Saturday, April 15, 2017

Moonset Over the Abajos

Moonset at sunrise, near Monticello, Utah.
I had been intending to take off in the other direction, until I exited my front door and saw the just past full moon setting over the Abajo Mountains. Hmm. Did I have time to do something about it? I did.

So I drove out to Loyds Lake on the edge of town. A favored vantage point. I quickly parked, grabbed my camera bag and tripod, and all but trotted down the gravel path. Because I could see there was no time to waste.

Loyds Lake at sunrise, with the moon setting over the Abajos.
 Whenever the moon is rising above the horizon, or setting in the other direction, it's amazing to see how quickly our Earth rotates compared to how we think of it (if at all) while we are caught up in the day. The frame of reference that the horizon brings is telling.

The moon was creeping down toward the still snowy Abajo Mountains west of town. The sun was rising as well, giving the landscape a warming glow while the moon was cool and blue. After all, it was still way out there in space.

Photo location: Monticello, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mesa Verde: North Rim April Evening

Mesa Verde's North Rim escarpment from the Geologic Overlook.
"Light forms the image" wrote legendary photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958). Meaning the quality of the light at the time. The type of light, and how it played off of the surfaces in the scene.

Our world is lit by our Sun. But it is our atmosphere that filters that sunlight in many ways. Clouds have much to do with it, by their absence or presence, and by what type of cloud it is.

View north across the Montezuma Valley, with the Knife Edge lit up.
On a recent April evening as I drove along the North Rim of Mesa Verde, I had the pleasure of watching the afternoon sunlight and clouds play across the scenery.

Hazy evening silhouettes from the North Rim of Mesa Verde, with Sleeping Ute Mountain in the distance.
It was hazy down in the Montezuma Valley, making the light separate ridges and peaks from near to far.
Dead tree like a statue at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

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© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mesa Verde: North Rim Morning

Point Lookout, from the northern end of Mesa Verde National Park.
Early April, and time to drive back up into Mesa Verde to go to work. The warm-season crowds have not yet arrived, just the Spring Break families that have livened up the place after the winter doldrums. The days continue to lengthen and some shrubs and grasses are sprouting a little bit of greenery.

From just inside the deserted (it's too early for a ranger to be on duty) entrance station I pull over into the parking lot that is designated for visitors towing trailers to drop them off before driving up the steep tight switchbacks. The parking lot is empty this early in the season. It's a good place to stop and photograph Point Lookout, the iconic northern tip of the Mesa Verde itself. There is a trail to the top of it, from Morefield Campground on the south side of it. The gentle side.

Mancos Valley Overlook, April 2. The La Plata Mountains in the distance.

After the first set of switchbacks you come to the Mancos Valley Overlook. Take it. Especially on a springtime morning like this, with the clouds clearing as the early sunlight lights them up.

Looking south onto the steep slopes of Mesa Verde, from the Mancos Valley Overlook.
Driving on a ways, I go through the tunnel and up some more switchbacks, pulling over at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, which allows one to gaze down the other side, down toward the town of Cortez.

Morning at the Montezuma Valley Overlook, with Sleeping Ute in the far distance.
There I make several photos, captivated by the sunlit lumps of the distant Sleeping Ute Mountain, still largely covered in snow.

Panorama from Montezuma Valley Overlook.
Then the road climbs toward Park Point, which is -- no surprise there -- the highest point in the park. On this cold April morning it also means rising into and out of fog. A veil dance.

Sunrise fog near Park Point, Mesa Verde.
After Far View, where the lodge has yet to open for the season, the highway descends back to 7,000 feet and the Park Headquarters and Museum. Time to park the vehicle and get ready for work. Time to greet more visitors and share what I've learned so far about this World Heritage Site in southwest Colorado.

Foggy turnout, Mesa Verde.

Into and out of the morning fog, Mesa Verde.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

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© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, March 31, 2017

March: Out Like a Lion

Downtown Monticello, Utah, March 30. 
It's a rather early spring in southeast Utah. But plenty of unsettled weather has been rolling through. Last evening the latest one was arriving, with rain and snow showers.

