Posted by: kerryl29 | April 16, 2018

Fog: In Depth

I’ve discussed the subject of fog and photography before on this blog, but it’s been nearly seven years since I posted an entry dedicated to this matter and I feel it’s time for a refresh.  Besides, the earlier post on the topic of fog did little more than discuss things on a general level and I think it’s time to flesh out some considerations.  Not incidentally, thanks to a comment from David on the Colorado, Day 11 post some weeks ago, for inspiring me to think about and expand upon the subject of fog and photography.

In the 2011 post “The Great Equalizer,” I spent some time discussing some of the technical benefits of photographing foggy landscapes–ease of metering, lack of dynamic range concerns, etc.–that are present in instances with heavy mist, such as the Halfmoon Lake image below.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

In this essay, I’m going to turn my attention to the aesthetic/emotional side of things.  For instance, the fog in the Halfmoon Lake shot introduces a palpable sense of mood to the shot, with the associated impact of creating a water color-like expression.  Instead of the rich fall colors of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula bursting through with vivid power, the fog’s impact is to hold the color riot back behind the barricades.  It’s a softer, more subtle presentation–for better or worse.

There Is No Bad Fog

On my first visit to the Smoky Mountains region, in the fall of 2004, I went to an overlook on the Foothills Parkway one morning.  The fog was so thick, the vista was completely hidden.  I mean, it was impossible to see anything situated more than 50 feet from one’s position.  Bad fog, right?  Wrong.  I simply wasn’t using the fog to my advantage.  I didn’t completely understand what that meant at the time.

Rhododendrons and Redwoods in Fog, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The kind of fog I found on the Foothills Parkway that morning was best suited for a much more intimate treatment, the kind of scene I sought out deliberately when I was in California’s coastal redwood country in the spring of 2017–as epitomized by the image above.  Opportunities of this kind are everywhere in the Smokies (not to mention many other places); you simply have to be of the mindset to recognize the situation for what it is.

And, this isn’t to say that the Foothills Parkway overlooks are bad places to be when fog is present; you simply need a different kind of fog (i.e. not as thick and confined mostly to the valleys).  By the time I made a subsequent trip to the Smokies, I understood this maxim, as the image below demonstrates.

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

In fact, this kind of fog–spotty, collected in certain places but not others–can be a tremendous asset when photographing from overlooks, as it adds another dimension and a sense of mystery to broad vistas.  In such instances, the goal is to place yourself literally above the fog.

Ohio Pass Overlook, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Yosemite Valley in Fog from Tunnel View Black & White, Yosemite National Park, California

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Pacific Sunset, Baker Beach Recreation Area, Oregon

Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

These images all have different elements in them and produce different emotional responses as a result.  But fog is present in all of them and in each instance–including the Foothills Parkway sunrise photograph–there’s a notable contrast between the segment of the scene obscured, in part or in whole, and the area that is not.  That’s an entirely different dynamic than exists in the Halfmoon Lake image at the top of this piece, where it’s as though a curtain of partial opacity cloaks the entire frame.

How thick and how ubiquitous the fog is leads to different approaches.  At times, from overlooks, I’ve found myself more or less shooting into foggy windows, of varying opacity.

Morning Fog, Oxford County, Maine

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

Foggy Morning, Swift Creek Overlook, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Mt. Sneffels in Morning Fog Black & White, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Ten Peaks at Sunrise, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Swift Creek Overlook black & white, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

In the above set of instances, I was never really “above” the fog, which is typically a sure-fire ticket to something good.  In these cases, I was always at fog level relative to the subject matter, dependent upon the whims of a drifting, ever-changing band of obscurity.  The content of these scenes was changing constantly as the fog, lifting and drifting, thickening and thinning, revealed or cloaked various elements of the landscape.  The key was vigilance; being prepared to capture something compelling at the moment it appeared.

At Ground Level

Though the above image sets may belie it, the vast majority of the time when I’m interfacing with fog it’s at ground level, not at a high level viewpoint.  While the matter of fog thickness remains a critical component of the process of recognizing and exercising photographic opportunities, they’re expressed differently when at ground level.  As the story of the Foothills Parkway experience demonstrates, when thick fog is present, the vista is more or less non-existent.  Some degree of fog-thinning is necessary to execute the image; exactly how to go about the execution depends on the thickness of the fog, among other things.

At ground level, that’s not the case.  There’s always compelling imagery to be made at ground level, regardless of the thickness of the fog.  In this instance, how thick the fog is will dictate how to go about–rather than whether to go about–finding the most compelling images.

The same thick fog that eliminates the vista image will often create a ground level scene that otherwise likely wouldn’t exist.  Thick fog can utterly remove what I call the “cluttered background problem”–scenes that aren’t compelling because of copious, detailed, distracting background elements.  Thick fog removes that problem, working to create marvelously simple compositions that don’t exist under normal conditions.

Foggy Sunrise, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Foggy Morning black & white, Ft. Harrison State Park, Indiana

Pilings in Morning Fog, Tillamook Bay, Oregon

These are scenes for which, without fog, no one would offer a second glance.

Special Effects

Since fog often forms at or near daybreak, it can produce some marvelous interactions with light, oftentimes as the fog burns off with the rising sun.

Androscoggin River Sunrise, Oxford County, Maine

Foggy Sunrise, Everglades National Park, Florida

Sunlight and fog, of varying opacity, can produce some very interesting effects…

Newfound Gap at Sunrise, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Mt. Abraham Details, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Misty El Capitan Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California

…and those effects can be particularly bewitching when a forest canopy is part of the mix.

Long Pine Lake at Sunrise, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

October Light, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia

Under the right set of circumstances, with the influence of fog, light itself can become the key element of an image.

Mood, Mystery & Monochrome

Fog almost literally always adds an element of mood to an image.  Exactly what kind of mood varies depending on the nature of the fog–and the other elements–included in the frame.  The inclination is to assume that the kind of mood enhanced by fog is…well, moody…but that’s not always the case, as the image below indicates.

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

This image has fog and it has mood, but it’s definitely not a “moody” photograph, in the common parlance.  There is an element of mystery, however, with the crest of Pyramid Mountain peeking out of a window in the mist–and that impact is magnified by the reflection.

But a more traditional sense of moodiness comes across when the fog is thicker even, sometimes, when the underlying elements are colorful.

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Lake Willoughby in Fog, Orleans County, Vermont

Council Lake in Morning Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

It’s much easier to create a moody feel when the underlying image is largely devoid of color.

Jordan Pond in Fog, Acadia National Park, Maine

Foggy Trees, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Foggy images–moody or not–often work remarkably well in monochrome.

Foggy Anchorage Black & White, Tillamook Bay, Tillamook County, Oregon

Ruby Beach Surf Black & White, Olympic National Park, Washington

Much of the reason why these conversions often work is that fog sucks a lot of the color out of the scene to begin with.  The seaside scenes in the above set are particularly good illustrations of this; I recall while standing amid the marine layer fog on these Pacific coast beaches that I was standing in a world that was a literal illustration of shades of gray.  It was natural to remove what remained of the dull color.

Misty El Capitan Meadow Black & White, Yosemite National Park, California

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Foresta Falls Black & White, Yosemite National Park, California

But not infrequently, even with the presence of a significant amount of color, the foggy dominance compresses all of the tonal values and begs for the more contrast-heavy treatment that black and white enables.  This in turn, places greater emphasis on lines, shapes, patterns and details present within the frame.

End Game

The presence of fog makes for great images; exactly what images you should be looking for in these instances depends on the very nature of that fog.  How is its presence transforming the landscape?  General rules of thumb–where to look for images when the fog is thick, when it’s thinner and more limited in its placement, when its doing a dance with sunlight–are worth remembering and the above examples can provide some guidelines.  But, as is the case with photography generally, the exercise is ultimately about seeing–in real time or as an exercise in visual memory.  The rules of thumb will provide some guidance about the kinds of places to go but the specific images?  You’ll know them when you see them.

