Monday, 24 January 2011

Another Darkroom Day

A third darkroom day in row was needed to finish making the contact prints of the Hong Kong, Sydney, New Zealand trip in October and November last year. Next job is to crack on with the scanning and put them on the web site. Hong Kong wil be first and I have 15 images picked out ready for scanning. Sydney and New Zealand will follow over the next few weeks. There are some crackers so watch this space!

We have a big (as in expensive) show at Birmingham NEC (Spring Fair) starting a week Saturday so not sure that I can fit much in until after that.

Have broken out the Harviestoun Porter as small celebration. Bit fizzy out of the bottle so I had to whisk it with a fork to remove most of the gas so that I could drink it. Jolly nice but at 6% not a session beer.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Darkroom Day

It's a darkroom day today, as was yesterday. I'm trying to catch up on making the contact prints for the backlog of films from last years trip to Hong Kong, Sydney and New Zealand. There were well over 200 to print. Then I can decide which negatives to scan for the web and make prints from.

Just taking a short break as the print washer is full and I'm leaving them washing in warm water for a few minutes. Tap water is a bit too cold to efficiently wash photographic paper at this time of year in the Derbyshire.

I'm using up old Ilford Multigrade Warmtone paper for the contact prints (actual size prints of sheets of negatives in Kenro crystal clear filing pages). I seldom use it now and it's taking up storage space that I need for paper that I do use. For contacts I just need low contrast prints so old paper is fine for this. Having to cut larger sizes down to the 12 x 9.5 inches that I use for this. I have made up 20 x 16 inch dishes each with 5 litres of processing chemicals at 1+4 dilution to make sure I can do as many as I can. I need the images asap.

The films from the recent Colorado trip (seems a long time ago now but just a week since we returned) are being collected on Tuesday by Neil from the Ilford processing lab. He doesn't know yet but they are ready for him to take back with him. I don't like film processing, it's too repetitive for me and would take 2 or 3 days for the 62 rolls I currently have. Ilford Lab use the same developer that I do and a dip and dunk processing machine so negatives cannot be damaged by rollers or other transport system. The quality is excellent too.

Neil is actually coming here with some prints from their digital printing service, made from digital files of my scanned negs that I sent over a while back. Hoping that they will be able to take over making prints for me that are small (postcard size) and larger than the 60 x 50cm (24 x 20 inch) I can do in my darkroom, using their Lightjet system that takes a digital file of an image and prints onto traditional silver gelatine paper. They have a new digital paper that reputedly gives improved results over what are already good prints. We shall see!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Denver Airport

Yesterday, Friday 14th, was the last full day of our trip to our good friends Rob and Annie in Boulder Colorado. It started for me with a massage of my bad back to help prepare me for the return to UK. Amanda, who did the treatment, is a friend and colleague of Annie. Annie did acupuncture on my back afterwards. Shame they aren't just round the corner from home in Derbyshire as the Chinese Doctor who usually treats me has quite a few trips away so treatments are not as regular as I would like.

A short walk in the afternoon was followed by a final visit to the Mountain Sun Brewery with Rob for a couple of last Java Porters, and jolly nice they were too.

We were all joined in the evening by more friends, Paul, Ed and Johanne and we had a good time catching up on news since last we all met.

Today, we had a leisurely breakfast, expertly cooked by Rob, packed our bags, said our goodbyes and caught the bus to Denver Airport. Now we are sitting in the British Airways lounge waiting for our flight to be called.

No photos since Thursday, what's going on?

Home tomorrow.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lost Lake - Found

Thursday 13th January: today was probably our last snowshoeing day in Colorado this winter. After consulting my Colorado snowshoeing book we decided to visit Lost Lake near Nederland in the Indian Peaks Wilderness west of Boulder.

We parked at the winter trail-head then walked along the snow covered road to Hessie. The tracks were of packed snow and easy ti follow.

Lost Lake was completely frozen with patches of snow and frozen footsteps (snow compressed when powder and the the wind blows away all except the compacted snow) running across the lake.

Shots into the sun didn't work as well as those with the sun behind me. The distant Indian Peaks mountains were in clouds but the lower tops made for interesting backgrounds. I ran off 4 rolls before heading back the 3 miles to the car. There were some interesting snow shapes and views on the way back which made some unusual images.

We stopped at the Nederland Brewery on the way back and the Mountain Sun in Boulder after that. Loys of nice beers.

Tomorrow I have treatment for my bad back and a walk in the afternoon.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Last Ski Day of 2011

Wednesday 12th January: our last ski day was split between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, separated by about a 10 minute car journey.

