News from Jimmy Gekas
October 3rd, 2011: Fall 2011 Trip Report: Day One
I embark for my annual fall trip with a sense of anticipation and determination, even though it's 4:30am when I awake from only four hours of sleep. My fall trip is what I look forward to each and every year more than any other adventure. Eleven months is a long time waiting, preparing, plotting and visualizing. This year's trip was a little different, as I figured out that I could arrive in Colorado after a couple of days of club volleyball tryouts and catch the tail end of the colors. In previous years, I would leave around the third week of September and rush to be back in San Diego by the first day of tryouts on October 1st. In the previous two or three years, the colors were always slow to change and I missed out on many areas at their peak by three or four days because I needed to be back home for tryouts. Well, after reading many updates leading up to my departure, I figured I timed it just right this year and most of the areas I wanted to visit were poised to be at peak or near peak by the time I arrived. In addition, the weather forecasts called for a possible storm or two to hit during my time in Colorado. This news was just as amazing to me as the prospect of peak colors. For most of my last 3 years shooting the fall colors, there have been nothing but clear skies and warm weather. Yes, this can be inviting to some, but not to me. I want some drama in the sky and some cool and cold air with my fall colors. It is autumn, afterall, and if I want 75 degree weather, I could stay home. My last fall trip ended with mighty car crash and I was determined to make it through this trip with no such mishaps. Although I never have had any nightmares or odd sensations lingering from the crash, I still have an emotional connection to that specific road and even to that specific vehicle. For over a year I had been waiting to revisit the place where I almost... well, probably should have.... died. Strange to some, but not to me, I really needed to go back and see the exact spot where it all happened. So, now that I was leaving San Diego, I was not only departing on a fall colors photography trip, but also on a sort of pilgrimage where I could pay my respects. Corny? Probably to most... On to the trip.... Two short flights...first, San Diego to Phoenix, then Phoenix to Grand Junction. The flights were uneventful and relatively painless, although the small plane to Grand Junction barely fit my camera bag overhead and the person sitting next to me had to fit his much larger camera bag under both of the seats in front of us, thus I had not more than a few inches to fit my feet. It was not super comfortable, but it worked and the inconvenience was for another fellow photographer, so it was all good. After landing in Grand Junction, I rented a car, headed into downtown for a sandwich at Main Street Bagels, then on to the Kebler Pass area out of Crested Butte. I shot there for a little while, as some of the trees were looking really, really healthy and near peak. The last couple of years, this area was not super healthy and the leaves were a muted yellow, almost brown, so the change was a good one for sure and a sign of things to come.... I hoped. Although I was about an hour late to a spot I wanted to hike to for sunset, it was from shooting too much in the light rain and ideal overcast conditions. I decided not to hike to the spot and instead left for Carbondale before it got completely dark. I meet up with Bryan Pezman and he and I decided to stay in Carbondale that night and hit the Maroon Bells area the next morning for sunset.
October 4th, 2011: Fall 2011 Trip Report: Day Two
Maroon Bells...gotta love it when it all comes together. Bryan Pezman and I went to 'Da Bells' early on Tuesday morning to catch a sunrise. The forecast called for some clouds, but we did not see any on most of the drive in... until we reached the parking lot! Yay! Clouds for sunrise at the Bells. What a novel concept. I have been to this place since 2005 and have really only seen clouds present at sunrise maybe one lucky morning. It looked very promising and it indeed panned out quite well. The colors in the sky were pretty nice and the aspen were pretty close to peak in most of the areas. Although the wind did not cooperate when the sun hit the peaks.... there was a slight breeze that chopped up the perfect reflection in the lake.... I was pretty happy. To top it off, there was maybe 15-20 other photographers on the shore. Not bad considering the 120-130 that are normally there during fall sunrises. The rest of the morning was spent shooting the peak colors in the Maroon Creek Valley, as the sun danced in and out of the clouds. Afterwards, we went to eat some grub at the Village Smithy in Carbondale.... easily, one of my favorite places to eat when I get out on the Colorado fall color circuit. The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving to Grand Mesa in the pouring rain and some light snow, then back to Carbondale. We decided to drive down to Montrose and stay there for the next few nights. Along the way, the aspen groves north of McClure Pass did not look very good. There seems to be a problem with the aspen here, as this is third year in a row where the aspen were primarily dull in color. Maybe SAD (Sudden Aspen Decline) is on the rise in this area. The south side of the pass looked to be more healthy, but not close to peak color. There was even some fresh snow on top of Chair Mountain and the Raggeds. I knew that the San Juans would have a lot of new snow, too. The forecasts called for another storm on Wednesday night through Friday. This was turning out to be an eventful trip. No bald blue skies this year!