Fog & Sun, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

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Posted by: kerryl29 | April 9, 2018

Colorado Day 14: The End of the Line

Given the weather forecast and the condition of the foliage, I began to think on Day 12 (Oct. 4) that I might cut the trip–which was to have continued through the morning of October 8–short by a day.  The forecast was for blue skies and breezy conditions through Oct. 9; and the conditions, with extensive aspen groves completely denuded–which I saw with my own eyes on Day 13 (Oct. 5) and which would get nothing but worse, given the anticipated wind–made me finalize the plan.  My last full day would be Day 14 (Oct. 6) and I would begin the long two-day drive home on Oct. 7.

I began my final full day with a sunrise shoot up on County Road 5, overlooking the Sneffels Range.  It was a spot I had found during my Day 11 scout, and then again on Day 12.  I knew exactly where I wanted to set up, so I made my way up to my chosen spot in the pre-dawn darkness.  It was, if anything, even colder on this morning than I had come to expect on these pre-sunrise shoots, a combination of the altitude and clear skies; frost was everywhere.

As I was preparing to photograph my chosen vista and while I was waiting for the light of dawn, I noticed that the full moon was setting to my right, over an open meadow.  Making the scene more interesting was the halo that was offsetting the moon.  I crossed the road and made the images you see below.

Moonset, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Uncompahgre Moonset, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I then returned to my original spot and set up, hard against a fence.  I had to place the tripod carefully to avoid getting the fence in the frame while covering the entire composition that I had so carefully lined up during the scouting session.

Sneffels Range Dawn, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As the first rays of light began to touch the peaks of the Sneffels Range, I made some slight variations to the base composition.

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I then pulled out the long lens, to capture a variety of perspectives of the vast aspen forest in the Sneffels Range foothills.

Aspens & Conifers, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Intimate, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Hillside Black & White, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Hillside, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Hillside, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I stuck around long enough to see the effect of direct sunlight, slicing through the mountain gaps to the southeast, penetrating the valley below.

Golden Band, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Light, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sunlit Aspens, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

On the way back down toward the main road, I stopped to photograph another scene I had eyeballed–in less than optimal light–on my previous excursions on County Road 5.

Rural Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The sky was still almost entirely clear, but at least the wind hadn’t really kicked up–yet.  So, I made my way back in the direction of Telluride.  My first stop was at a tiny county park alongside the San Miguel River, just south of CO-145, that I had briefly checked out on Day 10.  The park property included a pond, which was surrounded by cat tails, tall grasses and box elder trees.  Given the fact that there still wasn’t much wind, I wandered around the pond’s perimeter on a walking trail, and made some images.

Autumn Reflections, Down Valley Park, San Miguel County, Colorado

Autumn Reflections, Down Valley Park, San Miguel County, Colorado

Autumn Reflections, Down Valley Park, San Miguel County, Colorado

Autumn Reflections, Down Valley Park, San Miguel County, Colorado

The area was an interesting mix of arid red rock country with the lusher environment of a river valley.

Autumn Contrast, Down Valley Park, San Miguel County, Colorado

Around the time I was wrapping up at Down Valley Park, the wind started to kick up, as predicted.  Since this was happening just as the light was becoming harsh, it wasn’t a total disaster.  I decided to spend the next few hours scouting possible river images.  The entire San Miguel River area would be in full sun until late in the afternoon, so I left my camera gear behind and set off on what turned out to be a 6-8 mile round trip hike along the riverside trail.  I explored many different locations and made a mental note of a half-dozen or so that I thought were most promising.  It was early afternoon by the time I returned to the car.

The wind was blowing 15-20 MPH by now and, for the first and only time that day, there were some clouds in the sky.  I returned to the Telluride Valley Floor area–where I’d photographed briefly the previous day–and set off on one of the valley trails to explore–again without my camera gear.  Within a mile or so I’d found some things I thought were photo-worthy under the present conditions, so I walked back to get my gear and then returned to the points of stimulus.  What had caught my eye was a series of aspen groves.  The first was interesting even though it was well past peak, but–and this was a bit of a lesson–the fact that the grove was past peak was what made it so appealing, given the wind and light.  The grove was effectively backlit, and the fact that there were a relatively small number of leaves really made the subject stand out–something that would not have been the case with a full complement of foliage.  What’s more, every time the wind blew, an explosion of leaves came out of the grove.

Sun-Kissed Aspens, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Sun-Kissed Aspens, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Sun-Kissed Aspens Black & White, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

The next area of intrigue was a smaller aspen grove that the trail passed through.  There were plenty of leaves on the ground (and virtually none on the trees), so I worked the area from a number of perspectives.

Aspen Leaves, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspen Stand, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspen Stand Black & White, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

When I wrapped up at the Valley Floor, I returned to the San Miguel River in the hopes that the wind would die down (it didn’t…at least not very much) and the areas I had explored earlier would be in full shade (they mostly were).  The clouds I had seen earlier in the afternoon had almost entirely dissipated, so it was essentially completely clear again.  Between the skies and the wind, there didn’t figure to be great opportunities for sunset, so I decided to wrap up my day along the river.  The copious wind made traditional landscapes difficult, so I largely turned my gaze toward intimate and/or abstract renderings.

Box Elder Leaves, San Miguel County, Colorado

Leaves and Roots, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River Intimate, San Miguel County, Colorado

I did find one “traditional” landscape perspective that I wanted to capture, and it took  an inordinate amount of patience waiting for a lull in the wind to render the foliage sharp despite the relatively slow shutter speed.  I think I waited about 15 minutes before I finally came up with a frame that avoided wind blur.

San Miguel River Aerial, San Miguel County, Colorado

And that was the last image of the day and of the trip.  Well, almost….

Epilogue

The next day I was roughly 400 miles into a 600-mile drive, moving through rural Elbert County in eastern Colorado.  I had left the Rocky Mountains behind and was now passing through a kind of rolling plain.  It was early evening, the light was good and getting better, the wind was light and there were some nice cirrus clouds in the sky.  I was driving along US-24, about 25 miles south of the junction with I-70.  I had been up early on this morning, but with another clear, frosty daybreak, hadn’t bothered to photograph at sunrise, choosing instead to get a head start on the long drive.  So I was thinking mostly about the fact that I still had at least three hours of driving ahead of me when I saw a scene in the field to the west of the road.  There was an old style windmill in pastureland, with a group of horses very close to the fence that ran along the side of the road.  It was an idyllic scene but, I thought to myself, I had a long drive still ahead of me, so I shouldn’t stop.  I got about a mile farther along the road and then asked myself–out loud–what are you doing?  The light, the subject matter…if you’re not going to stop for a few minutes to photograph this, why are you bothering to photograph at all?  So, I turned around and headed back.

Home on the Range, Elbert County, Colorado

Home on the Range, Elbert County, Colorado

I moved along the fence line to my left, and one of the horses saw me and came closer.  He walked all the way up to where I was standing and tapped my lens hood with his nose.  (I have a picture of this somewhere; I”ll try to remember to process the RAW image and post it at some point.)  This seemed to startle him, and he sprinted about 10 feet away which, in turn, startled some of the other horses who also moved away.  But then, they seemed to realize that everything was fine; they came closer again and resumed grazing, as if nothing had ever happened.  (The closest horse in the image below is the one who touched the lens hood; this is about one minute after that event.)

Home on the Range, Elbert County, Colorado

Home on the Range, Elbert County, Colorado

Home on the Range Black & White, Elbert County, Colorado

And that was the end of last fall’s Colorado excursion.  I hope you enjoyed the images and the accounts of the experience.

