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.

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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.

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!

Very spur of the moment, we decided to head to Ouray to hike over the weekend.  We found a great web site with trail descriptions of the area ( and chose the Silvershield Trail #199.  From the description, it sounded like it offered great views of some of the local mine relics and the town of Ouray.  If you take the entire route as we did, you will hike approximately 6.2 miles and gain around 1,680 feet in elevation.  I did not bring my GPS so all mileage and elevation information contained here is estimated from info found on web sites and trail signage.  The images were shot with a Canon S100 point & shoot as I wisely did not want to haul my big heavy 60D and tripod up the mountainside.  The quality isn’t nearly as good, but my back is thanking me today.

To get to the trailhead from Ouray, take a right off the main street onto 7th Avenue, cross the river, and take a right on Oak Street.  The info we found indicated it was called “River Road” but every sign we saw said “Oak Street.”  At any rate, it’s the first right past the river.  Follow the road past the camping grounds, a mobile home park and a new subdivision.  After about 1.2 miles, make a left turn onto a not-well-marked street that has a tiny green sign that says “Silvershield Trailhead.”  You go straight into a tiny, tiny parking lot, and the trail starts here.  At least the trail was well marked with a sign.  If you are even with the Silvershield Mine remains (a big, dilapidated metal structure), you’ve gone too far. Turn around and look to your right for the sign and parking area.

Silvershield Trailhead marker

As you look up the mountainside, you may wonder (aloud – as we did) “How in the he** are we getting up THAT?!”  The mountainside appears to be almost vertical here, but the wonderful trail builders worked miracles and created a trail using switchbacks that get you up without it being a total scramble.  I will not lie to you:  it is STEEP.  It is about the same grade up as that of the Hanging Lake Trail in Glenwood Canyon, but the bonus here is that you don’t have to constantly lift your feet high to clear rocks and boulders.  The trail for the most part is dirt.  As we started our ascent, I noticed an old mine up on the mountainside across the highway.  It was pretty far up there!  (Little did I realize at this point that eventually, we would climb to the same height, and beyond…)

Old mine on mountainside

At .3 miles up the trail, there is an overlook and, thankfully, a flat spot where you can catch your breath.  Great views of the old mines on the mountain across the way (Gold Hill) and of Ouray, which was getting smaller by the step.

Sign at the overlook, .3 miles from trailhead

Ouray, getting smaller

Onward (and upward) we went.  The trail continued to snake its way up the mountainside, and rob all the oxygen from my lungs in the process.  I kept gauging our progress by watching the mine.  We were soon even with it.

Almost there…

Now we’re even

By the time we reached the juncture with the Oak Creek Trail at 1.1 miles, I thought I was going to die.  My lungs were bursting!  But WOW, the views!!!  I couldn’t stop now.  I had so much to see ahead of me.

Oak Creek juncture

At this point, the trail veered toward the south, which meant back toward Ouray.  I couldn’t resist one more peek at Gold Hill.  Amazingly, there’s a huge house up above the big abandoned mine.  My husband and I peered at the mountainside, in awe as to how someone actually built a real road up to the house (though we couldn’t pick it out).

Last look at Gold Hill

Thankfully, the trail’s steepness dropped off as we had “mostly” reached the top.  There was still a fair amount of climbing to be had, but definitely not at the same lung-bursting grade.  We broke out into several open meadows, which I’m sure during the summer are filled with wildflowers.  We were too late, and with the dry summer Colorado has experienced this year, the crop likely wasn’t as abundant as usual anyway.

Trail meanders through an open meadow

Highway 550 (the “Million Dollar Highway”) snakes its way along the valley floor

At around 2.3 miles, we reached the juncture with the Twin Peaks Trail and the trail started veering westward.

Trail juncture with Twin Peaks Trail

View of Ouray, which now looks very tiny

Finally, the trail also started heading the right direction (DOWN!)  I will not lie to you:  it is STEEP going this direction as well.  Be careful, watch your footing, and don’t let yourself get out of control because you could fairly easily slip, slide, pitch over the edge of the cliff, and well – DIE.  Despite that hanging over your head, enjoy the views. They are spectacular!