October 5th, 2011: Fall 2011 Trip Report: Day Three
We left Montrose pre dawn and headed to Dallas Divide to catch the sunrise. It was decent display and there were some nice stands of aspens on the hillside with a good variety of color. After sunrise, Mike, Bryan and I headed into Ridgway for some breakfast, then on towards the Telluride area to see how the colors were fairing there. Upon arriving at Woods Lake, the storm we had been watching on the radar and satellite for the last couple of days was definitely closing in... lots of wind, clouds and some light rain. We all thought that this area would be looking good and near peak in a few days if the storm didn't strip the fragile fall leaves off the trees. We headed across the canyon and up onto Last Dollar Mountain to shoot some of the color there and hopefully catch a good sunset. The incoming storm was fun to watch from there, but there was no sunset to shoot. We ended our day at the Colorado Boy Brewery in Ridgway and looked forward to some stormy weather the following day.
October 6th, 2011: Fall 2011 Trip Report: Day Four
Thursday morning we awoke to a stormy sky. The forecasts we heard and read the night before were pretty much right on. There was no need to try for a sunrise that morning, so we headed into Ridgway for a nice breakfast at Kate's Place. As we entered Ridgway, the rain started to become heavier. After breakfast, we decided to head up Owl Creek Pass and over to the Silverjack area. On the way up, we stopped at the spot where I crashed the year before. It was surreal, to say the least. The hill I rolled down was steeper than I remembered. I was insanely lucky. As we left the spot and headed further up the pass, the rain turned to sleet, then snow. The entire road was now covered in snow at least 4 inches deep and what was once fall, was now a winter wonderland. The snow did not let up until we got to Silverjack Reservoir. The whole valley was covered in snow and the sight of autumn aspen with snow on top was amazing. My camera did not think it was amazing, as the wet snow somehow seeped into the inner workings of the body and it shut down. I was now without a camera and did not bring a backup with me on the trip. Luckily, Bryan had a backup and I was able to keep shooting here and there. I was a little flustered, but kept my hopes up that my camera would dry out and be ok in the morning. The rest of the afternoon was spent up in the fresh snow. It was a day we would never forget. Gotta love Colorado and the weather changes. Winter in early October? Yeah, that happened.
October 9th, 2011: Fall 2011 Trip to Colorado
I just got back from an interesting trip to Colorado for fall colors. A trip report and an updated Rocky Mountain Gallery should follow this short announcement. No crash this trip!
October 7, 2010: Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado....plus the crash ending to it all!
The inaugural trip of the 4Runner didn't end the way I had hoped. The beginning of the trip was fantastic and I had a blast, but, as you can see, things got turned upside down in an ugly way. It all happened so fast... after losing traction on a washboard dirt road near Ridgway, Colorado, my beloved 4Runner and I went off the road and rolled down a 125 foot embankment. We came to rest upside down after maybe 4,5,6 or more rolls. I was hoping the whole time that I was in a dream and I would wake up thanking all the powers above that it was only a dream. Well, when I hit the bottom, I realized it wasn't a dream, but rather a stark reality of the seriousness of what just occurred....I was in a major accident. I was amazingly calm when the rolling stopped and unhooked my life saving seat belt, fell a few inches to the ceiling, and crawled out through the driver's busted out window. Since it was dark, I wanted to find my headlamp, so I managed to get the back door open and started looking for the only source of light that would help me climb back up the steep hill to the road. After a few moments of looking, I figured there was too much broken glass and debris in the Runner to continue the search. I got out of the back and started to hear voices from the road above. I called out to them and their flashlights found me. After a few minutes, I climbed back up the slope and reached the people that stopped to help. Amazingly, I was not injured one bit. Yes, I was bleeding here and there from all the scrapes and scratches, but I was just fine. The kind people took me down to Ridgway and I found my friend Bryan Pezman. Bryan and I returned to the scene of the accident and I dealt with the emergency crew and trooper that had been notified by one of the cars that stopped for me. I would have initially stayed at the scene if there was cell phone service. The next morning the 4Runner was recovered by the great crew at D&G Wrecker Service. Video of the recovery can be found on YouTube I am still in amazement that I made it out alive and in perfect working order. People ask me if I was driving alone... well, I was, but I wasn't. I had a guardian angel riding shotgun. Life goes on. Volleyball tryouts are underway and the season is just around the corner. I have two more trips planned this fall... one to Washington and Oregon next week and another to Zion National Park in Utah at the end of October. I wake up each and every morning just as I had prior to the accident. Nothing different except I smile each morning, knowing that life is precious and pure. It is a gift not to be second guessed or taken for granted. Everyday is a beautiful day from here on out. I am indeed a very lucky person and will not ever forget this.
