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.”

claret lizard 1 small

#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!

Dominguez waterfall 1.5

#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.

Gossips dappled

#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.

Rabbit Ears 3

#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.

Mesa aspens 3

#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.

La Sal flowers 2

#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.

Dominguez 10_20_12-5

#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.

Horsethief Ranch 2

#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.

Garden of eden view 2

#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.

Rifle Falls 1 fb

#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.

Kebler ferns 2

#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.

Washer Woman Arch 1 fb

#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).

CNMA 13 calendar spread small

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!

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!


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 😉

Fall is my very favorite season – always has been and always will be.  The weather is incredible, the colors unbelievable.  Fall seems to linger a little longer than Spring, especially in the Midwest.  Winter seems to hang on to its icy grip a little longer than it should, then there’s a few short precious weeks of mild temps, ubiquitous blooms that don’t last nearly long enough, then BAM! Spring is done and Summer’s heat and humidity sets in far too soon.  It seems to me that Fall begins gradually, with temps slowly slacking off, and days filled with intense blue skies, followed by cool, crisp evenings.  Life’s hectic pace seems to slow down just a bit as the leaves change and slowly fall to the ground.
This year I’ve experienced Fall in a whole new way in my new home at Grand Junction, Colorado.  Up until this week, this Fall was unusual – unusually warm.  Temps were about 15 degrees above normal, and the leaves were much slower to change, making it possible to savor Fall’s beauty a little longer.  That was just fine by me!  I was fortunate to arrive in beautiful Colorado just shortly before Fall’s show began, and I enjoyed the spectacle.  We went up to the Grand Mesa a couple of times to enjoy the color, which was incredible in its own rite.  The ride up the Land’s End Road was a sight to see, with mountainsides full of color and a waterfall at the top to boot!

Mesa Magic!


Waterfall on Land's End Road


The first weekend of October, I attended a photo workshop at Ouray led by Bret Edge and Todd Caudle, two mighty fine, talented (and fun) photographer dudes.  They both have top-notch images, and are willing to share their photographic knowledge with others in a friendly, nurturing environment.  They won’t take you out, dump you off, and head off to spend the rest of the time shooting their own images, leaving you wondering what the hell you paid for.  (Believe it or not, I saw another workshop group at Dallas Divide and it seemed to me the “leader” wasn’t helping his participants at all.  Nope, his tripod was planted in the prime photo spot with him parked behind the lens while several of his students were looking rather like deer in the headlights.  Sad, but true…)  Bret and Todd will not do this, and I highly recommend their workshops.

 Unfortunately, since I just started a new job, I was unable to attend the Friday session, when everyone headed out to Owl Creek Pass and Silverjack Reservoir.  I’m disappointed I didn’t get to see these two very photogenic spots, but that gives me motivation to head down there next year on my own.  I was able to attend both the Saturday and Sunday sessions.  Saturday began on the Silver Pick Rd. near Telluride.  We shot from the Wilson Mesa, back toward Wilson Peak.  Todd told us this was the peak that is featured on the Coor’s beer labels.  Knowing Todd and his bizarre sense of humor, I’m still not sure if he was telling me the truth or just pulling my leg…  At any rate, the peak was nothing short of awesome, especially once the alpenglow hit its face.  I really enjoyed playing with different compositions and different focal lengths at this spot. 

Wilson Peak, with sunrise alpenglow

I was really intrigued by the sweeping patterns on the mountainside created by the alternating layers of conifers and aspens, and used my 70-200 mm lens to isolate and create this abstract view.

Fun with the telephoto lens

I also kept an eye open to my surroundings and discovered a neat old fence post and abandoned building, both “with character.”  If you’re familiar with my photography, you know that I love old barns and buildings, so finding this was a treat, especially when it was surrounded by all those beautiful aspens!  There were some cattle further down the road, mooing loudly.  I almost felt like I was back in Kansas (except of course for the mountains in every direction!)

For luck

Cozy cabin


We spent the rest of the morning shooting on the Silver Pick Rd. in various locations, and Todd explained to me how best to capture a sunburst.  I’ve never been very successful with sunbursts, but I think he finally pointed me in the right direction.  This backlit aspen grove was the perfect spot to try out the technique, since I could block some of the sun with the trees.  Use of a very small aperature (and tripod) is the key.  Also, don’t use filters.  They cause light diffraction and may ruin the effect you’re trying to achieve.

