Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sat, Sept 24, 2011: Maroon Bells, Part 1

This weekend, for the first time in my life, the intent of my travels was photography. Typically, photography has played a backseat role in my travels, but as I come across more and more wonderful scenes in my life, I find myself wishing I could portray them in a more intentional way.
The first thing I have been playing around with is my shutter speed. I am overwhelmed by how many things there actually are to learn about my camera, but I'm excited to learn and figured maybe it won't be so overwhelming if I tackle them one at a time.

Hoping that the Maroon Bells would look spectacular no matter what I did with my camera, B and I headed up early (very, VERY early...) on Saturday morning after having spent the night in Carbondale.

It was magical arriving before that magnificent sight before the sun even rose, with a slender crescent moon decorating the sky but not offering any light.

I knew we wouldn't be alone there, but I was surprised by the amount of people crowding the shores of the lake. (And they all had tripods! And I forgot mine!)
There was a hush over all of us, and the air felt heavy with a sense of reverence and expectation.
The earth held her breath in the last moments before dawn....

...and then, she exhaled...
...and exhaled...
...and exhaled again, the condensation of her orange breath oozing down the mountain peaks before us.
The entirety of the experience was magical, but those oozing orange moments of the breath of the earth were my very favorite.

We watched in stillness, the constant clicks of cameras among the only sounds.

The heavy, thick orange passed away as the sun rose higher, morphing into a brilliant pale gold that carried with it the lightened expectations of a new sunny day...
...and the mood in the air lightened, becoming crisp and clear and pure.
The peaks behind us were gorgeous, and the sun touched them later than the Maroon Bells. Those of us who took our eyes away from the golden splendor of the Bells were able to enjoy the sunrise exhibition for a second time.
I was FREEZING (I also forgot my gloves...) and so were the dogs, apparently, so B and I took them back to the car to sit in the heat for a while. We passed these columbines along the way:
B told me several times how tired he was, but I tried to keep both of our spirits up, saying that it was still early and we may as well hike up to Crater Lake to warm up the dogs (who were fast asleep and plenty warm with the heat blowing on them...) and give us all some exercise. He gave in, and we left the warmth of the car once again for the chilly, fresh, golden morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sun, Sept 18, 2011: Second Annual Hike Like a Pirate Day!

When people hear about Hike Like a Pirate Day (which comes the weekend before International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which this year falls on Sept 19th), they seem to feel compelled to inform me that pirates don't hike, in a tone of voice that very clearly states: "duh".

If pirates don't hike, then how are we supposed to get from Colorado to the ocean? How are we supposed to reach areas remote enough that we can safely bury our treasure? Where else would we see beautiful views of inland mountains to take with us on our journeys around the world? (duh! :) ).

The moon... is so captivating... and now that I have figured out how to take pictures of it, I think I am even more enchanted by my camera.
B and I spent Sunday morning donning our pirate garb - ARRRRR!
My friend chose Evergreen Lake as the location for this year's pirate hike. She has young children, and the other friends invited also have children, so this seemed a fun and easy place to go.

Luckily, it's also lovely. :)
B informed me that this bird is a crane, because he has watched The Karate Kid so many times that he would recognize a crane anywhere. (My friend Jen says it's probably a diving bird, a cormorant or anhinga).
The dogs were in on the fun too, and Kaylee actually managed to wear her pirate bandanna all day without trying to eat it, a fact that greatly surprised me as she spent most of the morning after we put it on her trying to eat it.
I love Asters. :) Hearing their name, which used to be mine in a way, conjures up all kinds of interesting thoughts and memories. Seeing them is always a little complicated for me, but I like that about them. They are so sweet that, regardless of the complications, they always make me smile.
There is a big lodge built right on the edge of the lake, and it was being set up for a wedding when we were there.
I kind of wanted the people to get married with a bunch of pirates in the backgrounds of their pictures (because to me, that would be funny if they were my pictures!); however, we seemed to be a bit too early and saw only the very first guests arriving.
There is a large dam that holds back the lake, which B noticed was built by Denver. So I guess we steal their water? Thanks, Evergreen....
ARRRRRR!
This statue by the dam was so random and not very visible.
For some reason, this view caught me. I love the "No Swimming" sign, and you can see a small kayaker in the background, and the moon is a small white smudge to the upper left of the sign.
Ok... this was so weird! There is no fence.... Do you see the chains there keeping the fence closed? Wha...?
I love these purpley blue bell flowers and still haven't learned their name:
Toward the end of our hike, we passed this adorable little cottage that is perched on the edge of the lake. If we had to live in a small house (which we do), I wish we could at least live in a small house that is somewhere beautiful, like this one.
This little duck started swimming toward our group, then swam quickly away when it caught the attention of our dogs and the kids!
We got a few strange looks, walking around the lake dressed like pirates, but most people were super friendly and got a kick out of us. And I think we got a kick out of ourselves. It was a good day. :)

