Journal: Colorful Colorado - March 2019

Thanks to a work trip John had to take, cheap flights, and lots of accrued vacation at my full time job, I landed in Colorado for nine days over spring break. John and I had a few days to explore together and then I was on my own while John went to business meetings, so I got to do a fair bit of exploring and photography out of our base in the Denver/Boulder area.

While I didn't schedule too much of my time around photography, I ended up exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, hiking trails around Boulder, and some open space areas and parks in Louisville. I packed my new 5D Mark IV for the trip and it was an awesome travel camera - the perfect combination of light weight and high performance in a familiar DSLR package. To keep my kit pretty light but still maintain adequate versatility, I paired the new camera with my 17-40mm f/4L, 50mm f/1.4 (which I didn't really end up using), and 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses. That plus a tripod and some spare batteries and CF cards was pretty much all I brought with me for the trip. 

I would have definitely benefitted from packing my 300mm f/2.8L IS and teleconverters for wildlife (which would have opened up more opportunities for photographing prairie dogs and meadowlarks, magpies, and other birds), but that thing is a bit of a honker and would have necessitated a larger tripod. Since I wasn't trying to make this specifically a photography trip, I opted for lighter gear and am still quite happy with some of the shots I got.

Below is just a handful of my favorite of the 1000+ photos I took while in Colorado. As always, it takes me some time to go through images from multi-day trips and I'm sure I'll end up with some additional photos that I end up really liking once I can wrap my head around how to process and present them. All photos with the Canon 5D Mark IV and 17-40mm f/4L or 70-200mm f/4L IS lens, handheld, and processed in Lightroom only, unless otherwise noted.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, Rocky Mountain National Park, national parks, trees, snow, winter, , photo

Winter Colors

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

We spent our first full day in Colorado exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been to the park twice before, but John had never been. I was really excited to show John some elk (I had never not seen them in the park), but we struck out. We were treated to some beautiful soft light and snow flurries that made for some pretty unique landscape/tree detail photo opportunities though. Canon 5D Mark IV, 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 400, handheld, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Colorado, photo

After a day of exploring on our own, we stayed with my friend Sally for the weekend. Sally and her boyfriend had planned an epic ridgeline hike from Loveland Pass straddling the Continental Divide, but when we showed up at the pass conditions were a bit more epic than any of us were prepared for. Instead of a sunny, breezy, 20 degree day we found ourselves battling 40+mph gusts, bitter cold, and whiteout conditions. Sally snagged this photo of John and I on her iPhone before we all turned back and found a tamer snowshoe trail to explore instead.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

When John had to work I decided to explore parks and trails on my own. This photo was taken at Davidson Mesa, an open space area in the town of Louisville (pronouced Lou-iss-ville not Louey-ville, in case you were wondering) where we were staying. Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/640s, f/4.5, ISO 200, handheld.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, white tailed deer, deer, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, NWR, wildlife refuge, silhouette, morning, sunrise, photo

On Alert

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado, USA

I did get up early one morning to travel to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, right outside of Denver, for sunrise. I had hoped to photograph bison, elk, and mule deer, but the bison were too far away, I didn't see any elk at all, and I ended up getting more exciting photos of white-tailed deer (which we have at home in New Hampshire) than mulies. It was still a pretty neat wildlife refuge though, and it reminded me of how much I have enjoyed exploring other wildlife refuges (such as Chincoteague, Bombay Hook, and Great Swamp) when I lived closer to them. Canon 5D Mark IV, 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, 1/640s, f/9, ISO 800, handheld from car.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

This little bunny (also at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR) was quite cute and allowed me to get closer than any of the prairie dogs that actually make these mounds/tunnels did. It's probably because the bunny was convinced I couldn't actually see him, which seems pretty typical for rabbits. Canon 5D Mark IV, 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, 1/800s, f/4, ISO 400, handheld.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

My dear friend Tzvi met up with us for a few hours (he drove down from Avon/Vail just so we could hang out for a bit) and took us to this awesome spot at night, which is accessed by just a short hike from right on the outskirts of Boulder, so I returned a few days later to check out the rock formations in daylight. They probably would have been even more spectacular if I had gotten to them right at sunrise (and if sunrise hadn't been semi-overcast), but I still got some pretty cool shots of these red rocks, and they are entirely unlike anything you can find in New England. Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/120s, f/10, ISO 200, handheld.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

Red rocks with a bit of drama. Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/200s, f/11, ISO 200, handheld.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

More from the Red Rocks Trail in Boulder. Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/80s, f/13, ISO 200, handheld.

CO, Colorado, North America, USA, United States, West, photo

On our last full day in Colorado, John and I went to explore Red Rocks Amphitheater (different area than above) and hiked up some of the trails surrounding the area. Because its kind of a popular tourist trap and a geological area, there are tons of signs requiring people to stay on the trails and walkways, which meant it was somewhat difficult to create good shots, even though the area was beautiful. I snapped this pano quickly with my Canon 5D Mark IV and 17-40mm f/4L USM, not thinking it would come out because it is difficult to make panoramas with wide lenses because of the distortion. Had I realized a shot like this would actually come together I probably would have taken a similar shot without the couple in it. At least they are holding hands! Canon 5D Mark IV, 17-40mm f/4L IS USM, 1/200s, f/8, ISO 200, handheld, panoramic composite of three frames merged in Lightroom.

Posted in Trip Reports and tagged Colorado.