Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing Everyone a Happy 2010!!

I haven't been too active with this blog lately as I've been concentrating more on the boring sales and marketing aspect of my business (along with just enjoying the holidays) and haven't been shooting too much. I do want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010, though. I'm looking forward to new and exciting ventures in the coming year and hope to share them with everyone via this blog. Before looking ahead, however, I feel a bit like reminiscing so I've included a link below to my top 25 favorite images of 2009. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Print Sale

Well, I've decided to have my own little Black Friday and beyond sale on my website. I'll be offering all prints currently available in the fine art section of my site at 25% off starting on November 27th (Black Friday) for one week through December 3rd. Now is a great time to buy that print you've always wanted for yourself or as a gift to someone special for the holidays. This applies to print only sales...ColorBox mounted prints are not being offered with these discounts...sorry. The 25% discount will be reflected in the prices whenever a print is added to your cart. Happy shopping and I hope everyone has a great and safe holiday season!

Friday, November 20, 2009

2010 Calendar Available

This is my actually my third year of creating calendars. I really do it simply as a gift to family, friends, in-laws, etc. for the holidays. This year I switched to Zazzle for my 2010 calendar creation (I used MPix in the past) and they have a storefront from which anyone can order. Last year, I was surprised by all the extra requests I got for the calendar and found it a pain to have to order it myself and then forward it on. This will alleviate that problem. Not that I expect to sell many...calendars that are printed on demand are rather expensive. Only those silly enough to want the novelty of a calendar created specifically by me will even consider ordering. But the option is there, nonetheless! Just click on the image below to link to my ordering page...

First Magazine Cover Image

I was happy to see upon my return from Zion National Park that my winter image of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands graced the cover of this month's issue of Inside Outside Southwest Magazine...

Inside Outside is a regional magazine that specializes in the adventure scene of the Four Corners area. Click on the image to see what it is all about. It is my first magazine cover so  that made it a special treat for me. Hopefully it'll be the first of many!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Autumn's Last Stand at Zion National Park

I've heard other photographers gush about the magnificent autumn scenery at Zion National Park for a number of years now and I finally decided to check out all this magnificence for myself this year. Well, after a six day stint in the park, I've come to the resounding conclusion that all the accolades were well deserved! The juxtaposition of the red sandstone walls with the yellows of all the cottonwoods lining the Virgin River as it snakes down the Zion's enormous canyon was pure candy for this photographer!

The Virgin River Leading To The Watchman

My two main objectives for this trip were certainly no revelation to any other photographer visiting the area. I wanted to see and photograph both the Subway and the Virgin Narrows in all their autumn glory. The Subway is located in the lesser visited Kolob Terrace section of the park and requires a backcountry permit in order to undertake the 9 mile round trip to see it. It is actually a slot canyon that the Left Fork of North Creek has carved out in such a manner that it takes on the appearance of a New York subway tunnel. Add a healthy dose of reflected light which enters this tunnel from a brightly lit wall adjacent to it and you have one of the more unique photographic opportunites found anywhere.

The Subway and the Left Fork of North Creek

The hike is an experience in itself as there is really no set trail that takes you from trailhead to final destination. Instead there are trail fragments on one or both sides of the creek and you utilize route finding skills to find the best way. Sometimes this involved scrambles up the hillsides to get around waterfalls and rockfalls, sometimes the best way forward was by walking up the creek itself. My research prepared me for this and I bought a pair of Five Ten canyoneering boots along with neoprene socks to make the watery portions of the hike easier to handle. All in all I probably spent about a third of the hike in the creek and had a blast doing it. The biggest drag of the journey was the steep, ~500 foot climb that was needed to get out of the canyon and back to the trailhead. After 8 miles of hiking, to say I didn't enjoy this ascent was a bit of an understatement!! But the beauty of both the Subway and the creek in general made it all worthwhile.

Cascades along the Left Fork of North Creek

The Virgin Narrows is a similar hike in that it requires a watery trek up a cold waterway, but after that the similarities end in my book. The scenery in the narrows is dominated by sandstone cliffs soaring as high as 1500 ft and as narrow as 22 ft across! It is quite a site to behold. While I can say that I really didn't find any one particular scene in the narrows that compared in magnificence to the Subway, the myriad of excellent photographic opportunites around just about every corner made for a much more interesting trip overall.

Autumn Foliage in the Virgin Narrows

My only regret in the narrows was that I didn't get to spend enough time there. My long hike to the Subway had reaggravated an old, nagging foot injury causing the last couple of miles to become a sufferfest. While I was able to make it a little past the junction with Orderville Canyon (about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead at the Temple of Sinawava), I had hoped to go much further. I'll just have to save that for a future trip!

Hiker in the Virgin Narrows

The remainder of my trip was spent checking out the various vantage points along the Zion scenic drive in the main canyon along with a short side trip to the Kolob Canyon section of the park for one evening. Because of my foot issue my hiking options became somewhat limited, but it wasn't really a big deal as there were plenty of scenes to shoot on the colorful canyon floor. All in all, it was a fantastic that I hope to make on an annual basis!

