A Sunday Neo-Topo Photo Shoot

Sunday is a good day to head out in search of more images for my Neo-Topographic portfolio (plug “Neo-Topographics” into my SEARCH box and you’ll find myriad blog entries and image collections on this topic).

Why, Sunday?

Well, the construction sites are usually quiet and I can go about my photography with no interference. That is one big reason. And, I kind of like my pictures with just the suggestion of frenetic human activity rather than pictures that depict actual frenetic human beans.

Also, the clouds today were cooperating quite well. With plain blue skies I likely would have stayed home. I try to capture these Neo-Topo photographs with heavens that suggest a bit of impending doom lurking beyond the horizon…er…well…an impending storm anyway.

So, here are a few possible portfolio candidates from today…

 

The farm looks recently abandoned–but proudly and carefully tended during its prime. Now, a Wal-Mart and condos have moved into the fields to the south:

One Last Farm. Hwy 287, 1 mile north of Longmont, Colorado, 2016
One Last Farm. Hwy 287, 1 mile north of Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

Just a hint of relatively virgin Mother Nature is still visible between the structures:

Improvements on Mountain Drive. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Improvements on Mountain Drive. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

I love the pile of carpet remnants on the left, and how the street leads you into the open maw of the garage on the house awaiting its roofing shingles:

Further Progress On Redbud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Further Progress On Redbud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

Here you see the carpet remnants again. The front door was open and the sharp chirp of a smoke alarm with a low battery echoed out into the wide street: 

Nearly Ready at 1029 Rosebud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Nearly Ready at 1029 Rosebud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

Silent, inanimate, particle board faces gaze off to the west, toward the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the elk, black bear, coyotes, and eagles (and, with luck, someday with wolves and GRIZ):

Particle Board Faces on Redbud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Particle Board Faces on Redbud Circle. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

You’ll find this scene on the east side of Highway 287, about a mile north of Longmont Colorado. This house has been hooked up to that tow truck for God knows how many years. All the tires–on the truck and under the house–are completely flat and rotted. What were the initial, ambitious, plans? What happened to stop the move so abruptly? The farm in the distance on the left is the same one you see in the first image above. A raptor sits on the peak of the old barn. On the right, it looks like files of condos are beginning to fill in the vacant fields…a Wal-Mart squats just a half mile to the south with its spacious and busy-bee parking lot:

Abandoned Escape, #2. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Abandoned Escape, #1. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

 

A different angle shows more of the new condo (or apartment) development. The Wal-Mart is visible on the far right:

Abandoned Escape, #2. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016
Abandoned Escape, #2. Near Longmont, Colorado, 2016

Funky Long Shadows

Lately, the shadows seem to have seeped darkly over my inspiration and enthusiasm. It has been awhile since I have simply gone out and about with my camera just to have fun.

So–I thought to myself–maybe I could try to boot myself out of this funk by grabbing and embracing those shadows–both literally and figuratively!

Up here in the northern hemisphere, the days are now quite short, the sun stays low most of the day, and the shadows are long. Ah, yes, an opportunity!

At the mall yesterday, whilst awaiting my store-browsing spouse, I challenged myself with this: Within 30 minutes, create an 8-12 image portfolio of shadow pictures with my iPhone.

After capture, I transferred the files to my desktop and put them through Silver Efex Pro using the “Silhouette” preset as the principal effect (with some tweaks). I cropped a bit here and there as well.

Maybe I am starting to break out of my funk?

Here is the result (and Happy Turkey Day!):

Mall Shadows, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #6. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #6. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #7. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #7. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #8. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #8. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

And the last two with the human figure included:

Mall Shadows, #9. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #9. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Mall Shadows, #10. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mall Shadows, #10. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

The Next Day at Many Parks Curve

A 17-degree dawn in Rocky Mountain National Park…from the road closure at Many Parks Curve Overlook (9,640′). From here, Trail Ridge Road is closed across the Divide until things thaw out in the spring.

Many Curves Sunrise. RMNP, Colorado, 2016
Many Curves Sunrise. RMNP, Colorado, 2016

 

Bumps. RMNP, Colorado, 2016
Bumps. RMNP, Colorado, 2016

First Snow

Blizzard Battle. Estes Park, Colorado, 2016
Blizzard Battle. Estes Park, Colorado, 2016

 

This first first significant snow of the season is a bit late–pushing toward late November. Usually it comes sometime in late October. It has been a very dry and warm autumn around these parts. And, unfortunately, this storm appears to be very short-lived. It will be here and gone in less than 24 hours.

