It’s about time I wrap up the Colorado posts and move on to something new. I think this pretty much takes care of the highlights from our visit to Colorado, so unless I come across some other gems or find something that is appropriate for another topic this will just about do it.
I’m always a bit disappointed in myself when I realize that for all the time I spend walking around a town, I’m always paying attention to the “Tom” shots but I forget about the “tourist” shots! I did a better job in Grand Lake and Estes Park, but I don’t have a single “street scene” from Fort Collins, and it was my favorite town that we visited!
I did end up with a pretty nice collection, and I know someone will say that I did a good job of capturing what I saw. But I also saw a lot more, but I can’t prove it because I didn’t take any pictures!
So anyway, tourist photos or not, please enjoy this tour of Fort Collins.
It’s been nearly two months since we got home, so it’s about time to be done processing and posting photos, and time to move on! Alrighty, I’m on it! 😉
These are a few lingering photos from the “East” side of Rocky Mountains National Park. It’s easy to see why the Estes Park side of the park gets a lot more visitors than the Grand Lake side. There are a lot more “destination” places on the east side than there are on the west side (so named due to their relationship to the Continental Divide).
When we arrived on the east side of the park, we stopped at the Fall River visitor center and asked a ranger for advice on some of the less traveled areas of the park, since while we wanted to see the highlights, we also wanted to see some quiet places. While he indicated that there weren’t many truly “un-busy” places there were a few.
Most of these photos are from the Bear Lake area and the Grand Basin area. We found, just like in most other parks, the farther we got from the parking lot the fewer people there were. So that’s probably the secret – assuming you can find a place to park, find a trail and go!
Here’s the story on the Aspen photo – a little embarrassing but here goes. I had been on a bit of a quest for photos of Aspen, and I had a vision of what I was looking for. I wanted a good motion blur shot, but I also wanted a shot that showed the trunks against the green background. Since we weren’t there in the fall for yellow leaves, that would have to do.
I saw this tree and knew that it could be what I was looking for. I took two shots with my camera, checked the LCD and was convinced that I had gotten what I wanted. We had been hearing thunder for a few minutes and it was just starting to rain, but at the last minute I took out my phone and took another shot of the tree.
As it turns out, I hadn’t checked the settings on my camera and forgot that I had adjusted it for slow water photos. The two camera photos were shot at 1/15 and 1/25 second and are a little soft, too soft for my standards – a rookie mistake! Fortunately my phone saved the day and I ended up with a pretty decent photo. I may even try to print it!
I guess I kind of knew it at the time, but I didn’t carry my camera at all while we explored the town of Estes Park. Mostly we were there in the evening, and when going to dinner I didn’t want to lug around a camera. But I had my phone!
Here are a few representative shots of downtown Estes Park. Nothing terribly artsy but it does give a good flavor. And yes, there were a number of salt water taffy shops…these are just a few of them!
This post began as a comment to Cedric’s post on his own blog, but as I thought about the subject it turned into a full-fledged blog post of my own. I summarized my thoughts in a comment on his blog but thought I might as well pour out the whole bucket of goo in my own blog post.
In his post, Cedric ponders the need for constant upgrades, lamenting as many of us do that it’s not enough simply to buy a camera and have it serve our needs for years to come. It can be done, but it can be very difficult. There are many factors at play, but for the most part cameras are just one thing in our daily lives that seems to be caught in a perpetual cycle of upgrades.
A lesser but very important point that Cedric made in this and the subsequent post is related to how the pace of technological change has diminished our appreciation for the technology itself. I think that may be true to some extent, but I also think that for people who didn’t experience things in the “good old days” they can’t imagine how things could be different. I and others within a few years of my own age have seen the internet, computers and technology in general explode, much more so in the last 10 years than in the 100 before it. Without the context of time beyond about 20 or so years ago, today is the norm to younger people. Compared with how things were when our parents grew up the change is unimaginable.
Our pace of technological advance has quickened so much in recent years that things do greatly improve in ways that were unthinkable 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. It used to be possible to buy a good camera body and a couple of lenses and spend ones entire career shooting with the same gear. Cameras were built to last and for the most part they did. The only thing that changed was the film, and that upgrade happened incrementally.
When we use the same camera and lenses for a long time we do tend to develop a bond with them. Much of that bond stems from familiarity, and a familiar tool in many ways becomes an extension of the user, and the more we use it the less we have to think about it. Cedric suggests the idea of a camera having a “soul.” That might be a little strong, but the point deserves consideration, because I believe we can be inspired by our experience with a camera as a tool. Maybe a better way to put it would be that a camera can have an influence on our own soul. That might be a subject for further explanation!
