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Colorado Fall 2014

Colorado Fall 2014

Here's what four old guys saw and photographed in Aspen, Marble, Crested Butte, and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

This was kind of a magical trip - magical in the sense that some wonderful winter weather presented itself in both Crested Butte and the San Juan Mountains, magical in the sense that the four of us got to photograph Crystal Mill before the "unpleasantness" that took place when the landowner decided to put up a fence, post the property and guard it with a gun (apparently warning shots were fired while another group was there a day or two after we photographed the mill), and magical that four guys could have so much fun, enjoy photography so much, have no disagreements and leave wanting to come back again.

Although not "magical", another element of the trip was the new camera I had just purchased. This was the first road trip for the camera and that was without much time with the manual.

Against that backdrop, I'll try to convey a sense of our journey as it started out in Glenwood Springs with me picking up my friends from Iowa and Illinois and heading to Aspen, Marble, Crested Butte, and Ouray with all the fun photo shoot stops along the way.

This was a "strange" year for the aspen and attendant colors. During what is, historically, the peak or near peak time for the leaves to make that magical transformation from green to yellow, orange and red, whole areas that should have been yellow were still green while only a few miles away, a good portion of the leaves had already dropped from the trees. Locations like Kebler Pass west of Crested Butte that are normally totally dependable showed up with a green forest on the west side of the pass while the trees on the east were near peak color. And, the San Juans which should have been peaking while we were there were mostly green and a week or even two from peaking. But, we did find beautiful color and made the most of it.

Along the way, we met some friends who belong to the same group that I do (Rocky Mountain Nature Photographers) and that was a treat. And, a long-time friend from Durango drove over to Ouray to have dinner with us one evening - an even more special treat.

On balance, I can easily say I had more fun on this trip than any I've been on in years - strange Fall colors not withstanding.

12 For '12

12 For '12

2012 didn't turn out as planned. This was to be the "Summer with Sam" (my Border Collie) as we spent July and August in Colorado based in Crested Butte. The trip was sanctioned by my wife (actually, it was her idea) and I had every day planned as to where and when we would fly-fish, which days would be camera days, where we would hike and camp and which friends would be recipients of a scruffy old guy and his dog looking for a home-cooked meal and a Milk Bone. The "Summer with Sam" ended up addressing different and more important priorities as a result of health problems with Sam. Instead of roaming the Rockies, we spent the summer making vet visits, starting a chemo regimen and just doing the things we had always done for nearly 14 years - visits to QuikTrip for a hot dog, trips to the bank, Ace Hardware, the dry cleaner, Dairy Queen, taking our nightly walk and our weekly Sunday evening drive. And, it was a good summer - a very good summer.

A planned spring visit to the Smokies did take place but, based on the results, I should have left my camera at home. And, a planned trip to Savannah apparently was only in my imagination since that didn't happen, either.

However (and, this "however" is a positive one), my planned fall trip to Colorado and Utah with several photographer friends did take place and was very successful but only as a result of the advice and recommendations of three Rocky Mountain Nature Photographer members, Jack Brauer, Darren Kilgore, and John Mumaw. After hearing repeated reports of "early color" in Colorado, I contacted Jack, Darren and John, told them of the planned itinerary (start the trip in Utah and end in Colorado). All three gave me first hand and up to date color reports and recommended changing the itineray to start the trip in Colorado and finish in Utah. As a result, we expereinced near peak and peak color in the Elk Mountains, the Crested Butte area and the northern San Juans. Thank you Jack, Darren and John. Your advice and recommendations were spot-on and sincerely appreciated.

So, here are my favorites for 2012. Critiques are always welcome. Click on the images for a larger more detailed view.

Colorado - Utah Fall 2012

Colorado - Utah Fall 2012

My annual fall pilgrammage to Colorado took on a couple of new dimensions for 2012; first, instead of this being my usual "solo" trip, I acted as "location consultant" for the Colorado portion of LightChase Photography Tour Company's "Colorado-Utah Fall 2012" tour and secondly, a "Whitman's Sampler" (LightChase president's description) of Utah national parks was added to the tour.