Posted by: kerryl29 | April 2, 2018

Colorado Day 13: Last Dollar Road Bookends

I had conducted a fairly thorough exploration of the Telluride end of Last Dollar Road on Day 10, but had undertaken almost no photography of the area on that day, due to far less than ideal conditions.  Given my plans to rectify the oversight on Day 13, my wanderings in the general vicinity of the southern end of Last Dollar Road on Day 12 left me concerned; the “big wind” had stripped many aspen stands of their leaves even before the trees had reached peak.  Even if the area along Last Dollar had not been denuded, it surely would be soon.  It was now or never to photograph this location as the weather forecast was for mostly clear skies and relatively breezy afternoons for the next several days…and I only had two more full days planned in the area after Day 13 (which would ultimately be reduced to one, but I digress).

So I got up extra early to make the more-than-an-hour-long drive from Ouray to the Telluride end of Last Dollar Road.  During my scouting session back on Day 10, I’d taken note of an attractive roadside barn and decided that this would be my spot for sunrise.  During the scout, there were so many low-hanging clouds that the backdrop was completely obscured, but that wouldn’t be a problem on this morning.

I arrived at my destination in the dark; it was another frosty morning, with temperatures hovering in the low 20s (F).  I parked in a roadside pullout and wandered around a bit to size up the subject matter as the predawn light incrementally brought everything into clear focus.  There were three farm buildings, including the main barn, a long spit-rail fence, the road itself, scattered clumps of trees and the backdrop (the San Miguel Mountain Range) with a view to the (more or less) southwest.  There were a number of wide compositional options and I set about investigating all of them, beginning with the road, which, as the sole route to the nearby Telluride airport, was paved at this spot.  (Last Dollar Road runs a total length of more than 20 miles and only the first two or three from the Telluride side are paved; the rest is unpaved, of varying quality and maintenance.)

San Miguel Range at Dawn, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

San Miguel Range at Dawn, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was still the blue hour, as you can see, and it remained unclear whether there was going to be much of a sunrise, but I remained hopeful.  In short order, the sky behind me–to the east, more or less–lit up and I hustled to try to capture it.  It was a very brief phenomenon and I didn’t have time to pick out much of a composition, so I simply lined up a couple of box elder trees and captured what I could of the momentarily colorful scene.

Sunrise, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The color in the sky to the east faded very quickly and I returned to my main subject, hoping that I would see some effect of the rising sun on the scene to the southwest.  At first there was just a bit of subdued color…

Sunrise, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

…but eventually, if only briefly, the upper reaches of the clouds took on some direct light.

Sunrise, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Most of the images including the fence required focus stacking as I frequently had elements–either the foreground grass, the rails and posts of the fence, or all of the above–too close to my shooting position to obtain adequate depth of field for a single shot.

Morning, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Broken Clouds Morning, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Gradually, direct sunlight began to touch the landscape itself.  (You can see the initial evidence of this in the above image, just below the snow on the mountain in the background.)  I significantly changed my shooting position to allow the barn to take on the dominant role in the composition that I had envisioned earlier.

Broken Clouds Morning, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Broken Clouds Morning Black & White, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I continued to move down the road and photographed the scene facing to the northeast.

Morning, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Morning, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

At this point I got back in the car and continued my journey up Last Dollar Road to the north.  The earlier scouting session had demonstrated that there were many interesting scenes to check out and, now in the post-sunrise “golden hour,” the light would be highly flattering for a short time.

Morning Light, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens in Dancing Light, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I spent a great deal of time moving back and forth between more or less normal focal lengths and fairly long telephoto perspectives.

Aspens and Scrub Oak in Dancing Light, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

San Miguel Range, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens Black & White, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Morning Light, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Intimate, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I spotted a couple of horses in some rugged open pasture and one of them in particular caught my eye with his poised demeanor and impeccable positioning.

Horse, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Horse Landscape, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Horse Landscape, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

During this morning, bands of clouds kept blowing in and out, occasionally blocking the sun, which made for some interesting lighting effects.

Aspens & Scrub Oak, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was also evident just how disparate the impact of the Big Wind had been, as some of the aspen groves were stripped completely while others appeared to have been virtually untouched.

Aspens & Scrub Oak, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Eventually I reached the point where I had concluded the scout on Day 10, a spot that I had marked as one to revisit.  It was edging into late morning by now and the light was no longer particularly becoming, but I set up to document the spot anyway.

Last Dollar Road Afternoon, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I decided that I would return to this location at sunset, in the hope that the conditions would do the scene justice.

Since I was planning to spend the end of the day more or less where I spent the beginning, I decided to remain on this side of the Sneffels Range in the interim.  I figured that I could investigate the area south of Telluride, in the direction of Lizard Head Pass…and beyond, time permitting.  This area, which I had driven though on Day 10, had appeared set to reach peak color by this point in the week, though I was concerned about the impact of the Big Wind, given what I had seen in many parts of the area since the breeze had kicked up the previous day.

The glorified scouting session that I conducted during the tail end of the morning and the first half of the afternoon was, on the whole, pretty discouraging.  Many of the areas that had been approaching peak three days earlier were now entirely barren, and the closer I got to Lizard Head Pass, the more completely devastating the impact.  I did conduct a bit of photography here and there, where I found scenes that I found attractive, but it was very much a case of picking one’s spots.

Aspen Overlook, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mountain Overlook, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I reached Lizard Head Pass and found everything up there completely bare.  I then drove CO-145 roughly seven miles below the pass, to the southwest.  It was simply more of the same–grove after grove of aspens, devoid of all of their leaves.  I turned around and began my return to Telluride.  At one point on the return journey I stopped along the roadside, near the entrance to the closed-for-the-season Sunshine Campground, and wandered in on foot.  It was a windy spot, on what had become another breezy day, and the trees reminded me of what I had seen at Woods Lake a day earlier–even more stripped, in fact.  So I decided to attempt the lighting of a candle, rather than cursing the darkness.

Bare Aspens Black & White, Sunshine Campground, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

On the way back toward Telluride, I decided to investigate a spot that I’d seen from the road during my earlier trips through the area (including the drive up to Lizard Head Pass on this day).  CO-145 bends, right near the junction point with Last Dollar Road, to the south, in the direction of Lizard Head Pass.  At the bend, on the east side of the road, lies the Telluride Valley Floor.  This open valley, through which the San Miguel River slowly meanders, is protected and includes some unpaved hiking and biking paths amid the river and its banks, stands of trees and tall grass.  There’s a parking area on the west side of the valley, just off the east shoulder of CO-145, so I pulled in and made a cursory examination.

Unlike my experience at higher elevations on this day, it was fairly calm in the valley, which made for some very nice reflections in the shallow pools abutting the river.

San Miguel River, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Reflections Black & White, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Reflections, Telluride Valley Floor, San Miguel County, Colorado

Time permitting, I decided, I would explore this area more fully in the next day or two, but with only a couple of hours left before sunset, I wanted to investigate some areas along the San Miguel River–a few miles west of the Telluride Valley–and if I was going to do that and still have time to get in place to photograph sunset from my designated spot on Last Dollar Road I’d have to get moving, leaving no time to scout the valley floor at this time.

I had (mostly) eyeballed the San Miguel River area, between Telluride and Sawpit, on Day 10 and had identified a number of access points that I thought would make for potentially interesting photographic locations.  Though the day was mostly sunny it was late enough in the afternoon at this point that most spots along the river–which runs through a deep, red rock canyon at this location–would be in open shade.

A hiking trail runs for miles along the river and, though it often is high above the water and at other times is set back from the river itself, with dense forest in between the path and the river, there are spots where direct access is possible (sometimes requiring a bit of extra effort).  Though my time was limited, I did manage to check out several of these spots.

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

There was enough wind in the canyon to be a real nuisance but, as is usually the case, patience was rewarded with the periodic lull, making it possible to freeze the foliage while still photographing the river rapids at the desired relatively slow shutter speed.

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

I could have happily spent more time investigating riverside areas but given the lateness of the hour and the need to hike back to the car to head off to the designated sunset spot, I deferred further exploration to the next day.

Once I reached the car, it was at least a 20-minute drive to the sunset spot so I had to hustle.  I reached the location with little time to spare as the sun was within minutes of dipping below the mountains to the southwest and had just started to light up the clouds, which were conveniently in place in the sky above the San Miguel Range.

