Favorite Images of 2018

Hard to believe that we are about to close out 2018 and ring in 2019!  In 2019, I truly must find the individual responsible for speeding up the time; this time going at warp-speed is not conducive to a relaxed life (lol).  In culling through my images for 2018, one thing definitely struck me: I have become a lot more finicky and do not shoot anywhere near as much as I have in the past.  I definitely couldn’t whittle the list to just 10 images.

The first image I chose as one of my favorites for 2018, came while I was on my drive back to Denver in late January, after visiting my Mom in Phoenix.  Over the years I have spent time shooting in Arches National Park a fair number of times.  I have even shot this composition at least twice before, but not getting “the” shot because I either did not have the prime spot or the light was not what I was looking to have.  This year, as my departure from Phoenix approached, I started watching the weather forecasts and checked forecasts using a number of apps to see what was forecast.

The morning of this shoot arrived and I was up and into the park very early.  I wanted to be sure I was the first one to arrive at the windows area, so I could make my way up to the rock outcrop, scramble up and over to the prime position and get some test shots done as the light began to light up the rock of North Window Arch and Turret Arch in the distance.

Scrambling up to this prominent point in total darkness, with only a headlamp to light the path always brings about a bit of trepidation, as I get myself to the point where I have to scramble over the rock and down to the small flat area behind the prominent prime spot.  I will say that this particular morning, I felt far more at ease than I had in times past, so I knew this morning was going to be special.

The rock outcrop was very quiet on this particular morning.  I always enjoy taking in the start of another day.  This morning, I was very fortunate to have the location to myself until mid-way between twilight and sunrise, when two other photographers arrived on location and had made their way to the small area of this prominent point.  I moved my backpack out of their way, so they would have sufficient room to set up and shoot (keeping the prime spot to myself, of course).

The light was starting to bathe the rock with a warm, magenta glow as morning twilight hit, so I was able to capture this image which is definitely my best effort, to-date.

North Window Twilight

North Window Twilight

My next favorite image came during a day-trip to Breckenridge.  After we parked, we walked around town, had some lunch at a local restaurant we have frequented a number of times.  Walking back to the vehicle, we passed a small opening between buildings along main street and Elaina saw some small foxes playing in this field.  Growing up in the mountains of Colorado, I have had a few interactions with foxes, but never foxes of with the color of this mom and her kits.  Suffice to say, this pose by Momma Fox just screamed to me “I don’t wanna smile!”

I Don’t  wanna  smile!

I Don’t wanna smile!

Our eldest Son was going through schooling at Camp Pendleton in February, March and into April.  We flew out to attend graduation, staying in a VRBO in Carlsbad.  One evening, we were all out for a drive in Dana Point area.  We took in sunset at Capistrano Beach, where I took a number of images.  This image spoke to me in a unique way; normally I like to smooth out the water and maximize the colors.  This time, however, I was able to catch the surf as it hit some rocks as well as the color in the sky and the warm glow that was reflected across the water.

Sunset-n-Surf

Sunset-n-Surf

Some years, the wildflowers in Colorado just blow my mind, with their radiant beauty and abundance.  Wildflower season of 2018 was definitely a very good one, at least for me.  Columbine, specifically Colorado Columbine, is the official wildflower for the State of Colorado.  To say I’ve shot many images of Colorado Columbine would be an understatement.  This one, however, came about during one of the many trips to Crested Butte area.  Early in the season, some of the roads are only open to a certain point.  From there, if you wish to explore further, it will have to happen on foot due to the amount of snow.  I went up Slate River Road, then turned up the Paradise Basin Road to where it intersects with Washington Gulch Road.  Turned up Washington Gulch Road, thankful for 4WD in a few spots (and 4-Lo for a couple of really sketchy spots).  At the summit of Washington Gulch, I started hiking up Trail 403 and got to what I have labeled “Avery Overlook” which is about 1-1/2 miles from the 403 Trailhead.  Along the way, I came across a small patch of Columbine amongst some other plants.  The light was just right!  Set up the tripod & camera, make sure the camera shadow won’t be in the frame by zooming in a bit and then shoot a couple of frames to see how the histogram looks.  

After making a couple of adjustments, I was able to create this wonderful image of the wildflower!