The Moon over the Towers of the Virgin at Sunrise

To see more images from my trip, click on the link below...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Autumn Trip To The Tetons

Ok...better late than never with this trip. I've been back for almost two weeks now (we visited the area Oct 1-4), but have been too busy to post about it. My wife and I spent four wonderful days in Grand Teton National Park and I can certainly see why it is such a popular destination for autumn photography. While the weather only cooperated for a couple of those days, they were two very special days in my book and definitely made the long drive to get there worth the while.

Buck and Pole Fence Leading To The Tetons

Before discussing the trip itself, I should back up and make mention of all my pre-trip worries. First off, I kept hearing how the cottonwood colors along the Snake River were far from spectacular this year as they were simply turning a dull orangish, brown. Yuck! Far worse than that were the fire issues going on. In particular, a fire in the vicinity of Mt. Moran in the northern part of the park (started by lightning) was being allowed to burn and was casting a smoky haze over the entire park. From the images I saw, this was horribly affecting most photographic possibilities (with the exception of a few nice sunset shots). Double yuck!!

The day of the trip brought discussion of high winds with snow throughout much of the Rocky Mountain region. This turned out to be good and bad. Good in that the powers that be saw the danger of allowing the fire to burn during such windy conditions and decided that it needed to be put out. End of the fire issue. The snow that the park received also helped to clear the air. End of the hazy sky conditions. Woo Hoo. Of course, there's no free lunch and we payed for this turn of events by having to make the long drive in difficult conditions. Snowfall, heavy at times, dogged us through the Wasatch Range in Utah and throughout our journey north through Wyoming. It was all worth it though when I got up the following morning and drove out to Schwabacher's Landing (along the Snake River) with a fresh layer of snow covering the valley floor. Despite the fact that the mountains were hidden behind a cloak of heavy clouds, it was a beautiful sight!

Unfortunately, the mountains refused to make an appearance all day so a good part of the it was spent location scouting and searching for wildlife. I quickly discovered that the place to be in the park was the Oxbow Bend area in the northern section as the aspens were peaking with glorious colors. This made the decision of where to shoot the following morning a no-brainer. My only hope was that the mountains would make an appearance by then.

Oxbow Bend Panoramic

An early wake-up in our hotel in Jackson had me keeping my fingers crossed. I saw nothing but stars overhead, but there are no vantage points to the Tetons from town (they're obscured behind surrounding buttes) and it wasn't until we had driven for 10 minutes or so that I began to see the silhouettes of the peaks. Things got even better when we arrived at Oxbow Bend to find steam rising off the water and more low hanging clouds sitting over Jackson lake, but not completely obscuring Mt. Moran. Even in the dark I was getting excited about the photographic prospects that lay ahead. I wasn't disappointed as it blossomed into a beautiful sunrise that I got share with about a hundred of my closest friends (the many other photographers who knew this was THE morning to photograph this location)!

Oxbow Bend At Dawn

The superb conditions lasted a number of hours as low hanging clouds clung to the entire range making for some wonderful atmospherics to compliment the magnificent scenery. I was in heaven all morning!

Teton Reflection

The latter half of that day was spent in search of wildlife as the sky completely cleared off and the landscape prospects were not all that appealing. A majority of the scenic locations within the park are far better shot in the morning anyway as the Tetons lie to the west and receive great morning light. Getting back to the wildlife topic, I must say that we were very disappointed with our efforts to get satisfying shots. It wasn't for the lack of finding subjects. We saw plenty of moose, bison, antelope, and even a couple of black bears. We just couldn't get them close enough and/or in pleasing locations not obscured by a buzzillion branches and twigs. Still, it was fun just to be able to be in the presence of such magnificent animals.

The remainder of our trip was so-so or poor photographically. The following morning was a cold and clear 10 degrees and, while the view from Schwabacher Landing was nice, it just didn't compare to the wonderful conditions of the previous morning.

Classic Schwabacher Landing Sunrise View

The evening saw a build up of cloud cover in advance of another approaching winter storm so we spent it hoping to get some decent shots of the bull moose being sighted near the Oxbow Bend area. Unfortunately, our efforts were in vain. Our last day was overcast with periodic snow and high winds. It seemed like a good time to finally bow to my wife's wishes to spend some quality time in the shops of Jackson. Over dinner we both agreed that a return trip in the spring to photograph the wildflower bloom was a must-do. I can't wait!

To see a collection of my images from the trip, click on the link below...

Autumn in the Tetons

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Waterfallin' in Upstate New York

I recently returned from a trip to the upstate New York area to meet and visit with my wife's family/relatives/friends. Of course, I can't travel anywhere nowadays without taking along the camera and I knew the upstate New York area was well known for the many beautiful waterfalls that grace its landscape. In particular, the Finger Lakes region has a high concentration of spectacular falls.

