Being a kid again: The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

What kid doesn’t love balloons? My daughter, who recently turned six has an obsession with them. Any mildly important date of note whether it’s a birthday, Mother’s Day, Saturday, etc. all days deserve a plethora of balloons to float about the house and eventually become awkward volleyballs for living-room sports. The first of October brought us a similar set of circumstances, except that we couldn’t later take the balloons with us as most of them were larger than our home.

Having run for over 40 years now, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is the largest hot-air balloon showing in the world, with most years having over 500 hot-air balloons roll into the sky during the nine day event. Odd as it is, even though I had lived in New Mexico most of my life, I’d never actually made it out to one. So this year we packed up the Jeep and made the drive figuring it would make for a fun way to celebrate the kiddo’s birthday.

While I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I didn’t happen to really get a shot that “did it” for me. I had some decent ones, but over all the scope of the festival and my location left a little to be desired. I could have been down on the ground level which is where my wife and daughter were, but I wanted to get a slightly higher position so I could cat a good wide angle shot of the mass ascension (where all the balloons launch within a few minutes of each other). I though a view of the city, and the balloons spread across it would be good, and I didn’t want to take the same photo everyone else was taking either. In the end, here’s what I got, and while it could have been better photo wise, the weekend was enjoyable and relaxing and the Kiddo ended up having a great time. Which is really what matters.

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On the ride back I happened to snap a couple of pictures I was a little happier with including this one:

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I’m actually pretty happy with how that one came out, so the trip wasn’t a total photography bust. That’s all I’ve got for now. There are a few more things in the works, and as I get them together, I’ll be sure to post about them. Be sure to check out the storefront for prints if you see anything you’d like to own! As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

A busy week of decent shots

Last week the kiddo got the chance to spend some time with her Great Grand Parents which meant I had some free time to get out and shoot some photos and my wife got some time to relax by herself. All good things.

The week in question started last Saturday when my buddy Collin and I decided to try and go shoot some wildlife at one of the various birding spots. Unfortunately, they had decided to close and lock the gates early, so we had ended up driving there for nothing. After some humming and hawing, we ran a few errands and then I got convinced to do a midnight hike up Adams Canyon. Normally, I really enjoy the hike as it’s quite scenic and the stream is a great relaxer. However, it was dark and I was in flip-flops. Thusly, I was not in any way ready for this. In hindsight I’m glad he talked me into it as we got to the top and shot some long exposures of the waterfall with the stars in the background. Here’s the shot I ended up with:

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I tried fidgeting with it to see if I could post in a Milky Way trail behind the waterfall, but none of those images looked very good so I decided to stick with the original.

On Wednesday, I was invited out for an impromptu photo walk as a buddy of mine Zach Leroy (IG: @zacharyleroy) was wanting to get some iconic Ogden shots for his upcoming gallery for next month’s FFAS (First Friday Art Stroll). I always enjoy following him around as he has an extremely unusual perspective by which he sees normal or boring things. I’d recommend check out his Instagram as there is a real sense of art in the mundane objects he shoots. I do think these excursions make me a substantially better photographer. Of course the trip wasn’t just watching someone else snap pictures, I managed to get a few myself. I was pretty happy with most of the keepers. Since I have been trying to work on my HDR skills a little more, I opted to shoot things that would push me more that way. My favorite shot of the evening ended up being the little coffee stop on the corner of Washington and 25th:

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I also managed to get a few decent shots around sunset (which was the entire point of the trip) one of which had a funky painted van, and the other a nice shot of the Well’s Fargo building:

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Aside from those, we stopped on 24th to snap a couple of pictures and swap IG follows with a few kids who were out skateboarding in the area. I’ve always liked snapping photos of skateboarding as the action shots are always super dramatic. If you catch someone mid trick (whether they land it or not) they always look like a bad-ass. Example:

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The week wrapped up yesterday as Collin and I went out to snatch some more sunset shots from a place I visited a few years ago by accident with my buddy Trevor. Unfortunately, the mountains ran in such a way that we didn’t get the sunset hitting the valley we were in like I was hoping. We did however get to pet a couple of beautiful and sweet horses, which was nice.