We started at Keystone thinking that the snow would be in better condition in the morning. We had lots of good runs on quiet slopes before all meeting up at a cafe in Keystone village for a lunch break.

Then it was off to A-Basin for the afternoon. This was a much smaller area but with lots of interesting and challenging runs. It reminded me of the Scottish ski areas with snow fences scattered across the slopes and rocks showing through to the side of a few runs.

I took a roll (10 shots) at Keystone and another roll at A-Basin. The light was a bit variable but good in patches. There were lots of ski fences and lifts that were easier to include than exclude so I ended up with lots of ski area photos and just a few mountain landscapes.

That was the last skiing for us this year, unless we have really heavy snowfall in Derbyshire over the next few weeks.

We have been lucky on this trip. Lots of shots from new ski areas for us and some images from areas previously visited by us. Areas included Wolf Creek, Durango. Telluride, Aspen, Snowmass, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. I already have images from several other Colorado areas..

We are back in Boulder with Rob and Annie. Going snowshoeing tommorrow.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Easy Skiing

Tuesday 11th January: We had moved to Eagle (not Avon as I put in last blog!) ready for skiing Beaver Creek today.

The day was fine but jolly cold, like yesterday, with a few clouds. The ski runs were amazingly well groomed and made the skiing much easier than if it had been left as chopped-up powder. Not many people skiing though, probably because so cold.

Lots of scope for black and white photos. I concentrated on ski resort photographs rather than more general big landscapes that avoid any buildings, which is what I prefer to do. Had to be careful not to move the camera on the tripod, in the soft snow, as I pressed the shutter so I used the cable release all day. There were a few picket fences which I was able to include in some shots; typical of some Colorado ski areas.

We like Beaver Creek for skiing. The runs are well groomed, well labelled and you can trust the run classifications. All the staff are very friendly too.

Tonight we visited the Dam Brewery at Dillon, a short walk from our hotel. The Stout was in good form, the food was pretty good too.

Tomorrow we are planning to ski Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) and Keystone (same ski pass and just 10 minutes apart).

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Skiing in a Deep Freeze

Several inches of snow yesterday had freshened up all the slopes and we made our way to Snowmass near Aspen for Monday 10th.

It was very cold and a bit breezy. The temperature was quoted as -27C at one of the high lifts. That's chilly! Toes and fingers were cold for much of the day but the rest of me was fine.

The skiing was great although it has to be said that signage for ski runs was poor to non-existent in places and classification left us baffled sometimes - meandering cart tracks labelled as difficult and an uphill difficult run!

There were a few clouds around from the start at 10am but the views were magnificent from the high lifts. Lots of snow covered trees too. There was blue sky, snowy mountains and snowy trees on the mountainsides so I was able to use an orange filter instead of dark yellow for several shots. An orange filter darkens conifers greatly making it difficult to hold detail in these areas normally. It gives great skies though.

Stopped off in Glenwood Springs to check out the brewery on the way to our hotel in Avon. I'm pleased to report that the Porter was excellent.

We are skiing Beaver Creek tomorrow and the forecast is good. Fingers crossed that's right.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Avalanche Snowshoeing

The weather broke last night and today, Sunday 9th, we woke to 4 inches of snow outside with more falling all the time, just as forecast.

We had planned for a snowshoe day so the weather was fine for this.

From a book I bought in Boulder before we started this years road trip I picked out the Avalanche Creek Trail as our snowshoe trek for the day. It was 6 miles round trip.

It started about 12 miles south of our hotel in Carbondale. The snow was still falling heavily as we started at 10.40 am. The route follows a good track to a campground 3 miles up Avalanche Creek.

The weather brightened a bit, the snow stopped and I went into the stream bed to see what photos I could create.

It was magical, the stream was partly frozen with thick ice and snow lining the sides. I was walking on the ice to take my photos, fortunately it supported my weight! The trees all had fresh snow on the branches and I set to work.

There wasn't much light so it needed about 1/4 second exposures with f22 for maximum depth of field but this would enhance the water (giving streaky water). There were lots of angles to try but maybe the best were those of the snow covered conifers on the other bank of the Creek with snow in the foreground and streaky water in between. An interesting mix of static and motion.

This evening we visited the local brew pub, the Beer Works in Carbondale, for the third night running. The beer was still fine but we were pleased to continue our testing programme here!

Tomorrow sounds like it will clear late morning so we plan to ski Snowmass (next to Aspen).

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Aspen Skiing and Photos

It's Friday night and we spent today skiing 2 of the 4 ski areas at Aspen.

We started with Aspen Highlands for photos of the Maroon Bells mountains. These are very shapely peaks over 14000 feet high.

