Sangre Mountain Moonset

The plan this morning was to sleep in late, have a leisurely pot of coffee with the puppies and then go out with Big Dog to do some shutter speed versus f-stop testing with my #Canon equipment to determine how to get the sharpest image possible. Always trying to get that perfect razor sharp Ansel Adams appearance from my prints 🙂

Moonset over the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in the springtime

But you know what they say, “The best laid plans… “, I was up at 05:00 checking the cloud cover report on my phone. Partly cloudy it said, and I was wondering if I might get another shot at yesterday’s beautiful sunrise? So, one cup of coffee and the Big Dog and I were headed down the trail in the dark. The first thing I noticed was that the moon had not yet set. For the longest time the moon has already been hiding behind the mountains long before I felt like being out and about. In the meantime the sun was just starting to lighten the horizon to the east, just enough to add some pink to the clouds in the west which was creating a pretty cool scene! I wasn’t sure I was going to get a good sunrise so I just stopped to capture the sure bet, the scene that was before me at the moment.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Moonset

The sunrise never did develop and there was a pretty heavy layer of clouds and haze from the wind and dust hiding Sangre de Cristo range to the west, so the magnificence of yesterday did not present itself today. But it was an amazing experience to be the only person in the woods as the magical mood created by the moon set slowly evolved. This silent time alone with my Creator is my favorite thing as it seems like He is unveiling a work of art for He and I alone.

As the sun began to get stronger I also noticed that the alpenglow enhanced pink peaks of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range were visible through the mystical haze of a beautiful Rocky Mountain Spring morning.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain MorningI didn’t get what I was hoping for this morning, but I did get something new for my portfolio :) These pictures and more from the morning are for sale on my website as wall art and gift items as usual, along with quite a few new images that I have been collecting this spring. Commercial users can purchase image usage rights through the stock portal on my website as well. If you liked this article and want to be sure to be notified the next time I publish, please be sure to click the follow button at the bottom of the article so that you can receive an email notification every time there is something new!

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Best Sunrise Ever

Almost missed it all too. I wasn’t planning on anything except some rest for these old tired legs but Big Dog was having an emergency so out the door we went, DSLR still in the house in the bag 😦

Luckily my phone was still in my coat pocket so I was at least able to get these to remember the day! As we walked down the trail and the Sangre de Cristo came into view I was just sick that I didn’t have my 70-200… A small herd of deer was grazing in the meadow and the colors in the clouds and on the mountains were beyond description. Did the best I could to capture the scene with my phone, but I don’t think you can even see the deer or the mountains because the field of view is so wide 😦

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

But… I am still thankful that I am alive on this perfect spring morning in the mountains and that I am able to get outside and witness such magnificence!

Zombies

I was thinking of naming this post Zombie Portfolios, but just plain Zombies had a better ring to it. Well anyway, morning for me came well before sunrise today with a quick check of my email on my phone, which also doubles as the first light I can reach when I wake up. For the second month in a row, the much anticipated payment from my formerly most profitable agency has not arrived 😦 Hard to believe it has come to this but I should probably just close that zombie port, it’s just competing with my own website anyway.

Alpenglow sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Thought about just going back to sleep, but Big Dog was wide awake and ready to go so I grudgingly got up, got dressed and turned on the coffee pot. A quick jaunt out the front door with the two dogs for their morning duties and I figured I was good for a few minutes for a cup of coffee. Soon however, the allure of another beautiful alpenglow sunrise urged me out of my chair and onto the trail. As we made our way through the woods in the pre dawn darkness I could see the telltale red band working it’s way down the sky towards the horizon and, it looked like my timing was going to be perfect if I just kept walking at the current pace.

