Vancouver Island with Shane McDermott

Author: Shane McDermott

I grew up on Vancouver Island and couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful place to live! Although it is no longer my home, I can’t wait to get back and show you all how amazing this place is. Join me for 6 glorious summer days on this northwest island paradise tour June 18-23, 2017!


This is truly one of those photo tours that offers everything you could imagine and hope for. You will experience it all including charming cityscapes, bustling harbor scenes, beautiful gardens, ancient rain forests, wild orcas, stunning seascapes and abundant coastal wildlife!

The tour begins in the heart of old Victoria’s inner harbor. This quaint old Victorian city has a very special charm and will capture your heart the moment you lay eyes on it! As you walk through the gobble stoned back streets of Victoria you’ll feel as though your in an old European city. I remember moving to Victoria from up island as soon as I was old enough and my parents would allow it, I just love visiting this place!



Although we could easily spend the entire six days in Victoria, we will visit many of the local highlights, including, the spectacular inner harbor with it’s famous Empress Hotel, fisherman’s wharf, the world renowned Butchart Gardens, Craig Derek Castle, the Edwardian style Hatley castle of Royal Roads and more.


From Victoria, we’ll head to the vast open waters on the west coast of the island, where we will begin the nature portion of our photo journey. Based out of coastal fishing village of Port Renfrew, we’ll spend 3 fun filled days exploring one of the islands true natural gems, Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. Juan De Fuca offers spectacular seascapes, rivers, waterfalls and old growth rainforests as well as abundant coastal wildlife.


Hitnat,Port Renfrew


On the coastal portion of our tour photo, location highlights will include Parkinson beach, botanical beach loop trail, Botany Bay, Avatar grove and a few other surprise locations. Expect to be astonished with the diverse beauty to this enchanting park and it’s rich display of both flora and fauna! The immense moss covered giants of the Avatar grove rival the mighty redwoods of California. Even better, few people even know this place exists, which means quiet serenity and a relaxed photographic environment.



Upon returning to Victoria we’ll finish our tour chasing wild orcas across the open ocean! If lions are the king of the savanna, orcas are definitely the king of the sea! To see and photograph these massive whales in their natural and wild ways will provide you with remarkable photographic opportunities and lasting impressions. We’ll conclude our time together a warm summer evening dinner together overlooking the inner harbor.

Shane McDermott is an instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Fall in Northern Arizona

Author: Meng Tay

Fall is an exciting time in Arizona.  It represents change.  For those of us living in southern Arizona, it means a relief from the hellish heat of Arizona.  No longer will you be smacked with the heat when you go outside to pick up your morning paper.  Everything pumpkin start showing up:  Pumpkin Bagels, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Waffles, etc.

To truly appreciate Fall, one must leave the brownish landscape of the desert to where Mother Nature does her magic every year.  Up in the higher elevations of Arizona, cooler weather means a change in color.  Trees are bracing for winter and the leaves are turning yellow and some, red.  This is not quite New England, but it’s close.

On a recent trip with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops (AHPW), we visited two places in Northern Arizona:  Flagstaff and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.   The workshop was led by Zen Photographer, Shane McDermott.  Shane hails from Vancouver Island, Canada, but has lived in Flagstaff for about 10 years.  Zen because of his calm demeanor and approach to photography.  He is into meditation and yoga and the environment.  You can see his work in Arizona Highways Magazines and at this site:

We started and ended the workshop in Flagstaff.  Flagstaff may be a small college town but it offers many beautiful photo opportunities. Places like Hart Prairie, Lockett’s Meadows, Sunset Crater, Snow Bowl, all are blessed with fall colors.  Even downtown (or Old Town as some would call it) Flagstaff, have some interesting buildings that deserve some photo shoots.

It’s about a 5-hour drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, passing through a remote Indian reservation, then as you turn into Highway 89A you see some interesting geologic formations in Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs.

From the entrance of the Grand Canyon, it’s about a a 14-mile drive to the Lodge.  This is more than a boring stretch.  On both sides of the road, the aspen trees are bursting with golden color.  If that doesn’t make you want to stop to take pictures, a herd of bison lazily grazing in a broad meadow alongside the road will.  Don’t get too close.  These are not friendly animals.  Many a tourist have been gored.

Grand Canyon Bison1-0526

If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, either the South or North Rim, your first sight of it will blow you away.  You can see the beauty of the canyon without having to take a hike.  The Lodge has a couple of terraces and a sun room where you can relax and enjoy the views.  A 15-minute walk to Bright Angel Point will give you some excellent photo opportunities.  Our group had a sunset and a sunrise shoot at this location.

We spent two days at the Grand Canyon, shooting at different locations that Shane had scouted.  Seeing a majestic view is one thing.  Being able to capture it in an artistic photograph is another.  This is where Shane’s creativity comes in.  The camera is just a tool to capture what you see and what your mind interprets.  The end result, the photograph, is how you see or feel about your subject.

Come join us for a memorable trip to the Grand Canyon or other beautiful places in Arizona.  You can find out more about Arizona Highways Photo Workshops at:© Meng Tay

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Cibeque Canyon Falls

Author: Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

Cibeque Canyon Creek is located on the White Mountain Apache Native Reservation. Road access to this spectacular canyon waterfall is not difficult, yet for some reason it remains relatively unknown. Start by purchasing a tribal lands permit at the Circle K gas station in Globe on SR60.