I already have reflection photos of them taken in the summer (see web site) but I wanted winter shots too. The road to them is closed about 7 miles from Mirror Lake, which is a bit too far in winter. Shots from the ski area were the next best thing.

The best viewpoint was from Loge Peak, a small rocky lump above the chair lift of the same name. It was quite a steep climb in deepish snow with a narrow section at the top but well worth it for the clear view of Maroon Bells.

There were several other viewpoints around the area but none bettered Loge Peak.

The clouds rolled in around midday and very quickly thickened. Time for some skiing. We did quite a few runs at Aspen Highlands and then caught the free bus to Aspen Mountain.

The gondola took us quickly to the top but most of the light was gone as the cloud cover increased. I may be able to make it more interesting by cutting off the hillsides in the bottom of the pictures, covered in dark conifers, to make a panorama.

So, few photos here. The best of the day was this morning. The more spectacular scenery too.

It's snowing now and forecast to continue through tomorrow. We have pencilled in a snowshoe day in a sheltered location. Hope we can get the car out of the car park!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Trees, Shadows and Snow

Today, Friday 7th, was a travel day from Telluride to Carbondale. We are skiing Aspen over the next 3 days and this was the only place with reasonably priced accommodation but a short drive away.

It was another blue sky day with clear roads and lots of mountains along the roads.

We did stop at one spot for me to take mountains with a frozen river in the foreground but the main planned stop was the McClure Pass.

Looking at the map I expected to see good views to some big peaks. At the pass it was very snowy underfoot but a well used snowmobile and ski track led up the hillside.

About a half mile or so from the car the view opened up and the snowy mountains of the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness looked great, but better was to come.

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows were long and, at 8755 feet, I was surrounded by shapely Aspen trees. These are great as they grow straight up with few low branches. It was time for tree trunks, shadows and snow pictures; lots of patterns from the tree trunks and shadows too.

After wading through thigh-deep soft snow, wishing I had bothered to put on snowshoes, I found myself amongst an Aspen wood. I metered off the shadows with a spot meter to make sure I kept the detail I need (I use film, so for digital you need to meter off lighter areas than this).

I also ran off a film just looking up at the tree-top canopy. Aspens grow close together and give good effects if you point the camera, and suitable wide-angle lens, up the tree trunk. I also took several shots from the centre of a stand of Aspens. By carefully choosing your viewpoint you can frame the picture so that trees appear to come in from all 4 sides.

For most of these tree-top shots I used an orange filter, with my usual Ilford FP4, to darken the clear blue sky.

I could have stayed there for hours but dragged myself away so that we could get on down to Carbondale and prepare for skiing Aspen tomorrow.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Telluride Skiing

It's Friday 7th and we are driving to Carbondale. No Vodafone phone signal in Telluride and wifi not working properly in Blackberry so unable to post since leaving Durango on Tuesday. Blackberry has been picking up emails intermittently at hotel but no web.

We have had 2 days fantastic skiing at Telluride with great weather and good snow. Telluride, an old mining town, is like something out of a western, wide street, square fronted buildings on Main Street. Behind this on both sides are mixes of old wooden buildings and new ones.

Lots of impressive mountains on all sides including some over 14000 feet.

So much to photograph with snowy mountains best viewed from the tops of several ski lifts (I thought Revelation Lift was best). To help avoid straining my back I went out with 1 camera and 1 lens each day; 43mm lens on Wednesday and 65mm on Thursday. The better shots were with the 43mm lens for the extra depth of field.

The old town main street was only sunlit for an hour or two each day. We came down late morning Wednesday so that I could take some photos, very impressive with a snowy mountain at the end of the street. Thursday was mainly a ski day with just a few photos.

Aspen tomorrow.

Durango to Telluride Ice Drive

Today, Tuesday 4th, was a travel day. We left Durango at about 10am heading for Telluride. The road was coated in hard snow and ice but we felt quite safe with Rob driving.

I was hoping for some photos, especially at the Lizard Head Pass but it was snowing and the clouds were down.

We wandered around Telluride and took a ride on the free gondola over the mountain but no photos as it remained dull. Maybe better luck tomorrow. No photos today.

No mobile signal and unreliable weak wifi signal at hotel so not sure when this will load.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Skiing Purgatory

Today, Monday 3rd, was a ski day so we headed to the Durango Mountain Resort, previously called Purgatory Ski Area. Looks like they recruited a marketing man who spotted the obvious drawback with such a name!

It was still cold but with quite a few clouds over the mountains. Lots of runs but not many lifts. Didn't matter though as there weren't many people!

The mountains looked good in the background, snow covered and cloud shadows moving over them. Lots of trees though, and mostly conifers. Had to use the conifers to frame the picture and include the odd skier (as in not many rather than doing something strange).

