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Since my last post, which I am embarrassed to say, was two months ago, I feel like I’ve lost complete track of time!

During the latter part of July, I start planning a shoot for a client in Telluride as well as continued research for my fall foliage trip (more on that later! [teaser]. While various tools can give me a fairly solid feel for what the light will be doing, I am a firm believer that if at all feasible, scouting on-location gives you that 100% feeling of knowing what will and what will not work.

The last weekend, I had a need to get out for a hike. Not enough outdoor time! To alleviate that feel, I headed to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area for a hike up to Blue Lake. My last attempt in early July was met with conditions not suitable for trekking all the way up without getting a very early start and having ice-spikes for trekking across the vast quantities of snow still present. This trip was much better and the trail was absolutely awesome.

Not surprisingly, the Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking lot was full at 7:50 AM, so I had to drive back to the bigger “day-use” parking at the east end of Brainard Lake. This added 2.0 miles round-trip to the hike, but not a big deal…

The trek overall was fun and uneventful…making my way up to Blue Lake. Not much fan-fare, though I did see a few wildflower spots that I thought I’d shoot on the way back to my truck (it is wise to hike to the summit or destination early, so that if the weather changes, you are working your way back down the trail and lower in elevation to avoid any potential lightening issues.

Here is a shot from Blue Lake (also, the Featured Image is a panorama of Blue Lake):
Blue Lake Ultra-wide

On the trek back down to my truck, I was trying to capture some really intense wildflowers in front of this neat piece of granite, but the wind was picking up making any shot almost impossible.  After a few attempts, I realized I should probably get my butt in gear and get trekking.

Made it to about 1/2 mile from the truck when it started to sprinkle.  By the time I got to my truck, the rain was starting to come down with vigor, so I was glad to at least be able to un-gear and get into the truck quickly.  Definitely a fun hike and satisfied my needs for some outdoor time.

During the late winter and early spring, I had made the decision that I needed to scale down my vehicles and get into something more functional for my needs.  I had not ridden my motorcycle as much as I used to so that was sold in mid-June.  I sold my truck the day after my Blue Lake Trek, but the buyer had to drive from Kansas to pick it up.  So, I had to move quickly.  I found the vehicle I wanted but had to get it in Bozeman, Montana.  Placed a deposit, arranged financing and started to prepare for the trip!

Being one who’s always up for adventure, I used frequent flyer miles and flew up to Bozeman on 01 August.  Toyota of Bozeman was absolutely amazing!  I believe all dealerships should operate the way these guys do.  I was very impressed with how easy the pick-up process was; at most 20 minutes in finance signing paperwork, then walked through each and every facet of my new vehicle…a 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium with KDSS suspension.  Originally wanted one in Super White, but after owning mine for a month now, I can say I am very pleased to have bought my Barcelona Red 4Runner (seen at Davidson Mesa near Boulder, CO):

Flatirons 4Runner

Since I had to drive home from Bozeman, there were two real options in terms of route:  First, the fast and direct way across I-90 to I-25 and down to Denver…OR…second (and the most obvious choice for a photographer, down through Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park).

Early in 2014, I created a photographic goals list that included a three locations in these two national parks.  Lower Yellowstone Falls, Grand Prismatic Spring and Schwabacher Landing.

From Bozeman, I drove south to West Yellowstone, where I had accommodations (I won’t say they were great, but they filled the need).  Getting up early on Saturday morning (02 August), I headed into Yellowstone and over to Lower Yellowstone Falls.  The closer I got, the more worried I became.  The fog was rolling in and my hopes of a beautiful sunrise shot at Lower Yellowstone Falls wasn’t looking so good.  Alas, I kept driving along N Rim Dr. to Lookout Point.  From there, I geared up and headed out to Lookout Point  Tried a series of shots from twilight through 20 minutes past Sunrise.  Captured a few that were decent, but they were not “the” shot I was looking for.

