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Eight-Hour Drive

Patrón and I took an eight-hour drive that took me through Glenwood, Carbondale, Redstone, over McClure Pass, Paonia, Hotchkiss, and Cedaredge.

Crystal River

Crystal River

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We drove over the Grand Mesa first on 65, then the Old Grand Mesa Road, and stopped at the small parking spot below the Crag Crest Trail so Patrón could stretch her legs. She and I enjoyed some time sitting at the lake and walking along the road.

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I took a few pictures of sunflowers that were obviously past their prime, but they were so pretty anyway. There’s some serious standing water in the low spots, too — presumably from all the recent rains.

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We then got back on 65 at the Visitor Center and soon took off onto the Land’s End Road. That first mile or so going down is kind of spooky. (I have no idea how they do that Lands End Road Rally [?] every year without someone seriously falling off the mountain.)

Looking South.

Looking South.

Looking West.

Looking West.

It was a really nice day, but Patrón wasn’t too thrilled with being tied down in the vehicle. I gave her enough lead to hang her head out the window (I’m not a completely horrible mother), but I need to find a better way to tie her down. She got herself completely tangled in her leash and the harness I bought just to keep her in place in the vehicle. I’d hate to buy a cage for her to travel in when part of the purpose is for her to have some “head-hanging” time. But she cannot wander the vehicle. I stopped several times for her to water and pee. She did neither, and she wouldn’t get back in of her own accord—I had to lift her into the seat. I also wanted to do a little exploring (like Redstone Castle), but couldn’t with her in tow. (Why can’t I lock the doors with the keys in the ignition?!! I have another set of keys!)

I won’t take her every time, but this was interesting and fun trying to figure out what to do with her. When she tried to wallow in a dead fish, I was not completely sold on this arrangement.

Outside of Paonia, I finally saw the coal mine(s) where my son used to work. While in Paonia, I visited the Orchard Valley Farms & Market and Black Bridge Winery and discovered a new, interesting addition to their vinegars—Ripe Peach White Balsamic Vinegar. Yummy! Not sure it’s new, but it is to me.

It was a pleasant day, for sure!

Beautiful Sunrise this Morning

I have to head to work in a minute, but I took the time to snap this picture. You can’t beat a Western Colorado Sunrise for color and inspiration.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise 031314

Sunrise 031314

The sun is migrating from the south side of The Grand Mesa to the north side. Today it seems to be about halfway on its journey. This morning the sky was pink and I snapped this picture just before the sun peeked above the top of the mountain. Spring’s on its way!

Sunset over Grand Mesa

This is why I love living in Western Colorado. This never looks the same.

Sunset over Grand Mesa

On the Right Track

I think that’s where I am.

Over the past few years between tutorials, practice, and a large library of photos, I have learned how to process them so they look pretty good. Not being a technically astute photographer, I rely heavily on post processing. For digital photography, some post processing is a given; most pictures need help with sharpening, as digital is not as sharp as film.

I also have issues with my photos not properly translating the beauty of my surroundings. They seem flat and colorless compared to what my eyes see and my mind remembers. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of picture-taking that I never give another thought. I have pictures of hikes with friends that I never posted anywhere—never even looked at again, because of the dullness of pictures that should have been stunning given my surroundings. With the practice I’ve gotten with software, I’m going back to my library of photos and adjusting them to bring out those bright colors, sharpen them, and give them the depth they were missing.

And, I am having a great time.

In March 2012, a friend and I walked (by and ON) the tracks near the Spanish Trail/Gunnison River Bluffs Trails. It was a gorgeous spring day; chilly, sunny, and warming as the day progressed. I had never been down those tracks before, so the view of my surroundings was much different. I saw things I’d hadn’t seen before; either for water or railroads. I have no idea what this thing is, but I thought it was so beautiful in lightness and darkness, against the blue sky, and rusted the way it is.

I Have No Idea . . . But Sure Like It!

I Have No Idea . . . But Sure Like It!

We were closer to the river than I ever got on my many treks on the Gunnison River Bluffs Trails, above. I love that beautiful “grass” in the foreground of this picture. The water was the clean, cool green of spring before runoff starts and muddies the rivers in the valleys of  Colorado.

Gunnison River, March 2012

Gunnison River, March 2012

I did see geese and ducks on the winter-clean river. Of course, I couldn’t get close enough to these geese to get a good picture, but it was really fun being as close as I was. On this hike, I decided to take my old camera which has no lens to get close-up shots.

Geese on the Gunnison, March 2012

Geese on the Gunnison, March 2012

Looking back along the tracks, I wanted to capture the perspective of tracks fading away in the distance. The backdrop is the Grand Mesa in its winter attire; blue and white and purple and majestic in the distance.