It was a good ski area. We enjoyed the variety and empty spaces.

It was difficult to set up the tripod securely, as usual when skiing. The snow was very soft with no base so I either used a cable release, or the self-timer and waited 8 seconds for the shutter to fire. Pressing the shutter button risks moving the camera.

We are staying in the Strater Hotel in Durango, an old stylish hotel dating back to the 1800's. It looks better at night, very imposing, so I was out at dusk taking some pictures of it and the Main Street. This allowed me to show the hotel with Christmas lights picking out the roof line as well as the dark faces of the hotel. Any later and the faces would have been black, no detail.

Tomorrow we drive to Telluride over the Lizard Head Pass. Hope the light is good.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Amazing Trees

Today, Sunday 2nd January, was a ski day - at Wolf Creek in southern Colorado. We stayed in South Fork about 20 miles north but drove to Wolf Creek for breakfast at 8am. It was jolly cold, down to -17F.

Breakfast was interesting - a bacon and sausage croissant. Then we hit the slopes. Raven lift didn't take us above the trees but Bonanza, the next one, did. There were good views to the hills and long shadows. Managed to find some snowy rocks and snow shapes for the foreground. I'm always looking for what to put in the foreground when using a wide angle lens.

Next was Treasure lift. We skiied off the lift and were confronted by conifers completely coated in snow and ice. I had never seen trees like it. Vail was similar 2 years ago but didn't have the shapes and the trees were too close together.

After a quick lunch we headed for Alberta lift. This is for back-country skiing but I climbed up to the ridge above the lift for more snowy trees with a grand view behind.

Not many ski shots but the trees more than made up for it. I just picked out some nice shapes, put them against a plain background (blue sky) and pressed the button. With the big views I picked the view and then looked for a foreground to set off the picture when using a wide angle lens.

For exposure I used the shadows and less bright areas with my trusty Sekonic spot metre. I took a total of 7 rolls through the day, which is about 70 images.

Tonight we revisited the Steamworks brewery. The Backside Stout was very good but not that keen on the Powder Daze Porter. The steak was good too.

Tomorrow, Monday, we ski Durango ski area, about 30 minutes from our hotel in Durango town.

Sand and Snow on New Years Day

It was second time lucky having just finished a great few hours taking photographs at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We arrived at 2.15pm and finished as the sun went down at 4.45pm. It was spectacular (compared with the blizzard that I shot in last January). The temperature was 6F (about -18C) so changing film was painful! The dunes were partly frozen so it was easier walking than otherwise, a bit like breakable crust snow.

The sand dunes start at 8000 feet and the highest are 750 feet high. Immediately behind them are snowy 14000 foot mountains. There was blue sky, white fluffy clouds above the peaks and sunshine. There were lots of patterns in the sand as well as patches of snow throughout the dunes. Jan and I walked up to 8644 feet for a clear view to the high mountains beyond; well worth the effort!

I just had the one camera and one lens as my back hasn't been too good lately. The lens was a 43mm wide angle (equivalent to a 21mm on a full frame digital), this is my favourite lens. It let's me get in close to whatever I pick out to make the foreground and it's all in focus, front to back.

I took 7 rolls of 120 with 10 shots on each film. Most of the shots were taken in pairs to give me a spare negative should the worst happen to one. They are 1 stop apart (normal and +1 stop exposure)..

Just on way to South Fork for tonight and skiing tomorrow. Fingers crossed for clear views.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Boulder Red Rocks and Scottish New Year

There was no new snow to add to the 8 inches or so of Thursday. Jan and I went for a walk over Red Rocks on the outskirts of Boulder. These are shapely rocks that are a pinky colour and I have lots of shots of them but none with as much snow as yesterday. The snow was plastered on the rock faces and along the sky line. The trees had snowballs on the branches giving unusual effects. It was a bit slippery underfoot but we worked our way round, taking shots into the sun and with the sun behind.

Then it was down to Boulder Creek for some photos of the partly frozen river with snow covered rocks giving interesting shapes and patterns. Not much sun reaching the river bed so lighting was even and will be easy to print.

Then it was back to Rob and Annie's for a Scottish New Year party. The reason for the Scottish theme was mainly so that the party was held at a reasonable time as it goes by the time in Scotland! This meant that the new year was celebrated at 5pm Boulder time which was midnight in Scotland; no need to stay up late. We met some interesting friends and neighbours and a good time was had by all, as far as I can remember.

Now we are heading south on a 12 day ski trip, starting with some photography around the Great Sand Dunes National Park this afternoon. Skiing at Wolf Creek tomorrow. I need better weather than last year so fingers crossed.