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!"

January 31, 2006

NM Photo Trip Day 4: Bosque & Bandelier

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 5:53 am

Monday the 30th was day 3 at Bosque for morning shoot. I was treated to another gorgeous morning. Venus was very bright in the early morning sky and added to the landscape scene with snowy geese roosting on the shallow pond water near the Bosque refuge entrance. The next shooting location was at another shallow pond full of Sandhills just after sunrise. Great morning light allowed for more nice “Sandhill Crane-scape” opportunities. Upon leaving the refuge, I spotted a Great-blue Heron in a deathly still position with perfect reflection off the water, which was smooth as glass. Thus ended my great first experience shooting at Bosque NWR. It was onward to Santa Fe, arriving shortly after noon local time. After a bite to eat, I headed up to this place called Nambe Falls about 20 miles north of Santa Fe. Upon arriving there, I found out it was closed for the season. Ah well.

Never fear, though, for this allowed me to pay a visit to Bandelier for a couple hours just to acquaint myself. There is a little town called White Rock which you drive through on the way to Bandelier. The town is actually kind of popular I guess because of it’s “overlook”. I noticed signs leading to an overlook, but scoffed at it initially as “just another overlook”. I thought I’d stop by near sunset on the way back just for a look-see. Anyway, I got to the Bandelier visitor center and hiked about a mile or so through some of the interesting ancient Southwest pueblo civilization dwellings dating back to the 1400s and prior. So on the way back, I stopped by that White Rock Overlook. It was not your ordinary overlook! This was a 270 degree view from north through east through southwest down this amazing canyon which the Rio Grande flows through. Some tabletop mesas in the distance would remind one was in southeast Utah. I spent quite a bit of time at sunset photographing this. In fact, it was so good and the view was so vast that sunrise should be just as good, therefore I’ll be getting up very early once again for this. Then I’ll do some day hiking in Bandelier after that and photograph a couple waterfalls and other miscellaneous stuff. Then it’s homeward-bound after that.
_DSC9118-01.jpg _DSC9452-01.jpg


January 29, 2006

NM Photo Trip Day 3: Full-day @ Bosque NWR

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 11:37 pm

960 photos. That’s the count of .NEF files that I had transferred over to the laptop by the end of today. It is indeed beneficial having the laptop going in the car on a shoot like this! I only have one 1GB compact flash card. Yeah, I have now learned that bird photography requires lots of memory, for lots of shots will be taken. A large percentage of this 960 are actually unusable shots, mainly due to being out of focus or motion blur…the low light photos zoom photos and/or flight action. Many of the 960 are keepers, including some fan_DSC8378-01.jpgtastic flight shots. Among the wildlife photographed today included great blue heron, bald eagle, american kestral, red-tailed hawk, western meadowlard, road-runner, a turtle, assortment of waterfowl including snow geese. The sunset tonight was also spectacular with high cirrus providing brilliant colors. Tomorrow morning will be the last shoot before heading up to Santa Fe for part 3 of this vacation.


January 28, 2006

NM Photo Trip Day 2: Bosque NWR

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 11:07 pm

Well, it’s getting kinda late this evening, I’m in Socorro, NM. This afternoon/evening was my first experience at Bosque. It went quite well with numerous shots captured of sandhill cranes. A few of the better shots of the day are posted below. I’m still in the process of learning how to maximize my 80-400mm VR lens in low light environment. I think the best trick with this lens is once the twilight low-luminosity time hits, it’s best to set it on a tripod, frame the image, and let the birds “fly into” the landscape scene.

I’m finding that trying to track/pan is a pain in the ass when the light gets low…since this lens is pretty slow at only a f/5.6 at it’s widest at 400mm. I like to photograph birds in their environment anyway. The light really changes fast once you approach sunset, and you have to think fast to perfectly execute the shot you really want when you don’t have a $5,000 500mm fast-action prime lens like I saw some photographers out there on the “Flight Deck” with._DSC7733-01.jpg




NM Photo Trip Day 1: White Sands NM

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 11:12 am

I left Dodge City shortly before 6pm. I had planned to drive until I got tired somewhere south of Santa Rosa. I only slept for about 3 hours or so in the car. It doesn’t help when it dips down into the mid 20s. My sleeping bag did provide some decent warmth :) Well, I woke up around 430am and continued driving. I decided instead of driving straight to_DSC7411-02.jpg White Sands I would give a shot at interesting sunrise shots overlooking the basin to the east where White Sands is from Sacramento Peak. Well, it was kind of worth the drive. I couldn’t find a good overlook spot. Even the _DSC7377-02.jpgoverlook from the Sun Observatory atop Sacramento Peak wasn’t the best. It was also a rather hazy to the distant San Andres Mountains. So I drove back to Alamogorodo then to White Sands for my day photography. It was actually good I goofed off up near Sacramento Peak instead, because the Monument was closed until 9am local time for White Sands Missile Range testing.

