I've been reliving my last photography trip in Lightroom. This is Highway 34 facing the rising sun in Granby, Colorado. It was our first morning there. Magpies are everywhere along this route, which lies between Granby itself and majestic Lake Granby (a few miles to the northeast of this point). What a great way to start a day.
Just a quick image for your morning's reflection. I listened to President Obama's speech yesterday. He made a stop at Bayliss Park here in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The park is close enough to my house that I could hear his voice and the crowd cheering through my open office window. I followed live televised coverage of the speech on C-SPAN while I worked, with the window open. As I listened to the sounds of our city, and of the president speaking, I couldn't help but think of Walt Whitman's poem I Hear America Singing.
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
County Road 40 seems like such an unfairly pedestrian name for the gravel passage between Highway 34 and Highway 125. It's a short but resplendent drive through lush valleys and the Rocky Mountain foothills. About halfway along the length of County Road 40 is Willow Creek Reservoir, an aspen-lined lake that was shrouded in low-lying mist the first time we saw it. It's also home to the most dramatic warning sign I've ever seen, which warns that entry into the reservoir's trickling spillway means "certain death." Maybe the spillway's flow was just unusually slow on the few days we visited, making the warning that much more amusing. Nonetheless, we did not test its credibility. The best part is that County Road 40 is nearly deserted. We never saw another car on the road, meaning it offered some welcome privacy in an otherwise touristy area. Some other photographs taken along this road are here and here.
Some places are staggering in their vastness.
Here is another photograph of magical Monarch Lake, whose surface was strikingly still on the morning of our first visit. When we first got there, not long after sunrise, Teri, Gavin, and I had the lake all to ourselves. That's the great thing about early mornings; most people have a deep aversion not only to waking up early, but also to getting up and at 'em at that hour. Accordingly, it is my favorite time of the day for photography.
One of my favorite things to do while I'm travelling is to get up before sunrise and go driving, just to see what I might find in the early light. The photograph below was taken on such a morning a few weeks ago, when I explored one of the numerous gravel roads near our cabin in Granby. I was driving into a deep valley, and the sun had just begun to illuminate the high peaks ahead of me. In my rearview mirror, I noticed the looming backdrop of mountains awash in the morning light. The layer effect of the mountain backdrop combined with the diffuse wildfire smoke fascinated me throughout our stay, and it became a feature of many of my photographs from the trip. Last week, I posted another of such photographs, taken under similar circumstances. Don't be surprised if you see more of them here in the future.
Much of the forests in Colorado have been decimated by mountain pine beetles (not to be confused with the Japanese beetles that are ravaging your roses and raspberries). But this healthy fella has figured out that there is safety in solitude.
There's no better cure for the dog days of summer than a trip to the alpine tundra. The point below is at an elevation of 11,796 feet, which means that you have 11,796 reasons to bring along a sweater, even in July.
This photograph is dedicated to the mysterious midnight workers who conspire with Mother Nature to leave abandoned, character-rich log cabins and ramshackle old barns out in the middle of nowhere for me to find during approaching storms. I cannot thank you guys enough.
I reintroduced myself to Bear Lake a few weeks ago after a brief falling-out in 2010. I realize now that it was me, not her. I smartened up this time and approached her with fresh eyes. I'm guessing that next time will be even better.
Everybody, meet Monarch Lake. Monarch Lake, this is everybody. This must be a hidden treasure for locals of Grand County, situated at the termination of County Road 6, a long, rattly, windy gravel road that runs along the south shore of Lake Granby. It is, without reservation, one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. The first of our many visits to the lake during our stay found it eerily still. We watched a couple of moose grazing in the shore grass on the opposite bank, and we were immediately investigated by several hummingbirds upon our arrival. And I don't mean just sniffed by them before they moved on; it was a true invasion of our personal space. Simultaneously disturbing and delightful, as though they considered us exotic walking flowers. One caveat: When you decide to see it for yourself during your next visit to Colorado, the four-mile trail around the lake is more like six or seven. Budget your time accordingly. And as for that persistent distant rumbling of thunder you hear halfway into the hike, a daily feature of the area...Yeah, prepare to get soaked.
Since I am pressed for time this morning, I'll leave you with this simple scene and this simple thought: In this day and age when subtle signs of human intervention seem to be woven into the fabric of "wilderness," it is thrilling to find the untouched places.
Some side roads lead to unexpectedly beautiful places. Teri, Gavin, and I first found this one on a foggy morning off of Highway 34 in rural Grand County, Colorado, near Granby Lake. A few days later, I explored it again when I headed out by myself while the girls slept in. I wanted to see it at first light. It was another partially foggy morning, which is common at that altitude. But the veil began to lift from the valleys and canyons shortly before sunrise, while it still hung nicely in the mountain ridges. I was struck by how nicely the first rays of sunlight scraped over the road and valley to my east while the fog still fought to obscure the mountains beyond.
Of all the times I have been to the alpine summit of Rocky Mountain National Park over the past fifteen or so years, I have never been there at sunset, until last Wednesday. The alpine tundra is such a beautiful otherworldly experience, and even more so as the sun lowers, revealing the majestic relief of the mountainous display in front of you. I had a difficult time focusing my attention on any one particular element as the sunset was deepening the colors to the northwest and painting orange the craggy outcroppings to the east and south, all the while elk were emerging everywhere. Our thermometer said it was 50°F, but it must have been lying. My sister-in-law, Anne, and I were struggling to stay warm in the bitter-cold wind as we ran around frantically trying to photograph what we could while we had the chance.
I snapped the below shot near the beginning of the spectacular show. I’ve chosen to believe that he is admiring the light show right along with us.
I have decided to approach things a little differently in order to breathe some life into this neglected blog. My life has taken on a new level of complexity since the addition of our wonderful daughter to our lives, and the prospect of hammering out a full summary of an entire day’s shooting or a series of photographs (like I usually do) is prohibitively daunting, so I am going to start sharing a single image at a time. Last week, our family went on our first real trip together since the birth of Gavin, to the mountains of north-central Colorado around Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapaho National Forest. It had been 324 days since my last true photography excursion, which was by far the longest gap between trips since I started my photo-life in earnest.
Nonetheless, despite this long layoff, my camera and I have been extremely busy this year at home taking shots of Gavin, flowers, and local miscellany. And I’m looking forward to showing what I have been up to.
The photograph below is one of the very first from the Colorado trip. Teri, Gavin, and I got up before sunrise on our first full day there to explore the area near our lodging, and we immediately found this red barn in the working town (as opposed to tourist town) of Granby, Colorado. The Rocky Mountain foothills in the distance are those that border the south shore of Lake Granby.