Upcoming Show at NCAR!

Today we spent a few hours up at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), above Boulder, setting up for our show that will be open to visitors and viewers tomorrow. As the freezing fog swirled around the stylish brick building at the foot of the Flatirons, we balanced and leveled framed photographs on the walls and nooks of the large, warm, dining area.

The show, as shown in the above announcement, involves four Photography for a Change (PFAC) photographers: Dana Bove (the PFAC founder), Bryce Bradford (a local, very talented, photog), María Rosa Fusté (my much better and more creative half), and lucky me.

Our art will hang from December 1, 2014 through January 31, 2015 and a portion of any sales proceeds will go to benefit Attention Homes and Western Resource Advocates (thus: “Photography for a Change”).

Cynthia Marsh, although not with the Photography for a Change group, will also be displaying her gorgeous abstract paintings in the same exhibit area. Her work is exceptional–some really wonderful explorations of mood and color–and well worth a look see and chat with the artist.

A big thanks to Audrey Lewis (and her husband volunteer!) for her work in running the Community Art Program at NCAR and making these exhibits possible.

So, here is your official invite

Drop by NCAR this coming Saturday, December 6th, any time from 5p.m. to 8p.m., for the official Show Opening. We’ll have some snacks and some mood music in the background. We would love to see you there and talk a little art!

Action photo by María Rosa Fusté:

Prepping for the NCAR Show. Boulder, Colorado, November 30, 2014
Prepping for the NCAR Show. Boulder, Colorado, November 30, 2014

Fiery Sunrise in the Flatirons

Viewed from the City of Boulder, the Flatirons look to be a simple, one-dimensional wall of forest, mountain, and sandstone slabs. However, once you enter this wonderland, via one of myriad trails, you soon realize the area is replete with channels, arroyos, canyons, pinnacles, hollows, clearings, cliffs, overhangs, bizarre boulders, nooks and crannies, and even the occasional hobbit. Well, maybe not the last…just maybe.

Here is what most people see of the Flatirons, with the key slabs appropriately labeled:

Chautauqua View of Flatirons. Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Chautauqua View of Flatirons. Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

There are other perspectives. If you want your images to look different than the ho-hum standard, you’ll have to look for these different angles.

So, this morning’s pre-dawn walk-by-headlamp took me up through Gregory Canyon, past the Amphitheater, then via a faint climber’s trail to the saddle just west of (behind) the First Flatiron. The location turned out to be a mini-paradise and playground of odd-shaped trees, slabs and boulders. And, for me, it came filled with memories from a past life as a bit-too-fanatical rock climber who didn’t pay enough attention to his natural surroundings.

I settled in to this quiet, perfect spot to await the morning light and the rising of the giant solar orb. First light painted the striated clouds with a palette of unearthly delight. What a wonderful alternative to the mall madness of Black Friday!

Some selected images:

Boulder and the First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Boulder and the First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fiery Sunrise, Third Flatiron, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fiery Sunrise, Third Flatiron, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fiery Sunrise, First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fiery Sunrise, First Flatiron. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunrise Between First and Third Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunrise Between First and Third Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
First Flatiron, View North. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
First Flatiron, View North. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
First Flatiron Profile. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (From the town, looking up, you don't see how low angle they really are.)
First Flatiron Profile. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (From the town, looking up, you don’t see how low angle they really are.)

Happy National Turkey Day!

Ben's Birds On Display. RMNP, Colorado, 2014
Ben’s Birds On Display. RMNP, Colorado, 2014

Apparently, the idea that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird is not precisely true. He did, though, question the idea of the eagle and, in that context, he examined the relatively superior characteristics of the turkey. You can read Franklin’s very words in this Smithsonian article–words I’m sure he wrote with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Now, some more humor…of a sort.

Expression o’ the day: “Tying on a groaner.”

Explanation: Eating so much all you are capable of doing is laying down on the carpeted floor and groaning.

Be thankful you have the food and the carpet to be able to do this. The whole idea of being able to “tie on a groaner” would be totally foreign to many millions in this world of ours.

