September 12, 2016
While the subtle colors are nice at Mesa Verde, the impact of natural forces are sometimes best seen in black and white. We walked the Long House Loop trail on a hot day which took us through vast areas of burned juniper and pinyon pines from the Pony fire in 2000 that closed the park for 10 days. The stark landscape of tree trunks looked like modern sculptures. During our stay we saw several distant rainstorms opening up on the landscape. The sheets of rain coming down, the cumulus clouds building overhead and the lightning from the clouds really give you a sense of how powerful nature can be.
Next: Four Corners
August 24, 2016
We set out on a big drive south from Rocky through central Colorado and spectacular mountains. Making our way down Rt. 24 we stop in Silverthorne at La Perla Carneteria, a restaurant/store/butcher that had some of the best Mexican food ever. There must be a pretty large Mexican population there, we saw lots of construction workers and families eating. Our first night on the road we stayed at the Crested Butte house of our friends Don and Vicki. They bought the place a couple of years ago and are slowly renovating it and eventually will move there. The next day we drive back through Gunnison, then Montrose and took an alternate route to avoid construction on 550. It took us through breathtaking mountain passes and torrential rain. We end up late in the afternoon at Mesa Verde National Park, where we stayed at the Far View Lodge in the park.
The cliff dwellings and pit houses at Mesa Verde are incredible and tell an amazing history of human history going back to the 6th century. We took the Petroglyph Point Trail hike, passing Spruce Tree House on our way into a canyon. Ann picked up the trail guide which was very helpful. It explained the dark desert varnish we saw on the cliff faces which is caused by the dissolving of iron oxide and manganese oxide in water during spring rains and snow melt. The water evaporates leaving the mineral deposits on the rock. The white substance is calcium sulfate (“limy cement”) dissolved in water and then deposited on the surface when the water evaporates. All this looked like modern art installations on the cliffs when you looked closely at the details. Not to mention the wild looking rock erosion and the multi-colored lichens, a fungus that actually grows on the rock absorbing minerals and water.
Next: more weather and fire remnants
August 19, 2016
Staying at the William Allen White cabin at Rocky Mountain you could almost think you were living in the early 20th century. Built in 1887, it was the summer home for the famous Kansas newspaper editor and writer. In present day form it had a few modern conveniences—running water, electricity, lights. No phone, no internet, no real cell phone service. The beautiful view of Moraine Park was occasionally interrupted by the noise of internal combustion engines from Bear Lake Road, which was below the cabin. Best of all was the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet (“Saves Steps”). It really looked like an original from the 1910s or 20s. It was a multipurpose device where many things related to meals could be kept or worked on. Click here for some fascinating information on the Hoosier.
The tall wood cabinet had two large top shelves, drawers and storage and possibly a zinc workspace. What looked like a flour mill was integrated into the two top shelves. Inside each door were detailed directions, instructions and places to put things like your cook book or ice book. Mrs. Christine Frederick had her “Housekeeper’s Food Guide”, “Suggesting Perfectly Balanced Meals According to Healthful Food Combinations”. Click on each photo to see the detailed suggestions and instructions. Mrs. Frederick has your complete diet planned and an explanation of the elements that make up food, what those elements are and what your body requires.
Moveable hands on the Hoosier Want List covered most everything you’ll need, as long as you only need six items at a time.
One door had racks for small bottles or Flavoring Extracts. Below those you put your ice book, which I found was a book of tickets for blocks of ice, bought from an ice company, of course. And a milk lid pick (not in the picture), which looks to be a device to open up the old glass bottles of milk. They really thought of everything. We hated to leave the cabin and the park, but early on Aug. 4 we set out on the road for our journey south through Colorado.
Next post: Mesa Verde
August 18, 2016
One evening, I think as I was going to eat dinner out on the front porch at the Rocky cabin, I see this amazing scene across the Moraine Park meadow. I mentioned before the atmosphere is constantly changing so it’s possible to see amazing things everyday. But this was really amazing, the scene appearing like an Albert Bierstadt painting with dramatic lighting and everything! The real spectacular clouds/light only lasted a few minutes before the scene became just an ordinary amazing sight. It’s interesting to click on the photo to see the enlarged version and see the different cloud formations and the streams of light.
Coming back at 6:00 am from shooting the moon rising at the Tundra area I saw this scene of Longs Peak lit by the rising sun and a bank of fog lurking in the meadow below. Individual clouds of fog dotted the meadow, this one looking like the wash from a watercolor brush. It was incredible to see the peak, at 14,259 feet, catching the first rays of the rising sun, well before the lower mountains and the surrounding valley.
For a few days there was smoke from fires north and west of the park that created an orange haze on the horizon. It was especially heavy one evening, before I gave the artists evening program talk at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I got out of my car and saw this orange sun low in the sky surrounded by the smoke.
August 16, 2016
We’re back home after an extended trip from the mountains to the high desert. I’ll post a few updates from Rocky, Colorado and New Mexico over the next few days.
Ann arrived at Rocky on Monday, Aug. 1, via the Estes Park Shuttle van from the Denver airport that dropped her off right at the visitor center in the park. We had a few more days in the White cabin before heading off on a southwest adventure. Tuesday we set off to the west side of the park in search of moose. They like aquatic vegetation and riparian areas and lakes. As we drive Highway 34 in the Kawuneeche Valley we see several cars pulled over on each side of the road. Moosejam! The Colorado River meanders through this area and comes very close to the road at points. We see a female moose feeding on the ground cover and bushes near a bend in the river. Through binoculars in the bright sun we see details of the large mammal. I forgot to bring my Nikon with the longer telephoto lens, but I have my small Sony camera with a short focal length zoom. I get a few interesting semi-close ups and a nice wider shot showing our moose under the towering lodgepole pines and the mountains in the distance. We end up seeing two more moose in the area. (Click to enlarge photos)
August 1, 2016
The atmosphere is changing constantly at Rocky providing sublime to spectacular landscapes. As the late afternoon rain continued Sunday, the sun peaked through some clouds. Going down the hill to check on something in my car, I looked to the east to see part of a brilliant, almost fluorescent rainbow and a second, lighter rainbow. I ran back up to the cabin to grab my camera and ran back down the hill to see almost the whole arc over the trees and mountains. The clouds behind it were very dark and the contrast was stunning. The rainbow lasted quite a long time and it seemed to be almost a solid beam. After a while it began to fade so I headed back to the cabin. Looking out a few minutes later I see again a small slice of color in the sky and run back out with my camera. Only part of the arc is seen but it’s as bright at the first sighting. It’s an amazing sight against the deep green trees and the dramatic lighting on the background mountains.
I had a couple of busy evenings as part of the Night Sky Festival. Friday I gave a talk about the night sky photos at the Moraine Park campground amphitheater and a hands-on photo workshop Saturday at the Glacier Basin campground. Both outdoor amphitheaters are a real experience as the sky darkens during the program. At Glacier Basin we went out to a meadow in the campground to photograph the Milky Way and the distant mountains.
My friend Richard Haro from Ft. Collins visited Saturday. After the workshop we drove to Sprague Lake, he wanted more practice at the night sky photography. We were surprised to see several cars in the parking lot at around 10:45 p.m. People on the trail around the lake turned out to be “students” from the workshop who apparently took my advice to shoot from Sprague, one of my favorite spots in Rocky.
July 30, 2016
Thursday night (or rather 1:00 a.m. Friday morning) was completely overcast at the cabin. Driving up to the Tundra Communities trail I wasn’t sure if I’d see any sky. I was hoping at 12,000 feet in altitude at the trail I would maybe be above the clouds, which looked very low from the 8,000 feet level of the cabin. On Trail Ridge Road it seemed like a drive through heavy fog. This must be the cloud layer, I thought. Approaching the Rock Cut turnout where the Tundra trail starts, all of a sudden I saw stars. Most of the sky was clear! I was amazed. I was also cold, the temperature dropping to around 42 degrees from the mild 62 at the cabin. I put on several layers and headed out the short trail along the tundra. This area is above the tree line so plants are low to the ground and the main landscape features are huge rocks and the surrounding mountains.
I had planned to be there for the 2:05 a.m. moonrise and found the spots I had scouted out earlier in the daylight. An orange moon started to peak out between distant thin clouds in the east and lit up clouds that were below the ridge I sat on. It was a sight to be above a cloud layer that surrounded the lower elevations. The combination of the moonrise, wispy clouds above, the bright stars, a cloud layer below and the dramatic mountains made for an unforgettable scene.
Many daytime activities for the Night Sky Festival happen at the nearby Moraine Park Discovery Center. I met up with “Dark Sky” Ranger Cynthia Langguth who was helping children make sun clocks, simple sundials to see how to tell time by the sun. A group of amateur astronomers from the area set up solar telescopes to view the sun.
July 28, 2016
Small, fat, furry animals are irresistible to humans and this photographer. Me and many visitors saw this very cute marmot crawling around the rocks at the Tundra Communities trail Thursday morning. The yellow-bellied marmots live in the alpine ecosystem, in this case at over 12,000 feet.
So far every night has been clear and the sky here is pretty remarkable. Monday I saw that the International Space Station was to fly over Rocky just before 10 p.m. I headed to Sprague Lake to get a clear view of the south-southeast horizon. This 2 minute, 41 second exposure starts just below an orange Mars on the right as the ISS cuts through Scorpius, grazes the top of Saturn, heads across the Milky Way through the constellations Ophiuchus, Scutum, Aquilla and goes just below the star Altair where the shutter closes.
The second night photo was taken right when I heard the splashing of an animal in the lake, as I described in the previous post. I asked some rangers and the theories varied that maybe I heard an elk, moose, coyote, mountain lion or even a human. Aside from that, the rising moon provided beautiful light on the lake.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
July 27, 2016
July 27, Wednesday
I’m here at Rocky Mountain National Park for the next week for their 2nd annual Night Sky Festival. The rangers invited me back to give a talk and a night sky photography workshop. It’s a chance to come back to the park where I was an artist-in-residence in 2013. The interpretive rangers have generously allowed me to stay in the William Allen White cabin, where the artists stay, since it is vacant for a couple of weeks.
It’s hard to beat the views from the cabin, either from the large main room window looking west towards the mountains or from the expansive covered porch looking south towards more mountains and Longs Peak. We’re in the Moraine Park section and there is a vast meadow at the base of the mountains.
This stay will allow me to re-visit some of the locations I was at in 2013 and shoot more of the incredible night sky here. I arrived Monday and both night so far have been clear. I had a mild scare last night at Sprague Lake around 1:30 a.m. as the moon was rising. I heard something running a few steps by the shore and then a huge splash in the water. Some splashing around, almost like someone swimming. It seemed to be right in front of where I was photographing a dead log and the lake. The splashing continued off and on with a few grunts. I shot one more picture and decided to head out, not wanting to see what kind of animal was taking a midnight swim.
April 3, 2016
I’m back home after the incredible experience of working at Chaco for a whole month. Thanks to all the rangers, volunteers and staff for their help and advice. And thanks to the landscape and the great houses for being great subjects. I’ve done some rough editing of images during the past few weeks, which have been posted here. At some point I’ll gather all the good ones up and make a separate page on the website.
Meanwhile, here’s some of the close-ups of plants and well-known constellations.