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A landscape photographer's tour - part 2

Keith's travels in Colorado - April-May 2006 - page 2 (page 1)

Two years ago, Keith took his then fairly new Canon 1Ds on a trip round the Rockies in the USA. This photo-diary was written in 'Blog' fashion while he was in the USA. The latest information is at the top of the article.

>> Note

I've subsequently rewritten this photo-diary in a much more easy to follow form and I'd suggest reading the new version.

This is the same format as for 2007 visits to Northern California/Oregon and Washington/Oregon

Note for visitors from Colorado - I had a great time, thanks! I do really like the place :-)

Now I'm back in the UK , I've written a more technical article as a follow up to my original (Keith's first all digital visit)

Entries are in chronological order (newest at top). Since I generally find this order of reading an article quite annoying if you want to read the whole thing, there is a '>>Next Day' link at the end of each section.

>>>Start of Article<<<

Aspen on Grand Mesa

Aspen tree on the Grand Mesa, CO

24mm tilt/shift lens, tilted to move the plane of focus

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Back to Denver

At last it's time to head back to Denver to get a flight to Chicago and then back to London. I left the Fairplay hotel pretty early and headed south towards Hartsel on CO-9. There I turned East on US 24 towards Colorado Springs. This was the route where I first headed into the mountains a couple of years ago, on my first trip to Colorado.

The long straight road heads towards Wilkerson Pass.

towards wilkerson pass US 24

It's the place I took a similar photo, but with much better clouds.. (picture in gallery)

Last time it was cold, cloudy and icy up on the pass, with frost and rime coating the trees. I wasn't expecting to see the pass with its own bit of cloud this time, but I was greeted with a particularly stunning view of low sunlight shining through wisps of fog/cloud.

mist and rime

I took quite a few shots here and have just selected one to give an idea of what it was like. I've also included a detail view to give a better idea of the effect

mist and rime detail

Rime and mist

After a mighty US breakfast (it's 5pm now and I'm only just feeling a bit hungry), I went to the Starbucks in Woodhouse Park, where they had free wireless access. A bit easier than out at Fairplay - someone at the coffee shop pointed out that Fairplay still had its mail delivered by Pony Express :-)

laptop at starbucks

Checking my email

Just under the Starbucks sign is Pikes Peak, which I decided to visit, since it is the ideal Keith type of mountain -- they have built a road to the top (just over 14,000 feet)

Here's a better view

woodhouse park

Unfortunately it had snowed overnight, so the road was only open to about 11500 feet - at least it only cost $5 instead of $10 :-)

It's a steep climb, but the barge seemed quite happy

towards pikes peak

Before long some snow, and wet unpaved road.

pikes peak dirt road

The barge, being rear wheel drive, was quite slippy on some of the hairpin turns.

snow clearing

Big snow clearer

End of the road...

I went into the gift shop for a drink.

Just then they decided that it was clear to go further (the road was paved for another mile or so)

road to pikes peak

Then, up above the tree line

road closed

You can just see the line of orange cones marking how far you can go.

Snow rocks and clouds

And the view...

towards colorado springs

The view towards the edge of the Rockies and Colorado Springs (well known enclave of reason, liberal thought and the US Airforce Academy)

Here's a panoramic view stitched from 12 pictures (70mm - portrait orientation)

edge of rockies

The best view of the other direction is from when I turned back down.

going down

The thin line of snowy peaks on the horizon are those west of Fairplay and are almost 100 miles away.

So there you have it... out of the mountains, up I-25, skirt round Denver, to a motel near the Airport. This time I even have a good wireless signal in my room.

The $5 I saved at Pikes Peak went on a car wash, since the Barge was looking decidedly muddy after those roads up the mountain, and I didn't want to be charged some ridiculous amount for cleaning the car by the rental agency (they are like that)

Tomorrow I'm off, so this is really the end of my Photo-diary. Hope you have found it interesting/amusing.

Just a few odd pictures I meant to include in earlier days, but forgot :-)

For Steve, who I know is interested in the varieties of electricity pylons you see when abroad.


Who needs lights to control traffic at roadworks when you have a supply of inexpensive labour.

traffic control

One of the difficulties you sometimes get on US Freeways, is which lane to choose?


A better stitched version of the wide street at Gunnison, after I realised that I had a copy of some specialist stitching software on my laptop.

gunnison street


Well almost... I got an extra 2 1/4hrs waiting in the plane at Denver airport, due to bad weather at Chicago. At least I had a nice view of the mountains out of the window.