                                              Rainbow Falls - Watkins Glen State Park
So I plotted my strategy in accordance to the areas that my wife wanted to visit and came up with four locations for my "must see" list.

1. Watkins Glen State Park (Watkins Glen)
2. Buttermilk Falls State Park (Ithaca)
3. Cascadilla Gorge (Ithaca)
4. Chittenango State Park (near Syracuse)

There were many other places I would've liked to have visited as well, but I knew my time would be limited. As it turned out I was able to get to all four along with a fifth location (Havana Glen Park near Watkins Glen) so I was happy for that. If I had to pick a favorite amongst these locations, I'd probably give a slight nod to Watkins Glen State Park. Its trail leading through the gorge is a work of art in itself and so nicely compliments the fantastic scenery it leads you through. Walking on/over/through the stone trails, bridges and even tunnels with waterfalls crashing down all around reminded me of scenes from the movie Lord of the Rings.

The only downside I noticed during my explorations was that the water flow on all the creeks I visited was quite low, despite the supposedly rainy summer most locals were complaining about. It made me wonder just how spectacular these areas would be with normal to high flows. I guess it gives me a reason to return at a more optimal time of year...which I'm sure I will. I'll just have to tell my wife that I'm itchin' to visit the in-laws again!!

Chittenango Falls Near Syracuse

To see more images from my brief explorations of these areas, click on the link below...

Waterfalls of Upstate New York

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Now Offering Framed Prints

I'm now pleased to offer a professional frame mounting option often referred to as ColorBox mounting for online print purchases on my site. ColorBox mounting is an alternative picture framing process where a print is dry mounted onto Medium Density Fiberboard and then sealed under heat and pressure with 80% UV protective matte finish vinyl lamination and finished with a thin, black beveled edge. The result is a contemporary looking, vibrant print that is perfect for a wide variety of lighting conditions due to its extraordinary non-glare properties. I've mounted a few prints using this process for gallery sales and must say that I'm very impressed with the quality and look of the finished product. See the image below for an example (click on it to see a larger version)...

Additionally, ColorBox mounted prints are easy to take care of as the laminate surface is water and fingerprint resistant and can be cleaned with glass cleaner and a soft rag. Shipping is less of a headache as well (in comparison to traditional style framed/matted prints) as there's no worrying about glass/plexiglass breakage during transit. For more details see the Purchase Info page on my website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creative Capitol Art Exhibit

This morning I sent off a framed 20x30" photographic print for the Creative Capitol Art Exhibit sponsored by the Colorado Council of the Arts and Denver International Airport. This juried exhibit is a four part rotating series highlighting the work of artists from the Northwest, Southwest, Eastern, and Metro Denver areas of Colorado. The works of the accepted artists in the Southwest region will be shown in concourse A of the Denver International Airport from September - November and then will move to the State Capitol for an exhibition in the Lieutenant Governor's Office from December - February. I was proud to have my image Crater Lake at Sunset in the San Juan Mountains accepted into this show. Hopefully, anyone reading this will have an opportunity to view it (along with the other fine works of art) in one of these venues.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Visit To Northern Arizona

Ever since I saw the White Pocket in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area for the first time last winter, I knew I wanted to return during the summer months during the monsoon season. While I was impressed with what I saw last February, I knew it would only get better with the stormy skies that accompany this time of year. Let's just say that I wasn't disappointed.

This trip began when a friend and Minnesota based photographer Rene Herteux began emailing me with questions on what places he should visit on his upcoming 4 day trip to Arizona. After giving him a long list of possibilities...many which require tricky passage and come with dire consequences should something go wrong...I got the question I was waiting for "Would you be interested in coming along?". Since I'd been shooting in Colorado for most of the spring/summer months, a trip to the desert seemed like a nice change of pace so I quickly agreed. Besides, it would give me the chance to return to White Pocket at precisely the time of year I figured would be best.

After a few more email exchanges we put together the following list of places we were interested in shooting and decided we'd let the weather dictate where we'd go each day.

- The White Pocket
- South Coyote Buttes
- The Toroweap Overlook of the Grand Canyon
- Alstrom Point Overlooking Lake Powell

When we met up in Page, a monsoonal weather pattern was firmly in place so we headed straight out to the White Pocket. Once we got there, we began to worry that the storms which can yield such great light might actually shut us out of any light whatsoever! It wasn't until 15 minutes before sunset that the sun finally peeked out through a hole in the cloud cover along the western horizon. It was a long time coming but that 15 minutes of hectic shooting made the wait worth the while.

Late Day Light at the White Pocket

Our morning shoot was plagued by similar conditions as cloud cover obscured the first light of the day. So we patiently waited and eventually received the light we were craving for. We shot for another hour until the sky cleared entirely and decided it was time to move on.

