suggested that I start selling my images through a "Print on Demand" company. Customers can purchase my images as well as get various products right to their home. After doing some research, I found that fineartamerica seemed to be the best deal around, for both the customer and the photographer. Better exposure that I can provide? I'm sure of that.

I've put a few up now and I'll report back on how they are doing. Please be sure to check out their site, there are some amazing photographs on the site!


train art trains canvas prints chicago prints train digital art chicago digital art



(KKoontz Photography) Fineartamerica Train Trains https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/1/fineartamerica Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:20:51 GMT
Jasper Pulaski Sandhill Cranes https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/1/jasper-pulaski-sandhill-cranes Recently I had the pleasure to work with WTTW's Jay Shefsky on the Sandhill Crane Migration and their stop-over at Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife area. We got quite the suprise when a phone call came in from the Field Museum's Josh Engle who had spotted two Whopping Cranes nearby. Pretty cool anytime that you get to see an endangered species.

The link to the video  - Chasing Cranes





(KKoontz Photography) Chicago Cranes Crane Jasper Pulaski Sandhill Cranes WTTW Crane Chasing Whooping Cranes https://kkoontz.com/blog/2015/1/jasper-pulaski-sandhill-cranes Thu, 01 Jan 2015 18:39:41 GMT
Guadalupe Mountains National Park https://kkoontz.com/blog/2014/3/guadalupe-mountains-national-park Guadalupe National Park. Yep! For certain I had never heard of that one. Nor have I ever heard of anyone saying let’s go there on vacation! But since the Park is on the wife’s list and its right next door to Carlsbad Cavern, we were off! AND, this park doesn’t disappoint! It’s the remnants of an ancient coral reef and boasts the highest peak in Texas. Others claim that McKittrick Canyon is actually the prettiest spot in all of Texas. Now that may be true, but I think that that may have been said in another season other than winter. We enjoyed hiking this park and it far exceeded our expectations. While we didn’t do the 3000ft climb to the summit we went on a lot of hikes that were challenging and gave us the escape that we were looking for. I couldn’t get over the silence. Not a sound.



Located right on the border of New Mexico it’s a very easy trip from either El Paso or Carlsbad. Carlsbad is about the closest town with a familiar hotel chain so Heidi and I stayed there. I would highly recommend to anyone who goes to Carlsbad not to miss out on this lesser known gem. Be sure to catch a sunrise and set, at the park. Park number 23 for Heidi was a great surprise!


For more photos - click HERE!

(KKoontz Photography) Guadalupe Guadalupe Mountains National Park National Park Texas https://kkoontz.com/blog/2014/3/guadalupe-mountains-national-park Mon, 03 Mar 2014 02:05:59 GMT
Big Bend National Park https://kkoontz.com/blog/2014/2/big-bend-national-park Trying to get a small break from this relentless winter we packed up and headed south. Flying into El Paso, we made our way to our first destination, Big Bend National Park , and the 22nd park on Heidi’s list. This park sits 4 ½ hours to the south of El Paso and on the Rio Grande River. The river separates the US and Mexico and cuts through canyons making for some great views.  It could also give Montana a run as “Big Sky Country”. Clear blue skies provide a horizon to horizon view and the stars certainly are “Big and Bright” in this area of Texas.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon


Most of the towns in the area are abandoned as are the couple of old homesteads within the park. An abandoned hotel and store sit next to the river where hot springs still provide relief for sore knees bubbling up at over 100 degrees. These springs were once touted as a cure-all to most every disease known and attracted many people.


Heidi at the "Spa"


The park hotel was sold out so we stayed in the town of Lajitas. The town won’t be on your GPS and this hotel sells out quickly, but I would give it a recommend and the bar and restaurant made for a great place to unwind after a long day of hiking.

Big Bend kept surprising us with its different features and terrain. From the hot springs, deep canyons, great hikes, and big skies, it kept us going from sun-up to sun-down.


Rio Grande Valley


Lost Mine Trail


Just north of Lajitas we did come across an old movie set, worth the trip.  -  Contrabando

Church at Contrabando


Although we went during February, and everyone says the "You should see it in the fall!", we enjoyed the hikes and everything that the park had to offer.

To see the rest of the photos, as well as other National Parks, simply click HERE.





Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa

4 out of 5 Stars

Shower could use some help

Confusing to check in- “Where’s the lobby?”

