Archive for the ‘fall colors’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Drought Blues   2 comments

Hello everyone and Happy Friday!!  I’m in the midst of a significant shooting drought.  A number of things all combined are preventing me from shooting, but most of it is down to a simple lack of desire to shoot the subjects around me.  I am currently working full-time and in an area not typically known for its nature photography.  But don’t get me wrong.  I’m not offering any excuses whatsoever, and freely admit that I’m not taking advantage of the time and opportunities that I’m getting.

I believe very strongly that it is never a good thing to force yourself into something if you’re not “feeling it”.  I figure it this way:  if you are going out to shoot things that don’t particularly interest you, in light that does not get your photographer pulse going, then the results are most likely going to be bland.  And why do bland photography?  It makes little sense to me.

Now I realize that you may worry that your skills are going to erode while waiting for the subjects to appear and the motivation to return.  If you are still a novice and very much learning, this may be a valid concern.  But for the most part it is a non-issue.  You’ll get it back soon after you start shooting again.  Besides, you can always read books on photography, whether instructional or illustrating the works of other photographers.  You can also keep your observational senses sharp by remembering to be a keen observer – of things, people & animals, and of light, whether you have a camera or not.

So I’m going to post a couple images I stumbled upon that I didn’t process until now.  They’re from a few years ago, in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Colorado.  What a view the builders of this cabin had!  Have a wonderful weekend and happy shooting!

Friday Foto Talk: Subjective vs. Objective, Part II   6 comments

Scenic ranch country, SW Colorado.

Scenic ranch country, SW Colorado.

This is the second of two parts on how to approach your photo subjects.  Check out Part I for an introduction to this fairly subtle but important topic.  Thinking about how you tell the story of your subjects is a key step in any serious photographer’s journey.  The reason why I’m not calling this “literal” vs. “abstract” or “interpretive” is that it’s a much more subtle distinction than that.  Now let’s look at a few specific examples.

Example 1:  Fall in Colorado

Last autumn I traveled through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which is my current favorite for fall colors.  The image at top is an objective take.  It’s a level-on, standard composition.  It’s shot in good but not unusually awesome light.  I zoomed in to exclude more of the same.  I’m just trying to show the mountains and trees being their spectacular selves.

In the shot below, I zoomed in again, focusing on the contrast between the golden aspen and green spruce trees, all set off against new-fallen snow.  It’s somewhere between objective and subjective.  The light is flat and there is mist in the air, perfect for showing colors and textures.  The composition excludes all but the trees, giving it even more objectivity.

Fall color and the season's first snowfall: San Juan Mtns., Colorado.

Fall color and the season’s first snowfall: San Juan Mtns., Colorado.

 

However, the photo is partly subjective because of its focus on the snow.  It shows the transition from fall to winter.  I feel pretty strongly that transitions are the most interesting photo subjects.  So this overlap of seasons, common to mountains, naturally attracted me.  That’s a subjective viewpoint and one that plenty of people share.  I timed my trip in part to see this transition.  I also knew that most other photographers, who time their visits for the peak of fall color, had come and gone.

Towards the end of autumn, I was in the far west of the state poking around the Colorado River.  I found an off-trail route to some bluffs overlooking the river, with beautiful cottonwoods lining the banks.  Being late fall, clear cold nights caused dense fog to form each morning along the river.  The fog combined with the viewpoint shooting downward gave me the chance to abstract the form of the trees, which being cottonwoods were still in full leaf.  I think in our enthusiasm for fall color we often lose sight of the beautiful forms, which is one reason why I like going post-peak when leaves begin to fall, revealing the ‘bones’ of the trees.

Cottonwoods form silhouettes in the fog.

Cottonwoods form silhouettes in dense fog along the Colorado River near Fruita, CO.

 

Now for two examples from a recent stay in one of my favorite places in the world, Death Valley National Park in the California desert:

Example 2: Wildflower Bloom

Winter rains from the current El Nino have led to a great bloom of wildflowers in Death Valley this year.  Some are calling it a “super-bloom”.  I’m not too sure about that.  We’re already calling nearly every full moon a “super-moon”.  But you can’t deny that the flower display is unusual this year and certainly worth photographing.

