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Christian MurilloExplorer

My love for natural landscape photography is what first got me outside. Now, I can hardly stay indoors. My sense of adventure has led me to travel all over the US (mostly in the SE), and also drove me to complete a +42,000 mile trip around the world.

Giants Causeway is seriously a photographers paradise. The hexagonal basalt columns make for great geometric foreground subjects. Because of the causeway's great and unique beauty and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also very popular amongst busloads of tourists and landscape photographers alike. There is really enough beauty to go around, but this is not the largest place, so if you want to avoid the crowds, try going for a sunrise or sunset. You can also avoid paying the entrance fee this way, but I think it is good to support the people and organization that keep this place safe and pristine. The winds in this part of Northern Ireland can get very, very high. I experienced gusts north of 60mph while I was there, so that made photography especially tricky, especially with sea mist flying everywhere. The combination of the sea mist and the wind also made the rocks extremely hazardous. An emergency response team was actually on site all day, just waiting to pluck people out of the water if they fell and got dragged out to sea or simply fell and hurt themselves. Apparently, both scenarios are very common. I even fell pretty hard just when I started getting too comfortable on the slippery rocks. Be careful out there, but have fun!

The cliffs of Slieve League (aka Sliabh Liag) are nothing short of one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. That might seem like a lot of hype, but weather permitting, I promise the view will not let you down. Note: If you want to go right to the Sliabh Liag viewpoint, follow the signs to the viewpoint, not the Pilgrim Path. With that said, I accidentally ended up on the Pilgrim Path and loved it! I have heard that on a clear view, you get a good view of the cliffs near the summit of Sliabh Liag. However, I think it is typical for clouds to hang around there, so when I went I did not see much. The viewpoint of Sliabh Liag was low enough to still have great views though.

The views from the visitors center of the Cliffs of Moher are simply spectacular. There are very few times in my life where I have been as much in awe of nature. One thing to note is that if the cliffs look dangerous to you, it is because they certainly are. The wind here can be very strong and very unpredictable, so proceed to the cliffs edges with extreme caution. I am not saying dont do it, because it is an incredible experience, but many people have died from falling off of these cliffs. I dont mean to scare anyone, but just know what you are getting into so you can enjoy the views as best as possible. I also recommend going either early morning or towards the evening, because the crowds that come in tour buses from Dublin can really make this a zoo in the middle of the day.

This hike was probably my favorite in my week spent in Ireland. I did the hike in the winter, and there were only a few people besides my family on the trail. The trail hugs the coastline pretty much the whole way, so at any given time you will likely find yourself some awesome cliff views. However, do not limit yourself to staring down the coast, because a lot of beauty lies in the farmlands as well. Once you get to the Cliffs of Moher visitors center, you will likely find busloads of tourists with an abundance of selfie sticks. I think it is awesome that so many people get to enjoy these magnificent cliffs, but people seeming to be a bit careless on the edges of the cliffs did have me a bit anxious. If you do decide to peek over the edge, it is a wonderful and thrilling view and experience, but it is insanely dangerous due to the high and unpredictable winds that are common in this area. With that said, get your body low, and spread your body's surface area on the ground, or else you might really stress out another tourist, like me. One pro tip is that if you want to stay at the cliffs until sunset, which I highly recommend, you might be able to catch a late shuttle back into town, making this a one way hike. I believe the last shuttle heads back to Doolin at 6PM.

This trail is a really good trail that is within about 45 minutes from Atlanta. The Indian Seats trail is certainly one of the more popular trails in the area, but with good reason. On a clear day at the summit, you get an awesome view of the Blue Ridge mountains in Northern Georgia. The uphill is pretty mild for the whole trail, but significant enough to make it a decent exercise. If you want to combine this trail with another fun North Georgia activity, there are more than a handful of very nice wineries about 20 minutes north of here on the Dahlonega Plateau.