Great bar, service and food

Staff was great

(KKoontz Photography) Big Bend Big Bend National Park Lajitas Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa National Parks Texas https://kkoontz.com/blog/2014/2/big-bend-national-park Thu, 20 Feb 2014 19:47:15 GMT
Hawaii https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/12/hawaii Heidi and I decided on Hawaii’s National Parks early on in the year, however we weren't that sure that we were going to be able to go. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget her excitement when she told me that she had booked the tickets and said “We’re going.”



The airport in Maui is small and the entire island is pretty easy to get around. There can be some traffic going from one side to the other, but sitting in traffic in Maui just doesn’t seem to take the same toll on you as it does in Chicago. Weird!

Our first nights were spent in Kaanapali at the Kaanapali Beach Resort. A little older with clean rooms and grounds and the beach was a very nice white sand beach. The Tiki Bar by the pool was a nice place to relax after a long day of site-seeing. Yes, most certainly I would stay there again. What everyone seems to ask is “Was it expensive?” Yes. So is everything in Hawaii. I’m sure that there are deals if you look and before going we read about everything from renting a time-share to stocking up at Costco.  Research, set your budget and then be prepared to crush it.

The first stop planned was Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. We decided to make the trek to see the sunrise atop the 10,000 foot peak. The sunrise at Haleakala is the number one thing not to miss on Maui! From the top of the dormant Volcano, you are above the clouds, and the light changes in seconds. The peak looks as if it is from a different world with old cinder cones and volcanic rock.

(Sunrise Haleakala)


It’s cold. 35 is tough after enjoy an 80 degree day at the beach. People were wrapped in their hotel blankets.

(Heidi at the summit)

It’s crowded. Get there early! Parking at the top fills up fast, and there’s only one winding road to the top.

It’s desolate. One road-side coffee shop about halfway up, and yes, at 4:00 in the morning, they were open.

It does clear out fast 15 minutes after the sunrise. Plan to enjoy the summit and take your time on the way down. It’ll be slow going anyway as you dodge the bicycle groups heading down.



After the sunrise Heidi and I walked a couple of the trails and checked out the views. Making her way into the visitor’s center she had her book stamped and park number 20 on her bucket list was logged.

Heading back down the mountain we stopped at the hotel to lose about 30 pounds of clothes. We decided to hit the north shore of the island and check out the various beaches, cliffs and overlooks.

(Nakalele Blow Hole)

(North Shore, Maui)


After a couple of nights there, including our Thanksgiving Luau, we made our way to Hana, and the Travaasa Hotel.

(Road to Hana)

(Road to Hana)

(Heidi trying to catch crabs)

(Haleakala National Park)


What a place! No TV, radio, or clocks in the room. A perfect spot to call home base and relax while exploring the rest of Haleakala. Each day we explored new sites along the coast and hiked to several waterfalls within the park. Two pristine beaches on the way are straight out of a postcard. I loved Hana, and although Heidi would have liked a few more restaurant / shopping choices, it was perfect.

(Hana Sunrise)



We flew to the big island and made our way to the Volcano House Hotel located in (number 21 for us) Volcanoes National Park. Typical National Park Hotel and you can tell that it had recently gone through a makeover. Heidi and I have enjoyed the times that we have spent at National Park Hotels and, while they may not have every modern amenity, the character hooks us every time. Our room overlooked the crater and at night gave a nice red glow letting you know that the forces of nature were still working away forming a bigger island.

(Volcanoes National Park)


While no lava was currently hitting the ocean we enjoyed this island immensely.  We spent 3 nights exploring the various areas of the park and making our way along the southern edge of the island up to Kona which was much more touristy. In and around Hilo there were other areas to explore and we can't wait to get back and see the areas that we missed.

(Hawaii Tropical Gardens)

(Akaka Falls)


Wonderful trip and we just can't wait to return to paradise.

To see more photos:

Haleakala National Park

Volcanoes National Park




Photographing Haleakala Sunrise

Get there early, a tripod and GND filters are must haves

Cold, but a not-to-miss destination


Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty

One of the best travel books and a must have


Kaanapali Beach Resort

I give it 4 of 5 stars

Great staff, beach, Tiki bar, clean room

Pricey breakfast buffet


Old Lahaina Luau

No corniness, good show, and food. Drinks could use some help.


Road to Hana

Yeah, yeah… 600 curves, 100 one-lane bridges, etc., etc. Not that big of a deal, SPECTACULAR scenery. Take it, explore it, and stay in Hana a night. What’s the hurry anyway?


