A Wintery Welcome

Ouray, Colorado - snowy in May

After a series of flights and frantic airport connections on Sunday, I finally made it back home to Ouray from Europe! It was quite a shock to come from full-on spring in Germany and Switzerland to full-on dumping snow in Ouray! It seems that spring is in no hurry around here; the trees are still bare and there looks to be quite a bit of snow in the higher peaks. The photo above was taken on Monday morning after about 8 inches of fresh snow blanketed the town overnight.

The recent snow melted in a few days and today I went on a hike up one of the drier trails in the Amphitheater above town.

Ouray, Colorado in May

It’s always interesting to return to the San Juans after visiting foreign mountains. I see with fresh eyes and appreciate the subtle characteristics that make these mountains unique. For example, while the mountains around Ouray aren’t quite as large, dramatic, and glaciated as the Swiss Alps around Engelberg, these mountains are more complex, with a much broader network of connected valleys and branching terrain.

Anyhow, it feels great to be back, and I look forward to a fun summer – especially when Claudia gets here in July! But first, a couple months of springtime adventures on the snow!

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!