Epic Photography Trip – Southern Utah

I recently went on a photography trip of a lifetime. I traveled over 2000 miles in 10 days. I drove from Albuquerque to Northern Arizona and then up into Southern Utah. I drove the entire circle around the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and saw several National Parks and took many beautiful hikes.

As I drove into Northern Arizona, I came across a gorgeous field of yellow flowers. It was so beautiful that I just had to stop for photos.

Field of gold near Window Rock, Arizona

My next stop was to let Scarlett stretch her legs. I stopped at the top of a sandstone mesa. There have been a lot of monsoon rains and they have filled up all the low spots on the mesa. Scarlett had a great time running through the pools.

Scarlett playing in the monsoon pools

I thought I saw some movement in one of the pools. When I looked more closely, I saw these creepy creatures swimming around. They were around 2 inches long and were very fast! I had to look them up to find out what they were. They are a unique creature that can lay eggs that can stay dormant for a long time until the rains fill their pools. Then they live for 90 days which is just enough to breed. It’s a fresh water crustacean with three eyes!


Coming down from the mesa, I came into the big valley near Monument Valley. The view is just so “Arizona”!

I eventually made it to Kanab, Utah. There I met up with Seth Hamel of Enlighten Photography Excursions. Seth was an awesome tour guide. I signed up for his Utah Milky Way Photography Workshop. I recently upgraded all of my camera equipment so I could start learning astrophotography.

Before meeting up with the tour group, I had time to do a couple of hikes. My first hike was in Zion National Park. I hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail. I started at sunrise. The trail was fun to hike. You climbed along the edge of the canyon with a long drop off.

Handrail to keep you safe from the deep canyon drop
Kelly and Scarlett enjoying the hike
Stone steps
Sketchy bridge – Scarlett wasn’t too sure of this bridge

At the end of the trail, the view of the deep canyon was spectacular! You hike up a steep rock incline and then you look down and say “wow”!

The view at the end of Canyon Overlook Trail

My second hike was Kannarra Creek Falls. I had wanted to do this hike for some time after seeing photos online. It didn’t disappoint! You actually hike in the creek through a slot canyon to several waterfalls.

You can see how deep the slot canyon is by how small Scarlett looks

The entire hike was so wonderful. Every bend was more beautiful than the last.

The light was wonderful
Great little waterfalls

I made it to the first waterfall. So beautiful!

First waterfall of the trail
Steep stairs

I wanted to climb the ladder and go further upstream, but Scarlett was too scared of the loud waterfall and open stairs. They were pretty steep and I was afraid that if she made it up the stairs, she wouldn’t be able to go back down. So we turned around at this point.

That evening I met up with the tour group. Our first stop was a sunset shoot on a mesa west of Zion. The geology of this area was very unique.

View of West Zion
The geology here was so unique and stunning

Once the sun set, we went into Zion and took some night photos. I was so pleased with how my new camera equipment performed. It did way better than my old setup.

I loved this bonsai pine tree
A path looking toward one of the main peaks of Zion

Seth had fun light painting “Zion” for us to photograph. He had to write backwards and had to do it within 20 seconds because that was our length of exposure. He did a great job!

Seth light painting for us

The next day I drove up to Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the highlights of the drive was through a cool tunnel in the red canyon area.

Red Canyon Tunnel

I’d never been to Bryce Canyon before so I was really excited to see it. It did not disappoint! I stayed at the lodge right inside Bryce Canyon. It was great to step outside my room and see the spectacular view!

We hiked down one of the many trails at Bryce. Then we stopped several times on our way back up the trail to take photos. My favorite location was at a pine tree with really cool roots.

I loved the toots of this pine tree

Seth was nice enough to take photos of each of us with our camera. It was fun getting a selfie of me.

Selfie at Bryce

I got up before sunrise to set up my camera for sunrise photos at Bryce Canyon. I went to Sunrise Point to take my photos. I thought it was strange that I didn’t see anyone else from my group or any other professional photographers setting up at this location. I found out later that everyone goes to Inspiration Point. I visited Inspiration Point later in the day and I didn’t care for the formations there. I am glad I messed up and went to Sunrise Point instead!