Morning Light at the White Pocket

To us, the clearing sky was a bad omen as it signalled the end of the stormy pattern for the remainder of our trip. To make matters worse, the winds were beginning to whip up filling the air with dust and creating very hazy conditions. Yuck! We had a permit for the South Coyote Buttes' Cottonwood Cove area for the remainder of the day so we spent part of the late morning, early afternoon hours scouting there. While the area is beautiful, we decided (for a number of reasons) to not shoot there in the evening. Toroweap and Alstrom Point were our alternatives and we settled on Alstrom Point (Toroweap was just too long of a drive). As it turned out, it really didn't matter as the extremely hazy conditions pretty much killed any shooting opportunities anyway.

When we awoke to the identical conditions in the morning we didn't even bother to shoot the sunrise. Weighing our options, we decided upon a midday shoot at Lower Antelope Canyon. That's the beauty of the Page area...there's always something that can be shot, even when the conditions aren't considered optimal photographically speaking. You just have to have some light. Lower Antelope was a good option for me as I'd never shot it during the summer months when its signature sunbeam shoots through a rock arch suspended well above the canyon floor. It's truly an amazing sight.

Lower Antelope Light Beam

That evening was spent shooting the canyon walls along Water Holes canyon before heading out to Stud Horse Point with the idea of experimenting with night photography, something we both really wanted to do. It was a beautiful, warm evening and we really enjoyed our time basking in the star light.

Hoodoos under the stars at Stud Horse Point

Our final morning was clear as well, but at least the haze was gone. Rene was dying to photograph the Wahweap Hoodoos so I chauffered him out there. After a rough trip (flash floods a few days earlier had wreaked havoc on all the wash crossings) we arrived at the hoodoos just 5 minutes before the sun's first rays were cast upon them. Perfect! We finished our trip with another quick stop at Lower Antelope before parting ways. Another stellar adventure in the desert was in the books!

One of the smaller Wahweap Hoodoos

To see more of my imagery from this trip, click on the link below...

Summer in the Northern Arizona Desert

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Weminuche Wilderness Backpacking Trip

I recently returned from my major trip of the summer...a six day backpacking trip into the heart of some of the best scenery that the Weminuche Wilderness Area has to offer. The Weminuche is Colorado's largest wilderness area at nearly a half million acres and lies within the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. This particular trip circumnavigated the two most spectacular subranges in the wilderness...the Needles and Grenadier ranges. All told the trip involved 40 miles of rugged mountain hiking totaling nearly 8000 ft of vertical gain. The highest elevation during the trip topped out at 12,800ft. I was joined by an old friend, Greg Rynders, who flew out from Minnesota to experience what Colorado has to offer. For both of us, it would be the first time on a backpacking trip of such magnitude.

I thought I was in decent enough shape for this adventure but soon found out that wasn't really the case. None of the training I put in quite prepared me for the ordeal of lugging a 50lb pack over long, steep trails at high altitude. In other words...the trip was exhausting!! I had all I could do to perform my photographic duties before/after each long, arduous day on the trail. It also didn't help that this area's nickname "The Storm Factory" lived up to its billing. Day after day, we were stalked by waves of afternoon and evening thunderstorms bringing with them rain, hail, sleet, lightning and cold winds. Only our last day was completely dry. While stormy weather can often be a boon to photographic endeavors, I found that in our case it was more of a hindrance than a help. Thus, I felt that my photographic production over the course of the trip was a bit disappointing.

What follows is a brief day by day account of my experiences over the course of the trip.

Day 1 : An easy day to be sure. It started with an 8:15am departure on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train. After a scenic, but slow ride of over three hours we were dropped off at the Elk Park stop, right at the doorstep of the wilderness. We planned a short first day of hiking - only three miles, mostly to allow Greg a chance to acclimate before beginning the trip in earnest. As it turned out, it was beneficial to myself as well as I huffed and puffed up the 1000 ft vertical gain. It was a real eye opener to find out that I hadn't adequately trained! This didn't bode well for the remainder of the trip!

We stopped and camped at a set of beaver ponds in the Elk Creek drainage that I had wanted to photograph. It was a spectacular setting with 13,000+ ft. Vestal and Arrow Peaks towering over the ponds. As it turned out, both the evening and morning light were spectacular so I was glad we spent the night there!

First Light On Vestal Peak

Day 2: After my first day experiences on the trail, I reckoned this day was going be a tough one. It involved an 8 mile trek with 2600 ft. of vertical gain which would take us up to the Continental Divide and over to Kite Lake where we would make camp. My reckoning was definitely correct! The storms really ramped up today as they started before noon and lasted until the early evening hours. We were caught in one above treeline as we were making our way up to the divide, but fortunately the lightning was all cloud to cloud. After the first couple of miles, the climbing was pretty much non stop on this day and I was absolutely exhausted when we finally reached Kite Lake. But my thinking was that what didn't kill me today would only make me stronger over the rest of the I just sucked it up and trudged on.

I was definitely spurred on by the views that started opening up once we got above treeline. The profusion of wildflowers were quite a treat as well. I tried to take advantage of these views with some backpacking shots of Greg (which, of course gave me excuses to rest along the way!). A nice lunch while atop the divide (in between storms) also served to reinvigorate my weary bones.

