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Hike to Two Rivers Lake

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Northeast end of Two Rivers Lake looking at Notch Top Mountain

Dave, a good photog friend and hiking buddy of mine, and I hiked up to Two Rivers Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park this last week.  It’s a relatively short hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead up the Flat top trail towards Odessa and Lily Lake along the Fern Lake Trail.  About 6 miles round trip.  To avoid the crowds at this very popular Trailhead we arrived a little after 6am at Bear Lake to begin our hike.

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Dave stands beside the sign where the Flattop Mountain Trail and the Fern Lake Trail diverge

It was an entertaining trek as we encountered numerous small streams with running water (your hiking along Mill Creek that comes from Two Rivers Lake) and a variety of wildflowers along the way.

Two Rivers Lake can be difficult to find.  It’s not readily visible from the trail unless you’re looking for it.  There is not a true trail to it and thus one must ‘bushwhack’ their way to it.  The lake is not far off the Fern Lake Trail, at the most about a hundred yards.  But between you and the lake is a downhill boulder field followed by thick vegetation to whack through once you get close to the water. 

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A good ‘tell’ that you are in the area is a sign for a backcountry campground named ‘Sourdough’.  Once you meet up with this sign, the place to get off the trail is only about 50+ yards ahead (on the left).  At this point you will have to pick what looks like the easiest way to Rock Hop down to the lake (and through the thick trees).

Now, there’s a trail of sorts that one can take down near the lake about 25 yards beyond this point.  The problem with this is that the trail takes you toward the southwest end of the lake.  If you’re there for photography, this is not the end of the lake you want to be at.  Jutting up out of the lake at the southwest end is Notch Top Mountain.  Viewing from the Northeast end of the lake makes for a more pleasing photograph with Mountain giving the image depth at the other end.  So, if you have been ‘sucked’ down this trail, you now have to rock hop and bushwhack back around the edge of the lake.  We had a lot of company along this trek (yes, we erroneously went down the trail) in the form of swarms of mosquitoes.  In fact, they were ever present our whole time at the lake, but I came away with zero bites.  No idea why?  All males?

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I ‘rock hopped’ across the water to get out to a vantage from which to shoot.

At the northeast end I found rocks in the water that I could use to make my way out into the lake to get a decent angle from which to look down it’s length (see picture at top of post). 

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See Dave at the far left, in the bushes getting his shot!

Dave had long pants on (I was in shorts) and choose to continue through very thick brush to the end of the lake and shoot from there.  But, he’s the professional, what do I know (but I’m learning!).

After we were done, we rock hopped directly back up to Fern Lake Trail.  It was mindful of the ‘Boulder Field’ one hops through up near the Keyhole on Long’s Peak.  The differences?  They’re large rocks not boulders and it’s not as long a hopping journey to endeavor!

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Dave finishing up his trek over the rocks back to the Fern Lake Trail

At this point it was only about 10 am, so we chose to hike on to Lake Helene which is about a quarter mile up the trail.  It’s a smaller, roundish lake with very clear water.  We didn’t spend much time there and hiked a little farther to a rocky overlook that provides a view down a long valley in which Lake Odessa is visible. Fern Lake (which lies beyond Lake Odessa) is not visible from this perch.

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Rocky perch available on the left side of trail when traveling toward Odessa Lake

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Odessa Lake visible in the valley from atop the rock perch.

I learned that some treat the Fern Lake Trail as a loop hike.  They continue downhill into the valley from this point past Lake Odessa to Fern Lake.  Nearby Fern Lake (I’m told) you can pick up a shuttle that will take you back up to Bear Lake (and your car).  This makes the hike about 8 miles plus the ride.  We chose to hike back down to Bear Lake meeting many friendly hikers coming up along our way.

(Except for the very top image, all the rest were taken with an iPhone 7 plus)

Shooting Birds!

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Male House Finch

I’ve owned a Vello Freewave wireless remote shutter release for a few years now.  It’s been almost the same amount time since I’ve used it.  Lately, I’ve been motivated to learn to ID all those birds that look like sparrows to me.  I thought the best way to do this would be to use the ‘Vello’ to photograph the birds at my feeder.  That way I could ‘kill two birds with one stone’ so to speak.  Was that inappropriate?  Birders may now distrust me 😉

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Female House Finch

I’ve had a feeder set up at my new house in Colorado for about a month.  I also put a device on the ground by the feeder that holds water and keeps it from freezing.  I thought in this dry terrain (high desert), where little water is available and what is available (local reservoirs) is frozen, that if I could provide them with it they would come.  Casually I’ve noticed that the diversity of birds at my feeder is fairly low.  Since I’ve began to spend more time watching it (with the camera) I’ve learned that this diversity is pretty slim – so far.  I know it may take much more time and consistency with what I’m offering the birds to draw them in.  Other things like safe shelter from which to perch will also be something I need to work on.  In the end, my deductions were supported by my results.  All I have so far are house finches.