From Globe take SR 60 72 miles into the heart of Salt River Canyon. As you approach the rim of the Salt River Canyon SR 60 switch backs for several scenic miles offering extraordinary views into the depths of the canyon. Once you approach the bottom of the canyon at river level you will see a visitors center on your right just before crossing the bridge. Definitely stop, it is worth a visit!

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

Just after crossing the bridge you will see a pullout and road to your left, take it! This is Apache Road 1 which leads to directly Cibeque Canyon Trailhead. Of the dozen or so times I have traveled this road it has always been in good condition, suitable for most two wheel drive cars. Stay on this road for approximately 4.5 miles at which point you will come to a creek crossing.

Do not cross the creek unless you have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle. Fortunately the trailhead is just on the other side of the creek, so if needed park your car before the creek crossing and wade across the creek which is only knee deep, of course unless flood waters are present. There is a large gravel pull indicating the trailhead on the right after crossing the creek.

Once at the trailhead, the hike into Cibeque falls is about 2.25 miles. The locals have told me it is only a one mile hike to the falls but my GPS told me otherwise. The visibility of the trail depends on the time of year. In the summer or fall the trail is quite obvious and well established due to use. However in the winter or early spring after snow melt and flood waters the trail is heavily obscured or completely gone. Either way, the trail often seems broken or discontinuous as it criss crosses the creek numerous times on the way to Cibeque falls.

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

You will get your feet wet, this is unavoidable! If right from the start you wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet, the whole hike will be more efficient, safer and enjoyable. Leave about 1-1:30 hrs. to reach the falls. I found early morning light to be best for photography, which means you must reach the falls before direct sunlight begin to penetrate the canyon. Also be sure to bring lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, bathing suit and towel. This is a great place for swimming as well.

Shane McDermott is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways Magazine.

Horse Shoe Bend – Salt River Canyon

Author: Shane McDermott
All photos copyright Shane McDermott

Salt River Canyon (2)

I first discovered Horse Shoe Bend using Google Earth. As I was scouting for an assignment I was given by Arizona Highways, I came across what looked like a pretty spectacular bend in the Salt River. Well I was certainly not disappointed upon my first visit to this location!

Salt River Canyon (1)This location is only somewhat remote, Although it doesn’t seem like this area receives many visitors, it is only moderately difficult to access. A 4×4 or higher clearance AWD with GOOD tires will get you there. There are absolutely no services once you leave the main highway (188). So be sure to bring all the supplies you need including water, enough fuel, camping gear, first aid kit, vehicle recovery equipment and various forms of sun shade.

The drive in to Horse Shoe Bend from highway 188 is approximately 20 miles depending on where you decide to enter and stop. The access to FR 219 is a bit tricky with a couple of ways in. I would suggest those interested to obtain a copy of the National Geographic Salt River Canyon map or a good forestry topo map. FR219 is gated but not locked, and requires sign-in.  From this point FR 219 gradually becomes more and more sandy and rocky in places. In the
hotter months the road will become very sandy! So vehicle recovery gear may become necessary. At least be sure to bring a shovel. On the way you will pass a couple of junctions 220 to the right and 223 to the left. Continue to stay on the main FR219. After about 20 miles you will encounter a locked gate which markers your arrival. Approximately 50m before the gate is an open graveled pullout on the right which makes a good location for base camp or day parking.

From here you are on your own! The road continues past the gate for a few more miles which offers a safer hiking option. Otherwise there were not any obvious trails that I found. The areas I explored required careful navigation through loose rocky ground and areas of dense desert flora. There was one very obscure trail (just past the locked gate on the right) that lead to the river shore down a gentle slope of loose rock (scree). Be Careful! Overall this is a stunningly beautiful area worth a visit between March – May to catch the desert bloom!

Salt River Canyon

Happy Adventures.

Shane McDermott is a landscape photographer, frequent contributor to Arizona Highways magazine and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


Reflection Canyon Shortcut

by Shane McDermott

“You can’t access the Reflection Canyon overlook from the lake”! At least that is what I have always been told by numerous other photographers and lake lovers. Judging by few available photos of this spectacular overlook, I assumed this information to be true, but I wanted to see for myself.

Typical access to this vista involves a road trip to Escalante, Utah, a bumpy 40 mile drive down Hole-in-the-Rock road and a trial-less 8 mile scramble over slick rock. Even though I was willing to do this, I still wanted to see if I could access this amazing overlook from Lake Powell.  Well, it turns out you can! However, this non-technical route requires a boat drop off, very good physical agility, decent route finding skills and enough day light for about a two hour round trip.

Copyright Shane McDermott

Copyright Shane McDermott

The access point is a small bay, which can be clearly seen on google earth 600m to the west of the entrance to Reflection Canyon. Head northwest approximately .5 miles to avoid deep impassable canyons. Be sure to wear good hiking boots with plenty of traction, carry enough water, a head lamp and wide angle lens. Have fun!

Shane is a nature photographer based in Flagstaff, Arizona.  To learn more about Shane visit his website Wild-Earth-Illuminations.