From The High Country: Blog en-us (C) From The High Country [email protected] (From The High Country) Fri, 08 May 2020 22:21:00 GMT Fri, 08 May 2020 22:21:00 GMT From The High Country: Blog 120 120 My Three Favorite Places to Visit in Colorado At the time of writing we are in the middle of a pandemic, so I'd like to think that people are staying at home for now. Still, I'm sure you're all dreaming of trips to come, so I wanted to talk about what I think are the three best places to visit in Colorado. I'm not going to talk about the obvious choices like Rocky Mountain National Park and Denver or Aspen. Those are all great choices, but my favorites are less widely known and your tourist dollars will make a huge difference.

3. Silverton

Accessible from Montrose or Durango, the small mountain town of Silverton is as close to the Old West as you will find without visiting a theme park or a tourist trap. Wide open main streets, historic buildings, and a regular chance to ride a steam train through the mountains (back to Durango) all add to a relaxing atmosphere. If that doesn't transport you back in time, then take a short drive to Animas Forks, a well preserved ghost town that serves as a reminder of the mining days a century or more ago. The Animas Forks road leads to the Alpine Loop, a dirt road that winds through the nearby mountains. I will warn you that the Loop becomes busier, dustier and more like a Mad Max movie each year. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Animas Forks and of course the town of Silverton are all well worth a visit.

2. Crested Butte

A small but well established ski town in winter, Crested Butte is a charming and friendly town full of businesses serving locals and tourists alike (read: not a tourist trap) in summer. Enjoy less crowded dirt roads (even cycle friendly), amazing food and entertainment, and a generally friendly atmosphere. My tip: drive north for a beautiful and peaceful afternoon. Crested Butte is best accessed from Gunnison.

1. Ouray

I make no secret of the fact that my favorite town in the whole of the US is Ouray. It is busier than the other two on this list, but it has everything you would want from a vacation town. Hotels with hot springs, a beautiful downtown district, probably the most beautiful road in the US (the Million Dollar Highway, which leads back to Silverton), and an endless number of hiking trails for all abilities - and a 200ft waterfall on the edge of town! Imagine the best of Colorado Springs crossed with a mountain town in world-class surroundings and you have Ouray.

Honorable Mention: Salida

A little further east lies the small town of Salida, which is just 100 miles from Colorado Springs. Salida may not be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes as the top three are, but it is a thriving town with outstanding food and breweries in unassuming but charming streets. The Arkansas River runs through Salida, and you can enjoy a day spent on or near the river before discovering your new favorite eatery. Salida is another cycle-friendly town, like CB.

These towns are tucked away in SW and central Colorado. Often overlooked in favor of larger and more famous places, these are all easily accessible yet relatively peaceful towns with a lot to offer the curious visitor. I have no business links with or in any of them. I highly recommend all of them!

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado colorado tourism crested butte fromthehighcountry ouray salida silverton tourism visit colorado Fri, 08 May 2020 19:07:37 GMT
The Lake City Brewing Company I first became aware of the Lake City Brewing Company when I was asked to supply prints for their new building a couple of years ago. I got to know Doug and Diane a little in the process and now consider the brewery my unofficial gallery, with five (yes, five!) of my large prints hanging on the walls (Doug or I will be glad to point them out). I've been showing up as part of the band playing on Saturday nights this winter, and it has been good for me to get out and see other humans...

A couple of months ago, I had asked if it would be possible to watch the brewing process in action, and I got that opportunity in late January of 2020. I arrived at 09:00 to find Brian, Doug's brewing protégé, preparing the equipment that would be needed for the day.

The stainless steel vessels are thoroughly cleaned between batches and must remain so until the moment they are to be used. A surprisingly large volume of ingredients are required, and those were packaged for the two batches to be made over the course of a few hours.

Doug, owner and brewer, showed up minutes later with hop pellets and the two began to work. Water volume and temperature are computer-controlled, so Doug's first job was to adjust the settings.

A bar without customers, in only natural light, is a strange sight. However, on the other side of this wall a new addition to the board would be created by the end of the day (and two long weeks of fermentation). Although the purpose of the vessels seemed clear enough, there was a variety of hoses and fittings that would all be used during the process.

The first two vessels are called mash tuns. The mash is a mix of malt (malted barley) and hot water. It is during this time that starch is converted to sugar, which will later be fermented.

A heat exchanger can be seen at the bottom left, which will regulate the temperature prior to reaching the fermentation vessel.

Once the mash ingredients were added to what would soon become an Oktoberfest beer, it was time to start the new style for LCBC - a dark IPA.

With all the stainless steel and computerized controls, it was nice to see that so much of the process was still done by hand. Depending on the main grain used, inert rice hulls were added to allow for a better mix with the hot water. Some beer mixes require a great deal of effort on the stirrer's part, and cause some difficulties when draining the sugar-rich liquid, which is called the wort.

Stirring, as you can see Brian doing with much concentration, is a very important part of the job.