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Birdfeeder setup with camera and heated water

Back to the photography side of this exercise.  I haven’t taken the opportunity to use my Nikon 200-400 F4 VR Lens this winter.  I had initially purchase it a few years back to use in photographing outdoor sports when I lived back in Michigan.  Since coming to Colorado, I’ve largely used it for capturing images of wildlife (coyotes, mule deer and Elk) in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The remote setup would allow me to take pictures of the birds at a much closer distance (about 8 ft) and with a tripod.  Realizing this would affect the depth of field I wanted to practice to see what fstop I would need to use.  Some of my early shots used an fstop of f4 – f8.  I found that this resulted in way too shallow a depth of field.  I wanted to get almost all of the bird sharp and still have a pleasing, out of focus background.  The shots of the included male and female house finch were a result of moving the fstop to f14.

I hope to solve a couple of problems with this experiment in the near future.  The first, looking at the image of the female house finch one can tell it’s not as sharp as the male image.  This was a result of the feeder rotating when the female landed on it.  Bringing it forward to the near edge of the depth of field.  Restricting the movement of the feeder will eliminate the problem.  Secondly, I would like to experiment with larger fstops.  Hopefully, allowing the whole bird to be sharp.

Please excuse the shape of my blog.  I haven’t posted in quite awhile and it looks terrible.  I will be working on updating the look soon.  Please come back once and while and join me!

Any input on this topic is welcome!

Google’s PhotoScan

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Old black and white from the 50s of me and my sisters all dressed up for Easter.

If like me, you have boxes and boxes of pictures stored is secret places in your house, Googles new app, PhotoScan may be for you.  With the word ‘Scan’ in it’s name you might think that it’s just another ‘Scanner app’.  But, Photoscan is just optimized for images, not documents.  It’s meant to be a sister app to Google photo (which also just got an upgrade).  The new app is meant to get those old family photos out of the attic and into your Google photos.  Or Apple photos.  But, I must say, that if your an iPhone user like me you really should consider using Google photos (or Amazon photos) to back up the photos on your phone.  I like both of them better than Apple’s iCloud solution.  Here’s a link to the iOS version and the Android version.

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In starting the app, it prompts you to position your photo into the frame.  Once it senses your image is completely within the frame, five circles will appear.  One in the middle, and four at the corners of your screen.

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It will direct you, with an arrow, to move the middle circle (by moving the phone) over each corner circle in sequence.  In doing this, the app takes four images of your picture and then seamlessly sews them together.  This allows it to correct the angle (in case you’re not perfect like me) and eliminate any glare from the surface of the photo.  It then optimizes the images automatically (color corrected) including rotating it.  My experience was that the auto-rotation did not always occur.  But that was simple enough to correct in post within the app.  After you have captured the picture you can trim the sides (crop).  I found this difficult, but that may be due to my fat fingers?  Another problem I ran into at this point was when using their cropping tool, what I finished with was not always the same as what I was left with in the final product. One side frequently was cropped much more than what I saved.  To avoid this problem, I cropped the image in my photo app when I was done.  You can save it at this point or continue scanning images and save them all at once when finished.  If you’re an Android user, you can find your saved images but searching for under ‘scans’. Final note on the PhotoScan app, if you use a Photography Scanning Bed for your photos now, this app will probably not do as well.  But, it does do a good job and definitely speeds the task up.

Google’s Photo App also just received a significant upgrade.  They have changed and improved their Auto Enhance feature.  Auto Enhance now makes different adjustments based on what it judges to be the content of the image.  These are called ‘Looks‘.  Also, it now has slider controls for ‘light’, ‘color’ and ‘pop’ tools.  It is expanding the number of automatically generated movies from your pictures.  It will soon add three more types of movies;  1. New born, 2. Formal occasions (like weddings) and 3. ‘Through the years‘ which include annual events like Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

 

 

Budapest from the Danuabe

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Building a house makes it difficult to get out hiking to take images.  So, with a winter storm bearing down on us in Colorado, I was going through images I took on a Viking cruise in the summer of 2014 to re-edit with some a new workflow I picked up from a BHPhoto Video featuring Tim Greay.

The image above is a night shot from the top of a Viking River Boatmoored on the Danuabe River south of City Center in BudaPest, at the beginning of our cruise. This is the Liberty Bridge.  It was built for millennium celebrations 1894-96.  Emperor Franz Joseph hammered the last silver nail at his inauguration celebration on the Pest side finishing the bridge.  The Pest side is visible with the bridge terminating in the Gellért tér Public Square with the Hotel Gellert visible in the background.

