Late Spring Update

There have been several rally events this Spring with the Land Rovers where Ronda worked. The first one was an event sponsored for the clients and the second was for the employees. Both events centered around a 4WD trail named the China Wall over in the Tarryall Mountains. I volunteered to be the event photographer and had a good time burning up a bunch of film as the Land Rovers churned through the mud and up and down the rocks. The trail ends at the Tarryall river which is a terrific picnic spot and that is where we stopped for lunch.

I got a lot of exercise out of this deal as I was constantly hopping in and out of the vehicle and running back and forth snapping photos. I dedicated a page on the site to document the first event. You can look at the pictures (takes a little while to load) by going here. It was a lot of fun and Ronda got to drive one of the LR3s to find out first hand how well it handles the rough terrain.

Between the two events I spent an awful lot of money on film and developing which caused me to relook at the whole “digital” photography thing. I won’t bore you with all the detailed rationale but I ultimately decided to make the switch. I stayed with Canon so I could maintain my investment in lenses. I have not really had much opportunity to use the new gear yet so I’ll save that for another article.

School is out for the summer. Finished up my two classes last week. Now all that remains is my final project which I will do this fall and graduate in December. Speaking of school, Josh had been accepted to Colorado State University in Pueblo and he will be pursuing an engineering degree. He decided to jump right in and start taking classes this summer so he will be a full-time student now (classes started this week).

Kristina’s lease runs out on her apartment at the end of May and she is going to move back home for awhile while she figures out what’s next in her life.

Hoping to get out of town over Memorial Day weekend and get in some camping. Have not decided where to go just yet.

National Geographic Photo Seminar

Snowshoeing!I recently had the opportunity to join National Geographic Traveler photographer Jim Richardson and the magazine’s senior photo editor Dan Westergren for a one-day seminar on how to make successful travel photos. The fundamental idea was to expand your awareness and skills beyond simply producing “pretty pictures,” and discover how to capture the spirit of a place by using a cultural documentary approach to your travel photography.

It was an extraordinary event and I came away from the seminar armed with a greater knowledge of how to engage myself in the photography process and not simply be a participant in a “drive-by shooting.” I gained an greater understanding of how to more effectively utilize the gear I own and identified several “holes” in my inventory. Jim Richardson used a series of photographs to explain the concepts he was presenting. This learning approach was very effective and I gained not only knowledge in the process but was inspired by the photography itself to ‘get out there” and take more pictures than I have in the past.

I can see where I will eventually have to make the plunge to digital but for now I am happy with the gear I have. Well, almost. I learned from the seminar that a wide angle lens can create some very dramatic effects. And since I almost never use my telephoto lens I decided to sell it and get a wide angle lens. I got the lens sold with no trouble at all but the wide angle lens I want is on backorder so am having to wait for it.

Ronda and I made weekend getaway up to Idaho Springs and stayed at a resort that has natural hot springs. On Saturday morning we headed off to give my snowshoes their maiden voyage. The winds had been pretty nasty the previous day and were not much improved in the morning. It took a while to convince myself that I really wanted to do this…but eventually we geared up and headed into the blowing snow. The first half mile or so was pretty miserable but then we got into the forest and it improved considerably. We were not the first ones up the trail so we had a path to follow which helped some. It was really fun stomping over drifts that ranged from two to six foot high.

The trail goes to Chinn’s Lake which is about four miles. At approximately the halfway point it intersects the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which is where these pictures were taken. We had to turn around there and head back or we would have missed our reservation at the resort for the private geothermal pool. The hot springs made a perfect ending to this little adventure.

Mom’s Mueller Park Hike

My Mom came out in September to help celebrate Kristina’s 21st birthday. While she was here, we had agreed Mom should have a bit of the Colorado ‘Fall flavor’ so our first stop was the REI store to fit her in Merrell brand ‘trail’ shoes. With Mom properly equipped, we headed west to Mueller State Park to do a little hiking and check out the brightly colored aspen trees. Mueller State Park is located on the picturesque west flank of Pikes Peak; a high mountain park with average elevation over 9,000 feet. We headed a half mile down Outlook Ridge Trail, turning south onto the Raven Ridge Trail which ends in scenic overlook.

Although the trail is wide and well tended, Mom quickly grew to appreciate the Merrell’s grip on the loose surface and exposed rock. The trail winds through the forest among the aspens, various pine, and fir trees. The smell of the forest is always present but varies depending on whether you are passing by cedar trees, pine trees, or walking in groves of aspen. Glade air freshener may have tried to bottle the forest fragrance in aerosol form but… trust me… it’s not quite right 😉

Raven Ridge Trail descends a little more steeply for another 1/4 of mile while providing numerous glimpses of the surrounding mountain vistas. Eventually we made it to the overlook, found a few logs to sit on, and admired the view. In the surrounding mountains and valleys there were large patches of gold and orange aspens. In the distance, approximately 60 miles to the Southwest, stood the awe-inspiring snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountains. We never tire of their breathtaking beauty!

I climbed down amongst some rocks in search of interesting formations to become part of my photo compositions. We belatedly realized we had left our snacks in the car and so decided to head back. On the return trip, the trail was mostly uphill but we maintained a steady pace and took numerous breaks to admire the scenery, before long we were back at the car. Overall it was a mile and half hike and Mom did a super job!

