Friday, August 18, 2017

Days So Much Shorter

Pinon Pine snag at Montezuma Valley Overlook.
It's August now. Late summer. It's been a spectacular one, too. Rain showers in the afternoon, keeping the land green. Minimizing the wildfire danger.

At this time of the year, the days (length of daylight) are getting shorter by about two minutes a day. Meaning an hour a month. As we slide out of the heat of summer into the glorious coolness of autumn, starting in September. It won't be long.
 
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

See more of my photography at NaturalMoment.com

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mesa Verde Summertime View

Navajo Canyon, Mesa Verde.
It's mid summer. Here comes late summer right around the corner. I try to enjoy all the seasons.

People are saying: "It's almost August! Where is the summer going?" It's going day by day, of course.

Soon it will be fall, my favorite time of year. But not yet. Here on the Colorado Plateau, it's monsoon thunderstorm season, the beautiful time when southern moisture collides with hot high country temperatures and boils over in the skies. When all manner of blues and whites and grays make for a mesmerizing palette above.

Navajo Canyon cliffs.
Up on Mesa Verde, I continue to watch things progress through the summer. The vegetation growing until it's once again time to settle in for the coming cold season.

Once again I look down upon Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

Cliff Place at Mesa Verde.
Meanwhile, in the parking lot, the Rabbitbrush are beginning to bloom. A butterfly is sufficiently distracted as to allow me to take some photos of it from a few feet away.

Butterfly on Rabbitbrush blooms, Cliff Palace parking lot.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

High Country Summer

Colorado Hwy. 145 near Lizard Head Pass
It was the end of June, and I had not been back up into the southwest Colorado high country in over a month.

Up the Dolores river valley from the quaint and historic river town of Dolores on Highway 145. Up past the hamlet of Stoner, and Rico, my favorite mountain town. But I could not stop there, as I had a long way to go.

Lizard Head Pass, late June.
The aspen forests high above were in full greenery, as were the alpine tundra fields above them, even if only slightly less so. Shades of green against blue mountains, and skies.

Lizard Head Peak, from the Pass.
And before long I was back up at Lizard Head Pass. The snowfields above timberline had been melting rapidly. The uppermost reaches of the streams were losing their turbidity (muddy-ness) after the high water mark of spring runoff of the snowfields in the surrounding mountains.

I settled into a campsite. A "dispersed campsite", meaning it was just a spot on the National Forest. No facilities, just me and nature. There was a well used fire ring there, but I had no desire for a campfire.

I began to look around at the wildflowers.





Then some deer walked almost right through my camp. Alert but relatively unconcerned, they know when it's hunting season and when it's not.



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

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Starry, Really Starry Night at 10,000 Feet

Milky Way and infinite friends, from Lizard Head Pass.
Summertime, and the living's easy. Right? Especially up in the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado.

I was back up at Lizard Head Pass, and had found an excellent campsite on the National Forest to settle into. A day off, plenty of provisions, nowhere else to be but to be relaxed and savoring the experience.

Sunset turned to dusk, and to sleep. Good night. But something was bugging me: being back underneath a clear dark sky view of the Milky Way again.

I'm no night owl. I like going to bed early and getting up early. But I wanted to once again try my hand at some night sky photography.

So at one point I peered out the window and upward just to confirm that the Milky Way was still up there. Got that done. Then I dozed off. And woke up dreaming that I was photographing it! Oh, I thought, I'd better just get up and actually do it. Otherwise it will be fits and starts of dreams all night.

So I sleepily set up the tripod and camera and had what could best be described as a good effort. Which, in post production back at home (fully awake) turned out to be not bad. Progress from my earlier attempts.

To the north, I framed the spruce and fir trees in silhouette against the sky. After all, who needs another great shot of the night sky without an Earthly reference?

Southern sky, the Galactic Center.
Then, to the south. The Galactic Center was in view. Such shots are often called fake, because they look like star clouds.

The reality is that the camera sensor records more than our eyes can see at the time. Also, city people have no night vision because of all the light pollution. Come up here to 10,000 feet and look up at the night sky. Without turning on any white lights. You could see so much more than you imagined.

At any rate, these are my best depictions of what I experienced that starry, starry night.

Photo location: Lizard Head Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado.

See more of my photography at NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Moonrise, Moonset, and Sleeping Ute Mountain

Totten Reservoir, Mesa Verde, and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
It was Full Moon time, that time of the month to once again try for great landscape photos featuring the moonrise.

In June, sunset occurs late, just after 8:30 PM, which is also about the time that the Full Moon rises in the east. So I had some time to kill.

I drove to Totten Reservoir just east of Cortez, in part because the late afternoon haze was making Sleeping Ute Mountain stand out on the southwestern skyline. Mostly clear blue skies, a nice breeze, the warming light of the lowering sun.