Travaasa Hotel

4 out of 5 Stars

Seaside cottages are amazing

Restaurant Staff needs some training, which is a shame


Volcano House Hotel

Awesome, 5 out of 5 stars. Food and view are just great.

(KKoontz Photography) Haleakala National Park Kaanapali Beach Resort Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty Photographing Haleakala Sunrise Road to Old Lahaina Luau Travaasa Hotel Volcano House Hotel https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/12/hawaii Wed, 18 Dec 2013 03:20:42 GMT
Joshua Tree and Great Basin National Parks https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/7/back-to-vegas Well we were back out on the road again! This time we decided to hit two out-of-the-way parks and make it back it time to hook up with the friends for the annual guy’s trip to Vegas. There is so much in the southwest to see and since it’s so spread out, making a decision to see this or that always leads to a 6 hour drive.  

Flying into Vegas we hit the Walmart for a cooler and supplies and we made our way to our first destination, Joshua Tree National Park. Now going to the desert in the summer isn’t the brightest idea, however since I couldn’t convince anyone to move the date of the World Series of Poker, we had to make the best of it. But, when the rental car showed 118 degrees, I did start to second guess this plan. The nights were very pleasant and we hiked early and late to take advantage of the cooler temps. All in all we weren’t out that often in the heat and while it was hot, we were ok.

Joshua is a barren place, with a few old ruins of settlers who had once tried to make a go at living in this desolate area. There are many unique rock formations as well as the signature trees, but it is mostly barren with low scrub brush and cactus. Hiking in the heat is tough and it is amazing how fast you can go through the water.  


After spending the night in 29 Palms, we spent the morning hiking a few more trails and started towards our next park, Great Basin.

                This park is truly in the middle of nowhere Nevada, and I can certainly see why it doesn’t attract too many visitors, it's tough to get too! It isn’t a very large park however the 2nd highest peak in Nevada, Wheeler Peak, is a fantastic hike and offers great views of the basins below. If altitude isn’t your thing, then the Lehman Cave tour is another don’t miss. The 90 minute tour is great and at 55 degrees year round, it makes for a nice cool break. The only downside to this park is the remoteness, as Ely, the nearest town with a decent hotel, is 70 miles away making it a tough commute each day to the park.


After two nights, we headed towards my Aunt’s house in Kanab Utah with Zion being our next destination. Wow! Now we’ve been to Zion before, however never during tourist season. What a difference! The park gets filled quickly and because we are usually there when it’s empty, we had to come up with another plan. Taking in the Kolob Canyon area of Zion (Northern section of the park) is a great way to see some of the Park’s diversity while completely getting away from the traffic in the main section. We spent the entire day hiking and perhaps ran across 10 people. Perfect Day!

Back in the car again! This time we’re heading east through Page and on to Monument Valley. I’ve always wanted to see this area and have always seemed to miss it. It didn’t disappoint. Great views and, although the road is pretty tough through the valley, it’s nothing short of amazing. We had to stop by Horseshoe Bend when we returned to Page for the night. It’s another site not to miss if you are in the area.

After 2400 miles, (no, not a typo) we were headed to Vegas to hook up with friends for the World Series of Poker. While Heidi went home a couple of days ahead of me, we both thought that the trip was worth all of the time in the car and the scenery certainly didn’t disappoint.

To see the photos of the parks, click here and here. Can't wait for the next adventure!



(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/7/back-to-vegas Wed, 03 Jul 2013 16:51:27 GMT
Work, and a little play https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/3/work-and-a-little-play Business trip! The trip required me to work the weekend so I asked my boss if I could have a couple of days vacation at the end of the trip. He agreed and the wife decided that she would come along as Fresno California just so happens to be located right in the middle of a few National Parks.

Now for those of you that have tried such an endeavor, you’re really not “on vacation” on these types of trips. There are lots of phone calls to be made and, because Heidi had given such short notice, a lot of meetings needed planned and attended to while trying to go see some sites. We tried to make the best of it and even though work needed to be done, it was much nicer working in Fresno than back in Chicago where the winter of ’13 just won’t end.


Kings Canyon National Park

Until April 15th the majority of this park is closed due to snow. What we could see was nothing short of spectacular. The panoramas along with the giant sequoias are awesome! We made our way up the mountain taking in the sites and then on to Hume Lake. Taking a break from the car we walked along the trails and then took in the big trees at several other stops. I cannot wait to see the rest of this park when I return.


