As is my tradition, it is time to count down my favorite images from the past year.  Since it is 2013, I’ll share 13 of my favorites with you.  Let me tell you – it was incredibly difficult to narrow the choices down this year, so I have 13 favorites and one honorable mention.  I had a spectacular photographic year, with trips to Arches, Canyonlands, Crested Butte (TWICE during PEAK wildflower bloom!), Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat (twice), Mesa Verde, Maroon Bells, and countless visits to my backyard gem, the Colorado National Monument.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Honorable Mention – Blue House Lights

deer

I went out once to shoot Christmas lights with 3 other members of Thunder Mountain Camera Club and finally figured out how to do them the right way.  It was extremely cold (temps hovered near zero the entire time we were out) but it was fun.  Dawn Morrow, the organizer of the outing, had pre-scouted some awesome places for us to visit.  My favorite place was the “blue house” on 26 Road right off I-70.  The next weekend, I went back and reshot a few things I missed the first time.  I got this shot that time.  I really liked the composition and how the lighting turned out.

#13 – Foggy Kissing Couple

10

I’ve wanted to capture fog up in the Colorado National Monument and finally had a chance early in 2013.  It was eerie to sit and watch the fog move though the canyons, almost like a live being, and the silence was overwhelming.  I captured this image at one of my favorite shooting spots, the Monument Canyon view.  This image was selected for the CNMA annual calendar as a grid photo and was also selected by the Bank of Colorado for their 2014 scenic calendar.

#12 – Monument Rainbow

04 hdr

Several of my camera club friends started chasing lightning when the monsoon arrived.  I finally decided I should try, and went up to the Monument chasing a small cell that was throwing off a little lightning.  Unfortunately by the time I got up there, the storm fizzled…  I drove past Independence Monument, then Kissing Couple, hoping the storm would fire up again, but it didn’t.   A little past Kissing Couple, I decided to turn around.  I came around this corner and WHAM! This rainbow was right in my face.  Luckily, there was a spot just big enough for my car so I pulled off and started firing furiously.  The rainbow never did fully form, but in this context it really didn’t matter.

#11 – Aspen Leaf

Aspen 1 small

I had planned to visit Steamboat the first weekend in October and man, did I time that right!  I arrived on Friday and it was still snowing – AND colors were at peak!  What an incredible weekend I had – probably one of my most memorable.  It was made better by the fact I got to hang out with several photographers from Nature Photographers Network (Rod Hanna, Monte Trumbull, Ken Henke and Stephen Trainor).  They graciously let me tag along (actually, they drove which was great because an experienced 4wheeler – in snow to boot – I am not), we ate several meals together, talked shop, and shot hundreds of images together.  Rod has lived in the Steamboat area for decades and knows the area like the back of his hand.  He knew exactly where and when to go.  This image was shot literally roadside on the second day.  I spied the leaf lying in the snow and noticed the big water drops, so out came the macro lens.  I love how the leaf has all colors in it – green, yellow, orange and red.

#10 – Lupines & Aspens

Lupines small

We went to Crested Butte twice during peak wildflower bloom.  It was nothing short of amazing, but the locals said it wasn’t that good…  I thoroughly enjoyed it though!  This was taken up on Kebler Pass, near the top close to the Horse Ranch Park area.  Although I couldn’t quite capture the beautiful sidelighting I saw, it still remains a favorite of mine for the year.  I really liked the strong vertical lines created by the aspens and the lupine spikes.

#9 – Mesa Co. Fair Ferris Wheel

Night Ferris Wheel fb

Thanks to Thunder Mountain Camera Club, and especially Dawn Morrow, I expanded my photographic horizons a bit this year with some night photography, which I had never really tried.  In addition to Christmas lights, and attempts to shoot lightning, I also tried my hand at the Mesa Co. Fair and the midway after dark.  Again, several camera club members attended and we had a blast first shooting the rides as it got dark, and fireworks after dark.  I really liked this image – it just looks fun!  I posted this on Nature Photographers Network in the POP (People, Objects & Places) category and received an Editor’s Weekly Pick, which was exciting for me.