San Miguel Range Sunset, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As the sun dropped below the mountains the clouds in the southwest sky lit up.

San Miguel Range Sunset, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

San Miguel Range Sunset, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Though I had carried out my photography in a relatively circumscribed area, and despite less than ideal conditions (wind, primarily), I was quite pleased with the results.  Still, given the conditions on the ground (i.e. rapidly disappearing foliage) and the forecast that I mentioned earlier (i.e. blue skies and wind, expected to prevail for the next three or four days), I decided this evening that I would cut the trip short.  The next day–Day 14–would be the final, rather than penultimate, day of the trip, allowing me to begin the approximately 1400-mile-long trip back home a day early.

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 26, 2018

Beyond the Fleeting Moment

It’s been a bit more than two years since I mused about the gradual but undeniable disappearance of photographic prints.  Not only has nothing happened since then to change my view, the trend has, if anything, accelerated.  The maturity of the digital revolution, not only in the realm of photography but throughout most of civilization at this point, has more or less cemented all of this.  Most photographic prints that were made back in the film era took on the role that posting images on social media holds today:  the primary way to share images with others.  But even the other–much more limited form–of printmaking has dried up in recent years:  prints that are framed and put on (more or less) permanent display.  There is less of that now than at any point in my lifetime as fewer and fewer people even think of printing as something that could or should be done with photographs.  Depending on your view, this may be tragic or it may be long overdue, but either way, it is.

Lake Superior Shoreline black & white, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The biggest reason I find this a concern is that this trend has led–somewhat ironically–to a decreasing permanence to photographs, in both tangible and intangible senses.  The irony to the tangible aspect is that it’s never been easier to safely archive images than it is today.  Back in the film era, if something happened to the print, unless you had the negative (or slide) from which the print was made, you were out of luck.  Even if you did have it, the analog nature of film meant that the originals were prone to deterioration.  But strictly because of the more casual nature most people treat their digital assets (in fact, many people don’t even regard their images as assets at all), and the ease with which they can be discarded (just press a button and, presto, they’re gone!) means that for many of us, images have never been more impermanent.

Spruce Knob Sunrise, Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

As disturbing as that may be, I think it’s the intangible impermanence that’s most distressing, because of what images represent…or ought to represent, I’d argue.  I’ve mentioned previously that I regard images principally as memory stimulants.  When I see one of my images I’m invariably taken back to the moment the image was made and all of the sensory stimulation that implies.  I might–might–be able to return to that moment (and those sights, sounds, smells, physical feelings and thoughts) without that direct stimulation…but then again, I might not.

Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

The point is that the image conjures up more–so much more–than simply the scene itself.  And that’s why I think it’s important not only to retain so many of these images but actually view them from time to time.

Bahia Honda Rail Bridge at Sunset, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

This “trick” works, potentially, with all images; they don’t have to be of a “fine art” (whatever that term really means) variety made with expensive photographic equipment.  There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be quick snapshots produced with a phone.  It’s not even necessarily the content that matters; it’s the personal significance of what’s behind the content.  Regardless, the images must be viewable–and, in fact, viewed–to play this consequential (arguably critical) role.

Water Reeds, Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

And that’s where the matter of access becomes so important.  What I do periodically–once every few months, generally–is go to my website, where a vast repository of my image archive is stored, and select a gallery more or less randomly, spend a few minutes watching a slideshow of the images in that gallery, and let the memories wash over me.  It doesn’t take very long but the benefits are immeasurable.

Autumn Overlook at Sunset, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 19, 2018

Colorado, Day 12: Big Wind

The weather forecast overnight from Day 11 to Day 12 was ominous:  increasingly heavy winds were forecast, with gusts up to 40 MPH anticipated.  This was worrisome, not only because it threatened to wreak havoc with the day’s photography, but also because of what it might do to the foliage moving forward.  Overnight temperatures were below freezing every day and, combined with strong persistent winds, the potential for denuded trees was obvious.

My chosen sunrise location was a spot I’d found on County Road 7 during the previous day’s scout.  It was about seven miles up the unpaved (not always well-maintained) road, so I gave myself plenty of time to get there.  It was near an isolated cabin, just off the road.  It was still dark when I got there, and–surprisingly–not very windy.  But as I meandered around the deserted area, waiting for the light, I’d feel the occasional sudden stiff breeze, only to feel it disappear mysteriously…and then recur after a minute or two.

The sky was almost completely clear and, as the dawn approached, a prominent earthshadow effect appeared to the east.

Rocky Mountain Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When the wind was gusting, it was impossible to freeze the vegetation, given the slow shutter speeds needed, but patience was rewarded with lulls in the breeze.

Rocky Mountain Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As things continued to brighten, I turned my attention in the direction of the Sneffels Range.

Sneffels Range Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The longer I waited, the more the wind became a factor but, again, there were lulls and I tried to take advantage of them.  The feel of the scene changed dramatically as the sun’s rays made a direct impact.  Both the wide angle and telephoto lenses stood me in good stead.

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I began to retreat back down the road, but stopped once or twice on the way.  The wind seemed to get stronger with each passing minute.

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Suncatcher Clouds, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Black & White, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I took a run past County Road 9, just to check out the areas near the lower part of the road, minus the foggy conditions I’d encountered the previous day.  The pastures, replete with bales of hay, took on an entirely different feel.

Hay Bales Black & White, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Hay Bales, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I went further up County Road 9 and, even though the light was slowly deteriorating, produced a few more shots.

Spotlit Aspens, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Ranch Gateway Black & White, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn Mountainside, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

At this point, the bright light was welcome in one sense–it enabled the higher shutter speeds necessary to freeze the subject matter, because by now the wind was blowing like mad.  I retraced my steps and then made my way to County Road 5, and covered part of that road for the second straight day.

Sun-Splashed Aspens, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sun-Splashed Aspens, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Aspen Foreground, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was only late morning at this point and so I made my way in the direction of Telluride to explore some areas–specifically, Woods Lake and Wilson Mesa–that I hadn’t had the opportunity to check out on Day 10, due to the afternoon rain.

This part of the San Juans had been a few days shy of peak, you’ll recall, when I’d visited the area two days prior, so I was anxious to see what kind of color progression had taken place.  What I saw shocked me–and not in a good way.  These areas were rather picked over–past peak.  It appeared that the wind had simply stripped many of the trees of leaves before they had ever reached peak color.  Despite the less than stellar conditions (it was just as windy here as it had been on the other side of the Sneffels Range), I took a few shots at the lake, including aspen stands that were still in relatively good shape.

Woods Lake, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I then made my way to Wilson Mesa–which took some work to locate.  I found this area very interesting, with its wooden fences, rustic buildings, tall grasses and wide open views.  I only produced a few images, given the conditions, and put this location–which was also plainly past peak–on a list of places to revisit if/when I make it back to southwest Colorado in the fall.

Wilson Mesa, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was late afternoon at this point and I decided to return to a predetermined spot on County Road 7 for sunset.  The wind, mercifully, had died down considerably by that point and this location had still been in good shape (foliage-wise) when I had visited earlier in the day.

On my way up to the sunset spot, I stopped at a few locations that caught my eye.  While the wind had dropped significantly it was still a bit of a factor when I tried to do some photo stacking so I had to be patient and wait for lulls which, eventually, came.

Box Elder Autumn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Most of these interim shots were made with either short or long telephoto focal lengths; I eschewed anything wider than a normal perspective for this particular shoot.