Sequoia National Park

This park is a must see if you’re in the area. While the big trees are the main reason most folks go, the trails, canyons and streams from the snow melt, are unreal. The road up the mountain takes you through the Giant Forest where you are surrounded by the tall pines and sequoias. How big are they? Too big to photograph! One tree has a circumference of 96 feet!


Yosemite National Park

The park was a repeat for Heidi and I, but a first time that we were here in the spring. The spring runoff makes all the difference in seeing the park’s waterfalls. We had visited in the fall when most of the waterfalls were a mere trickle. Not so this trip – it’s crazy how much water there actually is.


Pinnacles National Park

The newest of the National Parks. It was upgraded from National Monument in Jan. 2013.  This park is all about the rolling California foothills and a conservation area for some of California’s wildlife. We enjoyed the trails and making our way in and out of small caves along the way. The park isn’t that large and easy to cover. The exposed rocks (ancient Volcano) along the reservoir resides the Pinnacles. After leaving the park we couldn’t resist taking a drive along the coast. While the weather along the coast didn’t cooperate, it was still a much needed break from the Chicago cold.


Great getaway and 3 new parks for my honey!

The rest of the photos are in the park galleries and can be found by clicking Here!

(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/3/work-and-a-little-play Fri, 22 Mar 2013 21:10:45 GMT
Catching a Comet https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/3/catching-a-comet Catching a comet turned out to be – not so easy. This is comet PAN-STARRS, and for us here in the Chicago area that sees about 6 clear nights a year, the odds weren’t too great that I could get an image. This comet appeared on the horizon, just after sunset, and with the clouds on the horizon I had 3 to 4 minutes to see it as clouds passed in front of it. (That and it took a long time to even find it!) Now it’s supposed to get higher in the sky, however as it does it will get fainter as it moves further away. Perhaps the one due to arrive in November will put on a better show.


My feeble attempt –


(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/3/catching-a-comet Thu, 14 Mar 2013 14:52:25 GMT
2012 https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/1/2012 It’s that time of year again. The world didn’t end with the Mayan calendar so it looks like we’ll have a 2013 after all. Thinking about the past year, there just weren’t many lows for us, and we consider ourselves fortunate. Our daughter started her second year of college and we’re mighty proud of her accomplishments as she continues to work and further her education. Our son has started his sophomore year of High School and still has eats and sleeps football. Wrigley, well, he still lays around mostly. All in all 2012 was a pretty great year.

We certainly won’t forget the weather this past year. No snow and in the 70’s most of March followed by a hot and very dry summer and a gorgeous fall. Winter took it’s time getting here with just a trace of snow just before Christmas. To use the word strange would be an understatement.

Heidi and I traveled this year beginning with my cross country trip with my cousin to Park City Utah, and then hooking up with another cousin (who sucks) traveling to Arches National Park.  It was a great week with highlights including skiing, hiking, and zip-lining, to relaxing in a cozy bar enjoying some great conversations.

End of June we made our way up to the UP of Michigan with some friends. Jan and Kip were fantastic hosts and Kip would make a heck of a tour guide if he ever wanted another career. Great trip and was just overwhelmed by the scenery.

In July it was off to Glacier National Park in Montana. What an awesome place this is and one we both would like to revisit. The mountains, trails and lakes are a moving experience. You can’t help but to feel small here and get lost in your thoughts.

September brought yet another trip, this time to Utah and all of the National Parks in the state. Heidi found her favorite trail at Zion and had already talked about hitting this again. Hooking up with family once again just made the trip even more enjoyable.  Dennis and Dixie know how to do Utah!

Here around the house, the subdivision continues to grow, although at a slower pace. There were many changes to the pond behind the house this past year with many different kinds of animals and birds seeming to settle in. It’s nice to have a beer on the deck and watch a little “Nature Channel”. I continued my walks around the area bringing the camera all the while. I’ve also learned that there just aren’t any polar bears around Northern Illinois. While I didn’t mean to end up taking bird photos, they get the nod as that is what is on the trails. That and deer! I even managed to have a couple of photos published, which is something that I would have never thought possible a few years ago.

Started to take sports photos this year and was flattered by the requests and purchases that folks have made. While I won’t be able to quit my day job any time soon, it was extremely rewarding and I look to continue this passion going forward.  And no matter what Heidi may think – photography is still cheaper than boating!

Thanks to my wife, family and friends who encourage, support, and go along this journey. I hope that 2013 brings your friends and family a great year of happiness, and safe travels.