#8 – Crested Butte Sunflower

Sunflower

I loved the color combination of yellow sunflowers and purple lupine and tried to shoot the two together as much as I could.  This was my favorite wildflower image of the year.  The lupines provided such a pretty background to this happy, cheery sunflower.  Sunflowers, of course, are my favorite flower.

#7 – Maroon Bells

Bells 1

This fall I decided to brave the crowds and headed up to the Bells, just shortly before the government shutdown.  I left home at around 3 am and arrived at the parking lot, to discover there weren’t many spots left.  I grabbed one and waited, hoping it would warm up a little.  Finally, after watching dozens of photographers heading down toward the lake, I decided I should go too.  It was terribly cold, and unbelievably crowded.  I knew it would be bad, but didn’t realize HOW bad until I witnessed it in person.  I was standing literally elbow to elbow with hundreds of other photographers, and vying for space where tripods wouldn’t show up in my shot.  (Actually, I had to clone out a tripod in this shot near the rocks.)  Sunrise over this location was incredible.  It is a photographic icon for a reason – it’s drop dead gorgeous with the dramatic peaks and a mirror lake in the foreground.  After the sun rose, I hiked up to Crater Lake, which was very windy.  If I ever do this again, I’ll get there even a bit earlier and stake my spot out on the lake shore sooner.  I was pleased I got what I did and made the best of it.

#6 – Mesa Arch Sunrise

Mesa Arch

Yet another highly photogenic icon spot I can cross off my bucket list!  I’d been here numerous times, just never at sunrise.  Silly me, I decided to head there on a day when the temps were about 5 degrees BELOW zero!  The good news was I didn’t have to fight so hard for a spot.  Although there were 5 photogs set up by the time I arrived about 10 min. before sunrise, I managed to get some decent shots.  It really is quite amazing to witness the underside of the arch glowing as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon.  Again, it’s an icon for a reason.

#5 – Flat Tops Fall

Crosho Rd 1 small

I couldn’t have timed my trip to Steamboat better.  Fresh fallen snow AND peak color combined for the most amazing day of photography I’ve ever had.  This was shot on the road up to Crosho Lake.  What caught our attention was the combining lines of frosted evergreens and vibrant foliage.  Although not touted as a prime fall foliage location in Colorado, I was amazed.  The Flat Tops are gorgeous, as is the Buffalo Pass area, Hahn’s Peak, etc.  You owe it to yourself to check it out next fall.

#4 – False Kiva

False Kiva 4 HDR1small

Once again in May, I went to the spring fling event put together by my friend and fellow NPN’er Bret Edge.  It was a small group this year, but we had a grand time shooting sunrise at Canyonlands, eating lunch together, then meeting up again in the evening.  The evening location was False Kiva, which involves a hike down the cliff on an unmarked trail.  I would not recommend trying to find it on your own, but would suggest you find someone who has been down it before and go with them as it looks like you could easily get lost in the rocky sections in places.  We ran into a French photographer who was coming back, and he told us (in his very snotty French accent) that “Ze light is gone.”  We all chuckled and kept trudging on.  Although the light wasn’t the best when we arrived, it did burst through some clouds right at sunset!  Shutters were clicking away wildly.  The clouds in the background were the perfect backdrop for the sunlit cliffs and formations.  This alcove and ruin is absolutely amazing, almost spiritual.  I almost didn’t go on this hike as I thought it would be too much for me, but with some gentle encouragement and not so gentle arm twisting from Bret and the others, I decided to go for it.  Am I ever glad I did!  It was a tough hike, but blessedly it wasn’t very long so it was totally doable.

#3 – Ute Canyon Sunrise

Ute Canyon

Those who know me well know that I’m really not a morning person.  However, when properly motivated, I can get up early for a photo shoot.  I shot this from the Ute Canyon overlook in Colorado National Monument.  On my way up here, I had already witnessed a morning rainbow so I knew something special was going to happen.  The light and clouds combined for a gorgeous shot of Ute Canyon, which is a really fun hike as well.  This year I also started using NIK HDR Efex on some of my images, including this one.  The program is awesome because you can totally control all the sliders and make it look as garish, or as natural, as you’d like, while boosting the saturation, contrast and making clouds pop.  (Since I prefer a more natural look, I really dial back a lot of the HDR elements.)  I also used HDR on the False Kiva image as well, which really made the sky look incredible.

