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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I took some pictures yesterday (October 26, 2013) as part of a Landscape Photography in Lower Monument Canyon group hike led by Donna Fullerton, and put on by the Colorado National Monument Association. We started at 4pm and the last time I checked, it was 9pm as I was in my vehicle and on my way home. It turned out to be an ideal evening for a hike; sunny and warm in the late afternoon, and not too chilly when the sun went down. I finally got a few fall pictures.
We were treated to a herd of desert bighorns—not just a couple, but more than a dozen. I had never seen that many at one time. Sighting the bighorns kept us in one spot for a long time; taking pictures and being really quiet. My camera didn’t do a good job of capturing them, but I did get proof I saw them! I took several long-distance shots when it was far too dark to get good pictures without a tripod. Shooting in RAW allows for changing the exposure in post-processing, but what I get is really noisy and not much use for anything but my own memories. I guess that has to be good enough. (My reasoning for not taking a tripod was because the information about the hike said it wasn’t necessary. Hereafter, a tripod will always be a necessary item on such an outing.)
When we got to Independence Monument, it was almost dark, and stars were beginning to appear in the sky. While we posted to Facebook or set up our cameras to take night shots, it got dark enough for something I’ve wanted to do for a long time; light painting.
This process requires a strong light shone on whatever you’re hoping to capture—in this case, Independence Monument. The light is shined on the rock just as you might paint it; shining it up and down and all around, touching every part. I got a lot of help from Donna who let me borrow her tripod and helped me figure out what to set exposure and f-stop on. Another hiker, Jeff (I think his name was), gave pointers about focusing on something your camera can’t see to focus on. The first picture below was taken with my camera on Donna’s tripod. The second photograph I took behind her setup with the camera laying on my jacket. The red light in the foreground is the busy light on Donna’s camera. Ideally, that wouldn’t have appeared in the picture, and I could have taken it out, but I like it there. The third shot isn’t of Independence Monument, it is of the night sky just before we headed back down the hill with our headlamps on. For this one, I laid the camera on the jacket, kept the settings that Jeff set for the rock, and opened the shutter for 30 seconds.
How cool are these?!
This hike was so much fun and I learned so much. I hope to be able to do this, or something similar, again. Classes are great and I learn a lot. But, what I gained from “doing” with experienced photographers can’t be beat. I enjoyed the company of eight people of varying levels of expertise—all generous with their knowledge, each with very individual “eyes” for composition, and a love of photography and nature. It was a great way to spend a Saturday evening.