Tag Archives: Colorado photographer

Headwaters Content

Kevin Day (Principle/Content Strategist; Headwaters Content) and Hailey Day (President/Digital Artist; HeyDay Creative)

You should never start a blog post with an apology for not posting recently. It’s just bad form, and truthfully, who reads this blog regularly anyway? Even if you did, you’d notice that I haven’t posted anything — anything — since January.

But I feel the long absence is worth noting, if for no other reason than the major personal changes I’ve undergone since my last post.

I’ve started my own company.

Not a hobby company. Not a dabble-in-it-and-see-if-it-fits company.

A livelihood. A bona fide “wow, this is what I ought to be doing in life” company.

My business is called Headwaters Content, and its one of Denver’s first content strategy firms. What brought this about is a long and probably boring story (I think it’s interesting. You probably don’t). But needless to say, maintaining a photo blog has been a free-time activity, and since February, setting Headwaters up has been rather consuming, both from a labor-intensive and mentally fatiguing perspective.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kauai Through a Tilt-Shift Lens

Hanalei Valley Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii (tilt-shift)Hanalei Valley Lookout; Canon 45mm TS-E, ISO 400, 1/3200 sec, f2.8

I’d hesitate to say I’m “into gear.” I’d rather read a personal finance blog than the Digital Photography Magazine Buyer’s Guide. In writing, gear is just not interesting.

Where things get interesting for me is when gear enables new techniques. Last year, I used BorrowLenses.com to rent a 200mm prime lens and a 24mm tilt-shift for Holy Week in Mexico. To have two new weapons in my bag made the week’s imagery 100% better. The 200mm allowed for more intimate candid shots during the processions, while the tilt-shift opened up hundreds of doors of creativity for my cityscape and architecture. It was like shooting in a third and fourth dimension.

For Kauai, I once again rented two lenses: this time, a 24mm–105mm zoom lens (a must for the helicopter tour) and a 45mm tilt-shift lens. Once again, the tilt-shift rocked.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Photography Tips for a Kauai Helicopter Tour

Aerial photos of the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii.(Click on images for a larger view)

While on Kauai, Hailey and I took a 90-minute helicopter tour of the island with Jack Harter Helicopters. The tour was billed as a photographer’s tour because it went slower and took its time with each section of the trip. Because of this alone, I highly recommend it. Kauai’s interior and much of its coastline is inaccessible (to most of us) and seeing it by air is really the only way to truly get a sense for the island as a whole.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 of Kauai’s Best Beaches

Footprints in the sand at Kalihiwai Beach, Kauai(Click on the images for a larger view)

So remember how a few posts ago, I said that I wasn’t much of a beach person?

Well, I’m back from Kauai, and you can consider me converted: I love beaches … if by “beaches” you mean the stunning, drop-yer-jaw, how-could-God-design-such-a-perfect-thing beaches that seem to be nestled into every corner of the Garden Isle. In fact, after visiting Kauai for eight days, it may be safe to say I’m forever spoiled. The bar will be high for any future strips of sand I encounter (sorry, Chatfield Reservoir).

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fall Color at the Maroon Bells

The Maroon Bells in fall color outside Aspen, Colorado(Click on images for a larger view)

I’ve struggled to photograph the Maroon Bells in the past. Struggled because of two things: (1) everybody has photographed them and an original angle is getting more and more rare, and (2) they perfectly face to the east and, as a result, are often 2 stops more bright than their surroundings, making an even exposure especially tricky.

A six-month-old girl plays near the Maroon Bells outside Aspen, Colorado

But then my wife took our daughter there for a day trip this past October (I was attending the Colorado Governor’s Conference on Tourism in nearby Snowmass) and she returned with a series of astonishingly original photos of the Bells. How did she overcome my two stumbling blocks?

Solution #1: visit the Maroon Bells with an adorable baby and let her eat the dirt on the shore of Maroon Lake — original photos abound — and …

Solution #2: visit in the fall when the sunlight is slanted and the exposure is more even.

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake in fall color outside Aspen, Colorado

Our daughter’s middle name is Autumn, and this being her first fall, well, it was especially meaningful to have the two of them join me in Snowmass for the conference. After the day’s sessions, I’d take Varenna off of Mom’s hands for a little bit, and go for a short jaunt through the aspens with her near the hotel. She’d squeal and kick with delight at being outside, at facing forward in the Baby Bjorn carrier, and at the sights and sounds and smells of the woods. She’s a Coloradan by birth, and already she is acting like one.