#2 – Pothole Sunset

Pothole sunset

On yet another outing with the Thunder Mountain Camera Club, we went up to the Colorado National Monument in early May for a sunset walkabout and shoot.  Naturally, the group had fun exploring the rim of Wedding Canyon and shooting from the Book Cliff View areas.  A rainbow appeared just shortly before sunset, then the light show exploded!  We were all speechless as the colors reflected and changed.  What incredible pinks and purples!  The potholes had just a tiny bit of water in them too, which definitely added interest to the scene.  This image has been selected as one of 50 pieces to show in the Monumental Art Exhibit, which will be at the Grand Junction City Hall from January 10 through March 31.  I’m very proud this image passed muster with the jurors and will be a part of this show.  I also used HDR on this image to make the clouds and colors stand out a bit more.

#1 – Dead Horse Point Rainbow

Dead Horse Rainbow

Finally, we’re down to my favorite image of the entire year!  In late August I decided to head to Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.  I was dismayed when it started to sprinkle on me on the way there, but the clouds seemed to be breaking up.  When I got there, I was very happy to see I’d have enough clouds in the sky to make the view more interesting.  As the sun started to rise, I was absolutely ECSTATIC when the short little rainbow appeared!  I only saw one other photographer there and I’m sure he was stoked too.  (I almost did a happy dance but was afraid I might fall over the edge!)  Sunrise at DHP is always amazing, as the sun hits the different levels of cliffs and lights them up in succession.  It really is quite a spectacle, one that was enhanced by the great rainbow this day.  I also used HDR on this one as well with what I think is a very natural look to the finished image.

I joined Thunder Mountain Camera Club this summer and have had a blast!  I love the networking with other local photographers, the learning opportunities, the competitions, and especially the outings.  We went to the Monument, Grand Mesa, the county fair and several locations for Christmas lights.  Hanging with new people has challenged me to try different things and techniques.  I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

2013 was an awesome year for me.  I received two Editor’s Weekly Picks from Nature Photographer’s Network for my Mesa Co. Fair image in the POP photo category and my Horsethief Ranch image in the Weekly Challenge category.  In November, my portfolio was chosen as NPN’s Gallery of the Month, which includes the cream of the crop of photographers on the forum.  I feel very honored I was chosen.  The Colorado National Monument Association selected 5 of my images for their annual calendar (which is their big fundraiser for the year), and one of those images was used for the large photo for June.  (This was the first time I got a large monthly photo.)  I received an Honorable Mention in the “Behind the Lens” contest sponsored by the Daily Sentinel for my Horsethief Ranch image.  The Mesa Land Trust used my Horsethief Ranch image on their printed and internet invitations to their annual open house.  The Bank of Colorado selected Foggy Kissing Couple for the large January photo in their annual scenic calendar.  Three of my images were selected by Thunder Mountain Camera Club to be entered in PSA competition, and one of those images received an Honorable Mention from PSA.  I was asked by Larry Bennett of Aspen Photo Art Gallery to exhibit my images, which will start in January.  And last, but not least, Pothole Sunset was selected by the jurors of the Monumental Art Exhibit to be one of 50 pieces to exhibit at City Hall beginning on January 10.  Yes, it has been a good year for me, and I hope I can somehow top next year, but that’s going to be a tall order!

I don’t really like resolutions, but I do have a few goals photographically this year.  I need to continue to broaden my horizons, try new things, and keep learning and improving.  I believe my involvement with the local camera club will help in obtaining these goals.  I must go through my catalog of images and DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!  My poor hard drive is groaning from all the weight of the thousands of images I’ve shot in the past 3 years.  I’d like to break out my “how to” books and learn more post-processing techniques for Photoshop and especially for my new NIK suite of programs.  I’ve used the HDR a little and love it!  I also need to keep submitting images for consideration in calendars, magazines, contests, etc. and learn how to better market myself and my images.  Again, I have a couple of “how to” books that I’ve browsed through, but really need to dig in and read them.  Last, I hope to start posting more on my blog this year.

I hope all of you had a great year, and I wish you another successful photographic year in 2014!