One subjective take on it is fairly obvious.  Death Valley is well named.  It’s an arid and hot place with sparse life adapted to the harsh waterless conditions.  When colorful flowers burst forth literally overnight from the dusty-dry desert floor (and later die off, just as suddenly, after going to seed), it’s hard to avoid thinking about themes of renewal, impermanence, and the yin-yang of life and death.

A simple bloom breaks through the desert floor of Death Valley, California.

A simple bloom breaks through the desert floor of Death Valley, California.

The image above highlights this subjective view of the bloom.  A fairly narrow aperture helped, but increasing the camera-subject distance relative to the subject-background distance did even more to give the cracked desert floor a prominent role in the image.  Otherwise with the macro lens it would’ve been too blurred.

I also did a few objective close-ups, with defocused and indistinct background (image below).  This was to highlight the flowers for their objective qualities.  After all they’re vibrant and colorful no matter where they happen to bloom.

Desert Gold, Death Valley, CA

Desert Gold, Death Valley, CA.  Canon 100 mm. macro lens, 1/250 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

 

Example 3: Pupfish Pools

I’ve been to Death Valley National Park a bunch of times but have never really focused on pupfish and their habitats.  Pupfish are small, active little fish that resemble guppies.  They are evolutionary left-overs from Ice Age times when enormous lakes filled the valleys here.  The one that occupied Death Valley is called Lake Manley.  Through the millennia, as Lake Manley slowly dried up, the few surviving fish split into separate species that now live in spring-fed perennial pools and small streams scattered around the region.

The species of pupfish here are all endemic.  Endemic means they live nowhere else, and because of that they’re quite rare and protected by U.S. law.  Pupfish are also quite the cute little guys!  They’re named for their playful antics.  But if you look closely you can see the scars.  What looks like play is actually aggressive territorial behavior.  Their small size and active movements make pupfish difficult to photograph, at least without getting into the water with them (which is illegal of course).

Pupfish habitat: Ash Meadows, Nevada.

Pupfish habitat: Ash Meadows, Nevada.

I can’t think of the wetlands where pupfish live without imagining what things were like when Lake Manley existed.  It was filled with fish and other life which attracted huge flocks of birds and other animals (including humans, scattered bands of hunter-gatherers living along the lakeshore).  Today’s pupfish pools can in a way be thought of as windows into that distant time.

These ideas have a way of influencing photography in a subjective and often unconscious way.  In the image above (which also appears in a previous post), I drew close to the deep blue pool, shooting to capture the steam rising over the warm water on a frosty morning.  I furthered the slightly mysterious nature of the image with editing on the computer.

The largest spring-fed pool in Death Valley: Saratoga Springs.

In the next image (above), I got close to the ubiquitous reeds lining the wetlands and set them in stark contrast with the deep blue water.  I consider this one partly subjective because it almost looks as if it’s not really a desert environment, like it could be part of ancient Lake Manley.  That was really luck.  During that trip early spring storms moved through the area, filling the springs and decorating the high Panamint Range with snow.

Reeds at Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park, California.

Reeds at Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park, California.

When I shot the image above I was observing the pupfish.  I decided to get subjective in an abstract way and used camera movement to impart the feel of being there.  I was surrounded by reeds taller than I am, waving in the breeze.

I wasn’t purely interpretive though.  I captured a few documentary (objective) shots of the springs as well as the fish themselves (mostly getting frustrated by the little scamps!).  For the last photo at bottom, I climbed up a nearby hill at sunrise and used a wider angle in order to show the springs in their desert surroundings.

Pupfish showing off his iridescent blue flank.

Pupfish showing off his iridescent blue flank.

 

Let me know what you think.  How important is this to you?  Do you mostly have an objective or subjective approach to photography?  Or something in between?  Have a fantastic weekend and happy shooting!

Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park.

Myths of Photography: Use a Wide Angle Lens for Landscapes   11 comments

Book Cliffs, Colorado.  A landscape image at 310 mm.

Book Cliffs, Colorado. A landscape image shot just this morning at an unconventional focal length of 310 mm.

I’m starting an occasional series on common photography myths and misconceptions.  This one is pretty widespread.  It goes something like this:  “If you want to shoot landscapes, you need to do it with a wide angle lens.”  That’s often extended to “and the wider the better”.  It’s mostly assumed and not stated outright.  But it’s yet another case where good advice is stretched well beyond the original scope and meaning.

When I posted the series Learning Photography, in the part about lenses I recommended that if you’re serious about landscape photography, you really need to get a wide-angle lens.  Does that mean all good landscape photos are done with a wide-angle?  Certainly not!

I know (very good) photographers who shoot almost nothing but wide-angle landscapes, some loving the ultra-wide.  This is what they like, so I’m not knocking them at all!  But even though many of these pictures are amazing, there’s a risk of getting stuck in a rut, with images that begin to all look the same.  Little or no variety means eventual boredom, on the part of the photographer if not their viewers and fans.

Columbia River Basalt, Washington scablands.  Wide but not too wide at  28 mm.

Columbia River Basalt, Washington scablands. Wide but not too wide at 28 mm.

The fact is that landscape photos are simply images of the land (I’m including seascapes).  That’s it.  The only other limitations are what you put there.  And if you accept limits as an artist you’re shortchanging yourself.  I shoot landscapes at every focal length I have.  I’ve even done landscapes with my 600 mm. wildlife lens.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t feel good going out to shoot landscapes without a wide-angle lens, one shorter than 35 mm. in focal length.  A sharp zoom lens that covers about 16 mm. to at least 24 mm. is just about perfect for many landscapes.  I love that close, detailed foreground and the sense of depth you can achieve.

Panther Creek Falls, Washington.  Going wide because I was so close to the falls.

Panther Creek Falls, Washington. Going wide at 16 mm. because I was so close to the falls.

Note I am talking about 35 mm. equivalent focal lengths.  If you have a full-frame DSLR, 24 mm. is 24 mm.  If you have a crop-frame with a 1.6 factor, multiply your focal length by 1.6 to get the full-frame equivalent.  In that case a wide-angle zoom of about 11 mm. to 16 mm. would be good for wide landscape shooting.

But if you capture pretty much every landscape with a wide-angle lens, too many photos will include a lot of uninteresting stuff around the periphery of the most interesting part of the composition.  It’s a case of seeing that good photo within the larger average photo.

Many times I’ll start out with a wide-angle but then, bored with the foreground, I’ll switch to a longer lens in order to focus in on an interesting part of the scene.  Tip:  If you’re shooting wide, keep an eye on the light and be ready to quickly switch lenses or zoom in to catch smaller areas when the light falls just right.

For so-called intimate landscapes like the last two images in this post, everything is fairly close to you and elements tend to be evenly weighted in the frame.  Because of this you have to be even more careful about going too wide.  Depending on how close you are, a medium focal length (35-50 mm.) is often best in these cases.

Fall colors in rural Oregon, captured at 200 mm.

Fall colors in rural Oregon, captured at 200 mm.

The fall colors above were captured at a long focal length (200 mm.) mostly because I didn’t want to trespass.  But if I’d bothered to get permission, I would have gotten close and gone wide, to add some depth.  But I like how it turned out.  The river image below was shot at 24 mm.  But I cropped it on the computer, just a little.  I would have used 35 mm. if I had that available at the time.

So there you go!  I hope the accompanying images have convinced you how misguided it is to go out shooting landscapes with the mindset that there’s a ‘proper’ lens and focal length to use.  Happy weekend and happy shooting!

A mossy spring on the Hood River, Oregon.  24 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

A mossy spring on the Hood River, Oregon. 24 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50.