My favorites of 2012:

Northern Hawk Owl






Making a Move



Glacier at Night





(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2013/1/2012 Wed, 02 Jan 2013 16:06:02 GMT
Utah! https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/10/utah WOW! That’s where the story ends for those of you that want to skip all of the details. However, if you would like to continue…

Heidi and I had talked about this trip after visiting Glacier, and though we tried to plan it out ahead of time to allow friends of ours to join us, the work schedule mandated a pretty quick decision if we were to go. So it was booked!

We started this adventure at Milwaukee airport and headed into Vegas. After a really great flight and grabbing the rental, we were off to our first destination to meet some of our family in Mesquite Nevada. Dixie, Dennis and some of my cousins were having a get–together there, and we felt obligated to crash their party. It was great seeing the family, well, except maybe for Kyle and Cody, but we sure enjoyed seeing how Jeremy’s girls had grown. Dennis and Dixie have an awful lot to be proud of. The next morning we said goodbye and jumped in the car for what would be our biggest driving leg of the journey, Moab Utah, with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as our first destination. The 6 hour drive was broken up with some great views and vistas, and the time seemed to fly by.


We arrived at Arches in time for sunset, and we were able to drive around the park and even a walk around Windows Arch. We had quite a lot of fun watching the moonrise through the north window arch.

Checked into the hotel, end of day 2.

Awoke to a beautiful morning, and I headed out to get a few early morning shots while Heidi caught up on some much-needed rest. After picking her up, we bought some things that were needed and headed to the park with Delicate Arch targeted as our first hike. The weather cooperated nicely and it wasn’t that hot at all. We enjoyed the views and chatted with fellow hikers making sure we checked out the petroglyphs as well.

Afterwards, we hit the trail to Landscape Arch. It was a nice hike and after driving all of the side roads and being tired from the hikes, we decided to make our way to Canyonlands and get our first glimpse of what awaited the next day. We drove to the very end of the park and enjoyed the vistas along the way. My cousin had described it as a “Mini Grand Canyon” and I think that he was spot on. We saw the sign for Mesa Arch, and decided that it may be fun to watch the moon come up through it. While we were there two other couples had thought the same and we had a great time swapping stories and enjoying the evening. The brought a picnic and the chicken that they offered us hit the spot. They had been there earlier to watch the sunrise, and told us how there were around forty photographers all trying to get the famous sunrise shot through the arch. The temperature dropped and, being pretty tired, we headed back to the hotel.

Day 4

I awoke before dawn and headed to the infamous Mesa Arch, and yepper, it was slammed. Parking lot was full, and a tour bus was rolling up. I decided to try some other spots, and after shooting awhile, headed back to pick up Heidi. We did one more pass through Arches and then headed back to Canyonlands. We drove the entire park, stopping along the way to be certain that we weren’t missing anything.

Convinced, we headed towards our next park, Capitol Reef. 

We came into to Capitol pretty early and scouted out our next hike - Capitol Gorge. We traveled past the pioneer registry making our way to the water tanks. If you ever take this hike, bring plenty of water as it was pretty hot. The canyon walls are indescribable and there are more petroglyphs to be seen as well.

After taking the driving tour, we felt up for another hike, Hickman Bridge. This was an enjoyable hike, a little steep at first, but offered plenty of shade and the payoff – a wonderful arch.

We treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Rim Rock steakhouse in Torrey. Great day!


Day 5

I watched the sun rise and then back to the hotel to get Heidi. Getting a very early start, we checked out a few of the orchards, the old school and headed out for Bryce Canyon.

The drive from Capitol to Bryce was unreal! Heading through the Dixie National Forest and the Grand Escalante should be a trip within itself! The Aspen’s were turning and the views were incredible.

It was a pretty quick trip to Bryce and we wasted no time in taking the “Hike of the Hoodoos”. This hike to the canyon floor 600 feet below will push you, but the views are worth every step!

We then took the drive through the park stopping at all the Vistas, and then finally headed to Mossy Cave Trail, to check out the waterfall.

After this quick hike it was on to Kanab, for an evening with Dennis and Dixie.


Day 6

Since we had been to the Grand Canyon several times before we decided to take the trip down to the park and check out some of the places Dennis had told us about the night before. We drove to the main lodge on the North Rim hiked along the trails and then took various gravel roads to spots that we hadn’t seen before. The views were pretty hazed, but the trees were showing their colors and we enjoyed our quick visit.

