Hiking Hope Lake

10 Jun

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Below is an excerpt from my new book, Capturing Colorado: Hiking & Photographing Lakes of the San Juan Mountains. Celebrate summer with a definitive guide to Colorado’s finest range. Find out more about this exciting guide here.

Clouds play hide-and-seek amid unearthly red peaks and motley fields of flowers en route to Hope Lake. The price to pay for this special occasion is a paltry one – 2.5 miles and 1500 feet of altitude gain. A relative drop in the bucket compared with the taxing work necessary to reach other locations with similar scenery. Hiking is part of the allure, making this adventure an ideal choice when exploring near Rico and Telluride.
Begin on level dirt venturing through a shaded forest before reaching a hillside gulley. The streambed is wide and shallow but floods after heavy rains. An unobstructed presentation of a looming crest soon appears. Accentuated by the chattering sounds of water, these stately sights impress.
Effortless hiking continues for over a mile, including a brief downhill stint on a series of meandering switchbacks. Views progressively improve with shimmering Trout Lake and the unorthodox skyline of the Lizard Head Wilderness afar. Twenty-five minutes of walking brings the confluence of two major waterfalls and the trail traces them upwards. A wooden sign marks the beginning of this climb, which is a natural resting spot. Nearby, a tree-covered ravine makes an enchanting place to investigate.
The final push takes place on moderate switchbacks through a timber canopy and open understory. An occasional window offers compelling views of an imposing peak. Walk on soft ground while enjoying the roaring sounds of water splashing down the mountain.
Above the trees, enter a medium-sized meadow with unbelievable vantages of the burnt-orange slopes of 13,897-foot Vermillion Peak. Enjoy outstanding views of this mysterious mountain amid dizzying scenery. Wandering forward toward a notch in the hills, catch your first glimpse of soothing Hope Lake. You may find yourself wondering, “Is this place real?”

Backpacking and Hiking Tips Vol. 1 – Fitness

24 Jun

Book-Cover1FLAT---CopySummertime in Colorado means hiking and backpacking in the mountains. This post is the first installment of ways to help maximize your outdoor adventures and excursions this summer. Today we’ll talk about training.

Physical preparation is a key component to a fulfilling hiking or backpacking trip, especially if you have a big outing planned.

It is important to start 6 to 10 weeks in advance depending on your fitness level. Let’s dive into some specifics…

Training Regimens

Out-of-shape – Try a 10-week training program. Start with 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity 3 – 4 times a week for the first couple of weeks. Over the next month, gradually increase the level of difficulty of your training as well as the length of your sessions up to 45 minutes. A month before your trip, begin the most intense portions of exercise and training. Increase frequency to 5 times a week and length of cardiovascular activity up to an hour each session. Intensity should be higher meaning you should cover more distance at a higher resistance level in the same amount of time or less.

Perform some additional leg exercises such as ball squats and lunges (reverse) (neither exercise requires holding weights.) once a week over the last 3 weeks. Try high repetitions of 20 for two sets. Maintain this physical regimen until one week before your trip. From that point forward, workout according to how your body feels. I recommend up to two moderate workouts in last week with no cardiovascular activity occurring less than three days before your trip (including travel days.)

Average fitness level – This is for someone who takes care of his/herself, but isn’t a fitness fanatic. The same general training strategy (as above) is recommended with a few modifications. Instead of 10-week regimen try 8 weeks by skipping the first two weeks of suggestions. Make sure you exert yourself to fatigue each workout, but pay attention to your body and take the needed rest. Implement the ball squats and lunges 4 to 6 weeks out and perform them up to twice a week. Two to three sets at high repetitions. If you must hold weights (not recommended) then try not using more than 10-pound dumbbells for these exercises.

Great shape – Try mixing up your cardiovascular workouts as much as possible. If you are a runner – use a treadmill to increase incline or try running hills. The stair master is also a great machine for training. Consider wearing your backpack or daypack and load it down with weight.   Ramp up the intensity as much as possible and increase resistance too. Take the last week off or limit cardiovascular exercise to moderate.

