Tag Archives: lifestyle 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.

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The Best Food and Drink in Kauai

Plate of Kalua pig with poi and lomi salmon, KauaiI had heard that Kauai’s food was the type of thing to inspire obsession. Actually, I hadn’t heard that. I saw it manifested in my brother, who goes to the Garden Isle almost every year, and who — as a result — now hosts an annual luau with more than 30 menu items from there.

Well, here I am, two months after the trip, and I still have the international/sometimes kooky/always delicious flavors of Kauai on my taste buds. Here’s the best of what we had:

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The Road to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park

Red dirt cascade descending from the Waimea Canyon area, Kauai.

On the Friday morning before Thanksgiving, I had a feeling my brother was trying to talk us out of going to Waimea Canyon. It was a long drive, he noted. Time on Kauai was precious, and Varenna — our 8-month-old daughter — would be facing backwards for the whole ride. Poipu had a baby beach.

But I acted like the typical younger brother: the more he discouraged it, the more determined I was to go. This was a verdant miniature Grand Canyon, and at the end of the road was a window to the Na Pali Coast. Yes, time on Kauai is precious. But for me, that meant not letting a week slip by without seeing this magnificent sight.

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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

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Graspin’ Aspen 2010 – Steamboat Springs

Since 2007, Hailey and I have made a special long-weekend trip in the fall to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Yep, the same Steamboat Springs that seems to grace every other post on this blog. I know. We go there a lot. However, it just keeps revealing itself to me in new ways, each time.

Each time we go there, whether its in July, the dead of winter, or even mud season at the tail end of April, this wholesome little cow-town with a massive ski resort glued to its hip seems to get more and more nuanced for us. With all due respect, I don’t think many other Colorado towns would stay fresh after so many visits.

This trip, however, had a different complexion to it, and that’s because of three ingredients: 1) our six-month-old daughter Varenna (now eight months old); 2) our good friends Tim, Lexi and their 19-month-old daughter Cora; and 3) our friend Jenny, who is expecting her first in March with her husband Matt, my best friend. This made September’s trip — dare I say it — a “family friendly adventure.” God, what a hideous cliche, but that’s the new reality. We get excited about places where our rambunctious little girl can be her most rambunctious, and playmates are an added bonus.

For the previous two falls, we’ve done this fall color trip with the Jordayzerton crew — the aforementioned folks, plus Stu and Shannon Kilzer. Unfortunately, this year, it didn’t quite work out that we could get everyone to come. Matt had a fencing tournament, and Stu and Shannon had a family emergency. Even the Lambertons had to head back early, but all was not lost. By Saturday afternoon, we did our traditional drive up Buffalo Pass to drink in the endless expanse of golden aspens that drape across the Zirkel Mountains.

We’ve had better years for color, in particular, the 2008 trip when every tree was 100% vibrant yellow, gold and red all at the same time (must have something to do with the dry spell we’ve had since July). But whatever we lacked for in this trip was made up for by our two girls, Varenna and Cora.

Their curiosity and enthusiasm for being outside was infectious. Varenna even figured out what my camera does. At one point while she was in the Baby Bjorn carrier, we ran down a road while I held the camera out and fired shots back at the two of us (third from top). She quickly picked up on how her face appeared on the camera back, which inspired only more giggles. Daddy’s little girl …

Tim and Lexi parted ways with us from Buffalo Pass, with their Saturday night of driving back to Denver in front of them. Through Monday, it was just us and Jenny, hanging out at the condo, going for walks, and letting Varenna explore things like aspen leaves with her fingers … until they ended up in her mouth. Such is travel with an infant, but if this weekend was any indication of the future — of seeking out other kids, other new parents, and laid back activities like going to the bookstore for two hours — that’s fine with me.

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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.

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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?

Nah….

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Telluride, Colorado – Part 1

The New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, Colorado(Click on images for a larger version).

There is something to be said for living in a fantasy world. Check that: there is something to be said for visiting a fantasy world … for a few days.

Telluride defies description — at least one without hyperbole. Such as “the prettiest town in the United States.” (OK, there. I said it.) But for all of its majestic grandeur and quaint homeliness, it is a not a place that one would call “down-to-earth,” “approachable,” or “realistic.” We toured an open house — a 2500-square-foot Victorian two blocks off main — that was going for $3.2 million. I witnessed a morning rush hour on quiet little Lizard Head Pass that consisted of commuters driving in from Rico (28 miles south), and maybe even Dolores (67 miles south) — all flocking to this enchanting little town to work in the wine bars, day spas and five-star hotels. How this community functions is a bit of a mystery, but it does function. It functions magnificently. I want to go back. I’d put it on top of my U.S. destination list all over again.

