Summer in Colorado – Escaping the Texas Heat

If you’ve been following my work, you probably know my business keeps me busy photographing great landscapes and even some skylines across our great state. But each summer for the last 20+ years, I’ve spent a few months in Colorado with a home base in Winter Park. Last year, because my Texas photography business was going so well, and since I had a plethora of Colorado images, I decided to branch out to Colorado. With my kids in school, it is harder for me to trek to the mountains in the non-summer months, but I’ve been trying. But for now, summers are my time to roam, explore, and shoot. This past June and July have been no exception. So in this blog I wanted to share some of the highlights from outside of Texas.
First, I spent about a week total shooting a place that reminded me very much of west Texas and one of my favorite places, Big Bend National Park. Colorado National Monument is just west of Grand Junction. It is a hidden gem and not very visited by tourists, but the canyons are mesmerizing, especially in the morning and evening light. Rim Rock Road runs along the rim of several canyons, offering access to amazing hiking trails and beautiful vistas.

Colorado National Monument's Monument Canyon at sunrise.
Monument Canyon stretches out as a grand landscape of the western slope. Colorado National Monument is a gem just west of Grand Junction – and not as well known as it should be. Rim Rock Road runs 22 miles through these canyons through this portion of the Colorado Plateau, providing amazing views of several cliffs and rock rock monoliths. This panorama was taken just before sunrise on a peaceful summer morning.
This Colorado panorama is available in custom and larger sizes.

Further west, with Black Ridge Road connecting the two, McInnis Canyons, and especially Rattlesnake Canyon and Arches, are just a few miles away. The catch is, to access the arches requires a heavy-duty 4WD, high clearance vehicle. Fortunately, I have a friend and a Grand Junction native offer his services, so we drove approximately 8 miles in about an hour over absolutely terrible roads to shoot at the Rattlesnake Arches for a sunset and sunrise. The light was spectacular and provided both images and memories that will last a long time.
Summer evening in Rattlesnake Canyon
From iconic Rattlesnake Arch in Rattlesnake Canyon, the evening sky lights up at the end of a July day. This beautiful area is found in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. While this is open to the public, access is difficult, requiring either a rugged 4WD truck or a 15 mile round trip hike. But the views at sunrise and sunset of this canyon landscape are unparalleled and quite distinct in Colorado.

Each summer, I spend some time hunting Colorado Wildflowers. Despite the drought conditions in much of Colorado, some colorful blooms were still out there. Probably my favorite place this year was on a hike to Lost Man Lake near Independence Pass. I had to drop about 10 feet down into a ravine, then cross a very cold stream, but a cluster of Columbine caught my attention and provided a beautiful foreground for a fast-flowing cascade near Aspen, Colorado.
Colorado wildflowers near Independence Pass
Beautiful Columbine, Colorado’s state wildflower, fill in the rocky crags of a small stream flowing down from Independence Pass. This area, while not in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, is a short drive from Aspen on the Lost Man Lake Trail. The July morning was amazing and the flowers were prolific.

Another location with good wildflowers was a hike along the Upper Piney Lake Trail. About five miles up the trail, the last three providing some class three scrambles, a friend of mine and I finally made it into a large cirque. Here, golden sunflower and purple aster flowed down from the steep slopes.
Wildflowers in Summit County
Aspen Sunflowers and Purple Asters line a small stream flowing down from the peaks of Summit County. These wildflowers were found about five miles up the Upper Piney Lake Trail outside of Vail in mid July.

Closer to home, I took advantage of the full moon to photograph a Fraser Valley icon, Byers peak.
Moonset over Byers Peak in Fraser, Colorado
Taken with a 400mm lens, this long range view shows the full moon setting over Byers Peak near Fraser, Colorado, on a very cold morning. With the temperature at 30 degrees here in Grand County, my fingers were nearly frozen as I waited for the moon to start its descent behind this icon of the Fraser Valley.

Each summer, a friend of mine and I climb a few mountains. This summer, we hiked up a repeat – Grays and Torreys Peak. We’ve climbed 31 of Colorado’s 54 14,000’ peaks, but summited nothing new this year. Still, here is an image from the top of Grays
Torreys Peak - one of Colorado's 14ers
A cairn marks the path down from Grays Peak (14,270’) to the saddle and back up to Torreys Peak (14,267’). The skies were beautiful and the trail down and back up quite rocky. Still, the views from these 14ers are amazing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to see the world from up here.

The wildflowers along the trail were pretty amazing, as well.
Wildflowers along the way to Grays and Torreys Peak
With Grays Peak (14,270’) in the distance, the wildflowers in Stevens Gulch and along the Grays Peak Trail add an explosion of color to a mild summer afternoon. The hike up and back is nearly 8 miles, and the scenery along the way can be breathtaking (and not because of the altitude!). This trail follows the Continental Divide Trail, as well, and leads the way to two of Colorado’s 14,000’ peaks – Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

One of my favorite places in all of Colorado to spend time is the Maroon Bells. A lot of other folks feel the same way, as it is the most photographed place in the state. The two peaks, North Maroon and Maroon Peak, both rise over 14,000 feet high. With Maroon Lake in the foreground, the photographic options are seemingly limitless. As a bonus, each June the Milky Way rises over the peaks for a few days between 3:30am-4:00am. The whole scene is beautiful, and the only folks out at that time are making their way along the lake and heading for an ascent of one of the Maroon Bells peaks.
Milky Way rising over the Maroon Bells
On a beautiful very early morning at Maroon Lake, the Milky Way rolls across the sky. In the month of June between 3am-4am, the Milky Way lines up over the iconic Maroon Bells, both over 14,000 feet high. In the foreground, the waters were relatively calm and clear.