Wordless Wednesday: Fall is Here!   6 comments

Wordless Wednesday: A Pond in Autumn   5 comments

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Friday Foto Talk – Taking a Break: Is it Worth it?   20 comments

Quaking aspen in peak color not far from Telluride, Colorado.

Quaking aspen in peak color not far from Telluride, Colorado.

Earlier this year I took a break from serious photography for a few months.  Finally in late July I purchased a new DSLR and began shooting seriously again.  Although my break was essentially forced on me by the loss of a camera, I now see the benefits (and cautions) of purposefully taking a break from shooting.  Here are a few things I learned.

Why take a Break?

  • Burnout:  If you are shooting a bunch for a long time you will  undoubtedly become better with all that practice.  But you may also reach a point of diminishing returns.  It’s possible, even for the most enthusiastic photographer, to get tired of it.  And as soon as you begin to lose even a little motivation, you are not doing as good a job.  You stay in your comfort zone.  You don’t work quite as hard for that image.  If you find yourself not searching as much for unique compositions; if you’re shooting the same subjects in the same sort of light, if you aren’t working the subject like you used to, you could be burned out.  And it could be solved simply by taking a break.
  • New Creative Outlet:  Although you can certainly continue to shoot while trying your hand at painting or writing, for example, it may be best depending on your personality and time demands to focus your attention and efforts solely on the new undertaking, without the distraction of shooting.
  • New Subject or Genre:  If you want to transition from one type of photography to something completely different, you’ll need to learn some things.  Of course you will need to shoot to learn, but before you do this it may be advantageous to take a break from all shooting.  Then you can read about and view images of the new genre.  Also, you’re going to define a different style, or at least a variation on your shooting style.  This takes some time and some thinking.  It may help, before you jump right into the new genre, to pause and view it from an outsider’s perspective.  While doing this you can do some serious thinking about how you want to approach the new thing.
  • Renew your Passion:  This reason is relevant to all of the above points.  For example, if you will be changing photography genres, taking a break will help you really get into it when you return to shooting.  This goes double if you are borderline burnt out.  In fact, it may be because you are burnt out that you consider a new type of photography or a new creative outlet in the first place.  I’ve found that photography is no different than anything else.  In order to do well you need to really go for it.  You need to be passionate.
Sunset approaches at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

Sunset approaches at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

Driving up into the mountains of SW Colorado in autumn, and Chimney Rock looms ahead.

Things to Do While on Hiatus

  • Think:  One thing I’d recommend while on hiatus from photography is to think about how you’re going about it.  Are you developing a style you are comfortable with or merely chasing popularity on Facebook?  Think about the way you’re shooting, the types of subjects you’re naturally attracted to vs. the ones that elicit the “wows”.  Envision the way you’ll go about photography when you return to it.
  • Read:  This is also a great time to do some reading on photography.  While there’s nothing wrong with reading up on technique and how-to, this is the best time to read about the history of photography and some of the great early photographers.  Anything that gets your mind working as you reevaluate your approach and style is a great use of your time.  And while shooting, especially if you are shooting every day, it’s harder to find the time for this.
  • Look at Images of other photographers:  I’m not really talking so much about the internet here.  It’s more related to the above point.  As you read, for example, about Edward Weston or Dorothea Lange, you will naturally be viewing their work too.  Of course you can do this while shooting too, but during a pause the effect on you might be different, more conducive to objective analysis of your approach.
  • Try something else creative:  Even if this is not your reason for taking a pause, it’s a great way to recharge your batteries and broaden your outlook on the arts.  Even something as simple as model railroading or origami can pay unexpected and unpredictable  dividends when you return to shooting.
  • Get your Portfolio squared away:  There are plenty of ways to improve your portfolio of images, from re-editing a few of your older pictures to a wholesale reshuffling of the images displayed in your online galleries.  Is it time to design or redesign a website?  All of this is more easily done when there are no new images coming in.  This subject is worth its own post.  But a break in shooting is the perfect time to go through your existing portfolio and improve it.
  • Get your Images in front of more eyes:  After going through your portfolio, the logical next step is to look at ways to promote it.  Whether you want to start selling some images, want to get some of them critiqued, or simply want to connect with new people via your images, you now have time to focus on getting your images circulated.  Now is also a great time to print some of those you’ve been wanting to print, to look into art shows, farmer’s markets and even galleries.
  • Catch up on the Blogging World:  You knew this was coming!  Now you might be also taking a break from the internet.  While that’s worth considering too, there’s no reason it has to be the same time as a photography break.  This is a great time to expand (in moderation – see below) your reading and image-viewing online.  Find new bloggers and connect more with those you already know.  If you don’t blog, why not start one now?

