When Everyone Else Turns Left, Turn Right Instead!

Having lived out west for years now, we’ve gotten to know Rocky Mountain (RMNP) and Yellowstone. They are two very different parks with different landscapes and wildlife, but both are so very special. Everyone has seen recent articles of how busy the parks are, especially this past summer when so many families said they were traveling hell or high water! In 2019, approximately 4.67 MILLION people passed through the gates of RMNP to appreciate its beauty, majesty and wildlife. Currently parts of the park, especially the back country, remain closed due to the damage and instability caused by the summer’s destructive wildfires. The purpose of this blog is to share a little insight if you care to visit RMNP anytime soon.

  1. Go early! The earlier you’re in the park the better. There are fewer people, the animals are more active and the light is amazing. When we travel we often get into the parks before 6 am, go back to our hotel about 10 am and relax while the people file in! Then, we head back in about 4 or 5 pm when everyone else (or most people) are heading out of the park to catch dinner!
  2. Go off the beaten path! It doesn’t mean you have to take the worst roads but truly explore the parks in all their glory. Sure, there are the typical stops and lookouts that you’ll want to hit, especially on your first trip. But here are a couple of suggestions:

Bear Lake.

Bear Lake is a must see, but after you’ve taken in its panoramic view and walked around the lake, head to a trail called Bear Lake to Howell Park. You’ll join the rest of the summer crowd climbing a rather steep trail to the Bear Lake Trail, but instead of tuning left with the throngs, TURN RIGHT INSTEAD and head to Howell Park. It is about a 7 mile hike but the beauty is, in part, it is down hill. In the height of the summer season, we ran into one other couple and a bull elk the entire time on the trail. You’re surrounded by woods, babbling streams and exit into a beautiful meadow surrounded by peaks. It was such a pleasure! Be sure to check its availability and whether it is open to the public before heading out as there may be fire damage that restricts access.

Bear Lake In The colder Weather
Bear Lake In The colder Weather
Craig Getchius at Bear Lake
Craig Getchius at Bear Lake
Elk on Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail
Elk on Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail
End of Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail, Entering Howell Park
End of Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail, Entering Howell Park

The West Side of the Park

Many people travel through the park to the Alpine Visitors’ Center at the highest point, enjoy the view and turnaround and go back down to the heart of the park. As you’re leaving the center, you turn left to head back but TURN RIGHT INSTEAD! The west side of the park is wonderful and full of wildlife. Moose are notoriously recluse and are generally found in the marshy landscapes. The west side of the park has abundant wetlands and offers an opportunity to view moose that are elusive on the eastern park side.

Moose On The West Side of RMNP
Moose On The West Side of RMNP

However you choose to enjoy the park, whatever time of year, be sure your cameras are charged up and ready to go and enjoy the experience of photographing one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Craig Getchius Photographing in RMNP
Craig Getchius Photographing in RMNP

Thanks for reading! – ADG

New Mexico – Desert and History!

Well…she’s baaack! I have been remiss in preparing a blog – I think the whole quarantine has created a malaise that makes it hard to stay motivated, but I’m back! I’m going to retrace my steps, so to speak. As for all of us, the whole lockdown due to COVID-19 has been wearing and our options for things to do somewhat limited. As the restrictions begin to lift, we are hoping we can begin to get out and about and explore the beautiful country safely. This may turn into more of a travel blog than a photography blog, but should be fun nonetheless, especially as Craig expands my photography lessons. I’m sure there will be plenty to laugh about! So in the spirit of retracing my steps, I’ll revisit a trip we took before all the isolation and lockdowns.

Before the COVID-19 hit, we wanted to get away from the cold weather here in Colorado. We got in the car and headed south to New Mexico as I noted in the last blog. Well, that was interesting. We ended up in Alamogordo, New Mexico and a very desololate area. As I mentioned, our target was White Sands National Park (White Sands National Park). It is very fascinating and full of history. The dunes are stunning and ever changing. The light rolling over the dunes creates a beautiful scene.

White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park

The region is very barren and sparse. There are miles and miles of nothing except sand, cacti and sage brush. It, however, has its own beauty in many ways. The dunes are vast and very different than those found in Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. These dunes are whiter (looks like the area is covered in snow) and a different formation than Great Sand Dunes.

A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk
A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk

I was amazed at all the rocket science that has take place there. The area is the home of first atomic bomb testing, just 65 miles from White Sands, part of the Manhattan Project. Even today, the highway nearby closes for a couple of hours at a time for missile launch testing. The International Space Hall of Fame is located in Alamogordo, the town adjacent to the park.

Hall Of Fame, Fun

It was established in 1976 to honor those who have contributed to advancements in space. If you are there, it is well worth the trip to see the history, the story behind the inductees. The inductees range from Copernicus to Sally Ride to Carl Sagan to every astronaut and scientist in between. It is also the last resting place of Ham, the first primate launched into space in 1961.

Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s space suit!
Ham’s space suit!