I do wish that more often, people would dress in a way that is fun and entertaining. I don't understand the point of dressing in the way that is expected (although I do it every day for work because I have to!). It's so much more fun to dress with a sense of humor. This has reminded me to bring that sense of fun and not taking myself too seriously to the things that I wear, as well as trying to bring those traits to my personality.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thurs, Sept 8, 2011: Printing Photographs...

So... I have been printing some of my favorite photographs for my friends and family ever since I moved to Colorado. This Thursday, B and I were at Costco and I was printing my latest round of photos: some for friends and some of the dogs that I took back in June:

The pictures, which looked great on my computer screen, looked terrible and pixelated when printed. I went back to the woman at the photo area and asked her what I'm doing wrong. She actually had an answer for me, and one I wish I had learned years ago! Apparently there is a setting that indicates how many dpi, or dots per inch, the printer will print. I had been allowing the dpi to remain as the default, which is 72. She said their machines will print up to 320 dpi, while other Costcos with new printers can print up to 400 dpi.

WHAT?!

I am SO HAPPY about this - I have always wondered if I was just so terrible with pictures that I was taking them in really low quality or something, though the fact that the terrible printing problem wasn't fixed when I got my digital SLR was confusing to me. I have always been so sad about how bad my pictures look when I print them. Now I am elated to find out that it's just a silly little default setting that has been the problem the whole time.

She also taught me a few other things, like I can save files as a .TIFF if I want to capture subtle details in black and white, and that most places will "auto-correct" the settings of pictures, so if I want them to come out the way I like I need to ask them not to auto-correct.

My time spent learning from her was among the most useful 15 minutes I have spent in a very, very long time!!

Fri, Sept 2 to Sat, Sept 3: Camping In The Springs, Part 2

So, now that we knew we were staying in the Springs area for a while... what to do? I rattled off a list of things half a mile long that I knew we could do, and the thing that seemed to resonate with B was a drive up to Pike's Peak. Technically it would be the first 14er for the dogs, but I think it's cheating since they didn't actually hike it. :)

Crystal Reservoir was gorgeous, and the sky was alive with bright sunlight and small dark clouds.
Kaylee!
I couldn't believe it when I saw that this willow was already turning yellow. Being from the Connecticut, I still feel like leaves shouldn't start turning until around Columbus Day, but out here the process begins in mid-September in the mountains.
Thankfully, the aspens were still their lovely summer green, so I didn't have to be too shocked. :)
The drive up to Pike's Peak is really beautiful, and the clouds made the sky interesting.

With my telephoto lens, we were able to zoom in on Garden of the Gods. I could make out the shape of the "Kissing Camels" formation, which made me smile.

Kaylee on top of her first 14er! (B was inside the store buying us a doughnut!)

Here is my Pike's Peak doughnut... delicious!
I loved this small dark cloud, hovering randomly lower than all the others, brilliantly outlined by the sun. This picture doesn't do it justice.
There were these beautiful red plants everywhere at the alpine elevations, and I loved how they lent their color to an otherwise relatively monochromatic landscape.
Do you see that crazy loop in the road?!

We headed to a dog park that B found to give the girls some exercise, since they had been basically on-leash and by our sides for the past 24 hours. The park was great! We were able to hike with them off-leash, and the whole park was fenced in so even if they got away they wouldn't get lost! (It was Kaylee's first off-leash hike so I thought getting lost might be a very real possibility for her, but she was great!).

The dogs were wiped out after their big 14er excursion and dog park hike!
We headed over to the balloon festival grounds and attempted to park, only to find out that dogs are not allowed at the festival. WHAT?! I had a great day and was happy that we stuck around to have some Colorado Springs adventures, but I was REALLY looking forward to the balloon festival. Maybe next year!

We headed home on one of my favorite back roads in Colorado, Route 105 through Douglas County. At one point, I warned B that I saw a deer on the side of the road. We were able to watch about 4 or 5 deer cross the road in front of us. As we passed, we realized that all but one of them was a male with large antlers.
The sunset was amazing.
I really love this area of town. There are beautiful views of the mountains, and so much open and free land. It feels like the country to me, but is fairly close to the city.
I continued my experimenting with photographing the moon, and had another successful experience:
It was so nice to have a day of exploration and spontaneity!