DJR Photography: Blog http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Dan Roeder djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) Mon, 14 May 2018 19:00:00 GMT Mon, 14 May 2018 19:00:00 GMT MacKenzie State Recreation Area http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/mackenzie-state-recreation-area After the "Kehena Black Sand Beach Surprise," we got in the car and continued to drive north along the coast until we came to MacKenzie State Recreation Area. Thankfully, there was no beach here, just cliffs and rocky fingers jutting out into the ocean. This was supposed to be one of our sunrise locations, and it probably would have been a good one, except the weather forecast was calling for continued rain on this portion of the Big Island. Given the distance from the bed & breakfast to here, which would have required an early rise and driving in the dark, we decided to make the best of the stormy-looking conditions. Even with the gloomy, cloudy conditions, the blue of the ocean was still amazing, especially when the waves crashed upon the coast.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) big island hawaii mackenzie state recreation area ocean rocky shore waves http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/mackenzie-state-recreation-area Mon, 21 May 2018 12:00:00 GMT
Kehena Black Sand Beach Surprise http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/kehena-black-sand-beach-surprise The Big Island has a few black sand beaches on the southeast side of the island, one of which is Kehena Black Sand Beach.

 

We found a parking area for the beach, but to our surprise the beach was located a good way down from street level. We followed a path through some trees and came to the place where the path started down. The path looked steep, rocky, and precarious. We started down but decided maybe it was too dicey, so we went back up and back to the car. We drove along the road looking for an easier way down, but we didn’t find one, so we drove back to the parking lot to look at the trail again. It started sprinkling, but I really wanted to go down to the beach, so we followed the trail through the trees and down the rocky path along the cliff-face to the beach.

 

When we got to the bottom of the trail, we found the internet rumors to be true–-the beach was a nude beach. Even on this cloudy and rainy day, there were people sitting and lying on the beach and wading in the ocean without any clothes on. Surprisingly (or maybe not too surprisingly), it was only men who felt inclined to leave their clothes on the sand, and most of them appeared, from our well-maintained distance, to be aging, balding, and overweight. Unfortunately, there is some amount of looking you have to do just to see where you’re headed, but I very intentionally chose my subjects with my back to the sand-loungers. Despite that, we both saw things that just couldn’t be unseen. The waves were coming pretty far onto the beach as the tide seemed to be coming in. We stayed close to where the trail met the beach as I didn’t want to get too close to the men and I certainly wasn’t interested in taking their picture. Denise, watching the waves advance across the entrance to the trail back up, didn’t want to stay there too long either.

 

The beach consisted of fine, black sand. Rocks near where the trail ended at the beach intercepted the waves and provided a good subject for photography. Without any sunshine, the ocean looked dark and brooding. I hurried to capture the scene, which was getting more difficult as each minute passed because both the waves and nude waders were getting closer to where we stood. We climbed back up the rocky trail to the car. This was an adventure we were glad we don’t have grandkids to tell about.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) beaches big island black sand beach hawaii kehena black sand beach http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/kehena-black-sand-beach-surprise Fri, 18 May 2018 12:00:00 GMT
Laupahoehoe Beach Park Sunrise http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/laupahoehoe-beach-park-sunrise In the afternoon of the second day on the Big Island we drove across the northern part of the island on our way to Hilo. The first stop on the east side, prior to getting to our bed & breakfast, was Laupahoehoe Beach Park. The park is at the end of a mile long winding road. We first stopped on the south side of the park. The waves were huge and they were pounding the rocky shore where there was an old concrete boat launch (which would have been unwise to try to launch a boat from at the time). We were so close to where the waves were crashing in, we were getting wet from the mist, making photography impossible. We moved further north to where there was more of a “beach,” and where lava rocks intercepted the waves further offshore. 

Everywhere we went provided us with amazing scenes. With the waves crashing on the shore and the rocks out in the water, I was excited for the prospects for the next morning, assuming the weather held out.

 

 

We got back to the beach early the next morning before sunrise. The sky was starting to light up, but the low layer of clouds looked like they could limit the ability to see a spectacular sunrise. At the very beginning, exposure times were around a second, which resulted in getting motion in the waves.

 

 

After moving to another part of the beach, exposure times were in the one-quarter to one-half second, which still showed motion in the waves but avoided blurring.

 

 

What the sky lacked in color (which changed throughout the morning) was made up for by the huge waves that just kept coming and coming, crashing against the rocks just beyond the shore. The black rock beach was long enough to provide a number of different compositions and interactions between the waves and the large lava rocks just off-shore. It was an exciting morning that resulted in a number of great images. It's difficult to pick just one image to capture the thrill of the morning.

 

(I guess the waves weren't too exciting for this fisherman.)