 

A blustery-cold snow-squall moves in and the fall colors just soften.

A waterfall near Creede, Colo.

A waterfall near Creede, Colo.

 

 

Cautions and Caveats

  • Getting rusty:  It’s very likely that your photography skills will, depending on how long your break is, suffer a decline.  But this “rustiness” is only temporary.  It’s certainly not a reason, in my opinion, to forego a photography hiatus.  Just be aware of it when you return to shooting.  Don’t beat yourself up if you screw up some shots that you would’ve nailed before.  You’ll get it back.
  • Equipment envy:  It’s amazing to realize how quickly new camera gear comes out these days.  Especially if you decide on a months-long break, there will be new “breakthrough” cameras and other toys to tempt you.  Friends you shot with before may have fancy new equipment when you get back together with them.  My recommendation is to ignore it.  Invest in new gear only if you feel you’re at a point to make it really pay (whether in real money or in significant advantages in your ability to make the images you want).  Returning from hiatus you’re unlikely to be at a point where new equipment will pay off.  Shoot for awhile first.
  • Image envy:  It’s probably inevitable that a pause in shooting will enable you to view a lot more online imagery than you previously had time for.  Depending on where you are as a photographer, you’ll need to rein in this inclination to a greater or lesser degree.  It’s a good idea to search for new and different photographers while on pause, but moderation is the key.  Don’t fall into the trap that others are racing ahead of you, or that you’re missing out on a great time of year to shoot (they’re all great!).
  • Shooting Casually:  I did this but I’m not sure how productive it was.  I had a little point and shoot and occasionally shot with that during my break.  It was pretty casual but I found myself trying to make the camera do some pretty heavy lifting.  While I did get some nice images this way, it sorta defeated the purpose of taking a break.  If you’re sure you can do snapshots only and not get too serious, I say go for it.  But realize it’s a little like taking a drink or smoking just one cigarette.  Realize also that when you return to shooting you’ll need to get completely out of snapshot mode and back into serious shooting.  That’s not always easy.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison just before dark, Colorado.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison just before dark, Colorado.

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Getting Back into It

 I recommend not rushing it.  Make sure you’re ready to get back to shooting.  It’s okay to miss photography; just don’t use that as an excuse to end your hiatus too soon.  When it’s time, you’ll be chomping at the bit but also ready in a patient and measured way.  As mentioned, expect some rustiness for awhile.  Keep your expectations modest and don’t stress missed shots.  Just work at the basics and, as always, let your own unique vision guide you.  Have fun!

I have the distinct feeling there is more to this than what I’ve written here.  So if you have anything to add, please don’t be shy about commenting.  Have you taken a break from photography before?  Was it forced on you or voluntary?  You may have an argument for or against going on hiatus.  Or perhaps you’ve an additional caution or caveat to relate.  I will definitely consider it again in the future, despite the drawbacks.

Storm clouds gather and the quaking aspen aren't bothered at all: San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Storm clouds gather and the quaking aspen aren’t bothered at all: San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

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Evening comes on after a glorious sunset at Dallas Divide, Colorado.

Single-image Sunday: Autumn in the Rockies   17 comments

It’s funny how the shortening days have played havoc with my good intentions to do a Friday Foto Talk this week.  But by next Friday it will be different, promise.  This is the area I’ve been hanging around lately.  Because it’s so darn beautiful!  It is an arm of the San Juan Mtns., themselves a part of the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado.  Telluride is just the other side of those mountains.

