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

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

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

Denver Trip part 2: Buildings and Patterns

As I mentioned in the last post, I really wanted to try my hand at shooting things I don’t normally when I go out. So with this trip and some pre-planning, I found a few antiquated buildings I thought would be perfect to try my hand at the architecture side of things. What I ended up shooting was very little on the “super old church” side of things (although there are a couple of shots of them) and more on the new flashy skyscraper side. The endeavor proved fruitful I suppose as not only did I get some pretty sweet photos, I managed to teach myself a thing or two about composition. I am trying to be less of a “spray and pray” photographer and be a little more fastidious when shooting photos. What it has done for me is let me get better composed shots, and cuts WAY down on the amount of time I have to post process something.

With that all being said, here’s some cool buildings and their subsequent accouterments:

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Clearly I have a thing for towers and clocks. I’m sure there is something meant by this in the writings of Freud; Nonetheless, here are the non-clock/non-tower accouterments I mentioned previously:

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The second shot there was one on my checklist (neon sign) and I was really hoping to do it in Black and White, but that posed two problems, 1) When converting to monochrome in Lightroom, a ton of the detail in the sign vanished making the letters harder to distinguish; and 2) it didn’t have the feeling I wanted it too. So I left it in color and I think it came out alright.

For the second half of this post I wanted to cover the patterns side of the trip. With these I don’t think they came out quite as well as the building half of things, but it is an interesting style of photography and one that I may focus on more in the future as a means of learning new ways to compose images. Here’s some patterns I found interesting:

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What I like about the last two shots of this grouping is their history. These were taken in a Methodist church in downtown that was build in the mid 1800s. And minus a few electrical fixtures here and there, it is largely the same building according to the pastor (who was kind enough to give my wife and I an impromptu tour). The seats are from right before the turn of the century and the mechanism by which they open and close is as ornate as it is Goldburg-ian. The organ, which is from the 1870s still works to this day and is used in every Sunday service. It was truly a magnificent piece of work.

Well that’s all for this one, I hope you enjoyed reading along and be sure to check back in next time when I post my third and final installment on the Denver series about our trip back. As always, untill next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Dem HDR Vacay Shots doe

Good luck figuring out what I titled this thing, just sayin’.

Sometimes, you need nothing more than to spend a day or two away from the hustle and the bustle and get back into some sweet sweet nature. I got the opportunity last weekend to do just that when I took the family down to Durango, Co to meet up with my wife’s parents for a weekend of camping and fun. Her parents offered to put the kiddo up in their camper/5th wheel/whatever-the-hell-it-is so we could have some time to ourselves. Thinking this was the best news ever, I picked up what would quickly become the ABSOLUTE WORST TENT I HAVE EVER OWNED! Holy cow was this thing a total pile. I digress, that isn’t the point of this post, but it does however lead to a few life lessons that I think make for analogies towards taking pictures.

1)

I say this given that on the first night the tent basically had all of its zippers fall off when I went to use the woodlands in the middle of the night. If you haven’t camped before, zippers are basically a top three ‘most important part’ of the tent as they allow you access while preventing things like bears, insects and man-eating squirrels from trying to kill you in your sleep. So without those working, my wife and I had to power through a 45 degree evening in a dumpster fire of a tent and pray for morning.

How is this analogous to photography?

It isn’t. I just needed to complain about an awful tent I bought at Big 5. The brand is Rugged Exposure and for some god forsaken reason they are pretty highly rated online (4+ stars in most cases). They’re junk. Buy a Coleman if you’re going to buy a tent.

2) Sometimes, saving money isn’t really a savings

This ties into the first point to some degree as the second night I went over to the office to inquire about getting a cabin so I didn’t have to sleep in wet-shoe-box two night in a row. Turns out it was $55 a night with tax. On the flip side, the camp site for our tent was $32 a night. So for twenty more dollars, I could have avoided a total three ring shit circus.

How is this analogous to photography?

I oftentimes find myself trying to find the best deal or a cheaper option. Whether it’s on a lens, or a bag, or an accessory. I don’t want to break the bank to get the things I want and need. It’s stupid. Much like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. Don’t go cheap for the sake of it being cheap. While that lens or camera body you really want is probably a few hundred bucks more than the one you’re currently scouting, there is likely a reason for it. It’s probably a few hundred dollars better. Save your pennies, don’t be a scrooge, and just buy the better gear the first time.

3) Just because you’re on vacation is no excuse to not be prepared

Pretty much anytime I was out and about I had my camera with me. While it was mildly inconvenient carrying my bag, it would have been infinitely worse had I gotten back home after two days in a gorgeous area with no photos to speak of. You never know when you’ll see something beautiful or fortunate, so keep your gear with you. This of course doesn’t mean you need to be working the whole time trying to get a perfect shot either. I spent the entire first night next to a campfire drinking. I slept through what likely would have been the best Astro opportunity I’ve ever had. Honestly, I’m not even that bummed. I had a great time and enjoyed laying down a lot more than I would have enjoyed freezing my butt off taking a few pictures.

How is this analogous to photography?

I feel like point three is pretty much about photography and not really needing any analogy work. So I’ll just add this for the sake of uniformity: It’s OK to take a break sometimes. It’s healthy. Don’t stress about always needing to be shooting 100% of the time or you’ll end up hating it.

Nonetheless, I did get a few nice shots and one HDR I had engineered based on a Trey Ratcliff tutorial which you can see below. The HDR image worked out pretty well, and the river was about as clear, blue, and beautiful as anyone could hope for.

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Cabin at the River end

All in all it was a great weekend and I look forward to getting to do it again before too long. As always, until next time, Thanks for reading!
-D

Moab Overnighter

Today I turned 31, which means I’m officially in my 30s. Aside from just being old, that means I’m wiser too right? Fret not dear reader, I assure you that isn’t the case. I am however becoming way more “granola kid” as a friend of mine puts it. In my growing years I’ve taken up hiking a lot more than I ever did as a kid. Of course, as a kid I was mostly terrified of everything, so the thought of wandering off into the wilderness seemed like just about the worst idea ever. Nowadays, I’ve spent enough time around other human beings that on most days I can’t wait to just flee into the mountains and be rid of them all.

That rambling introduction leads to the meat of this post (which I promise is coming) which was a short trip to Moab I’d taken last week. A few weeks back a few friends of mine and I were out shooting some astro at the Spiral Jetty when we hatched the plan to go down to arches for a couple days and get some of those classic portfolio shots from there. Sadly one of my friends had to work, but my buddy Collin was down to roll, so we left Thursday afternoon hell bent on getting some sweet shots.

We arrived in Moab at about 5:30 and got into Arches right before six. After driving through the park towards the campground which happened to be full, we opted to take a short hike and figure out the gameplan for the evening from there. That short hike turned into about 4 hours and us parking it on top of a rock outcropping to get some shots of the sunset. Here’s a few of the shots from that hike:

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I love how both of those shots ended up coming out. What I loved even more is that while we were on the trail leading from the first image out to another random arch, we were stopped by a curious and fairly lazy lizard. We thought it’d be cool to see if we could get a quick photo, but it turns out the little guy was in no hurry to move along and so it ended up being part of a twenty minute photo shoot. I ended up getting some really nice close ups by getting down low on his level and sticking the camera near him.

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Sun on my face

Once we finished up with all our sunset shots and debating the merits of stealing a camping spot from a no-show, we decided to not risk it and hit up one of the free sites outside the park. Sadly, due to a freakish incoming thunderstorm we were unable to get any night shots on Thursday. While being a total bummer, we figured tomorrow would be a better day and we could try again.

We ended up driving a short ways out of the park and with seeing no signage for the campsite (turns out it was a few more miles down the road) we pull off into a flat area assuming we’re there and set the tent up. I didn’t sleep at all. Sadly (for me anyways) I’m a very light sleeper, which stems from having a child who got up ALL THE TIME in the middle of the night until she was about three and a half years old. So now, of course, any noise or light or anything really will wake me up. Our campsite happened to be the noisiest place on earth that evening and I fumbled about until it was time to get up and shoot some sunrise shots. On the bright side (yuck yuck) I did get a couple I was pretty happy with and may try to put up on a stock agency:

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We then proceeded to break camp and grab some breakfast. Once that was done we opted to explore what was around the outside of the park and take a detour down the Colorado River way. We found a sweet free campsite so we pitched the tent up there and then headed out to find a way down to the river itself for a swim. I don’t have any photos of that, but I assure it was brown and cold and exactly what I needed. Once we dried off, it was off to find another hike, which we did called Negro Bill Canyon. The sign had clearly been vandalized a lot with the word negro being scratched, painted, and scribbled all over from various other tourists. The hike was long but enjoyable, with a pleasant stream running aside us the whole way. I got some shots of a cool set of cliffs that supposedly were occupied many centuries ago.

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The payoff for that hike was pretty sweet too. A 243 foot-long land bridge connects the rocks on either side of the valley. It made a really nice alcove with a small natural spring. There are apparently hikes you can take that put you on top of the bridge instead of underneath it letting you rappel off the side. While I didn’t get to do that, I opted to live vicariously through the terrified children who were going. Here’s a shot of one of them:

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We finished that hike around 3 and decided to head back to the campsite and catch a short nap so we could be ready fro another sunset hike and to get some night shots out at the delicate arch. Like any true sad tale, the clouds rolled in again (after being a perfectly clear day) which wrecked any chances of the star shots happening. However we did get a few more sweet sunset photos after climbing on top of a different rock outcropping.

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Arches Valley Sunset

We had originally planned on camping out that night as well and coming back in the early morning, but I started to feel sick from exhaustion having hiked about 13 miles in two days and having not slept at all the night before. Even the nap I took only lasted about 30-40 minutes due to heat and ants. All in all the trip was a blast and while it stinks I didn’t get any of the shots I was wanting, I got a ton of great ones of other stuff. Sorry for the long rambly post this time. Hopefully I’ll have another one up soon. Till next time, thanks for reading!
-D

P.S As a quick aside. If you enjoy the blog and feel like supporting, you can feel free to click the portfolio link in the upper right and donate there! Or you can visit my Patreon here. If you prefer some other method, like sending me a check, feel free to hit me up on one of my connected networks! Thanks again for your support you lovely people you!