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Unlike with most photos where I really waver back and forth on whether or not to go black and white, this one was obvious from the start. Going Monochrome here just adds so much more texture and drama. I really loved this shot (even if it kind of looks like there’s a horse-centipede going on in the back).

Since we knew early on the valley was going to be a bust, we moved on as quick as we could in hopes to catch a sunset. The sky was cloudy and it was raining in various parts of the Wasatch front so we figured the sky would be exploding with color if we could just get high enough on the mountain to look out west. We ended up missing it by about 10-15 minutes, but we know where to head to next time. I did manage to get one more pretty solid HDR shots, and a couple mediocre ones. Here’s how those came out:

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I’m not 100% sure I’m going to keep the bottom two in color. I’m not even entirely sure how much I like them. But, I figure I’d post them here and see what everyone else though and if they stink I can always dump them later.

It felt really good to be able to get out and shoot more this last week as prior to this, the last time I got to take a photo of something was around the 4th of July, and that is much too long to go without being outside and roaming about. I think that will do it for this one. As always, until next time– Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 2: The Sunshine State

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! As it turns out, the reason you never read about the second half of our family road trip is because it somehow got axed out of my pending post list. Whoops! Nonetheless, here’s the details:

After spending some time with family, we made the long trip out towards Santa Cruz, California. When we set out I figured it would be a drive, but I had no idea just how long and exhausting it was. We did get to cruise along the route 66 for a bit which was fun, and stopped at this quirky gas station somewhere in the west-Arizona/East-California mess:

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Once we got into California, it got so hot and miserable that I wasn’t sure if I could do it in one swing like I had hoped. In fact we actually had to stop a little town called Bakersfield to spend the night and make the last few hour drive the next morning. That night was largely uneventful. We drove around a 3 block radius trying to find a hotel with some vacancies in it which took a while, then grabbed some IHOP as it was the only place still open at 10:30 at night. Apparently. the town rolls up its streets around 8:30, and is dead most of the time. But since there was a wildfire going through most of Northern California, a lot of the fire fighters were staying in Bakersfield.

We got up the next morning and shoved off hoping to see some beach before too long. When we got in around lunch time, we stopped at a little Choice Hotel near the boardwalk and took the first room available as I didn’t want to fight to find one later. Once that was done, we headed over to the boardwalk to take in some sweet sweet ocean living.

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Thursday and Friday were spent lounging on the beach and hunting for shells/sand dollars for the kiddo but I did manage a few good shots when we toured the wharf.

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Of course one of things I was really looking forward too was finding the Kraken piping, which was something I’d heard about online and it was an even cooler sculpture in person:

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Saturday was spent driving around the Santa Cruz area trying to find more stuff to take pictures of. The entire reason I had planned the trip out that way was to hit up Natural Arches State Beach, but when the kiddo and I got there, it was crowded, dirty, and consisting of only a single small arch covered in seagulls. The disappointment was super real. However, while the main objective was a total bust, the rest of the trip was incredible. Even the Saturday excursion ended up with some pretty strong shots.

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Better yet, the waves seemed to be good (not that I could tell if they weren’t) as there was a pretty decent number of people surfing. I opted to stop along the walkway and see if I could snatch a couple pictures of some sweet wave action and ended up with a few I was happy with.

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I really enjoyed the feeling of the top two images as they are part of a large memorial to those who have been lost while surfing, and in the spirit of the sport, the rules of sharing the ocean so that everyone can enjoy the waves. The other shots were of various surfers either scouting the landscape or riding out the end of a pretty large wave.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. We hung around in the evening and ordered in pizza to the hotel as everyone was sunburned and tired. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea since we were going to be driving back to Ogden on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful. There were a few places in Nevada I would have stopped at to snap some photos, but I was tired and had been on vacation much too long at that point. I just really wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed taking them. In the spirit of the Santa Cruz surfers: Be good to each other, and until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 1: The Land of Enchantment

Wednesday June 22nd at an ungodly hour of the night, My wife and I loaded up the car and started the long drive down to Albuquerque, NM to spend the next few days with her family. Her grandparents had put together a family reunion of sorts and we figured we could lump that and some time with her parents in together as the first leg of our trip.