Done with the haze we decided to towards Zion and get a feel for the park that we would hike the next day. Awestruck! This park isn’t that large, however it quickly became our favorite. From the canyons, to the 1.1 mile tunnel, it is breathtaking. We drove through the park and stopped at the nicest visitor’s center I think that there is. We watched the sunset, walked along the river and headed back to enjoy a great dinner with the family.


Day 7

Hiked the Narrows! The trail-head is about a mile from the shuttle stop and quickly turns to water. Yep the trail from here is about 60% water as the stream is the trail! While it was cold, the view keeps the excitement and energy level way up! We hiked back about 4 miles making it past the “junction” and then some. Someday I’d like to go back and find “The End” of this hike. This was, by far, our favorite hike, next time neoprene socks would really be a good idea as the round trip (10 miles total) in the water does get cold. This took the majority of the day and what a great one it was.

Day 8

I got up early and headed back to Zion. While filming some Bighorn Sheep, I ran into a local photographer Barry and enjoyed hearing about the spots to shoot and where to head when we come for another visit. Great morning and the sheep sure put on a show.

Once back, Dennis and Dixie decided to show us their “backyard” and we went via Rhino to Hog Canyon, Best Friends, and then on to Peekaboo Canyon. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we had. The views were terrific, Dennis brought a grill to cook lunch and the drive was a blast! Crawling straight up rocks, fording streams and ripping through the sand, the Rhinos were a blast! After a quick cleanup we headed downtown for dinner and then back to the house for some “Oreo Cookie Shit” Yeah, it’s a dish that Dixie makes that is crazy good. And better yet, Kyle and Cody didn’t get any…

Day 9

Being impressed with Peekaboo Canyon, Dennis and I loaded up the Rhino and drove there so that I could get a few photos of this slot canyon. Great time, and Dennis was awesome in playing tour guide. We then met the girls at the Barracks, another canyon, grabbed some lunch by a stream and relaxed away the afternoon. After a quick shower it was time to head out to Vegas. Thanks to Dennis and Dixie for being great hosts, tour guides and friends. We can’t thank you enough and love you dearly.

Day 10

Who in the hell goes to Vegas to recover from a week of hiking and being outdoors? Well, we do now! I enjoyed the day relaxing with my girl, played some dice, had some cocktails, and got ready for the plane ride home the next morning. What a trip!



National Parks crossed of Heidi’s bucket list: 6

Miles driven: 2008

Miles hiked: 37+

Elevation hiked: Know of 1100ft (Delicate and Hoodoo’s) Guess would be around 1800 feet as the GPS was not being friendly.



(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/10/utah Sat, 13 Oct 2012 21:31:48 GMT
Glacier National Park https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/7/glacier-national-park My wife Heidi and I had talked about going to see Glacier National Park for some time. We have always been fans of the national parks and it was time to see this one. We did the research, looked for a window in our daily work lives, and set out on the 18th of July.

We wanted to be sure that we could be prepared for any type of weather and based on this; we decided to take on the drive instead of fly. Because we have both flown so much for work, sometimes flying actually takes away from our time off. Crazy? Perhaps. But we do enjoy seeing the scenery along the way, so we packed up the car and headed west!


Day 1:

After a stop in the Badlands we arrived at our first destination, Rapid City SD. While we’ve been here quite a few times, we wanted to get a look at the “Big Heads” lit at night. We came close once, however just like a scene out of a Chevy Chase Vacation movie, they shut the lights off as we walked from the parking lot to the entrance of the park. Success this time!


Day 2:

We drove through Custer State Park and made our way to Wind Cave so that Heidi could get her National Park Passport stamp. The last time through here we did all of the tours, so we didn’t stay too long. We did take the drive through Needles, and it is still spectacular as ever. Drove by Crazy Horse, and while the head of the monument has come a long way, the pictures that I have from my childhood trip, look pretty close. The time that they have spent on this amazes me – and perhaps that’s the way it should be. It’s not about the goal, but about the journey.


Not much wildlife, with the temperature hitting about 102.

Knowing that we had a big drive ahead of us, we pointed the car north and headed off for Great Falls MT. We arrived pretty late, but took in the spectacular views and were continually amazed by the vastness. A far cry from the congested Chicago Suburbs.


Day 3:

Glacier! Indescribable! We spent the morning driving the Going to the Sun road, stopping at all of the turnouts along the route. Hit Logan Pass and we were just simply awestruck looking out over the valley. I’m not a writer, so I’m not going to even try to describe how we felt or the view that awaited us. Recharged is an understatement!