 

 

This final image is the third in a string of eight images of one wave as it came to shore over a period of six seconds. While this one was early in the string, the images after this one were still exciting to capture. It was like I just couldn't stop wanting to take its picture--it seemed like it was just going to get better and better.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) beach big island hawaii laupahoehoe beach park rocks sunrise waves http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/laupahoehoe-beach-park-sunrise Wed, 16 May 2018 12:00:00 GMT
Big Island Sunrise – Pololu Valley http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/big-island-sunrise Knowing we were still going to be on east coast time, I planned a sunrise photoshoot on the northwest coast of the island. Our destination was the Pololu Valley. Sunrise was to be around 7:00 AM, but of course, we needed to be there early–about 6:15. The location was about an hour and a half drive from the hotel, so that meant we needed to check out of the hotel around 4:45, which, in turn, meant we had to get up no later than 4:00 AM. We were both wide awake at 3:00. We got ready and were out of there ahead of time and started driving north. It wasn’t long before we were away from the city lights and into the dark of the night, driving on an unfamiliar road. Fortunately, the directions were pretty much drive north, make one turn, and keep going until the road comes to a dead end, and it was comforting knowing the GPS would tell you if you got off course, but man, it was dark.

We got to the end of the road and the Pololu Valley Lookout, and it was still dark. We sat in the car for a while trying to figure out what was around us and if it was cloudy or not. The wind was howling outside the car. Denise was happy to find out we wouldn’t start the 2-1/2 mile roundtrip hike down the face of the cliff until after there was some light in the sky. Nautical twilight, and the first glimmer of light, started around 6:10 AM. The sky appeared to be mostly clear but with some clouds, and an interesting morning appeared to be in the offing, even with the wind still gusting. Shortly after Civilian twilight, we started our way down the trail. After getting down the trail a little, the cliff protected us from the wind. We made it to our first switchback and the view opened up as the sun was peeking over a cloud bank over the ocean.

DJRb_45474-2Sunrise from the Pololu Valley Trail

We got to the bottom of the trail and the sunlight was streaming through the trees. Since the tide was in, we were not able to walk down the beach to see more of the valley or the black sand beach. Instead, we walked along the beach back toward the cliff face we hiked down. This part of the beach, which wasn’t very long, had large boulders. We walked along the Pololu Stream until we got to a No Tresspassing sign and we were able to get a brief glimpse of part of the valley. Unfortunately, we couldn’t explore much further, so we hiked back to the car. 

On the way up, the wind was whipping up the waves and blowing mist off the top of the waves.

DJRb_45502Wind and Waves

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) cliffs hawaii ocean pololu valley sunrise waves wind http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/5/big-island-sunrise Mon, 14 May 2018 17:29:34 GMT
Hawaii http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/hawaii Well, it's been a long time since I've last posted. Life's been busy.

 

Denise and I took a nice trip in January--we went to Hawaii for a couple of weeks. We visited the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai, spending 4-5 days at each one. Oh, and to our surprise, we spent a day on Ohau when our flight flew around the island for a couple hours before finally landing in Honolulu due some problem with the plane.

 

DJRb_48689Napali Coast

 

We had a great time and I took a lot of pictures. I am in the process of writing my usual book. I'll share some of the stories here in a while, once I get it done. In the mean time, you can see some of my favorite images here.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) canyons hawaii islands ocean sunrises waves http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/3/hawaii Sat, 31 Mar 2018 20:38:40 GMT
Thanksgiving Blessing http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/12/thanksgiving-blessing Oops. I just remembered I hadn't posting this image from a few weeks ago. This is a picture of "the old house" at my mother-in-law's farm. We were there for Thanksgiving. I was out walking around after Thanksgiving lunch. It was getting close to sunset, and the clouds in the skies were getting interesting, so I wandered over toward the old house. I scouted both east-facing and west-facing shots, how long it would take me to get from one position to the other, and a good path to take (one that involved no tripping hazards). This was my favorite of the evening.

 

THANKSGIVING BLESSINGTHANKSGIVING BLESSING

 

Here are some others from the day, including a pano of the above picture.

 

DJRb_45138-HDR-Pano-2DJRb_45138-HDR-Pano-2 DJRb_45073-HDRDJRb_45073-HDR DJRb_45037DJRb_45037 DJRb_45034DJRb_45034 DJRb_44685DJRb_44685

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) farmhouse old house sunset virginia http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/12/thanksgiving-blessing Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:12:47 GMT
More Fall Foliage Fun http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/11/more-fall-foliage-fun I visited Lake Johnson Park three times in the past week or so, walking portions of the trail I didn't hike the first couple of times I went. I even found a trail that hugs the shoreline of the southern edge of the lake. This fall has turned out not too bad. It's just taken a while to get here. Below are a few of my favorite pictures from the past few visits.

