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Nightmare on The River

May 26th, 2016

(This is the true story of an epic adventure on the Verde River, AZ).

Skip, who was in her seventies, was browsing through a magazine for retirees when she came across an advertisement that roused her adventurous spirit. It read: “Enjoy a leisurely 41 mile rafting trip down the Verde River in Arizona. View wild flowers and wild life as you relax and enjoy the gentle movement and occasional light rapids of this beautiful river”.

Skip thought it sounded like a wonderful experience. Excitedly, she called her best friend Jenna, who was in her sixties, to see if she would like to join her on the trip. A few weeks later, in April 1997, Skip and Jenna found themselves leaving the lush Estes Valley for the Arizona desert. A short flight landed them in Phoenix and they were transported to Prescott, anticipation coursing through their veins.

Once the group of adventurers, who averaged 60 – 65 years in age, had gathered by the river, the two guides informed them that the river was too low to use the rafts. They were given the option of using a rubber ducky each, which is a one person raft, or canceling the trip. A vote was taken and it was unanimous to go ahead with the trip. Skip and Jenna had some reservations, but the rest of the group, and the work crew of six much younger people, were eager. Each person was then issued rain gear, waterproof bags for clothing, and strong boxes to store cameras and jewelry in.

Skip had been told by the organizers that the weather in April would be beautiful, and it was. The sun shone as eighteen tiny rafts were launched, for what was supposed to be a leisurely six days float down the Verde River, with little work involved for the paying vacationers. It was not long though before the rafters started experiencing problems. With the river so low, many rocks were exposed, and despite some hard paddling, Skip’s raft got hung up on these rocks. Skip would struggle to free her raft, sometimes getting help, and then it would happen again. This repetitious act, coupled with the constant dodging of low hanging branches and maneuvering down rapids, sometimes backwards, grew old quickly. It did not help either, when clouds formed above, and soon deposited a steady rain into the canyon, soaking everything that was not sealed tightly, leaving puddles in the bottom her mini raft. Skip and the rest of the group grew cold and wet even with rain gear shielding them from the downpour.

When finally it was time to stop for the night, Skip and Jenna were dismayed to learn there were no tents or sleeping pads waiting for them. The only shelter offered were some tarps, of which they had to crawl under. Sleeping bags were provided but the group had to sleep directly on the hard, cold, wet ground, strangers huddling close for warmth. However, they were temporarily appeased when the crew prepared a good hot meal for each person. Skip felt slightly rejuvenated afterwards, but that too was short lived. As the sun sank behind the rocky cliffs along the river, chills ran through the weary rafters. They gathered fire wood in the hopes of warding off the cold night air, but most of the wood was wet, and burned with difficulty, dispersing smoke that brought tears to Skip’s eyes and filled her lungs. It was a long, cold, night.

Skip woke in the morning chilled to the bone and stiff. Her back ached and no amount of stretching eased the pain. A heavy drizzle was falling, and everything was muddy and soaking wet. The clouds hung heavy with no hint of leaving any time soon. After breakfast Skip climbed reluctantly into her rubber ducky, and pushed off, waving and smiling to Jenna, trying to keep their spirits up. Before leaving that morning there had been talk of quitting the trip, but the group had learned there was no way out of this trip, as there was no way out of the canyon, and no way to escape the river.

The same pattern was repeated each day — rain and cold, wet, muddy camps, with no dry wood to have a good fire. The risk of someone getting hypothermia increased daily, with no way to get dry and warm, and the icy cold river, of which Skip was beginning to despise, stealing what little body warmth they had every time they took to water. There were no wild flowers to view, or animals grazing along the misty shores. The crew continued to cook the meals and were very helpful, but the guides were of no help at all and were extremely rude. One guide was drunk for the first few days, until he ran out of alcohol. He had bossed Skip and the others around, treating them like children, offering no assistance or comfort. When Skip had complained about how badly her back hurt one guide had retorted with, “Well, my back hurts too.” Skip was not the only one feeling ill, several other members in the group were suffering from physical problems or ailments. Often at the end of the day the group would have to climb up steep banks to make a camp. After several days of this torture one lady started to cry, complaining she was too tired to make it up the steep slope. She asked the guide for help, but the guide told her if she couldn’t make it, then she should just strip and change into dry clothes right there. Defiantly, she did just that, stripping in front of everyone, too tired to care any more, tears of misery and pain leaving streaks on her grubby cheeks.

