Over Memorial Day weekend, we traveled to the Gunnison-Crested Butte area.  (My husband was a participant in the Gunnison Half Growler Mountain Bike Race.)  He raced on Saturday, so Sunday we decided to take a short hike up to the Dillon Pinnacles at Blue Mesa Reservoir, drive to Lake City, then go check out North Clear Creek Falls, which is purportedly one of the most photographed falls in Colorado (although I have my doubts this is true due to its rather isolated location).

When we arrived at the falls, I found a viewpoint I liked, set up my tripod and camera and started shooting away.  Unfortunately, a portion of the safety railing kept showing up in my frame so I had to do something.  Since I’m short and moving the camera up a bit was not an option (because I wouldn’t be able to see through the viewfinder to compose), I shortened the front tripod leg a bit and leaned the tripod over the railing a tiny bit.  Bingo, that did the trick!  I was shooting away happily and decided I wanted my 10-22 mm lens, which was still back in the car.  (I was shooting with my 24-105 mm.)  My husband ran back to the car to get it.  Now, I don’t know how this happened, but while fiddling with the focus ring, etc. on my lens – suddenly, the lens fell off my camera, over the railing!!   My heart stopped – it was around a $600 lens after all…  My first thoughts were “Oh **** (insert your favorite expletive here), it’s going to roll all the way down into that deep gorge, never to be seen again, and I’ve just lost my very favorite lens!!”  When I was forced to take a breath again, I looked and the lens had stopped in an indentation a few feet away from the railing.  By this time, my husband was coming back from the car with the other lens.  I had to have him climb over the railing (because I’m scared of heights and there’s not much real estate between the railing and the edge of the gorge) and retrieve it for me.  Very lucky for me, the lens was not scratched, and when I put it back on the camera, it functioned perfectly.  There was another couple there at the same time, and later the husband came by and said he saw what had happened and he witnessed “the look of sheer terror” on my face.  (I can laugh now, but I was scared!)

N Clear Creek Falls1

North Clear Creek Falls (before the lens fell off!)

This isn’t the first time I’ve had moments of clumsiness with my equipment.  Just a couple weeks ago, I went to Moab for the Spring Fling gathering of the Rocky Mountain Nature Photographers.  Sometime during that day, my camera caught the edge of a rock and chipped my polarizer.  (I didn’t even notice it until I was shooting later that evening.)  I’ll have to order a new one because the chip can be seen in my images, depending on the angle of the sun coming in through the lens and to some extent my subject matter (some things mask the chip better than others).  I was able to use the clone brush in Photoshop to fix it well enough in this image so it’s not so noticeable.

False Kiva

False Kiva

Back in October, when I was hiking in Dominguez Canyon, I decided to follow the creek rather than the trail to see if I could find any little cascades or intimate scenes.  After the bushwhacking, I got back on the trail and some time later I stopped and realized my polarizer was GONE.  It had come unscrewed from my lens, which was really unusual since I almost always have trouble taking the thing off the lens!  I tried to backtrack my steps and fortunately found it.

Dominguez Canyon - one of the last images I took before my polarizer fell off

Dominguez Canyon – one of the last images I took before my polarizer fell off

And of course, my ultimate faux pas was back in 2010 when I was shooting out in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  I was shooting this character-filled cottonwood in a pasture and decided to switch out the 10-22 mm with my 35-80 mm lens.  I laid the 10-22 lens down under my tripod, changed the lens, kept shooting, then walked off and left the 10-22 lying there!  I didn’t shoot any more photos on the way back so I didn’t realize until several days later that it was gone.  It was nearly a month before I had the chance to travel back to that spot to see if by the grace of God the lens was still there.  During that time (late May/early June), the area saw windy conditions and several bouts of thunderstorms with heavy rain, wind and hail.  When I finally made it back, believe it or not – the lens was right where I had put it!  I cleaned it up and it worked perfectly.

Lone cottonwood in a Chase Co. pasture

Lone cottonwood in a Chase Co. pasture

 

THERE you are!!

THERE you are!!

Obviously, I’m a photographic klutz.  I try to keep track of my equipment, but sometimes I get distracted and perhaps am not as attentive as I should be.  I really need to work on that…  All I can say is, good thing the Canon lenses I have are pretty tough.  Knock on wood, I haven’t hurt the glass itself in either lens.