September 14, 2010: Fall 2010 Journey Begins!
After fixing up the back of the 4Runner, I put a queen size memory foam mattress topper in the back, folded, and then topped it off with a sheet. It's all ready for me to use as a home away from home. All I need to do is pack it up in the morning and off I go. First major stop is Yellowstone. Stay tuned.
September 7, 2010: Preparing for Fall, 2010! Part 2
I had some time, finally, to build a little platform to fit in the rear passenger footwell and help extend the back deck. The end product is not anything that will win any glamour contests or the like, but it works. I will be getting a memory foam topper on Craigslist soon and that will sit on top of the Thermarest. More photos of that when it happens. Nothing more has been done to the 4Runner except removing the back seat cushions.
August 4th, 2010: Preparing for Fall, 2010!
Finally, fall has arrived...well almost! I love this time of year...just love it! This year, like each other since 2005, I am embarking on road trip to photograph and enjoy the fall colors in Colorado. I will be getting there in my own vehicle for the first time since I started these trips. I recently purchased a used 1997 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4wd. A special shout out to Mike Simmons for selling me his sweet ride! Thanks, buddy!!! I have been itching to do this for many, many years after seeing that most of my photographer buddies in Colorado drive these awesome vehicles. Not only will this allow me to get to many places off the beaten paths, but I can use the back of the 4Runner for my sleeping accommodations. I think this aspect of the 4Runner is what really got me thinking about getting one. In the past, I was able to borrow a buddy of mine's Pathfinder, then Tacoma, for these trips. However, these two scenarios didn't really allow me to have a way to have a roof over my head for camping. I would basically tent camp, while my CO buddies slept in the back of their 4Runners or the like. The advantages of not having to worry about setting up and taking down the tent every day were huge. Also, you can really pimp out the back by adding heavier sleeping materials, like multiple layers of Thermarests, foam pads, and even comforters. So, I now have one and am ready to start fixing it up.
February 7, 2010: North Algodones Wilderness Area Backpacking Trip
On my only free weekend from club volleyball tournaments for the whole 2010 season, I decided to join some friends on an overnight into the North Algodones Wilderness Area. We headed out there in the middle of a winter storm that brought a good amount of rain to the area. The rain was still coming down as we started our hike into the dunes. After about an hour of hiking thru the damp sand, we set up our camp in a valley area of the dunes. Fortunately, it stopped raining and we could see a nice clearing to the west. Soon, the sun broke out and we were all happy campers. The sunshine brought some nice light and shadow play all over the dunes. It was fun running around and finding different compositions and watching the shadows grow and morph as the sun slowly descended to the west. As night came and the coyotes in the distance began their evening howling rituals, we decided to illuminate our tents with headlamps while leaving the shutter open on our cameras and played with different exposures of the tents, headlamps and stars above. Later that evening it started to rain again and the wind picked up. The combination of blowing sand, rain and wind on my tent was enough to make for a mostly sleepless night. The storm blew thru and we awoke to a cloudless blue sky for sunrise. It was still windy and this made for some dramatic conditions, as you could see trails and trails of blowing, backlit sand rising and falling along the dunes' curves. Although the blowing sand was a nightmare for the camera and lenses, I had a blast watching. Overall, the trip was really fun and I definitely want to return, even if it is for only one evening.
January 1, 2010: Happy New Year 2010
A new decade is upon us and I decided to celebrate by heading out for sunset near a surfing spot called Garbage along the Point Loma/Sunset Cliffs area of San Diego. Well, the sunset was spectacular and the clouds lit up for what seemed like an eternity. I was able to scramble around and capture many different foreground compositions that evening. This incredible sunset was one of many that we have had here lately along the coast of San Diego County. Just before leaving on my Xmas trip to the Bay Area, we had this amazing sunset. I feel like I need to be available to shoot every single day right now, as when the skies light up, I hate missing the natural HD special effects. Regardless if I can make it to the show, here's to a new year and new decade!
December 27, 2009: A Short, But Sweet, Winter Yosemite Visit
After spending a few days in Berkeley visiting my family for Xmas, I headed up to Yosemite with Lon Overacker for a short day and a half visit to the valley. Upon arrival early in the morning, we were greeted with a nice snowfall that lasted for the better half of the morning. Off and on it was snowing and it made for some nice photographic opportunities. Falling snow against gorgeous trees and granite walls was quite the sight. While the snow did not stay long, it was still a great trip and I really enjoyed hanging out with Lon... he is truly a master of Yosemite Valley.
December 25, 2009: Happy Holidays!
I took the 7 hour drive from Encinitas to Livermore, CA on Wednesday and met up with Lon Overacker for a short afternoon shoot in the local hills near Mount Diablo. The oaks were gorgeous and some still had a little fall color. It was great to finally meet Lon and we hung out after the shoot in downtown Livermore for a couple brews at the Ale House. I reached my destination of my sister's place in Berkeley later that evening. Xmas Eve dinner in San Francisco was great and it was really nice to see my family. Xmas morning and day were pretty normal, but my real excitement awaits, as I may head to Yosemite in a couple of days. Yay! Happy Holidays everyone.
November 13, 2009: Julian, California... Apple Pies and Local Fall Color!
Steve Sieren came down from the Los Angeles area for a short visit. We both wanted to visit the local mountain areas around the small town of Julian, do some hiking, and hopefully find some fall color to photograph. The weather forecast called for some rain and overcast conditions... perfect for shooting intimate scenes of autumn trees. We got up early and left by 4:00 am. By the time we arrived at the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, it was really foggy and still very dark. The Preserve wouldn't officially be open until a couple hours later, so instead of taking a chance in the dark, we headed into town for some coffee. By the time we got back, there was enough light to check out all the amazing fall color we saw in the area. After shooting nearby the Preserve, we hiked in and spent about 6 hours exploring and photographing sycamore trees, black oaks, and some cool ferns growing alongside a small creek. Tired and hungry, we went back into Julian for some lunch and apple pie at Mom's. Yum. The day ended with a short hike in Volcan Mountain Preserve. Overall, it was a great place to spend the day. I was extremely happy to know that I had found a local area to view fall color and a couple neat open preserves to hike and explore.
October 31, 2009: Not So Haunted Yosemite
My buddy Harley Goldman and I took a short trip up to Yosemite just before Halloween. We arrived in time to see the beginning of what became to be an amazing autumn color display in Yosemite Valley. Black oaks, dogwoods, big leaf maples, and a few elm trees were all proudly displaying their fall colors. I have never been to Yosemite during the fall and will now have to add it to my list of locations to visit each fall.
October 1, 2009: Fall Windstorm Brings The Trip To An End
After finding all that good color, the weather gods decided that we had enough fun and sent in a couple days of high winds. I got my first in person taste of what a good windstorm can do to aspen and pine trees. While driving along Owl Creek Pass, the winds knocked down an aspen that blocked my path. Luckily, my buddy Harley was driving in the area and came down the same way. With the help of a small hatchet and 2 other car loads of stuck people, we chopped off a section of the downed tree and moved it off the road. The whole time we were chopping aspen, the wind was howling and trees were swaying all around us. It was not a comfortable feeling knowing that any one of those trees could snap and come crashing down on us or our vehicles. We got out of that area as quickly as possible and found our way back in Ridgway. The wind did not die for the rest of the day and that made photography difficult, as leaves and tree trunks in motion wind up blurry in the final image. Ugggh. My buddies Rick, Jennifer, and Brent got stuck along County Road 5, as 6 or 7 pine trees came crashing down, blocking their path back into town. After a couple hours of waiting for some help, a local came to their aid with a chainsaw and helped to get the road clear. After all these adventures, we all headed into Ridgway for some grub at The True Grit Cafe and some beers at Colorado Boy Brewery... yum. After another night at the end of County Road 7, I decided to hit the road and head home to California. The weather was not great for photography... bald blue skies and a touch of wind... so that helped me get going, but I still hated to leave. Time to start the countdown for Fall 2010!
September 28, 2009: At Last! We Found Good Color!
After a week of searching and waiting, we found some really nice color along Last Dollar Road in San Miguel County. Harley and Brent's arrival was met with the realization that the aspens just weren't looking good this year. The whole group headed south from Carbondale and immediately saw lots of bare trees and more muted colors along the north side of McClure Pass. The south side was really green and looked like it was about a week away from turning yellow... or maybe brown/black the way things were going. A quick side trip off of Hwy 133 did not find much of anything to shoot, as there were those annoying muted colors, green leaves and harsh light. We all decided to set up camp just south of the top of McClure Pass in a very nice and free campground. This was the first year since I had been to Colorado that this campground was not closed. I'll be checking that place out more often in the following years, as it is a great location to set up for a few days. We all shot in the shaded areas during sunset at the top of the pass. There's a great spot with some amazing ferns displaying their autumn colors mixed in with some aspen. Harley, Brent and myself left McClure the next morning and headed towards Kebler Pass. Rick and Jennifer were undecided as to what to do and were seriously thinking of heading back towards their Oregon home. The unseasonably warm weather really was a drag to Rick, as he loves cold, crisp fall days. It just doesn't seem like fall when it's 80 plus degrees out. I felt right at home in my shorts and tee shirts, but admittedly felt a little off without the cold air. Kebler Pass was no different from the other areas. We found lots of muted colors and large stands of aspen without any leaves. After an uneventful morning, we headed into Crested Butte. I love CB. We spent the good part of the late morning and early afternoon hanging out, eating lunch at the Last Steep and trying to get free wifi. We were desperately seeking out fall color reports from other areas that would be more promising. We ran into Joe Kayne outside of CB. He and his buddy discussed the poor conditions everywhere, even down in New Mexico. After an uneventful sunset and sunrise, breakfast at Izzy's was a nice treat. The biggest and thickest blueberry corncakes in the world can be found here. Yum. I had half of one and saved the rest for the trip down towards Ridgway. We met up with fellow photographers Laurent Baig and Jody Grigg at the end of County Road 7. We all shot the sunset in the area and were more encouraged by the healthy leaves in the area. Laurent and his girlfriend drove up from Arizona for the festivities. Earlier that morning, I gave Laurent some suggestions on where to check out on the way up from Cortez, CO. He took Last Dollar Road from just outside Telluride, up and over Last Dollar Mtn. The bypass was a success, as he reported healthy trees and leaves along his drive. We broke camp early and shot sunrise in the area before meeting back up for the drive to Last Dollar. Brent knew of a great campsite for all of us and we headed there first. After knowing where we were gonna spend the night, we headed back out to shoot in the afternoon light. The smell was amazing. I love the smell of fall. There's something about decaying aspen leaves that is just sublime. The site of brilliant yellow leaves on the ground, in the air and on the trees is why I embark on the journey to Colorado each year. Finally!
September 26, 2009: Colorado 2009 Fall Colors Journey, Part Two: Uh, Oh... Here Comes Brent!
After shooting sunrise overlooking Mount Sopris, Rick, Jennifer and myself went into Carbondale for some breakfast at The Village Smithy, as it there were bald blue skies everywhere and we had nothing to do but wait it out. The weather forecast showed no change for the next few days, so that meant finding fall colors in the shade or early morning/late afternoon light, when it is generally a little softer and not as harsh. The Village Smithy is probably one of my all time favorite places to eat in general, so, seeing that I don't get to visit Colorado all that often, it was fine for me to head there again and again and again. Besides, we needed to rest up in preparation for Brent Doerzman's arrival later that night. Brent is probably the number one reason I started visiting Colorado back in 2005. As the story goes, in 2004, I took a fall trip to Grand Teton National Park. It was my first real attempt to travel and photograph fall colors. I had an awesome time shooting there and was ready to return in 2005, when I stumbled across Brent's website and was in awe of the great colors, mountains, and variety that an autumn visit to Colorado would bring. I soon swapped at least a thousand emails :) with Brent, discussing locations, roads, books, maps, towns and campsites. I was hooked. My buddy from Santa Barbara, Harley Goldman, decided to join me on that 2005 trip. We both had a great time and knew that Colorado would be a great spot to revisit. Well, four years later equalled four more fall trips to shoot the autumn hues of the aspen trees that are found all over Colorado. Harley would be joining us the next day for his first return trip to Colorado since 2005. Rick, Jennifer and myself headed to Capitol Peak again to shoot sunset. We had a fine tailgate dinner of tortellini, then shot a bland sunset. However, this time I did bring my camera. We returned to our Mount Sopris overlook campsite, and Brent arrived soon after. Word got out that where we all were, and another Colorado legend, Darren Kilgore joined in on the fun. The morning's sunrise was again boring, bright, harsh, bald blue sky... not good. So, we all descended upon, where else, Carbondale's The Village Smithy. Mmmmmmmm. Brent was in heaven. Harley soon joined us for breakfast and we had a great time.
September 24, 2009: Colorado 2009 Fall Colors Journey, Part One
I spent a couple days in Durango early on in my trip. I hung out with a buddy of mine, Michael, and we had couple of good nights eating at my favorite spots in town... Gazpacho and Serious Texas BBQ. If you know me, then you'll understand the food references. I did manage to scout out a new area for potential fall colors in between the food stops, however, the colors were just starting to get going near the town of South Fork, so I decided to head back to Durango for one more night. On my way out of town, I had to stop at a local favorite for some breakfast goods... Bread usually has lines out the door, but I was lucky and there were none. I bought some bread and cookies for my drive north.... good stuff. My goal was to head up to Kebler Pass outside of Crested Butte. Heading north out of Durango, the colors of the aspen trees did not get much better. They looked rather dull and rather sick. Normally, the leaves would be almost translucent and glowing in the backlit sunlight. I wasn't very thrilled. Upon entering Ouray, I stopped to say hello to Jack Brauer. Jack is the one that built the backbone and infrastructure of this website. He is also a talented photographer, backpacker, climber and splitboarder. Jack was happy to see me, probably because I brought a big bottle of beer from San Diego for him. As a native San Diegan, Jack was stoked to have a beer from his hometown. Once out of Ouray, I headed toward Crested Butte. There were some decent color patches along Hwy 50, so I stopped and shot a bit off the road. It was nice to shoot and not drive. I made my way into Crested Butte and then up and over Kebler Pass. I set up a tent at a great spot just east of East Beckwith and then went scouting along the road. The color was not so good... many trees had already lost their leaves and many others had that muted look to them. The ferns in the area were really looking good, so at least that kept my interest. I headed into town for dinner at The Last Steep. The next morning's sunrise was pretty bland, so I packed up early and headed toward Carbondale to meet up with Rick Dunn and his wife Jennifer. It had been a few years since Rick and I had seen each other, so it was pretty funny when he and I were in the same coffee house in Carbondale for at least an hour without either one of us knowing the other was there! It was great to finally meet Jennifer, too! We hung out for a bit, then went and had a great lunch at the Village Smithy before heading up to shoot sunset near Capitol Peak. The colors were so so... guess that was the theme of the trip for the most part... and I also left my camera body back in my vehicle when I pilled into Rick and Jennifer's Tundra. So, that sunset was just not meant to be. We headed back to Carbondale and ate dinner at The White House... good pizza and beer. The plans for the next morning included sunrise over Mt. Sopris, so we headed off that way and called it a night.
November 12, 2009: Fall 2009 Update.... Finally!
Finally, I am updating my website. After almost a whole year, I decided it was time to pay more attention to the News section. This fall started off with a trip to Colorado in September. This was my 5th year in a row visiting Colorado. I started off the trip by visiting a friend of mine in Arizona, Tony Kuyper. If you haven't seen his photography, you need to. Click here! In the short time I visited Tony, he took me to some amazing, remote locations nearby his house. The photographic possibilities are endless in his backyard, so to speak. No more details are allowed :) I haven't yet posted the images from here, but they will soon be up and are sure to attract much attention. On to Colorado! I arrived in Durango, CO after visiting Tony. I met up with a friend of mine there, Michael, and spent several days just hanging out. I made a couple of scouting drives to see what the fall colors were looking like around that area. I was about a week early in terms of catching the peak color there, but things were looking good elsewhere... or so I thought. More detailed reports about the Colorado trip will be following shortly. Stay tuned.
December 25, 2008: White Christmas in Yosemite
I have always wanted a "White Christmas." However, living in the Los Angeles area all my life, that never happened. So, when the opportunity came up this year, I made the decision to go to Yosemite with a buddy of mine, instead of a more normal family Christmas. Although situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Yosemite Valley has an elevation of only 4000 feet. The Valley does not see much snow over the course of the year, and when it does, it doesn't seem to stick around. More likely than not, the storms that come through California are not very cold. However, the conditions were ripe for a cold system moving through the region around Christmas. As we approached the foothills on Christmas Eve, we were greeted with rain, then snow at an elevation near 3500 ft. As we made our way into the Valley, the Winter Wonderland that is Yosemite, greeted us. On Christmas Day, we received over 15 inches of fresh snow. The snow finally ceased that night. When we woke up the day after, we had to dig our camper out of the campground, then made our way to several different locations in the Valley. The conditions were outstanding for photography, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Next time, I will bring snowshoes, as there were many great photo opportunities further off the beaten paths. Next time... oh, next time!
November 2008: Utah and Arizona
After waiting for a few years, I finally had a chance to visit The Wave in Arizona. This area of the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness is one of the most photographed places in the southwest, yet I had not made it there until now. It is also a place of amazing and delicate formations that requires limiting the number of people visiting to 20 per day. The wait was well worth it. I had a blast hiking the 3 plus miles just to see the Wave and the surrounding area. As neat as the Wave was, I found all the other formations and creations even more interesting. The morning reflected light and the soft late afternoon light helped to bring out so many great colors in the sandstone. I will definitely visit again. After my one day at the Wave, I headed to Zion National Park and met up with some friends to shoot some fall colors. Zion is a great place for fall colors towards the end of October and into the first week and a half of November. After searching some neat sandstone colors outside of the Park, we headed to the backcountry of Zion and hiked to the Subway. Another area that is limited to 50 or so people a day, the Subway is one of my favorite places in the Southwest.
September 2008: Fall Color Trip to New Mexico and Colorado
After traveling more than 2500 miles, my wonderful trip to New Mexico and Colorado came to an end. The journey started with a 2:30 a.m. alarm clock beep and I was off to catch sunset light at the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico. I spent a few days in the Bisti area before heading up towards Durango, Colorado and beyond. I will post some individual reports of each trip shortly, so for now, this is it. Stay tuned.
July 22-24, 2008: Ice Lake Basin Trip Report
After a wonderful first backpacking experience on the Blue Lakes Pass trip, I was ready for more. My body, however, was not so sure. Darren and I set out for Ice Lake Basin, a little west of the town of Silverton, Colorado. The hike up to Lower Ice Lake Basin was not that difficult, however, I did struggle a bit due to some nagging hip ailments that I had developed the previous year and a half while playing volleyball. Guess I need to keep stretching and working out. Once in Lower Ice Lake Basin, we were greeted with the clockwork-like, afternoon thunderstorm. We scrambled to find our campsite among a nice grouping of trees to the south of the main trail. Once the rain let up, we set up our tents and proceeded to get dumped on again for the next few hours. The rain finally stopped, but the thick layer of clouds above us remained and we had no sunset on our first night. 4 a.m. the next morning and we were awake and ready to hike to Upper Ice Lake Basin for sunrise. The sky was beginning to clear and the clouds that remained looked to hold a promising, color filled sky for sunrise. While the sunrise didn't pan out quite as we hoped, the sun did peak thru the clouds a little after sunrise and lit up Golden Horn and Pilot Knob. We found a nice little tarn that provided a good reflection of the peaks to the west, but it was a little too windy for that perfect shot. The wildflowers in the area were a little scarce, but we were again a little early. Another week, and that place would be rockin'. After sunrise, we hiked a bit further up to check out the beautiful Island Lake. Again, the flowers in the area were just starting to get going. Oh, well, next time. We made it back down to our tents just in time for the afternoon lightning show. After a few close strikes, the lightning ceased, but the rain kept falling for the next 5 hours. Once again, no sunset for us to shoot. Sunrise the next morning was uneventful in Upper Ice Lake Basin. We descended back to Lower Ice Lake Basin, packed up, and headed back down to the trailhead. By the time we reached the 4Runner, my left knee was swollen up about the size of a grapefruit. Very frustrating. It was then that I knew I should not attempt a third backpacking trip. Darren agreed and we set out to drive the great high road passes in the area.
July 20-21, 2008: Blue Lakes Backpacking Trip
After many, many years of delay, I went on my first backpacking trip. Darren Kilgore and I planned out a week's worth of little backpacking trips through wildflower packed areas of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. I flew into Denver a few days prior and Darren and I drove out in his 4Runner. We met up with Mel Ladewig and Kalin Wilson and set up a vehicle shuttle... one at the end of the trail and one at Yankee Boy Basin, which is where we began the trek. After about 2.0 miles and 1000 foot gain in elevation, we reached Blue Lakes Pass at 13,000 feet. With an amazing 360 degree view, one can see all over the San Juan range. Most impressive was the back view of Mt. Sneffels, towering above us at 14,150'. The view down the other side of the pass took my breath away. Upper and Middle Blue Lakes shimmer in the mid morning sun beneath Gilpin and Dallas Peaks. After a long and laborious trip down the pass, we made it to our campsite area high above one of the most amazing colored lakes I have ever scene- Lower Blue Lake. The area near my tent had a great deal of wildflowers that were ready to burst. We were about a week early for the real show, but nonetheless, the flowers were great, and the view down to the lake was even better. Morning brought one of the best sunrises of my trip, as the clouds above Dallas Peak lit up with some great early morning color. The 4.5 mile hike down to the bottom was relatively uneventful. All in all, my first backpacking experience was a success. I had a blast and was hooked. Visit Darren's site, MyColorado.org, for more on the trip.