Here are some of my fellow travellers :-)



Now I'm back and have just been asked to provide some pictures for an exhibition next week!

Return to South Park

On my way back from Gunnison to Denver I decided to pay another visit to Fairplay. Planning the end of a trip usually involves working back from the fact that I've got to hand the car back early one morning, and thus I tend to stay pretty close to the airport the night before.

Leaving Gunnison, US 50 climbs up over Monarch Pass, and the scenery changes quite noticeably. I thought I'd capture a set of pictures showing the changes, the differing views you get going over some of the high passes.

It starts off fairly arid - we are already at about 8000 feet.

US 50

A few conifers start to appear

US 50 conifers

It's now quite heavily forrested


This view from a stop at a sharp bend shows how far I've climbed so far.

There were bits of car wreckage down below...

scenic overlook

With the steep slopes there are truck run off lanes. I think the idea is to see how many buckets you can knock down.

I'm not sure how you are supposed to read all those road signs as your truck hurtles on to the ramp, perhaps afterwards...

truck run off ramp

A few bits of snow appear


And lots more - nearly there now

lots of snow

This shows some of the snow they get up here

gift shop behind snow

The continental divide is marked on almost any road that crosses it.

Monarch pass

Here's one of the ways of clearing the snow

snow clearing device

And the view looking East

view east

Meanwhile I stopped off for a coffee in the gift shop, which boasts an impressive range of stuffed animals.

mirror in gift shop

Keith - reflected

After a while I got to Fairplay, where the weather was a bit better than my first visit.

This view is looking towards Kenosha Pass, where I stopped off on the way.

south park sky

South Park Sky

  • Converted to B/W using convert to B/W Pro. one curves layers to enhance sky contrast. The layer was partially masked to stop the foreground becoming too dark

Back in Fairplay I had a quick look at the 'restored' South Park City, which although closed until May 15th, I was allowed to have a look around :-)

More pictures of trains for certain people back in the UK ;-)

south park city station

no. 22

D S P & P R R

This time I'm staying in the Fairplay Hotel.

Unfortunately it's Tuesday and it looks as if I'll miss the open mike spot and back woods review...

open mic night

This is how my laptop is currently being powered.

I have not seen a light fitting used like this since at my Grandmothers (for the iron) in the 1960's

light fitting

All seems well.

Now to find a telephone socket to connect to that internet thingy

  • Note added next morning from a Starbucks in Woodhouse Park -- I did eventually find a telephone socket, it was in the office of the Hotel :-) The site was updated over a 26,600 dialup connection - it took a while ;-) I'm assuming that not many people are following this photodiary with dialup connections!

>>>Next Day

Gunnison (3)

One of the nice things about staying at one place for a few days, is that you can just have a good look at detailed maps and pick out of the way places to visit. The weather was a bit grey and damp this morning, but I headed off down the CO-149 road towards Lake City.

driving along co 149

The road rises quite a bit until you can see some distant snow covered mountains.

co 149 view

On CO-149

After a bit I turned off towards Powderhorn.

The roads here are in pretty good condition, and not like some of the field roads I've taken cars across, back home in the UK.

Even so, I'm keeping a good eye out for rocks in the road after what happened last week...

road to powderhorn

Road to Powderhorn

There are plenty of small farms/ranches along the way - I don't know the right term, but there was a lot of beef munching grass in the fields :-)


And just in case I'd forgotten where I am...

tattered US flag

There are definitely more flags about than when I first came to the US in the 90's. that said, they have a long way to go to match the number of flags everywhere in Switzerland.

A bit further on it had brightened up quite nicely.

Cebolla creek

Cottonwood beside the Cebolla creek

And since when I'm in Colorado I love getting pictures of interesting trees...

cottonwoods and sky


The picture above may well make a good black and white print, since there is a lot of detail in the tree bark. I tried making a B/W web version, but at this size it looks better in colour.

Back in Gunnison I took this panoramic view of the road (US-50) running past my motel. The road really is about as wide as a UK motorway :-)

US 50 Gunnison CO

US-50 Gunnison

Then off to the The Bean for some excellent coffee.

The Bean, Gunnison

The Bean, Gunnison

Then of course, there is the Sonic.



Strangely enough I never saw any places like this when I was in Aspen. This reminded me of a picture I forgot to include in the 'blog' when I was there.

Hidden Macdonalds at Aspen

This is as much advertising as the Aspen 'good taste and decency' committee allows Macdonalds :-)

but back at Gunnison...

... the liquor store is open today.

flags, shells and liquor

Liquor store

In case you were wondering, the red flag is for the US Marine Corps.