Sweetwater Creek State Park is really beautiful and the fact that it is so close to the city makes it an easy escape. The White Loop is a nice and easy hike that offers great scenic views of the river and old manufacturing mill. However, the interior of this loop after it deviates from the river is not so interesting. There are some mild uphill and downhill sections, but most of the back side of the trail is close enough to the road that you can still hear the cars and you are actually hiking along unpaved service roads for some of this way too. This just left me feeling like there was not much to see and not much immersion in nature for this half of the trail. If I were to do this again, I would just take the red trail out and back along the river. With that said, the part of the White Loop that is shared with the Red Trail is really spectacular, so this trail definitely has its benefits. The river section is much like some of the creeks and rivers further north in the mountains.

Although Stephen C Foster state park is truly in the middle of nowhere, this has its benefits. The park hosts crazy amounts of wildlife, beautiful forests, and an unbeatable night sky. Camping here is your best bet to take advantage of all of these things. The tent and RV sites are very well kept and spacious. The cottages are also cozy and have all of your modern facilities, for a very reasonable price. For just $150 you can comfortably sleep 8 people.

Stephen C Foster state park is not a huge park, but it is spectacular in many ways. First you have the swamp, which surrounds the park. The Okefenokee swamp is home to the largest Alligator population in the country and once you get out on the water you will see why! However, Gators are just one of the many species of wildlife you will see. In just one day of paddling on the river and its connected waterways, I saw hundreds of birds (mostly Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Ibis's) and a family of deer too. I am sure in the warmer months you can see even more. You can travel along the Suwanee river in a boat with less than 10HP, but to really get the best of the swamp you should really kayak or canoe. This will allow you to go through some of the more shallow and narrow passageways, such as Minnie's run. You will quickly find yourself surrounded by giant cypress trees, growing straight out of the water. This really has an intimate and archaic beauty, as you feel like you are in Jurassic park. Once the day turns to night, the real show begins. On a clear night, the stars are crazy bright. Seriously one of the best places for stars on the Eastern Seaboard and a must see for anyone in the area. The park pays critical attention to their light pollution and has done a fantastic job at minimizing it. This has paid off because they were even awarded top certification from the International Dark Sky Association. What I am trying to say is that this night sky is legit, you should check it out.

Torres Del Paine National Park is filled with absolute world class beauty. The glaciers, valleys, granite peaks, and even wildlife make this park one of my favorites. With that said, the hike to Las Torres is the highlight of the whole thing, especially if you choose to take the hike in the dark to catch the sunrise. The alpenglow that Christin talks about in this adventure is definitely not overhyped. The sharp granite spires shine a bright rose color at first light and then transition into orange, yellow colors later in the morning. Since this hike is truly that magnificent and well known, you cannot expect yourself to be alone to watch the sunrise. In fact, you will surely see a steady trail of headlamps going straight up the valley. If you make this hike all the way from Hotel Las Torres, it will be a pretty challenging day because the elevation gain is serious. If you can figure out a way to do it with just a daypack, that is definitely the move, but if you are doing this section of the hike as part of the 'O' or 'W' circuit, then I would suggest setting up camp at Refugio Chileno so you can leave your pack there and then have a shorter hike early in the AM.

There are some awesome trails in this national park and some of the best ones hug the jagged coastline. The high cliffs not only form a dramatic coastline, but also serve as a home to many birds (hence the white stain on the rocks and foul smell). The hiking is pretty easy here, but the park also offers more challenging terrain near the glacier.

Hoffellsjokul is honestly one of the most impressive glaciers I have ever seen. It goes as far as your eye will take you. Getting a glimpse of the scale of the glacier from Geitafellstindur is definitely a top recommendation of mine for things to do on the East coast of Iceland. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. However, this is no walk in the park. Loose rock, steep climb, freezing temperatures, and howling winds can make this a serious trek. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks/lunch.

