Redcloud and Sunshine

Redcloud Peak, Colorado

On Tuesday my buddy Chris and my friends’ dog Lily and I hiked two fourteeners in the San Juans – Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks. Nothing too spectacular about these mountains, just a long stroll up two massive San Juan rock piles. One cool thing, actually, about Redcloud Peak is its colorful bands of red, orange, and yellow rocks. I spent quite a bit of time up there taking abstract photos of these colors; perhaps I’ll post a small collection of these another time. But for now, here’s a few photos from the hike. The one above is Redcloud Peak, as seen from its neighbor Sunshine.

More photos below!

Continue reading “Redcloud and Sunshine”

Gusty Ouray

Ouray, flowers, and clouds

Here’s a photo I made this evening on a hike above Ouray, Colorado. I tried to use the gusty wind to my advantage by taking long exposures showing the movement of the wildflowers and clouds.

This photo deserves a bit of explanation on how I created it. It’s mainly a stitch of two vertical photos, taken one after the other using a tilt/shift 17mm lens – one with the lens shifted all the way up, and one shifted all the way down. When making panoramas with a tilt/shift lens, the camera does not move at all; only the lens is moving up and down. The beauty of this is that the two photos fit together seamlessly, requiring no stitching software or cropping. Anyhow, since the 17mm is already a really wide angle lens, this double-shot vertical panorama is showing a huge angle of view here, from the little flowers right up close to the lens, to the dark clouds almost overhead.

I also used a little photoshop trickery in the flower portion of the image. I had taken numerous 30-second exposures, and in each one (depending on the wind during the exposure) the flowers ranged from totally blurry, to somewhat sharp with a little bit of blur. The fairly sharp one still had too much blur to use on its own, while the totally blurry one was probably too abstract, just streaks of yellow lacking any context of flowers. So I stacked up three of those flower exposures in photoshop, and turned the upper two layers to “lighten” blend mode, meaning that only the parts of the layers that are brighter show up. The result is this composite of three flower exposures, showing a combination of some sharpness and some blurriness (ok, mostly blurriness). Of course our eyes don’t see like this naturally (at least when we’re sober), but the effect adds a bit of visual interest to the photo by showing the windblown chaos. What do you think… dig it or ditch it?

And, in an unrelated side note – last night it snowed a little bit on the high peaks around here! Yes, the air is getting cooler and Fall feels like it’s right around the corner!

Highline Trail

Yesterday evening we hiked the Highline Trail, out of Telluride, Colorado. After having a late lunch and farting around in Telluride for a while, we started hiking at 4pm. I knew we would watch the sunset somewhere along the way and be hiking a bit in the dark, but what I didn’t realize is that the trail is 13 miles long, and 3,600 feet elevation gain! So, we got back to the truck with weary legs at 10:30pm. Maybe I’m getting old (I hate it when people say that, but I just did), but my legs/knees just can’t take that much hiking in one day anymore. I’m totally worked this morning. Anyhow, here are a couple photos from the sunset:

Alpenglow above Telluride, Colorado

Alpenglow on the peaks above the town of Telluride (which is not visible, but is down in that valley below those big peaks).

sunset and aspens

Sunset behind aspens. Wilson Peak and the San Miguel Range are in the background. You can also see Mountain Village at the left.

Summer of Light

Sunset over Ouray, Colorado

Sunset over Ouray, Colorado

This summer has been notably excellent for the quantity and quality of sunsets and sunrises here in the San Juans in southwest Colorado. It seems that almost every night or every other night there’s an incredible sunset. I don’t often wake up early enough for sunrises, except for when I’m camping, but then too I have seen a number of great sunrises.

I’ve had summers here when I’ve thought that there haven’t been many good sunsets/sunrises, but I always thought that I’ve just missed them – that my own timing was off. Only this summer have I realized that the “light” season can be much like a snow season – some are simply better than others. And some, like this summer, are outstanding!

The reason has been the predominately stormy/cloudy/rainy weather we’ve had here the last few months, but there always seems to be gap of clear sky at the horizon which the sun beams through, lighting up those clouds at the last (or first) moments of the day. As far as I can tell, this means that the stormy weather has been mainly located on and around the mountains themselves, while the western plateaus and deserts have stayed clear.

