The Accidental Paparazzi

gooseneck BLOG

“As Close As I Dare” – I basically crawled to the edge of the Goose Neck turn of the Colorado River, afraid the bank would cave in.

I’ve been editing photos like a maniac several days now and I’m finally ready to share more. Last week’s photo expedition to the Utah Desert was a success and I’ll be sharing a bunch or images. I’ll keep it short and sweet this morning and simply brag about the fact that we drove Alexander Supertramp right through the middle of a Hollywood set on the remote Shafer Canyon Road, the back road into Canyonlands National Park. We knew something was up when we took note of a campsite along the Colorado River. A long ticky tacky row of luxury tents and heated outdoor sitting areas were the first signs that something big was being filmed nearby. It turned out that HBO is filming a mini series, a remake of the 1970’s movie “Westworld”.

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The set of “Westworld”

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A lot of movies have been filmed in these canyons over the years and on this day, they were filming at “Thelma and Louse Point”. At a crest in the road, we literally drove less than ten feet from the actors, dressed up in western wear, plates in hand waiting in line to eat lunch. We had no idea at that moment that we might have been rubbing elbows with Ed Harris or Anthony Hopkins.  I’ve got to get a dash cam! Anyway, it all caught us so much by surprise that all I managed to capture with the camera was from a distance. I managed a few shots from the drivers seat with my long lens just before the Sheriff escorted us on down the road. So if you end up watching “Westworld” on HBO, look for Alexander Supertramp in the background during a cemetery scene.

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#Monday Mantra ~ Week #3

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Abundance truly is in the eye of the beholder. It isn’t something we can own or possess, it is a mindset of freedom. So I’m standing at the Rim of Schaffer Canyon within Canyonlands National Park and this fully equipped adventure RV pulls up right behind Alexander Supertramp. Big Wheels, three feet of clearance and two motorcycles strapped to the back, this rig was a zombie proof fortress on a Mercedes Chasis. Jealousy reared its ugly head within me. “Where are you from?”, I asked the Man and Woman as they climbed down from the lofty coach. “Germany” he replied with a heavy accent. “Are you going around the world?”, I asked. “Just the America’s, we started with Alaska and are going south to Patagonia” he informed me. We walked over to the viewpoint and looked down at the Shaffer Canyon Switchbacks. “Are you going down there?”, I continued to quiz him. “Not in that” he said, referring to his rig. “Vee vill go on za bikes”. His rig weighed 18000 pounds and he was concerned the the road would not hold.

My envy began to subside. We had driven up the switchbacks the previous day and had never felt so free as I did in the wild Colorado River Basin below. We had driven through an expansive swath of some of the most remote wilderness in the country with everything we needed to make that possible, what more could I want. Sure I admire the German couple and I could see that their abundance was in their freedom, not in their highly cool rig.

jealosy BLOG

German RV BLOG

A Selfie, A Grandson And A Skeleton Tree

"Skeleton Tree"

“Skeleton Tree”

There is a time to stay home and a time to hit the pavement and put on the miles. For me, staying home is an opportunity to finish things, to edit and post and promote the work that I’ve done and to check off items from the never ending task list of Life. The problem with staying home however is that I get too comfortable in my habits and routines and I flat out don’t exercise enough. Ultimately, I end up feeling uninspired and creatively unchallenged, an ailment that can only be remedied by going out and seeing a familiar thing in a new way or an unfamiliar thing in a curious way. I love coming home with images that never would have been captured without some pavement pounding.

Monday and Tuesday we travelled to Southern Colorado to visit our youngest Daughter, her husband and especially the newest addition to all of our Lives, my first Grandchild. We took Alexander Supertramp (camper) with us and parked it steps away from their front door. I have to tell you, my little Grandson is the cutest baby in the history of the world! Yes this is my Blog and yes, I am going to show you baby pictures.