Enjoying the Maroon Bells in autumn, Aspen, Colorado

So when the conference ended and I had a little freedom to wander, we returned to Maroon Bells as a family and spent a few hours in the aspen glades and along the lake shore, watching a blizzard of leaves flutter over the lake as autumn had one last gasp before winter.

Close-up of the Maroon Bells outside Aspen, Colorado

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Final Stop – Pagosa Springs, Colorado

The Springs Inn, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

To end the trip with fresh peaches, or to end the trip with hot springs? That was the question.

And an easy question at that. For 10 years now, I’ve been wanting to take my wife to Colorado’s best hot springs: The Springs Inn in Pagosa Springs. The only issue was its distance from Denver. A full six-hour drive. Hey, let’s do it together for the first time with a five-month-old, right?

In truth, it would be right on the way back from Mesa Verde, and rather than do the entire circuit in reverse (start in Pagosa, move to Mesa Verde, up to Telluride, back home through Palisade) we thought a long soak would be the proper conclusion to this road trip.

The Springs Inn, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Amazingly, nothing is close in this part of the state — at least by Denverites-with-an-infant standards. From Mesa Verde National Park it was two hours to Durango, and because of construction, another two hours to Pagosa. By the time we rolled into the Springs Inn, checked into our room, and changed into our suits, we were dying for some sulfur-mineral-water therapy.

Yes, that’s right: I said sulfur. These springs are delightfully stinky.

The Springs Inn, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

But as Hailey quickly found out (I’ve been a defender of sulfur for years because of this place), the big stink about the stink is simply overblown. For one, I think the smell has toned down over the years. Secondly, the high mineral content feels exceptional on the skin and has healing properties (and that’s not B.S. — I had a long skin ailment years ago that wouldn’t go away until I visited these springs. It’s been gone ever since).

The Springs Inn, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Six hours of tackling the hot springs in shifts was just what we needed, though it would have been nice to soak in the pools together after dark a bit more (ya know, little girl’s bedtime, someone’s got to babysit, etc.).

We’d need as much tension reduction as possible, because the next day was brutal. The six-hour drive took nine because of all the breaks Varenna required. The road trip had finally got to her, and her car seat had become her mortal enemy. But we rolled into Denver seven days, five peaches, four tanks of gas, one breakdown and 51 diapers later. It had been a remarkable trip, and as we found out, Southwest Colorado has remained the most remarkable part of Colorado.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mesa Verde National Park – Balcony House

Balcony House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The last day in Mesa Verde began with our last breakfast at the ARAMARK cafeteria. After this day, we’d at least have options for food, but up on the mesa, it was compromise, compromise, compromise. The day before we tried the “world-famous” Navajo Taco for lunch. It was an utter joke. For ARAMARK, fossilized shammy = flat bread. And I won’t even go into the toppings…

Despite the bleak food situation in the national park, we weren’t looking to skadaddle too quickly. The dwelling tours were captivating, and we had to complete the trifecta with a morning climb/jaunt/crawl/tour of Balcony House.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

While Cliff Palace overwhelms you with its grandeur, Balcony House moves you with its intimacy. There is no easy overlook off the road, no dramatic viewpoint on approach — just a nestled little community that you don’t really see until you’ve entered it via a 32-foot ladder. In fact, to leave the dwelling you have to crawl on your hands and knees through a narrow dusty passage before ascending two dramatic ladders back up to the mesa top. Not once do you have a stand-back-and-survey-the-whole-dwelling moment. It’s pretty cool because of it.

Upon entrance, to the right of the landing where the first ladder delivers you, is a small stone arch enclosing a pen of some kind (above). Archaeologists believe that the Ancestral Puebloans kept their turkeys in these pens, an ingenious construction that was part meat locker and part ADT security alarm. Spend any time among live turkeys and you quickly understand how frantic and nuts they are. If anything or anyone approached Balcony House, the turkeys would let the whole community know.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The dwelling takes its name from a 30-foot balcony attached to the second floor of one of the structures. You can see it in the middle left side of the top left photo of this blog post. Our ranger speculated that residents of the structure used the balcony as a hallway between rooms more than anything. Standing there, seeing 5-foot-9 tourists standing next to this balcony, you quickly begin to realize just how short the Ancestral Puebloans were. I asked the ranger about this, and sure enough, they averaged anywhere from 5-foot to 5-foot-3 in height, but then again, she noted, so did most people in 1300 AD.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

I’ll be honest: I’m not one for tour guides in any scenario. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that they show you a place in the way they want you to see a place. The focus of a tour is never in sync with my eye, and 75% of the information goes in one ear and out the other. It’s just how I’m wired.

Plus, I think there is something lost when your questions are answered. I know very little about Siena’s Duomo, about the history of the Pantheon, and about the symbolism of the Good Friday Parade in San Miguel de Allende — but I understand them in a very different way that is visceral, emotional and full of curiosity. That’s because I approached them through the lens rather than through a tour guide. I’m not saying my way is better than their way. Not at all. I’m just saying their approach doesn’t suit me.

At one point, the ranger scolded me for moving five feet to the right to take a photo while she was talking. She said it threw off her concentration. My first instinct was to feel bad, but in hindsight, I think it was a bullshit thing to do. Bullshit because the only way to see Balcony House is by guided tour. The least the guides can do is allow for silent periods of five minutes here and there so that you can process the mystery of a place, or see it with your own eyes. But in the end, they have 45 minutes to tell you everything there is to know about the Ancestral Puebloan people, and like I said, with me, a lot of that goes in one ear and out the other.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mesa Verde National Park – Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Three days to see Mesa Verde was plenty, but considering that the main cliff dwellings are in canyons, where shadow and sunlight conspire for extreme contrast, we had to carefully plan which sites to visit when for fear of getting the wrong lighting conditions. This meant that we’d save the biggest and best cliff dwelling — Cliff Palace —  for the end of our second day.

Cliff Palace and Sun Temple, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

This massive complex — North America’s largest cliff dwelling — hangs in an alcove tucked above Cliff Canyon, where evidence of the Ancestral Puebloan people is everywhere. Our first view of Cliff Palace was from the opposite side of the canyon rim, at a place called Sun Point View. Overlooking two forks in the canyon, the vantage is the one place in Mesa Verde where the whole of the Ancestral Puebloan civilization comes into view. Dwellings, ruins, and jumbled-up archaeological sites emerge from the walls and forest … the longer you look, the more you see.

Ultimately, a network appears — a civilization that was once interconnected and thriving. My imagination went wild standing there on that sun-baked overlook, visualizing the Puebloans as they traveled from dwelling to dwelling.

Sun Point View overlooking Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

(Click on panorama for larger view)

The castle of this fiefdom is Cliff Palace (above center). Tucked in its protected corner of the canyon, it is massive in size — 150 rooms, 23 underground chambers (kivas) and an estimated population of 100. Considering that most dwellings from this era consist of 2 or 3 rooms, its an especially significant site.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Our ranger tour guide was more like a drill sergeant than a docent — his narrative on Ancestral Puebloan family life was barked more than recited, but he was fantastic, devoting extra attention to the infant mortality rate and day-to-day challenges of children (malnutrition, etc.).

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

From the main overlook next to the dwelling (photo above) he led us down a series of stairs, than down a ladder, and onto a trail that delivered us to the foot of the dwelling. In evening light, the walls and towers of Cliff Palace were absolutely radiant. Despite being in a group of 40 people, it wasn’t hard to imagine what this, the most magnificent dwelling in the park, must have looked like when first discovered by European descendants in 1891.

Square Tower House and Sun Temple, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The tour went quickly, and 45 minutes after setting eyes on Cliff Palace, we ascended a series of ladders through a rocky crevice, climbing our way back to the car, where we tucked our tired little girl back into her car seat. Despite our better judgment (i.e. “get dinner, get girl to bed”) we made a run for Square Tower House before the sun set. Back around and across to the opposite mesa we rushed, reaching the overlook just in time to capture the three-story structure before it submerged into shade (above left).

