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Summer’s End

Dying sunflower seed bed.

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Almost Summer

Look what I found in the driveway yesterday! Not one—TWO—pink blooms. I never see the buds, so when they show up like this, it’s such a wonderful surprise! I went out again, later in the day, to take pictures in longer, softer light and they had closed up.

There’s a bug enjoying the bottom bloom, too.

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A New Adventure

I begin a new adventure on Monday when I report for work at a new job. I was awarded a part-time internship at a local accounting firm. This is what I have trained for and will finally have the opportunity to use that training. The dichotomy of the job search is that if you don’t have experience, you can’t get a job. If you can’t get a job, then you can’t get the experience. So, I’m excited (and a little nervous) to start and to learn. I know I will learn a lot.

I didn’t do it alone, either. There were so many people pulling for me, helping me, and teaching me. I owe so much to the people in my life—not just for this instance—but for all they’ve been and done in my life that brought me to this place.

Today, between other tasks, I took my camera out and put in the last lens I bought a year ago or so. It’s different. It’s a fixed lens and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I think it will take nice closeups, like the images below. Today I took pictures of cactus blooms, a pine cone, and a huge, open dandelion seed pod. (Is that what it’s called?)

Pine Cone on Ground

Make a Big Wish

Cactus Bloom

Claret Cup Cactus Bloom

I think they turned out really well and I can’t wait to take more.

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!

Goosed and Tweaked

Here’s a picture I took of a goose in Summer 2012 while on a bike ride. I love capturing wildlife, but not a lot of it will sit still long enough for me to get a good shot. At least these swam close by and didn’t move too quickly to get a good capture.

Goose

Goose

I used Lightroom 5 and Topaz filters on this to get the effect I finally liked a lot. I will, from this time forward, do a better job of documenting just how I got an effect. I am sure this was a mix of one of Trey Ratcliff’s Lightroom Presets and Topaz Labs’ Simplify, both of which I tweaked a little.

I have the most fun playing with photographs in various software to create something that pleases my senses.

Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to great things in 2014 and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

I hope your new year is as good as I expect mine to be!

Happy New Year! 2014

Happy New Year! 2014

I Love My View

It would be nice if I had a better lens for such shots, but this turned out pretty nice. I love my view. This is sunrise in the summer. I want it to be summer again, soon. I am tired of the cold already. Aren’t these clouds pretty?

Clouds

Clouds

I’m done with school for the semester and I think I did well. I’m glad to be done for a few weeks. I worked hard, learned much, and enjoyed myself immensely. I’ve had so much fun learning and I met several women that I hope will continue to be part of my life for a long time to come. They have made such a positive impact on my life. They’re smart, full of life, and they inspire me to be better.

I’m looking forward to the next semester and what lies ahead.

First Snow

Since going on that Monument hike, I’ve wanted more opportunities to play with what I learned about night photography. Last night, the opportunity finally presented itself when I wasn’t busy with something else.

Here’s one of the first pictures I took. There’s lots of light in the neighborhood but I still needed to leave that shutter open for a while. Most of my shots were from three to six minutes. Three minutes was the least amount of time I needed to produce something usable; six worked best.

Snowy Night, November 22, 2013

Snowy Night, November 22, 2013

I love how the lights turn into stars. I also enjoyed how light played on the snow and fence below. It’s also cool how soft light shines out of the house on the far right. Except for the light on the snow by the fence, the rest I didn’t see until I brought the picture into Lightroom.

Snowy Night, November 22, 2013

Snowy Night, November 22, 2013

When I crawled out at 4am, it was still snowing. There were fewer lights then, but it was already brighter than the night before. In this picture, a streak of light running up the road, is barely visible. It extends from the white garage on the left to just past the house on the right with the star light—and it cuts through the car in the driveway. During the time the shutter was open, a snow plow drove up the road and through the shot. In this long exposure, the light on the vehicle was captured as it went past, but the snow plow doesn’t show up. What fun is that?!

Still Morning, November 23, 2013

Still Morning, November 23, 2013

At about 5am, I grabbed the camera and wandered out in UGG boots and bathrobe to take a picture of the road in front that winds up the hill. Again, the lights look like stars on sticks and I love that look. It’s clear from the ruts in the snow, traffic wasn’t much slowed last night by the weather and the paper hadn’t yet arrived this morning. It also became clear that I need to get something to protect my lenses while I’m standing in active weather.

Still Morning, November 23, 2013

Still Morning, November 23, 2013

This was fun. I enjoyed the opportunity for a creative way to end yesterday and begin today. I’m not fond of being cold, but I do love changing seasons and weather. I especially love waking up to the first big snow of the season.

This is a such beautiful place to call home.

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.

Looking Up

I’m rarely able to capture the full beauty of the cloud works I see regularly in Grand Junction. On this day, as I was leaving class at Western Colorado Community College, I looked up and saw this composition. Shot with iPhone 4s using Camera+ from TapTapTap and refined in Lightroom5.

Colorado Skies

Colorado Skies

Already Looking Toward Spring

I took this picture years ago. Last night, while looking through photographs in Adobe LightRoom, I found it and played with the colors. It made the already vivid rainbow even more bright. I love my view. I just wish I had a wide-angle lens to capture more of the many double-rainbows I see here.

Vivid Rainbow, April 2009

Vivid Rainbow, April 2009

Looking at this again today, it made me long for the warmth of spring and summer again, although I do love autumn. It’s not quite cold yet. I still haven’t turned on heat in the house and I’m not uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the weather that pushes through here in the wintertime, which is equally awesome. It’s just a different awesome and a colder awesome. But it’s all awesome!

Fall, Bighorns, and Light Painting

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.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

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.)

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

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.

Light painting. Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Light painting. Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Light painting. Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Light painting. Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

Lower Monument Canyon Trail, October 26, 2013.

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.

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