First Selfie With My Grandson

First Selfie With My Grandson

Grandma is in Love

Grandma is in Love

Daddy's Touch

Daddy’s Touch

The "not fair look" starts young

The “not fair look” starts young

Mommy's Touch

Mommy’s Touch

Grandaddy's Hands

Grandaddy’s Hands

It was really hard to leave the little guy but we could only be gone one night so we headed back to Denver the long way in hope of catching brilliant colors along the Arkansas River. Too early, the leaves of the Cottonwoods were still quite green. As we hit the lower Valley, it occurred to me that My wife had never been to the edge of the Royal Gorge, despite passing within a mile or two a number of times. We grabbed the exit and drove up the hill to the north rim, a five minute drive at the most. After gawking at the precipitous vistas and taking note of how cool it would be to do the zip line across, we drove back down the hill. Thats where we saw the “Skeleton Tree”.

Tam and Gracie at the Royal  Gorge

Tam and Gracie at the Royal Gorge

My wife pointed the “Skeleton Tree” to me and said I should shoot it. She has a really good eye for design and I rely on that constantly. I hit the brakes hard, parked and jumped out, camera and tripod in hand. What a gift that tree was. Here we had gone all day not seeing what we thought we’d see, and now we were seeing something that we didn’t expect on a hillside recently ravaged by wildfire. The thing I really love about this image is that there is so much beauty in something that is dead, a needed reminder that the world will still be beautiful, even without leaves for the winter.

World Famous Royal Gorge

World Famous Royal Gorge

The First Annual Father/Son Photo Expedition

Sagebrush Symphony

Sagebrush Symphony

As you can tell from my posts, I’ve been bitten hard by the photography bug and am having a bit of a challenge keeping up with all the editing. I seriously haven’t forgotten to finish my story about the trip to see Grizzly Bears, I’m just putting it on hold, taking advantage of the season to bank images of Autumn in Colorado. Last weekend, my two grown Sons and myself loaded our gear into the camper and headed out in search of nature’s seasonal grand finale. We didn’t even know where the journey would lead us. We would drive as far west and south as necessary to find ourselves surrounded by peak colors.

Darkness fell just as we reached the summit of Monarch Pass and we pondered camping there for the night until we realized how frigid the air temperature was. Onward we pushed past Gunnison to the shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water. The air temperature was so much more tolerable and we were staged for a night of astral photography. Blue Mesa sits generally in the center of Colorado. Far enough from city lights, and with a low horizon in all directions, the night sky there is stunning. After a quick spaghetti dinner we went to work.

Midnight at Blue Mesa BLOG

Midnight At Blue Mesa

Approaching Storm

Approaching Storm

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Sagebrush Moonrise

Night photography is a genre made ever so much more interesting by the latest camera technology. The newest full sensor cameras have ISO sensitivities that enable the camera to see things in the dark that the human eye cannot see. As we stood on the shore of the lake, dialing in camera settings and experimenting with the low light conditions, a dark mass of lightning producing clouds slowly edged closer to us from the west. To the naked eye, the setting was strangely sirene. In the review monitor of my camera, the setting was ominous. At some point I realized that it had been a while since the last flash of lightning and the big dark blob was now blocking out the stars to the west. The Boys and I deduced simultaneously that we better head back for the camper and we scurried with no time to spare. A wall of water and wind hit the sides of Alexander Supertramp (camper) just as we closed ourselves in. We laughed about our close call and talked about the adventures of the day.

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boys shooting

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Mt. Sneffels

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“Colorado Pops”

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“In The Bank”

Michael, Luke and I resumed our quest for colorful leaves first thing in the morning. We drove west to Montrose, still disappointed by the post-peak fall foliage. We wondered if we were too late. Fortunately, not long after turning south once again, we began to notice ribbons and patches of yellow, gold, red and even a lot of green in the San Juan Mountains, we had arrived! Leaf Chasing is a lot like storm chasing. You never really know where you’ll end up. We followed the vivid luminous colors onto a dirt road on the Dallas Divide, climbing slowly but surely to the base of Mt. Sneffels. By the end of the day we had gathered images in the thousands and as the sun was setting, we found a high mountain meadow where we could set up camp.

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Dinner was incredible. Chopped garden vegetables, potatoes and apple sausage cooked in foil packets on the coals of the campfire. There were lots of smiles and laughs around the fire that night and we talked about making this trip the first of many, a new tradition. As the last light of the day vanished to the west, more stars than you can imagine appeared in the night sky. We doused the fire and went into the camper to get warm, prepare equipment and get bundled up for another night of Photography.

