Western Washington has had nice summer weather most of July. Most evenings, there have been few if any clouds, which of course makes for very boring sunset shots. However, when the weather is like this, the hour after sunset brings gorgeous light. Even as it gets too dark for humans to see color well, there are wonderful colors out there to be recorded by your camera.
The period after the sunset (and before the sunrise) is called the blue hour. During the blue hour, sometimes the light is blue, as a result of the blue sky, but other times it is wonderfully warm. This warm light has been referred to as salmon light by the guys over at Photo Cascadia. Whether blue or salmon light, these cloudless evenings can make for good photography. For some reason, I’ve found better luck with the blue hour after sunset rather than before sunrise, but maybe that’s because it’s so hard for me to get out of bed in the morning (especially when the sun rises before 6 a.m., like it is doing now).
I’ve found a online calculator (by JetKo Photo) for determining when the blue hour will occur. However, I’m not sure one is really needed. All you need to know is that after the sun sets, keep the camera out and keep shooting away, even as it gets quite dark. All you need is a tripod and a camera that allows for long exposures. Many DSLRs, in the auto exposure modes, will only allow shutter speeds up to 30 seconds long. When hunting blue hour shots, be prepared to go to manual mode and use the the blub setting on the camera. (Don’t make the same mistake I did recently when first using my newest camera in the blue hour – learn how to set it to blub before setting out).
So after sunset, don’t get blue and put your camera away. Keep that camera out and capture the blue hour.
Now, after a week on the road and away from computers, Tanya and I are at a B&B in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’ve had a great trip so far, both in terms of places visited and having good weather. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good weather on a road trip – a few rain drops on the windshield, but otherwise great weather, a mix of totally blue skies (boring photography wise) with scattered clouds (nice photographically).
I’ve included a few shots from the first half of the trip here. Please forgive any issues with these images, they have not been through my normal workflow. Instead of going through Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, they have been somewhat randomly selected and minimally processed with Picassa. I’m working on a very slow laptop, without much memory. This makes it very hard to do editing of the RAW files produced by my camera, and optimizing with Picassa is slow (not to mention not having the capabilities of Lightroom and Photoshop). Regardless, these few images can give you an idea of what we’ve seen so far.
The trip started with a long drive from Tacoma to Twin Falls, Idaho – about 650 miles. The next day we drove to Dinosaur National Monument, roughly 400 miles. This may be the best, closest exposure of sandstone slickrock to Washington State. Two nights there, including a side trip to Fantasy Canyon – a small, but must-visit place for nature photographers.
We then drove south through western Colorado to spend a night with my now retired geology professor from Texas A&M University (where I received a Masters in geology). He is retired and maintaining an orchard and vineyard in Palisade, Colorado. Much wine was drunk when staying with him and his wife!
Leaving Palisade, we drove over the Grand Mesa, made a short stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and drove on to Ouray, Colorado. We spent two nights there in the San Juan Mountains. I was hoping for good fall color with the aspen trees, and was partially rewarded. Some had turned already and others were still green. Regardless, the views were fantastic.
Then it was on to Taos, New Mexico, where we spent a night camping on the Rio Grande and visited Taos Pueblo. We took the high road into Santa Fe from there and have been enjoying the city for two nights now.
I hope you enjoy these few photos from the first half of the trip. I’ll post more once I get back home. The top one is of the Sneffels Range in Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Mountains. This is the view from the north, along West Dallas Creek Road. I was hoping for shots from this area with yellow aspens, but they had not turned yet on the north side of the range like they had further south.
The next shot is of a pictograph (pictographs are painted, petroglyphs are carved) call Sun Dagger. It is located in northwestern Colorado. Reportedly it was used by the Fremont People as a sundial.
The third shot is of Split Mountain and the Green River at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. This scene, taken shortly after sunrise, is about 1/4 mile up the river from our campground.
The final shot is of the San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos, a short distance south of Taos, New Mexico.
It’s amazing what being Freshly Pressed does. My blog had 23 views on September 5th, a rather typical day. Then on September 6th, WordPress featured my blog Mountain Blues in their Freshly Pressed blogs, resulting in 2,784 views that day and over 3,000 the next day. Wow! Prior to Tuesday, I had 5 subscribers to my blog and now, at last count, I have 73! All I can say is thank you to all who visited the blog over the past few days, all who left comments, and special thanks to all my new subscribers. But now, with all you guys watching, I feel pressure to come up with new, exciting blogs. There certainly is some freedom in living in obscurity. Maybe after a few more blogs, all you new subscribers will get tired of me and take yourselves off the list. I hope not, but one never knows.
So in light of that pressure, what to blog about. I haven’t had much chance to do any photography since my trip to Blue Mountain and Deer Park. Between the day job, preparing for the Mountaineers Photo exhibition and reception (see my last blog), and researching sites to go on my upcoming vacation, there hasn’t been much time for new photography. So, this blog is more about my pending vacation. I briefly wrote about it several weeks ago, but serious planning is now going on. Several weeks ago, it was still an idea, more of an ephemeral vision than a hard date on the calendar. Now we have an itinerary, have some hotel reservations set, and have a house sitter arranged. Now it is starting to seem real.
Normally I’m a kind of go-with-the-flow guy; and if time was not of the essence, I’d consider just taking off without a set itinerary. But, there’s a lot to see and photograph, and only a limited time to do it. Besides, I like the planning; I like pre-visualizing potential shots. The only hard dates are the start, the finish, and the three days in Sante Fe where we’ve already paid half our hotel bill. Most everywhere else we will be camping.
Tanya and I love the American Southwest. I’ve made quite a few trips down there, mostly to Utah. We haven’t been in several years, so felt it was time to go again. Tanya expressed a desire to go to Sante Fe, and that’s were the seed of this trip was planted. The tentative itinerary has us driving first to Dinosaur National Monument, then on the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, down to the San Juan Mountains area of Colorado, over to Taos, then on to Sante Fe, and on the way back stopping at Chaco Culture National Historic Park, the Bisti Wilderness, Natural Bridges National Monument, and Moab.
The idea was to go see some new places in the Southwest, or at least spend more time in places I’ve only touched lightly long ago. Of all these places, I have only spent significant time in the Moab area. I have actually been to Dinosaur National Monument, twice – once a quick stop in 1983 while driving down to grad school in Texas (Texas A&M), and once a rafting trip in the early 90s. Though the raft trip was several days long, I didn’t get to see much beyond the river; so this new trip will explore new territory there. In 1984, on my way back from grad school, I stopped for about an hour at the Black Canyon, so that really doesn’t count either. And I spent several hours in Sante Fe while a teaching assistant on a geology field camp, again in 1984. And I recall a distant memory of when I was young, perhaps in junior high school or maybe grad school, on a family vacation, we drove through the San Juan Mountains. I’ve never been to Natural Bridges, Bisti, Taos, or Chaco Canyon.
So, this blog is supposed to be about photography, not about where I traveled ages ago. Thus I needed something to illustrate it with, so I dug out the old slide albums. It was hard finding anything decent to show, but finally found the two images here, taken long ago in Dinosaur National Monument. Most of those old slides are pretty bad; my composition and exposure skills have come a long way in the past 30 years. Hopefully with this upcoming Great American Road Trip, I’ll bring some better shots home.