Mountainside Autumn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn’s Tapestry, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn’s Tapestry, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I reached my preordained destination about 30 minutes before sunset–just in time.  I was perched up on the roadside, with a meadow, buttressed by aspen groves, below me, serving as a Mt. Sneffels foreground.  A creek flowed through the meadow and groves.  There were a few clouds in the sky, which aided the scene.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As the light improved, more clouds appeared behind the Sneffels Range, to my advantage.  And fortunately, the previously ferocious wind had dropped to virtually nothing.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

And then…a whole bunch of fluffy clouds drifted into the southern sky, behind the Sneffels Range and I hastened to capture this beautiful scene.  Right on cue, the clouds lit up as the last rays of sunlight slowly vanished from the peak of Mt. Sneffels.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I would head back to the south side of the Sneffels Range for sunrise the next day…

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 12, 2018

Colorado, Day 11: Less Is More

The sunrise forecast for Day 11 was clear and cold.  I decided to spend the early morning on a part of the north end of Last Dollar Road that had been covered in fog and low-hanging clouds during the previous day’s investigation.  Visibility wouldn’t be a problem this A.M.

The forecast turned out to be spot on–it was below 20 degrees (F) when I arrived at my designated spot–in the dark.  Evidence of frost was everywhere–on the tall grasses, the wooden fences, you name it.  There also wasn’t a sign of a cloud in the sky as things began to light up with the coming dawn.

The spot I chose was on the extremities of a ranch that borders Last Dollar Road; the view is of the Sneffels Range to the southeast, fronted by aspen and conifer forests covering the foothills and the lower elevations of the mountains themselves.  The previous day’s rain had fallen as snow in the higher elevations so the peaks were covered with a fresh white coat.  As it got brighter, I could see the odd tiny cloud drifting across the sky above the peaks.

Last Dollar Road Dawn, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was a nice setting, but–due to the near total lack of clouds, this wouldn’t be remembered as one of the great sunrises of all time.

Last Dollar Road Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Last Dollar Road Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Fortunately there was almost no wind.  Despite this fact, and even though I was wearing a heavy winter coat, it was cold enough–given all the standing around–to make the hour or so that I was out in the elements less than an entirely pleasant experience.  Nevertheless, I persevered long enough to pull out the telephoto lens to produce some tighter compositions.

Last Dollar Road Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Last Dollar Road Sunrise Black & White, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Last Dollar Road Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The forecast for the remainder of the day was for virtually clear skies, so the plan was to spend most of the day scouting the north side of the Sneffels Range, which is pierced by a trio of unpaved Ouray County roads that penetrate into the mountains.  I wasn’t expecting to do a lot of shooting, given the lighting conditions, but I thought that I could identify particularly attractive locations for future reference.  So I retraced my steps on Last Dollar Road back to the highway and went back to the eastern side of the Dallas Divide where I discovered that the valley that includes the town of Ridgway was bathed in thick fog, much as had been the case up at Last Dollar on Day 10.

The three roads providing access to the north side of the Sneffels Range are designated as County Roads 5, 7 and 9, with the numbers increasing as one moves east to west on CO-62.  CR-5 emanates from the very southwestern edge of the main part of the town of Ridgway.  CR-7 lies a few miles to the west and CR-9 is a few miles west of that.  Despite the relative proximity, the only common connector between the roads is CO-62 itself.

Last Dollar Road, where I began the photographic day, is about five miles west of CR-9 on CO-62, so when I was done with Last Dollar I was closest to CR-9, and that’s where I went next.  The fog was heavy along this road, which is buttressed on both sides by fences marking the perimeter of ranches for the first several miles.  Just beyond the junction with CO-62, bales of hay dotted the pasture beyond the fences and–I hastened to make images over the first mile or so of the road.

Foggy Sunrise, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Foggy Sunrise Black & White, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Foggy Sunrise, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When I reached a point about 1 1/2 miles along CR-9, I noticed that the road was becoming increasingly muddy.  As noted, it had rained extensively the previous afternoon and evening and, given the fairly humid conditions (note that the dew point had been met), it wasn’t drying out all that quickly.  Ahead of me, I could see a four-wheel drive vehicle that appeared to be stuck in the mud.  At that point I decided that discretion was the better part of valor (I was, after all, driving a two-wheel drive compact) and turned around.  The rest of the exploration of CR-9 would have to wait until later, when the road had dried out a bit.

I moved on to CR-7, which seemed less muddy but was still impacted by fog, though it was thinner by this point.

Foggy Morning, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn Foliage, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As I climbed higher and higher on this road the fog grew increasingly patchy.  After several miles, the road reached a pond–at least part of which was on private property–with the Sneffels Range looming beyond.

Sneffels Range in Morning Fog, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Every time it appeared as though the fog was lifting once and for all, another batch of it would waft up, effectively blocking the view of the mountains at times.

Sneffels Range in Morning Fog, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I eventually pulled out the telephoto and, given that the light was becoming harsh at this point when the sunlight could penetrate the fog layers, I was thinking black and white.

Mt. Sneffels in Morning Fog Black & White, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Everything that looks like a cloud in these images is actually patchy fog.  There were no “real” clouds in the sky at all at this stage.

Mt. Sneffels in Morning Fog Black & White, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As what was left of the fog burned off, the light became almost instantly too harsh for photography, given the subject matter, so I simply scouted the rest of the road, all the way up to the point (about 10 miles from the beginning) where the road was no longer fit for a passenger vehicle.  I then made my way all the way back down–and picked out a couple of additional spots where the view had been obscured by the fog on the way up.  Then I moved on to CR-5.  It was early afternoon by now and I carefully scouted the entire length of the road (again, about 10 unpaved miles) without ever bringing out the camera.  This was turning into a pure scouting session.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I finished the CR-5 scout so I went back to CR-9 to see if it had dried out enough to check out the rest of the road.  It had, so that’s what I did.  When I was close to the end I pulled the gear back 0ut and made a couple of telephoto images of the rich fall color that was covering the mountainside, mostly in the form of scrub oak.

Autumn Mountainside, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I finished on CR-9.  Though I hadn’t made many images this day, the scout had been well worth the time spent as I would return to all of these roads again, under (mostly) better conditions later in the week.  But I decided to spend what was left of the day’s light back up on Owl Creek Pass, where I had shot sunset on Day 9.  The subject matter there, I felt, would work in angular light.  There probably wouldn’t be much of interest at sunset itself, given the lack of clouds, but I’d still have a couple of hours of good and improving light to work with.

Courthouse Rock and the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I found a hiking/ATV/horse trail and spent what was left of the good light wandering around on it, in search of images.  Just about all of them were made with a telephoto lens.

Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Owl Creek Pass Evening, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Owl Creek Pass Black & White, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Owl Creek Pass Aspens, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Owl Creek Pass Layers, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The sunset, as anticipated, was entirely unremarkable.

It hadn’t been a great day of photography from a productivity standpoint but it had been exceptional from a planning perspective, as parts of the next several days would demonstrate.

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 6, 2018

Hiking and Photography

In a comment appended to the post chronicling Day 9 of my Colorado trip last fall, David, of the Hidden Lens blog, asked a poignant question:

“Since you do a fair bit of hiking for your photography, do you find others doing the same, or [are] they sticking mainly to overlook areas to take vista-type images?”

The question made me think about the broad subject of hiking and photography, coupled together.  The combination is something I do quite a bit of so I have some (probably disjointed) thoughts on the matter.

Merced River, Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

Answer the Question

I’ll start by providing an answer to David’s question–something that I’ve deferred for more than a week.  The truth is, running into someone who is doing anything much more than pulling out a cellphone for a quick snapshot while hiking is a rare experience for me indeed.  Take the Colorado trip.  I completed three lengthy (ranging from four to nine miles) hikes during my time in the Rockies, and a number of shorter hikes as well.  During all of this hiking, I saw exactly one other person with a tripod and/or dedicated camera.  During my May trip to California, during all of the many hikes I took (more than a dozen), I saw two other people with tripods and/or dedicated cameras.  To be clear, on both trips, I saw countless other photographers, but almost always at roadside locations of one sort or another.

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

This has routinely been the case over the years.  A semi-exception would be short (a mile or less) out-and-back trails with a clear payoff destination:  a waterfall, for instance, or a scenic viewpoint.  When those criteria have been met, a bit more photo-hike traffic is often evident.  But generally speaking, if any appreciable amount of hiking is involved, dedicated photographers are typically few and far between.