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Luke Skywalker

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I can’t handle the cold like I did when I was younger. I shivered in the October midnight air, even with three coats and a blanket over me. We were actually lucky that we weren’t dealing with snow on the ground, after all we were above 10,000 feet. By the time all was said and done, the first rays of the rising moon were hitting the tips of the mountain range in front of us and as the nocturnal golden hour progressed, the light of the Moon spilled down into the golden aspen forest. We were all snug in bed by 2am.

Sunday would lead us into the picturesque town of Ouray for a hearty breakfast, before making the five hour journey home to Denver.

boys BLOG

Alexander Supertramp And The Great NorthWest – Part 5 ~ The Hill

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The Hill

A person wanting to drive a vehicle to the coastal mountains of Canada has only three choices. We had already tread the well kept pavement of Highway 1 out of Vancouver to the interior and made our way north to Williams Lake. There is also Highway 16, the heavily travelled Yellowhead Highway to Prince Rupert which was a few hundred miles north of us. It was our intention all along to head West on Hwy. 20, the third alternative which would take us to our destination, Bella Coola and Grizzly Bears feeding on Salmon.

The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is a huge swath of wilderness, perhaps the most remote area I’ve ever travelled to, including Alaska. Highway 20 is called the Freedom Highway, perhaps because if is over 300 miles with very few signs of civilization, or perhaps because a long stretch of it is free from pavement, guardrails, passing room and reasonable inclines. Soon after leaving Williams lake, I learned the hard way that even trying to do 50mph was unwise due to the likelihood of a Deer, Moose or Bear jumping out in front of us. At one point, after a brief distraction of some sort I looked up to see an elk as tall as my hood standing dead center with my trajectory. The loud scream of my locked tires sliding on pavement seemed to last forever and everything moved in slow motion. For an instant that seemed like an eternity, I accepted that our trip had been prematurely ended with the slaughter of a beautiful beast and the demise of Alexander Supertramp, what a bummer. Somehow, some way the giant creature vanished as quickly as he had appeared and we were continuing down the road like it never even happened.

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Nimpo Lake

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Alexander Supertramp at Nimpo Lake

We made it roughly halfway to Bella Coola before dusk and found a campsite at Nimpo Lake where we watched the sunset, ate dinner and went to bed. We went to sleep that night to the calming melody of a loon and the melancholy cry of a real life lone wolf, sounds that don’t exist where we come from. At sunrise, I stood on the shore and took in the beauty of the deep blue lake and the surrounding mountain ranges in the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. A float plane taxi’d across the lake in the cool morning air then lifted into the azure blue sky for a morning of sightseeing. After a breakfast of instant oatmeal, we lowered the top of our mobile bungalow and headed down the road with a long trail of dust streaming in our wake.

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Tweedsmuir Air

The two thousand foot descent into the Bella Coola Valley is affectionately known as the Hill. Over two thousand miles into our journey and it had all boiled down to a one lane dirt road with 18% grades and spine tingling switchbacks. This section requires one foot on the brake, two hands on the wheel and an earful of advice on how to drive from your spouse. To be fair, I would not have been a happy passenger either. I was glad to be in control. To make matters worse, we had watched a number of youtube videos from “The Hill” and had worked ourselves into somewhat of an unnecessary anticipatory frenzy. Obviously we lived to see another day and I can now say that I drove “The Hill” twice, once down and once up.

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There’s a good reason this pic sucks!

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Switchback

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Freedom Highway

Just like with the Elk, when we arrived at the valley floor the paved highway resumed and it was the Hill never happened. Over the course of the next four days, we would become very familiar with the final twenty mile stretch of highway to the coast as we drove it daily in search of Grizzly Bears. But as we saw it for the first time there was a heightened level of appreciation for the mountains and glaciers and rivers. Before the sun set that first night we stood along the banks of the Atnarko River and waited for our first Bear sighting. Sure enough a 600 lb. Boar was “snorkeling” his way down current toward us and with Bear Spray and my camera in hand, I trembled as clumsily began taking pictures. Grizzly Bears feeding on Salmon..Check. We camped for the night along the River, cozy and warm within the confines of the hard and soft sided Alexander Supertramp. Every now and then the peaceful sound of the river would be interrupted with a ”Shhhhh…did you hear that? what was that?”

