photography

Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands

Every year I take an annual trip to Estes Park Colorado with my friends Tim and Bryan. Usually, it’s in May, but we have added a September trip to the mix as well. The point of this road trip is to do some hiking, take photo’s, relax and enjoy, weather permitting. I say that because sometimes Mother Nature decides overcast is all she is going to give us and it doesn’t make for very dramatic images. This year was one of those years. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t try, and actually Tim and Bryan got some pretty decent images in Rocky Mountain National Park. Uninspired by the overcast and not feeling the photo love, I busted out the Moment Macro lens for the iPhone and tried a completely different approach to things with mixed results. The good news is, Kansas showed us the love.

Driving to Estes involves taking I-70 for 9 to 10 hours across the great expanse of Kansas, and while most people think of Kansas as a “fly-over” state, it’s probably because they have never taken the time to venture off the freeway or see the Tallgrass Prairie lush from spring rains. For the last few years, we have broken up the drive by stopping in Oakley and the following morning making an excursion to a couple of landmarks about 30 minutes Southwest of the city and the freeway. Last year it was Monument Rocks. This year we hit the “Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands” which is now a state park and will open to the public in June. I’m glad we did because Mother Nature smiled on us with a brilliant clear spring morning that gave us perfect golden light.

The photos below don’t do the size of this chalk formation justice. The columns rise at least 30 to 40 feet in some areas and Little Jerusalem spreads out over a couple of square miles. We only explored a small section, and I need to go back for some night photography and to get a better feel for how large this place really is. If you have time to make the detour and stop I highly recommend it.

A couple of things to point out. Currently (May 2017) this place is gated and there are No Trespassing signs up. Before June enter at your own risk. If you spend the night in Oakley or arrive at the wrong time of the day, be prepared for an olfactory overload. There are a feed lot and a hog farm right off the main drag and the stink can be pretty overpowering if there is no breeze. It was so bad when we arrived I almost lost my lunch when I got out of the car. The good news is, both Monument rocks and Little Jerusalem are far enough away, you won’t smell it there. You will also want to go in some sort of SUV. The roads to both are dirt and gravel and can be a bit rough. My GTI would have had a hard time negotiating some of them.

All photos were shot in RAW on my Olympus OMD EM-1 with the 12-40mm and processed with Lightroom, Photoshop, and NIK Color FX Pro.

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Sometimes You Gotta Get Really Small.

Sometimes when you go for a six mile hike in the mountains, Mother Nature blesses you with perfect light and subject matter for photography. Sometimes she gives you overcast skies, boring vegetation, and no wildlife to speak of. Today was one of those days, so I busted out the Moment macro lens for the iPhone and went small photographing all sorts of tiny objects of nature. Using the Moment macro is tricky. Depth of field is razor thin, and it requires you to move the iPhone in and out from the subject, with a lot of room for trial and error. Also wind will mess with your shots, since it jacks with focus. None the less using it was fun, and added to the walk.












The Indiana Dunes in January.

I’ve been doing some traveling for work over the last couple of weeks, and last week I found myself in New Buffalo Michigan right by the lake. Saturday morning I had some down time so I decided to drive over to Indiana Dunes State park to check it out. I’ve never been, and the overcast skies and fog seemed like it would lend itself to some fairly dramatic photos. In typical fashion… it did and it didn’t. The overcast sky wasn’t quite as dramatic as I expected, and the most interesting visuals came from the textures of the shelf ice right on the lake shore. By the way, did I mention it was freezing? The readout in the rental car said it was 32 degrees, but after 30 minutes my hands were aching from the cold, even though I was wearing heavy gloves. I managed to shoot 20 or so images before deciding to bail. I simply wasn’t dressed for Lake Michigan in January with a nice breeze rolling in off the frigid water.

By the way, did I mention it was freezing? The readout in the rental car said it was 32 degrees, but after 30 minutes my hands were aching from the cold, even though I was wearing heavy gloves. I managed to shoot 20 or so images before deciding to bail. I simply wasn’t dressed for Lake Michigan in January with a nice breeze rolling in off the frigid water.

When I got back to the hotel, I took a look at the results of my little excursion and decided that the decent shots definitely needed post processing so I turned to Photoshop, and Google’s NIK filter collection. If you haven’t grabbed these filters, you should. They’re free, they’re powerful, and you can spend hours playing with the settings and combinations to get some solid results. For my shots, I did a simple two-step process involving a total of four filters.

