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



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!

FullSizeRender (1)

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!


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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?

Doggie Photoshoot!

Jess and ZoeyMy daughter has a 5 yr old rescue dog (looks like a cattle dog).  This critter will play fetch with anything.


It is tenacious, never tiring.  We decided to take her dog (Zoey) down to the local park and get some shots of her in action.  Today, we are using a fabric frisbee.  I find this a great way to practice for my sports shooting.


I love the myriad of facial expressions Zoey provides.  In the one above she appears to be looking straight into the camera asking ‘Did you get this one, I caught it!’.


Great fun for sure.  The best part is that she never asks ‘Is that enough’ and is always ready for more!  Great Practice!

Fort Collins Fossil Ridge Basketball vs Poudre (Back to Sports)

Savannah Smith vs Poudre

Savannah Smith drew fouls from her drives in the paint much of the night.

It’s been a little over a year since I moved from Michigan to Colorado and quit shooting sports.  This week I got back to having fun!  Thursday night I was lucky enough to shoot a couple of state ranked basketball teams (CHSAANow.com basketball poll).  Fifth ranked Fossil Ridge Sabre Cats Girl’s Team was at home playing previously ranked league foe, Poudre High School Impalas.  There’s been a lot of historic battles between these two league foes and this game was no exception.  The Cats jumped out to an early lead but by halftime it was a one point game.  The game seesawed in the second half till late when the Cats extended out to a six point lead, with a final score of 52-56 .  Savanah Smith lead the Cats with 15 pts, 11 of which came at the foul line.  Her ability to draw fouls on the drive to the basket put Madison Hamm out of the game in the second half.  Lots of pictures from this game.  See them here.

Alex Semadeni Slams on down

Alex Semadeni Slams on down

In the second game of the night, the second ranked Sabercats took on a much less talented Poudre Team.  This contest was over from the get-go, with the cats running out to a 27-2 lead in the first quarter.  Evan Smith lead the way for the Cats with 17 pts.  But, the scoring was spread out as 11 Sabercats got on the board.  Sawyer Findley lead the way for Poudre with 17 points. There are lots of pictures from this game also. Plus there are pictures from a half time performance by the Sabercats Pom Squad.  See them here.

Crystal Lakes, Rocky Mountain N.P.

Lawn Lake, RMNP

Lawn Lake, RMNP

This picture is taken from the south end of Lawn Lake in RMNP.  If you look above the far end of the lake, slightly left off center you can make out what appears to be an ‘M’ made from left over snow.  It is just below this snow when my destination for this post the, Crystal Lakes lie.  (This picture was taken on a previous trip to Lawn Lake).


Little Crystal Lake

In my journey to get back to ‘Long’s Peak’ health since my surgery, I took another step this week.  About 10 days ago I had hiked up to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain N.P.  It was a 12 mile hike (round trip), 2500 ft gain to just shy of 11,000 ft. elevation and had wiped me out.    Upon return from the hike I was reading one of my hiking books (Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park) and discovered that there are two more destinations above Lawn Lake, Crystal Lakes and The Saddle.  Crystal Lakes are two small Alpine Lakes about 2 miles and 500 ft above Lawn Lake.  The Saddle is a little less than a mile beyond Crystal Lakes and another 500 ft higher than them.  It sits in-between Hagues Peak and Fairchild Mountain and provides expansive views to the northwest.  I talked myself into small steps and decided to only go to Crystal Lakes this time and then do more conditioning and go back to The Saddle another day.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

Lawn Lake from the north

Lawn Lake from the north

The extra 500 ft elevation at the lakes provide a beautiful view back toward Lawn Lake.  Being late summer, you can see that the water level is somewhat down.   However, the high water mark you can see in the picture is from long ago when a crude dam was constructed to make this a reservoir for farmers down the mountain.  The dam was was not properly maintained and is now gone.  Crystal Lakes are much smaller and packed tightly into a cirque on the side of Fairchild Mountain.  Being unable to back up much to get more of the lakes into the picture results in a very incomplete view of the beauty I found.  I’ll have to remember to take a wider angle lens with me next time.  (Although, carrying a D4 body, 24-70 lens, a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Head and a Gitzo GT3541XLS Tripod up has me pretty much at my carrying capacity!).  So, I completed this 16 mile Trek and felt I had a little gas left in the tank.  However, I realize two things: One, I need to increase my effort in preparation as this does not equate to Long’s Peak in effort.  Longs is a shorter hike, but another 2,000 ft in elevation gain.  Two, I read that the views from The Saddle are beautiful and that you can see Laramie, Wyoming from there.  With that as motivation I will make it my next step toward getting back to summit Long’s for the fourth time.

Hike to Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Indian Peaks Wilderness AreaIndian Peaks Wilderness Area is missed by most visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is located about 25 miles south of the National Park and has some fantastic hiking opportunities.If you don’t have the energy (or are simply not in good enough shape) to hike into the sub-alpine and alpine areas of the Rockies, one can drive to trailheads here that begin around 10,500 ft!  In this post, I would like to describe a hike I’ve done a number of times.  It’s a hike up to Lake Isabelle (as sub-alpine lake).

Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

The distance to Lake Isabelle is a 2.5 mile hike from the trailhead.  It is rated as easy as it remains nearly flat for the majority of the hike.  Toward the very end you’ll go through a couple of switch backs, but nothing too steep.  From trailhead to the lake there is only a 388 ft gain in altitude, topping out at 10,868 ft.  It’s a fee area, but if you have your National Park Pass you can use it to get you in free!  Brainard Lake MapThe picture on the left is of my hiking buddy, Steve, looking at a map of the Brainard Lake Area.  It has plenty of camping sites (first come, first served) on paved interior roads.  There are no services available.  They do have nice bathrooms available, but no flush toilets or running water.  This is typically a wet area, so plan on muddy boots and bring rain gear.

Brainard Lake

The area is so named for a dammed lake (Brainard Lake)  You are able to drive across the dam on the way to the trailheads.  Take time to look around the lake and it’s dam.  It’s a beautiful area.  The dam feeds a stream that runs off toward the campgrounds.  Moose frequent the area.  They are fun to watch, but keep your distance, especially from cows and their calfs!

Brainard Lake Dam

Brainard Lake Dam

The Trailheads provides ample paved parking and information concerning trail conditions and recent animal sightings.  Before taking off on your hike, be sure to visit the park volunteers at the information booth to check trail conditions.

Lake Isabelle Trailhead

Lake Isabelle Trailhead

Steve and I at the Trailhead

Steve and I at the Trailhead

The trail is shaded for much of your journey as you will be hiking through Engelmann Spruce and subalpine fir.  The first mile of your hike will have you walking beside Long Lake (which not surprisingly is a long lake!).  It won’t be visible most of time as it is hidden by the trees.


There are two ways around the lake.  The trail on the north side is the most direct and most traveled (Isabelle Glacier Trail).  If you choose to take the south trail (Jean Lunning Trail), you will cross a small bridge and go around the lake meeting back up with the main trail at the west end of the lake.  It is about 4 miles to circumnavigate Long Lake.

This is a worth while hike on it’s own as many wildlife sightings have been reported in the area.  The day we hiked, there had been moose, bear and mountain lion spotted in the area over the past week!  Unfortunately, the only animals we encountered were noisy marmots up by Lake Isabelle.  There are many wild flowers along the trail in June and July.  So, don’t be surprised to come across the scene below often!


Stopping to photograph wild flowers and water falls can lengthen the duration of your hike quite a bit.  So, be sure to plan the time into your schedule for ‘stopping to smell the roses’,  as it’s well worth it.  Below are some of the flowers we found along the path on our hike.



Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Shrubby Cinquefoil



After hiking past Long Lake you will begin to notice the area up ahead  appears to be significantly higher in elevation than you are currently at.  You are about to travel up a few switch backs to climb up to Lake Isabelle.  This will prove to be  the most picturesque part of the your hike.


Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

You are soon rewarded with a view of Lake Isabelle.  At the north end you may notice a large snow cap across the escaping water that cascades into the valley below.  Keep an eye and an ear out for the Marmots playing in the rocks to your right.


This lake serves as a reservoir for some of the towns east of the foothills in Colorado.  The day we were there, it was half drained to permit some work on the outlet.  But, as you can see below, it still is a beautiful subalpine lake.


If you’re adventurous, you may want to continue your hike up through the pass.  There is plenty more to see if you’re in shape and properly equipped!

May trip to Rocky Mountain N. P.


Following the near 15″ snowfall we had in Fort Collins earlier this week, I took a trip up into Rocky Mountain National Park to see what the state of the park was.  The sun had melted most of the snow in Fort Collins over the last couple of days and to my surprise their wasn’t much snow left in the lower parts of the park either.  All the pictures here are from Moraine Park.  A friend and I (Steve) were returning down into Moraine Park from a drive up to Bear Lake (where there is still substantial snow!  Also, be forewarned that this road is under construction and is dirt for about half of it.).  Upon entering Moraine Park we spotted four Coyotes running together.  Being caught with my 24-70 lens on the body of the D4, I hurriedly stopped and ran to the back of the truck and threw my 300 mm, f2.8 on.


By this time the Coyotes were moving quickly through the trees left to right.  I took several shots, but only managed to capture no more than three of them in the lens at a time.  Steve said that they seemed to be chasing (or at least spooked) several Mule Deer that were now further up on one of the hills.  As you can see the coyotes still look healthy in the winter coats.  A lesson here was re-learned.  While at a Moose Peterson workshop in Yellowstone back in 2009 I observed that he always drove through the park with a his camera attached to a long lens on his lap!

_VEE8121-EditA little further along the road that goes down into Moraine Park there were 30-40 Elk spread out over a couple hundred yards.  Unlike the coyotes, these animals looked like it had been a long winter. They appeared to have begun the process of loosing their winter coats (along with their winter fat stores)


.   Hopefully with the snow melting they will be able to fatten up.  A few of the Elk had a few riding buddies.  A couple of Magpies were hopping from back to back on some of the Elk.  They appeared to eating bugs from around the necks.  But, to be honest, this is just a guess on my part as I was unable to actually see this occur.


If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a Magpie on the closest elk.  On the way out of the park we stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.  Steve noticed a Mountain Bluebird near the parking lot.  There have been a number of reports this week that large numbers of them had been found dead following the snow storm in the Fort Collins area.  One of the possible reasons was that many of these birds had just arrived in the area with depleted fat reserves from their migration.  The record cold temperatures during the day and half storm may have been too much for birds and were unable to keep themselves warm.  So, this Bluebird was a welcome sight.

_VEE8154-EditI apologize for messy look of the blog.  It appears that many of the links have broken in the outside columns.  I will try to clean these up over the next few days!