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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa
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Moose

July 18th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Sometimes getting up at 4 a.m. can be worth the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep. It was today.

Sharon is back from her trip to northern California. She suggested that we meet at her home in central Boulder at 5 a.m. to drive up to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area for a hike around Long Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We did. This is one of my favorite places to hike, but it’s so high in the Rockies that trails aren’t free from snow until late July, and I hadn’t been there since July 2012.

This morning was sunny, warming up from about 50° to the mid-50s by the time we left the wilderness. I needed the down jacket that I wore.

But first as we approached Brainard Lake, the central one of the five major lakes in the area, we noticed a half dozen cars stopped on the road. We knew that this meant only one thing: moose in the willows.

We jumped out and started shooting. The time was just after 6 a.m. The moose were close and mostly unobstructed by vegetation. With the early morning light was at our backs, it couldn’t have been better.

​The Moose Is the One on the Right

The Moose Is the One on the Right

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We kept on photographing the moose for an hour and one-half. First it was three older males eating a delicious breakfast of fresh willow shoots. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also eat the willow bark whenever they have a headache, since it’s the natural source of salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).

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A Great Blue Heron Visits

July 11th, 2014 · No Comments

This morning when I set out to walk around the lake in front of my apartment, I only wanted to experience nature and to get a little physical activity. But then I spotted a Great Blue Heron patiently standing at the far side of the lake.

Hoping that the heron would continue to stalk fish where it stood, I rushed back to my apartment and grabbed my camera. I was lucky.

​The Heron Hadn't Moved

The Heron Hadn't Moved

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Walden and Sawhill Ponds

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

Boulder County’s Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat and the city-managed Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve are two of the best places for birds and for birding around here. Fortunately, they are right next to each other just a couple of miles east of the city.

I often hike one or the other of these parks. I experienced both of them early on Independence Day, and Sharon joined me there.

​South Boulder Peak and Green Mountain from Sawhill Ponds

South Boulder Peak and Green Mountain from Sawhill Ponds

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A few days earlier in the late afternoon I had hiked Sawhill Ponds alone. That day I saw only common birds, albeit in interesting activity or good light.

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Vallecitos Mountain Ranch

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

I went to Vallecitos to meditate in the woods. Like Henry David Thoreau, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ​ For two years Thoreau lived alone at Walden Pond​, which is less than two miles from the center of Concord, Massachusetts.

​I went to Vallecitos Mountain Ranch for a six-day retreat​ deep within New Mexico’s Carson National Forest. It’s an hour by dirt road to the nearest settlement. But I was not alone in the woods: 22 of us had retreated there. I previously knew two of them as well as one of the two teachers.

​I went there to cut my connections to the outside world. The ranch is off the grid: We were cut off from the Internet, radio, television, telephone, and anything printed.​ Peter ​, the teacher I know from Boulder,​ discouraged reading and writing, although I did make notes. He also discouraged photography, except ​ for​ “real shutterbugs​,​” ​which includes me, of course.

I stayed in ​C​asita ​No. ​3, a simple and small room ​with ​a large floor to ceiling window ​of about 5′ x 7′ overlooking a​ ​ ​grove of aspens. The room came with a bed, a locally built desk​,​ ​an end table of sorts, ​ a garden chair, ​a mirror, a waste basket, a broom, and a small throw rug. It also came with two pillows​ (such excess!)​ ​, although we had to bring our own sleeping bags and pillow case.

​The Interior of My Casita

The Interior of My Casita

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​​The Exterior of My Casita and of Two Others​

The Exterior of My Casita and of Two Others

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​The casita was for sleeping. We meditated mostly in the lodge and on walks and hikes on the ranch and along the Rio Vallecitos.

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Dead Horse Point

June 19th, 2014 · No Comments

Finally, it was time to go home to Colorado from ​the​ tour of the Southwest ​that I took ​with the great Russ Burden and three wonderful tour companions. But Utah was in the way.

So we stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab. This park ​​is 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River​​ and also overlooks Canyonlands National Park.

​Years ago cowboys used the gooseneck as a natural corral​ to herd wild mustangs​. At least one of these horses must have died there, although nobody knows for sure any more just what happened.

​Looking Down to Dead Horse Point on the Colorado River​

Looking Down to Dead Horse Point on the Colorado River

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We​ looked down a lot. Here Kylie gets as low as she could to photograph this puddle.

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Horseshoe Bend

June 17th, 2014 · No Comments

Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of this famous place, which is probably the most photographed part of the river, but always assumed that it is hard to reach.

Not so. The trailhead is only a five-mile drive from Page, Arizona, where I stayed on a photo tour of some of the most iconic places in the Southwest with pro photographer Russ Burden and three other avid photographers. From the trailhead to the overlook is an easy 1.5 mile roundtrip hike.

But once we got to the overlook, things began to get tricky. To capture the entire scene required that I use a 10mm lens, which has the widest angle of all my lenses.

I also had to get very close to the edge, where I looked straight down 1,000 feet to the river. The National Park Service suggests that we “try lying down on the ground and looking over the edge that way.”

Instead, I set down the two front legs of my tripod less than 1 inch from the edge. Russ seemed to think that I was pushing it, but I needed to get that close to avoid having the edge blocking some of the view. Fortunately, I don’t have a fear of heights, and my tripod doesn’t appear to have that concern either.

We got there in plenty of time, as we always do with Russ. We set up carefully and waited for the sun to set directly across the river from us. It did.