Finally, the trail begins to wind downhill

Aspen grove and rugged peaks

There is one creek crossing.  At this point in late summer, it was easy as pie, but it could be an entirely different story during times of high runoff and after heavy rains.  Use your common sense whenever doing water crossings.  Less than a foot of swift-moving water can knock you off your feet and sweep you away.

Waterfall and cascades at creek crossing

After the creek crossing, you go up again for a short time (don’t worry, it’s not long!), and you get spectacular views of the Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks

Unbelievably, up to this point in our hike, we had not encountered a SINGLE person.  About a mile from the bottom, we ran into our first group of hikers.  Then, at long last, we reached the bottom of the mountain.  Whew!!

The End…sorta

We then had to walk back to our car on the River Road a/k/a Oak Street.  Not the most pleasant part of the hike to be sure, but it was neat to get an up-close look at some of the neat Victorian style homes in Ouray with their cute little yards and gardens.  We could have simply turned around, but we tend to like loop hiking to avoid duplicating our steps.

We ended the day by eating at the True Grit Cafe in Ridgway, which was the town where part of the John Wayne classic “True Grit” was filmed.  The south wall of the cafe at that time was on the exterior side and was used in one of the town scenes.  The food and service here is good (with plentiful portions), the prices not too outrageous, and the cafe is chock full of John Wayne memorabilia.

True Grit Cafe

Just as we left, a rainbow formed over the Silver Jack Reservoir area.  What a neat way to end a great day hiking in the glorious San Juan Mountains of Colorado!

Rainbow over Silver Jack

When we moved to Colorado in late August last year, one thing I knew I would miss in Kansas was the beautiful Flint Hills.  I loved it in the spring when the ranchers burned off the grasses – the smell always signalled spring to me.  A short time after the burns, the grass comes up and covers the hills with a velvet covering.  A few weeks after that, and wildflowers spring forth everywhere.  Last June, in one day, I identified over 30 different species in bloom near Alma, Kansas.  That was a day I won’t soon forget.  By mid-June, the grasses are getting lush and tall, swaying in the ever-present winds.  Fall brings brightly colored sumac, brilliant blue skies, dried grasses in every shade of rust, brown and amber you can dream of, and golden cottonwood leaves in the washes and near waterways. By far, though, my favorite time was early June: wildflower season.  I lamented that I would likely not see such displays of blooms ever again.

I didn’t expect the high desert around Grand Junction to yield much in the way of wildflowers.  Yes, we had been here in late May and there were signs of a few wildflowers, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating multitudes of blooms.

My eyes have been opened!

The high desert has tons of wildflowers.  Sometimes they are harder to see, but they are here.

In very late March and early April, a couple of short hikes up in the Monument (that’s Colorado National Monument to you non-locals) revealed at least a dozen varieties:  wooly milkvetch, wild alyssum, bladderpod, elegant thelopody, indian paintbrush, golden corydalis, yellow-eye cryptantha, bur buttercup, fendler’s spring parsley, western wallflower, and a couple I still haven’t identified.  On April 16 I took another short hike in the Monument and saw long-leaf phlox, yellow-eye cryptantha, wooly milkvetch, yellow cryptantha, indian paintbrush, puccoon, globe mallow, easter daisy, western tansy mustard, western wallflower, and another couple I couldn’t figure out.  My May 8 hike found sand verbena (smells SO good!), indian paintbrush, claret cup cacti, peppergrass, evening primrose, dwarf primrose, desert phlox, perky Sue, yellow-eye cryptanth, desert phacelia, fendler’s spring parsley, larkspur and western tansy mustard.  During the wildflower walk I attended on Saturday, we saw fendler’s spring parsley, sand aster, spreading fleabane, perky Sue, cryptantha (yellow AND white, but no yellow-eye), prince’s plume, claret cup cacti, twin bladderpod, peppergrass, sego lilly, crescent milkvetch, large-flowered breadroot, globe mallow, sand verbena, evening primrose, desert phlox, cushion wild buckwheat, bladderstem, indian paintbrush, and bluestem penstemon. Later that day while hiking in Rough Canyon, I also saw scarlet gillia.

Anyone who says the desert is lifeless has obviously not been here at the right time.

I’m going to resurrect my “Wild Thing” posts soon, since I have so many beautiful wildflowers to share.  Problem is, I’m having so much fun hiking, finding, and identifying them, it doesn’t leave me much time in front of the computer to write! Keep checking back to learn about the “Desert in Bloom.”

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 😉

Rocky outcroppings at Wilson Lake

We went to Wilson Lake over the weekend.  This lake is called “The Clearest Lake in Kansas” because most of the area that drains into the lake is covered with rocks and prairie rather than tilled farmground. While my husband biked the awesome trails there, I hiked and looked for wildflowers.  The first 10 minutes of my hike, I thought “Wow, there’s just not a lot blooming yet.” But then I slowed down a bit and started to really look, and discovered blooms were there.

My hike started at the Hell Creek Bridge and went south and west, following the contour of the lake up on the ridges above.  Let me tell you, if you still think Kansas is flat, you need to go to Wilson Lake, and you will change your mind quickly!  Wilson Lake sits smack dab in the middle of the Smoky Hills of north central Kansas.  The Smoky Hills are comprised of three types of rock:  Niobrara chalk, Dakota sandstone and greenhorn limestone.  The hills are covered with a thin layer of dirt with a mixed grass prairie growing on top.  Some fascinating rock formations exist in the Smoky Hills area.  Rock City is near Minneapolis and is an odd collection of sandstone concretions.  Mushroom Rock State Park contains sandstone pedestals (mushrooms).  The neighboring Kanopolis Lake contains great sandstone bluffs and caves.  Wilson Lake also has an area called the Rocktown Natural Area which contains some 15-20 foot tall sandstone spires, but I didn’t have time to visit this time out.

Lonely Post Rock

Post rock & wildflowers

The area is nicknamed “Post Rock Country” because when the pioneers arrived, there wasn’t much timber in the area and they used what was readily at hand – greenhorn limestone rock.  These old post rocks now make great photographic subjects, and there’s quite a few of them at the lake, the trails strategically placed so as to enjoy them.

I ran into another mountain biker (the self-designated “trail natzi”) who apparently is also a wildflower enthusiast.  He does a lot of volunteer work on the trails, and he seemed excited I was taking photos of the local wildflowers and was more than happy to identify them for me.  When I got home, I looked them up in my “Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas” book by Michael John Haddock and found out he was 100% correct in his identifications. 

My favorite was the Cobaea penstemon.  They remind me of a foxglove.  I remember seeing bunches of the penstemon blooming last year when we visited the lake, but during the first part of my hike, I didn’t see any.  Later on, however, I was rewarded!  There were scads of them blooming on top of the ridges, perched among the sandstone rocks on the hillsides.  I had fun scrambling up the hillsides to find good clumps of blooms. 

Cobaea penstemon growing in rocky ledges with Wilson Lake in the background

Cobaea penstemon

Close-up of bell shaped Cobaea penstemon blooms













Other wildflowers blooming were wild onion, spiderwort, Dakota verbena, prairie ragwort, western wallflower and purple poppy mallow (which I’ve always called “cowboy rose”).  Also in a few spots I found some scarlet globe mallow, which is similar in appearance to a globe mallow that blooms in the Southwest, but much shorter.

Wild onion (and friend)


Dakota verbena

Prairie ragwort (I really liked the nice sidelighting on these)

Prairie ragwort

Western wallflower

Purple poppy mallow a/k/a cowboy rose

Scarlet globe mallow

When my husband finished his ride, we hiked a little over a mile west from the parking area at the bridge and came to a big juncture in the trail, called the Trail Cut Off.  I thought the trail sign was very appropriate!  I also have to wonder what wisenheimer came up with this idea 😉

The Cut Off

You can read more about the interesting history of the Smoky Hills and Wilson Lake area by clicking here.

Feel free to leave a comment! I always enjoy feedback from my readers 🙂


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