I explored around these waterfalls during a pretty severe storm so although I did not have to deal with any of the typical crowds, I did have some limited access to the best vantage points of Dettifoss. You could see how Dettifoss is tremendously powerful, but I honestly did not get that feeling from it. I thought, Selfoss had a bit more going for it in terms of grace and composition for images.

This waterfall is so cool and unique because it seems to surround you from certain vantage points. It was very snowy when I went, so it seemed like I was in an isolated world that contained only me and the waterfall. Bring your ND filters and you might just be able to capture something truly dramatic.

Seljalandsfoss is just one of those places that is so freaking incredible, but since it is also so accessible, it sort of loses some of its appeal. I have seen few waterfalls that are as impressive and graceful as this one, but bus-loads of tourists will unfortunately subtract from the landscape most of the day. The fact that you can go behind the waterfall is really cool, but be prepared to get wet. One of my favorite things about this area was actually just a couple hundred yards down the ridge from Seljalandsfoss, where you will find another waterfall Gljufurarfoss. I would say only about 5% of the people that visit Seljalandsfoss take the short walk down to this concealed waterfall. Hidden behind a narrow slot canyon, Gljufurarfoss is incredibly intimate and beautiful. The mist from the waterfall landing in shallow water shoots through the small canyon with incredible force. Although this waterfall is very difficult to photograph because of how wet your lens will get, it is still fantastic to see and experience. Another way to escape the crowds and get an epic view above the waterfall is to scale the steep hillside on the right side of Seljalandsfoss all the way up to the top of the ridge. This climb gets sketchy near the top where it is very steep and the rock is loose and slippery, so if you dare to do this make sure you have proper hiking shoes. I am not sure if sneakers would cut it here. This is also an awesome place to watch the sunset!

Super interesting and rare plane wreck! When I went, driving up to it was not allowed, so it was a good walk to the crash site. Not so easy to photograph during the day, as other tourists climb all over this thing like a tree house. I reckon it would make an awesome night photography subject though!

This view is truly stunning, and really presents a lot of what Iceland is about in a nutshell. Plummeting falls and the unique shape of Kirkjufell can make for an incredibly framed shot. In the right light, your pictures can really come to life here. Iceland is not particularly known for great weather, so if you want to give yourself a good chance at capturing something special, give yourself at least both ends of a day or ideally multiple days. Checking weather forecasts can help too. This whole peninsula is awesome, so be sure to check out Snæfellsjökull National Park as well.

This mile long stretch of beach has to be one of the coolest places in the south. The driftwood forest on the beach has a kind of alien/graveyard feeling to it, especially at night. It is honestly a photographers playground, but a lot of photographers seem to already know this. I certainly do not mind other people enjoying the same outdoor luxuries, but I had several cases where other photographers got in my shots during long exposures. The beach was crowded for about an hour during sunrise, but completely empty both before and after. There is plenty of driftwood to go around and plenty of unique shots and angles to be had. If you choose to go (you definitely should) just be mindful and respectful of other photographers.

Although this is not exactly your typical "immerse yourself in the wild" adventure, it really is a great way to get outside in the city. There are gardens and awesome artwork that line large sections of the Beltline. There are also some great local stores, restaurants, and bars to check out along the way. PCM and Krogg are both awesome markets too!

If you want a quick hike that is pretty close to the city, Stone Mountain is probably the hike that you have already heard of. It is one of my least favorite hikes in the area due to its touristy vibe. You never actually feel like you are immersing yourself in any sort of natural wilderness area. However, if you have kids this is a pretty easy hike. It does also offer unrivaled views of the city especially during sunset hours.

This hike to the top of Blood Mountain is truly one of Georgia's top mountain hikes. Not only do you get epic views at the top, but the trail is a really good length and awesome exercise. This trail can easily be done in under 2.5 hours even if you take multiple breaks on the way up. Even if this trail is too short for you, there is a 6 mile loop trail that you can do or there are other trails nearby such as the short Desoto Falls trail that could easily be paired with this hike. Another big plus about this hike is that it is only a couple miles away from a ton of wineries so if you want to feel fancy despite your hiking clothes and reward yourself for your mountain summit earlier in the day, check out some of the awesome wineries nearby. I have to be quite honest that I really underestimated the quality of a lot of these North Georgia wines. Some of them are quite good.