Blue hour at Bryce
Golden hour at Bryce. I love how the golden light highlighted the rock spires. Stunning!

Our last outing with the tour was to White Pocket in Northern Arizona. This location has been top on my bucket list of places to visit for some time!

The drive to White Pocket is several hours long on a very rough 4WD road. But it was worth the bouncy ride! I wish we had had more time to explore there. I want to go back!

We got there about 2 hours before sunset. I had a blast walking around this unique landscape.

The iconic “Lone Pine” tree that everyone who visits must photograph
Such crazy geology!
Scarlett really enjoyed exploring this place
I loved this swirl formation
Just amazing!
The scale is hard to see in this photo. These boulders were the size of small cars!

After sunset, we set up a couple different places for our milky way photos. I loved photographing this location!

I love how the Milky Way looks like it’s erupting from this rock formation
Swirls of cinnamon

The next day I drove to Escalante, Utah. I stayed at a fantastic place! It’s called Yonder Escalante. You stay in your own private cabin. They have a common area with couches and firepits. I met so many wonderful people hanging out there. They also have a drive in theater and you sit in old classic cars. So cool! I also enjoyed their wonderful pool and hot tub!

My cabin at Yonder Escalante
Drive in theater
The fabulous common area. You can see it’s raining hard while I sat here.

They even come to your cabin to light your own personal firepit to make s’mores!


While staying at Escalante I got to hike another trail on my bucket list: Lower Calf Creek Falls. It was a nice little hike along Calf Creek.

Calf creek

The falls were fabulous!

Lower Calf Creek Falls – 130 feet tall

On my last couple of days, I finished driving the loop. Part of the drive was through Capitol Reef National Park. What a beautiful place! I wish I had time to do a hike in this area, but my trip was coming to a close. Plus, it was just the wrong time of year to hike this area. It was really warm and there isn’t any shade on these trails.

Capitol Reef National Park

I did stop at a roadside trail that had a boardwalk along a tall rock wall with petroglyphs.


The last part of the drive was from Escalante to Bluff, Utah (right in the southeast corner of Utah). I had no idea that this drive was the prettiest scenery of the whole trip!

First you drive through some badlands with unique rock colors.


Then you enter a deep canyon of gorgeous red walls, with a running creek next to the road and a very steep downhill grade of 14%. I loved it!

I loved these trees backed by the creek and canyon walls

You eventually come out at the eastern end of Lake Powell where the Colorado River feeds into it. An amazing drive!

Colorado River heading towards Lake Powell
Bridge over the Colorado River
Bridge over the Colorado River

After crossing this bridge, I came to an area of the river that had large goosenecks. Stunning!

Goosenecks of the Colorado River

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my epic photography tour of Southern Utah!

Piedras Marcadas (Marked Stone) Petroglyphs Hike

We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.

Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.

Moonset over the Petroglyphs

With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.

Balloon off in the distance.
Balloons over the petroglyphs
The early sunrise was turning everything golden
This balloon ended up flying right over my head.

To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.

Beautiful cloud formations

Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.

Sunrise over the Sandia Mountains

I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.

Colorful sun flare

Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.

Golden Scarlett in the golden morning

I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.

I think this is a type of Ibis
Looks like a native with his horse
Not sure what this animal drawing was supposed to represent
A pronghorn antelope with what looks like a bird’s tail

My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.

So many images to find!

Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!

Look in the upper left – a little Rock Wren is singing there

I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.

Ancient handprints
6 fingers!

A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.

Is it called a millipede because it has a million legs??? LOL!
Symmetry in nature

I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.

Mourning Dove
Curious Rock Wren
Says Phoebe
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Cassin’s Kingbird
House Finches

I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!

Tiny green spider

Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!

Panorama of the Petroglyphs
I loved the layers in this photo

Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 2

After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.

We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.

Kelly and Scarlett

The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.

Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.

One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.

Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.

I loved the really narrow areas
The notches in the rock face were hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.

Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!

Western Whiptail
Beautiful colors and markings

After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.

To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.

Western end of the scenic drive with the Virgin River in the foreground.

At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!

