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This year has been one of growth and learning, along with a myriad of travel!

April brought about a great adventure exploring Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and eventually Zion National Park with my very good friend Bret Edge.  After exploring Bryce Canyon National Park, we were going to explore a few slot canyons in Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, but a storm crossing through that area made for thinking of alternatives.  We chose to head to Zion for a few days.

During the few days in Zion, we had a cornucopia of weather, from bright and sunny with temps around +70F to temps in the +40F range and rainy.  All in all, the few days I spent there exploring with Bret were absolutely awesome.  The second day there, after shooting an amazing sunrise at Canyon Overlook, Bret and I visited a number of spots throughout Zion National Park.  We went into Springdale for lunch just as the rains came.  While we ate, we discussed options and after much debate, chose to ride the shuttle up to Zion Lodge and hope the rains would stop so we could trek out to Emerald Pools area and do some shooting.

We sat in the lodge for about an hour before the rain had subsided enough to head out.  Just as we approached the Emerald Pools area we heard sounds of rushing water and big booms that we found out were large rocks falling off the cliff overhead due to the massive water runoff.  Carefully, we made our way to a good spot for shooting the runoff falls.  This is one image I captured:

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My last morning, we went to Temple of the Virgins for sunrise.  We arrived in the Human Nature Visitor’s Center well before morning twilight.  A number of cars were already in the parking lot, so we were worried we would not get a good spot for shooting sunrise.

Much to our surprise, everyone there was standing on the patio on the East side of the Visitor’s Center.  Bret and I walked on by and headed out into the field behind the Visitor’s Center and found a spot to shoot after a number of minutes.  It was cold and kind of gloomy looking as we both set up.  Being the silly person that Bret is, he found the Human Nature Visitor Center web-cam online and began making goofy poses…all of which were captured on the web-cam!

As Sunrise tim approached the weather was not looking very good and it looked as though we may not get any decent shots…but lady luck was on our side, the clouds cleared enough to allow the light to just get magical!  Here is my composition:

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May and June were a mixture of adventures throughout Colorado and northwest New Mexico.  July was a fairly spectacular month.  In mid-July, an email from Hotels.com prompted me to take an impromptu trip to Aspen.  I love the Aspen area as there is so much to shoot, but for this trip I chose to go up and shoot the Maroon Bells…but not from the usual Maroon Lake spot.  Instead, I would hike up to Crater Lake at the base of the Bells and shoot pics from there.

Arrived in the parking lot around 4:00am, got geared up and started the hike up to Crater Lake.  The hike up was uneventful, though I did my usual stops periodically to check for any critters that may be lurking or stalking.  Arrived at Crater Lake at 4:45am, found the spot I needed to be (saved location in The Photographer’s Ephemeris and iPhone GPS tracking) and got the camera set up and started shooting long exposure shots.  Twilight came and went, sunrise approached and I had a feeling I would be blessed with an amazing scene.

Sunrise was indeed absolutely spectacular.  No matter how many times I have been to shoot Maroon Bells at sunrise, I am always in awe of the beauty!  Here is my composition from that amazing morning:

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Before I knew it, September was here and Fall Colors time was fast approaching.  The immense rains that fell in Colorado and the front range area had me a little concerned that the colors would be ‘off.’  Months of trip planning had to be adjusted due to the foliage changes being nothing to be expected.  One morning after adjusting my locations, I headed off to Ashcroft and Condundrum Hot Springs trail.  The weather was blustery and potential for rain was certainly there, but off I trekked.

A lot of green still prevalent, which was bummer.  I have been pretty solid with my fall colors planning for years; this time I was not as fortunate (along with many others out and about).  I did happen on this amazing aspen leaf that I knew just had to be captured.

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After shooting this, I continued up the trail, encountering misty rain which turned to full on downpour.  Thankfully, my Columbia Gore-Tex rain gear and the rain-covers for my F-Stop Tilopa BC & Clik-Eite chest pak kept me and the gear dry as I made my way back to the truck (3.5mi back down the trail).  As I drove back through Ashcroft and on down to Aspen and back to my campsite outside of Marble, the weather reports were not sounding very good (rain turning to snow and low temps hovering around +25F.