Colorado Columbine

Colorado Columbine

After a week in Mammoth Lakes area for fall colors, my wife & I made a stop in Twentynine Palms, to take care of a couple last items for our son’s car.  Before we left for Mammoth Lakes, we learned of a couple of statues that had been put out in the desert without a trace of who put them there or how they were even placed out in their locations east of Amboy.  We did not get out of Twentynine Palms until later in the afternoon than we would have liked.  We passed through Amboy shortly before sunset and as we passed Guardian Lion West, Elaina exclaimed “hey, isn’t that one of those statues?”  I glanced over as best I could and realized I needed to stop.  I made it to the shoulder perpendicular to Guardian Lion East.  The sky was blowing up; we both scrambled to grab our cameras and started shooting.  I had to run back to the truck and grab my tripod…did not want to miss getting a perfect image.  This is what serendipitous photography looks like…to me.  Amazing skies, mysterious marble statues and amazing opportunity!

A Lion, the desert and an amazing sunset

A Lion, the desert and an amazing sunset

While up in Crested Butte (seeing a pattern yet? lol), Elaina and I were hiking back from the Avery Overlook.  I saw some very brightly colored wildflowers, but they were pretty small and not any I had seen before.  I opened up my CO Flowers app and identified the wildflowers as Cutleaf Anemone.  Since these were kind of small and there was very little wind, I had a chance…a chance to shoot macro.  Set up my tripod flat on the ground with 56mm Kenko Extension Tubes and my 70-200 f/2.8L II.  Zoomed into 140mm, set focus to manual and wait for the light to be just right.  The intimate details are just amazing.  Almost makes me want to purchase a real macro lens!!

Cutleaf Anemone (Anemone multifida)

Cutleaf Anemone (Anemone multifida)

After returning to the vehicle and making our way to Camp4Coffee in Crested Butte, we decided to go up Kebler Pass towards Lost Lake area, to see what the wildflower situation looked like.  Rounding a bend, the sunlight hit a stem of Silvery Lupine just right and I had to stop, quickly, to capture the shot!!!  The brilliance and vibrancy of the color was just incredible.  Fortunate to not have any wind at the time, it only took one shot to capture this gorgeous wildflower!

Silvery Lupine Close-Up!

Silvery Lupine Close-Up!

Returning to Colorado for some fall colors on home turf, we headed to our favorite place to see what may still be golden and lively.  Can you guess where?

More often than not, most people go up CO-135 towards Crested Butte and don’t bat an eye.  The views as you drive up CO-135 out of Gunnison draw you in more and more, the closer you get to Crested Butte!  This year, Elaina and I felt it was better to go up FR730 through Carbon Valley and Ohio Pass Valley, then up and over Ohio Pass.

We slowly made our way up the road, oooohing and aaahing around every bend.  We did not expect the color to be very good, since the foliage change started very early this year.  Boy were we surprised when we saw the color was just hitting peak color.  Along the way, there is a particular ranch entrance that Elaina has photographed numerous times.  The color behind the entrance and along the base of Anthracite Range was truly incredible!!!  The sky was an amazing light azure blue.  The colors throughout the Anthracite Range, both on the mountain and the trees literally took my breath away.  Standing in front of this ranch entrance, my mind wandered for a while.  Thinking of what it would be like to live on that ranch and have the opportunities to explore the entire surroundings whenever just took my mind to a another place, another time.  Pure heaven!!!

Gateway to the Gold

Gateway to the Gold

Towards the end of June, I felt an urge to do some night sky photography.  The first goal was to choose a good dark-sky location.  Having chosen that location, I checked the weather.  The forecast looked good for clear skies, so I headed out. Knowing I needed to get there as soon as I could to get a camping spot.  I wanted to be as close to the trailhead as I could and had a spot for setting up camp in mind.  The location was a little ways down the road from the summit of Washington Gulch.  This would allow me to get some sleep once it got dark, but still be able to wake up and get to the trailhead for the short hike to my night-sky location.

Setting up my REI Half-Dome 2+ tent takes me all of 10 minutes.  Camp set up, I trekked up to the trailhead and out to where I would be shooting the milky way, to scout the actual spot a bit more, do some “Photo-Pills AR” stuff.  Relatively satisfied, I trekked back to camp, had some food (Mountain House Beef Stroganoff) and relaxed.  Camping at 11,000 feet, even in June, it can get cold.  Fortunately, I am always prepared; backpacking air mattress and +30F sleeping bag, plus a lightweight camp cot to get me up off the ground just a bit and I was perfectly comfortable.

When my alarm went off at 1am, I looked at the temperature (yep, built into the alarm clock).  A balmy +36F.  Guess I was in for a quick moment of cold before I got dressed.  Cold it was, but I had places to go, things to do.

The hike to my shoot location was brisk, but that helped keep me warm.  Every so often, I would do a 360, allowing my headlamp to denote any glowing eyes.  Once I got to the shoot location, I sat down and just let nature settle a bit.  I find it good to always stop and allow things to even out before I start getting into the business of photographing the night-sky.  While I was taking in nature’s music, I heard something making quite a ruckus, but was unable to determine were it was coming from or what it was that was making the ruckus.

