Autumn is my favorite time of year to take photos and long drives. We have so many scenic byways and gorgeous places in Colorado and when the leaves change people flock to the mountains. Forums are already buzzing with pictures of leaves starting to change and people wondering where and when they should search for leaves... your insider’s knowledge is right here:
KEVS GUIDE TO COLORADO GOLD!
Generally the third and fourth week of September are ideal to take a long drive through the mountains, but you have to time it just right. It's difficult to predict when exactly the leaves will turn in any given location. Last year the leaves were still nice into the middle of October. Most places change leaves within one to two weeks, you have to be fast and pay attention – particularly to social media or websites that predict leaf change (there are a ton of ‘em, one of my go-to’s is http://www.weather.com/maps/activity/fallfoliage/usnormalfallpeaks_large.html). Also note that leaves change in the northern part of Colorado before the southern areas.
I think this is what stumps people the most when planning a fall foliage drive in our state. Here are my top 4 northern and top 4 southern gold hunting places, boom:
1) Boreas Pass and Breckinridge- Boreas pass is a nice drive indeed. It can get a bit crowded up there, but that is for a reason. There are a few sections of this pass where the trees bend outwards toward the road, it makes canopies of gold over your head as you walk down the road. I recommend you walk sections of this road and take it all in.
2) Mueller state park- this one doesn’t have the best aspens in Colorado, so you might ask why is it on our list? Mueller is a great place to take kids or family. It’s a hidden gem just outside of Divide. You will see many species of birds and wildlife if you sit quietly there. Once you hit Mueller, your drive home can easily go through Victor and Cripple Creek for your golden leaf payout.
3) Guanella Pass- located just outside of Conifer. This pass is paved for the most part and reaches 11.700 feet in elevation. This 25 mile road has sections of 2 of Colorado’s national forests.
4) Aspen and Minturn- more of an area than a specific drive, Minturn has easy access to many highways and loops. This gorgeous little town has vistas and a river running past groves of gold and red. Nice canyons abound to the south of Minturn. The neighboring town of Aspen has many roads around it that are breathtaking. A simple Google search of drives around Aspen and Minturn will find you may options that seldom disappoint.
1) Kebler and Ohio passes- located just outside Crested Butte. Crested Butte in the fall will talk your breath away if you time it right! The aspen grove at Kebler was once considered the largest organism in the world. One giant aspen spans for miles and it tends to change color all at once there. It is a significant drive, but it’s a pilgrimage I try to make every year. If you drive up Kebler pass there is a turn off to Lost Lake about half way which is a beautiful place to fish or have lunch. Ohio pass is Kebler’s next door neighbor; if you make the trip for Kebler, take the extra hour or two to explore Ohio too.
2) Cottonwood Pass- I believe Cottonwood pass is home to the 2nd largest Aspen grove in Colorado. The road is paved all the way to the summit of the pass and makes this a good drive for those who don’t want to drive too far into the hills. Don’t forget to stop off at Cottonwood Lake – one of the favorite places for this photog to rest and take in the natural beauty.
3) The Highway of Legends scenic byway- Google it! There is a ton of stuff on this drive. It’s about 90 miles and 3 hours of your time, but a very nice road trip. Make sure the kids’ electronics are fully charged before you go –or– that they have a better appreciation for the natural beauty around them than mine do!
4) Dallas Divide- This long drive is well worth the rewards at the end. You will pass Blue Mesa, Gunnison, and the Black Canyon. Look at your route options before you leave, at least one option will take you over Monarch Pass – a destination all its own. Once you reach Dallas Divide, the vibrant reds and yellows of fall take over the scrub in breath-taking vistas just off the highway.
These eight locations are certainly not a comprehensive list; each destination here is minivan/family friendly – no 4-wheel drive required. I intentionally left some hidden gems off my list. Part of the adventure is finding your own path and discovering the beauty of this state. I encourage you to go explore this fall and don’t forget to take your camera with you!
Kevs quick guide to megapixels!
How many megapixels do you need?
Someone told me they were super excited to get a 42 megapixel camera recently. They were super excited because these 42 megapixels were in a camera phone, WOW. It was sure to produce amazing images right?