Probably explains the huge shells outside as well... I'd suppose anyone wanting to rob it might also think twice ;-)

And finally, since the 'barge' did such a good job on the dirt roads today, I took this (slightly) more flattering view of it.

Mercury Grand Marquis

Mercury Grand Marquis - aka 'the barge'

>>>Next Day

Gunnison (2)

After that fascinating evening in Delta, I was glad to find that it was graduation weekend at the prestigious Western State College at Gunnison.

An entertaining evening in the company of numerous recent graduates, where I found that it does indeed help to have an English accent ;-) From my conversations I understand that a major attraction of the college is the fact that Crested Butte Ski area is just up the road...

So, the next morning, somewhat later than usual, I decided to go for a brief excursion into the mountains.

leaving gunnison

Not long after this picture was taken, I spotted an interesting view off to one side. It's the best example I can give of how I sometimes see shots that might make good prints.

I pulled over and took 15 different pictures at the location. The one below has had only minor adjustments after conversion to black and white. It might be that one (or two) of the others looks better when I'm back home.

roadside view

View from the road, towards the Anthracite range.

It's only 25 or so miles to Crested Butte

crested butte

Crested Butte appears...

A bit further on, the town is visible

crested butte town

Crested Butte, CO

  • In case anyone is wondering, I shoot the in-car shots with the 16-35 lens at about 20mm, manually focused to infinity. This gives a huge coverage, requires no real aiming, and allows me to crop out the images you see.

The town has a 15 M.P.H. speed limit, which is relatively difficult to maintain, although there is a convenient radar speed indicator...

radar speed check

At 15 M.P.H.

in crested butte town

Quite a pleasant little place - probably without the range of shops (Gucci, Dior etc.) that you find in some other ski towns I've visited.

I decided to go up the Kebler Pass road to see how far I could get. I knew it was closed but it was worth seeing how far the car could go.

There were lots of snowmobiles parked by the road, and eventually the track ended with a large collection of vehicles, all looking better suited to mountain driving than mine.

end of road

It seems that the road is pretty heavily packed with snow and it is the best way to get to higher ground for snowmobiling and skiing.

parked up snowmobiles


Some people live further up the pass and need snowmobiles to get to their homes. I'd seriously question the wisdom of this, but then again I live in a city that gets an inch of snow a year...

I had a chat about all this with some people getting ready to head off up into the snow. Including this guy, who had a video camera mounted to his helmet :-)

snowmobile video

I also learnt from them that my car (aka the 'barge') is indeed an 'Grandma/Grandpa car' :-)

Back in Gunnison, I decided to go for a coffee, since I'm staying not far from the main street.

The roads really are appreciably wider here than back home, indeed you get the feeling that -everything- is slightly flattened. With a 25 M.P.H. speed limit (that people do observe) you also get the feeling of traffic gently flowing past in a slightly unreal way - or maybe I just had too many shots of espresso in my Latte :-)

intersection, Gunnison

Road junction, Gunnison

Walking back to my motel I went past the Sonic Drive-in, where you have a sumptuous 3 course meal in the comfort of your own SUV...


Sonic - minimise your interaction with other people

Although if you wanted to get a drink from the nearby liquor store, you will be out of luck - closed on Sundays throughout Colorado.

closed in colorado

Fortunately this does not apply to bars...

>>>Next Day


Actually Delta is quite a nice looking place, but it's just that I was expecting a bit more to do on a Friday night :-)

I took a few shots as I was driving out (~8 am)

Delta, CO

Main Street, Delta, CO

Main Street, Delta, CO

And the 'Classic' used car lot

Used car lot

Used cars

Of course if I really wanted that 1970's handling, this would be the place to go.

70's performance

Compared to these, the 'barge' probably performs like a rally car :-)

I took CO-92 out of Delta and headed east towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. On the road up to the canyon there is a good view of what I take to be a volcanic plug (core of an old volcano)


If it was in Europe, someone would have built a castle on it :-)

detail of rocks

I went to the canyon two years ago, but only visited the south rim (picture).

North rim

North rim

It really is difficult to convey the scale of the canyon with these small images, but it's nearly 2000 feet down to the water.

When you visit places like this you do have to accept that some views, however impressive may not make good photos. I'm sure lots of people every year are disappointed by their photos of the Grand Canyon. Part of the knack in my particular approach to landscape photography is being able to spot what -might- make a good photograph :-)

View from CO-92

Along CO-92

The north rim is less developed and probably gets a lot less visitors, however the overlooks are at least as good as those on the south, and if you continue east on CO-92 the views of the canyon are much better (you are riding along the north side of the canyon for much of the way.

Canyon overlook

Stitched panoramic shot giving an idea of some of the overlooks on CO-92

  • The image was stitched in Photoshop CS2 from 4 overlapping vertical images (24-70 lens) If you are careful to rotate the camera carefully there is no need for a tripod ... of course for panoramic shots, it does help.

One final point, it seems that old cars being driven by people wearing hats are just as slow and prone to erratic behaviour as in the UK. This particular car kept its indicators on for several miles :-)

Hat wearers

Hat wearers

>>>Next Day


After a thunderstorm and giant hailstones last night I woke up to see dark skies and sleet. Fortunately by the time I was ready to leave, the skies were brightening from the south. Using my executive decision device (a quarter) I decided to head south out of Steamboat on CO-131.

My first day driving the SS Grand Marquis. As I said, not an ideal vehicle for mountain passes. I looked in the manual and noticed it didn't have bow thrusters -- a bit more difficult to reverse out of the car park, although the foot operated anchor (parking brake) confused me a while. I also waited a while before checking out its acceleration. As I drive an automatic at home, I was used to the idea of kickdown (push throttle sharply to drop a gear and accelerate). With the barge (as I now know it) the kickdown is more a request to the engine room to shovel more coal into the boilers - things will happen eventually, but get used to it before trying to overtake anyone!

I'm being unfair -- it's a lovely car... ;-)

front end of barge

Bow view

back end of barge

Stern view

I passed by the place I'd took some shots yesterday and got a more detailed one of the shed, but the sky was not nearly so interesting.

shed and tree 2

One of those times where the first pictures I took (yesterday) didn't include a view that I later thought was good for a print. That's one of the reasons I like to take quite a few pictures at a location - I don't always get it right.

There are two ways I'll go about landscape photography, one is for a specific location where I'll go back to a place several times to get it 'right'. I may well try several sets of lighting conditions and even work out where the sun should be for the effect I want.

The other way is much more hit and miss, looking for opportunities while I'm travelling around. I have to take several shots, since I probably won't get a second chance. It is spontaneous and produces my best black and white work - it produces pictures that have the greatest emotional impact. It's also one of the reasons I generally dislike the traditional approach to landscape photography, that promotes patience, a measured and considered approach and tripods :-)

Another downside is that on a trip like this, you are partially at the mercy of the weather. Well, nobody said I couldn't have a good time as well as taking pictures ;-)

Just out of Steamboat Springs I went through Oak Creek, a very small town...

oak creek

Upholstery Emporium and Wash House

I decided not to try the road with the rocks in it again, and headed south towards I-70

The CO-131 road is a pleasant drive, with some nice scenery.

co 131

And the sounds of loads of these birds singing

singing bird

South on CO-131

view on CO 131

Eventually I reached I-70, but the westbound ramp was blocked by a concrete truck that had turned over after taking a turn a bit too fast (I'm presuming concrete trucks handle worse than the SS Grand Marquis)

Anyway I decided to have an early lunch, and moored up at the Yacht Club Grill


Yes, at Walcott, on the Eagle River :-)

yacht club grill

A rather nice 'Breakfast Burrito' (note the shells and nets in the table top)


With a range of sauces :-)


Along the Eagle River I stopped several times to have a look around...

eagle river

See the small patch on the middle rock in the picture?

It's a nest, made by these birds

birds nest

Not long after, I joined I-70 heading west, through Glenwood Canyon

glenwood canyon

Nowhere to stop, so that will have to do :-)

Although there is this one of me at the helm of the barge...

on the bridge of the ss grand marquis

I turned off I-70 at Junction 49 and took CO-65 up over Grand Mesa. It's a good 50 mile scenic drive up over the top of the mesa, where it was snowing :-)

On the way up, you can see for a fair distance

looking west from grand mesa

A web version of the picture doesn't really show all the detail.

detail of view

When I'm back home I'll have a go at stitching some of the panoramic shots I took, which might well make a nice big print.

It's snowing and the road surface is steaming - probably from when it was sunny earlier...

mist on road

I also had a go using the 24mm Tilt/shift lens to get a couple of odd looking pictures of a tree.

tree with tilt shift lens

Lens tilted to play around with the plane of focus

creepy tree

Another creepy tree...

I've ended up in Delta ... possibly one of the less inspiring places I've stayed at. A lot more to do in Leadville or Fairplay :-)

>>>Next Day

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