The drive itself is around ten hours if you don’t stop at all, but since we need things like food, water, and gas for the car (not to mention the occasional stop for a photo-op), it is in reality around 12 hours. However, even though it’s insanely long and not terribly interesting at 2:30 in the morning when it’s too dark to see, the sunrise on Thursday outside of Monticello, UT was super worthwhile:

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It’s also only the second time I got to break out the new camera. I recently (about three days prior) had upgraded into a full frame Sony A7Rii. The only shot I had managed to take with it prior to the road trip (that was salvagable) was this one:

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I snapped this one from Willard Bay on Tuesday night as my wife and I drove around the greater Ogden area trying to catch the sunset. Of course, all that is neither here nor there.

The rest of the drive into New Mexico was fairly uneventful as I tried to sleep for most of it. I’ve always found New Mexico to be fairly ugly –largely the opposite of picturesque. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with having grown up here and spending roughly twenty plus years of my life in various parts of the state. Once you’ve kind of seen everything a place has to offer it tends to lose its luster. Given that, I haven’t really broken out the camera a whole lot on this initial leg of the trip as there isn’t a lot that inspires me to take any pictures. I did however feel that it would be worth getting up one of the mornings while we were up in Los Alamos to try and catch the sunrise. The reason being, is that the mountains sit fairly low on the horizon from the vantage point of the east canyon you drive up to get into town. So that mixed with a valley and the few trees that have managed to thrive in this barren wasteland of a state looked like it might be worth an early morning. As it turns out, it was. I managed a 4-shot panorama that came out surprisingly well:

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While it isn’t going to crack into my top tier of photos I’ve taken, it was pretty good considering how biased I am against the aesthetic value of the state as a whole.

The trip however has been anything but a bust though, as we’ve gotten to spend some time with family, in which I repeatedly put my foot in my mouth trying to be funny. We got the chance to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while and catch up/reminisce about the olden days; and on Tuesday we went down to the Albuquerque Zoo/Bio Park, to take the kiddos (our child, and my wife’s little sister who’s eleven now) out for a fun filled afternoon of complaining about how hot it is, and how much their feet hurt. I even managed to take some pictures while I was there and ended up with a few winners:

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As for the next stage, Wednesday morning finds us heading out super early in order to make it to Santa Cruz as the second leg of the trip will involve lying on a beach and enjoying the sun. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. So the next post will likely come on Sunday or Monday pre-4th once I’ve gone through those photos and recharged the batteries on both my gear and myself enough to write another post. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Admiring the Night Sky (again!)

Since the kiddo is spending the month of June with my parents out in Kansas, I tend to have weekends free to drive and do a little more for myself. And since there isn’t a bedtime involved, that means getting out to shoot the stars on clear nights! Since the summer time is usually the best time to view the Milky Way, prepare to be inundated with a multitude of posts about it! Since I have covered shooting the stars in at least three other posts previously, I’ll do you a favor and keep this one short and just post the images from this last excursion. I feel as though the stars themselves are much better in these shots than some of my previous ones, but the foregrounds and other incidental stuff in the frame is much worse. I’m not entirely sure if this is just the trade off I have to make, or if I need to start doing a lot more composite work in Photoshop to get both. Either way, here’s some pictures:

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I’m sure there will be at least one more post like this over the course of the summer, so if you’re ready to see the same picture 3, 4, maybe even 5 times get pumped! I know I’m excited! As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Denver Trip part 3: The Long Ride Home

By the time we were pulling back into our apartment complex on Monday night, it had felt like spent just as much time on the road as we did in Denver. While I generally dislike driving, this particular trip home wasn’t as bad as it usually feels largely in part to the number of detours we took. We had decided to take a different route home instead of the usual drive across the southern part of Wyoming, which is a barren hellscape lacking any sense of photo worthiness. This time involved a drive down the I-70 and then cut off onto the 13 which was a much longer drive but also substantially more scenic. The highway 13 involved a long winding mountain road that ran along a railroad and the Eagle River, which gave me plenty to stop and shoot.

