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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'

Sandstone Ranch

October 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

The city of Longmont’s Sandstone Ranch Park is just beyond the Boulder county line in Weld County 20 miles northwest of my apartment in south Boulder. Sharon and I had heard that warblers had arrived there so we did too.

We found them in these trees.

We found them in these trees.

Where the Warblers Were

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Many warblers are colorful birds. But for two reasons they are hardly my favorites. They are hard to identify and hard to photograph as they dart around quickly and hidden by the foliage. But as we waited patiently, this little one made one foray to the outer edge of the tree where I was able to get my camera focused on her in time.

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Bear Canyon

October 1st, 2014 · 2 Comments

The Bear Canyon Trail is one of several trails surrounding the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The trailhead is less than three miles from my apartment in south Boulder, but I ​hadn’t hiked it ​before​ Dave Sutherland, a Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks naturalist,​ ​introduced me to it ​two years ago ​in​ the s​pring.

​Since that time, I’ve hiked this lovely trail alongside Bear Creek many times. But this is late summer, and it’s not birdy now between the spring and fall migrations.

Still, the weather was perfect for a hike. When I got to the trailhead about 6:30 a.m. the temperature was already in the 70s, the air was still, and hardly a cloud was in the sky.

The Bear Canyon Trail runs up the canyon just below my favorite building in Boulder, the Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which sits atop Table Mesa at 5,950 feet. It’s one of very few buildings here in the Front Range above 5,750 feet because in 1959 Boulder approved the “Blue Line” amendment to our city charter restricting city water service to altitudes below that level to protect our mountains from development.

This building is exactly two miles due west of my apartment, from where I can see it 560 feet above where I live. Designed in the 1960s by I.M. Pei to look “as if it were carved out of the mountain​,​”​ ​it brought great acclaim to the ​Chinese-born American architect​, who is​ often called the master of modern architecture. ​

Pei, who is now 97 years old, says that his inspiration for the building came partly from ​”​the places I had seen with my mother when I was a little boy​, ​the mountaintop Buddhist retreats. There in the Colorado mountains, I tried to listen to the silence again​, ​just as my mother had taught me. The investigation of the place became a kind of religious experience for me.” Wanting the building to exist in harmony with its natural surroundings, Pei also drew inspiration from the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in southeast Colorado. ​

​Boulder's Best Building Sits High Above Bear Canyon​

Boulder's Best Building Sits High Above Bear Canyon

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At another draw about a half mile further up the trail I looked up in hopes of seeing some of the deer that I had often seen there. And there they were.

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North Teller Lake

September 30th, 2014 · 2 Comments

North Teller Lake was birdy and sunny when I went there in the morning. It is less than 10 miles northeast of my apartment in Boulder, and I had the trail entirely to myself. What more could I want?

I would have appreciated seeing some rare birds. I did see and photograph several of the most common species in Colorado. Some people turn up their noses at the birds they see every day, but to me what matters most is how attractive the photograph is.

In the past few years I have hiked several times to North Teller Lake when they still called it Teller Lake Number 5. But this time I walked all around the lake to the east side, which offers the best light in the morning. Here is what some photographers call an “establishing shot,” the setting.

North Teller Lake Reflects the Front Range

North Teller Lake Reflects the Front Range

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Growing in marshy land at the edge of the lake, the flower pictured below caught my attention. It’s so beautiful that I expected to find it in all my flower identification books. It was not only missing but none of my friends could quickly identify it. Finally, my friend Rich Wolf and our mutual friend Dave Sutherland identified it for me. [Read more →]

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Adams County Regional Park

September 29th, 2014 · No Comments

Sharon and I visit Adams County Regional Park every couple of years and each time have found it a good place to go birding. On the prairie 28 miles east of my apartment in Boulder, the park attracts migrating and resident birds with its lakes and ponds along the South Platte River.

Like the good birders we try to be, Sharon and I got to the park at sunrise. But the sun hadn’t yet hit the pond where we found an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron at 7:30. I shot it anyway.

An Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron in Early Morning

An Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron in Early Morning

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An hour and one-half later Sharon and I returned to the pond, and this time we found two juveniles, undoubtedly the offspring of the adult Night-Heron.

