Tuesday, March 27, 2018

San Juan Mountains Alpenglow

San Miguel Mountains, San Juan Mountain Range, Montrose County, Colorado.
San Miguel Mountains just before sunset.

Fresh snow on the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. An evening free all to myself. Great springtime weather. What to do? Get out there and combine them! Photographically, of course.

From Norwood in the southwest corner of Montrose County I drove south on a paved County road that heads straight toward Lone Cone Peak, possibly my favorite mountain. So far.

On the way down the road, the sunset was getting near. I stopped to shoot the San Miguel Range to the southeast. Then drove on.

Alpenglow on the San Miguel Mountains.

But only a few minutes later the San Miguels lit up pink with alpenglow from the sunset reflecting off the clouds above it, from the west.

Alpenglow sunset on Lone Cone Peak, Colorado.
Alpenglow on northwest face of Lone Cone Peak.

Finally, Lone Cone reflected the same alpenglow off of its snowy northwestern slope.

A very fine early springtime evening in the southwest Colorado high country.

Photo location: Montrose Country, near Norwood, Colorado.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Edge Of Spring, Mesa Verde

Cliff Canyon on a March morning.

The middle of March of a mild winter and I was searching for the very first signs of spring at 7,000 feet in Mesa Verde National Park.

A recent weak storm system had left the air clear and crisp in the morning sunlight. I began with a morning drive around the Mesa Top Loop road as well as the newly reopened for the season Cliff Palace Loop road.

Cliff Palace, the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park.

I stopped to make a panorama of Cliff Palace in soft morning shade. Then another for views of Cliff Canyon and the House Of Many Windows Ruin.

House Of Many Windows, Cliff Canyon. They are actually doorways, not windows.

Returning in late afternoon I made another panorama of Square Tower House, my favorite in the park.

Square Tower House site on a March afternoon.
And I once again tried to imagine how the ancient ones could build a four story tower by hand out of sandstone "bricks" and mud mortar. No iron tools yet, only stone tools. No beasts of burden. Only humans. Amazing.

Square Tower House site, featuring the tallest structure in the park.
Back on the Cliff Palace road, I bypassed the Balcony House parking lot, looking at the few tourists that had stopped to see it. Surprise: you can't. Not from there. Because it's in the alcove underneath you. The Ranger led tours down to it hadn't started for the season.

Hemenway House, from across the canyon.
But I did stop at the overlook for Hemenway House, which you're not allowed to tour at all. Same as with most of the park. Too many sites, too rugged.

It would take massive road construction to reach even a fraction more than you can now. Instead, you get to see the most impressive sites, and the rest are protected for research.

Balcony House from the Soda Canyon overlook.
But I wanted some more shots of Balcony House. So I hiked the easy Soda Canyon Overlook Trail to the viewpoint across the head of the canyon.

Balcony House, with a long lens.
On the hike back I photographed the only emerging greenery I could find: bunch grasses and Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata).

New spring growth, bunch grass.
Emerging leaves of Bitterbrush, Purshia tridentata (meaning three lobed, you can see some already).
I was also interested in how the cacti had fared during the winter. Their somewhat leathery and waxy "skin" preserves moisture but by now they were looking quite wrinkled, waiting to revive themselves.

Wrinkled pads of Prickly Pear Cactus at the end of winter.
And the Banana Yucca (Yucca spp.), which weren't wrinkled but were looking a bit yellow compared to how they will soon look again with the revival of springtime.

End of winter coloration in Banana Yucca.
See more of my photography at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, March 2, 2018

Bedrock, Colorado

Bedrock Store, Bedrock, Colorado.
The Bedrock Store at Bedrock, Colorado. 
It was the last day of February, and it felt time to take another long drive into the mountains of southwest Colorado. To them, between them, through them. Why not? (My usual excuse, as if I need one).

