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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

It’s time again for my annual “year in review” post where I share my personal favorite images of the year.  It was difficult to narrow it down so I have 12 favorites and 3 “honorable mentions.”

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#15 – Claret Cup & Collared Lizard

Honorable Mention (#15) – Claret Cup & Collared Lizard

This photo isn’t by any means technically good, but the story behind it is so ironic, it still made my favorite list.  I had been hiking out on the Rustler’s Loop Trail near Fruita, shooting the numerous claret cup cactus that flourish on the trail.  As I was shooting one particularly large specimen, a woman mountain biker stopped and commented it was a beautiful cactus and she hoped I was getting some nice shots.  She went on her way; I shot a little more, then moved on.  Some ways down the trail, I had stopped again to shoot a colorful collared lizard.  The same woman mountain biker passed me once again (she obviously did more than one loop) and stopped again and commented that it sure would have been cool if I could have gotten the lizard and the cactus in one shot, as it would have been very colorful.  I finished hiking the trail, and on the way back to my car, I happened to look over and saw a collared lizard sitting next to a claret cup!  My other camera was already packed away, so I whipped out my new Canon S100 and approaching as cautiously as possible, I fired off several shots of the colorful combo before the lizard spooked and scampered away.

God's Window

#14 – God’s Window

Honorable Mention (#14) – God’s Window

My husband and I went hiking one morning on the Horsethief Bench Trail.  Although there were a few clouds around, the skies in no way appeared threatening.  However, by the time we were halfway through our hike, clouds were billowing and swirling, and thunder was crashing closer and closer.  While we were hightailing it back to the trailhead, I looked up and saw this “window” in the clouds and felt like God was peering down through it, keeping us safe from the lightening.  I shot this with my Canon S100, while I was running!

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#13 – Dominguez Canyon

Honorable Mention (#13)

This spring I hiked into Dominguez Canyon several times and was blown away by the large waterfall in the middle of the desert canyon.  One day while hiking with my friend Jennifer, I got adventurous and scrambled up to the slope overlooking the scene.  As adventurous as I felt that day, it was nothing in comparison to what she did – Jennifer actually scaled her way DOWN the wall to the base of the waterfall.  I prayed the entire time she didn’t fall because I knew I could not rescue her!  I also by chance met fellow GJ photographer Randy Langstraat.  It was the first time we had met in person, and he came up to me like he knew me!  (It was kind of weird – a perfect stranger asking me if I was Angela!)  Randy had been following me through my Facebook page, where I had posted my intention to hike the canyon that weekend.  He saw a woman with a camera and deduced it was me.  It was a fun day and this image brings back the great memories.

Turret Arch night

#12 – Turret Arch Photographers

#12 – Turret Arch Photographers

After debating where to go to shoot the highly-hyped “Super Moon” in early May, I decided to head to Arches National Park, certain I would find an appropriate backdrop to catch the super-sized Ol’ Man Moon as it rose.  As it turns out, none of my moon photos turned out.  (Go figure…)  I did, however, turn around while waiting with the hordes of other photographers in the Windows area and saw this awesome scene of waiting photogs silhouetted with Turret Arch.

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#11 – Dappled Gossips

#11 – Dappled Gossips

The Three Gossips formation in Arches National Park is one of my favorite formations there to shoot.  It seems there is always something different to shoot – the color of the rock, the weather, the changing skies.  I shot this in September, killing time while my husband rode the Slickrock Trail.  The sun kept playing peek-a-boo, which seemed to really bring out the vibrant colors of the sandstone.

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#10 – Rabbit Ears Pass

#10 – Rabbit Ears Pass

I felt very lucky this year to have been able to travel to several of the fall hot spots in Colorado:  Steamboat Springs, Ridgway/Telluride and Kebler/Ohio Passes.  The crazy fall color show that Colorado provides has yet to disappoint me.  I shot this east of the Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat.  My husband and his friend were mountain biking (through a “rainbow” of color as his friend described it) and I explored the area a little.  What caught my eye on this hillside was the design of the white trunks mixed with the brilliant golds and near oranges of the aspen leaves.

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#9 – Mesa Aspens

#9 – Mesa Aspens

My fall journey started close to home – on the Grand Mesa.  I spent one whole afternoon shooting the brilliant golds on the Mesa.  I liked how the bright gold leaves were backlit against the brilliant blue sky.