 

El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA

 

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This state park, located along the coast, is popular with photographers for it’s large, accessible rock formations located on the beach.  It is somewhat difficult to access due to the steep stairs one must use to gain access.

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My two adult children and I had decided to take a quick trip to Cali to see a couple of hockey games in the L.A. area (LGRW).  Between the games we hoped to do some hiking, but due to the recent rains decided to forego the muddy trails for the beach.  I had brought my camera with me, but not my tripod (we went as light as possible so as not to check any bags on the flight).  I had brought a JOBY Gorillapod Focus + Ballhead that I’ve owned for a couple of years, but never used.  So, for the pictures here I struggled with it.  Not using it to hang off a tree branch, but to support the camera from the ground proved awkward at best.  But, it worked in a pinch. I have since purchased a Vanguard VEO 235AB Tripod which will be perfect for hiking in the Rockies where I live.  It will fit into my day pack nicely as it folds up to just 15 inches high and supports up to 13.2 lbs.

Above is a Time Lapse I took with my iPhone 6+s using the app Hyperlapse.  This is me following my son and daughter down the steep trail and steps to the beach.

The conditions for photography were not great in that it was overcast with gray skies and somewhat foggy.  But we had fun and I got a couple of ‘travel photos’ to mark the occasion!

 

Learning the mechanics of using the Gif Format to exploit moving water.

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Lately I’ve seen several animated GIFs that were made from high quality landscape images with just water moving through them.  They were quite eye catching.  I had never made GIFs except for several images from my iPhone or simply used ones that Google photos had auto made from images I had uploaded to Google plus.  We finally got a short break from rain here in Colorado, so this afternoon I took a short run up the Poudre Canyon to catch a series of images of the river to practice this technique.  I took 17 images and edited them in Lightroom.  The images were taken with a Nikon D810 and Nikkor 24-70 lens.  After editing raw files, I reduced the images to 1200 x 800 px and exported them to Photoshop to complete the transition to a GIF format.

The mechanics of the process seem simple enough.  But, I think a smaller stream working it’s way through a rocky bed, surrounded by dense foliage may be more appealing.  Hopefully my trip to Rainier National Park this summer will offer such opportunities!

Spiking it in Rocky, Testing Kahtoola’s MICROspikes







_VEE0190Today was the first day I had time and weather to get out into the mountains.  I was excited to try out my new MICROspikes from Kahtoola.  I had tried several hikes in winter mountains last year without them and it was difficult and scary!

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So here they are (above), trying them on for the first time in the parking lot!  Just navigating the ice in the Parking Lot had me thinking that I had spent my money wisely!

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My test for them was to take place in an area I was familiar with, Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Bear Lake has a number of spurs off of it one can take up into the mountains.  But, it also has a relatively level hike around the Lake that is only about a mile.  Well, the initial trial went so well I was easily drawn in to do an uphill test.

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One of the spurs off the lake has a trial that after .4 miles splits and heads up to the top of Flat Top Mountain.  It’s 4 miles (as you can see from the sign) and goes gradually uphill, high above the lakes on a trial below that leads to Emerald Lake.  Now, I didn’t pretend that I would go that to the top of the mountain on my initial test, but I knew there was a nice overlook of one of the lakes below (Dream Lake) just less than two miles away.

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So, I was off.  It was a beautiful day.  Blue skies and temps in the mid to upper 30s at the elevation I was hiking at.  There was 2.5 to 3 feet of snow on the trial.  But, it had been well packed down by snowshoers and traction footwear hikers like me.  Even though I have been walking and jogging to stay in shape, I soon learned the difference that altitude and snow can make!  The MICROspikes worked well though and I felt confident going across some fairly steep areas along the way.  I only ‘telephone poled‘ it a couple of times.  That’s a term I learned at lunch in town.  That’s when you sink into the snow up to your butt!

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The only real downside to my hike was the occasional garbage and defacing of trees I found along the trail.

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Usually when you get more than 100 yards from the parking lot one does not find these type of problems.  The hikers that have worked to get this far are usually very aware of how their behavior can detract from the beauty of this area.  Leave No Trace is their mantra.  I guess this area (near the beginning of the spur) was low enough that some newbie hikers had made it this far.  I only hope they learn quickly the negative effect their careless behavior has on the experience of other hikers and the environment.

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The view along the way was beautiful and I was rewarded when I got to the Dream Lake Overlook with a beautiful azure blue sky.  You could look over the edge and see hikers walking along the frozen lake below.  As for photography, my only complaint was that I could have used a few clouds to make the sky more interesting.  But, hey, who’s complaining when this is the view from their office?