Greg Hiking Up To The Continental Divide

From my research, I figured that Kite Lake wasn't going to be the most photographic of lakes in the area and I was right. The lake is actually out of the wilderness boundary and has some old mining remnants around it. Also the cliffs surrounding it serve to block out the more spectacular peaks in the distance. It wasn't a big deal as the weather didn't cooperate too much anyway.

Day 3: This was our longest day of the trip as we logged a little under 11 miles. Fortunately, unlike the previous day, most of this was downhill. However, we did have to trudge up Hunchback pass before we could take advantage of all that downhill. While getting up there was far from easy, I was at least beginning to notice the aerobic benefits from the previous day. With an 8am start on the trail, we got to take advantage of beautiful morning weather while crossing the pass. Unfortunately, it didn't last. By the time we got down to treeline the intermittent rains began to appear. By the time we had lunch and forded Rock Creek, it began to storm in earnest. It was too bad as the orange, mineral-stained Rock Creek would've been a great place to putz around photographically, but the heavy rains made us decide to move on.

Greg Fording Rock Creek

While the weather served to dampen our spirits greatly the rest of the day, what was even more frustrating was the lack of campsites we encountered while making our way down the Vallecito drainage. We had intended to stop well before the 11 mile mark, but had to keep going until we finally found a place to pitch a tent. That didn't happen until we finally found a site (albiet a nice site) before the Roell Creek crossing. It stormed on and off pretty much until sunset. This was the worst photographic day of the trip and had me wondering when my luck was gonna change!

Day 4: This day we made our way down the last couple of miles of the Vallecito drainage and started up towards the infamous Columbine Pass. With the weather pattern being what it was, we had no intention of trying to get above treeline in the afternoon hours. We just wanted to be in a position to cross the pass early the next day. As usual, the morning was beautiful and we enjoyed our stroll down to the Vallecito Creek bridge crossing and even making our way up the Johnson Creek canyon. Johnson Creek is truly spectacular as it carves out many gorges and spills over many waterfalls on its short journey from Columbine Lake to Vallecito Creek. After taking some time to investigate and photograph some of the lower sections of the creek, Mother Nature intervened once again as darker clouds quickly moved in.

Waterfall Along Johnson Creek

The rest of this day's hike would be completed under cold, stormy skies. My backpack (which did not have a rain shield) seemed to grow heavier with each step as it soaked in the rain while we ascended the switchbacking trail. I quickly grew weary and began cursing the weather gods. It was still raining when we found a campsite and we plopped down beneath a tree and ate a late lunch in the rain. We took turns cursing the weather until finally it broke and gave us a window of opportunity to set up camp, dry out, and warm up. Unfortunately, it didn't last long until the next wave settled in.

Photography that night was limited to shooting wildflower macros in between rain showers. That was until the sun unexpectedly made an appearance just a few minutes before sunset and began casting an amazing glow upon Organ and Amherst Peaks to our east. I scrambled to gather up my camera gear and made haste to a location along Johnson Creek that I had scouted out earlier in the evening. Thankfully I was able to get off a few shots before the glow subsided. While I wished more of the peaks could've been glowing, the scene was still my favorite of the trip.

Last Rays Hitting Organ and Amherst Peaks

Day 5: Today the plan was to take our time making our way up to Columbine Lake and over the pass and utilize the nice morning weather to shoot the spectacular scenics along the way. Hah!!!! Mother Nature would have nothing to do with that! We woke up to a cloudy sky for the first time this morning and by 8:30 it already started to rain. Man this was getting old! We got a brief respite just before arriving at Columbine Lake and enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine before heading up the final switchbacks to the pass.

Wildflowers Near Columbine Pass
Man, were those switchbacks steep! As the end was in sight, we started to notice the black sky on the other side of the pass. By the time we reached it, we were being pelted by driving hail and serenaded with the sound of thunder. No time to enjoy the view here. Wouldn't want to do that! So we hustled down towards Chicago Basin (our goal for the evening) and made our camp.

Once I saw Chicago Basin, I could understand why its so wildly popular. The basin is surrounded by three 14,000 ft. peaks with waterfalls cascading down their lower reaches. Mountain goats are plentiful and easy photographic subjects as they are unfortunately habituated to the presence of humans. This can actually make them a nuisance if you're not careful around them. Because of the basin's beauty and the presence of the three very climbable 14ers, it is very crowded as peak baggers flock to the area. We knew this going in and just dealt with it. It was our last night in the wilderness anyway so it was time to get used to the presence of people again!

Photographically speaking, Chicago Basin was a mixed bag. Unfortunately, the afternoon and early evening thunderstorms (with some wicked lightning) hindered our exploring greatly. I wanted to trek up to the Twin Lakes area, but that just wasn't going to happen. The shots one can get from the basin itself are rather limited as the peaks don't receive great light (at least at this time of year) in either the evening or morning due to its southwestern alignment. There's some nice waterfall photography to be had, but I just ran out of time to do much. I just decided that I was going to have to write the evening off as a scouting venture for a future trip and just enjoy the scenery in a non-photography sense.