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#8 – La Sal Columbine

#8 – La Sal Columbine

On July 4th, we headed to the nearby La Sal Mountains near Moab for some holiday fun.  I dropped my husband and his friend off at Burro Pass, where they biked the “Whole Enchilada,” a series of connected mountain bike trails which includes the Hazard County, Kokopelli and Porcupine Rim trails, which goes from Burro Pass all the way to the Colorado River.  While they biked, I headed over to the Miner’s Basin area to hit a trail and was shortly deluged by a passing thunderstorm.  I found this lone columbine right next to the trail on my way back.  The water-drenched plant nearly begged me to stop and photograph it.

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#7 – Cottonwood Leaf

#7 – Cottonwood Leaf

After the crazy fall color in the mountains had finished, I started chasing it in the desert canyons.  I had the most awesome day at Dominguez Canyon!  The cottonwoods were brilliant, as well as the scrub brushes, creating an incredible tapestry of color.  I was shooting a small cascade in a creek when I saw this cottonwood leaf anchored against a rock in the creek.

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#6 – Horsethief Ranch

#6 – Horsethief Ranch

In mid-November, I attended the John Fielder reception hosted by the Mesa Land Trust.  He had a private book signing session followed by a slideshow of some of his work.  Afterwards, my bosses surprised me by telling me they’d like to send me to Fielder’s photography class scheduled for the next morning, as my early Christmas present.  Of course, I never pass up the opportunity to hang out with some fellow photographers, especially when I get to explore a new place.  The Horsethief Ranch is near Loma and is part of the land the Mesa Land Trust has preserved, so it was a very unique opportunity to get to visit it.  I only wish I could have gone a few weeks earlier as the multitudes of cottonwood trees would have been stupendous!  As it was, I still had a great time and this image is one of my favorite of that morning’s shoot.

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#5 – Garden of Eden

#5 – Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden is north of the Windows area in Arches National Park and is full of funky sandstone spires and formations.  I shot this in early March at sunset.  I like the contrast of the warm sandstone with the cool pastel colors of the snow-capped La Sals in the background.

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#4 – Rifle Falls Rainbow

#4 – Rifle Falls Rainbow

The triple falls of Rifle Falls are an amazing sight, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of trying to capture its moving waters.  This year I made the trek in early August and got there early enough that I was able to capture little rainbows in the mist.

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#3 – Kebler Pass Ferns

#3 – Kebler Pass Ferns

In late June we went to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass.  I was astounded by the huge aspen groves!  While my husband was racing in a mountain bike race, I headed back up the pass and found an incredible area of ferns.  I’ll bet I spent at least an hour shooting the frothy fronds!  It felt almost magical and enchanted, and I almost expected to see a unicorn come prancing through the scene!

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#2 – Dallas Divide

#2 – Dallas Divide

This view of the Dallas Divide between Ridgway and Telluride is one of my very favorite mountain scenes in the whole state.  This is my 2012 version shot while we stayed in Telluride one weekend.

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#1 – Washer Woman Arch

#1 – Washer Woman Arch

In mid-May, the Rocky Mountain Nature Photographers held a little weekend shindig in Moab.  I never pass up a chance to shoot in Moab!  We shot sunrise at Canyonlands National Park, held a short photography class at Bret Edge’s gallery downtown, ate a great picnic lunch at the park, then met up later in the afternoon and headed out to the Porcupine Rim area where we shot down into Castle Valley at sunset.  It was an awesome photography day!  Although we got to Mesa Arch too late to catch the signature glow on the underside of the arch, several of us shot around the area anyway, and I came away with my favorite image of the year.  I really like the blue shadows, and how the receding layers and ridges of rock appear through the haze.

2012 was definitely a better year for me photographically than the previous year.  Midway through the year, I was able at last to change jobs, leaving the extreme high stress and almost mandatory overtime behind me.  This left me considerably much more time (and energy) to shoot.  In June, I upgraded my camera from the Rebel XTi to a 60D, plus I bought a 24-105 mm lens.  Both purchases have been awesome additions to my gear bag!!

I did manage to submit a few photos for consideration in calendars, etc., and I did land three small photos in the 2013 Colorado National Monument Calendar shown below (the lizard and two wildflower shots next to it).

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This year I seriously intend to visit some local galleries to find places to exhibit my work, and I’ve been in contact with several magazines.  Also, my second book (Colorado Fall Frenzy 1st Edition) is almost ready for publication through Blurb Books, with an e-book version also being offered.

