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.
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.
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.
I’ve been spending the weekend in Colorado hiking and taking photos of the surrounding landscape. One of the goals of the weekend was to find new places, go where we’ve never been, and venture off the well worn path. Mission accomplished. The photos below are JPEGs. I haven’t had a chance to process any RAW shots, or go through auto bracketed images to make selections and adjustments. That’ll happen in a week or two.
Its that time of year when I make my annual pilgrimage to Estes Park, Colorado for a little time off. After a long drive across Kansas in the rain and a day of light hiking where we saw a brown bear and her cubs, today we hit it early for sunrise in the mountains. I’m trying some new camera settings and a couple of new lens combos, and things are shaping up nicely. I’m just hoping the weather holds for the next couple of days.
One of the things I love about staying at Tim’s place in Estes Park, Colorado is the abundance of wildlife so close to the property. The image below was taken just a half mile from his house, South of the Lumpy Ridge Trail Head. I was testing out the 150 to 300mm (300 to 600 on a full frame DSLR) with the OMD.
The camera did a solid job of stabilizing the shot, but I need practice with the lens though. Especially at maximum focal length. The shot below has the lens all the way out. The coyote is about 75 yards away.
What I noticed was all the grass seems sharp, as well as the coyotes face. The mid section of his body seems a bit soft though. I think I need to increase shutter speed and find the sweet spot on an f-stop that renders sharpness across the depth of the frame.