At the last minute, because of earlier than normal leaf color changes in the aspen forests of Colorado, we completely changed the itinerary to start in Colorado and end in Utah rather than starting in Utah and Colorado. And, it was an excellent decision and we enjoyed outstanding aspen color throughout the tour.

Colorado tour location highpoints included: Aspen, Marble, Kebler Pass, Crested Butte, Ohio Pass, Cimarron Valley, True Grit (Kate's) Meadow, Red Mountain Pass area, various Ouray County roads and the Mt. Wilson overlook near Telluride.

Our Utah itineray included Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as Dixie National Forest . My favorite - Canyonlands. The view from the "Green River Overlook" is "other-worldly" and let me imagine I was on the surface of Mars.

Enjoy the journey.

Colorado - Crested Butte & San Juan Basins - July 2010

Colorado - Crested Butte & San Juan Basins - July 2010

Along with a group of friends I spent not nearly enough time in several of the high mountain basins of the San Juan and Elk Mountain ranges of Colorado in July 2010. The trip was officially a tour with LightChase Photography but I managed to "weasel" a special role by acting as "location consultant" for the tour.

It was clearly a case of careful manipulation that,once again, proved that old age, experience, and guile will overcome youth and enthusiasm. Clearly, Mark Rasmussen (owner of LightChase Photography) was naive about dealing with seasoned veterans (another name for old guys) when he asked me to put together a tour that I would like friends to experience, photograph and enjoy. Let the fun begin!

What I put together included locations I have previously enjoyed (Paradise Basin, American Basin, Silver Basin, Yankee Boy Basin, "Secret" Basin, and Governor Basin) along with a location that I have long wanted to visit - Porphyry Basin and Bullion King Lake.

Our photo experience began in Crested Butte which is nestled between the Elk Mountains and the West Elk Mountains. Crested Butte enjoys the reputation of being "The Wildflower Capital of Colorado" and it continues to earn that reputation. After enjoying and photographing select locations in the Crested Butte area for a couple of days we journeyed over Ohio Pass, past "The Castles" and along the shores of Blue Mesa Lake until we ended up in the Cimarron River valley on our way to our eventual destination, Ouray.

Once in Ouray, our real adventure began. We left the driving to our destinations in the hands of the experts of San Juan Jeep Tours and one of their supremely skilled drivers, Brian Simpson. Brian not only handled the driving chores flawlessly but also added to our daily excursions with his thorough and interesting historical narrative about the San Juan region.

Our destinations included a sunrise trip to Molas Lake, a sunset shoot at Dallas Divide, a fantastic day at American Basin after passing over rugged Cinnamon Pass, a journey to Porphyry Basin and Bullion King Lake and all its waterfalls and little streams, "Secret" Basin where we experienced a lot of unexpected visitors, the seldom-visited Silver Basin which features two turquoise-colored lakes, a dramatic backwall and a living rock glacier, Governor Basin (where I "chickened out" in driving a rental SUV the previous year - excellent decision, by the way) which, to me seems as mysterious as Machu Picchu. Governor is, however, much higher by over 4,000 feet, than the mountain-top in Peru. Finally, our tour ended with a trip to the famous but overly popular Yankee Boy Basin where the crowds can be avoided by traveling to the upper reaches of the basin at the Blue Lakes trailhead. The pinnacle of our experience was a trip to the summit of Red Mountain #3 where we were literally "On Top of the World". I hope you enjoy our photographic journey.


Maine Lighthouses and Acadia National Park - August 2010

Maine Lighthouses and Acadia National Park - August 2010

Our trip to Maine turned into one about lighthouses and lobsters with a couple of unexpected (and, unwanted) adventures added.