20150818_172342---CopyGeneral Fitness Tips:

  • Develop a stretching routine. Make sure you regularly stretch your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips. Use static contractions. Do not stretch without warming up first.
  •  Shoulder shrugs are the best upper body training exercise for backpacking. Using dumbbells is the standard method, although a plate-loaded straight bar allows for more versatility. Because your shoulders bear about 20 – 25 % of your pack weight -increasing the strength and size of your trapezoids is a great way prevent fatigue and soreness.
  • Try training in a gym or fitness center. I stopped hiking for training years ago. Living in the desert its simply too hard on my knees, the air quality sucks, and the chance of injury is far greater than using standardized machinery.
  • Make sure you get your backpack properly fitted before using it on your adventure. IF you live in a city REI does this for free, even if you did not purchase the backpack from them.
  • Reserve your first day/night to acclimating to altitude if hiking at over 8,000 feet.

Please note: Although exercise improves your health, a medical checkup before you start an exercise program can help ensure a safe beginning.

I hope these tips help. Let me know what you think or if you have any others to add. Happy hiking and safe travels!!

Cell Phone Pics from My Colorado Autumn Trip 2015

16 Oct

Below are five of my favorite cell phone shots from my trip a few weeks ago to central Colorado to photograph fall colors. All pictures were captured with my Samsung Galaxy S6 and have not been edited. Enjoy!

Road to Gore

“Road to the Gores” A quiet, peaceful mountain road leads into the Gore Mountains north of Silverthorne.

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“Colors of the Fall” Sunrise on a secluded section of the Maroon Bells scenic loop trail.

Aspen Forest

‘Pure Gold’ I noticed this vibrant, peak stand of aspens on Castle Creek Road outside of Aspen, CO.

Bells

Dappled mid morning light on the Maroon Bells amidst overcast skies.

Hanging Lake

The Hanging Lake Trail outside of Glenwood Springs was a workout delight! Definitely one of the best workout trails I have ever hiked and the payoff at the end was outstanding.

New Book Coming Soon

8 Oct

I’m currently in the process of working on a new book entitled, “Exploring and Photographing SW Colorado’s High Alpine Lakes.” Initially it will be available as an ebook and I also plan on publishing a print version as well. This book will focus on the San Juan Mountains with detailed driving, hiking, and photography instructions including what times to shoot for the best light as well as other tidbits of useful information. Detailed ratings of each location as well as descriptions of unpaved forest roads and recommended trip lengths will also be included. It should be completed by early next year.

Before the holiday season I’ll be offering a pre-order opportunity where the book will be available at 30% off the initial price. This is a excellent purchase for anyone interested in exploring the San Juans on foot or car with an emphasis on photography. It is sure to help improve your photographs and save you a lot time and effort in trip planning and decision making not to mention help you choose which roads are suitable for your vehicle and driving style without having to actually find out first hand!

Please look for the link in the future as I’ll have much more on this in the next month. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have. Happy Shooting!!

WildMoments Word Press. Com is Back!

7 Oct

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Hi Folks,

A couple of years ago I decided to switch blogging platforms and I moved to wordpress.net. I did this for more customized features as I wanted a more refined, customized look. Unfortunately, what I realized is that wordpress.com has one big advantage over wordpress.net unbeknownest to me at the time. It is much more search engine friendly! Therefore, moving forward I will be posting all blogs on both platforms although as of right now only my wordpress.net blog is linked to my website. I’m glad to be back and I look forward to interacting with those folks that regularly use this blogging platform.

Happy blogging!

Michael

Wild Moments Blog Has Moved!

22 Mar

Hi Everyone,

This should be my last blog post on this platform. I’ve switched over to wordpress.org, which gives me a lot more freedom to expand and design my blog. My new url is http://landscape-photography-blog.comImagePlease check it out and go there for all future blog posts. If anyone is thinking of switching over to a wordpress.org platform – please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions as it is much easier said than done. I hope to see you over at my new blog. I’d love to hear about any feedback you might have as well!