My first real stop (meaning for photos, rather than merely admiring the passing scenery) was Bedrock, Colorado. A tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, truly. Wide open high desert scenery. Snowy mountain ranges to the west and to the east. No services, not even a convenience store. Gas up your vehicle well beforehand.

Which is not a put-down, merely advice. I love these rural, clean air, wide open skies kind of places. As usual, the locals waved to me as our cars passed, even though they did not recognize me. I have experienced this many times in rural areas, where people look after each other, including strangers. Especially when the weather is bad.

Highway 90 west from Bedrock toward the La Sal Mountains in Utah.
But this was not a bad weather day. More like an early spring day. Warm in the sunlight, chilly in the shade.

At Bedrock, which is nothing more than a wide spot on the highway (and not even very wide) I once again photographed the Bedrock Store, that irresistibly historic building. Looking like an Old West general store. Several years ago when I first make my way through Bedrock, the store was open. It was fascinating inside. I bought a little something, then continued on my way.

The next time I passed through, the store was closed. With a sign saying the owner was experiencing health problems. And again the next time I was there.

But now I hear that it's open once again. Limited hours. As in: when whomever running it is there.

See much more of my photography at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, February 23, 2018

Icing On The Day: Coyote

Coyote, roadside hunting, Mesa Verde National Park.
One of the many privileges of working in a National Park is that you can more frequently see wildlife in a more natural state. As in: not being shot at.

I thought about this as I was driving back out of Mesa Verde again during the winter "offseason" (for tourists, that is).

Coyote watching from above for its next meal.
A coyote was walking down the edge of the road, coming toward me. I stopped well before I got close to it, so I could grab my camera, and turn its control dial to a setting that I had programmed for "wildlife" so that I could enable it quickly. (I get a little smarter every year). (But just a little).

Being in a National Park, the coyote was only marginally interested in me, or should I say my vehicle. It surely was keeping an eye on me. At least one corner of it, just out of instinct.

I think that it was walking down the shoulder of the road because it gave a better view of the terrain just below. Looking for food. Prey.

Which made me think about weak we humans are, despite our immense intellectual talents. Because that coyote essentially wore its home on its back. Thick warm fur. It knows where to find (to it) delicious, high calorie food. It knows where to curl up in a sheltered place in the fiercest of winter storms. When to sleep, when to go back to hunting for the next meal.

Thus it needs no job. No career. It has one. It is one.

Could you live out there without a whole lot of insulated clothing and supplies that you had paid for somewhere? How "free" are you, after all?

See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Icing On The Day: Bobcat

Sunrise on Point Lookout, at the entrance to Mesa Verde.

A February day at Mesa Verde National Park began with it now being light enough around 7am as for the sun to soon be crawling over the eastern horizon, lighting up the towering rampart of Point Lookout as I drove into the entrance of the park. The vertical cliffs of sandstone at the summit glowed with gold, while the more angled and brush covered lower slope turned rosy. And all the other slopes still in shadow provided a wonderful contrast of angles and tones.

Up onto the Mesa itself, and 20 miles in as I neared park headquarters, I saw that I had plenty of time for a swing around the Mesa Top loop road. To see how things looked now that the sun was much further north than it had been back at Winter Solstice. A nature photographer has to keep up on such things, you know.

Square Tower House cliff dwelling site in the soft shadows at sunrise.

At Square Tower House I parked and walked down the paved path to the overlook. The sunshine was just creeping over part of the rim of the canyon, but the alcove below with the remnants (lovingly stabilized by the National Park Service) of the prehistoric village lay in soft daylight illumination.

In late afternoon as I was driving "outbound" as the rangers call it (there's only one road into the park, and out) a bobcat Lynx rufus) was walking down the opposite edge of the road. This being a National Park with no hunting, it was much more relaxed than if it had been surprised by a vehicle pulling up behind it outside the park. 

And though I had my camera equipment beside me, it was zipped up in the case, and it did not have the long lens on.