July 15th, 2008: iPhone
After waiting a year, I indulged myself and got an iPhone. On the way back home from Maui, I sat next to an AT&T Mobility rep, so that kinda gave me a little push. The iPhone arrived the evening before I left for my Colorado and Wyoming trip, but that didn't stop me from staying up all night to get the dang phone activated, adding my music and movies, and just playing with all the neat functions. In addition to being able to surf the net, check and send emails, manage my calendars, contacts, etc, I really enjoy having a portable portfolio always at hand to show to friends and interested clients. Presentation is everything and I think this little gizmo is really going to make a good impression.
May 13th, 2008: Maui
Well, I finally made it out to Hawai'i. All my life I have dreamed of going to this exotic island chain in the middle of the Pacific. When the opportunity for me to travel to Maui on business, I jumped. A client of mine, Sam Cavitt, designs private theaters. His work is amazing and I have had the opportunity to photograph a couple of his theaters in California. Sam flew me out to shoot his latest theater on the Big Island of Hawai'i. I was able to stay a few days in Maui and spent my time with Sam and his wife, Robyn, exploring their backyard paradise. From this trip I was able to start a new Hawaiian Islands Gallery and I hope to be adding to it in the near future. Check out Sam's Paradise Theater
March 16, 2008: Fields of Fire
October 21, 2007, saw the beginning of a devastating fire that destroyed over 1100 homes and charred 198,000 acres. The Witch Creek Fire roared down the hills near Romona and into more heavily populated areas below, like Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Del Dios. The fire reached portions of Rancho Santa Fe before onshore winds sent the fire back up the hills and into the mountains. While many homes have already been rebuilt, nature takes its own course. Winter rains soaked the once parched, drought stricken hills and mountains of California and helped to fuel the incredible spring rebirth in these wildfire burn areas.
March 7, 2008: Birthday Shoot
My nephew Jalen turned 15 today. Happy Birthday, Jalen! In honor of Jalen, I headed down to the beach to shoot a colorful sunset. While not as colorful as the previous day's sunset, which I missed.... ugggh..... this one provided an opportunity to shoot some interesting rock formations that I have been eyeing for some time. In fact, I have shot these formations about a year ago, but this time I think I had better compositions and better light. Timing is crucial.
February 10th, 2008: Winter Storms
Recent storms have brought some nice clouds and great opportunities for spectacular sunsets. The storms are great, as they mix up the beach, bring in new rocks and kelp, and keep many people home. I am usually the only one on the beach other than a few surfers out in the water. The layers of clouds not only create the potential for colorful skies at sunset, but they also soften up the light before sunset. This soft light allows me to get some rich, detailed portraits of the coastal rocks and other scenes that would normally be difficult to shoot under harsher lighting conditions.
January 1st, 2008: New Years Day Sunset, 2008-Swami's, Encinitas, CA
After a nice holiday get away to see my family in the Bay Area, I finally had an opportunity to shoot a sunset. What better way to start off the new year! Oh, and the sunset was to die for. The clouds really sang out as the sun dipped below the horizon. This shoot was especially nice for me, as I did not have a chance to escape work long enough to go on a photo trip with friends. Normally, this time of year allows me to head off to Utah, Yosemite, or Death Valley for a good 4-7 day trip. At least I was rewarded with a beautiful start to 2008 at one of my local favorite shooting beaches. Here's to a great '08.
November 5th, 2007: The Subway with fall colors, Zion National Park
Escaping the horrible fires that spread all over the nearby neighborhoods of San Diego County, I headed out to Zion National Park in Utah for a few days with a couple of friends. Although the smoke from the fires met us there, we were treated to some amazing peak fall colors on our hike to the Subway. I have been on the Subway hike about 5 times during the fall over the past few years and I have never seen the colors at their peak... this time, things were different, as the colors were just perfect.
October 16, 2007: New Website
I finally got everything together after getting Jack Brauer and Jesse Speer involved in this wonderful new launch of my landscape galleries. The timing was perfect, as I had just completed a fantastic two week trip to Colorado, stopping throughout the south central and southwestern parts of the state to shoot the fall colors and meet a whole bunch of great people.