The next morning we’d tour Balcony House and then leave for Pagosa Springs to conclude our trip. As much as I was enjoying the guided cliff-dwelling tours and short nature hikes, they paled in comparison to the joy of watching how well our five-month old girl was doing. This little one travels well.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mesa Verde National Park – Cedar Tree House and Long House

(Click on images for a larger view)

Mesa Verde National Park has long been on my list. Located near the Four Corners and home to an extensive network of abandoned dwellings from the Ancestral Puebloan Indians, it is a magical place I should know well. After all, it is in Colorado and its an UNESCO World Heritage site (so is Macchu Piccu, the Roman Coliseum, and the Pyramids of Egypt).

But time and distance had conspired in my head to keep me from going. Why? It is 8 hours by car from Denver … so is Billings, Montana.

I last visited when I was two years old. Naturally, that shouldn’t count as “having been there.” However, one of the earliest memories of my life is from when we went into the kiva at Cedar Tree House (below). I think it stands out to me because we descended a ladder into a hole in the ground. That’s got to mess with your head when your that young.


So we arrived at Mesa Verde after another long afternoon in the car. Varenna had slept for much of the uneventful journey, but by the time we weaved through the emerald gambel-oak forest that covers the mesa just inside the park entrance, she was kicking and screaming. Emotionally, I kept feeling like we were being selfish for going on this trip, but the wonderful thing about six-month-olds is how short their memory is. One stop, one good break to roll around on a blanket, and everything is right with the world again.

After checking into the underwhelming Far View Lodge (run by ARAMARK, a hospitality company that only works where it has no competition: like stadiums, national parks, college campuses, etc., explaining why the standards for food and bedding are so low), we gently buckled Varenna back up and drove 20 minutes south to see the only dwelling we could reach before sundown — Cedar Tree House (left in second photos above), considered the best preserved dwelling, and home to the reconstructed kiva that you can climb down into.

By the time we reached it, however, it was closed for the day, gated off across the grotto, with a phalanx of 50 to 60 vultures watching vigil over it from the trees above. It appeared that a forest fire had at one point reached the top of the dwelling and been beaten back. The sky burst into lavendar and pink, and an eerie silence permeated the whole scene. No wonder the Ute Indians didn’t like this mesa after it was abandoned. There was definitely a haunted vibe. The only sign of life came from a family of turkeys on the rocks above the dwelling who humorously chased the vultures.

The next day, we traveled to Wetherill Mesa, which practically comprises half the park but only sees 20% of the park’s visitors. There we took a hiking tour to Long House with a nasally, patronizing guide who — despite her smarter-than-you tone — provided an impressive amount of information on the Ancestral Puebloan Indians, their way of life, and their subsequent disappearance from the mesa. Long House was especially fascinating because of the seep spring at the back of the dwelling, which filled cups chipped into the stone drip-by-drip (above right). How they were able to keep the entire population of the dwelling hydrated off this meager faucet is mystifying, amazing and admirable.

There was also an amazing structure hanging above the dwelling (below), apparently reserved for food storage.

Taking photos on a guided tour can be a little awkward (“uh-huh, uh-huh <click> … I’m listening <click>”) but its the only way to gain access to the dwellings, and for good reason. They would certainly get trashed (accidentally by the klutzy and intentionally by the greedy) if they weren’t heavily policed and patrolled. Even backing up to frame a shot, I had to be careful not to bump into an ancient brick wall.

Maybe if you gave tours to people like me, you’d take on a patronizing tone over time.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time Out … Fall Color Preview


Going to briefly interrupt the Southwest Colorado trip with a quick preview of this past week’s trips to Steamboat Springs, Snowmass and Aspen for fall color in the Rockies. We usually have an autumn trip to Steamboat, but this year we added another to the middle part of the state. It’s pretty cool when you can compare and contrast fall color locales in the span of a week. Steamboat was a bit past prime, and a little less vibrant than previous years (but still gorgeous), while Vail (which we only passed through) had all the colors of the aspen spectrum.

We were in Snowmass so I could attend the Colorado Governor’s Conference on Tourism. I spent much of the time in conference rooms, banquets and exhibit halls, while Hailey and Varenna got to explore. By Friday, however, I was liberated from the indoors and allowed a few hours to see Maroon Bells (above), the most famous mountains in Colorado, if not North America. They were stunning.

More to come … but first I’d like to plow through the rest of Telluride, Mesa Verde and Pagosa Springs.

And for the record, after these past three months, I am more in love with Colorado than ever before.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 861 other followers