I set off to hike the Alkali Trail around 11am and returned about 230pm after hiking the whole trail. Wow, what a hike! The dunes are nothing short of spectacular, some upwards of 60 feet tall. The hike ends at the Alkali Flat, a desolate baren area where the dunes actually begin and are carried northeast by the prevailing winds. I was pretty bummed initially because there was a lot of high cirrus clouds blocking out the sun quite a bit. Not a half hour into the hike the skies rapidly became mostly sunny as the cirrus thinned… it actuall provided for excellent compositional opportunities with what cirrus clouds were left.

It was well into the mid-upper 60s for the entire hike, and the wind remained less than 10mph for most of the hike, it actually picked up to 15-20mph towards the end, but not enough really to move the sand. I actually hiked about 1.5 miles of the 4.5 mile trip barefooted, LOL. The sand is very fine, almost like powdered sugar, but not quite that extreme. The circular polarizer filter was used the entire time during my shoot on Alkali Trail, and thank god I had it. The p_DSC7533-02.jpgolarizer actually allowed for some interesting effects from the sparkling of the gypsum grains with the sunlight. Since the light being reflected off the sand is polarized, you could get very creative with artistic shots… and I took_DSC7526-02.jpg advantage of this!

After the hike, I drove back to Alamogordo and checked in to drop all my stuff off. I returned to the monument around 445pm. Sunset was 530pm local time, and I scoped out a location to focus on for the “magic hour”. After a couple quarter mile hikes, I finally found a magical spot about one quarter mile west of the road. Using my handheld GPS unit was very beneficial, because it’s easy to get lost out there in the dunes. This allowed me to explore quite a bit without worrying about losing a visual landmark. I photographed sunset and got some of the images I was really looking for. Wow. Simply amazing sunset. Since the drive closed one hour after sunset, I was able to get the 20-30 minutes of post sunset magic I was really wanting to get… therefore it wasn’t really necessary to inquire about getting into the park before opening time the next morning. I found out that you need to give a couple day’s notice anyway, and it’s about $50. So, the following morning I was just going to relax and get caught up on sleep. The images shown in my blog are very quickly processed images. I will do full processing of all my shots and put them on my Gallery when I get back home. Day 2 it’s off to Bosque!

January 26, 2006

New Mexico Photo Trip: Jan 27-31

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 4:45 pm

I’m about to depart for my New Mexico photography trip. It will be a 5-day trip chalk full of photographing oppotunities. I’ve researched what place I want to hit for this trip over the past several weeks. My first visit will be White Sands Nat’l Monument, arriving early tomorrow morning. Here is a crude itenerary of what I plan to photograph through this trip:

Friday 27th: early morning sunrise photography @ White Sands. Mid-morning to midday acquaintence with the park. Afternoon hike the Alkali Trail, with evening photography in the dunes before they kick me out just after sunset.

Saturday 28th: Up very early for another dawn shoot at White Sands. I’m going to try to get in before 7am local time to get setup for pre-sunrise shots. Apparantly there is a $50 fee to get a ranger to open the gates an hour early. Shoot most of the morning at White Sands until sun angle gets too high. Drive to Socorro. Late afternoon/evening visit at Bosque NWR. My first photo shoot will be that evening as the thousands of geese/ducks/cranes fly-in to roost for the night.

Sunday 29th: Up very early arriving at Bosque about 45 to an hour before sunrise. Morning shoot of the incredible “fly-out”. The rest of the day will be a more relaxing/liesure tour around Bosque with sporadic photography here and there. Then will setup for the next evening “fly-in” shoot.

Monday 30th: Up very early for Bosque “fly-out” shoot #2… will stay in Bosque until late morning or so. Drive to Santa Fe and check-in. Drive to Nambe Pueblo a few miles north of Santa Fe and photograph Nambe Falls.

Tuesday 31st: Up early depart Santa Fe for Bandelier Nat’l Mon. Hike the Falls Trail and photograph upper/lower falls and other scenics around the Rio Grande canyons. Drive back home.

I will try to keep a daily blog of events and a photo or two from the day, likely in the late evenings before crashing for the night… as time allows.


January 19, 2006

300: 786

Filed under: Bowling — Mike U @ 9:38 pm

I really cannot explain it… my up and down bowling. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been in a pretty low valley, my game. A couple weekends ago I bowled in a scratch tournament here in Dodge and in the 4-game qualifying I averaged no better than 175. I just couldn’t focus and it didn’t help that the lanes were oilier than usual and my ball just wasn’t reacting with a ton of carrydown… and I couldn’t carry for crap either. It was rather frustrating. It also didn’t help that I was bowling in about an hour and a half of sleep after coming off a midnight shift.

Last night was an entirely different story. I cannot explain how I could go from one extreme to another other than the fact that the lanes we were bowling on had a huge holding area for me and a shot about 5 boards wide, so that if I did miss either way, it would be in the pocket. I was carrying everything. My 2nd game was the 9th 300 of my bowling career, with every shot pretty much flush in the hole. The 10th ball was remarkable. I came in just slightly behind the head pin and left a soft 10-pin…however, the head-pin messenger came across like a bat outta hell… and ultimately took out the 10 in a last minute show of drama. All the bowlers around me watching let out a huge “Yeah!” when that last pin gracefully fell. The 11th and 12th were solid… except my 12th ball was far from solid release… as I double dribbled the damn thing, but following through and slow enough ball speed allowed for enough compensation to get the job done.

Next game started with 4 flush strikes. 5th frame I slowed the ball down too much and left a nasty 3-4-7 split. Didn’t convert, but followed it with another 6-in-a-row. The last ball was a solid 10-pin hit in the 12th frame for a 262… leading to my new all-time high series of 786… just 14 shy of the elusive and extremely difficult 800 series. -Mike

January 16, 2006

Photo Trip to Quivira NWR on Jan 12th

Filed under: Photography — Mike U @ 12:16 am

Graceful flight of a Northern HarrierLess than a couple weeks ago I got my new Nikon 80-400mm lens shipped to me and since then, I have been itching at every opportunity to get out and shoot with this thing. You can read a review on this lens here. It serves as a great “starter” wildlife lens covering a large focal range, which is what I like…. which allows me more landscape creativity as well. Last Thursday I drove out to Quivira NWR about an hour and a half drive from Dodge City for my first real “shoot” with this lens. I arrived just before sunrise at the Big Salt Marsh portion of the reserve on the north side. “Wildlife Drive” is probably the best area to see birds of all sort on the reserve. It’s the dead of winter, so only the winter nesting birds that make Quivira home are all that’s out there… but that’s quite bit… all sorts of waterfowl including mallards, wood ducks, snow geese, Canada geese, etc etc. Of course, predator birds love this, so they are out in force as well, providing a great opportunity for photography.
Mallards in flight
I arrived on scene to the mass exodus of birds leaving the morning roost. Thousands and thousands of Starling littered the sky in a poetic choreography. These birds have a maneuverability that I’ve never seen before. They usually fly in huge flocks in the winter time from what I have read. So when the morning light is limited just as the sun comes up, I’m in “birdscape” mode at the wide end of the telephoto lens. I remained on Wildlife Drive for a couple hours after sunrise getting quite a few shots in. I was fortunate to have a Northern Harrier pass low pretty close to my surveying the ground and was able to get in a good couple of shots of him. After a couple hours, I already shot close to 90 pictures, and only had about 20 left on the memory card. I just have one 1GB card with me, but I also have my laptop with me. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my card reader with me, so I pretty much bagged this trip at about 930am or so. The first time out there to Quivira was a great experience. I am off work on Martin Luther King Jr day, so I plan to take another trip out there and make a full-day event out of it.

a I’m trying to become as familiar and comfortable as possible with this lens so I’m ready use it full-force on an extended photo trip I have decided to take in a couple weeks. I’ll be heading out to New Mexico for 5 days to White Sands NM and Bosque Del Apache Nat’l Wildlife Refuge. Anyway, more details on this trip in another post.

Quivira NWR Photos — Jan 12

January 15, 2006

Blog has been transferred to Underthemeso.com!

Filed under: UTM Updates — Mike U @ 1:37 am

Well I successfully got this new Blog up. Wow, what a powerful PHP code WordPress is. A lot of the little doodads, bells, and whistles that come with this I’m still figuring out. It took me half the evening just to get the friggin presentation/style the way I want it… and I still have work to do. There is this import feature that transfered all my Blogger stuff over here, which I wasn’t even aware of until I started clicking around in the admin options. Sweet! Anyhoo, I’ll try to write a little more often now that I’m not blogging on some foreign site and I have complete control with how I want this styled. I like it so far… stay tuned :-)


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