Six days later, when this worn, tattered and very ill group finally reached their destination, Skip thought the nightmare was over. However, her back felt like it was tearing as the group was transported by van over rough muddy roads and dumped unceremoniously at a motel. The rain continued to pound, unforgiving in its tenacity. A warm room and shower did not help everyone. Some from the group were on the verge of hypothermia, or suffered with other ailments, and had to be taken to the hospital.

Skip, Jenna, and the rest of the group, wrote a letter requesting a refund. They stressed the dangers involved in the trip and the lack of care they received. It had been poorly organized, and all classified it as a “nightmare trip.” Refunds were given quickly, and without argument. No one sued the company.

Nightmares were prevalent for Skip and many of the others for months afterwards. Some of the group took weeks to get well, and required physical therapy as part of their recovery. This trip was supposed to have been a nice leisurely drift down the river, with most of the work done by the guides, allowing the adventurers to sit back and relax. Instead it turned into a nightmare, one that Skip will never forget.

Happy Trails

By Roxy Whalley

Written for my column ‘Tales From The Trail’ that was published in the Estes Park News in 2005.

There is a reason I dont post to this blog

May 26th, 2016

There is a reason I dont post to this blog

Hi There,

Thanks so much for visiting this blog. As you will see, I haven't posted anything here for a very long time, that's because this blog comes free with the membership, and to be honest it's useless. It's truly impossible to get anyone to find the blog unless they are already visiting my web page, and happen to click on the blog link.

Why you ask? ~ Well, If I write a blog post here, chances are no-one one the web will ever find it because there is no way to add tags, so that search engines will find the posts. What this boils down to is that writing a post here is just a huge waste of time. I do have another blog called Nomad for Nature ( ) if you're interested in that, the link it also available at the top of the home page.

Don't worry, you can also find my photography on Facebook
or Twitter

Hey, thanks again for visiting... please don't hesitate to contact me in you have any questions, and I hope to see you elsewhere.

Roxy Whalley ~ Tranquil Light Photography

Galaxy In Ice

December 19th, 2011

Galaxy In Ice

~ Galaxy ~

The temperature is 12 degrees and an icy, biting wind steals the moisture from my lips. Beneath my feet lies a whole galaxy; stars and planets never before witnessed by man. H2O molecules, oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, electrons and protons have all worked together to create this vision. I think of the various life forms that exist on the other side of this solar system. Microscopic organisms, insects, plants, and fish, each one living in a different environment than mine, an environment I could not survive in for more than a few minutes. These tiny creatures and organisms are oblivious to this contemplative human standing mere inches above them. A human surrounded by mountains and trees, inhaling and exhaling the crisp air of the Rocky Mountains, and trying not to slip, while marveling at the image of the universe created in the ice at her feet.

~ Roxy Whalley, Jan 5, 2009 ~

Grizzlies In Colorado

November 29th, 2011

Grizzlies In Colorado

The following story is based on a true account from a local prospector who values his privacy. Therefore, the name I have used is fictional and any similarity to that of others, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Chase Dupont resides in Estes Park during the long Colorado winters, but in the summer he spends a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains in search of old mines and undiscovered veins of silver and gold.
The prospectors of old were often rough men who had little understanding of nature, their eyes glinted only at the thought of riches of the material kind. Chase's eyes, however, lighten up as he talks about camping in the woods for months on end, and his love of nature in the wild.
Up until the 1950's, many Grizzlies still called the Rocky Mountains home, but it was around this time that a hunter shot the last known Grizzly in Colorado. This man, just doing a job he was hired to do, now regrets his part in this fatal moment. However, despite it being recorded as the last known Grizzly, those words still hang in the air. A few years ago this old hunter told Chase that he feels there are still Grizzlies in Colorado.
One beautiful July day in 1998, Chase hiked up a remote valley in southwestern, Colorado. (Chase declines to name the area in terms that are more specific.) He moved silently through the woods, stopping occasionally to scan the valley below and listen to nature's symphony. When he reached timberline at around 11,000 ft, he scouted the distance for veins in the rocks whilst weaving his way between the forest line and the more open tundra. As was his habit, any rocks he picked up were returned to their original indentation in the earth. He moved carefully taking great care not to tread on the wild flowers and disturb the infinite beauty of their pristine habitat.
After several miles, the ridge-line curved down to a rocky escarpment and Chase found himself in a wet area filled with wildflowers that grew above his waist. As he moved through this garden, the dew soaked his pants, so he jumped onto a huge fallen tree that was about 3 feet in diameter. This tree had been magnificent in its time, and Chase guessed it to be about three or four hundred years old.
Chase walked along the tree trunk and leaped over to another tree that laid across the one he was on. As his foot landed on the other tree, a loud popping noise erupted from the bark making him jump. In the same instant a very large, dark shape loomed up in front of him startling him even more. Instantly his brain registered that it was a large brown bear that had been feeding in the huge root system of that magnificent old tree.
The bear was equally startled and both man and beast became airborne at the noise, leaping away from each other and the popping tree and taking flight.
From opposite sides of the valley human and bear eyed each other. The bear was standing on his back legs, nose in the air, sniffing Chase's scent. Chase too stood upright, heart hammering as he peered back at the bear warily. Eventually the bear dropped to all fours and slowly ambled up the valley. It was a large bear and stood about 3 ½ foot high at the shoulders.
Chase decided it was probably wise not to explore further up the valley that day, as the bear was obviously agitated, and so returned to his camp.
Two days later, Chase returned to the ridge-line above the wild flower patch, and continued his slow, meticulous exploration of the valley. This time he remained at timberline where he had a better view of the valley below and hopefully would avoid a further encounter with the bear. Chase maneuvered his way around the back of the rocky escarpment and a little further up saw an enormous old fir tree standing like a sentry in front of the mountain. On it were some white markings.
Chase worked his way to the tree and examined what turned out to be large claw marks. They were about 8' high on the tree and about 3 to 4 inches long. Chase, whom is about 5 foot 10 inches tall, could just reach them at a stretch. He noted the sticky sap bubbling in the sunlight, and realized these were fresh markings and guessed they were from the same bear he had seen two days prior.
A couple of weeks later Chase approached this same valley from the other side of the mountain range. The route up was not so easy as he was on a north facing slope, and he had to scramble over dead fall and up rocky waterfalls.
After a good half day of this difficult scrambling he finally found the gully that led to the valley he had previously explored, and triumphantly scrambled onto the grassy tundra, recognizing the plateau and grassy slope above the tree sentry.
Sure enough, there below him was the tree with the bear markings. Chase once again made his way to the tree to examine the markings and was awed at what he found.
There, almost 3 feet above the original bear scratches, was another set of claw marks. These new markings were much larger than the others, about 5 to 6 inches long and were deeply engraved into the bark. They oozed as though bleeding, and Chase seeing the length and immense size of these markings felt a chill run down his spine.
Chase knew these were not the markings of a brown or black bear. Without question these were the markings of a much larger bear, a bear that has long believed to be extinct in Colorado. These claw marks, nearly 11 feet high on the tree, were the territorial markings made by a Grizzly.

Roxy Whalley/2007

A Canyoneering Adventure Gone Wrong In the San Rafael Swell, Utah. Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon.

November 22nd, 2011

A Canyoneering Adventure Gone Wrong In the San Rafael Swell, Utah. Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon.


It was November 2010, and my partner, Norman, and I decided to do a short technical canyoneering trip. I was hoping to get some photographs as well as experiencing the thrill of a slot canyon and some rappelling. We were to hike from McKay Flats in the San Rafael Swell, Utah, and head over to a rock formation known by some as Teepee Rock. Near Teepee Rock, is Baptist Draw, a wide wash that quickly turns into a very narrow, turn-yourself-sideways-and-take-your-pack-off slot. We Set off about 10:00 AM, quite a bit later than originally intended, but then the hike was only supposed to take around 6-hours so we weren't overly concerned. We had waited until later to be sure that it wasn't going to rain. We didn't want to be in a slot canyon if it rained, and Chute Canyon is notorious for its flash floods.

Baptist Draw was a lot of fun. It was narrow, with just one small pool to wade through, and a couple of short rappels or down-climbs. We had to take our packs off to get through the narrowest sections, and had to crawls under some chockstones in a couple of spots. The slot grew deeper and darker as we approached the area where it dropped off into Chute Canyon. At this point we had to rappel down 75 feet into Chute Canyon.

I went down first, which was a little daunting as it was my first rappel over an edge where I couldn't see where I was going, and my longest rappel to date. All went well, and once Norman was down he pulled the rope. It was then that we noticed the wall to the north of the rappel had a warning message on it. It read, NO WAY OUT! TURN BACK! We both hoped it was just some kind of sick joke, but we couldn't miss the obvious signs that someone had camped in that very spot just the night before.

From the junction of Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon, we were supposed to head north up this long, narrow slot, until it opened up a bit and we could find a way out by scrambling up on the benches above. We started up the canyon, admiring it's 200 foot high wavy walls, but were soon stopped by a very muddy and rather deep looking pool. In this spot, the curvacious sandstone walls swept over the top of our heads, and it felt rather like being in a cave. A few tentative steps into the muddy pool confirmed our fear, this pool was very deep and very muddy. With our headlamps we could barely see the far end, and it appeared that at that point the canyon narrowed to maybe two or three feet wide, and it was blocked with a very mud-slimed chockstone. There did not appear to be any place to get leverage out of the pool and over the chockstone. It appeared to be very hard if not impossible to do.

We backed out of the mud and contemplated our situation. We had spoken to some guys the day before that had done this route, but had gone south down the canyon instead of up it. They were very tired, and said that the hike out had been very long indeed. They had also mentioned some pools, one which was a rappel into a pool. These guys had been more than half our age, and THEY were tired. Despite this, we decided to take a look down canyon, and very shortly we came to the rappel into a pool. It was now getting late in the afternoon, as we had been taking it easy and not pushing to go fast. We feared that if we got wet this late in the day, we could end up with hypothermia. It was November after all, and the temperatures were dropping dramatically at night up here on this high plateau.

We looked at the mud pool again, and the rappel again, then turned our gaze to the canyon walls. There was one possible route out, but we didn't have any anchors with us for climbing out, and when Norman tried to climb it, a huge chunk of sandstone broke off in his hand, and he fell about 10 ft to the canyon floor. He tried a second time, but then darkness descended in just minutes, and I had to direct Norman back down with my headlamp.

There were now no choices left, quite simply, we were here for the night.

Benighted, we turned to our packs. Temperatures were dropping fast, and Normans wet feet were quickly getting cold. We decided the best spot was on the one or two foot high sand bank that had built up at the confluence of Baptist Draw and Chute Canyon. We put down the climbing rope as a base, pulled out all our spare clothing and put them on. Norman put my spare gloves on his feet, and we shared clothes. I kept my helmet on in case anything came over the rim of the canyon. We pulled out our emergency sleeping bags, those thin silver things, and got them ready to settle in for the night. In taking stock of our belongings, we figured we had enough food if we ate it sparingly, but water was a concern, we didn't really have enough.

Once settled we ate the banana we had brought and set aside the granola bars and nuts. As were were drifting restlessly into a light sleep, we heard a noise that puzzled us. It turned out to be a mouse in our food. So we dealt with that, then he tried for our last bit of water. I rubbed insect repellent over the tube of my water bladder, and it seemed to deter him. I kept the bladder under my head, and swatted at the mouse every time he made an appearance. Throughout the night sand blew off the rim into our eyes, clouds passed in front of the stars and I feared rain, we chatted a bit, and repaired my emergency bag when it tore in three different places. We used climbing tape, bandages, duct tape and anything we could find to hold it together. Norman snored, and I didn't sleep a wink.

When we headed down canyon in the morning, we had about a liter of water left for the two of us. I was afraid of rapping into the pool with my pack on, for fear of drowning (it looked too much like a repeated nightmare I'd had as a child), so we sent the packs over the pool on a zip line. We both ended up getting a little wet, but not too badly.

Then we started the hike out, down and down the canyon, avoiding the pools as much as possible, and on and on. At one point we found a pool of water on a high bench. It was covered in ice, and tricky to get to, but we managed to get about a liter of grimy, gritty water out of it, and we put some iodine tablets in it. According to the instructions, we had to wait four hours for the tablets to work properly. We ran out of our good water shortly afterwards despite rationing, and started on the iodine water about 3-hours early. It tasted nasty, and each mouthful included a 1/8 tsp of sand or so. Ugh!

It seemed to take forever to get to Fault Line Canyon, our route out of Chute Canyon. From here we had to hike up Fault Line Canyon, and once back on top of the plateau, we needed to head north back to camp. The sun was setting now, and darkness descends quickly in the desert. Soon we were gazing over a huge canyon, and with the moon casting shadows on it we couldn't really tell if it was possible to cross it or not. We tried skirting it, but had picked the wrong direction. Then we got out the topo map, and decided to try going around it the other way. There was no clear edge, and the terrain was a little rough, and in the end we decided to just head straight west across country, to a two-track road that showed on the map.

We found our way to the road, and from there we estimated we had about seven more miles to hike back to our vehicle. Then we couldn't find the vehicle, and after backtracking once, we finally realized we hadn't gone quite far enough. When we saw Norman's Land Cruiser in the moonlight, it was the most beautiful sight ever. We drank electrolytes for we were severely dehydrated, cooked a meal on the tail gate, stripped off our muddy clothes and sank into bed.

We had left at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning. We got back to base camp just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Our little six-hour adventure had turned into a 38-hour ordeal.

Now we look back on it fondly. The adventure had been a bonding experience. We are looking forward to trying it again some time, but you can be rest-assured, we shall be even better prepared for an emergency next time.

As for those pictures I tried to get. Well, I didn't get any that were suitable for selling. In fact, once we did the rappel into the pool, I had my camera sealed away in a waterproof bag. It didn't see daylight for a while. However, I did get some snap shots of the first half of the trip, and the spot we spent the night in. If you'd like to view them copy and paste the link below into your web browser, to visit my Webshots album:

Bye for now,

Christmas 2011 Birth of a New Tradition

November 12th, 2011

I received this email the other day. I think it's a wonderful idea and wanted to share it with you all.
Perhaps you'll consider purchasing a piece of artwork in the form of prints, framed and matted images, or Christmas cards from one of the many wonderful artists in the Fine Art Community.

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high
gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods --
merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This
year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine
concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes
there is!

It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapp ing paper?
Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates
from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some
health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned
detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a
book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down
the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift
receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or
driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift
certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about
a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this
isn't about big Nat ional chains -- this is about supporting your home town
Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a
local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is
struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal Local crafts people spin
their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery
and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave
your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at
your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly , people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about
fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to
burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that
China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about
US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow
their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our
communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.
THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.
Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion
groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in
your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations,
and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other,
and isn't that what Christmas is about?

Elk Fences in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

October 12th, 2011

Elk Fences in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

About three years ago Rocky Mountain National Park implemented a new Elk and Vegetation Management Plan due to the overpopulation of elk in the Estes Park and R.M.N.P. area. The plan relies on a variety of conservation tools including fencing, elk redistribution, vegetation restoration and culling.

For some people who live in the Estes Park area the thought of having our elk killed was hard to accept, however, although we knew it was going on, very few of us actually saw first-hand evidence of this process because it was implemented very carefully by the park service.

When it comes to the fencing though, it is impossible to ignore. I believe that around 190 acres of aspens and willows have been fenced in, and the elk have been fenced out. It is easy to see that for the stressed aspens and willows, and the various forms of wildlife that depend on this vegetation, this project is working. If you drive through Moraine Park, Beaver Meadows and Horseshoe Park, you will see miles and miles of fencing. The fenced in area is green and lush, and new aspens are growing. The outside area is over grazed, and the remaining aspens are clearly scarred and struggling.

What is hard to accept is the impact on the human eye. One does not come to a National Park and expect to see miles and miles of fencing sprawling across the meadows. I went out a couple of afternoons to watch the elk rut, but I had little luck in getting photographs of the elk without there being a fence in the foreground or background. Perhaps those photographers that have huge zoom lenses can zoom in past or over these fences, but for myself it was certainly a challenge.

There is still a little time left to watch the elk in action, and I'll probably make at least one more attempt to get that perfect shot. However, unless a bull brings his harem close enough for my 200 mm lens to handle, AND it's in an area where there is no fencing directly behind or alongside the elk, getting that perfect shot might not happen until another year.

Respect Your Fellow Photographer

October 12th, 2011

Respect Your Fellow Photographer

Early one morning last week I was out taking pictures of our breathtaking fall colors here in Rocky Mountain National Park. I arrived at Sprague Lake too late for the sunrise, but before the park visitors started to show up, and managed to get some people-free shots of the Mummy Range reflecting in Sprague Lake. After that I went on down the road to get a shot of Hallet's Peak and Flattop Mountain with a hillside of gold aspens and a meadow in the foreground.

The four parking spots were full, so I found an acceptable alternative parking space, and headed to the hillside I wanted to take my shot from. I had noticed another photographer in the parking lot, he had his tripod and camera in hand but was talking to someone. I headed up the hill, and took my first shot. I took two landscape pictures, with the meadow and the trail through it, when here came the other photographer, tripod over his shoulder, an eager walk. He started across the meadow, then looked up at me, paused and continued across the meadow. I waited for him to clear it, but instead he stopped right in the meadow and started to set up his tripod. He looked up at me again, and apparently decided my photography session was less important than his, because he finished setting up his tripod and started to take pictures. At this point there was no way I could get another shot of the meadow and the mountains behind it, without him being in the middle of my picture.

I was a little miffed to say the least. It would not have hurt him to ask me if it was okay for him to set up there? if I had got my shots? or if he was in the way? It would have been the polite thing to do. Most people are more thoughtful and respectful than that, people usually make an effort to get out of the way, not plant themselves right in the middle of your shot (at least not deliberately), and he had to know he was right in my shot, being the professional he appeared to be.

Fortunately, the first shot I took of the meadow and the mountains that day came out satisfactorily, and I didn't have to repeat the trip the next day. So where am I headed with this? Well I'm going to make a promise to you; This photographer promises to never deliberately plonk myself right in front of your camera. I hereby take an oath to always be respectful of my fellow photographers, be they professionals, amateurs, tourists or even children. Won't you please take this oath with me, and give everyone the opportunity to take the shot of a lifetime?

Are the Beetle Killed Pine Trees Ruining Your Photography?

October 6th, 2011

Are the Beetle Killed Pine Trees Ruining Your Photography?

A couple of days ago I decided to take a little walk up to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I wasn't expecting to get very many pictures on that particular trail though. Nymph Lake is the first lake one comes to when hiking up from Bear Lake to Dream or Emerald Lakes, and it used to make a beautiful foreground for a photograph of Long's Peak or Hallet's Peak. These days though, when one takes a photograph from Nymph Lake, one can expect to be disappointed. The beetle killed pines are thick, and the picture appears depressing with all those gray, and dead trees. A couple of years ago, the dead pine trees were somewhat attractive as the pine needles were red, but now the needles are gone and only the dead branches remain like the twisted fingers of a witches skeleton. In fact taking photographs in Rocky Mountain National Park has become quite a challenge in this regard, and I imagine that this poses a challenge for all photographers anywhere that the pine beetles have made their presence known.

So when you are looking at various photography sites, and photographs taken recently in the Rocky Mountains all the way down to the Mexican border, keep in mind this additional challenge photographers now face in order to get that perfect shot, and if you have any pictures of Nymph Lake with Hallet's or Long's Peak in the background, treasure them, because it will be many, many, years before you can take another shot there with green pine trees gracing the rocky mountainsides.

Why Do Most People Love Digital Cameras

September 27th, 2011

Why Do Most People Love Digital Cameras

Yesterday I decided to drive up to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This fall has been VERY busy in the park, so I decided to wait until 3:00 PM in the afternoon, hoping that by then there would be some parking spots available in the car park. I also hoped that the lighting would be better, and that it would not cloud over too much as the weather sometimes has a habit of doing later in the day. It is that time of year when the aspens turn to gold, and orange if we're lucky, and I had word that they had 'turned' at Bear Lake.

There were tons of people, all snapping away at the shimmering display of golden leaves. There was a group of people with tripods and expensive looking cameras, all snapping shots from the trail. I wanted to get a picture of Long's Peak with aspens in it, and this was not going to happen from the trail, so I climbed up on the boulders, and into the aspen trees, and framed my photograph of Long's Peak with gold.

Bear Lake can be a very busy place, as I've already said. This causes a dilemma for myself. I like to take nature pictures without people in it, and I often find myself waiting patiently for a person to walk behind a tree, or just leave, and be out of my shot before I'll press the shutter. I had to wait a lot on this day! However, I finally managed to get some shots of Long's Peak and Hallet's Peak without people in it.

When I went over to the other side of the lake to see what everyone I'd been waiting for had been looking at, I saw a hillside covered in aspens of varying color, reflecting beautifully in the water. There was a problem though; the rocks surrounding the lake were covered with people sitting or laying on them, and almost every gap in the trees around the edge had a person standing there with a camera pointed toward me.
I settled down for what I knew would be a long, long wait.

There were a couple of Nikon, Canon, guys there, looking very professional and snapping away like crazy. "That is the one!" exclaimed one guy. "Wow, we got some great pictures." said the other. Then I asked, "But how many people did you get in your shot?" "Oh that doesn't matter," came the reply, "I can Photoshop them all out!"

So here they are, clicking away, with not a care as to content, while I'm waiting, hoping, for the opportunity to get a true shot. I knew it was going to be hard, but somehow, just editing away all those people seemed like cheating. Patience paid off, I did manage to get some shots without people in it, or at least I think so. I won't know for sure until I look at the pictures and inspect the shoreline of Bear Lake at 100% in my photo editing software.

After Bear Lake I drove up to a good view point for Long's Peak, hoping to get a good sunset picture. I was there about an hour-and-a-half early, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the lighting play with the shadows over the mountains, and also did some people watching. Sorry, but I find people just as entertaining as watching the elk, if not more so. As sunset grew closer a few other people set up with their camera's and tripods, and one man in particular caught my attention. He was taking pictures on high speed, five or six pictures per second, of these mountains that were not moving, and of a sunset that had not yet begun. In fact, the lighting was terrible, and even when the sunset was at it's best, it was NOT impressive.

When I spoke to the man he had the same sentiment as the other people I spoke to at Bear Lake (and I actually spoke to several people there about this subject). He volunteered to tell me that he loved digital because you could take hundreds of pictures, and delete the bad ones.

I took five shots of that sunset, and the only reason I did that was to see what my camera could do. It's a new camera, and I'm still learning about it. I ended up deleting three of the five shots, and I kept two just for memories, and I may even delete those. The sun set was not good enough to take sell-able pictures.

I imagine this man looking at his pictures at home, and having a couple-hundred or more pictures to look through, many of which are identical to the previous one, and deleting, deleting, deleting. The thought makes me cringe, I HATE doing that. There are times I take a lot of pictures, but it will usually be in an action shot (for obvious reasons), but in a still picture, I don't think it's necessary, and as for taking pictures and deleting subjects from them, well here is what the Photographic Society of America says about Nature Photography (when entering pictures for competition):

Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict observations from all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archeology, in such a fashion that a well informed person will be able to identify the subject material and to certify as to its honest presentation. The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality while maintaining high technical quality. Human elements shall not be present, except where those human elements enhance the nature story. The presence of scientific bands, scientific tags or radio collars on wild animals is permissible. Photographs of artificially produced hybrid plants or animals, mounted specimens, or obviously set arrangements, are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement. No techniques that add to, relocate, replace, or remove pictorial elements except by cropping are permitted. Techniques that enhance the presentation of the photograph without changing the nature story or the pictorial content are permitted. All adjustments must appear natural. The removal, or manipulation, of colors contained within the original image to enable the production of monochrome images is permitted.
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