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Ah, living in western Colorado offers so many recreational opportunities, even in the middle of winter, especially during a winter as mild as 2012.  This afternoon I took advantage of the near 50 degree, sunny day and hiked the Echo Canyon Trail at Colorado National Monument.  To reach this trail, enter through the east entrance of the park and park at the Devil’s Kitchen trailhead. If the tiny little lot on the east side of the road is full, pull into the larger parking lot across the road and up the hill.  Yes, you’ll have to hoof it a little further but with this being the trailhead for five trails, it’s quite likely the small lot will be full on any given day, especially on weekends.  Serpent’s Trail, Devil’s Kitchen, No Thoroughfare Canyon and Old Gorden Trails also originate at this point. 

To hike to Echo Canyon, head to the south from the parking lot, down the Devil’s Kitchen trail.  Soon it splits off, and Old Gordon and Echo Canyon head to the left.  You’ll go down a hill and across a wash, and will then see a sign pointing UP.  You travel up a section of bumpy slickrock for about a half mile.  If you’re middle-of-winter out-of-shape like I was today, this little stretch will definitely wind you.  The park service apparently had to re-route this trail as someone bought the land off to the left and fenced it off. However, they’ve done a brilliant job of outlining the trail with stones so you don’t lose your way on the slickrock.  There are some really nice views up here, and you’ll probably drool over the expensive homes you can see (I know I did).

Looking back to the north from Echo Canyon/Old Gordon Trail

When you see another sign pointing to the right for the Old Gordon Trail, and to the left for Echo Canyon, congratulations! You’ve reached the summit of the ridge.  From what I’ve been able to find out, total elevation gain is around 200-250 feet (but it sure felt like more than that today hauling my camera!)  Follow the trail to the left, where it begins to descend.

Trail junction with Old Gordon

 
Finally, your lungs will get a break as you descend and get closer to the mouth of Echo Canyon.  You also finally lose sight of civilization and feel like you are on a real hike.

Entering Echo Canyon

 
You’ll make a turn to the right as you enter the canyon, and soon you’ll be on its floor, following a little stream.  There is lots of vegetation and quite a few cottonwood trees in this area, although of course today it was all brown and dead.  I’ve read that there is a lot of poison ivy in the warm months, so be careful of that.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it today!  The walls of the canyon soon soar far overhead, glowing red, with streaks of desert varnish down their sides.  Lots of interesting rock formations here as well, especially my favorite – “swiss cheese” rock.  It’s not a very scientific name, but that’s what I call rock peppered with round holes.  There are also quite a few very large boulders strewn about.  It made me look up, trying to figure out where they fell from.  And it always amazes me to see juniper trees growing on top of ledges.
 

Juniper on ledge

 
There was one really interesting stretch where you climb out of the wash and up and over a rock ledge.
 

Rocky ledge in Echo Canyon

 
The trail is easy to follow, going in and out of the wash.  The canyon is narrow so there’s really no way you can get lost, especially since this canyon is a box canyon.  You know when you’ve reached the end, because there’s absolutely no way out but back the way you came in.  When I reached the end, the canyon walls on my left were reflecting incredible light onto the walls on the right.  Reflected light like this is beautiful but I found it hard to capture with my camera, especially since I didn’t haul my tripod with me. Ironically, tonight in the mail I received my new Gorillapod mini-tripod.  Wish I would have had it yesterday so I could have tested it out today!
 

Reflected light on cliff walls

 
Probably the highlight on this trail during the warmer months is the possibility of a fairly good sized waterfall spilling over the notched ledge.  Of course today there simply wasn’t any water flowing here, but I can imagine in early spring when the runoff is coming from Glade Park and above, it is probably a totally different story.  I am definitely coming back in spring to find out!  There are a few nice cottonwood trees that would also look beautiful in the fall with their gold foliage contrasting with the red canyon walls.  You guessed it – that will be yet another trip back for me!  Today what little water was left in the pool was frozen over.
 

The end of the trail

 

Frozen pool and stream in Echo Canyon

 

A close-up of the notch

 
There were not very many hikers on this trail today (I saw maybe a dozen total) but probably in the warmer months it’s more crowded.  Today, however, I reveled in the peace, solitude and beauty.
 

Heading out of the canyon

 
When heading back out of the canyon, unfortunately you have to climb up a shorter but steeper incline.  (Or maybe I’m just really out of shape!)
 