Big Horn Sheep feeding right below me
I love how they walk a line along the sandstone face of the canyon
Mother and baby
One stopped to check me out

The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.

Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.

Our first creek crossing and it was so pretty.

There were several nice spots to take photos.

Something about this prickly pear cactus compelled me to take a photo 🙂
This is how rocky the trail was. I love how the sun was still shining on the mountains in the distance.
Beautiful golden hour colors

The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.

I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).

End of the trail for me and Scarlett

As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.

That hike was a great way to end a fun day!

Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 1

In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.

In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!

My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.

So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.

I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.

Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona

I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.

The plaque says “Sawyer, May 1901)
Inside the Hubbell Trading Post

I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.

The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.

One Happy Scarlett!!!

We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.

Steep dunes to climb

We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.

Having fun in the sand!!!

Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.

Tiny little sand grasshopper

At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.

The sunset set off the color of the sand beautifully

I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.

Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the sunset

I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.

I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.

We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!

We started our hike in this arroyo

We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.

Scarlett walking with our guide Larry

The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.

We had to climb this sandstone rock face

We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.

Look at my Scarlett blazing the trail for us

I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.

Hiking along this steep section was tough!

Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!

I loved these yellow flowers! The Wave is straight ahead just below that shady spot on the mountainside.
This was the arroyo I had to cross to get to the Wave
It was a very steep climb up this sandstone face. My guide had to lend a helping hand several times.

Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.

I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.

Kelly and Scarlett

I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!

Having fun!

At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”

My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!

So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.

We made it!!!

We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.

There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.

Relaxing in the shade of the mini slot
Gorgeous lighting

I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!

Looking down on the Wave

The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.

My guide Larry taking in the stunning views

I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.

A nice deep pool reflection
This pool was deep. It was great because it re-hydrated her hiking vest.
You can see the water trail left by Miss Scarlett

Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.

On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.

Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

I feel like I’ve been going a lot lately and haven’t had any time to blog.  I’m still trying to catch up writing about my San Antonio visit last May/June.

While there I took the time to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  The park encompasses 5 missions and an historic acequia (water canal).  Sadly, the park didn’t open until 9 am.  By this time, the best lighting had passed, and the weather was already hot as fire!  Despite the conditions, I had a good time exploring the missions.

I did manage to get a nice pic in the morning light just outside the monument walls.


Mission San Jose

The first mission I visited was Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.  This mission was constructed in 1768 and was designated a National Historic Site in 1966.  It had a large fenced in lawn with lots of buildings that used to house the friars that lived there.


Mission San Jose


Old well outside of the mission


Mission portico

The front of the mission has been beautifully carved.  It’s amazing that these works of art are still in great condition after 250 years.


Front doors of Mission San Jose


Wonderful sculptures

The inside has been preserved beautifully.


Sanctuary of Mission San Jose

The National Park is large.  It has about 15 miles of trails to hike and bike.  I wasn’t about to do either in the Texas summer heat and humidity.  So I drove to the next mission:  Mission San Juan Capistrano.  This mission was built in East Texas in 1716.  Then in 1731, the mission was moved to San Antonio.  It was designated at National Historic Landmark in 1972.


Mission San Juan Capistrano


Bell tower of Mission

Sadly I wasn’t allowed to go inside this mission.

Following that was Mission San Francisco de la Espada which was established in 1690 in central Texas.  It underwent several name changes until 1731 when it too was moved to San Antonio.  This mission was added to the National Historic Register in 1972.


Mission San Francisco de la Espada


Bell tower


Mission Portico

I was able to step inside the sanctuary of this mission.  I didn’t realize there was a ceremony underway.  You can see the girl in the chair up front in her white dress.  She was celebrating her Quinceanera.  A celebration in the Latin communities for a girl’s 15th birthday.  I took a quick pic and left the patrons to their celebration.


Quinceanera being celebrated

I then stopped at the Espada Aqueduct.  This aqueduct was built by Franciscan Friars in 1731 to supply irrigation water to lands near Mission San Francisco de la Espada.  The aqueduct is still in use today and is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.  It received these designations in 1964.