 

Parting iPhone shot (but channeling the wet plate process of William Henry Jackson). The view from the mountain biking trails on Marshall Mesa this Thanksgiving morning:

Flatirons Pano from Marshall Mesa. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Flatirons Pano from Marshall Mesa. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Colorado Summits: Green Mountain (8,144′) via Gregory Canyon

If you have 3 to 5 hours to spare (depending on the strength and speed of your petit pistons), this is another one for a good workout and some great Boulder views . You’ll climb some 2300′ above the city and cover around 5.5 miles round trip. Park at Chautauqua Park (or Gregory Canyon area, once it opens after flood repairs), and then take the Amphitheater-Saddle Rock-Greenman trail combination to the summit at 8,144′.

For photography, you’ll have to work for your summit images as trees close off some of the vistas (thus, Bear Peak is still my favorite for making pictures of the world below). Still, it’s a fun trip to a relaxing lunch spot. Climb the summit boulder and  match up the distant high points of the Continental Divide with the peaks named on the giant, round, bronze monument.

Some selected images (from yesterday, mid-afternoon):

Layers, #1. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (The view to the southwest)
Layers, #1. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (The view to the southwest.)
Storm Over Twin Sisters. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Looking north)
Storm Over Twin Sisters. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Looking north.)
Bear Peak Profile. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014. (Looking south. South Boulder Peak is up the right-hand ridge.)
Bear Peak Profile. From Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014. (Looking south. South Boulder Peak is up the right-hand ridge.)
First Flatiron Profile, #1. Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014. (On the Saddle Rock Trail.)
First Flatiron Profile, #1. Green Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014. (From the Saddle Rock Trail.)

The Price of a Framed Print

Dawn On the Plains. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Dawn On the Plains. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

I can remember, some decades ago, being in a gallery in Somewhere, USA, when I first noticed the prices of the artworks. “Dang,” I thought, “How can they charge $200.00? It’s just a framed photograph, after all. That’s crazy!” (You wouldn’t want to hear what I said about the really expensive stuff.)

Here’s the real deal–a breakdown of today’s cost of producing a framed 12×18 photograph (18×24 finished, framed, size):

–Anti-UV/glare resistant acrylic – $30.00

–A good-quality Nielsen aluminum frame – $18.00

–Acid-free 8-ply mat, and foam core, all custom cut to size – $25.00

–A high-quality photographic paper – $5.00 a sheet. But, you may have to make 2, 3,4, or more prints to get it right…so, let’s say $15.00.

–Archival hinging tape, mounting tape or corners for one print – $2.00

–Archival inkjet inks, one print – $1.00. Again, let’s call it $3.00 to include having to reprint to get it right.

–Photographer’s time to assemble the print, mat and frame–call it 30 minutes to do it right with no dust of fuzz caught under the glass – $10.00 (If working for $20.00/hr.)

So far, that comes up to $103.00 for a framed, archival, photographic print. Indeed, there are cheaper framing methods, but they may not be archival in quality. There are also many, many WAY more expensive presentation methods. So, for my purposes, lets just agree to go with what I have outlined above.

Now, if you charge, say, $185.00 for the finished product, you are making $82.00 per framed print. Not bad, eh? Well, the story isn’t over…

Now lets add in the “other stuff”:

–Cost of gas and mileage to get you to and from the spot you made the original capture. ($50.00)

–Cost of the gas and mileage to get to and from that same spot the ten times before when the light wasn’t right to get the image you wanted. ($500.00)

–Cost of the lenses, tripod, camera body, filters, batteries, memory cards, camera bags, and so on. ($5,000.00)

–Cost of the software you use to post-process the image, say, the Nik/Google Suite and Photoshop CS6. (Say, $725.00, although now one has to subscribe to the latter.)

–Cost of the computer, monitor and printer for processing and printing. ($3,000.00)

–Cost of setting up and maintaining your website to present and advertise the image. (Do-it-yourself, $100.00…Hire out, $2,000.00)

–Cost of that last workshop you took which taught you how to post-process the image as well as you did. ($500.00…and we’ll just include one of many workshops here.)

–Cost of your constant labor and practice to get you skilled enough to where you could successfully make the image, say, 5,000 hours at $20.00/hr. ($100,000.00)

So, that’s an additional $111,775.00. Total REAL cost of that framed photograph? $111,878.00

OK, OK, I know. I exaggerate just a teeny weeny bit. It’s not like you would collect all this gear and invest all this time to simply make one image. You’ll likely make many, of course.

But the point is this: the finished, framed photographic print is but the tip of a HUGE iceberg of costs as well as hours and hours of passionately invested time. You don’t make photographic images to get rich. You make them because that’s what you love to do.

So, how sensitive is my Gallery Price Meter today? Not very. The meter rarely moves off of zero no matter what price I see posted.

Growth for the sake of growth

Flatirons Still Life. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Flatirons Still Life. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Ever try to repair a home printer? You can’t. You just buy a new one.

We just bought new mobile phones. Did the old ones stop working? Were they broken? No, they worked perfectly fine–but there was a new, better model out, you see. I like the new phone (especially the camera) but I also feel a bit ill about what was really an unnecessary purchase.

Hmmm…Does Apple have a master plan to keep us buying-replacing-buying-replacing forevermore?

How about the real plan to actually reduce the life of the light bulb so more could be sold? This was back in the early part of the 20th century.

And then there was the move in the 1920s toward annual changes to automobile models to get folks to buy a new one each year.

We are told that the patriotic thing to do is go to the mall and fill those shopping bags, for the sake of the country’s economy. The economy doesn’t go or grow unless we spend our money and buy things. Constantly.

Yes, there are certain times when you can pay a bit more and purchase a product that will last a lifetime, but guess what? Marketing folks have thrown another kink into that plan: fashion and style. Next year, the product will be “new and improved” with different colors, styling, and slightly modified features. Gotta look cool for your friends and keep up with the Joneses, dontcha know. So, you end up buying another.

This is called “planned obsolescence” and it tends to burn up resources unnecessarily, to keep the economy moving ahead. Try the film, Planned Obsolescence, on for size to delve more into this interesting, frustrating, topic.

What’s behind all of this? Growth. That is the big V-8 motor behind it all. (As Edward Abbey said: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Our current economic system is based on the concept that everything grows…the population, the towns and cities, your income, the stock market, and so on. We take it for granted. It is patriotic. Anything less is seen as anti-American. All things are measured in terms of economic–not intrinsic, spiritual, or philosophical–value. A degree in the Arts? Useless. A degree in Marketing or Engineering? Now yer talkin’!

In fact, we actually measure growth on a minute-by-minute basis via the Dow Jones Industrial Average. That is really a crazy notion if you stop to think about it even for a nanosecond. Does that kind of measure make any real sense when you place humanity within the context of its multi-million year history? We have our eyes looking down so close to our toes that we have no idea what might be looming ahead in the next hundred yards threatening to bonk us on the head.

The logical outcome of continued growth is this (yes, it may take awhile, but it is inevitable): eventually the entire world will literally be covered with humans and their constructions and excretions. Any semblance of the original ecosystem will be gone. No lions, tigers, or bears, oh my. No wilderness. In the best of cases, wilderness will simply be replaced by a giant human-managed garden of some kind.

I see only two ways we might avoid this:

1) Our technology eventually improves enough to take us to another planet on which we can survive (and grow, of course!). There are some problems here, though. First, that we could eventually achieve this technological feat is conjecture–will we really be able to do this before Spaceship Earth becomes uninhabitable for us? Second, we would simply be transferring the same anthropocentric philosophy to another location. Nothing would change…and cancerous growth would continue. Then it will simply be “on to the next planet!”

Or,

2) Mother Nature intervenes (actually, just shrugs her shoulders ever so slightly) and says, “Enough is enough.” She then introduces a virus, a major volcanic event, or a meteorite to cut humanity down to manageable size, or eliminate it altogether.

But, there is a third way. To wit…

We could recognize that we are part of an ecological system, not separate from it. It is not here for us to use up. Pulling out one card at a time–the Spotted Owl, the Black-footed Ferret, the Black Rhino, etc–will eventually result in a collapse of that house of cards. Maintenance of the bio-system is critical to our very survival and for our quality of life. Many indigenous cultures recognized this concept instinctively, if not consciously. We could revisit and reclaim this way of seeing the world.