Coastal Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

The Low-Hanging Fruit Factor

I think the most cogent explanation for the absence of photographers on trails is that…well, there’s an awful lot of scenic beauty to be mined without going to the considerable effort of undertaking a hike so, why bother?  There’s some obvious logic to this notion.  Hiking in and of itself requires some effort (how much depends, of course, on the length and difficulty of the trail), but even the easiest trails involve more effort than….well, no trail at all.  Many photographers aren’t in the best physical shape to begin with and, of course, in addition to hauling yourself, you have to haul your gear–some of it anyway.

Long Pine Key Trail, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

There’s a bit of a cost-benefit analysis rationale to all of this, and it’s pretty easy to convince yourself of all sorts of ancillary reasons not to get out and hike:  for instance, hiking sucks up time that could be better spent visiting more locations (by vehicle, of course) where more things can be seen and, presumably, photographed.  And who knows what might happen out on the trail; the horror stories (potentially dangerous wildlife encounters, injuries, etc.) are legion.

Big Tree Trail, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

And Yet…

Everything laid out above is true.  Yes, hiking involves effort and, yes, taking your gear along with you amounts to even more exertion.  But it also provides something entirely positive:  access to spots decidedly off the beaten track.  That’s a substantial positive that should be heavily considered in the aforementioned cost-benefit analysis because there’s very little, if any, chance of encountering less frequently visited spots in this day and age without getting out on the trails.

Mary Lake and Cathedral Mountain from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I not only hike frequently on my photo excursions, I often incorporate hikes that aren’t merely of the destination variety–the hike out to the waterfall or viewpoint that I mentioned earlier.  My favorite kind of hiking excursions are ones that involve potential photo opportunities all along the way.  That was what was so rewarding about the Dark Canyon Loop Trail at Kebler Pass in Colorado, for instance–a hike of about seven miles that I spent most of an entire day conducting, because I stopped so frequently to photograph.

Aspen Intimate, Dark Canyon Loop Trail, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

This sort of trail belies the idea of the hike as nothing more than a means to a specific end; sometimes the hike is an end unto itself.

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Solutions

Hauling gear on a hike is a hassle and if you take so much that you’re weighed down it may be a deterrent to making the excursion at all.  There are ways around this problem, however.  One option is simply to limit the equipment you take.  (Here, you’re going to have to do as I say, not as I do because I typically haul just about everything I have with me on hikes…though I will, on occasion, leave the macro lens behind if I have little reason to believe I’ll use it.)

If you’re hiking with an SLR, one lens–in the form of a 24-120 or 24-105 mm walk-around option may be just the ticket.  That along with a light-weight tripod (whatever you do, don’t leave the tripod behind!) is just about all many photographers will need for at least 90% of their opportunities in most instances.

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Another alternative is to go with a smaller format (APS-C or m/43) mirrorless system, where a camera and a full complement of zoom lenses, from ultrawide to long telephoto (along with the tripod!) may weigh less than five pounds.

There are ways to equip yourself to engage in “serious photography” without burdening yourself to the point where you don’t want to venture out on the trail in the first place.  That of course, is the key.  If you’re carrying too much weight you’re going to ruin the entire experience.  Photography is a creative endeavor and it’s nearly impossible to focus on aesthetics if your shoulders are aching and you’re breathing so hard that you want to collapse.  Knowing your limit and uncovering the optimal way to avoid exceeding it will make for a pleasant experience hiking and photographing along the way.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 26, 2018

Colorado Day 10: Further Explorations

My first full day back in the San Juans was to be spent exploring the area between Ridgway and Telluride…and perhaps beyond.  But first, there was the matter of a sunrise spot.  Without many scouted alternatives, I decided to try the Dallas Divide.  You may recall that I stopped by this overlook on Day 5, as I was heading from Silverton to Gunnison.  I knew where the overlook was located (a bit more than 10 miles west of Ridgway, right off the south shoulder of CO-62), roughly how long it would take to get there, and what I was likely to encounter.

Unfortunately, it was mostly cloudy and extremely windy on this morning–we had gusts in excess of 40 MPH.  This was going to be challenging, I recall thinking, as I stepped out of the car.  There were other people present–at least a dozen–when I arrived, and more would eventually show up (including a good-sized workshop) as daybreak approached, but there’s plenty of space to set up at the Dallas Divide overlook so crowding wasn’t a big problem.

When I wasn’t trying to make sure that my tripod wouldn’t blow over in the wind, I was trying not to turn into a Popsicle.  It was another sub-freezing morning and the wind made it feel significantly colder than the air temperature.

There was no classic sunrise to speak of, but we did get a kind of predawn glow above the Sneffels Range for about 30 seconds.

Dallas Divide at Dawn, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

After that it was a question of whether the rising sun–located well to the left of the scene you see above–would ever penetrate the scene.  It seemed unlikely for a long time, but an evident crack in the clouds to the southeast allowed for some spotlighting at sunrise.

Dallas Divide at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Some fog began to rise from the valley to the south, slowly, unremarkably and seemingly fleetingly at first…

Dallas Divide at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

…but gradually it became clear that the fog wasn’t going to burn off.  In fact, it got heavier and heavier and ultimately eliminated the view of the Sneffels Range entirely.

Dallas Divide at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When I could no longer see Mt. Sneffels (the tallest, most triangular peak in the above images), I packed up my things and, while trying to thaw out, continued several miles west on CO-62 to Last Dollar Road.  I had found the junction of Last Dollar Road and CO-62 on Day 5, but hadn’t taken the time to explore the road that morning.  That was what today’s plan called for.

If the fog had been thick at the Divide, it was nearly opaque on Last Dollar Road.  This area was more sheltered–so while there was some breeze, it was light–and visibility was, in spots, no more than about 200 feet.  While this blocked views it–as fog always does–created image-making possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  I was out of my car repeatedly over the second mile of the road as it wound its unpaved way south of CO-62.

Foggy Meadow, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Before long, I reached a stand of aspens that was so close to the road that even the fog couldn’t obscure it completely.  I stopped–of course–and spent a fair amount of time attempting to tease compositions out of this haunting subject matter.

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The density of the fog changed constantly while I was on site, deepening, then thinning, then becoming more dense again.

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

While I was moving along the roadside, a number of other people saw me (and my tripod) and stopped…and, invariably, pulled out their own equipment to shoot.  One gentleman told me that he’d driven right by this location without stopping no more than 30 minutes prior and thanked me for being present.  I looked at him quizzically.  “What are you thanking me for?” I asked.  “If you hadn’t found this I never would have been motivated to check it out myself,” he told me.  I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

One thing about color in foggy scenes: even though color, like everything else, is dimmed in foggy settings it often seems as though it’s more emphatic–a function of the contrast that any relatively bright color makes with the overall grayness of a mist-strewn environment.  This is reminiscent of my experience in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during a foggy morning when fall color was at its peak.

Aspens in Fog, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When I was done with this spot, I continued my drive down Last Dollar Road.  After another couple of miles, I reached a broad, open area that was mostly devoid of fog.

Lone Aspen, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

After about seven miles, the unpaved road reaches a point where it’s not maintained and a sign warns drivers not to proceed if they don’t have a high clearance/four-wheel drive vehicle.  I stopped at this point and walked another mile or two along the road, just to explore.

Aspens Overlook, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Intimate, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Intimate, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The road ultimately reaches an area near the Telluride airport–a total distance from CO-62 of more than 20 miles.  The final seven or so–much like the first seven–are maintained, it’s just the middle section that’s iffy for some vehicles.  I would explore the Telluride end of the road later in the day, but I never covered the entirety of the middle third of the road.

The paved route from Ridgway to Telluride involves taking CO-62 all the way to its terminus at the hamlet of Placerville–just under 30 miles from Ridgway–where it junctions with CO-145, then heads east on 145 approximately 14 miles to Telluride.  The “San Juan Skyway” drive continues south of Telluride on CO-145 across Lizard Head Pass.