Perspective

Perspective

I was pretty nervous about the real possibility that a coal train was going to soon need that same span of track I was wandering. With my headphones in, but music MUCH lower than usual, and all other senses on alert, I kept a watchful eye for good places to exit the tracks if I needed to.

Heading west we approached an area where there’s little room for anything but tracks and trains. Luckily, just before we got there, a coal train finally appeared. At first I could sense the train approaching. I couldn’t hear it. Really, as big as they are, unless they’re very close, and blowing their horns, they’re pretty stealthy. A low rumble and a few metal-on-metal clanks are all the warning you might get wandering around down there. That was a surprise. I had to move off the tracks and, I hoped, well away from that train, but I was actually still pretty close and very concerned the train not jump the tracks.

This wasn’t a fear of the unknown. Several times in the 15 years I’ve lived in this house, a coal train has derailed at a turn in the tracks below me — where I can see it. So, I know it happens. And I know pieces and parts fly all over and it takes weeks to clean up.

Anyway, I was definitely in a spot where debris could land — if debris was going to fly about. Even so, I thought this was a great angle for a picture. After I took this picture, I scrambled to higher ground. I was apparently a little afraid. It wasn’t as easy to get down from my new perch as it was to get there.

Looking Up

Looking Up

After the train passed, we headed on west and eventually got to a more open area where I could take a picture of the track, starting to wind further down the canyon. I love this view.

Looking West

Looking West

We eventually got back to the trail above the river, where I was familiar with my surroundings. Hiking up that hill is where I saw evidence of spring; a cactus sporting new growth, basking in the sunshine of a south-facing hillside.

New Growth

New Growth

After a few years of dealing with some big changes in my life, I think I’m moving on. My health has been good, despite my best efforts to derail it. For the last six months, I enjoyed a big break from the angst and anxiety of me. School has allowed me to become mentally alert again in a way I hadn’t been for awhile—and it’s the reason I have some new and interesting friends. Like this cactus in the Spring of 2012, I am also showing new growth. And like this cactus, it’s been no easy thing to thrive in my environment, the way I’ve set it up. But, I think I’ve been on the right track, even if sometimes it feels more like I’ve gotten derailed. Things are looking up.

First Snow on Grand Mesa

I was asked to post this picture here. It’s a picture of  Grand Mesa under its first blanket of snow. To capture this, I used an iPhone 4s. Ordinarily the phone captures pretty good pictures, but when I use the (digital) zoom, things go south in a hurry. This photo is very noisy.

I tried to reduce the noise in Lightroom, but to do so completely, I get a painterly effect. While that effect is actually nice, it was not the picture I was asked to post.

This was one of our first touches of winter this year, and now the sun is rising on the other side of this mountain. Soon it will be cold here, and the Mesa will be blue and purple and white, much like what you see here.

First Snow

First Snow

 

Clouds Jump from Photograph, Don’t You Think?

I was looking around on my Skitch account today and found this. I know quite a few people have seen this, but certainly none of my Twitter friends. And, because this is a photo blog, and this was such a cool learning experience for me, I wanted to include it here.

I took this picture summer 2009. If you’re familiar with HDR, you know that three or more shots of different exposures are taken, then “melded” together to produce one photo. Usually I just do all this in Photoshop because my camera really hasn’t the capability. If I change exposure, then I wiggle the camera, no matter how careful I am.

While I understand it’s not HDR, it’s fun nevertheless. That, after all, is what this is all about. Does anyone know what “they” do call that?

In this shot though, I did change the exposure for each of three shots. One’s underexposed, another is exposed properly, and the third is overexposed.

I used Photomatix Pro to put them together, and probably tweaked it just a little in Photoshop afterward.

The interesting thing about this photo is the clouds. They almost jump off the page. I learned something from this shot that I didn’t understand before.

Previous to this photograph, I had been looking through the photographs at stuckincustoms.com. Trey Ratcliff travels the world with his camera and takes the most incredible HDR photographs. However, I noticed some of his picture seemed just a little surreal, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s not a “judgement” either. I love his work. I remember one in particular in which he photographed sailboats. The masts looked like they were slightly raised a off the photograph. It was something I didn’t understand about his photographs. I assumed it was part of the process, but I didn’t know what part.

When I took and processed this picture, I realized what it was; movement. From one exposure to the next, the masts must have moved just a little as the boats moved with the water. The software doesn’t perfectly match the elements of the picture, so that effect is the result. At least that’s my best guess. Although the clouds didn’t move a lot, in my picture, they moved enough in my relatively long, manual-exposure-change time, to achieve that effect. I’m sure I also moved the camera while changing the exposure.

Anyway, I think THAT’s why those clouds jump off the page. They moved just a little each time I had to change exposure, and they were too different to match well in Photomatix.

Not only did I like the effect I got, I had a lot of fun playing with this photograph.

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