Have you ever had equipment emergencies, such as dropping or leaving them somewhere?  Lost filters, batteries or memory cards?  Tripod legs fall apart while you’re shooting (I’ve had that one, too!)   Feel free to share your experiences with me, it will make me feel better to know I’m not the only moron out there 😉

A few weeks ago, I drove back to the Wichita area to visit my parents.  I exited the turnpike at the El Dorado exit and took Highway 254 to Wichita.  A beautiful red barn used to stand at the exit for Towanda, together with a silo with the word “Towanda” on it, the “W” purposely pitched off kilter.  I say “used to stand” because the whole shebang was destroyed by powerful thunderstorm winds in early May 2009.  I was in Wichita the weekend it happened, sitting at my dad’s bedside after unexpected bypass surgery.  When I headed home after he was on the road to recovery, I was shocked and dismayed to see the beautiful barn and quirky silo lying in a pile of rubble.  Each time I’ve been back there since, I say to myself “It looks so weird here without that barn.” 

I’m so glad I got a couple shots of that scene before Mother Nature took it.

Towanda barn

Another landmark I photographed in its day was a vine-enshrouded windmill which stood off Highway 54 right outside the Cheney exit.  To date, this remains one of my favorite windmill shots.  Unfortunately, it also met its demise nearly 20 years ago.

Windmill near Cheney

Photography not only feeds our senses, it also preserves a slice of history – a specific moment in time.  We all know how important family photographs are.  That quick photo we snap of our kids or Grandma will endure for generations to enjoy.  I have photos of my great-grandparents holding me as a baby. They died when I was very small, and I never knew them, yet because of the photos I can at least see what they looked like.

Many animals species are on the brink of extinction.  Photographs will at least preserve for future generations what these creatures looked like, and can also be used to campaign for changes that might in fact save them.  If people can see a photograph of an animal that is in danger of extinction and be made aware of changes that could be made to save it, they can connect and will be more likely to want to do something.

Same thing goes for climate change.  Glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Pests and diseases that normally would die during winter are wreaking havoc on our natural resources.  One good example is the pine beetle that is eating through the lodgepole pine forests of North America at an alarming rate. It has been suggested that the beetles are thriving because the winters do not get cold enough anymore to kill them off. They have destroyed thousands and thousands of acres of established forests, and the end is nowhere in sight.  I took photos from a viewpoint on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park about four years ago which showed lush, healthy trees as far as the eye could see.  In 2008, my husband and I returned to the same area only to find the forest practically destroyed, with very few healthy trees remaining.  The area around Grand Lake has been particularly hard-hit.  The city has even undertaken a major effort to remove the dead trees.

Brown trees ravaged by pine beetle, Rocky Mtn. NP (west of the divide)

Trees killed by pine beetle, Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mtn. NP (west of divide)

Photography is a powerful tool we can use to make people aware of animals on the brink, environmental pollution, destruction of natural resources, and climate change, among other things.

Think of that the next time you get your camera out.  Photography truly preserves our history.
Please feel free to leave a comment or remark about this topic.

I’m very excited to announce the upcoming publication of my first photography book entitled “Kansas! Its Hidden Gems.” The book will be approximately 30 pages in length, with dimensions of 7″ X 7″ and will have a hardcover with dust jacket. It features beautiful full-color photos of both well-known and not so well-known scenic locations in Kansas. Tentative publication date is July 30.

Please contact me directly for pricing and other questions at niphotobyangela@aol.com.

The Rocky Mountain School of Photography held a photography weekend event in Overland Park, Kansas this weekend. I was lucky enough to register before it sold out. There were approximately 200 in attendance. The instructors for the weekend were Tim Cooper, Tony Rizzuto and Doug Johnson. Three different sessions ran concurrently so choosing which one to attend was a bit difficult at times because virtually all the classes sounded interesting. Fortunately, for several of the Photoshop classes I didn’t attend, they have web notes available that I can save and hopefully get a good overview of the concepts discussed.
 

I attended Understanding Exposure: Using the Zone System for Color (Doug); Macro Photography (Tim); Low Light and Night Photography (Doug); Processing Your Images: Fine Tuning with Layers and Masks (Tim); and Sunrises, Sunsets and Flowing Water (Tim).