Up and away

 
This trail is about a three mile round trip and was a great way to spend an unusually warm February afternoon.  Once into the canyon itself, the hike was beautiful, and in warmer months would offer even more beauty with blooming wildflowers and cacti.  Due to the climbing, I would rate this as a “moderate” hike, but it’s definitely not that physically demanding, and the breathtaking scenery is worth it.  As in all canyons, exercise caution and don’t hike here if there is an incoming storm near or upstream.  There are not many places where you could escape the rushing water in the wash, so use your common sense.
 
 
 
 
 

Yes, it’s that time again – a review of my personal favorite images from the past year.  Let’s get right to it!

#10 - Lime Creek Waterfall

My cousin has a summer home near the Durango/Silverton area, and we made it down to visit her this summer in mid July, the perfect time for wildflowers and waterfalls!  She showed me this awesome fall on a rather short trail on Lime Creek somewhere near Molass Pass.  She’s a photo nut too, and we spent quite a bit of time shooting this fall from different angles and perspectives.
 

#9 - Claret Cup

I was pleasantly surprised when spring rolled around – the desert actually has a lot of blooms!  Here in the Grand Valley, we were blessed with some early spring moisture which seemed to create a bounty of wildflowers.  I shot this on the Rustler’s Loop, a part of the Kokopelli mountain bike trail system near Fruita.  This trail has numerous claret cup cactus, some of them getting quite large.  I used my fold-up diffuser with this one to soften the light.  Claret cup are my absolute favorite cactus, both because of the incredibly, intensely colored blooms, and because of their growing habit (they grow into rounded mounds) and are quite fun to shoot even when not blooming.

#8 - Monument Canyon sunset

One of my favorite perches in Colorado National Monument (or simply “the Monument” as we locals call it) is on the Canyon Rim Trail which starts at the Visitor’s Center and follows the rim of Monument Canyon all the way out to the Window Rock overlook.  Incredible, unobstructed views abound on this trail, and close to sunset is the best time to photograph the rocky monoliths rising from the canyon floor.  This year, I found this wonderful juniper to use as a foreground element.

#7 - Pink Sego Lilly

Until this spring, I had only seen photographs of sego lillies.  I was thrilled to finally find some blooming on part of Mary’s Loop, another trail in the Kokopelli trail system.  Trying to think artistically, I thought the dried stems behind the bloom were reminiscent of baby’s breath.  Sego lillies are beautiful, but a bit difficult to photograph as their stems don’t leave you much to work with because they are so small and lacking in number of leaves.  They are a very delicate flower.

#6 - Rough Canyon

I discovered Rough Canyon late this spring and hiked at the optimum time: when water was rushing down the creek.  I was astounded to see so many beautiful little cascades in the middle of the desert!  This is an awesome hike, especially at that time of year.  A ways down the canyon (when runoff is still going), there is another nice little waterfall that spills over a beautiful sandstone ledge.  It’s a little tough to get to, and I banged my knee up pretty good trying to get back up.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t there at the right time to get good light on that waterfall, but I sure do love the image I got of this little cascade!

#5 - Sneezeweed & Lupine

The Grand Mesa is not considered a wildflower mecca by photographers, but I was again pleasantly surprised this summer to see the variety of blooms it offered.  The only drawback:  bazillions of mosquitoes!  I’ve never seen so many hungry little bloodsuckers in one place.  It was all I could do to stop, set up, and get three or four shots before being forced to MOVE to keep the skeeters at bay, even after literally bathing in DEET.  Nope, Minnesota has NOTHING on Mesa skeeters!  My husband wanted to mountain bike on the Flowing Park Trail, so I just followed in his wake for a while and hiked out a couple miles and came back.  The prevailing wildflowers on this hike were by far sneezeweed and lupine.  I had a great time trying to pair the two brightly contrasting colors and love the result of this one.

#4 - Mixed Bag

My husband and I made a short trip to the Ouray/Telluride area the first weekend of October.  While he biked, I drove around and shot fall images.  My favorite roads were County Roads 5 & 7.  Gorgeous, gorgeous country down there and I must say, probably the best scenery in the entire state.  I also drove a short portion of the Last Dollar Road near Telluride, which is where I found this exotic mixture of aspens which spanned the color spectrum from green to yellow to red to almost purple.  The colors really, really grabbed me.