On the drive west on CO-62, I spotted several locations along the road that looked interesting.  Traffic moves at a fast clip on this highway and there’s no shoulder in many places, so I had to find side roads upon which to pull off and then find ways of walking to the areas that captured my attention.

Aspen Stand, San Miguel County, Colorado

As windy as it had been earlier at the Dallas Divide it was almost completely calm in this area of San Miguel County.

Aspen Stand, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, San Miguel County, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, San Miguel County, Colorado

The route on CO-145 between Placerville and Telluride follows the San Miguel River and the cottonwoods and box elders in this area–the elevation is too low for aspens–was in brilliant color.  Finding places to photograph it from the road–which travels through the narrow, steep river canyon–is nearly impossible.  Nevertheless, I managed to find a pull-off and walked several hundred yards along the tight shoulder to an otherwise inaccessible spot where a clear view of the river below was available.

San Miguel River, San Miguel County, Colorado

San Miguel River Black & White, San Miguel County, Colorado

I was highly intrigued by this area along the river and spent a significant amount of time investigating spots (along a 10-mile stretch)–without my camera equipment–that might allow me to get down to river level.  Additional time exploring would be spent on subsequent days.

When I reached the turn off for Last Dollar Road, just outside Telluride, I took it and scouted this end of the road.  It was still gray–and fairly breezy here–but I covered the entirety of the maintained route (roughly seven miles).  I was now dealing with on-and-off light rain, but in addition to my scouting, I did produce one image.

Autumn Overlook, Last Dollar Road, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

By now it was mid-afternoon.  I spent the next couple of hours checking out areas along CO-145 between Telluride and Lizard Head Pass.  Much of the deciduous growth in this area was still green.  I judged that it would be at least another few days before the locale would reach peak.  (This would turn out to be untrue, but not because I misjudged the status of the color.  More on this in later posts.)  Still, I found a few spots that I found worthy of photography.

Autumn Overlook, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Island, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When I reached Lizard Head Pass, approximately 10,200 feet above sea level, it was snowing lightly.  Not wanting to be caught in another potential snowstorm, I decided it was time to retreat back to lower elevations, so I returned in the direction of Telluride.  During the trip, it started to rain, lightly at first and then steadily.  I continued to retrace my route and it rained the entire way back to Ouray.  It was late afternoon by now and it was clear that the rain wouldn’t stop by sunset, so I called it a day.

Though virtually the entire day was spent scouting I hadn’t come close to covering all of the areas I wanted to explore.  A series of unpaved roads, between Ridgway and Last Dollar Road, accessible from CO-62, head up into the Sneffels Range.  I wanted to check out all of them and that would have to wait until Day 11.

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 19, 2018

Colorado Day 9: Transitions

This was to be the day that I relocated to Ouray, back in southwest Colorado, for the remainder of my trip, but that wouldn’t happen until I spent one final morning at Kebler Pass.  Having spent some time in the Lost Lake area of the pass on Day 8, I had decided to return there for sunrise, photographing (conditions permitting) daybreak at Lost Lake Slough, then making the two-mile round trip hike to Lost Lake itself, in the hope of finding more photogenic circumstances than I had encountered on the previous day.

So, I got up extra early, given that it would take at least an hour to drive to Lost Lake Slough from Gunnison.

During the previous day’s scout, I had decided exactly where I’d go for sunrise–the west side of Lost Lake Slough.  Many people prefer to photograph first light on the peaks to the southwest of the slough and, therefore, set up on the eastern shore, but while I liked the backdrop from that locale well enough I didn’t much care for the foreground.  The west end, however, includes a number of foreground options–reeds in the water, as well as rocks.  It’s a bit marshy on the west side, and perhaps that keeps many people away, but I had my trusty rubber boots (which I had used during the prior day’s scout to find just the right spot).

Headlamp in tow, I made my way to my desired location and waited.  There was a bit of breeze, which caused some rippling in the water, but it calmed down in time.  There was a fair amount of cloud cover to the east, so the sunrise wasn’t a breathtaking one, but it was nice enough.

Lost Lake Slough at Sunrise, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I moved to the north end of the slough after the sun came up and turned my attention to the southwest.

Lost Lake Slough Morning, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake Slough Morning Black & White, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake Slough Morning, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Then I made the hike up to Lost Lake.  Indeed, the conditions were far more favorable for photography than they had been the previous afternoon.  The lake was mostly free of ripples and the sun was making an occasional appearance early this morning.

Lost Lake, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I hiked back to the trailhead and made my way on the Three Lakes Trail along the west side of Lost Lake Slough, to a spot I’d found the previous day in the rain.  I thought this location made for an interesting intimate.

Lost Lake Slough Reflections, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I went back to the car and, as I headed back down Lost Lake Road in the direction of the Kebler Pass Road, I stopped near a small meadow that I’d taken note of the previous day.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make some images now that the conditions were better.

Aspen Meadow, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

For the second of the images from this location, I set up very low to the ground, with the camera no more than a foot above ground level.  Windless conditions allowed me to fire off four focus stacked frames to obtain the desired depth of field.

Aspen Meadow, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The images that had first attracted me to this spot–as seen from the road–were all made with a telephoto lens.

Aspen Isolates, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Isolates Black & White, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The sky had just about completely clouded up before I reached this meadow, which was actually good news because there was one more spot at Kebler Pass that I’d hoped to explore and imagery there demanded soft light.  It was the location on the south side of the Kebler Pass Road, in the thick aspen forest where I’d photographed mid-afternoon of the previous day.  While I’d photographed the aspens on the north side of the road from the shoulder, the forest on the south side was above road level, on a fairly steep hillside.  These aspens beckoned me to join them and I obliged, wading into the forest.

I climbed the hill and, after several hundred feet, the terrain leveled out a bit.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I love places like this.  While it can be hard to tease out compelling images, due to all the “clutter,” I find these locales to be incredibly peaceful when no one else is around–which was the case on this occasion.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I wandered around in this aspen forest for about an hour by which time it was mid-morning.  It was now time to begin the ride to Ouray.  I got to the far western part of Kebler Pass–an area I’d passed through on the way to and from McClure Pass back on Day 6–but this time I stopped at an unofficial pullout across from an overlook that had a wonderful view of the valley below.  I ended up spending a good 45 minutes at this spot; there were so many interesting compositions.

Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The overlook covered a fairly large amount of ground–roughly 500 feet–which allowed me to move around quite a bit to pick out different perspectives.  I also used a wide variety of focal lengths, ranging from roughly 50 mm to more than 300 mm.

Conifers, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

As a result, this overlook–unlike so many–was no one trick pony.

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The road winds down into the valley as it approaches CO-133.  Within a couple of miles of the junction with the state highway I was presented with a sidelong perspective of a mountainside covered with a tapestry of fall color produced by native scrub oak, contrasted by the occasional conifer.  I stopped one more time to take advantage of the opportunity.

Scrub Oak Mountainside, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak Mountainside, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I reached Ouray by mid-afternoon, by which time the sun had made another appearance.  After checking into my lodging I decided to explore the Owl Creek Pass area, the access for which is about 15 miles north of Ouray.  The road up to the pass is unpaved, but in pretty good shape for the first six or seven miles.

Owl Creek Pass Afternoon, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

After that, it deteriorates significantly.  It’s theoretically (and probably practically) accessible to passenger vehicles but as the road got rockier and rockier I started flashing back to several of of my not-so-enjoyable experiences with flat tires.  So when I reached the access spur to a vista point, I pulled off to check it out.

It was quite windy at this spot, but the views–overlooking a mixture of colorful scrub oak and stands of aspen–were interesting.  The light was getting better and I decided to use the opportunity to make some images.  Besides, the road above this point appeared to be even less forgiving than the approach had been.

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney Black & White, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

There were some unofficial trails at this location that provided access to some different perspectives and I wandered around on a couple of them before finding one I liked.  There I set up and, despite the wind (it was quite gusty) I set up and pulled out the telephoto lens.