Photoshop Processing Techniques for Improving Your Prints Part 1: Chromatic Aberration

4 Feb

Chromatic aberration is one of those naturally occurring, technical imperfections of your camera lens that can take your favorite photograph and moderately reduce its overall quality if not handled properly. What is chromatic aberration? Well, you may or may not be familiar with the term although if you’ve looked at enough photographs I guarantee that you’ve seen it before, even if you didn’t notice it. Wikipedia defines it this way…

“Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point. Since the focal length f of a lens is dependent on the refractive index n, different wavelengths of light will be focused on different positions.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_aberration)

OK that’s pretty technical. Without getting too convoluted, I define chromatic aberration as color fringing that usually occurs around objects as magenta, blue, red or green outlines or highlights. Chromatic aberration basically occurs from a combination of light, subject matter, aperture selection, and lens quality. It is mostly noticeable in the background of images along horizons and is especially noticeable in mountain scenes captured during the daytime where minor patches of snow are evident.  In some photographs, a small amount of chromatic aberration is acceptable and is usually an easy fix in Adobe Camera Raw or in Photoshop with just the click of a button or the movement of a slider.

Where fixing this problem gets tricky is if there is quite a bit of chromatic aberration that appears in different colors or if you are a perfectionist like I am. Before we get ahead of ourselves let’s quickly discuss how Photoshop or ACR fixes this problem. From how I understand it, what the software actually does is it picks up your image and moves it slightly so that it covers the areas of fringing. However, this isn’t a local selection – it is actually a ubiquitously occurring process in that it moves the entire picture so all areas of your image are affected. The problem with this is that it affects the overall image quality because there is a minor loss of resolution every time this movement is performed. Secondly, the image shift depends on the color so fixing a magenta color fringe won’t necessarily rectify a red one and vice versa. In that particular case, using the software results in a compromise where the color fringing effects can be offset and reduced, but not completely fixed.

Let’s look at an example at how I circumvented both of these issues.  Do you notice the bluish-green fringing around the flowers in the before image below?

Before

Before

After

After

What you are looking at is a small portion of an image that was commissioned by a local bank in Colorado to use for the front of their 2013 calendar. Because the image was being used at approximately 8.5 x 11 for mass distribution I wanted to make it look as good as possible. This was a small fix and it can be a little time consuming. However, if delivering the highest quality product to your clients is must for you (like it is for me) then it is worth the time.  I find the easiest way to fix this problem is with the color replacement tool in Photoshop. In this case, I simply use the color of the flower petals or a neutral grey and trace away the noticeable effects of the chromatic aberration with the color replacement tool. The most important aspect of this method unlike other quick fixes is that it does not sacrifice image quality or resolution. Conversely, it actually makes your image higher quality! I hope you found this post helpful I’d love to read your comments or questions regarding it! My goal is to follow up this post with another blog about Photoshop techniques in the near future.

Top Ten Photos of 2012

1 Jan

Today marks the beginning of a new year and the end of what was probably the most personally challenging year of my life. Dealing with the advanced stage cancer diagnosis of my best friend has been tough and rewarding, but it definitely slowed down my photography over the summer to say the least. However, I was still fortunate enough to get out several times and I am extremely pleased with the overall body of my work.

Without further adieu, enclosed are my top photos of the year, in my opinion, and account for the preferences of a few close friends and family members. These are presented in chronological order…

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Dreaming of Altitude, Colorado, July, 2011

This ten second exposure of Sloan Lake is the only image not captured in 2012. Until recently, it sat dormant on my hard drive, but the positive feedback I received after posting it to my website plus the originality of the shot has propelled it into my Top Ten.

Lost in Forever

Lost in Forever, Wyoming, January

Probably my favorite image of the year, it was captured on a breathtaking and frigid 30 below morning in Yellowstone. I was with a group and didn’t have any say whatsoever as to the location choice, but I certainly made the most out of it.

Thermal Winter

Thermal Winter, Wyoming, January

Another image from Yellowstone, on a lonely night during a clearing storm in the Upper Geyser Basin Area. I was walking around using the ski tracks as a footpath and came upon this scene close to sundown. I wanted to take a lower perspective, but could not as my tripod legs were frozen. I liked these two images so much – I still haven’t yet posted any other images from the entire trip.

Kaleidoscopic Canyon

Kaleidoscopic Canyon, Utah, April

Skull District, Utah, April

A two week trip to Utah in April ended up being my longest adventure of the year. The trip was a fruitful one, although in retrospect, I can’t say any of the images I captured were amongst the most significant of my career. “Kaleidoscopic Canyon” is from a relatively unknown little slot canyon in Central Utah, which required a shuttle hike and some borderline technical skills to access.