#3 - Rifle Falls

I ventured over to Glenwood Springs in June to hike the Hanging Lake Trail, only to discover there were NO parking spots available! What to do?!  I had just driven an hour an half.  Was I to come away with nothing to show for it, except an emptier gas tank? As an alternative, I headed back west to Rifle Falls, and didn’t regret the decision.  Rifle Falls is an incredible triple waterfall that you can walk right up to and don’t have to endure a long, painful hike to get to it.  In fact, it’s literally right off the road.  There are also some really cool caves and rock formations above the falls which are worth exploring, and a trail takes you to the edge where you can look down on the waterfall, a rather unusual experience.  I loved the composition of this one, but wasn’t prepared to be drenched from the mist coming off the fall.  I did go back a second time this summer, armed with some cloths to wipe down my camera. 

#2 - Double RL Divide

As I mentioned with photo #4 above, County Road 7 was beautiful.  Part of it goes over designer Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch.  Not only is he a fabulous designer, he has impeccible taste in scenery!  This was taken somewhere on County Road 7 though I’m not sure if this was actually on his ranch or not.  This is the uber famous “Dallas Divide” which you can see from the classic pulloff on the main highway.  Fall is my favorite season, and with the gorgeous colors in this, it’s no wonder it’s close to the top of my list of favorite images.

#1 - Collared Lizard

Finally, down to #1!  Hands down, this little collared lizard is my favorite image of the year.  I love these brightly colored, small critters, and was so excited when this one let me approach and get really close.  In fact, he seems to be hamming it up a bit for the camera, don’t you think?  This was a handheld shot as I didn’t have time to set up the tripod, and the little critter would have probably scurried away had I tried.

Usually I go over the goals I had set the year before.  I think this year I’ll just skip that part!  Due to my job, which requires a fair amount of overtime, I find my fun time playing with Photoshop, sifting through and processing images, and trying to market myself has all but disappeared.  I guess my goal for the next year is simply to make more time to get out and shoot, and play with the images afterwards.  I’m also considering approaching a couple of small, local galleries to see if there’s any interest in displaying some of my images.  I just need to work up the courage!

My photographic year was not totally without accomplishment.  I submitted seven images to the Colorado National Monument Association for consideration in their annual calendar, and one of my images was selected for use as a grid photo.  I’m definitely going to try again next year.

Colorado National Monument Association 2012 Calendar

 In addition, one of my images of the inside of the roof structure of the “round” barn at Mullinville, Kansas was published in the Summer 2011 issue of “Kansas!” Magazine.

Page spread from Summer 2011 "Kansas!" Magazine

 Feel free to share your photographic goals for the year – I’d love to hear them, since I’m such a slacker these days.  Maybe you can motivate me!  Also feel free to comment on the photos as well.  I’d love to hear from you!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Desert Friend

Several months ago, I submitted 7 horizontal format images to the Colorado National Monument Association for consideration for their 2012 calendar.  Months went by, and I heard nothing.  Honestly, I had given up hope. A couple weeks ago, I received an e-mail that I was on the contributor list.  It didn’t list which image(s) they chose or what size, so the anticipation built as I headed up to the Visitor’s Center the next day to pick up my submissions and my complimentary calendars.  The above image was selected as a teeny-tiny “grid” photo featured on the month of August.

I shot this photo a few short weeks after we moved here in late August of last year.  Early one morning, I headed out on the Devil’s Kitchen/No Thoroughfare Canyon/Echo Canyon trail.  Less than 150 yards from the parking lot, I spied this rabbit chowing down on desert four o’clocks for his early morning meal.  I kept firing off shots as I crept closer, hoping I could get close enough to get something decent.  Out of all the images I snapped, this was the best of the bunch.

I did not receive any compensation for use of the photo, but did receive photo credit next to the photo and also on a contributor’s list on the opening spread of the calendar.  The committee advised that “hundreds of high quality images” were submitted, so I guess I feel lucky that I was one of  36 photographers selected.  The CNMA runs the gift shop at the Visitor’s Center with volunteers, and purchases there help to fund the CNMA’s mission to assist the National Park Service in educational, interpretive and scientific programs at CNM.   You can learn more about CNMA here.

