Thursday, October 16, 2014

More of Moab

OK, I know that I have posted photos from Moab, Utah before.  But honestly, it is just one of those places that I can't seem to stay away from.  This trip, I intentionally avoided going to spots that I have previously obtained photos that I was satisfied with.  To view those earlier photos, check out my blog posts dated  April, 2012, which can be found on the menu on the right hand side of the page.

Fisher Towers and Colorado River

Fisher Towers is a group of sandstone pillars located near the Colorado River as it winds its way toward Moab.  Near sundown, the red rock can glow, and if the water is sufficiently calm, a reflection can be seen in the river.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue is one of the first sandstone formations that visitors come upon after entering Arches National Park.  This photo was taken in late afternoon light, as shadows from a nearby formation begin to overtake the valley.

Sunset- Balanced Rock

Another iconic location for sunset is Balanced Rock in Arches NP.  Just before sundown, as the last warm light of the day strikes the red rock, it can appear to glow a bright red.  I was hoping for a few nice clouds to further improve the composition on this afternoon, but I don't want to be too greedy.

Double Arch

If one arch is good, then two arches must be even better, right?  Double Arch is located in the windows section of Arches NP, and is a popular stop for tour busses in the park.  It also is front lit by morning light, in the case of this photo, mid-morning light.

Stars Over South Window

Lately, I have become interested in photographing the night sky with interesting objects in the foreground.  During my visit to Moab this trip, I was lucky enough to have a few days in which moonrise did not occur until a couple of hours after sundown, along with a relatively clear night sky.  My initial idea was to photograph the night sky above turret arch, but I found that the sky became sufficiently dark over South Window first.

Turret Arch After Dark

Milky Way Over Turret Arch

For photographers interested in how one goes about photographing stars at night like this, here are a few technical details:  Canon 5D2, 24 mm f2.8 lens wide open, manual focus, ISO 6400, 25 second exposure with noise reduction on.  And, most importantly, a sturdy tripod that will not blow over in the wind. 

False Kiva

This was my second visit to False Kiva in Canyonlands NP.  My primary motivation for returning again was, I now have a lens which provides a wider angle of view than i had during my first visit.  False Kiva is not a site which is marked on the park maps, and it requires a bit of research to be able to locate.  The hike to False Kiva is not exceptionally long, but the last portion involves hiking down over the edge of the canyon below the site, traversing below the site to the opposite side of the canyon, then climbing back up to reach the site.  My sixty year old knees were a bit sore for several days after this hike/rock climb.  Was it worth the hike?  I guess my viewers can decide.

Sunset in Canyonlands

I once read a comment by a good landscape photographer which noted that photographing landscapes is really all about the weather, and we just happen to do it in locations with interesting or picturesque foregrounds.  On my last evening in Moab, after going to False Kiva earlier in the afternoon, I decided to shoot sunset from Green River Overlook in Canyonlands NP.  That spot looks westward, and if one is very lucky, at sundown a nice bunch of clouds will hang low over the setting sun, and provide a nice sunset with the canyons formed by the Green River in the foreground.  Well, the night I chose to go there was probably the most under-whelming sunset that I have ever seen.  To my even greater chagrin, I noticed that there were a nice group of clouds in the East, 180 degrees away from the composition that I had chosen to photograph.  Since I had no time to get to a spot which showed any canyons in the East below this sunset, I hurridly grabbed a couple of shots with only the landscape beside the parking lot under the blazing sky.  I suppose the lesson to be learned was to pay less attention to my preconceived notions, and more attention to where the clouds are at sunset.

Capitol Reef National Park- Fall, 2014

Before this trip, I had never spent as much time in Capitol Reef as any of the other National Parks in Utah.   Vickie and I made a trip there nearly twenty years ago, in the late spring,  and she got too many insect bites, so we had to leave early and take her to a doctor.  Also, I was well aware that one of the better sections of the park, Cathedral Valley, requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle to access.  So, now that I have my trusty Nissan Frontier 4x4, I thought this would be a good time to re-visit Capitol Reef.  

I had seen photos by others in which the cottonwood trees in the park had turned a bright gold color, making a nice contrast against the red rocks.  Unfortunately, most of the trees were only beginning to turn during my visit there, as the photo above shows.  Still, I am glad that I went.