We could search for ways to NOT grow, in the current sense of the word, in order to maintain an equilibrium within the ecosystem of Planet Earth. This might mean controlling population, controlling the size of cities and towns (and condensing them), eliminating planned obsolescence and unnecessary manufacturing as much as practicable, maintaining large expanses of wilderness or UNcivilized open spaces for the rest of Earth’s species.

We could look at other definitions of growth–improvements in art, literature, philosophy, general life skills. Imagine if we worked on growing a “peace culture”…a culture in which “personal and spiritual growth” was more important than the accumulation of material goods? Internal growth instead of pure external, material growth. There are other ways to grow.

Weird ideas? Well, how are things working out today in our material culture? Granted, we have some pretty nice “stuff” to play with…nice toys, for sure. But, do they really give us that more complete satisfaction and contentedness that we all crave? How are our personal relationships? How is the suicide rate? How about our incarceration rate? Drug use? How many folks are living a Prozac-medicated life? Child abuse? Alcoholism? How mentally healthy are we, really?

All this doesn’t mean we abandon technology. To the contrary, we continue to refine it…BUT, we adapt it to a different philosophy and different ends–a philosophy of a peaceful, sustainable, and rich coexistence with all the other species on Earth. Maybe a form of high-tech neotribalism? ¿Quién sabe?

I have no idea where us human beans are headed over the next century. But it sure seems to me that something has to give before we find ourselves in a completely fouled nest here on lovely, crowded, Spaceship Earth.

Getting a sunburst (Howdja do it?)

Sunburst, Sunlight Spire, #3. Needle Mountains, Colorado, 2014
Sunburst, Sunlight Spire, #3. Needle Mountains, Colorado, 2014 (with the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom lens set at 14mm and f/22)

Someone asked me this question recently, so I thought I’d answer it here.

A simple way to do it…

1) Use aperture priority and set your f-stop to somewhere between f/16 and f/22. The higher the number, the smaller the hole and, thus, the sharper the sunburst. Consider that these small apertures will also introduce a bit of softness to the overall image via diffraction (but, IMHO, not too much for most purposes). Experiment with varying f-stops to see the different effects you’ll get with the burst.

2) Place an edge of the Sun’s disc behind an object–leaf, rock, building, bear, clown, person, whatever. If you don’t do this–if you have the entire Sun’s disc in the image–you may get more of a blobbish kind o’ sunburst, although it can still work. Hiding a part of the disc enhances the sharpness of the effect. Experiment with varying “bites” out of the Sun, then select the best image later in post-processing.

3) Know that each lens will yield a different effect. For example, my 14-24mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom (as in the above example image) gives much sharper bursts than my 70-200 f/4 telephoto. Generally, straighter blades in the lens diaphragm = sharper rays, while rounded blades = softer rays. Often, older lenses, with their straight blades, give very good results. Practice with all your lenses so you can learn their characteristics. (NOTE: In lenses with an odd number of blades, the number of rays in the sunburst will be exactly double the number of diaphragm blades.  If the lens has an even number, the ray count will be equal to that number.)

4) You’ll need to watch your histogram and/or the blinkies in the LCD as the correct exposure may appear very dark. Know that the sunburst itself will blow out a bit, and that’s OK. The rest of the image should not typically have any blown highlights (unless there are reflections or specular highlights somewhere). Also, the shadows will likely be well to the left on the histogram, but they should not be slammed entirely against the left wall–that is, they should be mostly recoverable in post. Consider trying different exposures.  If you use base ISO (typically 64, 100 or 200), the shadows can be recovered with less noise.

5) Capture raw files for max ability to manipulate them in post.

6) In post, you will likely have to move the Shadows slider right–maybe all the way–to recover the detail in what will initially look like an underexposed image. Moving the Highlights slider left can adjust your sunburst a bit, reducing an excessive blob effect–experiment. A combination of increasing exposure and reducing the highlights can also help. Increasing Clarity slightly is another way to brighten up the darker areas–but don’t overdo it. Finally, depending on your camera’s noise-in-the-shadows capability, you may need some noise reduction.

Now it’s time to go out and practice!

 

Another Flatirons Hike: Royal Arch

Royal Arch Disorientation. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Royal Arch Disorientation. Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Yet another wonderful little hike near Boulder, Colorado–and the trail is now open once again after some major post-flood (Fall, 2013) surgery.

From the trailhead at Chautauqua Park, count on a total of about 2-4 hours of hiking depending on how fast you are and how many photo breaks you take. In winter, with a snow packed trail, traction of some kind is a must.

Pack a sack lunch and enjoy the fine views as you fine dine.

Some selected images:

Royal Arch, Pre-Dawn Stars. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Royal Arch, Pre-Dawn Stars. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
City View, Stars. From Royal Arch, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Can you pick out the commuters on South Boulder Road, and on Highways 36 and 93?)
City View, Stars. From Royal Arch, Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (Can you pick out the commuters on South Boulder Road, and on Highways 36 and 93?)
Royal Arch, Boulder View. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Royal Arch, Boulder View. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Flatirons Still Life. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Flatirons Still Life. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Approaching Dawn, Urban Horizon. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Approaching Dawn, Urban Horizon. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Boulder View, Approaching Dawn. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Boulder View, Approaching Dawn. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Pre-Dawn Glow at Royal Arch. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Pre-Dawn Glow at Royal Arch. Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunrise Over the Great Plains. From Royal Arch, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunrise Over the Great Plains. From Royal Arch, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

Colorado Summits: Bear Peak (8,461′) and South Boulder Peak (8,549′), A Sunrise Hike

The Burn. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
The Burn. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

They aren’t 14ers, but this is a great hike to stay in shape for those bigger peaks–or prep for your first. If you walk to the top of both Bear and South Boulder (from South Mesa Trailhead, via Shadow Canyon), you get around 3,000 vertical feet of climbing/descending, and 7-8 miles of distance. When it’s too cold or avalanche-prone up on the Divide, try this little local outing on for size. Plan on 6-8 hours depending on how fast you hike, how much you dawdle, and trail conditions (like snow).

And…Shadow Canyon is a really cool little (steep!) slot with gorgeous big boulders and thick trees that will lead you up behind one of Boulder’s major landmarks–Devil’s Thumb (locally known as the “Boulder Boner”…no idea why.) This is simply a great trip in its own right, 14ers aside.

Some tips/observations:

–In summer, the Shadow Canyon part will be more shady than other routes, but may not have water, so carry plenty with you.

–In winter, for the steep climb from the last cabin to the saddle, you’ll definitely want traction (or snowshoes if you are going after a big dump–snow dump, that is).

–Whatever the season, trekking poles will save your knees on the aforementioned steep stuff.

South Boulder Peak (8,549′) is the highest point on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks property and is taller than Bear Peak by nearly 100′, but for the best views definitely go with the “Big Bear”.

–You’ll see evidence of the 2012 Flagstaff Fire as you approach the South Boulder-Bear saddle. Nature’s natural cycle.

–The Bear Peak perch is quite perchy (maybe 50 feet of Class 2+ scrambling to get there) with great views of Boulder, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park. If you have a stiff west wind (typical) there are convenient rocks on the summit behind which you can eat your lunch and watch the goings on down on The Hill in Boulder (if you have a powerful telescope).

I  went up today vewy, vewy early and was sitting on the summit of Bear Peak about 45 minutes before sunrise under the gaze of a smiley fingernail Moon. The photography was well worth the trip.

Some selected images:

Fingernail Moon Above Denver. Bear Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Fingernail Moon Above Denver. Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Dawn Over Boulder. Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Dawn Over Boulder. Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Dawn On the Plains. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Dawn On the Plains. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
First Light on Longs Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
First Light on Longs Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
South Boulder Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
South Boulder Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
The View South at Sunrise. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
The View South at Sunrise. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Window on Longs Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Window on Longs Peak. From Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunburst on South Boulder Peak Summit. South Boulder Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Sunburst on South Boulder Peak Summit. South Boulder Peak, Boulder, Colorado, 2014