Loyd's Lake, March 31.
In the morning it was snowing hard, then much harder. I drove out to the lake to get cell reception, and the snow was flying by.

Snowy Gambel Oak trees.
Surrounding the lake are stands of large (for them) Gambel Oak trees. Besides being fantastic cover for wildlife, they look great when they're coated with fresh snow. 

Photo location: Monticello, Utah.

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© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Clouds Parted

Clearing fog at sunrise, Mancos Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Sunrise clouds clearing over the Mancos Valley
A March morning and Mesa Verde was locked in fog. Some fresh snow on the ground, but the road into the park was merely wet, not icy.

As I drove up the first set of switchbacks, I was thinking: no photos from any of the overlooks this morning. Not in this gray soup.

Then, as I approached the Mancos Valley Overlook, the clouds began to part. So I pulled in to the parking lot and walked quickly to the stone wall at the edge.

The fog was moving fast. Opening for a few moments, then closing, as the sun tried to burn through. Below was the Mancos Valley and the historic town of Mancos, on US 160.

Then the cloud slammed back shut. Fine with me, because I had to continue to the south end of the park to go to work.

After work I drove out the Mesa Top Loop road to enjoy a sunny evening. It's a great time of year to visit Mesa Verde National Park, even though it's too early for the ranger-led tours down to several of the major sites that had been occupied by the ancestral puebloan people until about 800 years ago. Crowds and traffic are still light, the weather is comfortable, and the leaves on the shrubs are coming out. Soon Mesa Verde (Spanish for "green table") will indeed be its greenest of the year.

Square Tower House ruin, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Square Tower House, March evening.
 Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

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© 2017 Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photographics.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Here Comes Spring

Rainbow Trout, February 19.
Until yesterday I had not caught any trout since January 5. The two times I had gone after that were brutal, the cold and wind. Oh, well. If this had been a normal winter here in southeast Utah the lake would have frozen much earlier and the snow much deeper than it has been.

East end of the lake from the dam, February 19.
Back then in early January the lake had opened partially. I had trudged along the part of the dam shoreline that was open, having to keep back from the thin shelf ice. I caught a couple of rainbow trout and then retreated first to my vehicle, then home.

Northeast corner of the lake, Jan. 5.
Over the past few weeks much warmer weather has taken hold. A few light snow storms, but mostly melting of the deep snows that had pointed the local mule deer down to lower elevations where their food would not take so much energy to get to.

Last trout of the winter, Jan. 5.
Yesterday the deer were back. Trout and deer, a good indication of early spring, even at 7,000 feet in late February.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

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© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sand Island Petroglyph Panel, Utah

San Juan River, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
The San Juan River at Sand Island.
On a cold January afternoon I stopped by for another visit to the BLM's Sand Island Recreation Area.

Picnic area overlooking the San Juan River, Sand Island Recreation Area, Utah.
Picnic tables and shade shelters overlooking the San Juan River.
 There is a boat landing there on the San Juan River, a campground (self register and pay, year around) and picnic areas with vault toilets, and a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) ranger station (not open in the winter).

The campground has two loops. A small one with a few sites just to the east of the ranger station, and a much larger loop at the west end.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Interpretive sign for the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel, on the cliff face in the background.
 It is along the road into and through the west campground loop that the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel is located. An exceptional collection of ancient inscriptions pecked into the patina of the sandstone cliff there. The main panel is protected by a chain link fence, with an easy trail along it so that you can ogle the many figures and photograph them without touching them.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Petroglyphs etched into the sandstone cliff face. Notice rider on horse, which would be later than prehistoric.
 Most of the petroglyphs (pecked into the rock, as opposed to pictographs, which are painted on the rock) are prehistoric, up to probably a couple of thousand years old. They were made by what today are referred to as the Ancestral Puebloan culture. There are also a few that must have been made after the 1600s, when the first Spanish explorers introduced the horse to the natives in North America.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Inscriptions of unknown meaning. But this must have been an important location, with so many of them.
 Photo location: Sand Island Recreation Area, southern San Juan County between Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah.

See much more of my photography on my website at

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg