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!

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.

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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).

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!

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!

We traveled to southeastern Missouri the weekend before Halloween and were “treated” to great foliage. Our first stop was Hermann, Missouri.  We ate lunch and checked out the Gasconade Co. Courthouse, which sits high on the banks of the Missouri River, the only courthouse I’ve ever seen perched next to a river. 

Gasconade Co. Courthouse, Hermann, Missouri

We then toured the Stone Hill Winery and, of course, tasted a “few” samples of their award-winning wines. The tour was very interesting and informative. I had no idea that this winery was the second largest in the nation before Prohibition.  After Prohibition — well, they had to start growing mushrooms to make a living.  The cellars are apparently the perfect place to propogate ‘shrooms.  Today, however, the cellars are again filled with barrels of wine aging to perfection.  The smell (and as we discovered later – the taste) was delicious!  We had never visited a winery and really enjoyed the tour.

We then traveled to Bass’ River Resort located near Steelville to check into our cabin. Upon our arrival, we discovered the Courtois Creek had swelled out of its banks and was practically up to our doorstep.  Well, we were pretty high up, but the water was just below us. 

The next morning started off foggy, a great opportunity to get some photos. I have to thank my husband for telling me it was foggy out – I hadn’t even looked outside! I experimented with different exposures and tried not to overexpose because of the sun shining through the bright fog.  Using my histogram was definitely the ticket to help me find the correct exposure in these conditions. I tried to capture a sunburst but even at F22 I just couldn’t get it pinched down enough to work successfully.

The flooded creek was also cause for some excitement when the tour riders for the Berryman Epic started out.  Because the creek was so far out of its banks and so deep, the riders couldn’t safely get across on their bikes, so they brought in flat-bed trailers to haul them across. 

There they go! It took two flatbed trailers to get them across the flooded creek.

It was quite a sight!  My husband said in all his years of mountain biking, he had never seen anything like it.  Fortunately, by the next morning when he raced, the water had gone down considerably and they placed a trailer across the deepest part of the creek to use as a bridge and had no need for the “ferry service.”

Back to Saturday… After the tour riders were ferried across the swollen creek, we took off on a back road to get to the Onondaga Cave near Leasburg. We got about 5 miles down the road and ran smack dab into a flooded creek crossing that had been barricaded. So much for the scenic back route! We re-traced our steps and took the main highway to the cave.

Suffice it to say, the Onondaga Cave was awesome! Our group consisted of probably around 30 people, ranging in age from about 10 up to around 90. The cave was cold – around 57 degrees – so we had to bundle up a little bit. The first thing we saw were tiny, delicate formations called soda straws that looked like – well, soda straws! Eventually soda straws turn into stalactites.  Some other formation types represented in the cave were flowstone, draperies, canopies, stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

The Twins

King's Canopy

 Some of the other named formations we saw were the Twins, King’s Canopy, Queen’s Canopy, and the Devil’s Shower.  There was a river running through the cave which is named “The Lost River” because apparently the experts cannot figure out where all the water sources come from.  The river was a blue-green color and didn’t appear to have much of a current, but once in a while you could see particles drifting along on the surface that contradicted that.

The best formation was saved for last. It was called the Lilly Pad Room, which was divided into two chambers.

Lilly Pad Room

Lilly Pad Room

It’s called the Lilly Pad Room because some of the formations look like lilly pads.  The water in one chamber was especially cool – very vibrantly colored.  The other chamber looked almost alien like with white “drip cups” abounding. I almost wondered if some being was going to pop out at us.  It was really amazing what Nature has created in this cave.

After the cave tour, we ate lunch and took a 3 mile hike on one of the trails at the park. The part that followed the Meramac River bluffs was very scenic; the sun was shining bright and the foliage was brilliant.  It was a great day to be outdoors and enjoying Nature at her finest.  The day wrapped up with a barbecue at the Resort for the bikers, complete with a roaring bonfire.

My husband took off for his race around 8:30 on Sunday, and I met him late in the morning at the Berryman Trail trailhead to give him more water and snacks.  After he left, I had plenty of time to kill. The overcast sky actually was favorable for shooting foliage as it really saturated the colors, so I played with different exposures and compositions. 

Vibrant foliage on the Berryman Trail

Zoom zoom!

 Unfortunately, it then started to sprinkle on and off. I did stay out for quite awhile and took some foliage shots near the trailhead, and even experimented with catching the riders with different shutter speeds as they zoomed by.

I finally went back to the Resort and the finish line, and just a few hundred yards away, found this wonderful little creek scene with foliage in the background and fallen leaves in the foreground. 

Small creek on grounds of Bass' River Resort near Steelville, Missouri

I started to walk up the trail to check it out, but then the skies finally opened up and the rain was too heavy to continue so had to pack away the camera.  My husband finished the 56 mile race in a little over 6 hours. He would have finished sooner but his chain broke a few miles from the finish line and repairing it cost him about 15 minutes.

All in all, we had an “epic” adventure in Missouri!

I’m dreaming of fabulous fall foliage in dark purples, deep reds, vivid scarlets, vibrant oranges, brilliant yellows and bright rusts. Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year! Color explodes from nearly everywhere. I noticed just yesterday that the dying hostas in my garden are even brilliant yellow. Spring is beautiful and is a sign of Nature renewing herself, but to me – fall just can’t be beat. The sky always seems clearer and the air more crisp.

My husband and I are off for a few days to an area in Missouri we’ve never explored. It’s about 90 miles southwest of St. Louis and is in the Mark Twain National Forest. My husband is torturing himself Sunday by riding in the Berryman Epic Missouri Endurance Mountain Bike Race, a 55 mile journey down fire roads and single track. I’m not as insane as he is, so I’ll be looking for less strenous ways to pass my time – with photography of course! We also plan to visit the Onondaga Cave near Leasburg and hopefully get in some hiking on the Ozark trails. I’ve seen photos of the cave on the ‘net and the Lilly Pad Room looks really awesome. Unfortunately, tripods are not allowed so my Rebel XTI will be getting fully tested in higher ISO mode.

Fall colors are really getting good around here now, so I can only hope the hardwood forests of southeastern Missouri will yield some wonderful photographic opportunities. The rocky bluffs and beautiful spring-fed streams will be wonderful backdrops for the foliage.

Check back in a few days for a trip report!