The museum is very well done and lots of fun. The visitors ranged from older folks to young families and had many hands-on exhibits. There areas designed as the Star Trek’s transporter room!

Beam me up!
Beam me up!

But the history the Hall of Fame captures is amazing and stirring. You’re reminded of the risk of the brave souls that took off in space flight – some giving the ultimate sacrifice. Others working against all odds to advance science, technology and our world!

Robert Goddard display
Robert Goddard display

In short, if you ever get the chance, the trip to the International Space Hall of Fame is well worth it!

Stuck At Home, Keeping Your Photography Skills Sharp

On Instagram the photographer Joe McNally, posted a wonderful idea of how to keep your photographic skills sharp while waiting out the Corona Virus. Here is the the link: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-w8pN7AJSt/?igshid=1gt4aes1pu3xn Joe McNally is famous for his flash photography. If you want to check out his images go here: https://portfolio.joemcnally.com/index

I have a pretty good collection of tabletop photo books. On this Easter Sunday I am enjoying and studying the book “Bill Brandt Shadow & Light.” As I turn the pages and admire Brandt’s wonderful black and white images I am getting the overwhelming urge to get out and capture the world through my viewfinder. Also, photo project ideas are starting to race around in my head. In my To Do app I have started a brainstorm category and am listing all my photo project ideas and types of creative photography and videos I would like to do. I can’t wait to start getting back out into this wonderful world of ours. I bet that will happen sooner than I imagine.

One of my brainstorms was trying to do a little ink and water videos. It was fun yet very amateurish. Here is a link to the result: https://adobe.ly/2Vl86Gk Now I figure if I am going to showcase something that I still need more practice I might as well go all the way. If you turn the volume up really loud you can here me trying to pound out the song “Bottle of Wine” written by Tom Paxton. Hey, A few months ago, because of my neurological problems I couldn’t even finger a cord. Everything is getting so much better. Camera used for this project was the Nikon D850 and a 60mm Macro Lens. Peace, Love and Victory.

Oops, it doesn’t seem the sound for the video uploaded. That is probably a good thing. Nevertheless,I will see if I can fix that.

Happy Easter. CLG

A Quick Pullover

I learned my photography with the help of Kodak Film. Black and white photos came to life in my basement using Kodak chemicals. When shooting color I would use Kodachrome 25 or 64. I have fond memories of those days. I was discovering and  learning. And darn it taking a pic with film, developing the film, then creating a contact strip and finally an enlargement, fills one with great satisfaction and accomplishment. Doing that work is tedious, yet awarding.

In the days of film there was no instant gratification and boy, you really had to know the craft of photography. Mistakes were permanent and rarely did you have the opportunity to go back and retake the moment. I had to nail the photo and when it was all finished and I had created what what I had visualized the print to be, I would experience a creative high that would last for days. Today in the digital world I don’t experience that euphoria. It is all instant gratification and the feeling of happiness of nailing the photo is short lived.

Yesterday, I was thinking about all that while driving out of Rocky Mountain National Park. Photographically the day had been a waste. I had taken about a hundred pics that I knew were totally worthless.

I had already download the pics on my iPad and one after the other ended with delete. There was a few I kept hoping that with a second look I would discover something worthwhile in them that I had previously overlooked. Basically I just didn’t want to admit that on this day I had failed as a photographer.

As I got closer to the exit of the park I noticed in the distant four wild turkeys. What the heck, I pulled the car off the side of the road, grabbed my Nikon D500 which had attached to it a Nikkor 200 to 500mm zoom lens.

I jumped out of the car and looked for a clear view of the turkeys. They were about thirty yards away. There was no time to set up a tripod. I would have to steady the heavy lens and camera all on my own. Vibration Reduction was on. I quickly changed the focusing to 3D put the camera up to my eye and started shooting. I took about fifteen close up photos of the turkeys before they were out of view. About forty percent of the photos were okay sharp and about sixty percent of the photos were razor sharp. Amazing, I could never have accomplished this during my film days. Camera would have had to been on a tripod. I would have been more selective with the shutter release because each snap cost money. Plus the turkeys were moving quickly and sporadically so it is doubtfull that my manual focus would have kept up with them. I would of had maybe one or two photos in focus.

Note: the close up  of the Turkey’s profile is what I consider barely sharp.

Then I noticed some wildflowers to the left of where the turkeys had previous been. So for the fun of it I took a couple of snapshots of them. A couple of snaps ended up being about fifteen pics. Again even with a gentle wind swaying the flowers most of my pics were sharp. If I had been shooting film it is doubtful that I would have taken more than one photo of the flowers. As it ends up the flower photos were my favorite photos of the day and I consider them keepers.

Yep, once I got back to the car I quickly download the captures onto my iPad. I edited one flower pic and uploaded it to Instagram. On the iPad the pics I figure were good I copied into Lightroom. When I got home those same pictures were already downloaded into Lightroom on my computer. Now I can study them even more and possibly create something special.

Yes, instant gratification can be rewarding.