​Wind, Water, and Time Carved This Impossible Shape in Sandstone

Wind, Water, and Time Carved This Impossible Shape in Sandstone

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Lower Antelope Canyon

June 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Antelope Canyon is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. It’s in ​the ​Navajo ​Nation near Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. I went to Lower Antelope Canyon on my​ photo tour with Russ Burden of Monument Valley and the Glen Canyon area.​

​The ​c​anyon was formed by the erosion of Navajo s​andstone, primarily due to flash flooding, which still occurs there.​ Eleven tourists were killed ​in Lower Antelope Canyon on August 12, 1997 . Very little rain fell ​there that day, but ​heavy rain had fallen seven miles upstream. I was careful to wear my waterproof boots when I went down into the canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon is the narrowest canyon I could imagine. It is beautiful with the swirls and the ​lines of the red rocks, the glow, and the way the light hits.

Russ’s guidance was to concentrate our compositions on the reflected, warm light areas in the canyon​ while avoiding areas where the sun hit directly​. Light entering the canyon and ​bouncing off the walls at the top gives this light. Shooting in the darker areas produces purple colored tones ​with an interesting effect. I combined the warm glow with the purple shadows to produce ​my abstract photography.

​The only time I included direct sunlight in my photos was to capture this image of a dusty light beam.​

​A Shaft of Light Falls on the Canyon Floor

A Shaft of Light Falls on the Canyon Floor

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​I Never Imagined that Rocks Could be So Sensuous

I Never Imagined that Rocks Could be So Sensuous

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Monument Valley

June 15th, 2014 · 2 Comments

From the time when I was a little boy growing up in​ ​California on the edge of the Colorado Desert I ​dreamed of experiencing the true West. I finally got there.​

​To me the heart of the West has always been the rugged desert landscape of southern Utah and northern Arizona​, particularly Monument Valley. Made famous from many Western movies, Monument Valley straddles the Arizona-Utah border. The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park includes a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor.

I got there on a photo tour led by Russ Burden, my favorite professional photographer and tour leader. This was my third tour with him because he is such an outstanding teacher, skillful photographer, and nice fellow. Russ keeps his tour groups small so he can readily share his contagious enthusiasm and knowledge. Besides Russ and me, the tour included only three people, Chris and Gary from the Denver area and Kylie from Australia.

When we got to Monument Valley after a 500 mile drive from Denver in Russ’s van, the sky was heavily overcast. Russ’s mantra is that “it’s all about the light,” but after settling into our motel rooms in Mexican Hat, Utah, we went out in search of photographs anyway. We waited. And waited. Finally, just before the sun was due to set, it broke through the clouds, lighting some of the monuments in front of us for no more than 5 minutes. That was enough.

​Our First View of Brigham’s Tomb, the Stagecoach, the Bear and the Rabbit, the Castle, and the Big Chief

Our First View of Brigham’s Tomb, the Stagecoach, the Bear and the Rabbit, the Castle, and the Big Chief

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Early one morning a few days later an urban cowboy who hails from Queens, New York, arrived on the scene with his lariat and cowboy hat. His name, he said, was Russ Burden. He attempted to lasso one of the most famous silhouettes in the Southwest, West Mitten Butte, which actually rises about 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

​Russ Tries to Lasso the West Mitten Butte

Russ Tries to Lasso the West Mitten Butte

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Later that morning we went to a place called the North Window, which frames the valley between diagonal canyon walls. It shows a three-dimensional view of Brigham’s Tomb, the Stagecoach, the Bear and the Rabbit, the Castle, and the East Mitten.

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A Little Drama at the Elkhorn Slough

June 13th, 2014 · No Comments

The mallard and her ducklings waddle slowly along side the Northern California slough. I watch and photograph them even though I see mallards at home in Colorado every day. But I don’t often see ducklings.

My friends John and Vicky had invited me for a cruise of Elkhorn Slough, as I detailed in my previous post here. We were on the Selkie II, the Whisper Charters boat owned and captained by Brian Ackerman, a life-long waterman with more than 20 years of experience of operating oceanographic research vessels for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Calm prevails in the peaceful family scene.

A Dozen Ducklings Follow Mama Mallard

A Dozen Ducklings Follow Mama Mallard

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But the ground is wet and muddy, and it can be challenging for ducklings. One of them falls into a pool.

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Elkhorn Slough

June 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

When I visited Northern California recently, my friends John and Vicky treated me to a boat tour of Elkhorn Slough. Except it’s really not what most people think of as a slough.

Elkhorn Slough isn’t “an area of soft, muddy ground; swamp or swamplike region,” as one dictionary defines the word. It is actually a broad salt marsh is second in size in California only to San Francisco Bay.

The slough is the heart of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Its mouth is Moss Landing at the center of Monterey Bay, about halfway between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey. When I lived in Santa Cruz from 1995 to 2004, I went to the reserve several times to hike but never knew about the possibility of boat tours.

My friend John, who lives near Santa Cruz, discovered Brian Ackerman’s Whisper Charters tours of the slough. John had told me about his great experience on an earlier tour there, and it was everything that I had hoped it would be.

The skies were clear, we had no wind, and the temperature was perfect, warming up to 58° when we set off at 8 a.m. into the slough to see some of the rare southern sea otters and other marine mammals as well as dozens of species of birds. The light on the scene — both the water and the green surrounding hills — was lovely. The boat, the whisper-quiet electric Selkie II, was covered and had the most comfortable seats of any small boat. I got perhaps a thousand photographs, and some of them were keepers. Here are a few of my favorites.

​Two Southern Sea Otters at Play

Two Southern Sea Otters at Play

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