Scrub Oak & Aspens, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak & Aspens, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

 

Scrub Oak, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

This location didn’t work well for sunset–it was facing the wrong direction–so I began the trek back down the rutted road in hopes of finding something better.  I wasn’t particularly successful.  While the sky was highly compelling–as in the north-facing scene below–I was striking out in terms of compositions.

Owl Creek Pass Sunset, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I stopped several times and finally found something I thought was halfway decent (but only halfway).  It was still windy, which was a real problem as shutter speeds were becoming quite long.  The setting sun, however, was too exceptional to ignore.

Owl Creek Pass Sunset, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The light show faded quickly from this point, bringing the day’s photography to an end.

The next day would be spent on an extensive investigation of the areas between Ridgway and Telluride.

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 13, 2018

Colorado Day 8: The Best Laid Plans

Thing didn’t go quite according to plan on Day 8 of last fall’s trip to Colorado, and the end result was less photography than, I believe, any other full day I was on the ground in the Rockies.  There were two principal problems, the first mostly of my doing.  After arising at the usual god-forsaken hour, I made the roughly 45-minute drive in the darkness and arrived at my designated sunrise spot along the Kebler Pass Road.  I was fairly disappointed that the sky was completely clear, but figured I’d make do.  I opened the trunk to pull out my gear…and noticed that my tripod wasn’t there.  I’d left it in the motel room.  [Expletive deleted]  That’s the first time I’ve ever done this (and hopefully it will be the last).

I knew I was facing a 90-minute round trip to retrieve the tripod, but what choice did I have?  So, back in the car I went.  The only saving grace was that it wasn’t going to be a great sunrise anyway.

On the way back to Kebler Pass I stopped along the highway to photograph a ranch scene.  There were at least a small number of cirrus clouds in the sky at this point, and a bit of lingering valley fog, neither of which had been present up at Kebler Pass.  I continued to note this, as I convinced myself that the Great Tripod Debacle (TM) hadn’t been that big a deal.

Frosty Morning, Gunnison County, Colorado

The light was actually still pretty nice when I got back up to the pass.  And the sky was a whole lot more interesting than it had been near daybreak.

East Beckwith Mountain, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Maybe I’d actually somehow benefited by having left the tripod in the room, because without the delay I wouldn’t have been at this wetland when the sky was so nice.

East Beckwith Mountain, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I made my way west on the Pass Road, slowly, stopping whenever I saw something interesting.

The Dyke, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The Dyke, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

My plan for this day was to hike the Three Lakes Trail–on the western side of Kebler Pass, near the Lost Lake Campground.  I had scouted this area, briefly, on Day 6, when I traversed the entire length of the Pass.  It was becoming increasingly cloudy, and a bit breezy, when I reached the day use parking area at Lost Lake.  The maintained unpaved road to the lake runs for about five miles and I noticed several spots that might make interesting photographs under different conditions as I drove toward the campground.

The Three Lakes Trail is a fairly easy loop hike of about three miles–not including several spur trails, which altogether probably added about two miles to the excursion, with some significant elevation gain and loss.  It starts out at Lost Lake Slough, then reaches the edge of Lost Lake itself, and finally leads to a spur to Dollar Lake before returning to Lost Lake Slough.  I started out by making some images near the Slough, at the beginning of the hike.

Lost Lake Slough, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

As you can see, it was starting to cloud up significantly as I began the hike.  After a mile or so, mostly a gradual uphill climb, I reached Lost Lake itself.  It was interesting, but the conditions weren’t becoming.  The lake was choppy and the wind was also blowing the foliage around.  I decided I would try to come back the following morning, perhaps for sunset, before I bugged out of the area back to the San Juans.

The next stop on the trail was a spur that took me past an unnamed waterfall, which I deemed well worth a stop.

Waterfall, Three Lakes Trail, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

From here it was all uphill in the direction of Dollar Lake.  Before I got to the spur trail that leads to the third lake, I stopped to photograph an overlook of Lost Lake Slough, in the direction of Marcellina Mountain.  It was an awkward setup as I had to perch myself on a steep slope, just above the narrow trail, to make the image.

Lost Lake Slough from the Three Lakes Trail, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I took the roughly one-mile round trip spur to Dollar Lake and poked around there for a bit, but didn’t make any images.  The conditions were much as they had been at Lost Lake–windy, and it seemed to be getting darker as the clouds grew ever thicker.  I moved quickly, to complete the circuit (I was probably a bit more than a mile from the starting point, and it was a fairly steep downhill grade for the first half of that distance, when I got back to the main trail).  At this point, it started to rain.  I was in thick forest, and somewhat sheltered, but the rain went from light to moderate and began to become a factor.  I was prepared for this, to a degree, but I had to keep my eyes on the trail as the footing became quite iffy as the ground got wet.

I emerged from the forest on the east side of Lost Lake Slough, a good half-mile or so from the starting point and it was still raining.  It stopped just as I got back to the car, and it partially cleared up.  I used this opportunity to retrace my steps on the back end of the Three Lakes Trail as I’d noticed a spot or two, while hiking through the rain, that looked interesting.

Lost Lake Slough, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I then returned to the car and made my way back down Lost Lake Road in the direction of the main Kebler Pass Road.  Some of the spots I’d noticed on the drive in weren’t worthy of photographing under these conditions; I made note to check them again the following morning.  But a couple of locations I deemed worthy of image-making, so I pulled off on the shoulder of the road and engaged in the process.

Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Stand, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I got back to the main road and returned to the east.  This is the section of Kebler Pass that is covered by thick aspen forest, for several miles on both sides of the road.  It was getting darker again, but the rain held off, at least briefly, and I hastened to photograph on the north side of the road for as long as possible.  The wind was a factor, but patience was rewarded with the occasional lull.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The road surface was a muddy mess, but I scarcely noticed at first.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I began to notice, however, when the puddles on the road indicated that the rain had resumed.  At first it was light and I continued my image-making.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

But after a few minutes the rain increased in intensity and I scurried to get myself, and my gear, back in the car.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore the forest on the south side of the road and, decided I would return when the rain stopped.  I drove a few miles to a location where I could pull the car into a parking area, adjacent to the road, and wait out the rain.  It was about 2 1/2 hours before sunset at this point.  After an hour of waiting, the rain not only hadn’t stopped it had, if anything, gotten harder and I decided to bug out.  It was unclear if the rain would stop by nightfall.  I drove back through Crested Butte and by the time I’d reached the outskirts of Gunnison, about 30 miles to the south, the rain had just about stopped.  It was now less than an hour until sunset and I decided to poke around the rural area west of Gunnison on US-50 to see if I could find any interesting scenes before the light disappeared entirely.

After nearly 20 minutes of aimless searching, I more or less randomly turned off on a side road and, by pure luck, stumbled across a scene I quite liked.  Standing before a fence along the side of this little-used back road, with a distinctive barn in the background and at-peak box elder trees in the mid-ground, with a small creek running through the frame, I made a series of images.

Ranch Evening, Gunnison County, Colorado

Ranch Evening, Gunnison County, Colorado

Ranch Evening, Gunnison County, Colorado

I moved back to US-50 and, with another storm wave about to blow through, I found one last seen that intrigued me.  I ran across the highway and made one last image on this day.

Lone Tree, Gunnison County, Colorado

I liked the color version, but from the moment of making, I thought about this as a black & white.

Lone Tree Black & White, Gunnison County, Colorado

Less than a minute after this image was made, just seconds after I stored my gear back in the trunk, it started to pour.  I made the roughly 10-minute drive back to the motel, by which time it was raining moderately.  It stopped after another couple of hours, at which time I was able to fetch my things from the car without getting drenched.

It was an interesting prelude to my last partial day in the greater Kebler Pass area.  I’d photograph at Kebler the following morning, after which I’d make the drive back to the San Juans.  I would be based in the town of Ouray for the duration of the trip.

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