I awoke to my tent leaking like a colander.  Took a while to crawl out of the sleeping bag once the rain had stopped.  Stepped outside and looked northwest, only to see another round of weather approaching, so I hurriedly broke down camp finishing as the first bit of rain & sleet started to fall.  Oh the irony of it all.  Tent needed to be replaced, so I headed to REI in Grand Junction and along the way decided that a night in a hotel room was probably in order, to get a good night of sleep, do some laundry and review weather forecasts for another round of location planning.

I looked at my options and thought that perhaps I could get some decent color in Grand Mesa area.  The next morning, I packed up and headed to seek out a decent camp site.  Much to my surprise, there was a lot more snow around the upper elevations than I expected (go figure).  Once camp was set up and I slept through the night soundly, I got out for some hiking on the North side of Grand Mesa a few miles from the summit.  Almost turned around after a while, as I was not seeing a lot of color, just pockets here & there.  Again, lady luck was on my side and I happened across this set of cabins that begged to be captured & shared with the world:

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The next few days were filled with more exploration at a different location (Lost Lake Campground off of Kebler Pass), Ohio Pass and Mill Creek area.  I passed close enough to Gunnison, CO to get cellular service, which inundated my iPhone with emails.  I had a need to put my Fall Colors trip on hold for a week.

Once back on the hunt for Fall Colors, I headed to Telluride, CO area, discovering that the early season snow sure had changed the landscape far more than any of the photographers I know were desiring.  My plan to camp at Matterhorn Campground was squelched by the snow, not to mention sequestration that shut down the Government.  Again, a hotel room was in order and I used hotels.com to find a decent deal in Mountain Village.

Up the next morning, I hiked around the ski slopes (not enough snow to ski, but a little here & there made for some nice pictures).  Left Telluride, driving over Last Dollar Road looking for Fall Colors.  Found a few decent compositions, but nothing spectacular.  Checked out County Road 9, County Road 7 and County Road 5, but nothing really struck my creative vision.

As I left out of Ridgway, I turned on to Owl Creek Pass road.  While the foliage color was a little off from years past, the snow added a different twist that ended up making this composition one of my personal favorites from 2013:

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Yes, a lot of green or trees that had already gone well beyond the red phase, but still a unique blend of colors!  The rest of October was busy planning for a trip in December.  

Most folks spend Thanksgiving morning watching parades and preparing for the day’s festivities.  For me, I have made a new tradition that I get up early for a hike to someplace for morning twilight & sunrise.  Since I had not been up into Rocky Mountain National Park for some time, I chose to hike up to Bierstadt Lake for morning twilight & sunrise.

The trail was a mixture of ice, dry ground & packed snow.  I was not sure if I would need my snowshoes, but I packed them with me just in case.  As I arrived at the East side of Bierstadt Lake, I was pleased to see that I could just trek with my STABILicers on my boots.  Once again, my planning mixed with lady luck on my side allowed for this capture:

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After finishing up my trek on Thanksgiving morning, I realized how much I love the scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I had already planned to go on a hike with a buddy on Friday, so once again, I was up super early for a hike up to Dream Lake for twilight & sunrise.  Getting up at 2am two days in a row isn’t easy, but the payoff can be pretty awesome if you have a little weather luck on your side.  Hallett Peak & Flattop mountain at twilight are simply spectacular year round…

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The wind was crazy on Friday morning (15mph, gusting to probably 25mph).  We braved the winds and colder temps but managed to capture some pretty good shots!

2013 was coming to a close though my annual trip to Las Vegas was coming and I had been planning and praying for some great weather to allow for a composition that I had in my mind.  Something a little on the creative side, but certainly something that gives one a chance see how spectacular photography truly can be!  Anyone who has been to Las Vegas has most likely watched the Bellagio Fountain Show at some point.  Watching the show at night is even more amazing, in my opinion.  Here is my final shot from for the Best of 2013; I hope you like the composition:

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