High Plains Drifter

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and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

March 7, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 21 (Day 6)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 12:27 pm

The final day of my Utah-Colorado 2009 trip was spent at Great Sand Dunes National Park.  This was my first visit to this park, and ironically is the closest National Park to southwestern Kansas.  The dunes here are something else… the tallest in North America.  One dune in particular, called "High Dune", stands some 650 feet tall from the base of the dunes.  This dune is only like three quarters of a mile from the large parking lot (the main parking area at Great Sand Dunes).  I took all my photography gear with me for this climb up.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, meandering up sand dune ridge lines to get to the summit of High Dune.  Since I was by myself, I had to take the tripod so I could get a pic of myself at the top.  Of course, I chose to do this at the wrong time of day, photographically speaking, with a high sun angle and very limited shadows.  Hiking down sand is like stealing candy from a baby, LOL — about a hundred thousand times easier than going up and far easier than hiking down a mountainous trail.  So after that, I decided to hike this 4WD Jeep road that parallels a creek (Medano Creek) adjacent to the dunes.  I only went about 1.75 miles north on this "trail".  It was really a rutted road that was filled with old crusty snow in many places.  The creek was frozen over which provided for some cool photography.  I walked onto the ice for some compositions as it was quite thick.  I backtracked along Medano Creek as it became increasingly unfrozen and narrow as the waters of the creek eventually seep into the porous sand.  It was kinda cool to watch the creek essentially disappear into the sand about a mile north of the big parking lot.  I got some pretty interesting photos of this.  By late afternoon, the light was getting better with longer shadows on the sand making for better photography.  This was the extent of my first visit to Great Sand Dunes.  That evening, I headed back into Alamosa to find the power out over most of the town (mainly downtown area), which pissed me off because I wanted some Mexican food at this supposed real popular mexican restaurant in downtown.  I had to settle for some fast food on the outskirts of town where the power wasn’t out.  Images of Great Sand Dunes below!

Here I am on top of High Dune:


A look at High Dune from afar, do you see the people in the photo below?  


A frozen Medano Creek adjacent to tall sand dunes:


Medano Creek and sand dunes:


Late afternoon light and shadows on the dunes:


Late afternoon light on the dunes with Medano Creek on the right:


There I am again..


February 21, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 20 (Day 5), photos

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 10:47 pm

Here are some images from Friday, Feb. 20th of Balanced Rock silhouette and a series of images from Mesa Verde National Park:







February 20, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 20 (Day 5)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 10:07 pm

I should rename this sequence of blog posts, since I’m now no longer in Moab.  I left there this morning after doing a sunrise shoot in Arches — I was more tired than I thought, and I only did some rather elementary silhouette stuff with Balanced Rock then came back to the motel to check out.  So I left Moab around 8:30am MST heading south.  Snow cover picked up quite a bit once I reached Monticello, about 45 miles south of Moab.  I then continued southeast to Cortez.  Much of this trip is going on gut spontaneous decisions — and another one was visiting Mesa Verde Nat’l Park.  I had not planned on visiting this park, but it was essentially right along my route to where I wanted to go — Alamosa — so since I had time to kill and a newly purchased yearly National Parks pass, it would have been kinda dumb not to.  So I spent much of the midday and early afternoon hours there.  It was a pleasant drive through the park with a few nice scenic overlooks, although nothing that will really blow your hair back, so I had to really try to add some foreground interest to some of the images.  This was largely an educational endeavor more than anything… learning about the ancestral puebloans and the number of very interesting alcove dwellings.  I went on a one-hour tour of one of the alcove houses "Spruce Tree", which is actually the only one they allow guests to tour in the winter season.  I’m glad I made this little side trip, since quite franky, I had nothing better to do other than drive straight to Alamosa.  I got into Alamosa about 6:30pm MST, unpacked and had dinner/beer at the San Luis Valley brewpub.  Not too bad.  I didn’t realize Alamosa was as big as it was.  Tomorrow I’ll play around Great Sand Dunes… I’m not sure if I’m up for a sunrise shoot, I’m just exhausted from all these 4:30 to 5:00am waking up for sunrise photo shoots… I’m on vacation after all, and I’m getting up 2 hours earlier than what I would normally get up for to work a day shift!  Call me a dedicated photographer I guess, or just plain nuts :)   It’s all about the light, though, and the sunrise/sunset "golden hour" is where it’s at.  Sorry, no photos uploaded for this blog post… I’m just too lazy/tired right now at 9:10pm MST…. I could just fall asleep right now as I’m typing the end of this blog post and not wake up for another 12 hours!  I may upload some in the morning if I don’t get up for a sunrise.

February 19, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 19 (Day 4)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 11:18 pm

I was awaken abruptly by an ear-piercing fire alarm at the Days Inn motel here in Moab at freakin’ 4 o’clock this morning.  It was 45 minutes prior to when I set my alarm… needless to say, I wasn’t happy… and I doubt the rest of the guests were either.  At any rate, it was a crystal-clear morning — great for shooting Mesa Arch again.  It was a success, with at least a half dozen other photographers there waiting for the early sunlight to hit the underbelly of Mesa Arch… one of the classic (and extremely popular) photographic scenes.  Two reasons I came back to shoot this scene 1) no obstruction from cirrus clouds like last year when I visited and 2) I have the Nikon D3 with 14mm (true 14mm length) ultra-wide angle this time for more composition flexibility.  After this, I came back to the motel to sleep a little bit more.  Around 12:30, I grabbed lunch and set back out to Canyonlands.  I took in a short 2-mile hike to the Upheaval Dome Overlook to get a good glimpse and photograph what I hiked all the way around yesterday.  This is a very interesting geologic feature with some debate as to whether it is the result of an meteorite impact or a natural development of salt dome over millions of years given the vast deposits of salt in this region below all the layers of sediment/rock.  Afterwards, I drove over to the White Rim Trailhead, where a very easy 1.5 mile round-trip takes you to the edge of one of the arms of "Island in the Sky" — a vast, scenic overlook.  I shot sunset here for the final shoot of the day.  Tomorrow, I plan to do sunrise back at Arches — to photograph North and South Windows in sunrise light as well as Landscape Arch an hour or two after sunrise.  That will be it for Utah, as I plan to begin driving back east around midday.  I will be heading to Alamosa tomorrow afternoon — with plans on spending Saturday in/around Great Sand Dunes N.P.  



February 18, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 18 (Day 3)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 11:04 pm

Well it is late evening Wednesday 18th, and I’m still recovering from one exhaustive and long day hike!  This was the most strenuous hike I’ve ever taken, topping the Osprey Falls hike in Yellowstone a couple years ago.  I hiked the Syncline Loop Trail in Canyonlands NP, hitting the trail around 9:45am MST or so.  Prior to this, I photographed sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park.  I shot this last year, but it was cloudy the morning I went, so I decided to re-shoot this scene with better light hopefully.  I wasn’t disappointed as there was pretty good light at sunrise.  I wish there were a little more cirrus clouds for some increased sky interest, but I’m not really compaining.  Back to the hike, this was an all-dayer.  Total distance covered was around 8 miles which dips down into the Syncline Valley in the Upheaval Dome portion of Canyonlands.  After about 1.5 miles, the hike descended rapidly some 1,300 feet in a matter of a mile and a half or so before reaching the bottom.  Some really pretty canyon scenes on this descent.  Eventually, at around the 4 mile mark, I had to climb back up.  The initial part of the climb was pretty steep, and I had to negotiate a few large rocks, which I had to take it slow through and concentrate more… but nothing a good pair of hiking shoes and a makeshift hiking pole (a large tree branch) couldn’t handle.   I finally made it back to the trailhead around 4:15pm MST or so.  After I got back, I decided to shoot sunset from one of the large overviews — Grand View Point.  Tomorrow, I plan to wake up very early and drive to Mesa Arch and shoot that again… since last year I didn’t have the best light.  I think clouds will be essentially non-existent at sunrise.  After that, I’m just going to come back to the motel and get caught up on some rest for awhile and decide where I want to shoot late afternoon/sunset.  I may give the Needles section a try, which is about an hour south of Moab.  I got my big hike out of the way that I wanted to do, so the remaining days will be a little less strenuous in that department!








February 17, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 17 (Day 2)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 11:18 pm

Today I hiked and photographed in Arches Nat’l Park.   I hiked the Devils Garden section on the far north end of the park, since I didn’t visit this portion of the park last year.  Total hiking distance was around 5 miles, give or take a few tenths of a mile, during the afternoon, visiting Landscape Arch, Wall Arch (which is broken!  It collapsed during the night of 4-5 August 2008), Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, and Double O Arch.  Since it was getting rather late in the afternoon, I retraced my trail route upon reaching Double O Arch.  This was my first somewhat strenuous hike (when accounting for a 30-pound pack of photography crap among other stuff) that traversed some decent elevation climbs/drops atop some narrow slickrock at times.  I’m sure I’ll be feeling this first hike in the morning, as I’ve worked some muscles I haven’t used since probably the last time I did some serious hiking.  It was a beautiful day, although the wind was up a bit.  In fact, the windiest experience was while at Navajo Arch.  Narrow sections in this location allowed winds to tunnel in gusts close to 50 mph at times!  It was just in this small location, though.  Some random virga showers were dotting the horizon over higher elevations in the distance which provided some additional "interest" in many of the photos.  At sunset, some of these virga showers turned a very nice pink color during the "golden hour", which I photographed from around the Courthouse Towers area on the drive back out of Arches.  I made it back to my motel room around 6:30pm MST, took a quick shower, and enjoyed some beer and pizza at Zax on Main St.  Photos below!  The deer shot below was right at Landscape Arch on my return to the Devils Garden trailhead.









Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 16 (Day 1)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 11:51 am

I left Denver Monday shortly before midday for Moab to spend a few days out there hiking and photographing.  The drive across the high mountain passes was uneventful, fortunately, as roads were just wet in spots at Vail Pass.  The temperature was about 32F at Vail Pass at the time I drove through there during the early afternoon hours.  Upon reaching the Utah line along I-70, the sky cover became increasingly interesting with a number of virga snow showers providing for a somewhat photogenic sky as the sun continued to descend.  I stopped a couple times for some photos along I-70, with the last stop being my primary shooting location — a rest area/scenic overlook a few miles west into Utah along the interstate.  The light changed dramatically quite often with the sun hiding in and out of the cloud cover.  Fortunately, right at sunset, the sky was clearing along the western horizon which yielded beautiful light. I shot at this location for probably an hour, and I arrived in Moab around 7pm Mountain time.  There was a storm coming into the Southwest from California and it appeared as if today, Day 2, would be cloudy with rain and snow showers, thus cancelled a potential sunrise shoot and slept in (didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the night before).  So today will be a half-day, planning to leave for Arches for a short day hike and a sunset shoot.  The storm missed Moab, and as I look out the window it’s "clear and a million" out there — only a few patchy clouds.  The rest of the week looks great, and given such, plan to be here through the first part of Saturday.







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