I decided that perhaps taking a break to get breakfast at Canyon Village will allow the sun to burn off the fog a bit.  After breakfast, I returned to Lookout Point and I was greeted with much better conditions.  This image was more of what I had in mind, though at sunrise (so yes, I will have to return [oh darn! lol] to spend more time and capture the essence of Lower Yellowstone Falls):

Lower Yellowstone Falls

After shooting from a variety of spots around Lookout Point, I headed over to S Rim Dr. to Uncle Tom’s Trail for a different angle of Lower Yellowstone Falls.  The 328 steps down were quite a trip, but the shots were worth the effort (going back up was three times as tough)!!

Once done at Lower Yellowstone Falls, I headed off to my next (and the most important shot of this particular adventure) location:  Grand Prismatic Spring.  The majority of visitors in Yellowstone National Park pull into the Midway Geyser Basin parking lot for the walk along the boardwalk.  For a photographer, creating images of Grand Prismatic Spring that truly capture it’s gorgeous colors requires parking at Fairy Falls parking lot and trek out Fairy Falls Trail towards the south side of Grand Prismatic, then start the hike UP the hillside!  The hike up is steep and the hillside is strewn with fallen trees from fires in Yellowstone National Park, but nothing insurmountable.  The view, however, was worth every ounce of energy spent hiking up:

Grand Prismatic Spring

Like Lower Yellowstone Falls, I was pleased with the images I created, though know that a return trip to really spend the time needed to capture more of what I envisioned is in order!

After returning to my vehicle, I started heading towards my next shoot location and one that I was hoping to car-camp (I had brought my sleeping pad & sleeping bag in my luggage on the flight up to Bozeman).  After scouting out Schwabacher Landing, I knew where I wanted to capture Sunrise.  The one thing that was going to put a major damper in this scenario were the mosquitos…they were just everywhere and in quantity.  Sleeping in the 4Runner with windows cracked wasn’t really an option.  Ugh…what to do?

I decided that Grand Teton National Park deserved more attention as well, and since it’s only a day’s drive from home, I’d create a few images and allow myself to have some foundation upon which to build.  Two images really popped for me:

Majestic Grand Tetons:

Majestic Teton's

and this cool fence near Schwabacher Landing, shot close to sunset:

Blacktail Ponds & Grand Tetons

Once I’d created my fill of base shots, I hopped in the 4Runner and started making my way towards home.  My goal was to get to somewhere around Rawlins, find an offramp to pull off and park, get some rest, then finish up the drive on Sunday morning.  As luck would have it, I managed to get a little beyond Rawlins, WY before my eyes were telling me to get to bed (had been up since 4:00am on Saturday).

Upon waking up on Sunday, I brushed my teeth (bottled water to rinse with) and washed my face as best I could to wash the sleep out and got on my way.  The drive via Laramie, Ted’s Place, Fort Collins and home was uneventful.  August had started off with flurry of amazing views and adventure!

Next up was my scouting trip for a client in Telluride.  There is just something about Telluride that keeps drawing me there.  Perhaps it is the majestic Sneffels Range (part of the San Juan Mountains) or maybe it is just the small town atmosphere where Telluride was voted the 4th friendliest small-town in the United States.  Perhaps it is a combination of all those things!

On Friday, after checking into my accommodations, I did a bit of driving around to scout out evening light (you just never know if the weather will cooperate and be nice two days in a row, so you must take advantage of good weather!!).  While scouting out angles for the client location, I saw this shot of the Sneffels Range (Dallas Peak on left, Mt. Sneffels on distant right):

Dallas Peak and Mt. Sneffels

I took my 4Runner on her (Lucille is her name) maiden 4WD trip up Mill Creek Road, as I thought that there might be a good angle to shoot for the client.  Fun drive, but the view and angle did not work at all.

The next morning, I got up, cleaned up and headed into town to find coffee and some food.  After getting my fill of coffee and a bagel, I grabbed my backpack with tripod attache & chestpack and made my way over to the Free Gondola.  Rode that up to the midway station and then began the long trek up SEE FOREVER TRAIL.  In the winter months, this is an Intermediate ski run.

It’s been a long time since I’d hike up a ski run of any distance.  Starting at Station St. Sophia at 10,535…the trek was about 3/4 mile, but it climbed up to 11,550 ft where I stopped.  I could have gone on up “Upper See Forever,” but I had a goal in mind for scouting and this filled that need.  While I was there, I saw this view of Mt. Sneffels with some clouds that just had to be captured!

Storm Clouds over Sneffels

I found a number of great, intimate shots locations for the client, so my trip for the shoot will have a great foundation.

Seems like leaving Telluride gets harder and harder every time I go out there.  Hmmmmm…

The last week of August, I headed to Arizona to spend some time with my parents.  I traveled by way of Moab, Utah, so I could have dinner with some awesome friends, Bret, Melissa & Jackson Edge (The Edge Gallery, 137 N. Main St., Moab, UT).  We had not had a chance to catch up or go camping in a while and I felt bad that my schedule had been so darn busy!  We talked about our adventures, life and doing some camping together (which my little buddy J-Man [Jackson] absolutely insisted we do VERY SOON!

After dinner and a night’s rest, I got up and headed to Natural Bridges National Monument.  Goal was to explore Saipapu Natural Bridge and see the area for future visits!  So much to explore and like most places I go, I could easily spend two or three days just exploring this small national monument location.

Twisted Tree at Saipapu Bridge

The week with Mom & Dad was good, though I continue to see Parkinson’s Disease taking it’s toll on Dad, ever so slowly.

Starting on Friday of Labor Day Weekend, I spent the time with another client in Show Low, Arizona and the surrounding area of Fort Apache Indian Reservation, shooting a variety of images for a presentation the client has to give next April.  Many of the locations I was taken to, to create images of specific items of interest, were simply amazing. This area of Arizona is not one I had spent much time exploring, let alone having a little more access to things than normal.  Towards the end of the day on Sunday, the client took me to Kinishba Ruins, which are archeological & historical ruins constructed from ~1250 – 1350AD.  Here is a panorama of this remaining 600 room structure:
Kinishba Indian Ruins

Completing the shoot with the client, we talked about next steps and I presented him with an option to fill any gaps when I returned to AZ in December (as I planned to spend the holidays with my parents) and there would be some time to spend filling gaps, if needed.  Most likely, we’ll get together and shoot more locations and fill gaps or add more content to his presentation!

Driving home from Show Low, AZ straight through was a long drive, but my 4Runner was amazing.  Averaging 25+ mpg on the highway, climbing up over mountain passes all day was a welcome breath of fresh air.  I loved my F350, but operating costs were much higher than the 4Runner.

September is here and fall foliage trip planning is about 80% complete.  The weather was such, that one day I took the time to go revisit Gross Reservoir near Boulder, CO.  I had seen a tree stump along the shoreline the last time I was through the area but weather conditions were not conducive to photography the prior time, so I wanted to see what I could get on a nice day.

Sometimes you shoot a subject and the color images are great, but when you shoot the subject in black + white, the image just POPS!  That is how I felt when I created this image:

Gross Reservoir in Black + WhiteMy client shoot in Telluride is now two weeks out and shortly after returning from that, I will be heading out on the road for the better part of October.  This trip will take me through the upper midwest, picturesque areas of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, the Adirondacks, upper Vermont & New Hampshire, through Maine to Acadia National Park, then back down through Boston, Massachusetts and Connecticut before traveling back through New York City, across central Pennsylvania, western Maryland, eastern West Virginia, western North Carolina, Smokey Mountain National Park in Eastern Tennessee, central Tennessee then though lower Illinois, across Missouri and Kansas and finally back home to Denver.

A lot of area to cover, though I have set specific photographic goals for the various areas.  Stay tuned!