The calendars retail for $12.95 and are available in the Visitor’s Center and many, many locations in the Grand Valley (including my aunt’s downtown store, Alida’s Fruits.) 

Since I spend a lot of time up in the Monument, I’m sure I’ll have more images to submit next year.

Last year I posted my 10 personal favorite images of 2009, followed by some photographic goals.  I guess it’s only fair to review those goals and see if I achieved any of them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do so hot…

I did try to work on my technique so my photos are sharper, with some success, but I need to keep at it.  I did try to find markets for my work, with minimal success.  Largely due to our move to Colorado (and the accompanying extra work and stress), I was not able to sit down and spend time learning Lightroom and Photoshop, and definitely did not have time to get through my digital library and delete the bad images and catalog the good ones.  One goal I did achieve was shooting more flowers.  I shot hundreds of images of wildflowers, in addition to all the great tulip shots I got during Topeka’s Tulip Time.  I had a total BLAST shooting wildflowers in the Flint Hills in early June.  The wet winter we had created phenomenal blooming conditions, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  As with all goals, I’ll just have to keep trying.

Here are my personal favorites of 2010.  It was very hard to narrow them down to 10, so I have 10 plus 2 “bonus” images.  Even getting it down to 12 was extremely difficult:

#12 - Divine Dallas Divide

For two days in early October, I attended a photography workshop near Ouray, Colorado.  I was treated to some insane fall color!  Since this was the first year I’ve been in Colorado in the fall, my eyeballs kept falling out of my head with all the color I was witnessing.  It was the most gorgeous spectacle I had ever seen!  This photo was shot on the last morning of the workshop at the oft-photographed Dallas Divide area.  I used my 70-200 mm lens to try and isolate some more intimate scenes in the grand landscape and loved how this little “island” of bare aspens was framed by vibrant bushes and brush. 

#11 - Prairie Rose

I spent a great afternoon in the Kansas Flint Hills while my husband was mountain biking.  The skies were overcast, and a shower had moved through shortly before we started. It was almost perfect for shooting wildflowers because the light was diffused and eliminated harsh shadows and saturated the colors.  I found this wild prairie rose along the roadside, dappled with raindrops.

#10 - Mountain Shack

Another one from my Ouray workshop.  While everyone else’s attention was focused on shooting the fabulous Wilson Peak as the sun prepared to rise, I took a look around behind us and discovered this cool old shack just a short way down the road.  I loved the texture of the wood, and the way the bright aspens framed the shack.  I was the only person in the workshop who shot this structure, and I can’t figure out why no one else even saw it but maybe it’s because I have such a fondness for old run-down buildings like this.

#9 - Mt. Craig

In early March, my husband landed a job interview in Granby, Colorado.  We decided to take a couple extra days and enjoy some mountain scenery while we were there.  We rented some snowshoes in Grand Lake and took an early morning snowshoe trip into Rocky Mountain National Park up the East Inlet Trail.  I was transfixed and almost hypnotized by the beauty of the fresh fallen powder on the evergreens, and couldn’t stop saying “God, this is so beautiful!”  It definitely gave me a better appreciation for winter conditions.  The snow somehow transforms the landscape into something magical.  I made this image of Mt. Craig later in the day when we returned for round 2 (my husband wanted to take a long trip further up the trail, so I shot photos while waiting for him).  Because the scene didn’t have much color anyway, I decided to convert to black and white, and think it turned out rather well.

#8 - Incoming Storm

Another day that I spent in the Kansas Flint Hills presented yet another opportunity – storm clouds!  My husband was again mountain biking, and thankfully it was more clear the direction he was headed.  This old abandoned stone barn on old K-18 Road west of Alma is always an interesting photographic subject, but with the addition of the cattle and the incoming storm, I couldn’t resist shooting – and glad I didn’t!  When we went back home, we had to drive through this storm and it was a doozy – a real “toad strangler” as my dad would say.  The skies opened up and absolutely dumped on us.  I’m glad my husband didn’t get caught in this on his bike.