Sleeping Ute Mountain from Totten Reservoir.
Sleeping Ute Mountain is a small but prominent mountain range in southwest Colorado. It lies wholly within the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation, meaning it's off limits to non-tribal members except by certain advance tours with a guide.

Why is it called Sleeping Ute? To the right is the warrior's head, with his headdress flowing out. (He seems to have no nose, who knows?). His arms are folded across his chest, forming Ute Peak on the map. To the far left his knees are visible, and even the tips of his toes. It is said that Sleeping Ute will awaken when his tribe needs him, so take heed!

But to the east is the North Rim of Mesa Verde, the dazzling cliffs that form the backdrop to the town of Cortez. It was there that the moonrise would appear over. Earlier in the afternoon I had alerted some visitors going into the park to watch for it. City dwellers are unaware of such things, and they delight in being given such tips to enjoy with their families.

Moonrise over the North Rim of Mesa Verde, from Cortez.
The sun went down and the shadows of Mesa Verde as seen from my vantage point near the southern edge of Cortez deepened. It was getting too dark for my favored kind of moonrise landscape photos.

Full Moon after it got too dark for good landscape shots.

But about 9 PM the Full Moon (actually a bit past 100% illumination, but who's counting) started to peek over the rim of the Mesa. Shots made a few minutes later were too wildly contrasty to satisfy me. Who needs yet another shot of the gorgeous moon in a black sky? Mesmerizing as it is.

In the morning, though, the rest of the Full Moon event is moonset at dawn. So I was back out at the lake for more. I had slept in, and had to scramble out there to see what was available. I was not disappointed.

Moonset at dawn, Totten Lake.

Photo Location: Totten Reservoir State Wildlife Area, Montezuma County, southwest Colorado.

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

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg


Friday, June 2, 2017

Mesa Verde Wildflowers: Fendlerbush

Fendlerbush blossoms, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
The first day of June in Mesa Verde National Park. I stopped at the Far View pueblo sites for an early evening walk. Being on the mesa top, it's an easy walk, and it was a beautiful late afternoon.

Before long I came upon more Fendlerbush (Fendlera falcata (F. rupicola), which have been blooming for a while now. Still they are not done, at least not certain shrubs in the park. With the late afternoon light illuminating them from behind, they glowed even more. The deep shadows behind only served to make them stand out even more.

Their flower buds are pink, but as they open they turn a very pure white. The four petals make them an easy identify up here. 

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado. See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mesa Verde from Park Point

Looking south from Park Point, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Early May, and the spring season is well along. Not far from the Memorial Day weekend start to the real crush of visitors. A great time to explore the park before it gets hot and crowded.

I had been working at the Museum and was driving home. The past few days had been wet and cold. The warm weather residents that were visiting were miserable and complaining a bit. Hey, springtime in the Rockies....

But the cold front passed, and cumulus clouds were accenting the blue sky once again. As I drove north from the Museum on Chapin Mesa, I stopped at Park Point, highest knob of landscape within the park. It has 360 degree views all around.

 Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Great Sage Plain Greens Up

Winter wheat fields and Abajo Mountains, Dove Creek, Colorado
Going home, early May. Dove Creek, southwest Colorado.

Actually I had come up from the lower Dolores River at Slick Rock, enjoying the swollen river and the boaters floating down to their take-out landing.

Then I drove up over the landscape, over high mesas, and came back out to Highway 491. What a view. The fields of winter wheat so green in the cold wet springtime soil. The Abajo Mountains in the distance, in Utah 20 miles west. The wet skies dancing about, teasing a bit more rain.

Photo location: Dove Creek, Colorado.

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

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

La Sal Mountains Springtime Sunset

La Sal Mountains at sunset from near the Bears Ears National Monument boundary, San Juan County.
Late April in southeast Utah and the Four Corners country, and the weather was moody. I like the variety that it provides.

Driving west out of Monticello toward the Abajo Mountains, the road veers northward toward Utah 211, the highway into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. But before you get anywhere near that portion of the park, you cross the invisible boundary (since it's so new) of part of the eastern boundary of Bears Ears National Monument.

That evening, my eye was not on going into the Needles, but on staying high to watch how the sunset light would play out onto the La Sal Mountains to the northeast, near Moab.

As the sun slid below the western horizon, the low angle of its light lit up the still snowy peaks of the La Sals. Warmer, then a bit pink, too.

La Sal Mountains peaks at sunset color.
Zooming in with a longer lens, I made a series of overlapping shots from which to make a super high resolution panoramic image in Adobe Lightroom.

Soon the colors had faded, and it was time to drive home in the twilight. 

See more of my photography at NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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.

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

© 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.

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

© 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.

See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com

© 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.

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

© 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.

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

© 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 www.NaturalMoment.com

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg