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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Monument Valley Sunset

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I finally took the time to run out to Monument Valley which is only  3 hrs from home.  I have driven past it many times on my way to Lake Powell but never actually drove into the park.  I have seen many pictures and have flown over it several times in a private plane but actually seeing it at ground level in person was quite a sight.  It has a certain beauty and mystic about it that makes it so timeless and unique.

We didn’t arrive until 2:00 pm so I had to hurry to find a location to set up for the evening shot.  I met some Navajo Ranch hands who looked to be very knowledgeable about the area so I asked them if there was a sleeper spot close by that I could hike to.  One of the men informed me about a place at the back side of one of the Mitten’s not too far from the entrance that had a remote trail.  I exchanged a few words of limited Navajo with them I have learned over time which they quickly corrected if I wasn’t spot on.  This is definitely a tough language to learn.

We took their advice and quickly hurried down the trail but ran into a group of Navajo’s who were celebrating an event.  Out of respect, we didn’t want to interrupt them so we headed back and worked on plan B.  I quickly found out that sunrise is the best option for a lot of features in the area so I left the park and headed for a vantage point where I could catch both saturation and a sunset.  Unfortunately, there were no clouds out east so shooting west was my only option which meant no saturation on the mittens.

As sunset quickly approached, the clouds thickened on the horizon taking away a nice sunstar option.  But then when all hope was fading away after the sun had already set, color started to appear on my right side which quickly spread across the entire horizon reflecting a beautiful warm light on the desert floor.  I am definitely coming back soon for a sunrise!

Needle Mountains Sunbeam Sunset

 

 

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A light snowstorm hit our area a little earlier than usual here in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado.  I mistakenly thought it would still be snowing in the morning.  I woke up and looked outside and was surprised to see a beautiful red sunrise just starting to develop.  I then left in a panic mode and literally ran out the door in my pajama bottoms with no shirt on and a sweat jacket with some old boots that hardly fit.

I knew I would never make it up to the peaks in time which are about a 20 minute drive up the canyon but I tried anyways.  When I arrived, the sunrise was long gone but there was some nice misty fog still hugging the peaks with a little color still left in the aspens.  I jumped out, set up my gear,  and started firing away.  As I was leaving to find another spot, a couple pulled up and her husband set up to shoot the same scene. As he was taking shots, his wife came over to me and asked if I lived in the area.  After a brief conversation I told her I had to get going to scout another location.  They were from Kentucky so I knew they really didn’t know where to look so I invited them to follow me to my next location.  She yelled at her husband to come over who at first reluctantly wanted to join us but her persistence paid off.  “He’s a local professional photographer and said we can follow him to his next shot!” she yelled.

At that her husband loaded up his gear and they followed me to a beautiful outlook that showcased the fresh snow on the San Juan Mountains. After shooting this location I invited them to join me again later that evening for a sunset opportunity which required some climbing.  This is the shot I have posted.  God was really good to us as the saturation and sunset was incredibly beautiful that evening, the best I have seen it the entire year.  Afterwards, I invited them over for dinner and we all had a great conversation and a new friendship was born.  I love photography!

Grenadiers and Needle Mts Sunset – San Juan Mountains

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This was one of the worst days and best days of my life concerning landscape photography. I ventured out eagerly to capture the fresh snow encapsulating the peaks in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado after a fall storm was moving out of the area. The snow level was over 10k feet so I decided to make a run for one of my favorite overlooks high in the alpine above tree-line. The road only had about 2″ of snow on it so I kept on going despite the steep terrain. Only a mile from my destination I hit the steepest part and decided to make a run at it. This turned out to be a really stupid mistake as I got a few hundred feet up and my tires started to spin. I decided to back down near a pull off to put on some chains. As I was backing down I applied the brakes and immediately started to skid. I let the brakes off and my truck started slowly rolling again in low range. As I neared the pull off I gently applied the brakes again and once again I started to skid. I let the brakes off and realized that I only had 30 feet left before I would slide off a steep embankment which would surely destroy my truck.

I opened my truck door, grabbed my faithful dog by her harness and prepared to jump out of my truck. I gave the brakes one more try but just kept on sliding. Just when I was about to jump out, the truck finally came to a stop just in time. I set the park brake and jumped out with my dog in case it started to slide again. As I hit the ground, I fell flat on my face. I had no idea it was that slick? I made my way over to a clearing where I tied my dog up to keep her out of harm’s way and I spent the next 2 hours hooking my large tie-down straps to a tree and was finally able to winch my truck around without sliding off the hill. I was very fortunate to have three heavy duty straps that reached the only tree close by. This was really important because when I looked in my storage box the chains were nowhere to be found. I went from tree to tree with my straps hooked firmly to my truck as I slowly moved down the hill for a few hundred feet to prevent my truck from sliding off the road. I finally hit a section of the 4×4 road where I felt comfortable and drove off exhausted and bruised up but thankfully relieved.

Though I didn’t deserve it for being so careless, on my way back down, a crazy beautiful sunset broke out on the Grenadier and Needle Mountains that highlighted some of the most gorgeous peaks in the lower 48. I was able to catch a quick shot of Garfield Peak still in the golden stage of the sunset but quickly moved on to find a better position where I could capture a larger portion of the majestic range. By the time I set up, the beautiful pinkish red highlights on the peaks began to fade but the color in the clouds began to intensify. As the picture depicts, it was extremely bright and a joy to look at. I only had time for a quick shot so I made the best of it. I was able to capture from left to right: Knife Point, Sunlight, Monitor, Animas, the tip of Eolus behind Animas, Peak Fifteen, and finally Turret Peak. Unfortunately, I had to leave out Garfield, Electric, Arrow and Vestal peaks but I felt very fortunate to come out of this adventure unharmed and I thanked God for helping me turn a bad situation in something so beautiful.

 

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