Espada Aqueduct


The double arches of the aqueduct.

I walked down to the stream.  Scarlett was so excited to see water.  Before I let her play and get a drink, I took pictures of the cool fish gathered in a pool.  There were lots of dragonflies about but very skittish.  I managed to get a pic of one little guy.


Texas Ciclid – this fish was about 3 inches long.  You can see little babies it’s protecting


Pretty damselfly

After the aqueduct, I drove to Mission Concepcion.  I loved the grounds surrounding this mission.  It had beautiful palm trees and expansive lawns.


Beautiful old palm trees


Mission Concepcion

This mission had a lot of rooms to explore along with a beautiful sanctuary.


Alter at the Mission

I hope you enjoyed reading about my morning exploring the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  By now it was 11:30 am and it was over 100 degrees F, and I was so ready for a cold drink, a shower and air conditioning!



2017 Monochrome Awards

I just found out I got an honorable mention for an international Black and White photo contest.  😁

There were 8,942 submissions from 87 countries! Wow! I am very honored to receive an award for this prestigious event. I submitted 3 photos so am thrilled one was selected. 

My winning photo was one of my all time favorite photos: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park,  Colorado. 

It’s so exciting to be recognized! 

Pecos at Night

Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument.  I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results.  Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots.  But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  :-\

So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity.  I invited my friend Valerie to join me.  We love going out together for camera time.

We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon.  I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30.  But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,.  Winter hours had begun.  🙁  We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.

I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see.  We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos.  Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there.  But on this day, it was open!  Such a beautiful sanctuary.


Gorgeous chandeliers

Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River.  We just had to stop.  The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.


Pecos River

Next stop was Monastery Lake.  I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping.  So it was nice to stop in this time.  It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing.  Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.


Monastery Lake


Fishermen along the shore


Beautiful shore

We figured we better start back to the meeting place.  But I had one more stop to make.  I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier.  So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.


I loved the patina of the paint

There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough.  But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us.  I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over.  We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up.  Whew!  They almost made us late for our workshop!

We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out.  We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public.  We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!

After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch.  Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way.  Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer.  Yay!

We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision.  I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun.  I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take.  🙁


Valerie bundled up for the cold night ahead

So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras.  We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction.  And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set.  The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.


Beautiful purple skies

The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way.  It was thrilling!  I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting.  I was anxiously waiting to see what I got.  And then it appeared on my camera screen.  I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!


My first Milky Way shot!

The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River.  I have tried light painting in the past with OK results.  I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject.  On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure.  I think it turned out nice.


Light painting of the Pecos River

We then light painted the bridge we were standing on.  It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white.  It really reflected the light.  We only had to very briefly shine the light.  Even then the bridge is pretty bright.  But I like the photo I got.


Bridge over the Pecos River

We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge.   When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance.  I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light.  I was very pleased with my shot.  We tried light painting the tree, but I  wasn’t as happy with those pics.


Beautiful skies

By this time, several hours had passed.  It went so quickly!  We needed to move to warm up.  By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still.  We headed up the hill to the old ranch house.  There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace.  We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them.  This is probably the best shot I got.


Steer Sculpture

By now we were very cold.  It was time to go home.  On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave.  Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!

I had a great time on my first night shot outing.  I’m definitely ready to do more!




Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 4

Our last day in Estes Park.  I really didn’t want to leave.  There was so much to explore!

Dia said she wanted to sleep in.  So Scarlett and I headed out very early to go birding in Moraine Park where I had seen so many birds before.  It was a gorgeous morning.  And when I arrived at the trail head, there was birdsong everywhere.  Yay!

The trail I chose crossed a creek flowing through the meadow and headed for a rock outcropping with large pines and oaks.  I figured this would give me a bigger variety of species to look for with the range of habitat available.

My first bird sighting was a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I could hear him singing among some dead trees along the creek.  But it took me forever to spot him.  He was very camouflaged among the dead branches.


Lincoln’s Sparrow

Up ahead on the little bridge crossing the creek I saw several American Crows enjoying the morning sun.


Soon I was at the treeline edge.  Lots of birds here.  There were many House Wrens busy flitting here and there so it was a challenge to get a decent pic.