Day 6: Exit day! Both of us were ready to get back to civilization this morning. We had spent the previous evening talking about beer, buffalo wings, ice cream, mountain dew, etc. so now it was time to partake! It would be a quick six mile walk all downhill today to the Needelton train stop where we'd flag down the train for our return trip to Durango. The day started clear and, amazingly, actually stayed that way. It would've been easy to complain that we didn't get a nice day until it was time to leave, but I was really happy we didn't have to deal with thunderstorms while waiting for the train. It was also cool to watch a group of rafters making their way down the Upper Animas while we waited. I photographed them from the bridge at Needleton and have already sold one of the shots to a local publication. So the trip's already paid for!!

Rafters on the Upper Animas River

To see more shots from this trip, click on the following link...

Weminuche Backpacking Trip Images

All the physical hardships and bad weather aside, this was still one of the best and most memorable trips I've ever undertaken. It had been a while since I last immersed myself so completely in a wilderness setting over such a period of time. Hopefully, I won't wait so long to do it again!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Man Against Nature

Well, in this case, nature most definitely won! My plans to overnight at a high altitude lake near Telluride were thwarted last night when lightning from a wicked early evening thunderstorm drove me off the mountain. My targeted destination for this trip was Hope Lake, a beautiful emerald green lake nestled high in the San Miguel subrange of the San Juan Mountains. Unlike my previous backpack trip to Crater Lake, this area was well above treeline so weather was even more of a concern. After waiting out an early afternoon thunderstorm, a clearing trend seemed to be prevailing. Since the trek to the lake was only 3 miles, I figured I would give it a go and return if the weather soured.

Note to self: Never, ever consider spending the night on the tundra if there's even the slightest risk of thunderstorms in the forecast!

The trip to the lake was very pleasant despite the endless switchbacks during the second half of the hike. The views back to the San Miguels towering over Trout Lake below were magnificent and I was looking forward to a great evening at my destination.

Trout Lake and the San Miguel Range

My enthusiam was dampened a bit when I got above treeline and clouds started rolling over the peaks in front of me, but at least they didn't seem of the threatening nature. I arrived at the lake and quickly dropped my pack to take a load off and enjoy the view. After a quick chat with another couple heading back down, I dug through my pack for my camera gear and began to wander around looking for compositions. Not long after that the first of the really dark clouds started to make their way over the craggy peaks in front of me and I heard the first distant rumble of thunder.

Hope Lake

"Aw Crap!" I uttered to myself (or something to that effect). I quickly ripped off a few shots and started coming to the realization that I was way too exposed to ride out a storm anywhere near the lake. I packed up and headed out of the cirque surrounding the lake only to find that the storm clouds had already filled in all the way down the valley. Just then the first crack of lightning (less than a mile away) jolted me into the realization that it was time to run! Down the muddy mountainside I went trying to move as fast as I could with a 40 lb pack and with full knowledge that I was carrying two aluminum lightning rods (my trekking poles). After another nearby lightning strike I quickly came to the conclusion that it would be crazy to try to reach the larger stands of pines below as they were just too far away. I was now in the vicinity of a few stunted 10ft pines and I made a beeline for those. Just before reaching them I felt my legs go from under me, resulting in what must have been a most ungainly looking seat drop into the mud. From there I basically slid down to my destination.

It was under this miniscule cover that I sat for the next hour waiting out more lightning, hail, heavy rains, etc. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever let up! Finally, I decided I could wait no more and (probably foolishly) made a final run towards the closest stand of mature pines below. Looking back, I can't believe I didn't sprain or break an ankle on the muddy, rocky terrain but I made it unscathed. I caught my breath there and waited for the storm to let up a little before finally forcing my jelloed and quivering legs to take me back down to my truck. This was definitely not my finest hour and on the way down I vowed to myself to give Mother Nature her due respect and never get caught in such a situation again!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Solo Backpacking Outing

Well, I just returned from my first solo backpacking trip up in the San Juan Mountains the other day. When I first moved to this area almost two years ago, I figured that I would've done many of these by now. Unfortunately, physical ailments hounded me all last summer so I barely did any hiking at all. This trip was just a quick overnighter to a high alpine lake, Crater Lake, along the West Needles subrange of the San Juans.

While it was only a six mile journey to the lake, it turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for. This is still the spring season up in the high country and, while most of the snow has melted, everything is still very wet up there. What this translates to is muddy trails...miles and miles of muddy trails. It made for very slow going which was only exacerbated by the blowdown area I encountered about a mile from the lake. This consisted of a large section of downed pines (and I mean big pines) from a storm last winter and the swath of destruction was about a quarter to half mile wide. They obliterated the trail and forced me to navigate my own way through the mess and on to the lake as I wasn't able to relocate the trail once I got through it. Thank god for my GPS! That section wasn't fun at all with a balance interfering 40lb backpack strapped on.