While “Skull District” was a particularly memorable capture, it is somewhat bittersweet. I was treated to an incredible light display my last night on that trip, but it abruptly ended when high winds blew over my fully extended tripod destroying my favorite lens and polarizer. This was the last image I captured before that accident . This trip marked the end of all photography excursions until the end of October when I took wonderful trip to the Chiricahua Mountains in Southeastern Arizona.

Arms of the Century, Arizona, October

Arms of the Century, Arizona, October

This image is more a personal favorite than anything else. In 2012, I’ve tried to make a concerted effort to take more macro type images focusing on repetition and pattern and this is one of the best examples of the year. This was a monster sized century plant, the biggest I have ever seen and I had a wonderful time shooting it from all sides until the light faded completely. This was the last shot that I captured during that session and it was a 30 second exposure with extraordinary luminance. The  colors are perfectly natural and I am not sure if it was a result of that particular plant or also had to do with it changing colors for autumn. The whole plant wasn’t red and this was the most particularly colorful section.

The Balancing Act, Arizona, October

The Balancing Act, Arizona, October

This image was captured in the same area the following morning on Halloween.  It was about 20 minutes before sunrise and these peaks were radiating ambient colors of dawn while the full moon set behind it – hence the name “The Balancing Act.”  I purposely left the contrast low to reflect the conditions that I saw at the time.

Forest of Seclusion, October, Arizona

Forest of Seclusion, October, Arizona

One last image from my Chiricahua trip. This one I literally walked into as a very difficult, high altitude hiking trail went directly through a forest of peak foliage with incredible patterns. I was actually contemplating not bringing my tripod on this hike and I am sure glad I did. While I am not sure if this is one of my ten favorite images of the year, I definitely think it showcases the diversity of my photography and that is why I am including it.

Alien Stronghold, New Mexico, November

Alien Stronghold, New Mexico, November

Silent Mystery, New Mexico, November

Silent Mystery, New Mexico, November

The last two images of the year are both from my most recent trip, a five day excursion to New Mexico in the middle of November. Again, it was particularly difficult to limit the selections to a pair, as there are a trio I would have loved to include. In fact, the one that I am not including – found here is one of my three favorite shots of the year!

That being said, “Alien Stronghold” was my first image captured in this very remote and secluded wilderness area in Central New Mexico. The light featured in this image lasted probably less than 75 seconds and it was difficult to achieve the proper depth of field blending necessary to pull off this shot. What I love are the rock formations and drama; those pillars of stone are more than ten feet high.

The last selection of the year is from the same area captured during a long exposure well after sunset during the blue hour. The light, colors, and formation are all beautiful, but this image also is unique in at least two other ways. First, it has foreground elements where movement is not purposely captured – in this case, the reeds are blowing. Normally, this is a big no-no for me, but under circumstances and given the overall image – it doesn’t bother me at all in this particular case.

Secondly, I included the sister image of the same formation taken immediately before on my website. This is unique because normally I just pick the best image of a location and display only that one, but in this case, I think both images stand well on their own. There was some controversy as to which image to include and you can decide which one you like for yourself as the other one is found here.

Well, that concludes my list. Thanks for hanging in there and reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope to share more images and be more active blogging in 2013. I wish you and yours a happy and blessed new year. I would love to hear your feedback as well. Thanks for looking!

Link

Slot Canyon Photography Tips 2012

29 Jun

Many of my new images feature some rarely photographed slot canyons in Utah and it got me thinking about more tips to share with you regarding this specialized type of photography. I’ve written on this subject before and I hope this post builds and expands on the information I’ve shared with you in the past. Without further adieu…

Patiently Study Your Subject Matter – One of the best things about photographing slot canyons is the light is always changing. Furthermore, it’s sometimes better in the middle of the afternoon. How cool is that? What I am getting at here is if you don’t have to worry about crowds of people (A.K.A you are not photographing Antelope Canyon.) Then you’ve got time to work the area you are in for the best possible composition. For instance, take this picture…

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2 images blended for dynamic range. The primary image captured at F/22, ISO 160 and 2.5 second exposure.