 I was hoping the aspens would still be going here but I didn’t have very high hopes.  What a great surprise: they were in their spectacular peak!  I’m not one to be on the hotline as far as these things go; I’m sure there’s an app for it.  I’d rather be surprised.  And I don’t want to avoid going to a place I know is lovely, fall colors or not, based only on some narrow-focused recommendation off the internet.

This was captured atop a ridge when the sun finally cleared the storm clouds lingering over the higher part of this range, which is out of view to the left.  I climbed atop this rock and used it and the nice pinyon pine as foreground.  I think this image has everything the Rockies are: rugged mountains, golden aspens, pinyon pines and lichen-encrusted metamorphic rock.

I’ve been exploring this area more completely than I have in the past.  In fact, I’m right now burning daylight!  Since this is my last full day here, I am going to finish this post, stop watching football, and drink the beer I ordered faster than I want to.  Hello golden hour!  Have a great week everyone.

 

A beautiful morning and fall colors go together well in the mountains of SW Colorado.

A beautiful morning and fall colors go together well in the mountains of SW Colorado.

Merry Christmas!!   10 comments

It’s Christmas Eve and I’d like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas:  excitement and good cheer early in the day; that magical peace mixed with anticipation that seems to descend late on the night before Christmas;  fun times with family and friends on Christmas day!  Enjoy this picture from my current wanderings.  I may have included it in a previous post, but it’s the most “Christmasy” of my recent images.

Snow-dusted aspens & spruce of the Colorado Rockies.  Click on image for more info.

Snow-dusted aspens & spruce of the Colorado Rockies. Click on image for more info.

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Drive   7 comments

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San Juan Mountains, Colorado   Leave a comment

The Rocky Mountains in southwest Colorado are mantled in the year’s first snowfall.

As I entered this beautiful mountainous region of the American Rockies, I had to go pretty far back to recall the last time I had been this way.  I hitchhiked through here in 1987.  Believe it or not this road trip I’m currently on started off as a shortish foray into the Canadian Rockies.  Because of factors out of my control, it’s become entirely a domestic trip – a quest to visit corners of the West in which I’ve either not been in a long time, or have missed entirely up to now.

Three aspen trees keep their leaves longer than the rest of this stand in the mountains of southwest Colorado.

 

The San Juan Mountains had just seen their first snowfall of autumn a few days previously.  To my disappointment, if not my surprise, I was a bit too late for the golden glory of the quaking aspen.  Still, the valley floors were showing plenty of color in the form of cottonwoods and late aspens.  It’s a reason to return to this area sometime in late September.

Dawn finds the camper at the base of Mount Sneffels in southwest Colorado.

In the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness of SW Colorado, the terrain is rugged and unforgiving.

On the way over Colorado Hwy. 62, cutting west over the beautiful Dallas Divide, darkness made me turn up gravel West Dallas Road.  I camped where I thought dawn might reveal a pretty view of the San Juans.  Later I learned I had camped on the sprawling ranch lands owned by Ralph Lauren, the clothing magnate.  No harm no foul.  After sunrise, I parked just up into the National Forest and took off hiking.

I know this mood, the attitude that has gotten me into more than one pickle.  I was not into following a trail.  There were hunters in the area, and I met one while following the trace of an old road.  The guy, who was from Minnesota, must have been 70.  He was alone, and I chatted with him for awhile.  I love elderly gentlemen like him.  I hope I have the same quiet confidence, the same even temper and kind manner when (if?) I am that old.  I passed a trail and soon was following animal trails.

 

I think it was because I wanted to see the elusive prey that the hunters were tracking.  Most hunters, I’ve found, spend way too much time in their vehicles, wasting gas driving up and down forest roads.  Are they hoping a bull elk hops into the back of their pickups and says “take me”?  The old guy was a marked exception.  At any rate, I played the hunter, cradling my weapon (Canon 100-400 mm zoom lens).  I moved quietly through the woods, up and up.