No worries, though, as we all understand that global warming is nothing but a hoax instigated by the Chinese, right? Just a cycle…just a cycle…

Today’s image, to herald in the cold season, is a very real, but almost abstract, photograph of two bull elk clacking and cracking their antlers together in the midst of a blizzard. A frosty testosterone challenge. They already have their Gucci winter coats, so the sub-freezing temperatures didn’t seem to bother them whatsoever.

The elk here in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are waaaay too tame, in my humble judgement. The above scene, for example, took place in someone’s backyard, not far from their charcoal grill. (Some judicious cropping and skillful cloning eliminated the cultural distractions.) What we need around here are a couple of packs of lean and hungry wolves to keep the elk on the tips of their hooves and the herds svelte and healthy.

Photo tip: When you are presented with a scene like this–two bull elk going at it to impress the girls–it is very easy to simply focus on the obvious macho action taking place. However, once you note this, immediately start thinking about the background you want and do some quick “border patrol” around the outside frame of the image to make sure you have eliminated any distractions. In this case, this was the best I could do, but that tree in the middle kind of ruins it. I tried hard to work into the area at a different angle, but the surrounding herd of at least 100 animals was giving me a couple of hundred evil eyes, so I settled for this shot. 

Full Moon Tips

Lunar Eclipse on 10/09/14. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2014
Lunar Eclipse on 10/08/14. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2014

 

I think I have mentioned it before here and there, but I’ll summarize in this post…

Probably the best time to “shoot” SUNRISE landscapes with the full moon is actually a day or two after the official full moon.

Probably the best time to “shoot” SUNSET landscapes with the full moon is actually a day or two before the official full moon.

Why?

Well, here is the answer plus a few other key points…

  1. First, in your images, the moon will still appear full even if it might really be at 97-98%. So, I personally don’t think it is necessary to be out for the real, honest-to-god, 100% full disc.
  2. A day or two after the official full moon, the sun will rise while the moon is still above the horizon. This means the landscape foreground and mid-ground will have some nice side-lighting (and color!) on it while the moon’s disc will not appear so bright as to be blown out in your digital file. In other words, the dynamic range of the scene will be manageable, whereas on the day of the full moon, very often, the sky will still be fairly dark and the moon very bright before it sets. 
  3. If you are not an early morning person and prefer shooting the moon at around sunset, then look at the charts to see when the moon will rise while there is still enough light on the landscape and in the sky to keep the dynamic range within acceptable limits. For example…Yesterday (Nov 14), when the moon was at 100%, we had our local sunset at 16:45p.m. but the moon didn’t rise until 17:25p.m., by which time the landscape was quite dark–tough for your camera’s sensor, unless you do some HDR shenanigans. On the other hand, the day before that (Nov 13), the moon was not quite full at 99.4%, but you had the moon rising at 16:39p.m. and the sun setting just a few minutes later, at 16:45p.m.–in this case, the dynamic range of the scene would likely have been easily handled with your camera’s sensor.
  4. All of the above, of course, is aimed at folks wanting to capture a larger landscape, with potentially very beautiful light, that includes the moon but can’t seem to get both Luna and Earth exposed properly in one frame (the classic “moon-as-white-blob” syndrome). You may have other artistic goals, of course, in which case just ignore all this!
  5. Check The Photographer’s Ephemeris for specific times and location details of sunrise/moonset at your chosen location.
  6. Clouds in the sky, as long as the moon has room to peek out between the layers, often makes things that much more awesome.

Here is a series of images from this morning, two days after the full moon. Sunrise was scheduled by the universe for 6:46a.m. and the moonset at 7:47a.m. The moon’s disc was at 98.4%:

Contemplating the Sunrise. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Contemplating the Sunrise. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Here comes the sun…Note the lack of snow, for mid-November, on Longs Peak:

First Light on Longs Peak. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
First Light on Longs Peak. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

And Sister Moon? Here she is! With both sun and moon up, it was easy to capture detail on the moon’s face (it isn’t just a white blob) as well as expose properly for the larger landscape (check your histogram!). Unfortunately, the wonderful clouds that would have made this image much more interesting had evaporated. But, there was also another issue–the moon wasn’t where I wanted it to be. In this photo, I have actually moved it from its original position to balance out the shot. See the next picture to see what I mean: 

Moon Over Boulder, #2. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Moon Over Boulder, #2. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

This was the image before I tampered with it in Photoshop. Ideally, I would have planned things out a bit better and found a good vantage point some two to three miles to my right. That would have lined the moon up for an improved composition, putting it over that low area between the jagged edge of the First Flatiron and snowy Mt. Audubon. Lesson learned–pay attention to those lines on The Photographer’s Ephemeris that show you where the moon will set!