I found the zone system and layers/masks programs to be the most beneficial. The zone system for color is based on the same system Ansel Adams used for black & white. I found it interesting that the human eye can see 15 stops of lights and tones, but digital cameras are capable of capturing only 4. Four!! No wonder the images we take look so different to us from what we remember when finally viewed on the computer. The camera is only capable of capturing a small amount of the light and detail the human eye normally sees. He also discussed the different types of metering and which ones are most effective to achieve the results you want. It was a very interesting presentation and I hope to begin using the system soon as I believe it will help my image quality. Fortunately, I took a lot of notes and they gave us a chart with the zone system that I’ll laminate and put in my camera bag.

The Photoshop session today was awesome. He showed how to do localized adjustments with layers and masks. Seeing how it was done in person really made it click for me. He also explained in depth the different selection tools and which one is best to use for certain images, which was very helpful. I’ve had some trouble figuring out how those tools really worked and now I feel I have a better understanding. I hope to start playing with some of my images in CS4 and applying some of these tricks soon.

RMSP does not conduct a weekend workshop in the same city two years in a row, but they said since this one sold out, they might consider holding another one next year somewhere in the same region. Since I’m on their mailing list, I’ll be watching for any information and if it’s close enough, I’ll go again. The information was great and the instructors were very patient answering questions. They gave out some door prizes such as $50 B&H gift cards (I would have LOVED to win one of those!), a camera bag, Canon fanny packs, etc. Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything. But it was a fun, educational weekend and I’m very glad I went. I can’t wait to start applying some of the things I learned!

For more information about RMSP workshops and courses, visit their web site at: Rocky Mountain School of Photography.


Wayne Rhodus, moderator of Central States Nature Photographers (regional chapter of Nature Photographers Network), organized a day-long shooting trip into my favorite area – the Flint Hills. We met south of Manhattan at oh dark thirty and WOW! was it a cold one! A cold front had moved through the night before and the wind was howling about 30 mph with temps in the upper teens, making for brutal wind chills. Members braving the chill were Wayne Rhodus, Scott Bean, Dena Sanders, Merle Cook, Ken Bachman, Rob Graham, Jim Walker and Jim Taylor.

Our trek started on Deep Creek Road and on to Old K-18 Road. We saw lots of beautiful auburn colored, grass covered hills. And LOTS of dust!


Then we headed to Pillsbury Crossing southeast of Manhattan. It had been years since I had been here and didn’t remember how beautiful the spot is. I will definitely be coming back here! The water falling over the rocky ledge creates some very picturesque possibilities.

After Pillsbury, we headed back toward Alma, drove a portion of the Skyline-Mill Creek scenic byway and hit Highway 177 headed south to Cottonwood Falls. An added bonus happened when we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree at Council Grove Lake. We ate lunch at Emma Chase’s Cafe in downtown Cottonwood Falls and visited and got to know each other a little better.

When our bellies were full and our hands thawed out, we took off for the falls at Chase Co. Fishing Lake just west of town. This is another place I had never visited. A series of small waterfalls cascade the outlet flow down the hillside, creating some wonderful spots for photos. Due to our recent dry conditions, the water was not flowing very fast on this day. Am I coming back here when the water is flowing better? You betcha!!!

My last stop of the day was the Clements Stone Arch Bridge, west on Highway 50. It was completed in 1886 and is a beautiful structure, worthy of preservation. They sure don’t make bridges like this anymore!


By this time, my energy level had drained to nothing (thanks to battling a cold) so I called it a day. Several members headed back to previously scouted locations in the Flint Hills to catch sunset shots, but it didn’t look like the Cloud Gods provided anything fun in the skies.

The entire day was a great adventure and a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to our next NPN adventure (hopefully it will be a little bit warmer)!

Me!!

I’m happy to announce I won two 2nd place ribbons at the garden show photo contest held last month! I won 2nd place honors for the Kansas wildflowers and summer blooms categories. The winning images are here:

Over the past five years that I’ve been participating in the contest, I’ve received the following ribbons at this contest:

2004 – 1st place – Kansas wildflowers
Honorable Mention – summer blooms

2005- Honorable Mention – Kansas wildflowers

2006 – Honorable Mention – Landscapes with horticultural emphasis

2007 – 2nd place – summer blooms
3rd place – spring blooms

2008 – 1st place – plants & animals
Honorable mention – The Rose
Honorable Mention – Kansas wildflowers