 

DJRb_44415DJRb_44415

 

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A gallery of my favorite 15 photos from Lake Johnson this fall can be seen by clicking here.

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) autumn fall lake johnson leaves north carolina raleigh woodland http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/11/more-fall-foliage-fun Wed, 22 Nov 2017 21:10:35 GMT
Lake Johnson Autumn Stroll http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/11/lake-johnson-autumn-stroll While we haven't seen "chamber of Commerce" weather lately, I still decided to go out to one of my favorite locales in Raleigh--Lake Johnson. The skies started out partly cloudy, but within a half hour of getting to the lake, it clouded up. The colors of the trees weren't too spectacular, like they were back in 2008 when I captured this image, and the lake level is about a foot below where it was back then too. Also, the tree on the right that's hanging over the lake may actually have fallen into the lake.

 

Reflections in Lake JohnsonReflections in Lake Johnson

 

Still, there were some isolated tress and sections that contained some color.

 

DJRb_43858DJRb_43858

DJRb_43901DJRb_43901 DJRb_43958DJRb_43958

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My favorite location of the day was a section of the hiking trail around the lake. The photo I made on the day I went out was not acceptable (photographer error--needed to be using my tripod), so I went back a couple of days later, even though it was drizzling at the time. I was able to get a few compositions made, but then to my surprise, a tractor came motoring along the trail, blowing the pinestraw and leaves off the path. I understand that was probably the thing to do for the safety of hikers/walkers/runners, but I preferred the curving trail through the woods with the straw and leaves on the ground. It just didn't look "natural" with a clean path!

 

The photo below is my favorite of the two days. Who knows, it may even be calendar-worthy. Which reminds me, I need to finalize my selection of photos for the calendar soon.

 

DJRb_44001DJRb_44001

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) autumn lake lake johnson leaves north carolina raleigh http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/11/lake-johnson-autumn-stroll Thu, 09 Nov 2017 20:32:57 GMT
St. Petersburg Beach http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/10/st-petersburg-beach Denise and I recently attended a wedding for the son of a cousin of mine in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. One morning, we went for a sunrise stroll on the beach next to our hotel. Though we were looking west at the Gulf of Mexico, there was still some nice color in the sky.

 

DJRb_43749DJRb_43749 DJRb_43768DJRb_43768 DJRb_43771DJRb_43771 DJRb_43779DJRb_43779

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) beach sea gulls sunrise http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/10/st-petersburg-beach Mon, 23 Oct 2017 19:29:40 GMT
Making Our Way Back to Denver http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/making-our-way-back-to-denver We left the Grand Junction area and headed east on I-70 toward Glenwood Springs. The next morning we drove from Carbondale to Maroon Bells. Maroon Bells is very popular during the fall when aspens on the mountainsides turn golden. The area was still nice when cloaked in summer green, and still popular, as we got one of the last parking spaces in the large parking lot. We strolled along Maroon Lake and decided to continue hiking up to Crater Lake (much smaller than the Crater Lake in Oregon). The trail was very rocky, and uphill all the way. We found a nice little lake with Maroon Peak looming large.

 

Maroon BellsMaroon Bells Trail back down from Crater LakeTrail back down from Crater Lake

 

After hiking back down to the car, we drove south of Aspen (detouring around the 4th of July parade) on Colorado Highway 82 (the highest paved road over the Continental Divide) and over Independence Pass. In places, this road was the narrowest road we’d driven since the single lane roads in Scotland. Fortunately, we didn’t have to see if two cars would actually be able to fit side-by-side on the road, with mountain on one side and nothing but down on the other.

 

Roaring Fork River In the Grottos Day Use AreaRoaring Fork River In the Grottos Day Use Area West side of Independence PassWest side of Independence Pass East side of Independence PassEast side of Independence Pass Mayflower CreekMayflower Creek

 

After safely passing through the speedtrap of Twin Lakes, we drove north on US 24 to Leadville and then north on Highway 91 to Copper Mountain and I-70. A couple hours later we found ourselves back in Denver and the end of our two-week tour through Colorado. 

 

I hope you enjoyed our tour through Colorado. I think I mentioned in one of the early blog posts about taking more panorama photos on this trip than on any other trip. I created a separate gallery of this photos, and you can click here to see them.

 

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) aspen colorado independence pass maroon bells http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/making-our-way-back-to-denver Wed, 13 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Colorado National Monument http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/colorado-national-monument The Colorado National Monument was the last national park on our list of things to see on this trip. The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive crosses the monument with Fruita and Grand Junction on either end. There are a number of scenic vistas along the road, some with short walks from the pullouts and others that are longer, providing numerous vantage points and compositional opportunities.