Just as I had hoped, the beautiful red band of alpenglow effect converged upon the Sangre de Cristo just as Big Dog and I arrived at the overlook. It was a nice sunrise with beautiful color and very even contrast for a change. Fifteen minutes later the show was over and we were on our way home. The morning light was shining on the mountainside to the north and I spotted a herd of mule deer traversing the summit, way too far away for a good picture. But the barren aspen trees near the top were kind of cool so I’ll be taking a look at those captures for use on my stock site. I’m a bit slow today getting these images posted today, but please be sure to check my image site for recent arrivals!

Focus on Infinity

“Infinity: unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity : boundlessness”, according to Merriam Webster. A difficult concept under any circumstances, infinity in photography can be an even more elusive state. In photography, the definition of infinity includes “A distance between a subject and the camera so great that rays of light reflected from the subject may be regarded as parallel.”, and “A distance setting of the camera lens beyond which everything is in focus.”.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Recent travails in shooting distant landscapes has me studying the issue in more depth, and today was the day for some cursory field testing. The plan was to conduct a scientific experiment to determine if the auto focus mechanism on my Canon 70D with my 70-200 lens was handling infinity properly. Today was supposed to start with a beautiful clear morning, following days of snow and fog and I was glad to finally be able to get out and do some shooting with Big Dog.

As usual though, my experiment didn’t turn out to be all that scientific or even informative, but I had fun and got some good usable shots 🙂 What I did find out though was gratifying in that I believe that my lens is performing exactly as it should. My method was to take two shots of every scene, one with the auto focus and the second identical shot with the lens set to manual and the focus set to or near the “infinity” mark focused on the distant Sangre de Cristo mountain range as sharply as possible. Then, in front of Photoshop a 100% view of the two images side by side was going to tell me which method is better. I had recently watched another photographer on Youtube who claimed that manual mode focused on infinity was the way to go.

Now the really confusing part of the experiment is that many professional lenses have the capability to focus “beyond infinity”… where nothing is actually in focus. Apparently the equipment can compensate for micro expansion and contraction of the metal due to temperature changes and may require that space slightly beyond the infinity line for that purpose.

Fox with Prey

It was indeed a beautiful morning and we were awarded a couple of bonus shots for our effort 🙂 Along the way I spotted both a fox hunting and then later a coyote hunting in the beautiful fresh snow. The fox was already heading for home with a tasty morsel in his mouth and the coyote was still hunting but paused to cast a wary glance in our direction.

Coyote in Fresh Snow

Coyote in Fresh Snow

The mountains were magnificent as usual and the clear day was perfect for my little test. My scene is perfect with some nearby pine forest covered foothills backed up by the distant peaks of the Sangre. As I conducted my tests I noticed some curious behavior exhibited by the equipment. When focusing on the nearby mountains the camera on auto focus chose to focus exactly on the infinity mark, while the distant mountains resulted in a focus slightly beyond the infinity mark. I thought I was onto something there, a possible malfunction in the auto focus mechanism perhaps. But the follow up shots using manual focus proved the auto focus to be exactly correct based on what I was focusing on.

These findings were very good news for confidence my equipment, but also raised a new question that I have no definitive answer for. Why are the close mountains which are at infinity focused differently than the distant mountains which are also beyond infinity. I guess the simple answer to that is that the close mountains are at a sufficiently varied distance and angle to result in a slightly different infinity value from the vastly distant Sangre de Cristo range more than 60 miles away. In any case, the idea of just setting the camera to the infinity mark is out of the question, at least for a 200mm lens. This practice would probably work fine for a wide angle lens where the infinity point is only a few feet from the camera. Each scene is going to require evaluation to determine what exactly is the most important feature to render the most sharp in the image. If the entire image needs to be sharp, focus stacking in Photoshop might be required.

All in all, the day was a success, important knowledge acquired, some nice images to work with collected, and now in the last couple of hours some more great shots of the little fox family that I found the other day 🙂 Please be sure to visit my image website to see all the new pictures that have been made for sale as wall art, cool household items and royalty free stock!

