After the Storms

A quick glance down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo at first light this morning dispelled any notion about skipping another hike with Big Dog today… Of course there was no debate going on in the mind of the Big Dog. As I was sitting on the couch sipping my morning coffee I could see that he was watching me, focused like a laser on the cup. Then the instant that he saw the cup tilt all the way to the bottom he was on his feet like a gunshot, ready to go, eyes pleading.

So… into the backpack for the day’s necessities… It was a crystal clear morning, the usual fog and haze blown away by a weekend of rain, snow and wind and the bright fresh snow on the rugged peaks told me that it was going to be a good day for my B&W circular polarizer. I always use B&W glass, a little pricey but the amazing German quality is well worth the extra expenditure. Finally, getting ready to go… polarizer cleaned and attached, check, chip formatted check, battery charged and inserted, check. Out the door, no turning back.

Clear morning in the Sangre de Cristo

It was a surprisingly cold morning. Last thing last night it was still fairly balmy and I was lulled into believing that Spring had finally arrived… but I was mistaken. Fortunately I had on my hoodie under my jacket by force of habit and my glove liners were still in my pockets from the previous cold snap. I bundled up on the way, hood up, gloves on, neck strap wrapped around to ward off the cold wind.

As I neared my vantage point on the trail I could see that I had made a sound decision to get off the couch and into the fresh mountain morning air. The mountains were magnificent today, the mountain air crystal clear, a perfect day for some more experimentation with the polarizer. Big Dog and I took up a position on the overlook with an unobstructed view of the entire range and shot away. I knew from my last outing with the polarizer that aperture priority with a setting of f8 would be ideal for these conditions so I just set it up and carefully focused the shots on the most dramatic peaks.

The cold wind was causing my eyes to water and I couldn’t really tell on the spot if the images were turning out so I just kept shooting on faith that I had planned my settings correctly. Now, in front of the computer it looks like the day has been a success. The images are clear and the details sharp. The polarizer cut through what little haze did exist and I have a good crop of images to work with.

Please be sure to visit my website to see all the new images I have put up lately along with my new Weather gallery that I discussed and created yesterday! Also, if you are interested in my work, please  click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish! Followers and viewers are how this page is financed, in addition to print and stock image sales so I really appreciate your support 🙂

Also, I hate to talk about it too soon… but I’m getting kind of wired up already 🙂 A bucket list development! My boss, also an avid Canon photographer has thrown it out there, the possibility of a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park this fall! Seems like too much to hope for right at the moment… but I have been longing for years to see the wolves. Lol, of course I am well aware that it could turn out like my last wildlife journey to Brainard Lake. All summer I was watching other photographers post images of the moose population there, but when I went in the autumn of course, there were no moose to be seen anywhere 😦 Well anyway, stay tuned and we’ll see how this develops!

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After the Storm

The latest cold front has passed through along with the tremendous winds that accompanied it. The Sangre de Cristo Range was beautiful this morning and the bitter cold was not quite as biting as yesterday. Windchill of -7 instead of -13 for some reason felt much better! Big Dog was ready to go for a jaunt so I decided today would be a good day to try out the polarizer.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

I haven’t really used it much for a long time since previous efforts have resulted in disappointment. Somewhere I read that professional travel photographers always use these things and that there is no Photoshop substitute for replicating it’s effect. Previous attempts have resulted in unacceptable and irreparable digital noise so I just quit using it, but advancements in newer sensors have done a lot to reduce the noise that plagued early digital imaging technology. So the hope is that with my much newer camera the polarizer is a piece of equipment I can now put to good use. My polarizer is a top of the line B&W brand circular polarizer so there should be no worry of glass quality adversely affecting the image.

Armed with the necessary equipment and enough winter gear to fend off the cold, off we went. A couple of miles into the woods we were confronted with an excellent view of the magnificent snow capped mountains so I stopped to get the shots. White balance on daylight instead of auto so as not to negate the effects of the dark blue polarizer and +1/3 exposure compensation to make up for the slight loss of light from the dark glass. While looking through the viewfinder I turned the glass until I could see the most effect and I have to say it looked amazing!

But now in front of the computer the results are once again disappointing. There is an unacceptable softness in the images due to what appears to be loss of contrast, perhaps from light dispersion. I should have paid more attention to the aperture when I was shooting, but I don’t think a wide lens opening can be blamed for this much softness. Hoping for a quick answer, I went outside to photograph the gas company sign across the street using f11 as an f stop. In looking at those images with and without the polarizer, it does appear that there is some softness that I find unacceptable for my main purpose, which is the marketing of images as stock.

I do appreciate the beautiful saturated effect of the filter so I don’t think I’ll give up on it just yet, but next time I’ll definitely have to conduct a much more controlled series of pictures. Tripod, f11 and side by side images of the same scene with and without the filter. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the picture, the mountains are beautiful and the effect on a small version of the picture create a wonderful scene 🙂

Fly Like an EagleThis mystery raptor is as of yet unidentified. I have looked though every hawk, falcon, eagle and osprey picture on the internet that I can find and I can’t find a match. So, please, if anyone knows what this magnificent fellow is I’d be happy to hear from you!

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Slipping the Bonds

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air… .” John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Hawk soaring

Bird of prey soaring overhead

OK, so technically my feet are still on the ground, but when I am in the solitude of mountains above 11,000 feet with the hawks and the eagles soaring overhead it feels like I have slipped the bonds of earth. Today it also feels like I have finally slipped the bonds of civilization. I have been a bit disappointed since moving here that I have not been able to find an easy way to get beyond the limits of the town and into the wilderness that taunts me from the edges of town. To make matters worse, the clutch went out on the old Dodge a couple of weeks ago and I have been limited to the distance that my feet will carry me. Today I decided that Big Dog and I were going to find a way past the dreaded cattle guard and explore the mountainside on the southwest side of town. Fortunately someone has taken down the gate beside the guard so that my four footed hiking buddy could pass and we were home free.

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

We made our way to a hilltop where there is an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and few people have experienced. I love it when I  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon 🙂 Didn’t see any large wildlife, but there are hawks and eagles circling the hillsides there and they are a challenge to photograph to be sure!

As I looked around I noticed a wealth of excellent mountain bike trails that I will have to explore that are well beyond the distance that my feet would like to take me. One of my great disappointments in the Woodland Park area was the dearth of places to ride a bike without getting killed by bike hating lunatics in pickup trucks. My bike has been chained to the wall since moving here and I’m sure the tires are flat but hopefully they aren’t dry rotted as well because I can’t wait to get out there 🙂

I am also determined to remember to bring along my circular polarizer as I believe it would dramatically add to the appeal of the distant Sangre’s. But for the rest of today though, me and Big Dog will be content to hide from the wicked wind that has developed on this mountaintop! A sandblasting is not something that I feel I need 😦 Maybe tomorrow!

As always, these pictures and more will be available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, matted and framed and as RF stock for those needing commercial licensing. Also available are many cool gift and household items including yoga mats, blankets, pillows, apparel, battery  chargers and more!