The end result of my slow progress to the lake was that I arrived only a half hour before sunset and had no time to relax or eat before pulling out the camera gear. But what a sunset it turned out to be!

North Twilight Peak Reflected in Crater Lake at Sunset

I can certainly deal with a few hardships if I know it'll result in witnessing marvelous scenes like the one above.

After a rather sleepless night (I never sleep well when camping), I decided to pack up and leave shortly after my sunrise shoot as thunderstorms were predicted to be widespread by the late morning/early afternoon hours. My sunrise shoot, while beautiful, was very typical of most any Colorado high country sunrise scene....a nicely glowing mountain reflected in a high alpine lake under a clear morning sky.

Crater Lake at Sunrise

I was hoping for an interesting sky or more pronounced early morning mist/fog to set it apart a bit more, but it wasn't meant to be. After the previous night's sunset, I wasn't gonna complain! As it turned out, my earlier than planned departure turned out to be a wise choice as I was surrounded by threatening skies by the time I got back to the trailhead. It was a memorable first backpacking trip, that's for sure!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spring Trip to the Northern San Juans

I had grand plans in early June to take a 5 day (or longer) trip to the northern region of the San Juan Mountains...more specifically to the San Miguel and Sneffels Ranges...but a busy schedule made me scale it back to just a quick two days. I guess two days are better than none! My first day in the San Miguels near Telluride was a soggy one (as has been the weather pattern in the southwest Colorado for weeks now) so I concentrated on shooting a few of the many waterfalls in the area.

Mystic Falls Near Telluride

Mystic Falls along the Lake Fork of the San Miguel River was the highlight of my adventures in this region. This seldom visited waterfall cuts through a 120 foot high and narrow gorge which reverberated the crashing waters to deafening levels. While access to the gorge isn't particularly easy, it was definitely worth the effort to photograph what is now my favorite waterfall in the San Juan Mountains. In addition to Mystic, I also visited both Bear Creek Falls and Cornet Falls. Both of these falls are easy hikes from trailheads eminating right in the town of Telluride.

As I made my way to the Sneffels Range, the wet weather finally started to break...

Rainbow Along The Sneffels Range

At last I could venture outside without need of my rain gear! The clearing storm allowed me to take advantage of some interesting atmospherics to compliment some of the locations that I've often shot during the autumn season. I was just trading golden autumn aspen for spring green.

Spring Aspen and Mt. Snefflels

I was also ecstatic to find a nice field of lupine that evening. While it was too windy to photograph them at the time, I came back during the calm of the following morning as they nicely accented the Sneffels Range backdrop. It definitely made me look forward to the high country wildflower season come late July!

Field of lupine and the Sneffels Range

Monday, June 1, 2009

Waterfallin' In The San Juan Mountains

I've spent a good portion of the month of May in and around the San Juan Mountains (my "home range" here in southwest Colorado) searching for and photographing the many waterfalls present in this region. The month of May has proven to be an excellent time for this endeavor for two reasons. First, the spring melt swells the rivers and creeks to incredible volumes, transforming existing waterfalls to thunderous levels and creating seasonal waterfalls not present at any other time of year.

Basin Creek Waterfall (left) and a seasonal waterfall (right) in the La Plata Mountains

Second, the weather in the last half of May brought the premature arrival of the monsoon season, bringing thunderstorms to the area most every afternoon/evening. These thunderstorms bring the cloud cover that is vital for successful waterfall photography. If you've ever tried to photograph waterfalls on a bright, sunny day you know what I mean as the water becomes so bright that it becomes impossible to record the entire range of light within the scene. This forces a photographer to either blow out the highlights of the water or lose the details around the waterfall to deep shadow. Neither is a desirable alternative. With cloud cover the range of light becomes much more manageable and can be easily be captured with today's digital or film cameras. The only other option for shooting waterfalls (if cloudy conditions aren't present) is to do so either early in the morning or late in the evening when the subject is in full shadow or whatever light is present is very weak.

Treasure Falls Near Wolf Creek Pass

Concerning my little project of waterfall photography in the San Juans, I've come away with a few observations. While there are countless waterfalls in this range, only a small percentage of them are actually worthy photographic subjects. Part of this is due to accessibility issues as many require significant bushwacks or climbs up steeply sloped mountainsides to reach. To me, a bigger issue is simply the non-photogenic nature of many of these falls. Deadfall and scraggly brush often line the banks above and below many waterfalls detracting greatly from their esthetic value. Many others carve out deep, tree-lined gorges that offer few vantage points unless you're a billy goat!

South Clear Creek Falls Near Creede, CO

Despite these challenges, I still enjoy searching out and photographing these marvels of nature. Even if the photography proves difficult, there's nothing more relaxing to me than the sound of rushing water. I can spend an entire afternoon doing nothing but listening. If I come away with a good photograph or two...that's icing on the cake!

Lime Creek Falls Near Coal Bank Pass

For a more complete collection of the San Juan waterfalls I've photographed, click on the link below...

