Estes Park

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.

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sunrise

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the-road

 

A Little Trip to Colorado

  

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. 

  
       

Vacation 

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.

  

Back in the Saddle.

After five days at Rocky Mountain National Park I’m finding it hard to get back into the swing of things.  Over the course of that five day period I spent 3 days hiking about 25 miles and and taking photos along the way. As the mini vacation wound down, I was hitting my stride and really wished for a couple more days in the park to shoot additional photos and hopefully see a bit more wildlife.

While there, I focused on using two lenses as my primary shooting tools. The Zuiko 17mm f1.8 prime, and the Zuiko 75 to 300mm f4.8 zoom. The 17 was used as a general purpose lens and the 75 to 300 for grabbing distance shots of wildlife in the park. The shots below were all shot as Olympus RAW files that were opened via Adobe Bridge with enhancements being done to the RAW data before opening the file. Once in Photoshop, files were cropped and in some cases merged to create the ultra-wide panoramas.

I’m not going to go into any kind of in-depth review of the two lenses. There is plenty of information on both of them all over the internet, and most give a much more technical review then I ever would. What I will say is this. I rented the 17 to try it out. I’ll be buying it. Hands down it was one of the best primes I’ve shot with on the OMD. I wish we would have had cloudless nights, because I wanted to try it for star trails. Maybe next time. The 17 is a fast focusing, super sharp, ultra quiet lens. The snap ring manual focusing sold it. As for the 75 to 300. It’s a solid lens, but it is by no means a best in class. For the money it was worth every penny. The photos below that were shot with it are annotated with approximate distances to show just how much reach this lens has.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 30 feet with the focal length set to about 200mm.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Distance of about 50 yards with a focal length of 300mm. OMD in Black and White mode.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Three images shot with the 17mm merged in Photoshop to create the final composite.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

Distance of about 75 yards with the focal length at 300mm.

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

17mm at the closest focusing point of about 8 inches

Bottoms Up.

After spending a total of seven hours of hiking through various trails at altitude it’s safe to say I had my ass handed to me. The photo below was at Lilly lake after hiking up to Jurassic Park trying to find rock climbers. No rock climbers, but a great view from the top was great.

This is a mallard duck couple over in the marshland South of Lilly Lake. The challenge, getting them to sit still, not fly off, or swim behind tall marsh grass. Using a tip from a wildlife photo blog I set the OMD to aperture priority, set the f-stop to f-11 and started shooting. The 150mm to 300mm did a great job and the OMD’s image stabilization saved me. This is all the way out at 300 with the birds at about 50 yards.

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Minor post processing was done in Snap Seed on the iPad with a little tone adjustment.

The Coyotes Are Hunting

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.

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Big Horn Sheep

On the last day of the mini photo vacation, we ran into 5 or so Big Horn Sheep in Big Thompson Canyon. This is why I’m glad I rented the 50mm to 200mm lens for the OMD. I’m going to write up a review for the lens and using it with the OMD when I get back home later this week. Lemme just say, I think I might have a purchase coming in my future.

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