Black and White
I have been neglecting my miscellaneous spring time shots from the open space, and decided that May Day was a good day to catch up, especially since I have the day off! I was thinking just this morning how many different type of birds I see here in the spring time, and came up with 21 different species that call the Commons Open Space home for some period of time; fairly impressive for a small suburban pond. Lately there has been some action with the Great Horned Owls nesting on the south side; the chicks hatched a couple weeks ago, but today was the first time they could be seen from the ground. There are three of them, fluffy in their downy coats, wide eyed and hungry. The male and female have been trading off guarding the nest and hunting to feed themselves and the chicks. Also included in the gallery are the obligatory black and white images, and some random scenic shots from the past month.
This morning I took my bud Kevin, his daughters Jaina and Bella, and his sister Kris to Denver Union Station. They had planned to take Amtrak #5 to Glenwood Springs for a couple days, and this was to be Jaina and Bella’s first train ride. The morning started with an early downpour driving toward downtown, which didn’t really ignite my creative photographic juices. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last, and when I decided to actually chase the train westward, a dense fog was the only remnant of the nasty weather. I waited for the train to show up at a spot just off CO-72 called Chemical. The fog was actually getting me in a creative mood, though it started to lift a bit just as the train came into view. Next, I drove west on CO-72 up Coal Creek Canyon with a perfect spot in mind for my next and final shots of their train. The problem was, I had to hurry because Amtrak trains waste no time getting to where they need to be; passenger trains have a higher speed limit than freight trains, and my spot was not exactly easily accessible. So I drove west and with the occasional update text from Kevin, I was able to get into position with plenty of time to spare. From there I snapped some shots and waved them off from atop a rock near South Boulder Creek, and began the climb back up to the truck, but not without a few incidental nature shots on the way. Most of them are black and white because the colors didn’t thrill me when I got back home and started to download the images from the card. I saved myself some time by shooting simultaneously in RAW and JPEG also using the monochrome picture style in the camera. These shots are basically straight from the camera, save for the watermark added for publishing!
This post marks the 50th post made to my blog! One day last week I was finishing a bit of work in Lakewood, and was very close to Green Mountain, and it was a gorgeous day. It was a fairly long hike up hill, which brought to light how long it had been since I had any real outdoor exercise. At the top was a pile of rocks which marked the highest point of Green Mountain, and I could see Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Hogback, North and South Table mountains, the Flatirons, and a very good view of Mount Evans. The view to the east was less than flattering for the city; a heavy looking brown cloud hung low, stretching along the foothills and out to the east. Over the mountains, lenticular clouds were forming and made for some really dramatic sky. Lenticular type clouds form when moist stable air moves over a range of mountains. Due to their distinctive lens shape, they are sometimes mistaken for UFOs! The colors of late winter/early spring leave something to be desired for the landscape photographer, so I set the camera to shoot black and white. The sky was developing some very interesting clouds, high contrast and a red lens filter were the order of the day. All the images are pretty much straight out of the camera, the only adjustment made was for size and the watermark. All said, it was a great day to be outside and exercise the body, and the creative photography muscles!
The day after my niece was born, both Jen and I were lacking sleep, and Malie was lacking human contact and wanting a walk. I grabbed my camera as we were headed out the door, and saw these dramatic clouds. I immediately visualized a black and white photo, and made the shot accordingly, to capture the contrast and drama. The tricky thing with shooting B&W versus color is that the photographer has to be able to see things in a different way; tones and contrast, instead of just the color. Even with digital photography and the ease of digital photo editing, not every color photo can be made into B&W and have the same feel as a photo shot strictly for B&W. If any of that makes sense to you, great! If not, here’s a photo:
So my cousin B. Petro and I have been meaning to go out for one of those lengthy photographer hikes for some time now, and finally last Friday we made it happen. When she asked me “where should we go,” I said “Rocky Mountain National Park at sunrise!” Now watching the weather reports leading up to that day, I began to get a sinking feeling that there would be no sunrise (at least one we could see) on Friday morning. I won’t go into how most of the time weather people can’t predict the weather, especially spring weather in the Rockies, but this time they were right. We awoke at 4:00 am to partly cloudy skies that were only partly cloudy to give us a tiny glimmer of hope that the sun might shine long enough to get some of that great morning light that landscape photographers chase. As the sky lightened from dark grey to light grey, we decided not to enter RMNP, and instead stop short of entering the park. We instead made a brief stop to shoot the St. Malo Chapel on the rock in the gathering light. Unfortunately for us, Mount Meeker, the usual backdrop for the chapel, was shrouded in the low clouds. On the other hand, it made for some spectacularly moody light on the stone church. From there, we headed toward the Long’s Peak trailhead that can be accessed from near Allenspark. While Long’s is contained withing Rocky Mountain National Park, this trailhead can be accessed without entering the park itself. We took a short 1.4 mile hike to the Eugenia Mine through the somewhat hard packed snow. If you have never taken a trail hike in April in the Rockies, let me tell you that it is more work than you think. Snowshoes aren’t required if you stick to the packed