 

Independence Monument from Otto's TrailIndependence Monument from Otto's Trail

 

Looking south into Wedding and Monument Canyons, freestanding rock formations called monoliths are the dominant and most dramatic feature of the park. The towering monoliths have descriptive names such as the Praying Hands, Pipe Organ, Kissing Couple and Independence Monument. They are the result of differing rates of weathering and erosion in adjacent layers of hard and soft rock.

 

Monoliths in Monument Canyon from the Window Rock TrailMonoliths in Monument Canyon from the Window Rock Trail

 

Our plan was to visit the park during an afternoon and following morning to get the best light from the various viewpoints, some of which are better in the morning and some better in the afternoon/evening. However, the afternoon we arrived provided us mostly cloudy skies and no contrast on the rock formations. Hoping for better conditions for sunrise the next morning, we were greeted by a stubborn cloud deck over the Book Cliffs, obscuring the rising sun for an hour or so. But after that, we had great conditions.

 

Independence Monument from Grand View, with the Book Cliffs in the distanceIndependence Monument from Grand View, with the Book Cliffs in the distance

 

After completing the Rim Rock Drive, we stopped to hike to Devils Kitchen, a 1.5-mile round trip moderate hike. Unfortunately, we missed a turn and turned it into a 2.5-mile adventure by following other hikers who didn’t know where they were going. By scrambling up the rocks, we found our way to the kitchen--it was a devil of a time getting there. There were several families there with young children, many of them moving around and upon the rocks with great ease.

 

Looking into the Devils KitchenLooking into the Devils Kitchen

 

To see more images from the Colorado National Monument, click here.

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado colorado national monument grand junction independence monument rim rock drive http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/colorado-national-monument Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:29:06 GMT
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/black-canyon-of-the-gunnison-national-park The Gunnison River has carved a gorge through hard bedrock to form the Black Canyon, one of the rare canyons that is deeper than it is wide. The walls of the canyon, which are almost vertical in places, are over 2,000 feet deep and, at one point, only 1,200 feet across. This makes the canyon very dark, hence, its name.

 

Viewpoints dot the rim roads on both the north and south sides of the canyon. But getting from the south rim to the north rim is no quick task. The drive from the Visitor’s Center on the South Rim to the Ranger Station on the North Rim is more than 75 miles. The best reason to make the journey is the view from Exclamation Point on the North Vista Trail. Here you can see the longest straight stretch of river visible from any point in the park.

 

Exclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking southExclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking south

 

The South Rim drive features at least a dozen pullouts providing easy access to viewpoints of the canyon, each providing a different glimpse of the work done by the river. We stopped at most of them, enjoying the view and listening to the roar of the river. We could only imagine how loud it would be if the river upstream of the park wasn’t dammed up to create a reservoir, limiting its flow.

 

Painted Wall, Serpent PointPainted Wall, Serpent Point

 

Pulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking southPulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking south
Kneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking southKneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking south

 

The Dragon’s Tongue was first photographed and named by Vince Farnworth in 2012. It’s created when light from the rising sun reflects from one side of a tall gap in the wall onto the opposing side of the gap. This phenomenon, which is not widely known, can be observed and photographed just after sunrise on clear days from spring through fall. Luckily, we had clear skies while we were there and we were able to witness this fascinating spectacle. It was difficult to photograph due to the sun shining into the side of the lens (Denise had to help block the sun with my hat). It was really cool to be able to see the Dragon's Tongue in person.

 

Dragon's TongueDragon's Tongue

 

For more pictures from the Black Canyon, click here.

 

Next stop: Colorado National Monument

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) black canyon black canyon of the gunnison national park colorado http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/black-canyon-of-the-gunnison-national-park Sun, 03 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Scenic Drive through Colorado http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/scenic-drive-through-colorado The day after leaving Mesa Verde NP was spent driving to the next national park on our itinerary, the Black Canyon. But, before I get to that, I wanted to share a couple of pictures from before we went to Mesa Verde. Not too far from Farmington, NM (where we stayed when we visited the Bisti Badlands) is Shiprock. Shiprock Peak is called Tsé Bit’a’í in Navajo, which means "rock with wings" or simply "winged rock." It got it’s current name in the 1870s because of its resemblance to 19th-century clipper ships. Its 1,700-foot spire can be seen up to 100 miles away. We went to stay for sunset. While there weren't any clouds in the sky for an "epic" sunset, it was still enjoyable, eating our salads from Wendy's while we waited for the sun to go down.

 

Shiprock PinnacleShiprock Pinnacle

Shiprock PinnacleShiprock Pinnacle

 

OK, back to the scenic drive...The first portion of the scenic drive after Mesa Verde National Park was on Colorado Highway 145, the Western Skyway, from Delores to just west of Telluride. This highway runs parallel to the Delores River up to Lizard Head Pass, which is named for a prominent nearby peak that is said to look like the head of a lizard (I guess if you squint enough).

 

The second leg of the drive was across the Dallas Divide and its vast, high-alpine vistas of the San Juan Mountains. The most spectacular scene in this portion of our drive was on the Last Dollar Road, off of Colorado Highway 60. Here we found a wooden fence in front of a huge field of yellow-orange wildflowers that seemed to stretch all the way to the Sneffels Range.

 

Daises and the Dolores RiverDaises and the Dolores River

Trout LakeTrout Lake

Driving up Highway 145Driving up Highway 145

Toward TellurideToward Telluride

Wildflowers on Last Dollar RoadWildflowers on Last Dollar Road

More wildflowers on Last Dollar RoadMore wildflowers on Last Dollar Road

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado daises dallas divide delores river last dollar road shiprock shiprock pinnacle http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/9/scenic-drive-through-colorado Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Mesa Verde National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/mesa-verde-national-park Almost 101 years to the date of the creation of Mesa Verde National Park, we visited the park in southwest Colorado. On June 29, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to "preserve the works of man," the first national park of its kind.

 

The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in North America. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.

 

The largest of the park’s cliff dwellings are located at the ends of two long mesas–Chapin and Weatherhill–and take about an hour to drive to each from the entrance to the park. Out of the nearly 600 cliff dwellings concentrated within the boundaries of the park, 75% contain only 1-5 rooms each, and many are single room storage units.

 

We participated in ranger-led tours of three of the cliff dwellings. Other cliff dwellings, such as the Square Tower House and Spruce Tree House, are closed to the public but can be viewed from overlooks. 

 

The now-closed Spruce Tree House from overlook. Park officials are studying how to stabilize the rock above the dwelling to prevent it from breaking off.The now-closed Spruce Tree House from overlook. Park officials are studying how to stabilize the rock above the dwelling to prevent it from breaking off.

Square Tower HouseSquare Tower House

 

Balcony House was the first cliff dwelling we toured. At the beginning of the tour, the ranger told the tour group about the obstacles we would encounter during the tour, such as a 32-foot ladder to get into the house, and having to crawl through a 12-foot tunnel with a 12”x18” opening to exit the house, followed by two more ladders to climb back up to the parking area.


Balcony HouseBalcony House

 

Balcony House contains 40 rooms, making it a medium-size dwelling. The ranger explained that many of the rooms were not living spaces, but storage areas. The house is the only one on Chapin Mesa facing northeast, thus  getting the least amount of direct sun. I figured that this must have been used as a refrigerator for the storage of the beans, corn, and  squash grown on the mesa tops. Since it would have gotten direct sunlight only during the morning days near the summer  solstice, it would have stayed cooler than the other Chapin Mesa dwellings.

 

Long House, the second largest cliff dwelling in the park, is located on Weatherhill Mesa. The ranger-led tour started with a 2-mile hike and a discussion of the plants located on the mesa and how they were used by the Ancestral Pueblo people. The “house” was more like a village set into a nearly 300-foot alcove. It contained about 150 rooms, 21 kivas, and a row of upper storage rooms. As many as 175 people could have called this house their home. The high number of rooms and kivas in Long House, plus the presence of the formal plaza, suggest this cliff dwelling was a significant place for the people living there, perhaps serving both civic and ceremonial functions.

 

Long HouseLong House

 

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America and is the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park. With its square towers and round towers, perfectly plumb and square walls, and colored plaster walls, it is considered an architectural masterpiece.

 

Cliff Palace from gathering placeCliff Palace from gathering place

 

Archeologists believe it was built between A.D. 1260–1280. To create a level floor, the builders of Cliff Palace erected a retaining wall along the front of the alcove and backfilled behind the wall, making a flat working surface and solid foundation for rooms. The alcove is around 215 feet wide by about 90 feet deep and 60 feet high. About 150 rooms—living rooms, storage rooms, and special chambers, plus nearly 75 open spaces and 21 kivas—were eventually built. It was inhabited by an estimated 100 to 120 people. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.

 

View as we approached Cliff PalaceView as we approached Cliff Palace

 

As can be imagined, Cliff Palace is the most popular cliff dwelling in the park, with each ranger-led tour hosting 50 people. For this reason, we opted to take the twilight tour, which is the last tour of the day and is limited to 15 people. Our tour had only four other people on it. In addition to having two hours (twice the normal amount of time), the main benefit was being able to photograph without having so many people in the way. In addition to telling us more about what it was like for the inhabitants of Cliff Palace, the ranger allowed us to move around the dwelling pretty much as we desired.