This still being the serene offseason in the park, I stopped right in the road, put my warning flashers on, and watched the bobcat to see if it was going to bolt out of sight into the brush, or not. It didn't. So I hurriedly pulled out the camera and changed lenses, while the beautiful little predator walked up onto the brushy bank a little.

I didn't think I had time to change the camera to a much higher ISO speed, so I shot away with what it was set on. What the heck.

Blurred but beautiful bobcat shot.

Still no other cars approaching behind me, so I kept shooting. The first one here I like even though the shutter speed was slow enough to make for a blurred image. But it is of the small cat in full length stepping down the slope. It almost looks like a tiger in this shot.

Bobcat, over the shoulder pose.

Then it turned back up the slope and almost seemed to pose briefly. From this angle the patterns in its fur shows how well it can blend in with the brush.

Bobcat, hoping I'll drive on and leave it alone.

Then it looked to the other side, right at me. Between its momentary stillness, my resting my hand on the car window, and my camera's state of the art image stabilization technology, we had a win.

And I continued "outbound", down the hill to Cortez and home.

Photo Location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA.

See more of my photography, and order prints at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Moonrise to Lunar Eclipse Moonset, Colorado San Juans

Moonrise over the San Juan Mountains, Trout Lake, Colorado.
The end of January 2018 was supposed to be not just a Full Moon, but a "blue moon", meaning the second one in the same month. But that's merely the calendar. The Blue Moon occurred on January 31, just one day before February started. Thus robbing February of a Full Moon at all! What should that be called -- the Non Moon?

Whatever. The important thing is that the weather was forecast to be clear, and I live in southwest Colorado. As in: awesome landscapes abound in which to photograph a rising moon above one of them.

So I drove up to Lizard Head Pass (elevation 10, 222 feet or 3,116 meters) the day before the Full Moon as indicated by the calendar. Why? Because depending on when the moon actually reaches "full illumination", you have to be out there the evening before if you want to make landscape photography shots with both the moon rising and the landscape not in darkness.

Trout Lake, just north of Lizard Head Pass. Sun almost down, moon not up yet.
I got to the Pass while the setting sun was still glowing enticingly on the high peaks. I did not stop at the pass but chose to drive down the other side a few miles, to an overlook above Trout Lake. There the warm sunlit peaks, though they were slipping into shadow fast, made for a fantastic accent to the snowy lake in twilight shadow below.

But! Having those peaks so close to me meant that the rising moon would not clear them for quite a while. After dark. Not good.

So I did a U-turn on the highway and headed back up to Lizard Head Pass. The additional 500 feet in elevation would make a critical difference.

And it did. It was a gorgeous January evening. Unseasonably mild, and there was not even a breeze. Still enough to hear a coin drop on the pavement.

The moon was already up over the peaks, of course, and the sun had gone down, too. No time to lose. Shoot the moonrise in the early twilight, before the moon would become a white round disk in a black sky.

So back to work, camera on tripod of course.

Moonrise panorama. Click on image for larger view.
As I was about to finish up a lone cross country skier appeared back up over the opposite road bank, to his car. Taking his skis off, he saw me photographing and said "What a great view to photograph!". Something like that. We each savored the scene for a few more minutes, then wished each other to have a good rest of the evening.

So much for that evening. I would get up early the next morning for the second half of the show: a full Lunar Eclipse as the moon was getting ready to set before sunrise.

See more of my photography, and order prints at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ship Rock, The "Rock With Wings"

Ship Rock, New Mexico.
I drove down into northwestern New Mexico to photograph Ship Rock. It's west of the town that bears its name, Shiprock.

The Ship Rock is the weathered remnant of a volcanic plug -- the magma that cooled to rock while in the throat of the volcano as it was dying. Afterward the volcano eroded away, and here we are looking at what was inside.

The site is on Navajo Nation land. This image was taken from the public highway, as I have no desire to intrude upon private Navajo property for the sake of a photo.

The Navajo call Ship Rock "the rock with wings".

My website is at: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg