Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Golden Gate State Park

As the days (slowly) get warmer, my excursions to the trails that snake around the Rocky Mountains are becoming more frequent. A recent Sunday journey to Golden Gate State Park was a perfect expedition, as the park is both close to Denver and lies at a relatively low altitude. The upper peaks are still under a fair amount of snow, and we want to go hiking, not snowshoeing.

Ironically we were on the same trail that my father and I tackled some weeks back when it was still covered in over a foot of snow. Much of that is gone, though the shady patches still bore the mark of winter. We even encountered a group of melted out snow caves about half way up the trail. While it may seem counterintuitive, a snow cave really is the best place to spend the night outside during the winter.

At the end of the trail is Frazer Meadow, the location of an old homestead from the late 1800's. The ruins of Mr. Frazer's cabin and barn are complemented by a plaque detailing a bit about his life, and his unfortunate death in an accident involving a wagon load of logs and his head.

Speaking of heads, while hiking up the trail we caught a glimpse of a hawk skedaddling out of our way, and sure enough right by the trail was the remains of his lunch. A flicker was lying in some trees surrounded by his own feathers, and missing his noggin! On our way back down after our own repast we discovered at the crime scene that the body was missing. The hawk had come back for the rest of his meal. Certainly an interesting encounter, not something you would see in Downtown Denver! But I'll admit, I can't wait until the higher elevations become available...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


One of the perks of working at a travel company is the chance to travel, and my first such chance is coming up this July. The bosses are sending me on a tour to get a first hand glimpse at how our educational tours run. I'll get the opportunity to experience England, Ireland and Wales with a group of American High School Students. I'm pretty excited, both because this will be my first trip back to Europe in over three and a half years and because I'll get to revisit Ireland, which was my first ever overseas destination. It's been eight years since I first set foot on Non-North American Soil, and that trip changed my life. This trip gives me the chance to relive it, and hopefully the chance to help a few high-schoolers experience the best parts of international travel for themselves.

After the tour is over, I'm taking some time off of work and heading to Italy. Being that the tour is to countries I have already visited, I figured that I should take this opportunity and visit a place that I have never been to. I'll fly into Rome, and then work my way north, through Florence and then to Venice. Just typing the names of such storied cities gives me a thrill, July cannot come fast enough. Of course, planning a trip is almost (almost!) more fun than taking it, and I'm sure the next couple of months will fly by.

Another great part about this will be the opportunity for me to unleash my Nikon over in Europe. While I do have some very nice photos from past trips across the pond, I don't have any digital pictures. Also, I have learned so much about photography over the last few years, that I imagine I can return with some amazing shots.

2 months and counting...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Trains Redux

Here we have a selection from the Colorado Railroad Museum that have bee tweaked a little bit more. Gone are simple saturation or contrast adjustments, these images are demonstrably different. The black and white conversion especially enhances the old trains, or in this case, an old snowplow.

I really like this one, I desaturated most of the other colors, leaving just enough blue to faintly color the sky and the logo.

This example of 1800's advertising was just too 'good' to pass up!

Another selective desaturation, I enjoy setting of the bright red of the caboose.

This one doesn't seem very modified, but I actually cropped it rather severely. Won't be able to print it at 18 x 20, but the composition is much better this way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is nothing sacred?

"Seven Samurai" will start shooting in the fourth quarter for release in 2009. The cast will feature American, European and Asian stars, and a director is in advanced talks with TWC.

I understand that American's dislike watching subtitled movies. And I understand that classic movie remakes are a Hollywood cash cow. It seem to me, though, that some movies are beyond that. Nobody can remake Citizen Kane, or Casablanca, and NOBODY can remake a Kurosawa movie. While Seven Samurai has been re-imagined and mined for inspiration dozens of time, it has avoided a direct remake so far. It looks like that has changed...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Colorado Railroad Museum

Nestled between North and South Table Mountains west of Denver is the Colorado Railroad Museum. With a collection of dozens of examples of locomotives and rolling stock, it offers a record of Colorado's rich railroading history. It is also a magnet for young boys. We have a photo of me from a very, very long time ago running through a narrow-gauge caboose with a truly amazing grin.

It had been quite a while since I had last visited the museum, so on a lazy Sunday afternoon, my sister and I decided to drop in on the relics. I must say, the place seemed quite a bit smaller than it was all those years ago.

I had a great time strolling down memory lane, and the bright colors made for a fun few hours of photographs. My poor sister had less of a great time, though she certainly enjoyed herself, waiting for an ex-train obsessed currently photography obsessed sibling probably wasn't what she had expected.

I'll admit, I'm pretty happy with a lot of the shots I got, though my capture of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog train could have been better. You can't really see that the whole locomotive was built at an angle to allow it to stay even while crawling up the steep tracks on Pike's Peak.

It seems that every day I learn something new, either about my two year old camera or some of the software I use to post-process. I'll admit, especially now that I have Lightroom, I do a lot more post work that I have in the past. While I still work hard to get a great shot right out of the camera, the tools that I have, especially when I shoot in RAW format, are just too compelling to pass up. Almost all of the shots have seem a little bit of manipulation, though I have a few coming later in the week that have seen a lot more...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Paintmines- Changed

I've been having a lot of fun lately with black and white conversions in Lightroom. The power and control over the image is really unprecedented, but I guess that goes with digital manipulation in general.

I decided to also go a little crazy with some of my manipulation, taking the otherworldly rock formations... and making them look literally otherworldly!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Paintmines

Luckily for me some warm and sunny weather on Saturday perfectly coincided with a burning desire to get out and about and "do something." I had been pondering an excursion to the Paint Mines park, east of Colorado Springs. The trip ended up being about a 100 mile drive, which wasn't so bad, but was a lot further than I had anticipated.

Friday afternoon I had mentioned my ideas to a coworker of mine who hadn't been hiking in a while and who was pretty interested in the journey as she hadn't been anywhere near Colorado Springs before.

Despite a few missteps on the way, we eventually pulled into the park. The parking lot was less than interesting, and the flat, unending plains had me wondering just why I had dragged poor Cristian all the way out to this desolate section of Colorado.

Luckily, a few minutes on the trail brought us to the spectacular geology that gave the area its name. The brightly colored and strangely contoured layers of clay have seen use by humans for thousands of years. Early hunter gathers used the clay from these beds to make pots.

The shapes that wind and water have crafted here look otherworldly and utterly unlike a lot of Colorado geology. Even the material is different. Being so far out on the plains, the rocks that we usually see, like the fountain formation of Roxborough and the Garden of the Gods or the rugged granite of Pikes Peak, are buried beneath thousands of feet of sediment and tens of millions of years of geologic history.

I had a lot of fun cleaning up these pictures in Lightroom, which I continue to find new uses for as I uncover more of its photo fixing powers. I also had some fun setting a few of the sliders to "max" and created a couple of truly otherworldy pictures that I'll share later in the week.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Around the Fire

Late in March my co-worker Todd invited the office over to his house for a home-cooked medley of Thai dishes. Never one to turn down good food, I instantly accepted.

Interestingly enough, while the games and food were certainly hits, the true centerpiece of the evening was the fire he had set up in a grate in the backyard. We don't often get the chance to sit around a fire very often, and all the city dwellers took to it with abandon!

It helped that it was a mid-March evening, and quickly became rather chilly once the sun had set. But I'll admit that I think that there is something more than mere continence to the fire's popularity. Something about the cheery snap and warm glow of a camp fire just makes people comfortable, and encourages us to gather around and share tales deep into the night!

On a more technical note, I had some fun varying the shutter speed with the flames. I really like the freeze frame better, as that offers a glimpse of the flames that we don't often see, but the longer exposure makes it seem more like a hungry beast than a pleasant little backyard campfire.