While I am certainly pleased with the finished product, in actuality I struggled quite a bit with this composition. In fact, I’d estimate I spent nearly 45 minutes here before I actually found something that I could use! Again, what’s my point? Just to be patient. Take your time. Unless it’s partially cloudy day and the sky is moving fast you should have time to work your subject without worrying about the light disappearing in a matter of seconds or minutes. That brings me to my next point…

Relax – I don’t know about you but I can get worked up especially when I am in front of a scene that I know is special. My adrenaline is pumping – maybe it’s a difficult hike, a precarious ledge, or a tight squeeze – whatever the situation is just try to chill. Think about what you are doing and be in the moment. Finally…

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2 shots blended for depth of field. F/9, ISO 400, .8 exposure

Get A Good Guidebook and Read It – To find the best locations, perusing the Internet for information is not the best solution. You need to be Johnny on the spot. (Either that or you can hire me) These locations are remote, difficult to find, and even a good guidebook sometimes doesn’t paint an accurate picture as to what you’ll find when you do get there. (If the directions are even accurate.) My point is this – you need some handy dandy reference material when you are out driving around.

Studying maps, researching locations online – that stuff is all helpful to a certain point, but if you are not familiar with the location, you are going to need reference materials when you are out in the field. Otherwise, you are not going to truly comprehend what you are reading because you are not familar with the area. Heck, I’ve spent hours online just researching guidebooks! Let alone reading them. Count on spending many hours pouring over the fine print to find that needle in a haystack.

The good news is this can be done from where you sleep in the back of your car, at the trail head, or from a toilet seat in your hotel room. Just remember to bring the book with you on your trip. I know this sounds stupid, but when you start accruing guidebooks and you bring 3 or 4 along – it’s easy to forget one. I forgot probably my best guidebook for this trip!

I know these “tips” sound like overstating the obvious, but Don’t Take Your Time For Granted. Maximize It!

To see more of my images please check out my new release gallery found here http://www.wildmoments.net/gallery/new_releases/  and as always – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

New Images and Changes for 2012

22 May

I’ll admit I’ve been hoarding. I’ve been hoarding images, changes, updates, and blogs posts. I am as busy as ever with landscape photography, but I’ve been dormant from the social media world for a while. That’s all about to change and I thought I’d crack the ice with a post to get you up-to-date in the last happenings in my landscape photography world.

Let’s get you caught up on where I’ve visited first. So far it’s been: Yellowstone NP in January, Sedona in February, Organ Pipe National Monument in March and a 13-day road trip to Utah during the first half of April. I am pretty stoked about what I have to share with you, but I haven’t started processing just about anything yet.

Here’s why: I recently a purchased a new computer and monitor to be used strictly for photography. Currently, I am multitasking and everything for surfing the Internet, to shopping, banking, listening to music, conducting business and everything else under the sun is done from my one system. Let’s put it this way – I really don’t want it to break under the weight. So far, it’s been holding up great (except for my USB ports, which are basically fried) and I am finally to the point where I can afford to designate a new  computer system specifically for landscape photography.

Coincidentally, Adobe recently released CS6 and the timing was perfect to upgrade and process on all my new images with their new software and through my new hardware. As it stands now, I am just waiting on my new writing desk to come in, which is supposed to occur later this week. I am hoping to get up and running by this Memorial Day weekend.

To go along with all of the new changes, I thought it would be a great time to redesign my blog’s appearance too. I’ve added a few widgets and changed the theme as I wanted something where I could include a background image. Please let me know what you think. I wish it didn’t have the white background where the text goes, but it’s about the best theme I could find on WordPress.

In case you are wondering, I am still up-in-the air about many future photography trips this year. I am definitely planning another short visit to Sedona in late June and a weekend trip to Flagstaff in August. I am still on-the-fence about a major trip somewhere in late July and I have tentative plans on returning to Yellowstone in the middle to end of September.

I’ll keep you posted as to any new developments on that front and will update you further on my new computer system  within a week or so. If you have any suggestions on worthy photography related destinations within a 10 hour drive of Phoenix I’d love to hear about them. I am specifically interested in New Mexico, but any state that borders Arizona is doable. Have a incredibly blessed and safe Memorial Day weekend.

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