Tag Archives: barns

Photographing Zermatt (Sans Matterhorn)

Wild ibex in front of Monte Rosa, near Zermatt, Switzerland

In a previous post about photographing the Matterhorn, I noted that the town of Zermatt was “nothing to scream about.” That might have been a bit harsh. True, Zermatt is choked with tourists and their souvenir-trinket fallout. True, many of the adjacent mountainsides are marred by cables, fat roads and disenchanting signs of the overzealous Swiss compulsion to engineer everything.

However, the location is sublime, and that would be the case even if you shaved the Matterhorn down to a nub. Situated at the top of the Mattertal — an impossibly long and deep valley and one of the headwaters of the Rhone River — Zermatt is surrounded by no less than five mountains exceeding 14,500 feet. These are the Pennine Alps, and they include Switzerland’s highest peak, Mount Rosa (pictured above with a completely real and not staged ibex). These mountains are utterly captivating.

Reflection on the Schwartzsee, near Zermatt, Switzerland

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Telluride, Colorado – Part 2

Wilson Peak and a series of barns near Telluride, Colorado
Before sunrise, I was awake, packed and bundled up for first-light photography of Wilson Peak. Located just southwest of Telluride, this perfectly sculpted mountain has graced its fair share of Coors commercials, and for good reason. Few mountains embody the drama of the Rockies better.

Sunshine Mountain and Lizard Head Peak near Telluride, Colorado

I knew of one good vantage point — Sunshine Campground, located just off Highway 149. But from that angle, the peak is a bit tucked back and not nearly as dramatic. So, I decided to head to the Telluride Regional Airport, which is situated on a plateau across from the peak. As light crested the San Juan Mountains, I headed up the winding road, passing one drool-worthy/scorn-inducing estate after another.

Wilson Peak and a barn near Telluride, Colorado

My only problem was that the foreground was still obscured in a long shadow, which limited me to my long telephoto lens, a fixed 200mm. And while I got some great shots — like the second image in this post as well as this one of Wilson Peak — my composition opportunities were limited. So, off the plateau, and up to Sunshine Campground, a good 20 minute drive. By the time I got there, my coffee was gone and that rush hour into Telluride from points south was in full force. I’d shoot some and then return to the airport road … I’d seen some awesome barns along the route that I wanted to work with.

Wilson Peak and a barn near Telluride, Colorado

In 2002, Hailey and I camped at Sunshine Campground in the middle of Colorado’s worst wildfire season on record. Two weeks earlier, we had unwittingly rafted into the out-of-control Coal Seam Fire in Glenwood Springs with my parents just as it roared over a ridge and down toward the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers. Stranded, the four of us spent the night at a family friend’s place in Carbondale before heading over Independence Pass the next day, only to see the volcanic-like plume of smoke coming from the Hayman Fire, which was on its second and most destructive day. That evening, my parents’ house in southwest Denver was put on notice for possible evacuation.

The base of Cornet Falls, just outside Telluride, Colorado

Their status was in limbo for five weeks as the Hayman Fire advanced, retreated, spread, double-backed, exploded, and played tricks on fire forecasters. To this day it was the most unsettling summer I’ve experienced.

By the time our Telluride camping trip arrived, the Missionary Ridge Fire in Durango had flared up, casting haze all over Southwest Colorado. Governor Bill Owens got flack for saying that “all of Colorado is burning,” but there was some truth to it at the time. No matter where you went in the Rockies that summer, you found smoke.

On a personal note, something was burning a hole in my pocket on that trip — an engagement ring. I’d saved for it, I’d asked Hailey’s parents for permission, and I was going to pop the question regardless of the haze and smoke, probably on our hike into the Mount Sneffels Wilderness. But I didn’t quite get that far — on a short 1-hour hike to Cornet Falls (above and below), I popped the question.

Cornet Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, both near Telluride, Colorado

So after I shot a bunch of images of the barns and Wilson Peak, I returned to the New Sheridan to meet Hailey and Varenna for the journey to Cornet Falls — a nostalgic must for us. We set Varenna in the Baby Bjorn and made the steep but short climb to the burgundy box canyon falls. Varenna giggled, flailed her arms and kicked repeatedly, as she usually does on hikes. But I took it as a sign of something more cosmic. Here we were, returning to the falls for the first time since that amazing moment, and we were bringing our child — and she was thrilled to be there.

Moments after reaching the falls, Renna fell asleep. It was a very sweet sight … curled up on Hailey’s lap, with blue socks on her hands to keep them warm. Eight years had passed since the proposal — a lifetime it had seemed — and now things were advancing even faster with the trajectory of Varenna’s life and development. We hiked back out, and she awoke with smiles as we passed the creek.

The Sneffels Range and a chairlift as seen from Telluride Mountain Resort, Colorado.

We wrapped up the Telluride portion of our trip with a ride up the gondola to Mountain Village for pizza in an empty piazza. American ski resorts and their phony European charm are rather hilarious places to be. However, I must say, on this day, the San Juan Mountains surrounding Telluride and Mountain Village looked a little like the Dolomites. With the gondola speeding over the piazza, with our waiter actually being Italian, with a glass of cold red wine on a warm day, could it be?


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Steamboat Springs: Magic Morning (Part 3)

I’ll take fog over sun any morning. Perhaps I say that because I was born and raised in Colorado, where fog is uncommon and usually gone before I’m out of bed.

Well, I now have an infant in my life (as I seem to mention in every post), which means 6:30am kinda counts as sleeping in. On the Fourth of July, we had a wet and very cold evening that made the prospect of fireworks with our little girl even less appealing. We watched Return of the Jedi on Spike TV and crashed. Upon waking up at 6am, I discovered a soupy fog had descended on the Yampa River Valley. After brewing a pot of coffee and changing into jeans and a sweatshirt, I was off, leaving my two girls sleeping soundly at the condo.

Varenna was born on a day that started out foggy. I remember that weather distinctly because it was so unusual and I knew this was it — Hailey having contractions seated in her rocking chair … me seated on a stool next to her with a stop watch …  the world outside muffled by a thick veil of fog.

And that’s what it is about fog: it is intimate. Broad landscapes become contained, virtually indoor, and the richness of the world’s color comes through.

This was a heavy, heavy fog. Driving down Walton Creek Rd. toward U.S. 40, I was in limbo about where to head for my shots. There were two barns that immediately came to mind. One of them I had photographed a ridiculous amount of times; the other was the one everybody photographed. But I opted for the latter instead because it was close (above two photos). It’s behind a few stores, off a rather unassuming road, and on top of a hill by a construction site. It’s a bit of a let down at first. And yet, it has graced magazine covers, tourism websites and postcards as the emblem of Steamboat. An old Western barn, set in front of the ski area. Perfect dichotomy of old and new, the Wild West and the Recreating West, right?

As a photographer, those postcard shots are nice and exciting for a few years (and clearly, they are marketable), but there is something electrifying about shooting an icon in unexpected conditions. It forces the viewer to reconsider the whole scene. That’s what art is all about.

The fog wasn’t lifting and my coffee wasn’t cold yet. I decided to head for the second barn and see what I’d find. That was when things got magical…

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Pastoral Barns and An Acid-Trip Rabbit

Where the hell have I been? Over two weeks since my last blog post, and — I hate to say — there are very few excuses to levvy. I’m just a negligent blogger. Have I been busy? Yes. Have I been sick? No, but I’m getting there tonight. Have I been traveling? A smidge.

This past weekend, Hailey and I headed up to the family condo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and had ourselves a little fun on 65-inches of packed powder. We even bought some skis. Yes, hard to believe, but this native Coloradan of nearly 30 years has never owned a pair of skis. Sad, shocking, sacrilegious even (to some). Alas, I’m now official. Funny thing is, I have always loved skiing. I’ve loved it since I started taking lessons with the Eskimo Ski Club in sixth grade up at Winter Park. But I’ve always rented, and until this family condo came within reach, I’ve conveniently put off buying skis because I didn’t see myself skiing often enough. Chalk that up to the exorbitant price of lift tickets and the horrific traffic on I-70.


Anyway, the weather over the weekend was splendid. Endless, uninterrupted blue sky (just look at that sky above left…photo credit goes to Hailey on that one), highs in the 40s and zero wind. While I haven’t yet figured out how to juggle skiing with photography, I did come up with a good strategy for shooting Steamboat this weekend. If I have a problem with shooting up there, its that I’m getting too familiar with the place. I need to see it new again, each time, which gets harder with each trip. So, my new plan is this: less is more.

Rather than drive all over the place looking for new things to capture, I’m just going to pick one or two spots and really work at them. In the case of MLK weekend, I picked the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel sign and the famous Steamboat barn, one at blue hour, the other in mid-morning when the ski area has emerged from shadow.

2009-01-19steamboat-5260The heart was a nice touch and not done by us. Thanks to whomever drew it in the snow ahead of our visit.

Things are a-brewing for Hailey and I. We’re piecing together a vacation, one that promises to be ever-so-photogenic. I’ll let you know where we’re headed once we’re confirmed.

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