 

Original drawings and colored plasterwork inside the square towerOriginal drawings and colored plasterwork inside the square tower

 

To see more photos from Mesa Verde, follow this link.

 

Next in the series: Scenic Drive to the next park

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) balcony house cliff dwellings cliff palace long house mesa verde national park spruce tree house square tower house http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/mesa-verde-national-park Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Total Eclipse of 2017 http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/total-eclipse-of-2017 Denise and I decided at the last minute to drive to South Carolina on August 21st to be in the path of totality for the eclipse. We ended up just off US Highway 1 in the parking lot of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Elgin, SC. Here are some of my pictures from the eclipse. The first one is during the short period of totality (it only lasted about a minute and a half or so) and the second one is the “diamond ring” at the very end of totality. It was an adrenaline rush that ended too quickly.

 

TotalityTotality

 

Diamond RingDiamond Ring

 

Due to photographer error (not taking additional pictures with a slower shutter speed to get the sky the right color) and equipment limitations (not a very wide dynamic range), the sky is completely black. It was not really that dark appearing as the sky was more blue and there were orange/pink clouds near the horizon, like during sunset. Nonetheless, I'm happy with them. I was too busy enjoying the spectacle to remember what I was supposed to be doing with the camera. I also should have thought to use my phone to take a picture of the surroundings during totality. Oh well, things to remember what to do during the next eclipse in 2024.

 

I also put together a couple of progressions of the eclipse with pictures during the course of the afternoon. The first picture below is a linear progression, showing different partial eclipses, then totality, then the diamond ring. For the second progression, I arranged the photos up and down on the page with the sun and moon spaced according to their elevation in the sky at the time of the photographs. So, the first photo in the progression is when the sun was at the highest point in the sky (of the photos shown). Over time, the sun was dropping in the sky (OK, I know the sun doesn't move and it's the movement of the earth; you know what I mean) as the afternoon progressed. The elapsed time between pictures was short at the start (about 13 minutes), then about 22 minutes between the middle few pictures, just a couple of minutes between the last crescent and totality, then less than a minute between the last two pictures.

 

Eclipse ProgressionEclipse Progression

 

Eclipse ProgressionEclipse Progression

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) 2017 diamond ring eclipse great american eclipse moon progression sun total eclipse totality http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/total-eclipse-of-2017 Sun, 27 Aug 2017 19:44:14 GMT
Welcome to the Bisti Badlands http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/welcome-to-the-bisti-badlands Since we were going to be going to southwestern Colorado, we planned to make a small detour into northwestern New Mexico to visit a place I'd seen pictures of before, but isn't talked about much. The largest town close to our photographic objective was Farmington, New Mexico, and the place of interest was an hour's drive away: The Bisti Badlands.

 

I’m not sure there’s any place on earth quite like the Bisti Badlands. They are whimsical; they are remote; they are not well documented; and best of all, there are few visitors. When we were there on three different occasions, we saw only a handful of other people; the one guy we talked to we saw twice. But then, it was around 100 ºF when we were there. Most people that do visit may exhibit more common sense by visiting during cooler weather.

 

The Badlands of BistiThe Badlands of Bisti

 

Bisti is a Navajo word signifying badlands. We were told it is pronounced Bis-tie. The Bisti Badlands name dates back to when there were two seperate wilderness areas: Bisti and De-Na-Zin. They were merged in 1996, creating the huge 45,000 acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

 

The Bisti area was once a coastal rainforest along an inland sea. Around 70 million years ago, the sea dried up, and the dinosaurs vanished. Through eons of geologic transformation, we are left with what you see today: hard sandstone caprocks protecting a much softer clay layer below. The clay erodes much faster from wind and rain, creating the amazing hoodoos.

 

Towering HoodooTowering Hoodoo

 

Like a 3-D Rorshach test, people have given names to some of the formations, and I have used them here. We made up names for some of them as well. Even with the heat, this was a fun place to visit. Have a look at some of the formations we saw. I've included some of the here, but if you are interested to seeing more of them, follow the link below.

 

Seats of the Bisti Supreme CourtSeats of the Bisti Supreme Court Bisti BadlandsBisti Badlands Wings GroupingWings Grouping The SealThe Seal WingsWings Red Rock GardenRed Rock Garden Bisti BadlandsBisti Badlands The SnailThe Snail Alien Egg FactoryAlien Egg Factory

Hoodoo SunsetHoodoo Sunset

 

To see the full gallery of pictures, click here.