Temple of the Moon

The drive to Cathedral Valley, in the northern section of the park, is about twenty miles of unpaved dirt and rocky road via the shortest route, but much longer if one chooses to drive the entire loop. Rather than making the entire loop, I chose to enter via the east Cathedral Road, then exit via the same route.  The visitor center has handouts with instructions on how to locate either entrance to the Cathedral Valley loop.  Some sections of the road were so heavily washboarded during my trip that it reminded me of what it must be like to drive down railroad tracks (on the ties).  Still, I was able to make it there and back with no ill effects other than a little dust on the bedding inside my camper shell.

The Temple of the Moon is actually the smaller of two giant monoliths in Cathedral Valley, although it is hundreds of feet tall.

Temple of the Sun

The nearby Temple of the Sun is much the larger of the two monoliths in Cathedral Valley.  I was lucky to have some blue skies with scattered clouds during my visit there.  All of my photos in Cathedral Valley were taken in mid- to late- morning light.

On my way back out of Cathedral Valley, there were a number of these large boulders, which I decided might be useful for anchoring the foreground in my compositions.

I found the above scene near the end of my journey back out of Cathedral Valley.  By this time, I was getting hungry, tired, and ready to reach smoother road again.

Back to the main section of the park, with paved roads, I found these views from the numerous viewpoints and pull-offs.

My next stop on my trip was Moab, so check back to this blog for more soon.

San Juan Mountains- Fall, 2014

Dallas Divide, afternoon light

Not all fall color spots in the San Juan mountains require long hikes on foot or a four wheel drive vehicle in order to access.  Dallas Divide has a large parking lot immediately adjacent to a state highway just a few miles from Ridgway, Colorado, from which the view above was taken one mid-afternoon.  The close-up of several aspens immediately below was taken from the same spot, on the same day.  I think it was the early photographer Edward Weston who was once quoted as saying that all good landscape photos were taken within a few feet of his car.  Dallas Divide certainly provides ease of access to photographers.

Sneffels Range from CO Road 7

For those fortunate enough to be in the area with a four wheel drive or high clearance vehicle, there are several gravel county roads which wind their way closer to the mountains.  One of my personal favorites is CO Road 7, which also provides access to the Blue Lakes Trailhead.

Another view from CO Road 7

Same road.  I would have preferred just a little less cloud cover above the mountains, but one takes what one can get.

Yet another view of the Sneffels Range.  I am not certain whether this was from Road 5 or 7.

Check back soon for photos from the next location on my fall trip west, which was Capitol Reef National Park.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

San Juan Mountains in Fall- the Sneffels Range

Most years, the aspen on the north side of the Sneffels Range are at peak color by the last week in September.  This year proved to be an exception, and although the trees around Red Mountain were at peak (see my previous post), most of the trees around Ridgway were still green during my visit.  Despite that, I still enjoyed exploring the mining roads in the area, as this was my first visit in a four wheel drive vehicle that allowed me to go further up into the mountains than during my previous trips.  The spot above is on Co road 7, which is accessed off of CO Highway 62.

This is the view of the Sneffels Range from beside the visitors center at Ridgway State Park, which was where I camped in the back of my pickup during most of my trip.  The good facilities there, especially the electric hookups, were greatly appreciated on nights when the temperature dropped well below freezing, and there was heavy frost.  A combination of sleeping bags, electric blanket, and small electric heater kept me warm under my camper shell on those cold nights.

Clouds at Sunset over Sneffels Range- from Dallas Divide

One of the most accessible spots from which to view the Sneffels Range is a parking area just off of CO Highway 62 at Dallas Divide, near Ridgway.  I was there on several evenings during my visit, and this particular one provided the best color at sunset.

Rocky Mountain Sunset

The Ancient Ruins of Hovenweep National Monument

My visit to Hovenweep was timed, in part, to get my visit in before the government shut down on October 1, 2013.  The day was sunny, warm, and very windy- if my hat blew off once, it must have blown off fifty times!  It was even hard to stand up without getting blown over, and the thought of getting blown into the deep canyon beside the ruins had no appeal to me.  I had planned to go to Bisti Badlands the following day, but a heavy rain blew into the area, and Bisti is probably not a good place to hike in the mud.  On my return to Ridgway the following morning, I even ran into heavy snow and sleet up on Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass.  My sure-footed Frontier 4x4 pickup got me to my destination without any problem.

Tech info:  Canon 5DII (all images), various focal lengths

I've become increasingly interested in photographing ancient ruins over the past few years, since visiting sites such as House on Fire Ruin, Fallen Roof Ruin, Mesa Verde National Park, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

These structures are estimated to have been built between 1200 A.D. and 1300 A.D.

Most likely, these structures are in better shape now than my house will be in 700 years.