We checked into Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the original hotels in the park. The lodge, which is right on the lake, has the rustic feel and the staff was awesome. While Heidi and I are used to staying in hotels through our jobs, it was a shocking, however pleasant, surprise to learn that there wasn’t air, TV, or a fridge in our room. So we had to “settle” for windows overlooking the lake and the nice 68 degree breeze blowing through the room. They did have Wi-Fi so after a quick check on the weather, which called for scattered thunder storms, we decided to stretch our legs and take the hike to Avalanche Lake.  


Hike to Avalanche:

This trail can get very crowded because it is one of the relatively easy marked trails in the park. The trail passes by Avalanche Gorge and the payoff is a beautiful waterfall fed lake. While walking this trail we noticed a lot of downed trees and were told by another hiking couple that the trees were hit by a recent windstorm. Arriving at the lake I quickly grabbed the camera and set up the tripod. While the weather may not have cooperated for photos of the lake, the peacefulness after the long drive is just what we needed. We munched on some snacks and that’s when the thunder hit.

We packed up the gear and headed back – just as the storm hit. We got to the section where the downed trees were and the ones standing were bent and cracking from the wind. Yep, we now know where the term “widow makers” came from. I looked up and Heidi was gone! She had taken off running up the trail wanting to get out of that area – NOW! The wind wasn’t as bad up the trail and after a brief rain and some very close lightning strikes the storm moved on. +1 for Heidi, she brought her raincoat, I only brought a plastic bag for the camera gear! The rain really made for nice views of Avalanche Gorge; it looked so much like a true rain forest.



We headed back for the lodge and ate at the restaurant there. Try the Yankee pot roast – it’s a lot, but soooooo good! Met a very nice couple and swapped road stories, enjoyable evening.


Hike 5.5 miles   

Time 3:30

Moving 2:33

Stopped 57 mins.


Min 3445

Max 4028

Ascent 895

Descent 876



Day 4:

Got up early to get some photos of Lake McDonald and spent the rest of the morning at the sites along the lake and turnout areas.

My wife and I aren’t skilled hikers. While I hike our local parks here in Illinois, they are about as hilly as a basketball court. We decided to challenge ourselves and also see some other areas of the park. We consulted a couple of maps, hotel staff opinions and our “park guide” The Photographer's Guide to Glacier National Park by Gordon Sullivan (great book by the way!) and headed to Bowman Lake, with Lower Quartz Lake as our goal.


The road to Bowman Lake would be a blast if I had driven my truck. However in the BMW it was tricky and slow going to say the least. But…Off-roading has never been so comfortable! The gravel road leading to the lake does take some time to travel as its one lane and tricky to pass other vehicles, but because it was dry, it was a pretty easy drive, just slow.


Bowman Lake is simply gorgeous! With the peaks providing the backdrop, it’s a Glacier postcard. We set our site on the trail to Lower Quartz and headed out. The trail is fairly steep and well-marked. The climb up is tough but the switch backs provide relief. The descent to the lake is steeper and at times quite the mosquito factory. Bug spray is a must here!

Once we arrived at the lake we sat on the footbridge that crosses the stream flowing out of the lake and had sandwiches. I think that we passed 4 hikers the entire time and it truly felt as if we had the entire park to ourselves.



Now the trip back… I had to slow down on the way back. The steeper climb was tough and I became pretty overheated. Once over, the descent down in the shade of the trees helped me return to my usual self. (Note to self…don’t eat so much)


Great hike, it felt good to push ourselves and we truly had gotten away from crowds.

Hike  7.1 miles

Time 4:29

Moving 3:42

Stopped 47 mins


Min 4055

Max 5195

Ascent 2042ft

Descent 2028ft


Stopped off at Apgar on the way back to the hotel, grabbed a six pack and enjoyed the evening while in rocking chairs on the porch of the hotel. Too cloudy to take night photos.


Day 5


Ummm….. pretty sore!

Got up early to catch the sunrise, packed and headed to Logan Pass.



We spent most of the day making the hike to Hidden Lake. Climbing the snow pack was challenging and Heidi felt the altitude change. While the mountain goats and other animals made the trip enjoyable, the true spectacle at the start of the trail was the people watching. The start of the trail is a boardwalk which I believe entices folks to make the trip. I watched many women, carrying purses and wearing sandals slip and slide across the snow while trying to make their way across the snowpack. Truly a site to see, maybe more entertaining than watching a public boat ramp!