Click on a photo to enlarge

Blown Photo Ops

I have managed to blow a number of excellent photo opportunities lately. I spotted a choice astronomical shot a month or so ago when the full moon was rising over the ridge behind our house. The atmosphere was just right for a “moon dog” and I took half a dozen or so shots from a tripod. I was anxious to get them developed but it was the beginning of the roll so I waited. A few weeks ago we had a stray cat wander through the back yard and I let Abby out to chase it away. The cat went into one of those classic “halloween” poses and stood it’s ground. Abby wasn’t too sure about that and we ended up with a standoff. I grabbed the camera and got a number of good shots of the cat with it’s back all arched up and fur all fluffed out. A little earlier I had taken the camera over to Garden of the Gods park when Ronda and I went for a walk and took some very nice shots of the rock formations.

I was glad to have the stray cat come along as it allowed me to finish up the roll. Or so I thought… I first became suspicious that all was not well when I realized the frame counter was reading 28. Then, much to my dismay, when I started rolling the film back it released almost immediately. I’m afraid the pictures will only be in my organic memory book. Apparently, the film did not properly engage the winding mechanism. I’ll have it developed anyway but I think they will all be blank.

Lesson learned… better to waste that first frame to be sure the winder is engaged.

Today I got another opportunity. Ronda spotted a beautiful bird in our backyard tree. I’ve never seen one before, it’s yellow with a red head and black/white wings. Ronda looked it up in our bird book… it’s called a Western Tanager. Apparently, it is only this colorful in the spring during mating season. I managed to take some shots of it but the lighting was marginal and my history of taking “bird shots” is also marginal. But we’ll see…

Camera Gear Motherlode

I hit paydirt awhile back on some camera gear. I had been looking on Ebay for a zoom lens to expand my photographic capabilities but had not seen what I was after (at least not at a reasonable price). Then one day I saw a collection offered up that had the lens I wanted.

There were 8 lenses, the camera body, winder, flash, grip, filters, tripods, etc. One of the lenses was the 85-250mm one I wanted.The starting bid was $1,000.

I had a feeling that it would not sell. So, I emailed the seller that I would be interested in purchasing the one lens if the collection did not sell.

I got an email back stating that the family did not want the set broken up (it was an estate deal). As I suspected it did not get any bids. I got to thinking about it a few days later and decided to shoot them an offer for $800. Figured I could keep the lens I wanted and sell the rest individually on Ebay. It took them a few days but they accepted my offer.

Several weeks later several large boxes arrived via UPS and I was suddenly the owner of a very complete set of Olympus gear. What a treat! It was kinda like Christmas. All of the equipment is in mint condition. It has been quite challenging trying to decide what to keep and what to sell. I was able to get out and take quite a few pictures using some of the different lenses and that helped me decide. Reason prevailed. I only need a few lenses. The winder and flash are staying here though!

I have begun listing them on Ebay. They have sold well so far with some of the buyers as far away as Italy and Germany. By the time I get finished I will have recouped most all of my money and still have the zoom lens I wanted in the first place and several other bonus items to boot!

Remembering All That Is Forgotten

Wow! I could not believe how much I had forgotten about running a real camera. It’s almost like starting over from scratch. I picked up a nice book published by Kodak at the local used bookstore for a few dollars and began re-educating myself. Mmmm.. let’s see… depth-of-field is greatest when the aperture is smallest.

Ok, I can see this will take some time. The first few rolls have come back and they are a mix of ‘not bad’ and ‘yuck’. I have opted to use Walgreens film and developing services for this learning phase. The film is remarkably inexpensive and the processing has been surprisingly good.

I made a trip up to the Arts & Crafts Shop at the Air Force Academy the other day with Kristina to have a look at the facilities and see what they had to offer. I was pleased to find the manager (John Elford) was an accomplished wildlife photographer, not to mention a very nice guy. I returned a few days later with my equipment and pictures and gleaned some pointers from him.

I have decided to sell my prime lens and go with a pair of high quality zooms. I am also going to pick up a polarizing filter, and a graduated neutral-density filter.

Getting started

Photography has always intrigued me. The art of capturing a moment in time and preserving it for future generations to marvel at is what it’s all about. At least for me. Anyone can pick up a camera, point it and push the button but that doesn’t make it art. The art part is the tricky stuff. Learning to compose the picture and take into consideration lighting, shadows, etc. is what sets apart a photograph from a snapshot.

I have rejoined a journey begun long ago to master this thing called photography. To begin I needed some equipment. More than the battered Polaroid point-and-shoot had to offer. I deliberated over the digital vs. film issue for all of two or three minutes. Film is the medium to record high quality images. Yes, I know digital has a lot to offer but for the amount of money I wanted to spend on gear I decided on an older manual focus 35mm SLR. Besides, I don’t want a computerized camera that tries to correct everything for me.

I did most of my research on where I was able to view the opinions of many who have earned the right to be called photographers. I decided on an Olympus OM-2n body. It seemed to have the right mix of features that I was looking for. It took me several weeks of waiting but I located a good one on Ebay. I bought it from Pacific Rim Camera, a company based out of Oregon whom I would heartily recommend. I snagged a 50mm lens, a 135 mm lens, and a camera bag from a fellow up in Alaska, and a Yashica T4 SuperD Point-and-Shoot from someone in Ohio that same day (EBay is a marvelous thing!).

All in all I had invested about $450 which was almost exactly what I had gotten from selling my camcorder which I never used. Not a bad days work.