Hotel room in the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, Colorado

And incredibly, in late August, it wasn’t too steep. We stayed at the New Sheridan Hotel on Main Street (that’s Varenna in our room, above) for less than $175. In the middle of winter, that would go for about $335. We ate a superb dinner, one of the best meals of the year, at 221 South Oak Restaurant for the same price as pretty much any nice sit-down restaurant in Denver. Hey: we were on vacation. Why not? And when you consider the crappy room we paid more for in Mesa Verde (not to mention the regrettable $13 “Navajo taco” Aramark doled out there), Telluride seemed like — gasp! — a great value.

Main Street in Telluride, Colorado

Still, this thought about people actually living there would not leave my head. Maybe it was because the night before, while eating dinner in an empty dining room at the Chipeta Sun Lodge, I told Hailey I could retire to Ridgway. It is gorgeous there as well, but it also felt cozy, livable, and … realistic. Telluride? It just didn’t add up how you could get to a point in your life where that was attainable.

Full moon over Telluride, Colorado

But ask me now what the highlight of our late-summer trip was, and I wouldn’t hesitate. It was this place. I’m a sucker for massive mountains, waterfalls spouting off in every direction, lush greenery everywhere you go. I like my scenery without subtly, and if I can have a medium-rare elk chop with asparagus and lingonberries for dinner beneath that landscape? Sold.

Panorama of Telluride, Colorado under a full moon(Hello, I’m a great big panorama … click on me for larger version)

Night one concluded with an amazing scene on Main Street. A full moon rising over the San Juan’s at the end of the valley. It was one of those stirring scenes you can’t turn away from. They happen all the time in Colorado, but this one was especially gripping. I stood out in the middle of the street with my camera on a tripod, firing off exposures trying to get it just right. Trying to put in perspective the magnificent beauty of these mountains … until a drunk stumbled out of the New Sheridan and asked me for a good burger.

Like I said … it’s nice visiting a fantasy world for a few days.

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Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

(Click on images for larger version … especially this shot)

Falling a bit behind in updating the blog from our Southwest Colorado trip. Things take priority sometimes: you know, like a full-time job and life with a six-month old. Funny how every spare moment — mornings, nights, weekends — I want to spend with her. Just finished getting her down for bed and now I’ll be off on a business trip for three days. So it goes.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But odds are, I’ll have regular updates through the end of the year with this trip, next week’s trips to Steamboat Springs and Snowmass, and then our mid-November journey to Kauai. Good to have new material, for sure.

On the Sunday morning of our trip, I awoke at dawn … groggy, gross and overheated. The hot evening and sleeping on the ground had left me feeling less than ideal. Now would have been a great time for coffee (or a bucket of ice to dunk my head in), but again, we weren’t too adept at this camping thing, so we didn’t have any way to make coffee. We brought breakfast: 12 crummy Target cereal bars. That was it. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Varenna, however, was her usual spry self. Kids can sleep anywhere. In the future, we’ll camp because of her, not because of us. It won’t be because we thoroughly enjoy it (just being honest: after all, this was the first time we’d camped since we got engaged) or because we love making cowboy coffee over a fireplace. We’ll camp to experience her reaction to it. And that’s assuming she’ll love it (after seeing how she is in the outdoors, I’m fairly certain she will). And then as a result, we will love camping.

We set out along Rim Rock Drive around 7am, catching some of the most brilliant golden light I’ve seen in Colorado.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

We experimented with lens flares, shooting into the sun, and comparing the way the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 40D handled the light. In fact, in some instances, the same shot came out better on the Canon 40D (I have no idea why).

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

By 8:30am we were back at the campground packing up. Onward through the rest of the park along Rim Rock Drive, a stop for brunch in Grand Junction, and then a two-hour drive to Ridgway at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. The drive was uneventful through the monument, but twice we heard a weird knocking sound — once pulling into a turnout and again on a steep switchback. Both times while turning. We didn’t think anything of it.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But a mile outside Delta, Colorado — at a speed of 65 mph — it occurred again and there was no way to ignore it. A bang followed by a high, straining whir of the engine. I began to slow down significantly, and noticed the steering wheel was like lead. It took about a quarter mile to stop in the shoulder, but I got it there in one piece. Varenna slept through the whole thing.

Was it a blowout? Nope. A quick walk around the vehicle disproved that theory. When I restarted the car, the transmission light, the oil light, the check engine light and the parking brake light were all on (even though the parking brake wasn’t engaged). That helps.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Long story short, it was the power-steering belt. It flew off because the mechanics who replaced it the week before forgot to clamp it down. For the entire drive from Denver down I-70, up Rim Rock Drive, around Colorado National Monument (alone) in the dead of night under a full moon, this belt spun and somehow didn’t fly off. Fortunately, it didn’t destroy anything else in the engine when it came off, and after a tow to Montrose and a drop off at the airport, the three of us were in a rental car headed to Ridgway to salvage our itinerary. We arrived in one piece at the Chipeta Sun Lodge, the perfect place to chill out after such an episode.

By Monday morning, the belt was replaced, and by noon we’d retrieved the car and were headed to Ouray and then Telluride. Vacation saved.

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The Indian Peaks Served Two Ways


My whole life, the Indian Peaks have been my playground. Some of my earliest memories take place on the mucky shores of Long Lake. Back in the early ’80s, there was a decaying cabin in the shallows there, and a tiny beach about 20 square feet in size lay tucked in the grasses and willows right by it. My brother and I would spend hours drawing in the wet dirt with sticks while my Dad fly fished from a belly boat, the jagged peaks — Pawnee, Shoshoni and Navajo — rising above the valley that stretched to the west.


Years later, when I was in high school, my Mom and I finally ventured beyond Long Lake to Lake Isabelle, and the thundering waterfall that pours out of its eastern outlet. Here, down among the bluebells and shooting stars, I thought how nice it would be to have a child some day, perhaps a daughter, and show her the wonders of nature — like how the wildflowers below Lake Isabelle grow out of rocks, their persistence a testament to a higher power at work.

Maybe I’d name her Isabelle.


Fast-forward to this past year, and Hailey’s pregnancy, and those closest to me (including my Mom and my best friend Matt) were convinced that if we’d have a girl, she’d be named Isabelle.

Of course, it didn’t end up that way. For one, Twilight or some damn thing made it one of the most popular girl names of the moment. For two, Hailey and I went to Lake Como in 2005 and found a little town that meant a lot to both of us, and here we are, with a girl named Varenna.

Nonetheless, the meaning and the feeling of the Indian Peaks and sharing it with my daughter, is something that has been top of my mind this summer. She’s five months old, so that “higher power” is a bit over her head, but she loves the woods and the fresh air. A few weeks ago — on a Friday off that I truly earned — Hailey, my mother, Varenna and I, went for a short hike to Mitchell Lake, one valley over from Long Lake and Lake Isabelle. It was short and sweet, but to walk with the three women of my life through fields of wildflowers for the better part of a day is something I will cherish forever.


Two weeks later, I returned to the Indian Peaks with my best friend, Matt. He probably needs little introduction since he’s been on this blog so many times, but it was another unforgettable hike in the Indian Peaks — because of equal parts terrain and time and stories with a man I’ve known since I was 4 years old.

Matt and I experienced the Indian Peaks in a very different way than I did with my girls. Starting at 9am, we climbed up the valley that stretches from Eldora Ski Area to Arapaho Pass. Dipping into the valley base to cross the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek at a waterfall, we looped back and up the ridge to Diamond Lake, before continuing through the woods and up through amazing meadows to an unnamed ridge at 11,400 feet that faced south to Mount Evans.

Matt was his usual enthusiastic self, up there. “Awww, man. This is awesome!” Me? I kept making HD videos of the tundra and the clouds, which were moving across the mountaintops at a pace I’ve never seen before. For better or worse (most likely worse) I approach video like a still composition, and have no editing skills. I’d upload them here, but they’re 100MB each and I don’t have the patience.

We reapplied sunscreen and descended the mountain back through hip-deep wildflowers. At Diamond Lake, we scrambled onto some boulders that jutted out from the creek outlet and watched the clouds roll by. Not a bad way to pass a summer Sunday in Colorado…

Speaking of which, Hailey, Varenna and I are about to embark on a 6-day odyssey through Southwestern Colorado: Colorado National Monument, Ridgway, Telluride, Mesa Verde and Pagosa Springs. Should have a ton of updates in the coming weeks.

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