trails made through the winter, but the possibility of slipping off to one side of the track and into thigh deep snow is very high, making for a bit of work, and wet socks. The Eugenia mine itself wasn’t much to speak of, making for quite an anti-climactic end to the hike. However, the low clouds made us turn our camera lenses down to the forest floor for some nice macro shots in the even light. On the return hike, we were visited by a very curious Grey Jay, also known around here as a Camp Robber, due to their tendency to snatch unattended food and flit away without a sound. We also caught a couple Grey Squirrels munching on pine cones recently uncovered by the receding snow. Back at the trailhead, we thought we would drive a bit down the road to see if there was anything of interest at Lily Lake. Just off state highway 7 between Allenspark and Estes Park, Lily Lake offers a short walk on a graded path around the lake itself, and great views of Long’s Peak (when not overcast). We were less than thrilled at the flat lighting and lack of mountain views, but we did our best with what we had to work with. Until we reached the north side of the lake, and found the forest awakened with bird life! I counted seven species of birds that we could see just standing on the path; American Robins, Mountain Chickadees, Mountain Bluebirds, Northern Flickers, Clark’s Nutcrackers, and Ravens. Too bad only one of us brought a telephoto lens, and it happened to be mine, who’s only favorable attribute is its ability to shoot closeup macro! But again we chose to make lemonade from apples, and traded said lens back and forth between us (good thing we both shoot Canon SLRs) and got a few good clicks of the Clark’s Nutcrackers flying to and fro. It was good to spend time with my cousin again, since life gets in the way of what we want to do so often. Here’s the results from the our morning out:
My friend Kevin called me and told me to clear my schedule for April 2, because Union Pacific was running it’s 844 steam locomotive on an excursion train east from Cheyenne, WY. For more info on 844 click here. Needless to say, I was excited since I hadn’t had a train of any kind in my viewfinder since last August. We started the day early at 5:30am, headed north to Cheyenne to pick out our spot among the almost certain crowd of railfans that would be out and about chasing the same train. We reached a spot east of Cheyenne, known as Archer on railroad timetables. The wind was howling at around 25mph, and the temperature was hovering around the same number, causing the wind chill to be around 12. Kevin and I decided long ago that we would rather get a couple great shots, rather than a hundred crappy ones, so we walk the 1/2 mile down along the tracks to get a better view of the S-curve that was offered, leaving the others standing near the road overpass. While we were waiting for 844 to depart, there was no shortage of other trains to shoot during our wait. There was no question as to when 844 was leaving Cheyenne, the towering plume of smoke and steam was a bit of a clue. For an old steamer, this locomotive can haul! We left Archer, and headed east. The next place we caught up with it was at Pine Bluffs, WY nearly 42 miles to the east! Next stop was in Nebraska at a spot called Point of Rocks. Now, I learned quite quickly that places were named quite literally out here on the plains. After a short walk to a nice high vantage point, we waited in the wind and sleet for a few minutes until 844 passed us once again. The schedule had 844 stopping at Lodgepole, NE too take on water and for the crew grease up the running gear. This was where we let 844 continue on its way to point east, and ultimately Haringren, TX. We then explored the area of Sidney, NE where Union Pacific and BNSF mainlines cross and interchange. We chased a couple BNSF trains both northbound and southbound before heading back south to home. I gained a new appreciation and fascination with the Great Plains and hope to make more excursions myself. The land itself holds its own kind of grandeur, as well as a plethora of railroad history. Hope you enjoy the results of the day!
Well, it’s been a week since we returned from Montrose, and I am just now getting around to posting some photos from that return trip! Since Interstate 70 had only one lane open through Glenwood Canyon, we took the “scenic” route via US285/US50 which takes you past a great variety of climes in this great state. My opinion is that you get a bit of every type of landscape Colorado has to offer along this route; plains, high mountain passes, fourteeners, high mountain parks, down to the arid semi-desert dotted with stunted pines on the western slope. Along the way we had seen mule deer, pronghorn, golden eagles, bald eagles, bluebirds, and ravens. Coming up to Cerro Summit, we paused a few minutes so I could take a couple clicks of a Bald Eagle perched in a cottonwood watching Cedar Creek for a nice fish (who can blame him?) We then stopped for lunch near the Blue Mesa Dam, and looked down at the start of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Next, we stopped along US285 with a great view of Mount Shavano and company to let the dog stretch her legs a bit. Afterward, we just drove straight on home, as we were both fairly exhausted by that point and wanted to get home.
I was reading a magazine recently when I came across a software product from Nik Software called Silver Efex Pro, and I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Nik produces some amazing plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, but what attracted my attention to Silver Efex was my admiration of Ansel Adams (like any nature photographer) and my own experience shooting black and white film and developing it in a darkroom. As is so common with digital photography these days, the darkroom has moved to the computer. For those so called ‘purists’ that believe you are not a ‘real’ photographer if you do any kind of post-processing with your digital photos, I ask you to please give me a break. How many hours shut in a darkroom do you think Adams or any others spent dodging, burning, masking and formulating developers for both film and print? My answer is a whole lot more than it would take now with the digital darkroom. Anyway, (stepping off my soapbox) here are some of the results I have using Silver Efex. There are some amazing tools and effects that can be achieved with this tool.