Megapixels 101! A megapixel is a term used to describe quantity, not quality. It’s a number that represents how many light collectors are on the camera’s sensor. An 8 megapixel camera packs 8 million pixels into your photo. So more is better right? 16 megapixels would double our pixels and therefore be a better sensor in a camera! Well not so fast…
Let’s think about light as if it were rain, falling out of the sky. We want to catch as much of it as we can. If I have 8 million 1 gallon buckets on the ground they will catch the rain as it falls. I should get a lot of water with 8 million buckets! But my friend just got a 42 megapixel camera and he wants to go catch rain too! When he sets out to catch the rain he actually has 42 million shot glasses (he has a smaller area on the sensor to gather the light since it’s packed into the phone). My buckets from home depot are going to collect more light than his shot glasses, even though he has 42 million of them.
I have created an intense graphic to demonstrate this:
Image sensors come in different sizes, the larger the sensor the larger the pixels can be. Bigger pixels can collect more photons (rain in our example). A 42 megapixel smart phone packs those pixels on to a sensor no larger than the size of a penny. One way to see the quality of a sensor to look at others reviews. Before you purchase a camera check out rating sites like this one: http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras
This blog post is a very basic summary of megapixels and there is a lot more you can learn out on the web there. Remember that megapixel measures quantity, not quality, when you look at cameras. More megapixels is generally a good thing, but it also depends on the size and quality of your pixels.
In-Field Night Photography Workshop August 22, 2014 8:30-11:30 p.m.
As long as you know how to put your camera in Manual mode, this workshop will teach you everything else you need to know to start taking photographs at night.
Want to shoot star trails? Capture the Milky Way? Take awesome landscape photographs in the dark?
This workshop will teach you all of that and more.
This Workshop will consist of three hours in the field, online post-processing support, learning, and fun. Limited to the first ten paid registrants to ensure each individual receives the full benefit of the workshop. Payment can be made via PayPal to KevsKaptures@gmail.com in the amount of $200 and must be paid prior to the workshop.
Topics to be covered include:
¬ How to Plan your Night Shoot
¬ What Dark Sky is and Why is it Important
¬ How to Focus your Camera in the Dark
¬ Where the Milky Way will be during your Photos
¬ How to make Star Trails
¬ When Light-Painting is Needed and How to Do It
What you need to bring:
« A lens that can go to 2.8 or lower (preferred but bring what you have!)
« Remote or shutter release
« Extra batteries
« Layers of clothing (weather can be crazy in Colorado)
« Food and drinks
KevsKaptures will require each participant to provide their own transportation within ~2 hours of Colorado Springs and to sign a waiver to limit the liability of the instructor. The Workshop location will be messaged to each participant upon receipt of payment. This trip may require walking, possibly even some hiking, on uneven terrain. Wear sturdy, comfortable footwear.
If weather prohibits the workshop from occurring on Friday evening, it will be rescheduled for Saturday, August 23rd.
Because of the limited number of spaces in this workshop, once registration is complete, refunds will not be processed. However, if the workshop must be canceled in its entirety, all registration fees shall be refunded.
There are small things everyone should have when they buy a DSLR. A small reflector, perhaps a flash or a diffuser... and that list goes on and on. The list gets larger and larger the more time you spend in photography and some photographers buy gear until they are in debt up to their eyeballs.
I wanted to share a quick story about how I saved a thousand bucks with a small, often overlooked item. Every lens you own should have a filter on it, if it can support one. A filter is a small piece of glass or plastic that screws onto the front of a lens. Some are tinted some are clear, there are hundreds of filters out there. Some filters allow you to take longer exposures, some allow you to take a varied exposure. Every lens you buy should have a filter... even if it's a cheap UV filter, which you can find for under $10.
While shooting a wedding this week I had an 18-200mm lens that is worth about a thousand dollars strapped to my hip... I tend to zoom around at weddings, work you know? As I went around a corner I scraped the front of the lens across a rock wall :( snap! The rock chewed into the lens with a horrible grinding in my ears. The little UV filter saved my lens and took some serious damage from the wall. I screwed it off and continued to shoot the wedding without missing a beat.
A UV filter doesn't really significantly affect how a DSLR captures images, although it used to have more impact in the days of film. You can use the filter and it is still going to give you a clean image on the camera sensor. Some filters can produce lens flares that you may not like, so test a few of them out!
Camera stores will always try to upgrade you to a nice filter when you buy a lens. The main benefit I have seen those retailers spin is protection of the front lens element. And I swear by this as well now. Don't always buy the lens upgrade(s) they may offer you but a small filter over your lens can be worth a thousand bucks.