I have managed to capture a number of these fantastic sunsets and sunrise with my camera while hiking and backpacking, but I must admit that many or most of these light shows have just been admired without camera, at friends’ houses or just running outside of my own house in Ouray when I notice the funky light. The two photos above, in fact, were taken from the street right in front of my house on Monday evening. It was raining like crazy most of the day, and even during the sunset, but still somehow the sun snuck through at the last few minutes.

I’m not sure that these light shows will continue, however, with a forecast of clear, sunny skies for the foreseeable future.

Sunset Atop Sneffels

Panorama from Sneffels Summit

On Sunday we hiked/climbed up the fun southwest ridge of Mt. Sneffels to watch the sunset from the summit. The clouds that afternoon were slowly building up in the blue sky, but they weren’t moving much or doing much so I figured we could go for it without getting thundered out. Sure enough, they started dissipating right before sunset, leaving just enough to catch the warm sunset light. Anyhow, check out the photos here!

7 Day Needle/Grenadier Trek

This last week we went on a 7-day backpacking trek through the Needle Mountains and Grenadier Range, the most rugged portions of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. Here are some snapshots from the trip. See my gallery of photos from the trip here.

hiking in the Needle Mountains, Colorado

The route we took passes through four rugged valleys and over three high passes. This is a strenuous wilderness route, seldom travelled, with slight unmarked trails for only about half the way. The rest of the way requires good map reading, terrain intuition, some bushwhacking, and lots of trial and error. This is the third time I’ve done a long high route in the Needle Mountains, and every time I get a bit lost at some point(s)!

photographing Knife Point

Here I am with the camera.

Continue reading “7 Day Needle/Grenadier Trek”

Blue Lakes

Photographing the sunrise at Blue Lakes, Colorado

After over a week of nonstop rainy weather, we finally got out for two nights of camping at Blue Lakes, in the Sneffels Range of Colorado. Though still rainy, the weather broke enough to get out for some nice hikes, including a killer sunrise at the middle Blue Lake.

>> See all my photos from this trip to Blue Lakes here <<

Wetterhorny

On Wetterhorn Summit

On Sunday I hiked into Wetterhorn Basin, in the Uncompahgre Wilderness east of Ridgway, Colorado. With all the stormy monsoon weather and fantastic sunsets we’ve been having in the San Juans lately, I had hopes of catching another great sunset in the mountains. I arrived in Wetterhorn Basin just in time to hunker down in the forest as the lightning and thunder rolled through. After an hour or so the storm cleared just as the sun began to dip into a gap on the horizon, lighting up the mountains with spectacular alpenglow!

That night I woke up at 1:40am, and under the full moonlight I climbed up Wetterhorn Peak, the rugged 14,015 ft. mountain that dominates the scene. I’d climbed up the peak once before four years ago, so I kind of remembered how to climb the scrambly exposed route to the summit in the dark. I relaxed up there by myself for four hours, enjoying the sunrise, soaking up the views, and looking at all the other places I’ve hiked around there and would like to hike in the future.

After downclimbing the peak later that morning and strolling back to my campsite, I relaxed for the rest of the day, waiting for the afternoon storm which never seemed to materialize. That night, however, the sky finally unleashed and dumped rain for hours, with lightning and cracking thunder trying to keep me awake. But I was pretty exhausted after my hike that morning, so I managed to sleep like a baby through the storm. The next morning I had a leisurely hike out amongst the wildflowers, wrapping up another nice trip in the wilderness.

>> SEE MY WETTERHORN PHOTOS HERE <<

POSTSCRIPT: When I was on the summit of Wetterhorn, in the early dawn darkness, I could see another headlamp on the high ridgeline to the north. I just KNEW that it must be Jody Grigg, a fellow Colorado photographer, because A) I had seen his name on the trailhead register, B) only a photographer would be on that remote ridgeline for the sunrise, and C) Jody’s one of the few photographers I know who would actually make it up there! Sure enough, a few days after this trip, I got this photo from Jody in my email:

jack-on-wetterhorn

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