Lost Souls Of The Grand Staircase

 

Jupiter Rising 3500

The month of May found me in a state of improving health and the itch for adventure and exercise needed attention. My Wife and I didn’t have to study the map long before placing a pin on the Red Rock Country of Southern Utah. We even arranged to rendezvous with my In-Laws so that we could share the experience.  Why Southern Utah you might ask. For one thing, Denver was still getting pounded by turbulent Spring weather just as high pressure was taking hold to the West. Furthermore, this is the time of the year that deep canyon floors are thriving with green hues and runoff from the high country. The two of us and our Italian Greyhound Gracie were packed and on the road, destination Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Willow Creek Reflection HDR 3500

The Staircase is special. It is one of the most remote and beautiful places in the desert southwest and during previous visits my exploration had only scratched the surface. The plan for this trip was to do as much desert hiking as possible and to experience the solitude of a wilderness that is now at risk of losing its protected status. I also needed to get a photography fix in the worst way. I had hardly picked up the camera since last fall when I fell ill and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. For hiking, I pulled my old trustee Asolo boots out of storage. They had carried me up half of Colorado’s Fourteeners when I was much younger. Surely they would serve me well in the desert.

True North 3500

It’s always good to have an audio book on hand for long drives. For this trip I selected “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. His true story documents the life of a free spirited explorer who vanished without a trace from the Escalante region in the 1930’s. The book originally caught my attention because the forward was written by John Krakauer who wrote “Into the Wild”, one of my favorites. The subject of Krakauer’s book was Christopher McCandless, also a free spirited explorer who spent a great deal of time in the Desert Southwest. McCandless, who ended up starving to death in the Alaska wilderness, went by the alias “Alexander Supertramp”. I so much love the story that I named my camper “Alexander Supertramp” long ago.

calf cr falls multi

Sometimes the Universe aligns itself in such a way that you cannot deny that something is meant to be. That is exactly what happened on this trip to the Grand Staircase. Here we were in a rig named “Alexander Supertramp” following the footsteps of a free spirited lost soul and while hiking near the last know location of Everett Ruess, the soles of my Asolo boots peeled off, one after another. You can’t make this stuff up. It was a great trip!

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The Mad Science of Low Light Photography

monumental sunrise BLOG

We loaded up the camper, affectionately dubbed “Alexander Supertramp”, on Tuesday and headed West toward Grand Junction, Moab and Canyon Lands National Park. I knew the four night expedition would be fun and would offer another opportunity to capture fall colors,  but I had no idea that the adventure would unfold so fortuitously. Now that I’m home, I’ve begun the arduous process of catching up on business and life and am editing the images one at a time in chronological order so that I can share them.

alex at monument BLOG

Alexander Supertramp at Colorado National Monument

moonrise at cindi's BLOG

Moonrise from My Sister’s home in Grand Junction

The drive from Denver to Grand Junction was like a walk down memory lane. I have so many great memories of my youth in the Vail Valley and as we continued down I-70, each mile to the west symbolically represented the path of adulthood up until the age of 45, living with my Wife and raising my four teenage Children in Grand Junction. We arrived at the home of my youngest Sister and her family just in time for Dinner. My older Sister and her Husband joined us as well. It was great to visit and take in 360 degree views of the Grand Valley and watch the Full Moon rise over the Grand Mesa.

moonset before sunrise BLOG

“Moonset Dawn”

After Dinner, we drove up the steep and windy road of the Colorado National Monument in the moonlight and selected a campsite in the nearly empty campground. After catching a few quick night shots, I put the camera away and went to sleep with the alarm set for 5:30 am. Weather permitting I hoped to capture the rising sun in the morning.

cool blue BLOG

“Cool Blue”

before sunrise BLOG

dawn breaks BLOG

I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge of learning how to capture night and twilight images with the latest equipment. Back in the film photography days, I did a lot of low light experimentation, usually in Black and White and always doing all of my own processing. Then for a number of years, I tried and tried to get good results with digital but fell short until the technology caught up with my ambitions. The new full sensor cameras “Rock” but it’s still taken a lot of learning and experimentation to establish a greater level of success. It takes time to fill the bag of tricks  and at times I resemble a mad scientist, frantically throwing together a concoction of apertures, shutter speeds, white balance and ISO, hoping to achieve results that have never been achieved before. Learning and having fun are an explosive combination.

moonset before sunrise 2 BLOG

” High Desert Dream”