I topped out just above treeline, having followed a set of bear tracks through the snow.  What a gorgeous view, even if it was a bit too early for golden light.  I was short on oxygen, as I realized (belatedly as usual) that I had precious little daylight to find my way back, with no trail in an unfamiliar patch of mountains.  I had a lighter, but no warm clothes.  It was already dipping toward the subfreezing night as the sun appeared to speed towards the western horizon.

I ran down the critter trails and as dusk descended wound up in a huge area of fallen logs, strewn like giant matchsticks across the forest floor.  I had to use all the skills I originally learned doing fieldwork  in SE Alaska, walking 3 or 4 feet above the forest floor as much as I walked upon it.  I finally saw my quarry in the failing light.  The big white rumps and heavy-footed crashing of elk being flushed from a marshy, grassy hollow caused me to pause, but just for a moment.  I also walked right up on a porcupine, who climbed a small tree and looked at me with an indifferent expression.

I reached the old road just as dusk made walking difficult.  Darkness fell completely as I finally saw the van.  I wonder how it is that so often in these circumstances, I have arrived back at the vehicle right at dark.  Of course there have been the occasional miscalculations, but given my penchant for pushing things too far, I can’t think of any other explanation for my good fortune other than dumb luck.

That night I got little sleep, as I battled a trio of mice who had moved into my van while I was hiking.  After listening too long to their munching away on my oatmeal, I set a makeshift trap and, one by one, gave them the boot.

Aspen leaves float in a Rocky Mountain stream after their brief and colorful glory.

I went on to Telluride, which lies on the other side of the mountains from where I had been hiking.  It is quite a charming town, I think much prettier than Crested Butte.  The canyon that extends steeply into the mountains from Telluride is somewhat marred by the remains of an underground mine.  They are supposedly reclaiming the area, but in my opinion there is way too much detritus lying about.  Why wouldn’t they start by cleaning up some garbage?  And this from someone who is generally friendly towards mining.  The waterfall, called Bridal Veil, is tucked into a corner where the sun does not shine often.  It’s an icy spectacle as a result (see image below).

Just outside Telluride, Colorado lies a steep canyon and icy Bridal Veil Falls.

I really enjoyed shooting that late afternoon.  Although there were no clouds, the light through the bare trunks of aspen, and reflected off the San Miguel River was just fine for this photographer.  I traveled south on Hwy. 145, which is the western half of a very scenic loop (the eastern half travels through Ouray and Silverton).  I took a gravel detour, which loops north from the paved road and allows easy access to the Lizard Head Wilderness.

In the first snowfall of winter in the Colorado Rockies, bear tracks mark the animal trail.

 

After sleeping along this route at about 10,000 feet (Brrrr!), I hiked up to Navajo Lake, this time on a real trail.  This is a classic alpine mountain basin that just says you’re high in the Colorado Rockies (image below).  The lyrics of John Denver, bless his soul, were ringing in my head.  The light was really too harsh for good photos, but I had a fine time.  Later, towards sunset, I took Charl along on a short hike to Dunton Hot Springs.  The late light through the mostly-bare aspens was pretty.  I had not had a shower in a week, so the mineral-rich pool, sitting in a draw among beautiful Colorado blue spruce, was a sweet reward.  For my little buddy, it was a tough hike.

The high San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

The entire area around the town of Dolores and north is very beautiful.  There are excellent mountain-biking trails that cut through the forest that borders McPhee Reservoir.  The whole area is a parkland, with pines and abundant open meadows, creeks and wetlands.  It was empty of people when I was there.  As you head south to Cortez, the land dries and opens up.  Next stop, the cliff dwellings of the ancient ones, the ancestral Puebloans (aka Anasazi).

Quaking aspens after the fall of their golden leaves, in the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado.

 

Alpenglow illuminates the San Juan Mountains and San Miguel River near the town of Telluride, Colorado.

 

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