 

Coming up next: Mesa Verde National Park

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) bisti badlands hoodoos new mexico http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/welcome-to-the-bisti-badlands Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Driving To and Around Durango http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/driving-to-and-around-durango Our next stop after Great Sand Dunes NP was Durango, but first we took a detour at South Fork  on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The highway runs parallel to the Rio Grande River, which we followed to North Clear Creek  Falls. We then backtracked, stopping at scenic pulloffs along the way.

 

North Clear Creek FallsNorth Clear Creek Falls Brown Lakes and Hermit PeakBrown Lakes and Hermit Peak

 

Durango was to be our base of operations for a couple days. After arriving, we took a scenic drive north toward Silverton and Ouray. The drive between Durango and Ouray is part of the San Juan Skyway, winding through the Molas Pass south of Silverton. Silverton marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway, which derives its name from the low grade gold ore present in the roadbed. Ten miles north of Silverton is the appropriately name Red Mountain Pass. On the way down from the pass, we stopped at the Mining Reclamation Project to read about mining that used to be done in the area and look at the old mining structures.

 

Near Molas PassNear Molas Pass Yankee Girl Mine RemnantYankee Girl Mine Remnant Red Mountains reflected in Crystal LakeRed Mountains reflected in Crystal Lake

 

Our second day in the Durango area was to be the highlight of our stay there. We were going to hike the Ice Lake Basin trail. It would be a difficult hike given the elevation gain and the altitude (2,400 feet starting at 9,800 feet), but I was excited because the basin is supposed to be the most spectacular in the San Juan Mountains and one of the top locations for wildflowers there. Given we hadn’t seen many wildflowers yet, I decided to do some searching on the Internet for current reports about the trail. I found a post from someone that hiked the trail the week before and noted the trail was dangerous as large portions were still covered in snow with spots of ice. Given this, I was certain there was little chance we would see any wildflowers up there. With the potentially dangerous conditions, we decided to rearrange our remaining hotel stays and leave the area after one night.

Before leaving, we went to the old downtown section of Durango to walk the quaint streets filled with old buildings and to visit the Silverton & Durango Railroad station. We headed south from Durango to Farmington, New Mexico, our jumping-off place for excursions to the Bisti Badlands.

 

Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango stationSilverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango station

 

Next stop: The wild and crazy Bisti Badlands

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado durango north clear creek waterfall silverton silverton & durango railroad waterfalls http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/driving-to-and-around-durango Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Great Sand Dunes National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/great-sand-dunes-national-park Our next stop were the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. We saw dunes last year in Death Valley, but we didn’t see dunes quite like these. The dunes here are the tallest in North America, reaching heights of over 750 feet. The dunefield is a massive 30 square miles. That’s a lot of sand.

 

The length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 milesThe length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 miles

 

Wind and water move sand, continually forming the dunes. Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, over 65 miles to the west and some comes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains adjacent to the dunefield to the east. Prevailing southwesterly winds bounce sand grains to pile up beneath the Sangre de Cristos. Northeasterly storm winds blast through mountain passes, piling the dunes back on themselves. The dunefield is partially surrounded by two creeks—Sand Creek and Medano Creek—that also contribute to the recyling of the sand.

 

Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

 

The afternoon we arrived at the park was hot, and the parking lots were full. We found a space at an overflow lot and hiked to the creek. Medano Creek was the most popular place in the park that day, providing a place to cool off under the hot sun. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek toward the dunefield. A few brave souls could be seen climbing toward High Dune in the heat of the day, looking like specs in the distance. We decided to stay near the cool creek.

 

Medano Creek and DunesMedano Creek and Dunes Trapped CloudsTrapped Clouds Dissipating Clouds Over DunesDissipating Clouds Over Dunes Size of dunes compared to peopleSize of dunes compared to people Vegetation on dunesVegetation on dunes Shifting SandsShifting Sands

The following morning we were greeted by a thick deck of clouds casting shadows over the dunes and ensconcing the mountains, and a forecast showing rain in the area. The parking lot was nearly empty of cars. In their place were swarming mosquitos, ready to pick up and take away anyone brave (or foolish) enough to get out of his vehicle. We decided to begin the journey to our next location.

 

Clouds, mountains, dunes, and creekClouds, mountains, dunes, and creek

 

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado creeks dunefields dunes great sand duns np sand sand dunes http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/great-sand-dunes-national-park Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Garden of the Gods http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/garden-of-the-gods The Garden of the Gods is a free public park donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad. The park consists of several dramatically shaped ridges (also know as “hogbacks” and “fins”) of red sandstone, surrounded by tall grass and green vegetation.

In August 1859 two surveyors were exploring nearby locations for a new townsite and came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” It has been so called ever since.

The afternoon and following morning we were there were extremely cloudy. After scouting the park in the afternoon and hoping for a nice sunset opportunity, we left disappointed. We came back the next morning hoping for a sunrise with Pikes Peak in the background, but again we were greeted by dark clouds when it got light. That early in the morning, we were among only a handful of people there and were able to get some photos without the throngs of people climbing on the rocks. As we were making one final lap around the park, the sun started to break through the clouds, casting beautiful light on the east side of the fins and creating amazing contrast with the dark clouds to the west. A magnificent, and unexpected, ending to our visit.

 

Garden of the GodsGarden of the Gods The Three GracesThe Three Graces Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible)Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible) White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels)White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels) Garden of the Gods SunriseGarden of the Gods Sunrise Garden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the cloudsGarden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the clouds

 

As we left to go back to the hotel, with the sun still shining on the hogbacks of the Garden of the Gods, we could clearly see how the hogbacks extended beyond the park to the north. They were the bright red color as in the park, but the shapes were just as interesting.

 

Hogback formations extend north of the parkHogback formations extend north of the park

 

Next stop: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) colorado colorado springs fins garden of the gods hogbacks http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/garden-of-the-gods Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Rocky Mountain National Park http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/rocky-mountain-national-park Rocky Mountain National Park is the sixth most popular national park in terms of visitors, partially due to its proximity to Denver, but primarily because of its easy access to alpine, tundra, and meadow landscapes. It is also the highest national park by average elevation, with 60 peaks over 12,000 feet. Its popularity as a weekend getaway for locals made it an easy decision to visit the park in mid-week right after we arrived in Colorado.

We spent what was left of our first day on Bear Lake Road, scouting Sprague Lake for sunrise the next day, and hiking to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and partially around Bear Lake. Our breathless hike (due to the altitude and little time for acclimating) around Nymph Lake and to Dream Lake was rewarded by the sights of elk feeding near a pretty lake surrounded by mountains, a fisherman casting in a small pond, and a rather close encounter with an elk wandering near the shore looking for something to eat. After hiking back down from Dream Lake, we walked to the north side of Bear Lake to catch the last light of the day shining on Longs Peak.

 

Fisherman near Dream LakeFisherman near Dream Lake Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream LakeHallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream Lake Sunset at Bear LakeSunset at Bear Lake Longs Peak Reflection in Bear LakeLongs Peak Reflection in Bear Lake

 

Early the next day, we made our way back to the area to catch twilight on the mountains above Sprague Lake and hiked back up to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. We saw a pretty orange sky on the hike up and stopped to photograph Tyndall Creek cascading its way downstream after leaving Dream Lake.

 

Morning twilight at Sprague LakeMorning twilight at Sprague Lake Orange sky from Dream Lake trailOrange sky from Dream Lake trail Tyndall Creek CascadeTyndall Creek Cascade

 

We spent our last day in the park traveling the 48-mile Trail Ridge Road that bisects the park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. More than 17 miles of the road is in the Alpine zone and is home to the tundra. The road also took us to the homes of some of the park’s wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep, marmots, pikas, herds of elk, and of course, mountain peaks long the northern stretch of the road.

 

Tundra at Ute Trail pulloutTundra at Ute Trail pullout Wildflowers in the tundraWildflowers in the tundra Resting ElkResting Elk Yellow-bellied marmotYellow-bellied marmot Hoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlookHoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlook Bighorn SheepBighorn Sheep Never Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River beginsNever Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River begins

 

Near the Alpine Visitor Center, the road makes a turn toward the south and descends into the Kawuneeche Valley. Before the turn are sweeping 360º views of mountain ridges as far as the eye can see. We made our way up the Alpine Ridge Trail (climbing 209 feet in elevation over three-tenths of a mile) to take in the rarefied air and scenery.

On the western side of the park is the Kawuneeche Valley, with the historic Holzwarth Homestead. The Colorado River (to the left in this picture) meanders through this grassy valley. Here we saw a number of moose, including babies with their mamas along the East Inlet Trail near Grand Lake.

 

Old hay rake at Holzwarth Historic SiteOld hay rake at Holzwarth Historic Site Mama and Baby MooseMama and Baby Moose Sunset near Grand LakeSunset near Grand Lake Roadside ElkRoadside Elk Near where the elk and moose like to roamNear where the elk and moose like to roam Elk in field near Coyote Valley trailElk in field near Coyote Valley trail Along the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the backgroundAlong the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the background

 

Next up: Garden of the Gods

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djrphoto@mindspring.com (DJR Photography) bighorn sheep colorado elk lakes moose mountains rocky mountain national park streams tundra. wildflowers wildlife http://djrphoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/8/rocky-mountain-national-park Sat, 05 Aug 2017 20:17:23 GMT