As I shot the Milky Way, I heard that same noise again, but this time I was able to spot the offender…a great horned owl, flying in and out of its nest, a mere 30 yards from where I was shooting, obviously hunting for its next meal.  The night progressed and I kept shooting, but a pesky low-level layer of clouds was making the Milky Way less than spectacular.  Boo, hiss…booo!  Astro twilight came and went, nautical twilight too.  Morning twilight came and I noticed some clouds forming such that, if they didn’t move too far, could make sunrise absolutely stunning.

Bill’s Bench, as it is labeled, is a place where many people come and just sit, take in the views and listen to the music of nature.  For me (and Elaina), it is a place we love to see as it allows us to know for sure, that we are where we absolutely love to be (we got married in Crested Butte, so CB is obviously our happy place)!

The sunrise on this morning was magical, for me.  I was sitting on Bill’s Bench, watching a couple of deer a couple hundred feet below me, thinking about Elaina, who was out in Florida visiting her Mom.  This image just had to be one of my favorites for 2018!!

A View For Two!

A View For Two!

After taking in an amazing Crested Butte sunrise, I made my way down to Crested Butte for a cup of coffee from Camp4Coffee (the absolute best in CB).  Coffee in hand, I thought about where I might next go, to photograph some wildflowers.  I had a desire to head up Gothic Road towards Schofield Pass.  I wanted to get over to the north side of Schofield Pass, but there was still too much snow and the road was closed about 3/4 mile from the summit, just before Emerald Lake.  So, I turned around and headed back towards Mt. Crested Butte.  I stopped at a pullout below the summit of Snodgrass Mountain, as I saw some wildflowers on the hillside.  Felt like I needed to just get out and trek through the woods.

Sometimes a trek in the…no, always, a trek in the woods, is just what one needs to soothe the soul.  I probably trekked around the hillside for an hour before I saw the Scarlett Gilia, of which there are literally thousands throughout Colorado.  There was a small bit of light coming through the trees, making these Scarlett Gilia pop with vibrant red.  Another make-shift macro image, getting close and intimate with these beautiful wildflowers.

Scarlett Gilia (Skyrocket)

Scarlett Gilia (Skyrocket)

Fast-forward to Fall, again.  Yes, Crested Butte.  No, I’m not sorry (lol).  

The day had started out with rain.  Elaina and I explored a road off of Ohio Pass that she had been wanting to explore for a very long time.  We trekked out the “Old South Park Railroad Grade” quite a ways, capturing some fall foliage and some fall foliage images of familiar areas but from a different perspective!  The light rain had stopped and we made our way back to Ohio Pass, to go explore Beaver Pond and see if we could find any wildlife.

The weather was a bit damp, which was good for us; not many people were out and about.  This gave us (for the time being, at least) all of Beaver Pond Trail and Beaver Pond, to ourselves.  The aspen grove and other trees in the forest were bathed in a soft glow of the light breaking out of the clouds.  The stillness was almost overwhelming, but something to behold.  As I trekked up the trail, my mind was focused on intimate details.  Suddenly, in a small spruce tree were a couple of aspen leaves, yellow and orange/red with some of the dew still lingering.  I told Elaina that I was going to stop and shoot this composition.  Setting up my poor-man’s macro configuration, I got in close at 123mm with 56mm of Extension Tubes and manual focus.  I had to include this in my Favorites of 2018.

Nature's Delicate Balance

Nature's Delicate Balance

My GMRS radio squawked…Elaina was wondering where I was (lol.  Normally it is me asking her where she is).  I told her I was finally done and headed her way.  We finished making our way to Beaver Pond and took in the quiet & stillness of the fantastic spot.  I was shooting some aspen leaves I found in a tree stump along the shoreline of the pond and suddenly something went thud near me.  It was Elaina, trying to get my attention without making a lot of noise!  In usual fashion, I was so engrossed in what I was doing, that I was completely oblivious to the beaver swimming near us.

The beaver was hilarious; it started off making small circles just beyond the beaver’s home.  Slowly but surely, the circles expanded, with the beaver getting closer and closer.  The beaver would make its’ circles and look very intently at both of us.  Eventually, we realized the intense silence was a bit more eery than normal.  We were also getting hungry.  We started to make our way back to the vehicle, although not on the normal trail.  We had to make our way back, at least early, going through the woods.

There came a point where we trekked to a spruce tree, perfectly framed by some aspen trees.  The forest was still very quiet, very tranquil…which is why this image was aptly named “Tranquility.”

Tranquility

Tranquility