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“Who Sees Who?”

submarine blog

snorkeling bear

“Power”

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“Atnarko Sunset”

Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 4 ~ Whistler and Beyond

Goodbye Vancouver Island

Goodbye Vancouver Island

We left Vancouver Island on a full ferry, crossed the Straight of Georgia and connected with the Canadian mainland at Horseshoe Bay. Seeing Vancouver was on the trip checklist and we found ourselves on the winding four lane road heading directly into the city. Something didn’t feel right. Really seeing and experiencing Vancouver would require at least on overnight stay. Before we even got a glimpse of the skyline we grabbed an exit and came about back toward what we craved most, to get into the wild.

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

The Sea to Sky Highway followed the shore of the Howe Sound for 28 miles where we found ourselves being drawn into the parking lot of a tourist gondola at Squamish. We were in the land of Fjords and Glaciers and the idea of getting a birds eye view was irresistible. I grew up with Gondolas in the ski town of Vail, Colorado. In fact I was in high school in 1976 on the day that two of the cars fell to the ground. Details of three dead and nine critically injured were broadcast over the school intercom and every since that day I have been cautious about trams. The Sea to Sky Gondola was a good experience. Tammy and I had a car to ourselves on the ride up. We snapped “selfies”, gawked at the scenery and yawned to pop our ears as we quickly gained over 2400 vertical feet. After eating lunch on the observation deck, we strolled across a cable suspension bridge and through the forest, taking in our first up close views of the precipitous and glaciated coastal mountains.

Sea to Sky

Sea to Sky

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There was a long line at the upper tram terminal for the ride down which we were able to circumvent as the lift attendants were in need of two for a car that was loading. We were kept company by a pair of grim faced women who said nothing the entire ride down and a family of four who I judgmentally guessed could not speak English. It turns out they were from Toronto and as Canadian as maple syrup. When we told them that we had driven from Colorado and we were heading 12 hours north to see Grizzly Bears, they asked “Why do you want to do that, Eh”. All in all, the day was incredible. After all of the tough times we had been through in the previous year, it was good to just feel like we were two kids on a date.

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A couple of hours later, we found ourselves driving through the villages of the Whistler Ski Area, contemplating a place to park for the night. It was interesting to see what Canada’s world class resort looked like, how it felt in comparison to Vail and the large Colorado resorts. It didn’t take much of that however and we found ourselves heading on down the road in search of “The Wild”. We ended up pulling into a rustic campground at sunset, parking Alexander Supertramp next to a picnic table and a river. For the first time on our journey, we had escaped civilization and the masses of humanity, we were finally alone.

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild

“Nocturne”

Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 3 ~Vancouver Island

Hugging the Shoreline blog

“Hugging Shore”

Something about driving your vehicle onto a ship to cross an international border is intriguing and so we had altered our plans once again to do just that. We arrived in Port Angeles, Washington about two hours prior to departure and had no problem getting a place in line for the popular Black Ball Ferry to Victoria, British Columbia. We even had time for a sit down breakfast at a busy main street diner, an authentic gathering place for working locals who apparently had hearty appetites. The portions were huge and the people watching and eavesdropping was enlightening. We had such a great experience while in coastal Washington that we would have delayed our departure had it not been for the anticipation of what was yet to come.

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Hello Canada

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Nanaimo

The 23 mile crossing of the Straight went quickly. After going through customs “drive through” style, we found ourselves being pushed and pulled right through downtown Victoria in the congestion of traffic coming off the ship. It was late in the day and a two hour drive to Nanaimo was ahead of us. We would come back to Victoria another day when we were fresh we thought and we pushed on up the coast highway. Vancouver Island is not small. The main north and south road is over 300 miles long and the highest point is over 7000 feet. The majority of the island is not reachable by road so there is a ton of wilderness. Some doomsayers say that Vancouver Island is not a safe place to live in the event of earthquakes. After seeing how beautiful it is, I say “who cares?”. I’d live there in a heartbeat if circumstances allowed.