Backlit aspens glow on a beautiful fall day

Todd also told us to be sure to “look down” because photo opps are often literally under our feet.  Since I tend to shoot a lot of macro shots anyway, I usually try to do this.  I walked around the aspen grove a little and found this lovely little scene.  What drew me in was the combination of glowing aspen leaves, the vibrant red leaf and the texture of the fallen branch.  I tried to be lazy and get by without my tripod for this shot, but it didn’t work so had to break it out because I wanted this shot.

Fall Bouquet

After lunch in scenic Telluride and a critique session of our photos, we were off to chase more beautiful scenery.  We went to Mystic Falls, where there were not one – but two! – amazing waterfalls.  The larger fall is hidden from view by the first, and is reached by taking a very short, easy hike across the stream and onto the ridge off to the side.  I love to shoot falling water, be it large falls like these or small little gurgling cascades.  From this location, I was able to do both! Unfortunately, I’m afraid of heights and to shoot the main fall involved standing on a small, sloped area above a high cliff, so I didn’t tarry long in this spot, beautiful as it was.  Exposure was a bit difficult at this spot, and I used my Singh-ray Vari-ND filter to allow me to use longer shutter speeds to smooth out the water.  It took several attempts before I got one that wasn’t either over- or under-exposed.  And then there was that flare thing…  Someday I’ll learn to use my lens hood!

Mystic Falls (the main fall)


Backlit aspens highlight the lower Mystic Falls


Here I focused on a small cascade, rather than the entire fall.  I spotted the bright leaves in the water, and thought they added interest to the icy water.

Fall leaves adorn an icy cascade


Our last stop of the day was the Alta Lakes area.  They told us the area right around the lake didn’t contain great fall color, but we could focus instead on reflection images.  The area didn’t disappoint, as the lake turned into a glassy mirror!  I did use my Singh-ray 3 stop GND filter here, to help tame the contrast between the dark foreground and the bright sky.  This filter is one of the most useful ones I own, and I wonder how I ever tried to create images like this before I learned how to use it.

Sunset at Alta Lakes area

My one wish was that we could have stopped at the neat old ghost town on the way up to the lake area.  I was itching to shoot some of those really cool old buildings, but Bret and Todd pressed on with purpose.  Oh well, I’ll just have to go back sometime…

The next morning’s shoot was at the Dallas Divide area.  I didn’t enjoy this shoot as much as the previous morning, because it was colder and windier.  I cursed myself for not getting tripod leg covers.  Nothing is colder than a metal tripod in the winter.  Definitely going to get those puppies covered before Winter fully sets in.  I will probably use my cheapo method described in my previous post, “My Winter Shooting Tips.”  The Dallas Divide was indeed beautiful and I see why there are so many images shot at this area.  

Divine Dallas Divide


Again, I experimented with different focal lengths and compositions.  I found this small stand of aspens that had already shed their fall garments amidst a little “island” of vibrant scrubby bushes and trees and used my “big boy” (70-200 mm) lens to focus in on this little scene.

Bare aspens stand alone in an island of vibrant brush

Far too soon, the workshop was over.  I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with some fellow photogs and picking up a few tips along the way.  After having lunch in Ouray, my husband and I headed up toward Yankee Boy Basin, which my husband had ridden up the previous day on his mountain bike.  Yes, he’s crazy!  We didn’t make it quite all the way up there, as the weather was starting to turn so we decided to head back home.  Now that I’m only a couple hours away, I’m anxious for next summer’s wildflower bonanza to start in the YB Basin area.  I know for sure I’ll be headed there at some point during Summer.

The great thing about living in GJ is that once the aspens in high elevations have shed their bright garb, the cottonwoods and other trees in the Valley start turning.  Round Two!!  I headed up to the Colorado National Monument this weekend because the sun was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds and I thought there might be some photo possibilities.  At the Fallen Rock overlook, to my delight I found some brilliant cottonwoods arranged in a pleasing “S” curve in the wash below.  I waited until the trees were spotlighted and the lighting on the canyon walls was right before I shot this.  While waiting, I enjoyed the peace and solitude of the Monument as I pretty much had the place all to myself.

Fall - lower elevation style

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will still be some color out there this weekend.  The Mesa received its first snowfall this week, and the wind has been howling after the passage of a cold front.  Wish me luck so I can savor the last bits of Fall!

P.S.  I know I’ve been rather lax lately on blog posts, but the moving process and my new job has kept me away from photography much more than I want.  I’m hoping things are starting to settle down somewhat, so check back soon for another post.

What’s your favorite season to shoot and why?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please post a comment if you have time. Thanks!