One of the most spectacular sunsets I witnessed this summer came from Rocky Mountain National Park. I had driven over to Grand Lake one evening and into the west side of the park. Up the road a ways is an old barn – locally known as the Little Buckaroo Barn. Despite the whimsical name, this barn is part of a homestead from the early 1900s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The sunset on this particular night was amazing.
Betty Dick Barn in RMNP
As part of an old homestead dating back to the early 1900s, this barn, locally known as the Little Buckaroo Barn, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits in the Kawuneeche Valley, beneath the Never Summer Mountain Range in Rocky Mountain National Park. This image was taken on an amazing summer evening as the setting sun lit up the sky in a final explosion of color before night settled in.

I still have a week or so until I have to take my girls back to Texas and get them ready for school, but it won’t be long until I can spend more time up here in the fall.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed this escape from the Texas heat!

In the meantime, Vaya con Dios, my friends,

Rob
Images from Texas

Big Bend and Bluebonnets – Thoughts in mid-April

Unfortunately, this has been a less than stellar spring for our favorite Texas wildflower. The reports that I’ve received from friends putting in miles around south and central Texas show that while there are blooms along the roadsides and in some fields, the coverage is not full. I’m still hoping to find a few spots on the hill country for bluebonnets, but I don’t have high hopes. At this point, Ennis might have a decent showing. We should know more in the next few weeks. I’ve taken very few photos of bluebonnets this year, and I think this is my favorite – a white bluebonnet (or whitebonnet):

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Whitebonnets, Bluebonnets, and a Bee 23 : Prints Available

In a field of bluebonnets, one lone wildflower stood out – this white bluebonnet (or maybe a whitebonnet?). As bees buzzed all around this field, it took 23 shots to capture this image of the bee in flight as it surveyed the unique colors of this single flower in the Texas Hill Country.


It took 23 images to capture this bee in flight. I had originally hoped to photograph a bee that was sitting on a petal, but each time a bee landed, it was on the side of the bluebonnet opposite the lens. But this bee in flight turned out better than I could have hoped.

I do have a good feeling about firewheels. Again, time will tell, and future rains will dictate the fullness of the fields, but I think the Hill Country is off to a good start.

***

Big Bend is calling my name again. I’m hoping to get out there again before April’s end. I hear the prickly pear cacti are blooming, and I’d like to photograph the Rio Grande at sunset. One morning for sunrise, I am planning on trekking out to Fresno Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park. I’ve not spent much time in the interior of BBRSP so I’m looking forward to a little adventure. For some reason, that area (the Big Bend region) appeals to me. I’m not sure if it is the isolation or the big sky landscape, but there is something there – like a distant memory of childhood that brings a peace and joy that really can’t be described adequately to someone else.

In the meantime,
Vaya con Dios, my friends,

Rob
Images from Texas

Happy New Year (belated), Texas!

Happy New Year, Texas!

First, I have to say it is kind of cool when you visit a national park and one of your books is on display. I had no idea my publisher placed the Texas wildflower book in the Chisos Lodge Visitor Center at Big Bend National Park. I’m humbled and surprised.

My Texas Wildflowers book at the Chisos Lodge Visitor Center in Big Bend National Park.

Next, it looks like we are in the doldrums of winter. Everything is brown and the weather has been generally gray. So on a whim over the holidays I studied and last week took a test that allows me to legally fly a drone for commercial purposes. I owned a drone several years ago but sold it because I did not want to mess with all the legal aspects nor the certification process. On top of that, I don’t want to hear drones overhead when I am hiking or “zenning out”in nature. I do not want to be one of “those guys.” I fully support the banning of drones in state and national parks.

All that said, I’d been asked about obtaining various aerial images of Austin by potential clients over the past year. So, what the heck. I’d read how hard the test was, so a friend and photographer advised me to use the ASA Test Prep study guide. I ended up cramming over about 10 days, then took the test last Thursday. I have to admit that when I started studying, most of the material was foreign – 3D classes of air space on a 2d chart, airport systems, military operations, FAA regulations, etc. However, I finished the test in 37 minutes (you get 2 hours to answer 60 questions.) My proctor told me it was the fastest finish of anyone she’d tested. I figure you know it or you don’t. I made a 93, which means I got 56 out of 60 questions correct. I know one of the questions I just bubbled in the wrong answer. The other three I missed I have no idea what they were asking! Nevertheless, I can legally fly a drone and get paid for it. I suppose one of these days I’ll look into buying a drone ?

That’s about all for now. I hope everyone has a good start to the new year. As for me, I’m looking forward to wildflower season, multiple trips to Big Bend National Park and west Texas, and some summer fun in the Colorado Mountains.

Via con dios, friends,

Rob

Rob Greebon
Texas Images
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