Dust in the Wind

Tremendous wind howling up from the Arkansas River Valley last night. Big Dog was startled out of a sound sleep at 5:00 a.m., leaping to his feet and letting out a massive woof that woke up the entire town I think. I looked around with the flashlight and didn’t see anything so I was going to just go back to sleep, but instead got to thinking I would like to see the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo. Sunrise would not be until 6:30 though, so there was time for one of my favorite activities… morning coffee 🙂

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

The wind overnight had created a dust bowl out of the valley making the mountains barely visible, but it was still an inspiring sight when the alpenglow band settled down over the peaks. The effect was only good for a few minutes and we were headed back home for some more coffee.

The old 1970’s song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind” was going through my mind as the wind whipped the dirt up into a veritable cloud around us. Got me to thinking about the truth of the song, “Everything is dust in the wind”. Everything in this life is truly temporary, jobs, houses, relationships… I was thinking back on my computer career realizing that all the software I had been paid to write is now gone, along with the very computers that it was meant to operate. Even the company I worked for is gone, like it was never there. The job seemed so important at the time, deadlines, overtime, status meetings to explain how it was all going to get done on time, weekends misspent at the office, and now that it is all gone it seems so silly to have been so stressed out, so stupid to have spent so much time away from family, to have lost so much sleep.

Even life itself is temporary. For some people, life is long and fulfilling. For others like my wife, life itself can be unexpectedly swept away far too soon. We never know when we are going to be struck down by illness, accidents or natural disaster. Cancer took my wife along with all the things she dreamed of, collected and worked so hard for. Everything we had together is now like the song, just dust in the wind. Her life itself is a faded memory in the minds of few, the fruit she and I measured our lives with now remembered by no one.

In the end it all comes down to the words spoken at the final judgement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” If we have lived our lives in friendship with Him we will never have to hear the bitter words, “Depart from Me, I do not know you.”, our legacy will live on in the afterlife and all we have done in this life will not be blown away forever, like dust in the wind.

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway 🙂 For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.

Baby Fox

I was greeted with a rare clear warm sunny morning today following a week of absolutely wretched freezing cold windy days. I could see from a glance out the window that the view of the Sangre de Cristo was already obscured from heavy haze and there were no interesting clouds either. Just a perfect Colorado mountain morning for me and Big Dog to go out walking in.

Mama and baby fox

I figured it was still early enough that there would be a good chance of seeing some deer or elk on the mountainsides so I grabbed the camera. I have plenty of shots of the Sangre in early morning sunshine so I didn’t bother to bring the polarizer. Sure enough on the trip out we spotted some mule deer grazing high on the mountainside, way too far away to get any kind of a reasonable picture. Looks like the prairie dogs are starting to come out of hibernation, or whatever the heck they do in the winter. Saw a few of them in the distance sticking their heads up to keep an eye on the dog I suppose. Haven’t done my studies on prairie dog behavior regarding hibernating and such, except that I did read that although cute from a distance they can be a bit violent and cannibalistic towards each other!

Looked like except for some good exercise for me and the dog, the day was going to be a photographic bust. But just about then I thought I could see a couple of ears sticking up above the mountain grass… Then after a closer inspection through the glass, I discovered that it was a red fox near her den so I took up a position to see if fortune would be in my photographic favor. As I steadied the camera I was delighted to see that mama was out sunning with some new babies. I thought there might be at least two but apparently by the time I got my lens focused only one was brave enough to stay above ground and pose for the camera. Unfortunately I could not get close enough to avoid having a few blades of the mountain grass obscuring part of my scene, but I was able to get a few cute ones nevertheless 🙂

Little one finally scampered into the den but mama fox didn’t seem to mind me standing at a distance photographing while she continued to bask in the sun drenched mountain morning. Looks like I’m going to have to do some significant cropping on these so I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any large prints, but the wildlife sighting was a rare treat and I do a have a few nice ones to keep a record of the day 🙂