Feel free to leave a comment about any of my images – I’d love to hear if you think these “cut the mustard” for an end-of-the-year list.  I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year, and who knows – maybe I’ll run into you out in the field sometime this 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 😉

My husband and I took a quick three-day trip to the Grand Lake, Colorado area last weekend.  We drove around the area a little on Friday and ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park as far as we could go on the west side, which was at the Colorado River Trailhead. Beyond that, Highway 34 was closed for the winter.  We hiked maybe a mile and half on the trail and only saw one other brave soul, a nice gentleman on cross country skis.  The snow was coming down in earnest while we were on the trail, and continued overnight.

Saturday morning we awoke to approximately 4-6 inches of new powder at Grand Lake!  We strapped on our snowshoes and headed out for the East Inlet Trail which is within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park and begins on the east side of Grand Lake.  We hiked this trail several years ago in the summer, and made it all the way up to Lake Verna – a 13 mile round trip.  Our objective this time was to reach Adams Falls and go somewhere beyond.

This was our first time snowshoeing and I found it to be a lot of fun, although hard work.  We encountered an unexpected fork in the trail only about a hundred yards from the trailhead, and my husband thought we should go to the right as he thought the trail veered off to hit the falls and hooked back up with it later.  Obviously others had gone this direction before as evidenced by the fresh snowshoe tracks.  We did finally find the falls (frozen of course) but we were below them rather than above.  Unfortunately, after I fired off three shots, my camera stopped working.  I was receiving an “Error 99” message, something I’d never seen.  I replaced the battery with a fully charged one; still got the message.  I took it out and placed it back in several times, to no avail.   I was extremely disappointed in the camera failure as the forest was absolutely magical and I hoped to capture some wonderful scenes that morning.  But, the morning was beautiful and it was difficult not to be entranced and awed at the beauty, even if I couldn’t make images.

East Inlet Creek below Adams Falls

Several other snowshoers were at the falls and pointed us in the right direction to find the main trail.  We had to climb a long, rather steep hill in fresh powder, which turned into quite an ordeal for me.  I kept thrashing around and couldn’t get my footing or make any headway.  Let me tell you, it’s a little difficult to climb a steep snowy hill when you keep falling to your knees with snowshoes strapped to your feet!  Finally, with a lot of determination and my husband’s helping hand, I made it up. We found the main trail and continued on.  We stopped at a viewpoint where the creek meandered through a large open meadow, and the beautiful snow-capped peak of Mt. Craig was trying to peek out of the clouds.  I decided to break the camera out to see if by chance it might work.  I fired off one shot, handheld – it worked! I quickly set up my tripod, and composed my shot – only to see “Error 99” AGAIN!!  Gggrr!!  I took the battery out, put it back in. It worked this time.  I fired off a couple more shots, then the message appeared once more. How frustrating!  We continued on the trail for a short way past the viewpoint then turned around and headed back to our motel so we could get back in time for the KU/Missouri basketball game (gotta have our priorities in the right place, after all).

Mt. Craig from East Inlet Trail

Mt. Craig and frosted trees

We ended up going back out to the same trail later in the afternoon and discovered the trail was so packed by this time, that we didn’t even need the snowshoes.  My husband took off for a trail run, and I headed back up to the meadow viewpoint for more thoughtful shots, albeit in not-as-good light.  That’s ok, they can be converted to black & white to somewhat hide that!

Mt. Craig a/k/a Baldy

I decided that as beautiful as the mountains are in summer, they take on an absolutely magical appearance when covered in a mantle of white.  It was so gorgeous on this morning, it literally took my breath away.  Or maybe it’s just because I was snowshoeing through fresh powder at 8,000+ feet!  I would not hesitate to spend much more time out in the snow if surrounded by this type of scenery.  My winter shooting tips might need some re-tooling, though. The temps were not terribly cold (probably somewhere in the 10-20 degree range), and I wore my ski pants, thermal shirt, flannel shirt and coat.  About 20 minutes into our trek, I thought I was going to die because I was so hot! I have since read in several places that rather than layers, jackets and pants equipped with zippered compartments are a great way to dress in the cold. The zippered areas can be opened to vent heat and easily closed, whereas clothing layers are a little more troublesome. I really might need to check into that if I do some serious hiking/snowshoeing with my camera.