There is a certain “upgrade mentality” related to all sorts of objects and devices. Much of this mentality is marketing driven, but much of it is driven by real advances in technology. What we have to decide is whether and to what extent we choose to participate. Some things matter, many do not. I personally do not need to drive the newest and most expensive car, but to many people that seems to be a priority. A good camera is important to me, and that means a more sizeable investment than many people would consider reasonable. I have polarizers that cost more than many people would spend on a camera, but I know people who spend more on golf clubs than I would spend on a new lens. I would rather drive a 12 year-old car but have a newer camera. I spend money on vacations but other people own a boat or a motorcycle. It’s all a matter of priorities.
I just shipped off a load of used camera gear, and included in that load was my original Canon 5D. It’s the camera I traded in my medium format gear to buy. Talk about a bond! While the 20D was an excellent camera, the 5D replaced it and I have been using it for over 10 years. That camera has paid for itself many times over. I used it as my second camera on our recent trip to Colorado. It was my backup camera two years ago in Nova Scotia, and I thought so much of it that I had it fixed after the mirror fell off! Did I need to replace it? Not really, other than the fact that the sensor is a dust magnet (always was) it functions as well now as it did when it was new.
I didn’t buy the 5D Mark II when it came out, even though many folks regarded it as a worthwhile upgrade. The main thing it did was shoot video, and I never shoot video. In a few months I’ll probably sell off the 5D Mark III and the rest of my Canon lenses. All of the lenses are 10+ years old too, and it has gotten to the place where the next camera upgrade will probably force a change anyway. So as long as I’m changing I’ve decided that it’s the right time to change completely. I’ll be making the change primarily because I feel my needs have changed, not so much because I think I need something better. If I was willing to keep carrying around that heavy gear I wouldn’t hesitate to keep it, because it still does an excellent job of meeting my photographic needs, and probably would for a while to come.
The pace of technology these days pretty much demands upgrades in many areas, but we all need to decide what is important to us. There is a certain level of performance required to do basic things, and as our needs expand so does the requirement for our technology support. If we buy a new camera that makes larger files, we find that we need more memory. If we’re using a 7 year-old computer we might find that it won’t run the latest software that we need to handle those files. There’s an upgrade cycle, and like it or not that’s part of the cost to participate. Our choice is to play or not play, but once you’re in, I think you need to keep up. I’m not always thrilled about that, but that’s the way it is. It’s been easier for me to avoid the marketing-driven temptations since I gave up television and “nagazines,” but I still like the tech part of things. The key is to make a change when it matters, not just when a camera company decides it’s time.
My son Kevin at 29 is very tech-savvy but also shares a philosophy of life that is similar to mine when it comes to spending money on technology. We have had a number of discussions about this very subject, most recently with a discussion about phones. But the discussion holds true for many things, including cameras. Kathy and I had phones that were 4 years old. Kathy’s phone was working just fine, because all she uses hers for is texting, email and the occasional phone call. Mine was chewing through batteries like candy, because while I’m not a “power user” I do tend to download and use many of the latest apps. The older phone wasn’t designed to do all that and was starting to tell me so. My son’s guidance was that for certain things we need to accept the fact that if we were going to use our phones like I use mine, they were not going to last more than a couple of years. The improvement in performance and battery life is noticeable – to me but not so much for Kathy – at least not yet – so the upgrade was worthwhile.
Kevin doesn’t care much about cameras, but he is a heavy phone and computer user. It is much more important for him to have current devices. As far as computers go I am strictly a user, but my needs for handling camera files dictate that I have a computer that is up to the task.
Up to this point all I have done is unload some surplus gear. I still have a very useable and excellent camera to use when I need one. I’ve already accomplished one major goal, which was to have less stuff to carry around! With no big vacations in the immediate future, the camera I have will continue to meet my needs perfectly. Once I have some cash in hand I’ll be able to start looking at ways to spend it. There’s a slim chance that I’ll decide to spend the money on new lenses for the camera I have, and it’s even less likely that I’ll just hang on to the cash. But it’s far more likely that I’m going to use it as seed money toward a new system. Something smaller and lighter is my ultimate goal, and I feel is sufficient reason for an upgrade.
Trail Ridge Road is the road through Rocky Mountains National Park. I had been looking forward to this drive since we started planning our vacation, perhaps even more than the idea of driving to the top of Pike’s Peak. Cresting at over 12,000 feet, you truly feel like you are at the top of the world.
We spend parts of several days on Trail Ridge Road. I took a lot of photos during our drive, but for the most part the time was spent behind the wheel. I’ve posted a few shots that give a bit of the flavor for what it was like, but like a lot of places in the great outdoors, photos hardly do the scenery justice.
