Today we're going to branch out a bit from the one-tank trips I usually blog about and instead head to northwest Alabama to Dismals Canyon.
From the Dismals Canyon website:
"Intentionally private, Dismals Canyon - in keeping with its pristine surroundings - offers a quiet and unspoiled oasis in Alabama's last secret hiding place. A secluded wilderness filled with natural phenomena tucked deep within the foothills of hte Appalachian Mountains."
"Dismals Canyon is an 85 acre, privately owned and operated, natural conservatory" outside of Phil Campbell, Alabama. It was designated a "National Natural Landmark" in 1975 by the National Natural Landmarks Program. Dismals Canyon gained this designation due to the results of its geological history. "Once a primeval swamp, this area was lifted upward during the geological events of the late Paleozoic era. The draining waters helped carve the canyon and gorge system punctuated throughout by dozens of sandstone-sheltered grottoes, two waterfalls, six natural land bridges, and giant mossy boulders left strewn about by ancient earthquakes."
After paying our entrance fee, our group proceeded through the Country Store, and down several stories of steps, past the swimming hole, to the canyon floor. The trail markers aren’t always very noticeable, so be sure to grab a trail map before you make your descent to the canyon floor if you want to be able to keep up with where you are. You don’t have to worry about getting lost on this trail as it just makes a 1.5 mile loop following “Dismals Branch,” a winding stream that traverses the canyon floor, but it's nice to have a point of reference to where you are.
*Note* When you arrive and park, make sure your group makes use of the restrooms next to the parking lot as these are the only facilities on-site. (The restrooms also have showers where you can change and get cleaned up if you choose to do so.)
Our group consisted of 4 adults and 5 children and ranged in age from 70 down to 4 years old. We were all able to squeeze through every crevasse, climb every boulder, and ford every stream. The entire walk took us about 2.5 hours as we took every available side trail and stopped to let the kids splash in Dismals Branch several times. As mom to the 4-year-old, there were definitely a few areas that I was VERY nervous letting him cross or climb, but he made it with a little help from the rest of us.
Be sure to check out all of the side trails so you don’t miss the labyrinths of caverns and grottos formed by the HUGE boulders and bluffs. Exploring the side trails was the kid’s favorite parts of the adventure. They even talked all of the grownups into climbing to the top of Secret Falls to take their picture - this was definitely the steepest thing we did all day, but it’s not a part of the main trail, so attempt at your discretion.
A few things to note:
First, my pictures still don’t do this place justice! It was absolutely beautiful. My family will definitely return - but with more water next time.
Second, I didn’t take pictures of everything, because there were times when I needed both my hands just to traverse the terrain. In those instances, my camera got swung around behind me and I just concentrated on getting from point A to point B.
Third, we all finished the day with soaking wet shoes due to washed out stream crossings, and the majority of us had at least 1 scrape or bruise to tell the tale of our day. When we return, we’ll pack dry shoes for the drive home and bathing suits to change into so we can cool off in the swimming hole after our hike.
**All quoted information can be found on the Dismals Canyon website.**
Let me prove it!
Though digital images are what my Pensacola family photography and newborn portrait clients most request, I also make a point to let my clients know about the professional print and canvas products I offer! I do this for 2 reasons:
They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", right?
So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is.
I chose the 2 portraits that had gotten the most love on my Facebook and Instagram accounts from last summer’s Orange Beach family beach photography sessions and had 5×7 size prints made by my Professional Lab of choice (Millers), as well as 4 of the most common stores the average consumer uses for prints – Walmart, Target, CVS, and Shutterfly.
The 2 images below are the ones I chose.
Are you ready to start the comparisons? We’ll start with the portrait of the little girl with the sailboat in the background.
I’ll sit here a minute while the shock wears off.
I have to admit I even I was surprised at the extreme difference in some of these pictures. I knew they would be off, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad!
Let’s break it down –
Here’s a close up of the images laid one on top of the other on a white piece of card stock. This let’s you get a really good look at the color differences in the sky!
Ok, on to the second image.
The differences in these prints is MOST noticeable in the skin tone and sky color.
OOO look at all the pretty blues and greens. (There really should be a sarcasm font.)
Ok, obviously, these labs will do if you want snap shots or need 1 hour pictures printed for a school project or something where the quality isn’t that important to you. I’m not saying they don’t have their place in the market. But, if you’ve paid a professional photographer hundreds of dollars to take portraits of your family, why would you then trust a "budget" printing company over a professional printer. The professional labs that I use print on archival quality paper that is made to stand the test of time.
**Disclaimer** Obviously, lab results will vary based on location, machine used, person operating the machine, etc. This post was not made to condemn any discount labs, but to educate clients and other professionals. If you do choose to order from one of these discount printers, please do not select the “color correct” box, your photographer already handled that!
I moved to Pensacola in early 2011, and in the 7 years that I'd resided in this beautiful, gulf coast, Florida town, I had never been able to see the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show! Don't get me wrong - I've seen the blues fly. Heck, I can watch them from my front yard at times. Plus, I've been to the practices on Pensacola Naval Air Station, and I've watched the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show in November from Fort Pickens. But the summer show, that's a commitment I've never been able to make. And honestly, with 3 kids, hitting Casino Beach at 5 am and spending the entire day in the sun was not something I was ever going to be interested in doing.
So, last August, on the day they opened up booking for the 2018 Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show, I cashed in some IHG Reward Club points and booked my family a room for the weekend at the Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach! I was FINALLY going to see my first Beach Air Show!
And for the next 11 months, I looked forward to that weekend in July like a little kid waiting for Christmas. Side note - don't buy me "stuff", gift me an experience - a state park pass, send me to go see the manatees, offer to watch my kids for a day so I can go on a photography adventure, etc! Ok, back to my story.
I blocked the Air Show weekend off on my schedule 11 months in advance to make sure I didn't book any clients (unless they were willing to meet me on the beach in front of my hotel). Then, the opportunity to take the leap into birth photography - my dream - fell into my lap along with a previous client willing to be my "first" and share her photos... and she was due the exact same day as the Air Show!
As my 4 year old would say, "dun, dun, duunnnnn."
If you've read my previous posts, you already know that I took the leap. I decided that if I missed seeing the air show for one more year, it would be worth it to start this new adventure in my Pensacola photography business. Two weeks before the air show, when my client was 38 weeks along, I went on call for her birth photography. But, as expected, the baby girl wasn't interested in an early arrival. So, I touched base with my birth client Friday morning before heading to Pensacola Beach. All was well with her and baby seemed happy staying put for the time being. I packed up my family and headed to the beach, but I also packed my photography bag with everything I'd need if I got "the call". I warned my kids that if I got "the call" we'd all have to go and my amazing on-call nanny would meet us at the hospital to get them because, though I'd be able to get OFF the island, it was very unlikely that she'd be able to get ON the island Saturday.
Then I crossed my fingers!
And it all worked out! I got to see my very first Blue Angels Air Show on Pensacola Beach, and my client's 9 lb 6 oz baby girl was born 4 days later.
In fact, the entire weekend turned out so well that I've already booked our room for 2019!
Now, if you've read my little story and are still here, I'd like to thank you with some of my favorite pictures that I took during the show.
Amanda is the prop buying, location scouting, mom-bun rocking, flip flop wearing, owner/ operator/ and woman behind the camera for Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography.