The Flatirons

An iPhone Postcard Landscape

Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017
Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017

 

From the sea back to the high mountains… and a local iconic (cliché?) postcard landscape for you from just above the Boulder Bubble, aka The Friendly People’s Republic of Boulder.

With my D800 and my 24-70mm lens off at Nikon for repairs (they were dropped some time ago…both still worked, but were pretty banged up), it is the iPhone that I have with me most often these days.

REPAIR UPDATE: It appears that my D800 is coming back from Nikon as “unrepairable” This means I will have to use the thing sans battery door and with a small pointy object always handy to pry the battery out of its slot each time I need to charge or change it. The camera still makes good images, though, even with the bashed batt compartment.

Arizona in December

While the hills above Boulder, Colorado look like this these days…

Second Flatiron, Winter Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Second Flatiron, Winter Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

You can still find fall colors on lower Mount Lemmon above Tucson, Arizona:

December Color in the Catalinas. Mt Lemmon, Arizona, 2016
December Color in the Catalinas. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016

 

Agave and Ocotillo. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016
Agave and Ocotillo. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016

 

No wonder the populations of Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma, etc. swell so much during the winter months! What a contrast!

Arizona Horizons, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Arizona Horizons, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2016 (Sunset and contrails behind the Tucson Mountains and Baboquivari Peak.)

April to May on Flagstaff Mountain

So, the spring snow storm continues here in Colorado. In the Foothills now, it looks more like mid-winter than it does May Day, so there were lots of folks out capturing images with whatever camera they had handy–iPhone, point-and-shoots, DSLRs, even GoPros held out the window of a slow cruising car.

This kind of meteorological instability is really not unusual, though, as March and April can actually be very heavy months for precip in these parts.

The snow line must have been right at 5,430 feet above mean sea level today as the flakes turned to wet rain the minute they hit the streets here in town–but, just a few hundred feet higher, the snow accumulated heavily in the trees, bending their boughs under a very wet, thick, blanket of white.

April snow showers bring May sun and flowers??? We’ll see!

Here are a few images from Flagstaff Mountain this afternoon as we move from April into May…ever closer to summer.

 

Can you spot the raptor soaring between the Second and Third Flatiron?

Lone Eagle in the Storm. Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Lone Eagle in the Storm. Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Here is a closer view of the raptor, or…? Let me know, ornithologists, if you have a positive I.D. on this gal or guy:


20160430-3144aBW eRiding the Storm

 

The weight of these spring snows can break tree limbs and down power lines:

A Heavy Spring Snow. Flagstaff, Mountain, Colorado, 2016
A Heavy Spring Snow. Flagstaff, Mountain, Colorado, 2016

 

One of the many switchbacks that climb the hill, a route popular with local cyclists and rock climbers who specialize in bouldering:

Mountain Curve. Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Mountain Curve. Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

The jagged north profile of the First Flatiron was occasionally visible as the cloud base moved and wreathed up and down:

First Flatiron Window, Spring Storm. Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
First Flatiron Window, Spring Storm. Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

The Day (or two!) After a Full Moon

Moon Over Boulder. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Moon Over Boulder. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

 

The “day (or two) after”, rather than the exact date of the full Moon, is my favorite time to think about a landscape photograph with the Moon hanging just above the horizon right after sunrise. This makes the tonal range much easier to capture–the brightness of the Moon is not so different from the surrounding scene once the Sun wakes up–and the long first shadows and early morning light on the undulating terrain features can be beautiful.

Shooting the day of the full Moon, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult because the Moon will be very low or setting just as the Sun gets high enough to equalize the bright Moon with the darker landscape. You can shoot earlier, while the Moon is higher in the sky, but the sky and terrain will be even darker and the contrasts much harder to capture in a single image. With tall mountains very close to you on the western horizon, or if you are in a valley, the Moon will be gone still earlier–when the sky and ground are quite dark. If a high contrast image is what you are after, all of this might be just fine for you. (See such an example below in which I let the Moon “blow out” with a slight star effect.)

Some alternatives…

The above example was a capture from December 27th, 2015, two days “after”. (The “day after” had been an obvious lost cause due to a low overcast in the morning.) In this case, the Moon was a waning gibbous disc at 94% and the spread between sunrise and moonset was just a bit too long (sunrise at 7:22a.m., moonset at 8:48a.m.). I would have liked the Moon lower at sunrise–and a few sunrise-pink clouds in the sky, too!

Ideally, you can find “a day (or two) after” that will give you some better variables.

First example: On January 24, 2016 (a “day after” the full Moon) the sun rises in Boulder at 7:16a.m., then the Moon ( a 99% disc) sets eight minutes later at 7:24a.m. With this situation, you’ll get the Moon very low just as the Sun’s rays hit the landscape. This could work as long as terrain on your western horizon does not point up more than maybe 5-10 degrees above the “real” horizon. If I were shooting the same scene as above, though, there is a good chance that the Moon would fall behind the mountains before the Sun rises.

Second example: On January 25, 2016 (two days “after”), the spread is much better. Sunrise in Boulder occurs at 7:16a.m. and the Moon doesn’t set until 8:01a.m. (97% disc). This means the Moon will above a level horizon for some 45 minutes after the sun strikes the landscape, thus giving you a bit of time to find the best compositions. With high terrain in the west, though, this time will naturally be reduced.

Another very rough way of looking at this last situation is that the Moon, at sunrise, will initially be about 10-15 degrees above the horizon at my latitude (a fist or so at arm’s length)–is that high enough for it to be above my western mountains at sunrise? Probably so, as long as I am not pegged right up against said mountains, or in a deep valley.

What morning you choose to go after the Moon all depends, then, on your goals. Do you want to challenge yourself with a high contrast scene, or do you want to work with a more evenly-lit landscape?

Here are two excellent sites to check for appropriate planning and scheming info:

–The U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon Data (for times on specific dates)

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (also gives you angles from any location to where the Sun rises and the Moon sets)

Moon Over Boulder, Pre-Dawn. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Moon Over Boulder, Pre-Dawn. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

Clearing Storm

Finally! I was beginning to think that Chicago had sent us their winter weather. But today, Colorado blue skies reappeared as the mists above began to part.

In this one, I cloned out a few hikers–and a small sign–that didn’t conform to my vision of the composition. I did leave one hiker on the trail to help with a sense of scale. (Yes, I certainly do manipulate my images–I am not a photojournalist, after all!)

Note the huge icicles hanging from the overhangs on the Second (middle) Flatiron.

Winter Stroll, Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Winter Stroll, Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

 

OK, OK…a color version for the Black and White challenged…

The Flatirons, Fresh Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Flatirons, Fresh Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

Cold Weather Photo Duties

Third Flatiron, Winter Storm, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Third Flatiron, Winter Storm, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2015 (Or maybe just “one third of the Third”.)

 

Socked in. Temps into the single digits. Snow fluttering down. Ice on the roads. Traction Law in effect on I-70.

Often that can be a good combination for some wonderful winter landscape images. Stormy weather is much more dramatic than plain-Jane, true-blue, skies.

It’s those single digits that have made me wimp out these past few days. I guess I’m still thinking with my Summer-Fall Brain and I haven’t yet adjusted my physiological-psychological thermostat to the reality that official winter is but three weeks away.

So, I turn to my cold weather photo duties:

–Rearranging, sorting, deleting files and images on the hard drive.

–Backing up image files.

–Printing out images that have been on my “To Print” list.

–Organizing my LLC paper files.

–Post-processing images that I had forgotten about.

–Combing through old files to see if I have overlooked possible good images.

–Preparing files and paperwork for contest/gallery submissions.

–And so on.

There always seems to be plenty of housekeeping to be done if the weather gods have made things miserable outside.

Soon, though, I’ll get accustomed to the new winter status quo and I’ll be back out there shooting. For me, it’s always much more fun to be behind the camera rather than behind the computer.

Pink Dawn (Before the Storm)

Pink Over the Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Pink Over the Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

 

This morning’s sunrise over Boulder, from Marshall Mesa. By evening, all of these peaks and mountains will be socked in by wind, sleet, snow, cold and cloud as a winter front moves through.

It will be a chilly Thanksgiving!

Crimson Waves. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Crimson Waves. Boulder, Colorado, 2015