This week I went out the the Great Sand Dunes wilderness area to shoot some night photos. I went out Tuesday night which usually means I don't run into a soul while under dark sky. I ran into some strange stuff...
After I got to the dunes I parked and locked the car up. I walked in from the main parking lot towards high dune. It snowed throughout most of the front range and it was COLD at the park. The creek was frozen except for some of the stronger areas of flow. Ice was everywhere and it was windy but the skies were clear as far as I could see. I took photos of the creek and set one of my cameras up to take a star trail shot over the next 3 hours. I see two headlamps coming down the dunes and approaching the creek (it's like 1 AM). I lit the creek up under the guise of helping them cross Medano easier but I did want to see what they were up to as well. Two guys crossed the creek and changed shoes by me and my camera gear.
These 2 talked with me for about 5 minutes and since they didn't jump me I assumed they were all right! They told me they were paranormal researches from Lafyette, CO and they were looking into Native American beliefs around the dunes area. They said that the San Luis Valley was known for strange activity and they wanted to come out under a new moon to the park. They asked me the time and talked about it being late and getting back. I watched as their headlamps went off into the distance again and I was reasonably sure they had left the area.
An hour passes and I am getting cold from wandering around Medano Creek in the middle of the night. I figure I should head back to my car and warm up for a bit before setting out again. As I head across the dunes and head back to my car, something trips my car alarm. Fred Focus' alarm blares through the valley. 2 quick things about my alarm: 1) My key fob sucks. I can hardly get in my car at times because the remote I keep in my pocket is almost dead. I have to walk up within a foot of my car for the remote or panic button to work. Sometimes my daughter Daria can't even get in my car when she has the remote. 2) I have a nice alarm in this car, it monitors multiple entries on the car and it rarely, if ever, trips on accident. If it's been tripped its usually because the car has been bumped or moved in some way. I was about a football field away from the car.
As I get nearer to the car, I come around a small group of trees and round the bend; I see the inside dome light turn off. Here's the thing, the dome light is not connected to the alarm system. It's a switch inside the vehicle, a manual tripped switch. The dome light does not activate when the alarm is tripped-it has to be turned on from inside the car. And it turned OFF as I approached the car. The car was still locked when I got to it, and the alarm system notified me with a special tone that it had been tripped. I walked a circle around the car and I was really cold at this point. There was a circle of liquid by one of the back tires, like someone had peed there. Remember when I said it was all ice crystally at the park? Everything but one area by the car was frozen. I couldn't see where this spot had come from in the middle of the night. I searched the area with a spotlight I had and saw nothing. I got into the car and warmed up, kinda creeped out but I figured it was just something strange with the cars electrical system.
I set back out after about 30 minutes. I got back to a camera I had set up for trails and retrieved it. The Milky Way was up in the sky and I took photos for awhile. I kept hearing snaps, like sticks moving or breaking. I scanned with the spotlight across the tree line and dunes and didn't see anything. Maybe I am crazy. The car's alarm starts going off again, there's no wind, no sound and nobody around I can discern for at least a mile. I grab all my stuff and make a beeline towards my car. I felt like I needed to leave at this point. The hairs on my arms were standing up and I had that "being watched" feeling you sometimes get. As I'm heading out I feel pushed out of the area, harried is what comes to mind. I came around the corner and the car's parking lights turn off (these are connected to the system so this could be electrical, I don't know). I get to the car and there's a second wet spot by the car, near the front of the car this time. All the other parts of the ground are still cold and frozen.
I throw my things in the car after unlocking it and scan the area with the spot again; I can't find anyone or hear any animals around me. It's super quiet and still. I started the car, which started reluctantly (cold or drained I don't know), and zipped out of the area faster than I should have legally.
My dad was a wilderness survival teacher and I am not unfamiliar with the wilderness at night. I have had a few unexplained things happen in my life, but this night I will not soon forget. A skeptic can say its the electrics on the car and matrixing of the mind--and I am okay with that. It could also be 2 guys with way too much free time on their hands at 3 am in the cold. I can't explain the feeling I had out there and I can't explain the dome light at the end of this story. I will be paying attention next time I visit the park. Below are some photos I took that night and the time lapse photo I mentioned earlier in this blog post.