Waterfalls of the San Juan Mountains

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Short Trip To Moab, Utah

I recently returned from what's become my annual spring trip to the Moab, Utah area. I just love this area in the springtime even though the wildflowers can be very hit or miss. While this was definitely a down year, it hardly matters. There's plenty else to aim your camera at. The biggest disappointment with this trip was the lack of decent sunrises or sunsets. Mother Nature was pretty stingy with the light this time around.

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands

The notable places I visited this year included the Fisher Towers along the Colorado River Scenic Byway, Arches National Park (although poor light shut me out of any decent images), Longs Canyon, Mineral Bottom Canyon and a quick foray into Canyonland's Island in the Sky region. If you are ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend the 4.5 mile Fisher Tower hike. It's a fantastic walk with red rock spires towering all around you. For the best light, undertake the hike in the latter part of the day (which, unfortunately, I didn't). Just remember to bring plenty of water!

The Fisher Towers and La Sal Mountains

Click on the link below for more images from this trip.

Springtime In Moab Images

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prints Available At Two Galleries

I'm excited to announce that some of my work is now on display/sale at the Artisans of the Southwest Gallery in Pagosa Springs and the Durango Art Center's gallery shop. If you're ever in one of these fine southwestern Colorado towns, please stop by and have a look. Location information for each of these galleries can be found at their respective websites:

Artisans of the Southwest
Durango Art Center

In addition, I'll be having an artist's reception on Saturday, May 23 at Artisans of the Southwest from 4-6:30pm. I will be one of two artists who's work will be featured at the gallery for the month of June. Stop by if you'd like to chat, shop, and/or partake in the wine and hors de oeuvres!

Update - May 17, 2009: Here's the official promotional card for the artist's reception event this coming May 23rd. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Imagery From Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante NM

I recently finished updating my site with new images from Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (and surrounding areas) from a recent trip taken from April 4 - 10. This monument is located in the southern part of the state and consists of 1.7 million acres (roughly the size of Delaware) of some of the most remote and beautiful country in the lower 48 states. The monument was designated in 1996 by the Clinton administration in a controversial move to bolster his election campaign. It takes in most of the area from Kanab and Bryce Canyon on the west to Lake Powell and Capitol Reef on the east. It does not represent any one particular feature, but rather a whole area of slickrock canyons, terraced cliffs and red rock landscapes.

Paria Badlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, UT

Photographing the monument is a time consuming venture as many of its more photographic features require traveling 4x4 roads and/or hiking and/or canyoneering to see. Thus, in the week I spent there, I only scratched the surface in my attempts to record its beauty. Many return trips will be required to really do the place justice.

I did this trip via a giant circle route which took me from Bayfield, CO to Page, AZ before heading up to Utah and concentrating on the areas surrounding the towns of Escalante and Boulder. I returned home by passing through Capitol Reef National Park and the Moab area (not photographing either of these places as they are best kept for future trips in themselves).

I was blessed with favorable weather, for the most part. The infamous wind storms of spring were held at bay for all but one day (more on that later). The major photographic locations I visited included the Wire Pass/Buckskin Gulch area, the Paria Badlands, the Cottonwood Canyon area, many locations along the Hole-In-The-Rock road (outside Escalante), Upper/Lower Calf Creek Falls, and Longs Canyon (outside Boulder).

Metate Arch, Devil's Garden near Escalante

One of the main goals I hoped to accomplish on this trip was to photograph a few of the many slot canyons found within reasonable hiking distances from the Hole-In-The-Rock road. The big three were the Peekaboo, Spooky and Zebra slots. Of these three, Zebra slot intrigued me the most as its narrow main section consists of wonderfully striated walls unlike anything I've seen in other slot canyons. Of course, of the three, it can be the hardest to reach as my research revealed that there could often be a chest deep pool blocking its entrance. Upon reaching the entrance to canyon (an easy 3.5 mile walk down a sandy wash), I was tickled pink to find out that recent wind storms had buried this pool in mounds of sand. Woo Hoo! The down side was that a new wind storm was starting to rev up. Winds were whipping sand through both the entrance of the canyon and from the top covering everything. There was to be no lens changing on this shoot! I hung around for almost an hour waiting for the sun angle to create an optimal glow with the narrow, but not overly high canyon walls and ventured back to my backpack near the entrance to pack up and leave. I was barely able to find it! It was just a lump under a pile of sand by this point. I dug it out, packed up, and headed out of the entrance to find a full fledged sand storm in progress. The easy 3.5 walk in the wash turned into a nightmare as it was straight into the wind and required countless stops so I could brace myself against the highest gusts which were trying to sandblast me into oblivion! By the time I got back to my truck, I was so exhausted that I drove back to Escalante, checked into a hotel, showered, and crashed for a good part of the afternoon. It was worth it to see such a marvel of nature though!

Zebra Slot Canyon

Click on the link below to see more of the images I returned with from this trip.

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument