Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Colorado Autumn

Greetings once again. I'm cooped up and bored, it's snowing and cold, I'm not on the mountain, and I've been tinkering with some shots I took in the fall of last year. These were all taken within a week of acquiring my Nikon D3000 DSLR, so there were some exposure and composition errors that I fixed in Photoshop over the last week or so. My repairs have errors as well, but these pics aren't for sale so I don't really care if you don't. Deal?

The first three photos were taken at the Mammoth Gulch Reservoir site, near Rollinsville, CO.
According to my father, Mammoth was the place to be if you were a hippy from Boulder in the 1970's, sort of a hideout for dopeheads from a bygone era. It's still full of dopeheads, but it's not a lake anymore; they blasted the dam in the early 1980's because it was unsafe. Below is the road leading up to the lake, a 4x4 trail that is impassable between Oct. 1st and June 1st most years.

This is what's left of the lake, meandering Mammoth Creek, which is ice cold and teeming with brook trout. You can follow the creek all the way back into the basin to where it begins, if you're so inclined, but the going is quite rough, as there really isn't an established trail. I recommend it, though, if you're an experienced hiker. 
Gurgle gurgle.

This is Baker's Tank, located on the Breckenridge side of Boreas Pass. 
 Boreas Pass is an old railroad grade over the Continental Divide, and it's quite mellow, accessible with normal passenger cars. I particularly love the color of the tank, especially with the waning sun behind me as I took the shot.
The day I took that shot, I traveled over three mountain passes, crossing the Continental Divide three times. The sunset shot below was taken on Kenosha Pass, near Bailey, CO. I was looking for a vantage point high above the valley floor, and after finding my way through some private property and up a 4x4 trail, I discovered a rock outcropping that put me about 100 feet up, and about 60 feet out away from the hillside. I'm facing sort of southwest here, towards Buena Vista.

About a week after I did my three pass tour, I traveled to Fremont Pass, near Leadville, CO. I wanted to get some shots of the first dusting of snow on the peaks, and was treated to the scene you see below. This is Clinton Gulch Reservoir, a beautiful lake located at about 11,000 feet. 

The final two shots in this installment were taken on my first outing with my new camera, which took me over Berthoud Pass to Willow Creek Reservoir, a long, narrow lake located near Granby, CO. I had hoped to capture the aspens in full gold regalia, but sadly the change took place both early, and very rapidly in this part of Colorado. 

In the final pic, you can see some that there are many dead trees in the forest to the left of the lake. This is due to a massive and almost complete infestation by bark beetles, which has wiped out the majority of the lodgepole pines in northern Colorado. It's sad to see how devastating it is; most of Grand County is dead at this point, and only a fire of biblical proportions will stop the spread. In 20 years, these trees will be gone...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Everyone Wants to be a Rockstar

Including me. 

Last night I went out with my friend Jeff, to see his friend's band Monroe Monroe at the Rockstar Lounge in Denver. This is the first time I've been behind the lens at a live show; I've been the subject to some photo shoots as a musician, and I've always been disappointed in the outcomes from other photographers. Granted, we never had a professional making the shots, but it isn't THAT hard.

 It's harder than it looks. No control over lighting, that's the hardest part, and the subjects are rocking out, so I had to use the fastest shutter speeds possible. I set my ISO at 800, which made the photos kind of grainy, but I didn't want to use too much flash; when I'm on stage, flashes popping off can be very annoying. 
I ended up needing to use a good amount of flash, but the bands didn't seem to mind. What I ended up with were a handful of great, but overexposed shots, which were easy to fix in Lightroom. I dialed down the exposure in almost every photo I processed.
 I like the picture above, but it would be way cooler if I had used a tripod.

The headlining band, Young Cities, opted to use a smoke machine, which made me cringe at first. I hate smoke machines. However, it took a bland stage with questionable lighting, and turned it into a colorful backdrop for rockstar photography. Brilliant.

This was a ton of fun, and a real challenge. I learned a lot about low-light shooting, and finally found a use for stupid ass smoke machines. Now I want to run out and buy some remote flashes, and a lens with a larger aperture so I don't have to sacrifice sharpness with that high ISO setting. I look forward to shooting more live performances in the future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Crappy DV Camera is a Dangerous Thing

The video above is what happens when you give a guy a crummy iJoy DV camera, and no way to mount it to his person. I held the camera in my right hand while I rode down the mountain, and it's a little gut-wrenching to watch if you're hungover, but I like to document my adventures any way I can. Perhaps next month I'll pick up a GoPro Hero helmet cam so I can drop smooth, 1080p vids all over your asses. Yes, I think that's the plan.

My friend Ryan and I took to Arapahoe Basin for a mid-week powder session, and were not disappointed. Ryan is a fantastic skier and a great riding partner; he pushes me to ride harder and has a great attitude about the whole thing. I'm not sure how many inches of fresh snow we had that day, but it was plenty, and it snowed all day while we were up there. 

Loveland Pass was great as usual; some people are horrified by this road when conditions get dicey, and yes, it would be terrible to drive off of it, but I've driven it so many times that it doesn't even phase me anymore.

Lesser men drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel. I prefer the Danger Man approach, myself. 4-wheel drive is God's way of telling me to not be a chicken shit and just go for it.

I would really, really love it if I could get a bluebird powder day this season, so that I can break off some photos, but, as I stated in the "Careful what you wish for..." installment, I feel like it's an OK trade-off, leaving the camera at home to fold cream all day. First-world problems, baby...

For anyone interested in my videos, you can check out my YouTube channel: Yoga Fire Media. I am more of a hack videographer than you are, so there. Toss the clips in Windows Movie Maker, add a song, edit a bit, drop in some text, and save. That's my method.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby. So cold...

 Welcome to Denver, Colorado. The only city in the country with a snow sports terrain park located within city limits, and home to at least one mediocre photographer. The picture above was taken at Speer Blvd and I-25.

For the past several years, the city of Denver has partnered with Winter Park Ski Area and some corporate sponsors to put together the Ruby Hill Rail Yard, a small but unique and well-maintained park consisting of 8 to 10 rails and fun boxes, and illuminated with stadium lighting, allowing skiers and riders to use the park from 5 am to 11 am, seven days a week.  Pretty damn cool if you ask me; Denver has made some notable departures from the culture of fear that most major cities seem to operate under when it comes to high-risk action sports. Downtown Denver is also host to a large, city-maintained skate park, which I hope to highlight in this blog this summer.

Ruby Hill is a nostalgic place for those of us that grew up in Denver, because regardless of how old you are, you likely went sledding at Ruby Hill park when you were a kid. The fact that I can snowboard there as an adult, and that my friends are taking their kids riding there is really cool to me.

 I struggled a bit with lighting, because I feel that popping off flashes in people's faces while they're trying to concentrate on not busting their asses is unethical. Aperture was set at f5.6 to f7.1, and shutter speeds varied from 1/40 to 1/100, depending on which angle I was at in relation to the large banks of lights at the top of the hill. What I forgot to adjust was the ISO setting, so the camera did it for me and set it at 1600. Embrace the graininess, friends...

Below is an example of how a backside railslide is supposed to be performed...
 ...and how you're not supposed to do it.

I spent several minutes chatting with this guy at the top while I warmed my hands, he and his buddies were drinking 40's of Mickey's. Gotta love the culture in D-town...

Another example of how it isn't done. Now I must admit that I don't have much room to talk, because this is what I generally look like when I attempt fun boxes. He busted his ass good on the coping. Been there, brother...

I spent a fair amount of time shooting this cat, because he was doing these absurd helicopter spins on the narrow box, and he had this really fluid, loose style that would have lent itself better to video. I did some burst shots but my camera was lagging, I think because of a combination of my settings, the low light, and the cold.

I had these kids pose together for a shot because they were having such a great time, and the smiles really sum up the attitude that pervaded the scene at Ruby Hill tonight. Too often, in terrain parks, you find judgmental attitudes, trash talking, style-posing, and other stupid things that in my opinion don't belong in snow sports culture. Tonight, everyone was supporting and cheering each other, pushing each other to try new things, and laughing it up. Perhaps it was the temps which were hovering just above 0 degrees F, or maybe it's the feeling that we have it so good here, to be able to ride in the city, under lights, with full support of the city of Denver. 

Hell, I didn't even strap in and I was all smiles. Expect an additional installment to this posting, I will be returning on a bright sunny day to do some more shooting, and hopefully some riding as well. Take care.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chicago at Random

 Meet Maggie. She's 3. I love this picture. I wish it weren't overexposed but sometimes, you only get one shot, and this is one of those times. 
Recently I've made several friends in the Chicago area, and for New Years 2011 I decided to travel to visit friends in Lake Zurich and spend the holiday with them. Maggie is their daughter, and she's an incredible little girl. As my thanks for their hospitality, I spent some time taking candids of her to give to them. Since I'm currently working through the three dozen or so photos in post-production, I'm only sharing this one, but it is easily my favorite.
  When I first visited Chicago in March, 2009, and I met Andy and Kelly for the first time, Kelly made a lasagna that blew my mind. The woman can COOK. So naturally when she asked what I would like to have as a dinner for this visit, I made a pimp decision, and was not disappointed.l
 "Josh, why are you taking pictures of lasagna and posting them in your blog?" 

Because it's my blog and this blog is all about the awesome things that happen in my life. If lasagna with sauce made from scratch isn't awesome enough for you, go jump off a bridge.
 Smug Kitty. This is Stitchy, a very sweet cat with an OCD issue and a love for affection.

Now we enter the beer section of this blog entry. Whenever I travel to Chicago, I find myself drinking something new, usually several new beers, and I will admit that it's one of the things I think of most when I am planning a visit. Andy and Kelly are aficionados of Imperial Pale Ales, a pursuit benefited greatly by the astounding selection of beers available to them locally. I live in the Denver area, a city renowned for great microbrewing, and rightfully so, but Denver suffers from a lack of selection when it comes to beers from other parts of the country. When I step into the local beer store in Lake Zurich, I am surrounded by a dizzying selection of beers from coast to coast, and it takes me a considerable amount of time to make each evening's selection of beer. I am fond of problems like that...

New Years Day 2011 was spent with friends, and it's a special blessing to spend time with the folks I know in Chicago. We connected with our friends Kate and Matt at Three Floyds, a brewpub in Munster, Indiana, for an evening of incredible microbrewed beer and ridiculous conversation. I'd love to be able to tell you what is in each glass below, but I cannot. I can tell you that the beers in the smaller glasses were served in half-pint portions only, because the ABV content was over 10%. We sampled several different bombers of limited edition IPA's from around the country, and I spent the evening with a fantastic Imperial IPA brewed in-house by Three Floyds. The name escapes me, but I do remember the name fitting the reaction I had to the beer.

Kate, a true original. 
Matt doesn't fuck around. BEER IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.
If you find yourself in the Chicago area, I recommend taking a trip to Indiana for some incredible beer at Three Floyds in Munster, IN.
 My favorite part of Three Floyds was the artwork, every painted surface in that place was touched by a gifted artist. There is a mural in the bathroom hallway, on both walls, depicting a perverse reality whose main character is the Gumballhead, a cat named Andy:

 A crook cat who doesn't appear to give a fuck about nothing....

I have no explanation for the picture below...

 I returned to Denver on the 4th of January, leaving Chicago through the snuggly confines of Midway Airport. I had a negative attitude towards this airport until I departed this trip to return to Denver, but I got to spend about 3 hours there, drinking cheap beer and sort of wandering around taking in the decorations, and I think it's a pretty cool airport. It's small, easy to navigate, and it has the same amenities as any large airport. The only drawback to flying in there for me is that my friends live so damn far away.
  I noticed this plane on my way into town but I was in a hurry so I didn't stop to take any pictures. I had ample time on my way home, and the light turned out to be fantastic, these were shot with no flash.

I'm returning to Chicago in May, and I'll spend a day downtown putting together a cityscape set. I tried to do it this trip, but after Andy and I made a lap around Wrigley Field, we decided it was WAY too cold to be outside, and headed for the pizza joint.