Moon Over Boulder, #1. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

Moon Over Boulder, #1. Above Cherryvale Road, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

In the end, it was the very first photograph that I posted above that I liked the best–and the moon wasn’t even remotely involved. Sometimes you go out with the idea of making a certain, very specific, photograph but you come back with something completely different. So it goes…

Just Another Manic Monday

…so why not head off to my favorite local sunrise photo op spot: Sugarloaf Mountain (8,917′). [NOTE: Use the SEARCH box on my site to find the myriad other Sugarloaf blog entries and images from every season of the year.]

It would certainly be a refreshing way to escape the constant toxic rain of post-election nuclear fallout still streaming down on to our aching craniums from the airwaves above.

 

The full super-Moon had risen dramatically over the plains last night, so it prompted me to ponder how it might set this morning behind the Continental Divide. I was skeptical though, as The Photographer’s Ephemeris indicated that Ms. Luna would be setting at 6:35a.m., ten minutes before sunrise. This would mean the landscape would still be quite dark while the Moon was still very bright–and very low in the sky, maybe even behind the clouds or mountains.

Sure enough, this was my view of the Divide as I gained Sugarloaf Mountain’s summit at around 6:00a.m. That bright glow at the top right, behind the thick clouds, was the only evidence of Sister Moon:

Moonlight Over Indian Peaks, #1. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
Moonlight Over Indian Peaks, #1. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

For one brief instant, though, a silver-white sliver of the Moon lit up a very small space between the low clouds and the mountains. There just happened to also be a small cumulus cloud just above that slit that makes it look even more odd. The moment only lasted thirty seconds or so. On the far left are the South/North Arapaho Peaks and the Arapaho Glacier:

Moonset Over the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
Moonset Over the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

It is hard to ignore this wonderful old stumpish log when building a landscape composition atop Sugarloaf Mountain. Across the far horizon, moving left to right, you have the Starr Peak-Thorodin Mountain-Tremont Mountain group (10,511′), then the Mt. Evans massif in the center (14,264′), and James Peak (13,294′) just catching the sun on the right:

Dawn Over Sugarloaf, Late Fall, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
Dawn Over Sugarloaf, Late Fall, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

A closer view of James Peak. To the right, it looks like they are starting to pile up some artificial snow on the slopes of the Eldora Ski Area. The dry, warm autumn is certainly not giving them any quarter:

James Peak at Sunrise. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
James Peak at Sunrise. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

Oh, how I love it when there are interesting clouds in the sky at sunrise! In this case a very low, hovering, glowing, glowering, lenticular:

Mt. Evans at Sunrise. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
Mt. Evans at Sunrise. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

Yes, Sugarloaf Mountain is one yuuuge pile o’ scree. Camp Counselor Carl used to have his camp kids run 100-yard dash races across that stuff! But, it was the proud pine tree that pulled on my eyeball:

Proud Pine at Sunrise. Sugarloaf Mountain Trail, Colorado, 2016
Proud Pine at Sunrise. Sugarloaf Mountain Trail, Colorado, 2016

 

And, here is a nice monochrome view for the B&W fans out there. From left to right: Old Baldy (13,038′), South Arapaho Peak (13,397′), North Arapaho Peak (13,501′), Deshawa (12,820′), Arikaree Peak(13,150′), Kiowa Peak (13,276′), and a bit of Apache Peak (13,441′) on the far right:

Heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016
Heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 
 

Finally, here is the title video for the day:

Post-Election Day Hangover (2016)

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821

[Another way of saying it: The government is a direct reflection of the people of a nation. Therefore, America, when you look at Donald Trump you are looking in the mirror. Shameful.]

 

Well, it’s done.

If you take a look at my two previous posts about the election…the first, with my various pre-debate predictions, HERE…and yesterday’s hopeful pining HERE…you’ll understand that I am absolutely speechless right now–basically because my mouth is full of a large, meaty, crow. I was wrong on all counts in that first post and mistakenly optimistic in the second.

This is a major electric chair shock.

Yes, this vote was clearly a huge, angry “Fuck You!” to the Washington, D.C. political elite (much like the Brexit vote was a big “Fuck You!” to the UK political leadership). I certainly understand and feel that same frustration.

But this was NOT the solution.

A much, much better option would have been to vote out the obstructionist Republicans in the House and the Senate, and vote in Democratic majorities along with a Democratic President. Then, we might actually join the rest of the civilized world with some real, decent, progressive policies that would no-kiddin’ help the middle and working classes. (Consider the support Bernie had for his progressive agenda!)

Unfortunately, the American people have chosen a path that will very likely make things worse–exacerbate inequality, and foment further division. So much for my faith in the judgement and the critical thinking skills of my fellow citizens:

     “Hey, instead of thinking this through, I think I’ll just get all pissed off and throw a live grenade at the system!”

     “If not Bernie, then I’ll vote Trump!”  (That’s like saying…well, if not communism maybe I’ll try fascism instead! It is a political flip-flop that makes absolutely no sense.)

It will be very interesting to see if our country has the resiliency to recover from this. We may be set back at least a generation, especially considering the issue of upcoming Supreme Court vacancies and the likelihood of a very conservative court for the next couple of decades. 

I have certainly disagreed with the policies of some of our past Presidents (and even the current President at times), but never have I actually worried about the very survival of our democratic system. Trump is a such an outlier, though, that I have no idea where we might be going. He probably doesn’t either and will need major assistance from (hopefully) smart advisers to avoid major buffoonery, scandal, and/or tragedy. Luckily, governing in the real world is quite different from campaigning, which might help limit the overall damage.

So, in summary and based directly on Trump’s campaign legacy and rhetoric, this is what we have voted for:

–a “caudillo” (strong man) who will sweep in and solve all of our problems with his charisma (shades of Hitler, Franco, Samoza, Chavez, et al)

–an emboldened white supremacy movement

–increased economic inequality–rich will likely continue to get richer

–rolling back of bank regulations

–“law and order”, but likely at the expense of individual freedom of expression

–increasing pressure within the press to self-censure, if not outright direct censorship via economic and legislative means

–increasing barriers to vote

–torture of our enemies and the targeting of their families as a legitimate wartime tool (Geneva Convention violations? Not a problem.)

–international relations via bullying, tweeting, and coercion, rather than by diplomacy, coalitions and consensus

–rolling back of NATO and other treaty commitments

–rolling back the restrictions on the weapons, magazines, and ammunition you can buy–even if you are a terrorist or criminal

–misogyny and sexism as mainstream attitudes, along with a healthy dose of xenophobia

–rolling back of reproductive rights (eventual Roe v. Wade repeal)

–rolling back of LGBT rights

–rolling back of religious freedoms (except the freedom to discriminate against others based on your religious views)

–persecution of certain religious groups–especially Muslims

–persecution and discrimination against immigrants and minorities in general

–possible increased deportation of all illegal immigrants–including children who have never known any other country

–rolling back of environmental protections

–near zero interest in the climate change issue 

–elimination of serious health care options for the masses

–strengthening of the anti-science movement (creationists, climate change deniers, etc.)

–acceptance of ignorance (of world affairs, cultural sensitivities, etc.) and general illiteracy (reading is not necessary) as positive norms

–increased legitimization of unfounded conspiracy theories and “fake news”

–little chance of reforming the electoral system (Citizens United decision remains, Electoral College remains)

 

Yes, most of those folks who voted for Trump wanted change, to “drain the swamp”. Unfortunately, all of the above was included in the package.

Apparently, this is what America wants, and that just blows me into a galaxy far, far away.

OK, Republicans, the ball is now in your court. We are not in recession, unemployment is low, the economy is growing (albeit slowly), and we do not currently have hundreds of thousands of troops deployed in a major war (currently, we are only involved in three smaller ones). Lets see what you can do with it. No excuses now–you have the reins of power. Ante up.

I have my fingers crossed (and my passport current).

“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”  –Sometimes attributed to Sinclair Lewis, but probably a summary of the thoughts of various thinkers and writers.

Election Day, 2016

At Mile Marker 263. Colorado, 2016
At Mile Marker 263. Colorado, 2016

 

Finally! We thought the day would never come…

The fact that this election appears to be so statistically close between the candidates really blows my mind. How can that be? Don’t people fact check anything?

I understand that there is frustration out there. I understand the desire to find a new solution…a new path. We certainly DO need to remove the gridlock in Washington and move forward…reduce the unparalleled economic inequality that is crushing the middle and working classes…

But please, use your analytical powers (use your head for something besides a hat rack!)…go to the fact check sites…look at a variety of news sources–reputable ones, not the ideological ones that dish out what you want to hear…don’t simply vote based on your emotions and prejudices…Google “confirmation bias” and avoid it…

If you do that honestly and objectively, you absolutely can’t avoid the conclusion that Donald Trump is absolutely NOT the solution. No, not by a long shot.

Here’s hoping the country does the right thing.

POSTSCRIPT: It didn’t. See November 9, 2016 post