We got off trail awhile and sat and ate while overlooking the valley. (For those who know, we did watch out for plant life while making our way to the rocks.) We had many mountain goat encounters and even had a Ptarmigan come up to within a few feet of me. I’ve taken many pictures of birds, but never with a wide angle lens.



Hidden lake is another postcard. WOW!



Hike 6 miles

500 feet in elevation change and a slippery slope across the snow!


Don’t forget sunscreen on this hike! We had it in our pack, didn’t use it, yes we know better!


Afterwards we checked in at the Rising Sun Motel, showered and went to Many Glacier. While we planned on doing Iceberg Lake the next day we were disappointed to learn that there weren’t any icebergs this year… Cracker Lake seemed to be the way to go, until we woke up the next morning….sore and sunburned.


We ended the day and I went out to take some sunset shots, we saw out first Big Horn sheep up near Logan Pass.




Still too cloudy for star shots…



Day 6


Woke up sore and sun burnt. Took the drive to Many Glacier and didn’t feel up for the hike to Cracker Lake. We settled on the trip to Baring, St Mary’s and Virginia Falls. Trail was really crowded, but it was an enjoyable (and sometimes windy) hike along St Mary Lake. We passed a ranger and she stated that a bear had been spotted, however we didn’t get the chance to see it. The falls are awesome, and would recommend this hike for anyone that has the opportunity.


Hike from Going to the Sun Point

Hike 5.8 miles

Time 3:42

Moving 2:42

Stopped 1:00


Min 4481

Max 4720

Ascent 830

Descent 811


Heidi hit the bed pretty early and as it was our last night I really wanted to get a star shot. Winds had picked up and were blowing probably 50+ but I was determined. Started to head to Logan Pass and came across my first bear of the trip! I was the first there and was able to enjoy it before other cars came along. I was disappointed that Heidi wasn’t along to see it.

With the wind howling (boy I thought it was going to take the roof of the lodge off) I got a couple of sky pictures.

Day 7

Packed up and started the journey home. Before leaving we drove through Two Medicine and took the short walk to Running Eagle Falls. What a gorgeous site! Sure hate to leave, but I know that we’ll be back.




Hiked: 24.4 miles


Ascent 4767 ft

Descent 4150

Not bad at all!



Bring sunscreen and use it!

Don’t overeat out on the trail.

Check ahead for hotels on the way home if the State Fair is going on.

Being “Off the Grid” is wonderful!


(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/7/glacier-national-park Fri, 27 Jul 2012 03:57:44 GMT
Elaenia https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/4/elaenia Two teenagers were out bird watching in Douglas Park, Chicago, when they discovered a bird that looked out of place. After posting it on a few forums, the consensus was that they had discovered an Elaenia, and it was narrowed to either a Small Bill or a White Crested.  What makes this a big deal? Well the bird is about 7000 miles from its home in South America and if a Small Bill, it would be a first time occurrence in North America and only the second time a White Crested has been seen.

After talking about it with Heidi, she suggested that I go down and try to get some photos of the bird. I’m sure glad I did.

Since posting a few of my photos, I’ve been contacted by many experts asking for permission to use my photos, including David Sibley and the Field Museum.

You can check out David Sibley’s article here. He certainly does a much better job of telling the story than I.

In Praise of Mystery



(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/4/elaenia Thu, 26 Apr 2012 17:15:05 GMT
Return from Utah! https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/4/return-from-utah Just returned from Arches National Park in Utah – What a place! There are so many photo opportunities, EVERYWHERE! Such a beautiful place. Have to thank my cousin Kyle for leading many a hikes, and got to take some photos from vantage points that most won’t get to see. The first is “Self Portrait” at windows arch.

(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/4/return-from-utah Tue, 03 Apr 2012 02:18:53 GMT
Todays Photo https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/3/todaysphoto I was very flattered when I received an email asking for permission to use one of my photos. Needless to say that I was very happy to see my photo next to the other great images on this site. Please check out http://www.todaysphoto.org/picture-of-the-day/old-red/ !


(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/3/todaysphoto Fri, 02 Mar 2012 16:13:29 GMT
Welcome! https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/2/welcome- Well it begins!

Seeing how there’s a Blog page option I figured that I might as well use it. However that being said, I really don’t have too much to say as the time it took to set the site up is now preventing me from being outside and taking photos!


For those that have encouraged me, taught me, critiqued me, I have to say thank you. I also have to say thank you to my wife, who supports me in every way. I love you babe!

(KKoontz Photography) https://kkoontz.com/blog/2012/2/welcome- Sun, 26 Feb 2012 16:47:51 GMT