#7 - Fallen Rock Cottonwoods

After the leaves had fallen from the trees up in the mountains and on the Mesa, I turned my attention to fall color in the Grand Valley.  One day I went up to the Colorado National Monument and spied this scene, with the vibrant cottonwoods in the wash creating a pleasing “S” curve, with the shadow play on the canyon walls.  With most of the tourists already gone from the Monument, it was a peaceful, quiet scene.

#6 - Fall Bouquet

Yet another one from my Ouray workshop.  We stopped on the Silver Pick Rd. at an aspen grove that was beautifully backlit by the late morning sun.  The workshop leader told us to not only look up but to look down as well.  It’s amazing sometimes what can be found literally at your feet.  I always try to do this anyway, and I hit paydirt on this day.  I loved the contrast of the bright red leaf with the golden aspen leaves, and the aspen twig added some nice texture.

#5 - Colorado National Monument

We made our almost annual trek to Grand Junction a little later in the year (late July) and I was treated to some monsoon moisture in the form of clouds!  We went up to the Monument a couple nights during our stay, and I captured this image which highlights the Kissing Couple formation and views of the Book Cliffs off to the north, all with some awesome clouds and lighting.  This was the first time I’d been to the Monument and had good clouds and light, so I was pretty excited to capture this image.

#4 - Three Gossips Sunrise

While staying in Moab in late July, I made myself get up early one day to do a sunrise shoot and chose the Three Gossips area.  I parked in the Courthouse Towers parking lot, and walked across the road and down into the wash.  Using my iFoto Guide: Arches, together with my GPS, I found the spot I wanted with the yuccas in the foreground.  Then I just waited for the sun to come up and do its magic!  It was very peaceful, and afterwards I walked around the wash quite a bit, looking for different perspectives and views of the Gossips.  However, this one was my favorite of the morning.

#3 - Lone Sentinel

The Kansas Flint Hills are one of my favorite places on earth, especially in late May after the annual burns and the new grass comes in like a velvet carpet.  I made several trips into the Hills this spring to take photos of the burns and the new grass, and had quite the adventure on this particular day.  You can read more about it in my prior post: “Lost & Found”.   I love to find solitary cottonwoods with nothing but wide open prairie behind them.  I had some nice puffy clouds to work with on this day, along with some great rocks in the foreground.  I also thought the broken, irregular part of the tree gave it a lot of character.

#2 - Oxeye Daisy

By far, my favorite wildflower shot of the year.  My husband found huge fields of beautiful oxeye daisies in the Kansas Flint Hills this year while he was biking.  I had never seen such prolific fields before.  This wasn’t one of the huge fields, but a small field on old K-18 Road just west of Alma.  I used my 70-200 lens to isolate the blooms.  I had such a blast shooting these wildflowers!  The light was perfect and the wind was light (a rarity).

#1 - Tulip Time!

I shot so many flower images this year and had an awesome time doing it, so it’s no surprise my personal #1 favorite this year is a flower image.  I spent the better part of two weekends shooting tulips during Topeka’s annual “Tulip Time” festival, which was slightly different from years past.  For many years, Tulip Time was held at the private residence of Gerald Binkley and was the primary annual fundraiser for the Topeka Beautification Association.  However, Mr. Binkley was getting rather elderly and simply could not keep up with the planting and care of all those thousands of tulips.  The city stepped up and planted thousands of tulips at various locations throughout town, and they were able to still do the fundraiser.  I went to the Old Prairie Town, Gage Park and Shawnee Co. Lake sites to take in the tulips, and they didn’t disappoint.  I shot hundreds of images those two weekends.  This one stands out because of the vibrant color combination, and the selective focus on the front row of blooms using my 70-200 mm lens.  The tulips were just incredible to see and loads of fun to shoot!

Now, my goals for 2011:

1.  Sit down and really learn Lightroom and Photoshop.  Yes, it’s a “recycled” goal but a good one.

2.  Get all my images organized and delete the bad ones.  Again, “recycled” but a necessity.

3.  Continue to look for markets for my work.

4.  Figure out how to properly use TPE so I can get great sunrise/sunset shots.

5.  Along with #4, get my lazy butt out of bed to be able to catch great sunrise shots.  I’m such a lazy slug on weekends.

Feel free to share your photographic goals for 2011 here.  I would love to hear what other photographers seek to achieve in the new year.  And you can comment about my photos too, if you want 😉