First, a word about the lobsters - I managed to eat lobster for all but one meal of our ten day tour of the Maine coast and Acadia National Park. No excuses; it had to be done. There was steamed lobster, fried lobster, whole Maine lobster, lobster bisque, lazy man's lobster, lobster roll, lobster au gratin, lobster bake, lobster tail, stuffed lobster (sounds like me), and lobster scrambled eggs. This almost sounds like a knock off of Bubba in "Forrest Gump" and the shrimp scene (he listed 21 different preparations). Then, add seven days of New England clam chowder and fresh Maine blueberry pie every day and some sort of record has to have been established. I even tried the Maine Blueberry Ale - not even close to the Durango Blueberry Ale. They thought it was special to pour smashed blueberries in the beer - NOT!

Sunrises, sunsets, drenching (and nearly drowning) rogue waves, soaked clothes and camera gear, rock everywhere, a 4 am departure (and others) to photograph the first rays of sunlight to hit the US on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park and you have the perfect photo tour.

Highlights of the trip included being whacked by a couple of rogue waves estimated to be over 60 feet high at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. I almost lost all my camera gear on that one and only a valiant and dangerous effort by our leader, Mark Rasmussen, prevented my entire camera backpack from resting forever in Davey Jones Locker. Instead, Davey Jones Locker ended up in my backpack and I didn't finish cleaning the salt water off and out of my equipment until 1:15 am!

Then, there was the ferry boat trip from New Harbor to Monhegan Island in a storm described as a "tropical depression". We were told the seas were "only about 6 feet". Halfway through the twelve mile trip, the swells were estimated at 12 - 13 feet by the first mate on the ferry. It was a constant battle with sea sickeness throughout the trip; unfortunately, the sea won. Without exaggeration, it was the scariest boat trip of my life. When I was able to remember, word for word, Gordon Lightfoot's, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" ("Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours...") and all the dialogue in "The Perfect Storm" I realized that I am, forever, a mountain boy.

And, finally, the best part was doing all this with friends old and new. Our group came from Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri and we endured and thoroughly enjoyed the tour of Maine in good spirits and a common sense of adventure. I look forward to traveling with all of them on another photo adventure. Thanks Mark, Don ("The Weasel"), Jimmy, John, Carla, Marti ("Mrs. Cougar"), and Paul. You are all good sports, great photographers and fine friends.



Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just up the road a piece and is easily visited from our home in North Georgia. The park has a couple of unique distinctions: it is the most biologically diverse area in the world - more plant and animal species have been catalogued here than anywhere else and it is the most visited of our national parks. That is readily apparent throughout the fall foliage season where bumper to bumper traffic is common and hotel rooms are literally impossible to get without reservations having been made many months in advance.

The Smokies are a photographers paradise with spectacular sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers in the spring and autumn foliage displays to rival New England. Waterfalls and streams abound throughout the park and black bear are commonly seen. Pioneer cabins, cantilevered barns, grist mills and other structures have been restored and are of great interest.




Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park

There are fewer images here than I had hoped for. I had great expectations of wildflowers everywhere and dramatic views of Mt. Rainier. An unperfect photographers storm of unfavorable weather and very poor photographic execution on my part produced a yawning number of very mediocre images. Maybe I'll do better next time.



Panoramics

Panoramics

Panoramic photos are, to me, the real fun part of photography. A good "pano" combines creativity, solid composition, spot-on exposure, near perfect focus, patience, and the abiltiy to do all that very quickly. And, there's even the requirement to have some basic mechanical skills as well. Once you have all the desired exposures, you sit back and let the software automatically put it all together - most of the time. You'll find the photos in this collection scattered throughout other albums, as well.

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country is a region of hills, some rugged and desolute, others gentle and welcoming. But, in the early spring, the only thing that matters is the wild flower bloom and acres and acres of bluebonnet, paintbrush, cactus, and dozens of other varieties. I've made two trips to Hill Country and am looking forward to the next one. The hospitality is warm, friendly and open; I've had ranchers direct us to unknown fields of wildflowers just because they saw us with our cameras.

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