On the way to our reserved camp site in Nanaimo, we stopped at a farmers market to replenish our food supply. A small metal building was stocked to the ceiling with locally grown fruits and vegetables, we learned that almost everything grows on the island. In its offerings, this place made Whole Foods look like a small town convenience store. We arrived at our wooded seaside campsite in the late afternoon and we popped up Alexander Supertramp, ate produce for Dinner and turned in for the night. Fires were not permitted due to dry conditions on the island so we laid in bed and read as we discovered that our campground was anything but peaceful. I kid you not, dozens of french speaking children were shouting and screaming at the top of their cute little lungs. They were apparently having the time of their lives at some sort of youth camp nearby. Plans are meant to be changed, right?

We did end up staying in the campground one more night, enduring not only the Mickey Mouse Club but the addition of family reunion next door and one particular woman who never stopped talking. We needed a day of rest anyway and we rode our bikes into town and ate dinner. Nanaimo is a port town, pretty rough around the edges and very industrial. The harbor is a hub of activity with people coming and going by private vessels, ferries and float planes. As the day progressed, we decided that we would leave our reserved campsite and drive to the remote west side of the island in the morning.

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Cathedral Grove

I still had warm coffee in my cup as we arrived at Cathedral Grove, an old growth Cedar forest in the interior of the island. We spent an hour or so walking among the giants and snapping pictures, before continuing up route 4 to Port Alberni and the next 60 miles through the wilderness to the coast. The fog was thick when we arrived at a seaside village called Ucluelet and contrary to the rumors we heard, there were campsites available. We pushed on up the coast past Long Beach to the end of the road at Tofino. All of the bonafide campsites in Tofino were taken, reserved months in advance. Fortunately for us, there is a campground there that is something like a hostel for tents and R.V.’s. The rule seems to be that if you can find a place to put yourself, we will gladly accept your $60 and “no we don’t do windows..or bathrooms”. Oddly, it turned out to be the quietest night yet..go figure.

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Tofino Marina

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A Walk Before Sunset

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Tofino Sunset

In the afternoon, we rode a couple of Kilometers into the village of Tofino and had sushi on the patio of an Inn. We watched seaplanes coming and going and eavesdropped on a table of four Vancouver “Valley Girls” talking about how they “Soooo had to do this again”. Yea we do a lot of people observing, please don’t judge us for that. After dinner we photographed and pedaled our way back to camp just in time for sunset. The beach at Tofino has dozens of tiny timbered islands just off shore which adds up to fertile subject matter for the photographer. When the golden hour hits and there is that much to photograph, I can take my tripod and become entranced, losing all sense of time. As darkness fell, a crescent moon appeared over the horizon and people huddled around bon fires to stay warm.

"In The Bag"

“In The Bag”

Not crazy about staying another night in a parking lot and having to get up very early in the morning to make the long drive back to Nanaimo, we opted to head back across the island and we found ourselves that night in Qualicum Beach. We had now spent seven nights in a row in Alexander Supertramp and we longed for a hot shower and a running toilet and needed to do laundry, we rented a room for a night. It felt ok to have all the luxury but we both admitted that we missed sleeping in the camper. Early the next morning we headed for the port at Nanaimo to catch our reserved spot on the ferry to Horseshoe Bay on the Canadian mainland. We never did make it back into Victoria but no worries, we know we will go back some day, perhaps we will also go back to Tofino to watch the monster surf during a winter storm.

Moon Island blog

“Crescent Moon Over Tofino”

About Last Weekend

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Isn’t it easy for us to get caught up in the day, to dwell on the past, to worry about the future?  Occasionally, we all need to give ourselves permission to put down all of that baggage and just live life.  It’s when we slow down and take notice of what is around us in a particular moment that we realize just how blind we become in our own ambitions.

"Awareness Matters"

“Awareness Matters”

Last weekend is now a very warm memory of doing just that and I’ve been busy processing all of the images that came my way.  It’s funny how good things come to us as soon as we let go of trying to be in control.  I’m telling you, these images practically jumped into my lens.

"Slate Creek Waterfall"

“Slate Creek Waterfall”

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Gunnison County and Crested Butte still hold a special place in my heart.  After all of these years, I return to where I spent my college years and I’m blown away all over again by the exotic beauty of the south central part of the state.  We pitched camp there for a few nights and took in all we could, I feel renewed.

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When was the last time you told your worries and concerns to take a hike?