Pass one, involved NIK Color FX where I added a graduated Neutral Density filter, Detail extractor, Lens Vignette. All applied very slightly to the image. Pass Two, NIK Silver FX for black and white conversion. I used the Modern Presets for High Dynamic Smooth and then dialed everything way down. While the presets are fun, in typical fashion, they are usually cranked up for maximum effect and can seem really fake when used as is.

I did all the post work on the flight back to Kansas City. Everything was processed from RAW files that were shot on my Olympus OMD EM1 with the 12 to 40mm Pro lens in Low ISO mode.

stacked-1

stacked-2

 

My Annual Photo Weekend

Every year I take a five-day trip to Estes park Colorado to hang out with a couple of friends and just relax. The trip consists of staying at my friend’s house (Aspen Grove), hiking in the woods, taking photos, drinking beer, and eating too much red meat over the five days.

The trip is in some ways creative renewal, but mostly it’s just letting everything go, and focusing on having fun and trying to get a few good images while we are out hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park. This year the three of us changed things up a bit and hit the park the first week of October instead of mid-May, and we still got snowed on. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, with almost the entire 5 days filled with off and on rain, snow hail, and overcast. It’s all good though. You make do with what you have and just keep shooting.

This is a baker’s dozen of images shot on my Olympus OMD EM1. Not all of the photos were taken in Colorado, and few were taken at Monument Rocks in Western Kansas about 20 miles from Oakley. And yes, every single image has had some form of post processing done to it, The original images were all shot in RAW format and processed in Lightroom and Photoshop using a number of tools and techniques. That is part of the fun.

aspen-trail

aspens-1

big-elk

bryan-on-the-bridge

elk-1

elk-2

millner-lake-1

monument-rocks-1

monument-rocks-2

rocky

sunrise

the-path

the-road

 

Creative Renewal Part 2

Sometimes you just need to get away and clear your head. Take a couple of days and look for inspiration. Get out and enjoy the world by getting back into nature. Early October in the Rocky Mountains can pose some tricky situations when it comes to weather. Yesterday started out sunny and in the lower 50’s in Estes Park, but less than five miles away, a storm was rolling in over the top of Rocky Mountain National Park bringing rain, snow, hail, and high winds. This didn’t stop us though, we decided to go ahead with a hike up to Beirstadt Lake and take the switchbacks down to the valley floor. The hike was relaxing, and not a complete bust, and I did manage to get a couple of decent photos of a few aspens in full fall color while being pelted with pea-sized hail and high winds.

aspen-trail

Creative Renewal

One of the great things about taking the annual photo weekend trip to Colorado is not just spending time with good friends, but also having the opportunity to focus on being creative for me. On the drive out to Estes we stopped at Monument Rocks about 20 miles from Oakley Kansas to get some sunrise shots of the rock formations that grow out of the Kansas Prairie unlike anything else in the state. These were shot with the Olympus OMD EM-1 Taking full advantage of the world-class image stabilization built into the camera. Tonight some experiments with “Live Composite” mode for night time shooting… provided the clouds hold off and we can see the night sky.

The Road to Colorado

cub-lakeIn 48 hours I’ll be heading to Colorado for 5 days of hiking and taking photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is an annual trip, but this year is a bit special since we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park system in the United States. While noodling around on the internet over lunch I did a search on “National Park Posters” and found that the park service has a site dedicated to the posters that have been created for each of our National Parks so I decided to have a look. What I found is series of new posters that have been produced in the famous WPA style of the 1930’s and 40’s but with an updated look. The posters capture the spirit of the originals, and have a specific style guide that has obviously been applied to each, help to create a consistent look across the grouping. The look of the imagery varies slightly from poster to poster, with some that are obviously manipulated photos, or a digital painting that used a photo as a guide layer, but I have to say they are well done and work. The Park Service is selling the posters to help fund the National Park system and what you get for the money is a 13 by 19 inch poster printed on recycled paper that is signed, numbered, and dated. Below is a small sampling of the collection.

 

yosemite

yellowstone

olympic

kings-canyon

 

grand-canyon

grand-tetons

 

dunes

cub-lake

capital-reef

black-canyon

arches

acadia

cub-lake