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My Favorite Images of 2016

This has been a year of change for me…(bear with me, as I get through the first part of 2016).

January started off with my future wife & I spending some time together in Rocky Mountain National Park before she flew back home to Texas.  Mid-January had some pretty amazing sunsets; Denver skies showed it’s color middle of the month!

Sky on Fire

February, on the other hand, was not very good for me or my Mom; my Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease was beginning to deteriorate his body rapidly, so I spent the bulk of February in Arizona.  I did have a meeting in Denver that I had to attend in late February.  Mid-week of that meeting (24 Feb), my Mom called at Lunchtime to tell me Dad was not long for this Earth.  I asked her to call me later that afternoon, so she could hold the phone up to his ear as I said good-bye (just in case I didn’t make it to AZ in time).  I made plans to leave for AZ mid-day on Thursday, praying Dad would hold on until I could be there to say good-bye in person.

Mortality is something we all fear; I, personally, have had more than my share of extra chances to live (living life#6 right now, by the grace of God).  As a son, seeing your Dad…the one you hold as the rock of the family, in such a fragile state was extremely difficult.  Mom was surprisingly strong.  We both knew the outcome of Parkinson’s Disease and while we always held hope that a cure would come to allow for a natural passing some years down the road, we both knew the likelihood was minimal.

I arrived in Phoenix mid-afternoon on Friday, 26 February, at Mom’s.  After a short conference call, Mom and I headed over to the skilled nursing facility where Dad was living.  We arrived at 3pm.  Dad was breathing very oddly and was in the last stages of passing.  While I am doubtful that he truly ‘saw’ me…I stood at the foot of his bed and told him that I loved him.  A couple minutes passed and then he drew his last breath.  Mom and I prayed Dad’s passing would be easy and without much stress; we were very blessed with the nursing facility where Dad spent his last four months.  The staff was amazing.

The next day, Mom and I had to go to the Funeral Home to take care of the last few steps for Dad’s pre-paid cremation.  The final step was to visually confirm the body they had was indeed our loved one.  Mom, while having been extremely strong for the last 3 years, was just not up to doing the visual identification…so I stepped up.  While I can say I am glad I did see Pops one last time, it was truly surreal.  My Dad, the person I had done everything to prove his lessons were worthwhile, was gone.

I stayed with Mom for a week, getting all of the necessary things done; Dad’s body was to be cremated and the coming Summer, we would spread Dad’s ashes in a few locations (per his wishes), some near Flagstaff AZ and some in Colorado.  One night, we decided to go to the Desert Botanic Garden and see a light display called “Sonoran Lights.”   The light display was truly amazing and one that Dad would have loved to have seen.

Sonoran Lights at DBG

March rolled in and before I knew it, Elaina and her two boys were here to spend Spring Break in Colorado.  We had a lot of fun that week, but the most exciting part was a day Elaina will never forget…

…Amid low teens in weather with typical Winter winds in Rocky Mountain National Park, we all went to play in the snow at Bear Lake.  I had a plan (I always do…LOL).  After playing in the 15-18” deep snow at Bear Lake, we started to trek up to Nymph Lake.  Elaina and I have made the short trek to Dream Lake a few times; the short bit of flat ground around Nymph Lake is a nice respite from the elevation gain.  There is a small (well, small currently) tree there that I had noticed earlier in the Fall.  The tree spoke to me of new life beginning, so I made that tree, the point where I would propose to Elaina.

The Proposal Tree

She said Yes!  🙂

The planning then began in earnest, for our wedding.  We both knew, after spending time together during the 2015 Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, that we wanted to get married there, in 2016.  We both love the area, the rugged mountains, the beautiful scenery around every bend and of course, all of the wildflowers!  In early June, Elaina flew up to Denver and we drove down to Crested Butte, to spend a few days scouting out wedding ceremony locations.  While we both would have loved to have family & friends there, it was not practical, nor would the elevation do much good for either of our Mothers at this point in their lives.  We wanted a small, simple ceremony.  Finding a preacher was quite a chore, but we did and we were very blessed to have Drew Larson, from Oh Be Joyful church in Crested Butte, perform the ceremony!

We were fortunate to have an a amazing 2 room suite at Elevation Hotel & Spa.  The weather was pretty also pretty awesome.  This picture, captured by Cade (eldest) using my remote camera trigger, was very timely!

The Prayer

A couple days later, we met up with the boys Dad & Step-Mom in Colorado Springs (they had just arrived in CO for a family vacation), dropped the boys off and headed home.  Elaina and I were going on a honeymoon we would never forget…Eight days in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

I spent a few weeks during March & April researching and chose to stay at Fox Hotel & Suites on the edge of downtown Banff.  The accommodations were fantastic; the “free” breakfast was one of two minor nits we had.  The breakfast was a buffet that was rather lame.  The only other minor nit I had was the elevator was slow, like 1/4-snail speed slow!  Only one elevator, so often times, Elaina and I would just use the stairs.

We had plenty of adventures during our time in Banff, Yolo and Jasper National Parks.  After visiting Lake Louise, one morning (along with a few hundred Chinese tourists), we decided we would go to Moraine Lake for sunrise the next day, based on the weather forecast.  Driving up to Moraine Lake super early (we were about 50 minutes away) was interesting, to say the least.  Once we arrived at the parking lot, we trekked out to where I had researched a good sunrise location.  The Sunrise was gorgeous, but my favorite from that morning was Twilight:

Twilight at Moraine Lake

After we had finished shooting at Moraine Lake, we made our way up to Emerald Lake.  Emerald Lake Lodge is one of those places that you would see in a post card.  Pristine beauty all around.  I can imagine that it is just as amazing in the winter months!

Emerald Lake Magnificence!

Our next adventure, was a hike up Johnston Canyon, to see Johnston Canyon Falls.  Excellent hike, though there were a lot of people!!! We decided to head over to Sunshine Ski Area to ride the gondola and quad-chair up to Standish Summit.  Despite it being summer, it was a little cool at the summit (mainly due to wind).

Newlyweds!

We hiked down to Rock Isle Lake, then back up.  Very scenic is the best way to describe the area:

Simpson Valley View

The next day, we chose to drive through Jasper National Park to Jasper.  While it was a rather lengthy drive, there is just so much beauty throughout that one really should plan to spend a few days exploring just Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway!  On the drive back to Banff, we stopped at a few of the locations we had scouted on the drive up.  Athabasca Falls has created a rock canyon that is just beautiful, so I had to get a picture (or three!).

Athabasca River Canyon

We arrived home and began to get the house situated.  Elaina had a ticket to fly to Florida, meeting up with her boys in Dallas, so they could spend a week with her family.  To say it was strange to be married, then suddenly be alone would be an understatement…but I fully supported the trip.

The Perseid Meteor activity was full-on crazy at the time, so I did some research and quickly found that a location I had been hoping would be good for shooting the Milky Way with Perseid Meteor activity came to fruition.  I packed up my 4Runner and headed out, arriving on-location around 8:30pm.  Sun had been down for a while, but the moon was still quite bright, so I did some test shots over the next few hours until the moon faded behind the mountains, capturing some meteor activity as able.

The Milky Way started coming into position and I watched, vigilantly, for meteors.  There was a few other people lining the shore of Maroon Lake, but the crowd dwindled as midnight passed.  I was fortunate to stay long enough to have the Milky Way splitting Pyramid Peak & Maroon Peak/North Maroon Peak and have a meteor streak down the Milky Way!!

Perseid Into Milky Way

September blew in quickly and before we knew it, fall colors time was upon us.  Elaina and I went to one of our favorite areas of Colorado…Crested Butte.  The weather was rather unusual this year; an early season snow, which really added character, but also threw the aspen foliage into a tizzy.  This scene really captured my attention as we were driving along Kebler Pass towards East Beckwith Mountain.

Snowy Evergreens & Aspens

Snowy weather the first two days curtailed much of the desired location shooting, but we both made the most of what was available.  The last day we checked out Ohio Pass to see what was available and had a fairly vibrant valley in front of “The Castles.”

Castles in the Sky

Leaving Crested Butte with less the the desired quantity and quality of images was a bit of a bummer, but that is all part of photography.  Taking what is presented and making the most of the time is what you learn to live with, no matter how much planning and research you do, in advance of the trip.

A scant 10 days later, Elaina took a trip to Texas to visit the boys (they chose to stay in Texas, with their Dad, where the more familiar was close at hand).  While she was away, I took a chance and headed to the San Juan’s.  My plan was to camp near Telluride, if possible and spend a couple days exploring.  Sadly, the locations I thought to camp were all loaded up with people, and much as I probably could have found a spot, knowing I tend to get up early or come back to the campsite late, may have been a nuisance for the other camping, so I made the most of my day-trip.  Looking towards Telluride, Dallas Peak and the San Miguel River valley, the color was near peak!

63L

The remainder of 2016 has been busy with this and that.  A few hikes, but the conditions for good photography seemed to occur when I was least prepared or in the right place, to get good images.  I look forward to 2017 and what adventures come.  My best friend (my wife) and I will undoubtably have plenty of miles under our feet by this time next year!

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