Parts of the road have no berm and no guardrail, and the consequences for distraction can be pretty dramatic. Kathy took quite a few photos through the windshield and I took a few with my phone, but they are mostly record shots and not really worthy of publication. I may try to post a gallery of phone photos from our trip at a later time.
Well, I shipped off 20 pounds of used camera gear this past weekend, and plan to use the proceeds to form the cornerstone of the next collection of gear. After nearly 14 years of lugging around the Canon stuff I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and try something smaller. The decision is not entirely straightforward or simple, as I tend to be a very loyal consumer, and there is still a lot to love about the full frame cameras. And while I’m hedging my bets by hanging on to a solid collection of full frame gear, I’m pretty sure I can predict what is going to happen.
Many readers of this blog know that I have been exploring this move for some time. Over the last several months I rented a Fuji X-T1 and an Olympus OM-D E-M1. Both are wonderful cameras and have their pluses and minuses, and I know people who are faithful to both brands.
I was pretty sure that my choice was going to be the Fuji, so over the 4th of July weekend I rented it again, this time trying both the 18-55 and the 18-135 lenses. I haven’t yet placed the order – the sale prices expired before I was ready – but once I’m ready to go I’m planning to buy the X-T1 with the 18-135. My rationale is that it will be an excellent travel lens for those times when I only want to take one camera and lens, and it will give me just about all of the coverage I could want. Eventually I’ll probably buy at least one or two of the “pro” lenses, and I really want to try some of the excellent Fuji prime lenses, so I’ll keep my options open.
So while I continue to work on Colorado images, I wanted to process the Fuji files in order to evaluate them, and figured I might as well post a few. I know it’s possible to do with any camera, but I really like the fact that I can easily create a develop preset in Lightroom to quickly process a bunch of files. For the most part the results are very good with little fiddling. These have had a little bit of extra work done to them, but for the most part they are as shot with a Lightroom preset applied.
In general I don’t have the inclination or patience to make “proper” photographs of animals. But knowing that we would be in an area known for wildlife, I wanted to be prepared. Most of these are snapped from alongside the road, in less-than-perfect lighting, but I got what I got. Not much to say, other than “enjoy!”
The town of Grand Lake sits on the western end of Rocky Mountains National Park, and is the gateway to the park for those entering on the west side of the continental divide.
The lake known as Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado and lies at an elevation of 8367 feet. Grand Lake is known as the headwaters of the Colorado River.
We spent three nights in Grand Lake, and used it as a base for our forays into Rocky Mountains National Park. It has more of an “outdoorsy” feel than some of the other towns we visited, and we enjoyed it very much.
We were a little concerned when we found out that our motel didn’t have air conditioning. There are few places where we would want to not have it. But the first night we were there the temperature dipped into the 30s, so all we needed to do was keep the windows open!
Our plan for the first full day in Colorado was to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans, and the mountain received about 8 inches of snow the night before our visit. It was interesting because it poured rain in Manitou Springs the previous afternoon, and when the skies cleared it was clear everywhere except the top of Pikes Peak, which was still shrouded in clouds.
When we got to the entrance that morning the ranger warned us that the road was not open to the top and offered us the chance to change our minds But we were there and wanted to see what we could see, so decided to take our chances.
The entrance part of the road is at an elevation of 7,800 feet – 1,000 feet above Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina! The lower part of the road is just like driving any mountain road – winding and steep in spots with a few nice viewpoints. Beautiful views, for sure!
We spent some time at Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center at Mile 6, which is at 9,160 feet. That was our first view of where Pikes Peak was, although we couldn’t see it, as it was still buried in clouds. The ranger there said that the road had been opened a little farther up, but that they still didn’t know if they would be able to open it to the top. We decided to press on and take our chances.
The higher elevations are where things get interesting. There are very few places to pull off, and on the day we visited most of the pulloffs were socked in with clouds. We made it to the overlook at Mile 18 – known as Sheep Sign because there is a sign there about Bighorn Sheep – where they had the road blocked. The ranger there said it was still snowing above and not safe to drive, so that was as far as we could go. It was snowing on us as we talked to him!
We had a little bit of vertigo and dizziness at the higher elevations. This is normal, and wasn’t helped by the fact that we couldn’t see anything to orient ourselves! This feeling subsided as we returned back below 10,000 feet, and we never had another problem with elevation the entire rest of the vacation. For that we were very thankful.
I did manage to get a few photos to document our visit. We’ll have to plan and visit again sometime when there is less of a chance of snow. We thought June was late enough, but maybe it will need to be July or August next time!