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

Entries Tagged as 'Photography'

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Wheat Ridge Greenbelt

August 19th, 2014 · No Comments

The Denver metro area in summer is not the most obvious place to go birding. But Sharon and I went there anyway this Sunday morning.

The Wheat Ridge Greenbelt is one of just a dozen birding hotspots in the metro area that Hugh Kingery includes in his valuable guide to more than 180 premier birding sites in Birding Colorado (Morris Book Publishing, 2007). And this greenbelt is one of the closest of all these places to the state capitol building in downtown Denver, just 8 miles from the city’s skyscrapers.

About 30,000 people live in the Wheat Ridge suburb of Denver. Birds live here too along the greenbelt formed by Clear Creek. The greenbelt runs for more than four miles through Wheat Ridge, and its heart is Prospect Park, which I have visited time and again.

The time of year is as unlikely for birding as this suburban place. Spring and fall migrations offer better prospects. May is the best month, when 131 species are commonly seen, according to Audubon Birds Pro, one of my iPad apps. September comes in second with 120 species, followed by June with 107 and August with 102.

But Prospect Park is a special place, an island of natural beauty formed by the creek, four lakes, and many big old trees. Likewise, this is a special summer. Both Sharon and I are staying the season here in part because it has been so beautiful: generally sunny, calm, and not too hot. Particularly when we hit the trail at sunrise, as we did this morning and do on most of our hikes, we have been blessed with cool weather.

We made a loop walk through the park. We passed Prospect Lake as we drove in and out, stopping to see Snowy Egrets both times. On our way in, the egrets flew off skittishly as soon as I slowly open the car door. We waited until we finished our hike in hopes of seeing them again on Prospect Lake.

Not until we hit the trail along Clear Creek did I capture an image of a bird. The creek was running as clear as its name promises. The flow was down from my last previous visit when it was rushing so fast that I saw no birds on it. But even this time few birds besides Mallards were on the creek. This was one exception:

​A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

A Spotted Sandpiper at Clear Creek

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A few minutes later Sharon spotted this tiny raptor in a tree.

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Dragonflies

August 16th, 2014 · 5 Comments

This morning I walked around Tantra Lake at sunrise and again at 11 in search of one of the thinest birds I have ever seen. I saw it there yesterday but I didn’t have my camera with me and wasn’t able to identify it after an extensive search through my field guides and apps. That thin bird may have been starving or a mutation or, possibly like me, following a very low-carb diet.

In any case it was probably eating elsewhere this morning. But on my late morning walk in the hot sun many dragonflies were flying on the lake, occasionally ​resting on the stalks of plants growing at the edge.

Dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, of which about 5,900 species are known. They are insects as beautiful and interesting as butterflies, although much less studied. We have 348 species of dragonflies and damselflies in the Western U.S. and Canada.

Dragonflies are some of the fastest insects in the world and have the finest vision of any insect. They are especially good at identifying movement, which makes them difficult to photograph at close range. But this morning they repeatedly came back to the stalks of three plants, so I plopped myself down next to the stalks and waited.

This is what I saw:

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Louisville’s North Open Space

August 12th, 2014 · 2 Comments

It’s a rare day when I hike on a Boulder County trail that I hadn’t seen before. I figure that I am well on my way to having hiked just about every mile of the county’s trails.

But at sunrise this morning I was on a trail in the City of Louisville’s North Open Space that I hadn’t even known existed until Sharon told me about it. She had discovered it a few days earlier and took me there.

The trailhead near South Boulder Road and Washington Avenue is five miles due east of my apartment. The best map of the open space that I have been able to find is this online Parks, Open Space & Trails Map.

North Open Space itself is just 37 acres, but it adjoins the 45 acres of Louisville’s Callahan Open Space and Lafayette’s smaller Nyland Open Space, which together form a large natural island within suburban development.

During much of our hike we were out of sight of suburbia. But we started out along an irrigation ditch below some large homes up the hill to the south. There we saw an unusual collection of birds on the roof of one of those homes. A Northern Flicker and an American Kestrel were the first to arrive.

​A Blue Jay Joins the Party

A Blue Jay Joins the Party

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We saw several species of flowers as well as of birds.

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Lake Isabelle

August 10th, 2014 · No Comments

This Friday morning was as nearly perfect as it gets in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. To make the 4.2 mile round-trip hike to Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness my hiking buddy Sharon and I chose the day based on the weather prediction, and it turned out to be spot on.

We made sure to get to the trailhead at 6 a.m., when the day was still cool at 42 degrees, although it warmed up later to the mid-60s. We had almost full sun all morning and, best of all, essentially no wind. We had never seen it so calm in these mountains.

​Lake Isabelle, Sharon, Isabelle Glacier, and Shoshoni Peak​

Lake Isabelle, Sharon, Isabelle Glacier, and Shoshoni Peak

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Our destination was Lake Isabelle, which sits at 10,868 feet right below Isabelle Glacier. In 1904 a Boulder engineer, Fred Fair, discovered Isabelle Glacier, which University of Colorado Professor Junius Henderson named for Fair’s first wife, Frances Isabel Fair.

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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 · 1 Comment

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 · 4 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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