House Wren

While photographing the wrens, a pair of juvenile Williamson’s Sapsuckers came over to check me out.


Juvenile Williamson’s Sapsucker

A White-Breasted Nuthatch was busy feeding above me.


White-Breasted Nuthatch

I saw several Northern Flickers. For the most part they stayed a ways away.  I did manage to get a decent pic of one before it saw me and took off.


Northern Flicker

Then I saw a quick peek of yellow.  At first I thought it might be a warbler, but when I finally got a good look at it, I realized it was a young male Western Tanager.  Always a pleasure to see!


Western Tanager

A cute little bunny was feeding next to the trail.  I always think they are so adorable.


All of a sudden Scarlett let out a low growl.  I saw where she was looking and realized there was a coyote in the meadow.  It decided it didn’t want anything to do with Scarlett, so it quickly headed off deeper into the meadow.  He was between me and the morning sun, so I didn’t get a great pic.  But I always love seeing coyotes.  For some reason, Scarlett always growls when she sees one.   That’s a good thing I guess!



There were several hummingbirds about.  I believe they were all Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds. In that same area where we saw the coyote, there was a patch of Bee Balm.  I love these flowers.  Such unusual blooms and hummingbirds love them.  I managed to catch one feeding but that low morning sun didn’t make for very good photos.  Sigh….


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird feeding on Bee Balm flowers

Further up the trail I saw a LBB (little brown bird).  That’s usually how I end up identifying sparrows when you can’t get a good enough look at them.   This one caught my attention because it had two wing feathers sticking out funny.  🙂


I believe this is a Brewer’s Sparrow

I only got one butterfly photo the whole trip.  There were wildflowers everywhere but very few butterflies.


Small Wood Nymph

There were squirrels everywhere.  This park has a healthy population of a large variety of squirrels and chipmunks.  I almost didn’t see this chipmunk as it blended very well with the rock it was sitting on.


To my delight a Steller’s Jay landed nearby and the sun was behind me!  🙂  This one looks to be a young one starting to get more adult plumage.


Steller’s Jay

Out in the meadow I saw a flock of Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding on the grass seeds.


Brewer’s Blackbird


Red-Winged Blackbird – female


I saw many American Robins while in the park, but I only managed to get one good photo of one.


American Robin

As I was getting into my car to leave, I got one last photo of a Black-Billed Magpie.  I love these birds.  I’m so glad I was able to see so many of them and get some nice photos.


Black-Billed Magpie


I was sad to leave the park.  I am definitely coming back again in the future!


Mule Deer

Dia called me as I was heading back to town.   I asked her where she was.  Where else?!? Starbucks!   So I met her there and we enjoyed sitting by the river that runs through Estes Park.   Such a beautiful town.


Dia at her happy place!

Before I end this trip, I thought I would share some of the fun and silly photos we took over the weekend.  🙂


I made Scarlett get in the water.  She was not happy with me.  I think the loud waterfall nearby was scaring her.


Scarlett didn’t know what to think of all the raging rivers and waterfalls.  Even though she loves water, this kind of water was scary!


These marmots knew how to beg for treats


This is definitely NOT my husband’s Jeep LOL!


Dia photo bombing me


Dia enjoying all her pleasures


Kelly and her precious Scarlett


What I do to get that “perfect” photo LOL!


I just couldn’t get my new tube scarf thing to work 😐


Enjoying gourmet ice cream on main street


And of course, Scarlett wanted ice cream too! 









Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 3

On Day 3 Dia and I were up early again – ready to hit the trails for more beautiful sights.  This time Dia got a GIANT coffee from Starbucks so it would last her all morning long.  🙂

On our drive back from hiking to Emerald Lake the day before, we saw a beautiful waterfall in the distance.  I told Dia I wanted to hike to that waterfall.  So here we were heading to Alberta Falls.

The trail head is in the same area as Bear Lake.  So before heading to the falls, we took some very early morning shots at the lake.  Such a tranquil morning.  There was no breeze so the water was like a mirror.