This is one of my favorite trails in the Metro Atlanta area along with the East Palisades trail. This trail is a loop trail with lots of forks that allow you to customize its length anywhere from 1.5-4 miles. Being one of the several trail systems in the Chattahoochee National Recreation area, the Sope Creek trail has very well maintained hiking-only and multipurpose (hiking and mountain biking) trails. The old civil war paper mill ruins are definitely super interesting and lends itself to some curious thought about what this area might have looked like 150+ years ago. Sope Creek itself is also a real beauty. Jagged rocks penetrate the creeks surface and can provide a photographer with unlimited possibilities for unique compositions. Hop your way from boulder to boulder to see what this creek has to offer. Not to be forgotten, there is a charming pond only .2 miles from the parking area. The pond has a platform on one end of it where you can fish for bass from. Along the bank of the pond there are also some awesome spots to set up a hammock and take a nice afternoon siesta. Enjoy this metro-area trail on a weekday to have it to yourself!

This is a really awesome hike, one of the best in the Eastern Smokies. However, it is not for the faint of heart. Although it is not particularly steep or challenging at any specific point in time, it is almost 100% uphill for the entire climb up (covering over 2,600 feet of elevation gain). I think the key here is a good warm-up and a steady hiking pace. You start the trail from the Crosby campground and cross the Crosby creek shortly after. Within the first quarter mile, you will follow along a small ridge above another creek. You will quickly lose sight of this creek as you climb higher and higher. One indicator of how much elevation gain you have covered is how many Mountain Laurel trees line the trail. After you get above about 3,000 feet above sea level, you will start seeing them and they increase until they almost cover both sides of the trail near the summit. These short trees look similar to a Magnolia tree but in bush form and they bloom beautiful flowers in early summer. As far as time of year, I thought this hike was spectacular when I did it in the fall. The leaves all around were incredibly colored and the fire tower at the summit provided views of the surrounding smokies with even more impressive color displays. Given this incredible beauty, we were certainly not alone on the hike. Although the eastern smokies are much less frequented than the western part of the park, this trail still had a good amount of trail traffic. The fire tower got pretty crowded with everyone taking their lunch breaks at the top. The trip down may seem appealing when you are heaving heavy breaths during the climb, but the continual descent for over 5 miles will have your knees aching and quads burning. I would have really loved some good trekking poles!

This hike to Hurricane falls is one of the coolest you can do in Georgia. Between the suspension bridge and the deep gorge and its waterfalls, this truly is a unique hike. However, unless you have a permit to get all the way down to the floor of the gorge, you might be disappointed by the view of Hurricane falls. The observation platform is small and often times packed with people and you only get a side view of the falls, which is not quite as impressive as a frontal view from the gorge floor. Also, basically the entire trail is stairs so if you are looking for a bit more rugged wilderness trail, this is not it. The stairs are probably a good thing, considering the steepness of the ravine, but for a person who wants complete immersion in nature, this might not be your trail. The crowds do not help this matter either. Get there early! To leave on a positive note, one other good thing about this trail is that even though it is fairly short, it is a good workout and can easily be extended in length with a combination of the North and/or South rim trails.

The West Rim loop trail is really fairly easy in terms of distance and elevation gain. The hike down to Cherokee falls certainly requires quite the climb down and up, but is technically part of the Waterfalls/Sitton's Gulch trails. Regardless of those insignificant details, the West Rim Loop trail is an awesome trail that can be done in about 2 hours. The lookout points from the rim are simply incredible, with panoramic views of the massive cliffs of the canyon walls. The interior of the loop is a bit less interesting and views are contained within the hemlock forest. Fall is the best time of year for this hike due to the leaves and weather.