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Broad-tailed Hummmingbirds

September 28th, 2014 · No Comments

Hummingbirds have been the hardest birds for me to photograph in flight. Even at a feeder, they move so fast that I need luck to get good shots. In nature they are even more of a challenge for a photographer.

But after a flock of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds discovered blue sage growing in Sanitas Valley, everything changed. My friend and fellow nature photographer, Rich Wolf, discovered the hummers there and told me about them.

He suggested that I “might want to get your glass [my lens] out to the bottom of the Sanitas Valley Trail (right off of West Mapleton). The Salvia azurea [blue sage] are attracting a flock of hummingbirds.”

I took his suggestion as soon as I could. In fact, I was so anxious that I got there about 6:45 a.m., far too early. Although sunrise was at 6:27, the sun didn’t hit the flowers where the hummingbirds were feeding until 7:32. I took the opportunity to hike up the trail a bit, which was a good thing, because I hadn’t been there for years.

Hummingbirds Love Blue Sage

Hummingbirds Love Blue Sage

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Barr Lake

September 27th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Sharon and I took advantage of a sunny and warm morning to visit ​Barr Lake State Park​. It’s out on the prairie 35 miles east of Boulder.

An 8.8 mile trail circles the large lake. We hiked several miles of the trail on the east side of the lake north and south of the nature center.

​Three Great Blue Herons Patrol the Lake's Edge

Three Great Blue Herons Patrol the Lake's Edge

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Meditating in Crestone

September 26th, 2014 · 2 Comments

I went to Crestone solely to meditate. But the beauty I found there prompted me to take some photos too.

The opportunity to have six days of silent meditation drew me back to Crestone for the second straight year. Offered by the Insight Meditation Community of Colorado and led by David Chernikoff (who also usually leads my Tuesday evening sangha), this was a special kind of retreat. We were a small group of 11 yogis, and except for opening and closing ceremonies ​,​ we meditated in our own individual hermitages when we ​weren’t doing walking meditation.

We were guests of Nada Hermitage, the Colorado branch of the Spiritual Life Institute, a community of men and women living a communal life according to the primitive Carmelite ideal. One priest and two lay women live the contemplative life there and share that life with others, whatever their faith. The Spiritual Life Institute is a Roman Catholic ecumenical community with roots in the Carmelite tradition.

In Crestone it’s not unusual for a Buddhist retreat to take place in a Roman Catholic hermitage. Crestone is the largest intentional interfaith community in North America and perhaps the world. At least 22 spiritual centers and networks are now located here.

The spiritual community that has grown up just south of Crestone owes more to one couple than to everyone else. Maurice Strong is an environmentally conscious Canadian businessman specializing in oil and mineral resources and a former diplomat representing Canada as under-secretary general of the United Nations. In 1978 Strong came to ​ have​ the controlling interest the Arizona-Colorado Land and Cattle Company, which owned a large portion of the original Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4, a square some 12.5 miles on each side. The company created the Baca Grande, a subdivision originally platted for about 10,000 lots on 200,000 acres of land. Happily, ​sales lagged and ​it failed. But then Strong and his Danish-born wife Hanne visited the development and fell in love with it.

In 1978 ​”​a stranger appeared at my door and introduced himself as Glenn Anderson,” Hanne Strong recalled in 2008. “I did not know that many people throughout the Valley knew of Glen [sic] as the local mystic and prophet. The first words he uttered were ​’​I have been waiting for you to arrive.​’”​ He told her that he had predicted in the 1960 ​’​​​ ​​s that a foreigner would come here and build an international religious center. ​”​This is what you’ve come to Crestone to do.​”​

And that ​’​s precisely what she did after hearing his prophesy. Hanne and Maurice Strong began granting parcels of land to spiritual groups. The Nada Hermitage was one of the first three benefactors of a grant of land from the Strongs.

The hermitage sits at 8,000 feet directly below some of the highest peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

A Bridge Connects the Chapel and the Agape Library of the Nada Hermitage

A Bridge Connects the Chapel and the Agape Library of the Nada Hermitage

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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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