The trail was in deep shade so early in the morning.  It was a challenge to get a photo of us together (lots of work editing those shadows).


Dia and Kelly at Bear Lake

As we walked around the lake, the view started to open up and the shadowy areas began to lighten.


Bear Lake

We came to one area that had giant boulders near the lake.  Dia climbed out on one to get a beautiful view.  A wonderful place for her to enjoy that coffee.


I climbed an even higher rock and got a very wide angle view.  Gorgeous!


Perfect reflection.

Soon we were on the trail to the falls.  The trail started off beautifully walking through an Aspen grove.


Soon the trail started climbing and we could hear rushing water in the distance.  I couldn’t wait to see this waterfall.  I had seen photos online and knew it was going to be beautiful.  We came to Glacier Creek below the falls.  So much water! Not sure why it’s called a creek when it’s a raging river!


Glacier Creek

After a little while of hiking, we could hear the falls in the distance.  The views were opening up and giving us more light on the trail.  Then finally we made it to the falls.  Stunning! The roar of the water was almost deafening.  A wondrous sound to my ears.


Stunning waterfall.  I love how the sun’s rays were illuminated by the mist from the falls.

We stayed here awhile and took some photos of each other and enjoyed watching the waterfall.


Doesn’t Dia look so adorable here 🙂 You can see why I love my friend.  She makes me smile all day long.


Hmmmm….I see rabbit ears! LOL!


Scarlett wanted her picture taken at the falls too!  😉


My beautiful Scarlett enjoying the hike.

Then we decided to walk along the river above the falls instead of staying on the trail.  For some reason the trail leaves the water and we weren’t ready to do that.  I’m so glad we decided to walk upriver because the scenery was so beautiful.


Glacier Creek

We spent quite a bit of time in one area.  The sound of rushing water and the privacy of the trees and being off trail.  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  We were truly enjoying God’s creations.


The water was moving so fast!



I tried to capture the feel of the water’s power.


A raging river.

We were still feeling good so decided to continue up the trail and see if we could make it to Mill Lake.  We climbed higher and higher and the views opened way up.  Then we came to a bend in the trail and started walking into another canyon.  The views were so expansive.  Such a wonderful hike.


I love this picture Dia took of me and Scarlett hiking.   🙂


We came to a sign that said Mill Lake was 1.5 miles ahead.  By this time we had hiked 6 miles.  We were debating on if we thought we would make it to the lake and still have enough energy to get all the way back to the car.  We were somewhat undecided for a while.  Then Dia said “Let’s go!  We can do it! And someone said there’s a baby elk to see!”.  Hmmmmmm…… I was just about to agree when a big BOOM! sounded and I looked up to see this giant thundercloud above us.  WOW!


Giant thunderhead.  Beautiful but scary when you’re out hiking.

That did it!  I did not want to be caught at 12,000 feet in a lightening storm.  No way! So we turned around and headed back to the car.

On one hand I’m sorry we didn’t go to the lake.  It never did rain.  I’m sure the views were fabulous.  But on the other hand, I know if we had gone we would have been so sore and tired by the time we got off the trail.  That would have extended our hike another 3 miles.  As it was, we ended up hiking another 10 miles this day.  We did 30 miles in 3 days!

I treated Dia to a wonderful dinner with wine for her birthday.  We even had enough energy left to do a little shopping in Estes Park.   It was a great way to end the day.


When we got back to our hotel, we had one more treat for the day.  A mother Mallard was trying to take her babies to the little pond at our hotel.  When they saw me and Scarlett not too far away, they flattened themselves trying to hide from us.



We all stayed still and soon the mother felt it was safe enough to go to the pond.  🙂



Safely at the pond 🙂



Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1. Sorry about that! Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park. Dia and I hiked most of the morning. We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes. Just stunning! I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. Seriously! You’ll see why when you see my photos. And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes. And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline. About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake. A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.


Nymph Lake


Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo. Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic. 🙂


Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack. We had her carry all of our water and snacks! 🙂 Being a working dog, she loved it. Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher. Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up. So beautiful!


Panorama of the trail. You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.


Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake. It was flowing nicely. I love hiking next to water. Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating. Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.


Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!