Our first stop however was in the city of Vail, which is a tourist community much like Park City here in Utah. It’s primary function is a ski-town, and it spends most of the spring and fall closed for the “offseason”. While that meant most of the shops that weren’t selling t-shirts and nick-knacks were closed, the city itself was still exceptionally pretty and worth meandering around for. I also found yet another super creepy mannequin:

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Aside from turning a corner to have as soul-eating beast greet me in the sweatshirt aisle of a store, there happened to be a river that ran through the middle of town that made for some solid relaxing scenery:

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Once we left Vail and merged into the heart of our trip, we found a few pretty sweet spots to pull off and snap some photos. Here’s what came of the trip home:

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Even though it was almost 12 hours to get home, I had an excellent time and it made for a great finish to a wonderful weekend away with my wife.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our excursion into the wilds of Denver, Colorado. I should have some new prints up in the shop later this week from all the other things I have been taking pictures of since getting home as well. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Me Time + Charity Work = Awesomest Week Ever!

This last week managed to be eventful for a couple of reasons. Monday I called into work and opted to take a personal day so I could get out and have some much needed nature time. For the last month or so the weather has been sunny and 60+ degrees during the week and cold, windy, and rainy on the weekends. Knowing full well that Monday was going to be beautiful and it really was. I opted then, after a short search, to find a new hike to take since I had plenty of time to do so. After grabbing some breakfast and moseying about, I left for the Hidden Valley.

I had read online that the trail was pretty well hidden and that there weren’t markers to tell you when to turn off. Since the Hidden Valley hike is connected Indian Head Trail, I manged to accidentally hike about 2/3rd’s of the trail before doubling back and finding the right turnoff. On the bright side though, I happened to detour off to a small rock outcropping and get a decent shot of the Ogden Canyon:

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Once I got back to the right turnoff, I was fortunate enough to run into a group of other hikers who were headed to the same place. It was kind of nice having some people to chat with along the way as the hike up was grueling and long. It was however, totally worth it. I managed a few pretty cool shots along the trail including this one:

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Once I got to the top of the mountain range, there is a short drop back down into a gorgeous wooded valley that sits between the front and back peaks of the Wasatch. Also the payoff at the end is not only a view of the mountain that was peeking out through the trees, but some really neat rock stacking piles that hikers have added to over the years.

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The stack in the top photo is about five and a half feet tall whereas the bottom one is about three feet tall. Of course, like a good hiker and art lover I made sure to add a rock to each pile, snap a few more photos and head out. I would have likely stayed a little longer, but it was starting to rain, and I was in shorts and a t-shirt and thusly not prepared for that. I stopped for one more photo op on the way down to catch a shot of the storm rolling into Ogden from the mountains:

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After recovering from a small cold I caught and pushing through a long week of work, I got to participate in my second adventure of the week: The Utah Firefighters Calendar!

This is exactly what you think it is, and it’s entirely a volunteer based project. My buddy Ben Sant, who also shot last years calendar invited me along to assist him and learn some lighting as well as how to pose models, who were in this case, shredded shirtless Firefighters. The project, which will put out the calendar later this year was done through donations of time and labor, and the sale of the calendars goes to the American Cancer Society. For those who know me, I’m a sucker for a good cause and love the opportunity to give back to a community anyway I can. While I can’t post any full on shots of the gentlemen who are in the calendar I am able to show off a few behind the scenes photos of the shoot, which will hopefully tease you all enough to go out and buy one! If you’re interested in learning more about the project you can check the facebook page here, or if you want to buy one of last years calendars now (and a new one later this year), you can order those through the website Here! You can also search the hashtags ‪#‎fightcanerwithmuscle‬ ‪#‎utahfirefightercalendar

Now for a couple shots:

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On a final note for this post, I finally got around to uploading a few more things into the store front, so If you’d like to order some prints (I can assure you I’d love you forever if you did!), be sure to click the image in the top right corner of the page! Also, I added some more shots to my 500px portfolio which you can see here. If you want to order a print that isn’t in the store, shoot me a message on any of my various networks and let me know, and I’ll get it uploaded for you.

Well that’s all for this one. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D