With both mash tuns filled, and enough time for the Oktoberfest (the first batch of the day), it was time for the next phase, which is called lautering. Lautering is the straining of the wort through the bottom of the mash tun. In this situation, the tun is raised and allowed to drain (leaving the malt and rice hulls behind). The vessel left behind is called a kettle, and this is where the wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients. The mash is removed from the tun and fed to local cattle who I'm told consider it a treat! When brewing two batches, timing is key, so the two were staggered. The boiling process takes different lengths of time, depending on the style of beer. Doug checking on the dark IPA. Brian hosed down and cleaned the first mash tun as the second drained. If properly planned, a day's brewing can be extremely productive. Doug added hop pellets to the Oktoberfest as the wort boiled. As a reminder, this all happens in the room next to the bar. A brewing operation of this size allows an onlooker like me to visualize the full process, and it's a great learning environment for Brian, who is working on his master brewer qualification. When the boiling is complete, hops and other particles are allowed to settle in a whirlpool effect before the wort is drawn into a heat exchanger where the temperature is reduced to a point where yeast can survive in the next stage.

Brian cleaned a mash tun while Doug labeled the fermentation vessels. They have been discussing the name of the dark IPA all day... Doug adding yeast to the Oktoberfest. The addition of yeast is called pitching. The fermentation vessels are left alone for a number of weeks (depending on the style). Doug took a sample from each batch in order to measure the original gravity, which is a predictor of the final alcohol content, and is compared with a final gravity reading after fermentation to calculate the ABV. Despite a relatively tight space, Doug and Brian worked in harmony and neither one tripped over the hoses!

At the beginning of the day, Brian had suggested Midnight IPA as the name (after the wheat variety). At the end of the day, Doug slapped a label on the fermenter.

I'd like to thank Doug and Brian for allowing me to observe and photograph their process. They both took time to explain each stage and made me quite welcome. I am more used to drinking their beers, and I found this very insightful, as I hope you did too!

[email protected] (From The High Country) beer brewing colorado colorado beer craft craft beer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city brewing company lcbc rocky mountains Wed, 12 Feb 2020 00:30:52 GMT
Mountain Town Diaries I'll be the first to admit that I've had a challenging time recently. The accident (see last blog update) came on top of concerns about my business and its future - even my place out here. As a creative type, I also can't just continue to do the same old thing. I thought about selling my cameras at one point - that's how hard it is to make a living out here.

I now have plans and options for 2020. If you (yes you!) have suggestions, needs for my products or services, or have a contact who may want to work with me, please do get in touch. I will reveal most of my plans as and when they become more concrete, but today I am pleased to introduce my new project, the Mountain Town Diaries podcast!

The Mountain Town Diaries project has been in transition for a couple of years. It started as a photography project that I abandoned after seeing a very small potential market. I revisited the idea this summer, while listening to a podcast as I worked out in my garage, and it began to take shape early this winter.

The series will consist of a mix of my own ramblings and interviews with people who live in my tiny Colorado mountain town. At the time of writing, I have already completed six interviews with a wide range of local friends. Three introductory episodes have already been published, and a new one will be released each Friday until I run out of spare time, funds, guests or listeners. The first interview should arrive on Dec 20th.

My intention is that the podcast will offer an insight into life in the mountains (the Rocky Mountains in my case). I'll talk about the wild places I visit, while my guests will share their reasons for coming and staying out here in the middle of nowhere. I don't censor any guest, and we talk honestly about pros and cons, but I don't intend to talk directly about local unpleasantries (which are widely discussed ad nauseum already) - I'm not going to play other people's games.

The first set of interviews have been fascinating for me. I already knew each guest, but I was surprised to learn something new about everyone. There were also prevalent themes that became clearer with each interview. I am not going to spoil the show, but I do think it will be thought provoking as much as it will be interesting.

You can find Mountain Town Diaries on Spotify, Google Podcasts (hopefully Apple Podcasts in a few days) and a host of other platforms. Click here for the Spotify (my chosen platform) link.

If you would like to support this ad-free endeavor, you can make a donation here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado craig palmer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photography podcast rocky mountains small town podcast Tue, 10 Dec 2019 18:17:28 GMT
Sticks and Stones - Rapid Healing From a Distal Radius Fracture Over the last few years, I've done hundreds of hikes - most of them solo and off-trail. They've taken me into hazardous terrain, but I have always been cautious enough to have turned back from a challenge a few times. I always carry enough to keep me alive for a few days, and I don't plan on allowing someone else to risk their life to extract me.

However, life is full of risks, and to cut a long story very short, I was thrown from a bolting horse exactly eight weeks ago. I remember holding on, and I remember landing evenly on my back in a meadow. Somewhere in between the horse and where I came to rest, I had saved myself with an outstretched left hand. As I stood up, slightly dazed, I checked myself over - skull, spine, ribs all okay. My left arm was starting to hurt and as I looked at it I immediately saw that it was broken, as evidenced by the new kink in my wrist.

I was lucky enough to meet someone in a neighboring property who helped me reach the local medical center, where a physician's assistant and a nurse took very good care of me. After several shots of the strongest painkillers, they reduced my pain level from an 8.5/10 to a manageable 6/10 and arranged an immediate appointment with an expert in orthopedics.

To cut another part of a long story short, I had a triple distal radius fracture which was treated very quickly and expertly. I had a doctor who had once suffered a similar injury and who understood my needs as someone with an athletic lifestyle, and I believe he treated my injury with that in mind.

I had a cast for two weeks, followed by a removable splint for four more weeks. Immediately after my initial treatment, I decided to research the topic (sticking to medical studies rather than anecdotes or advice without evidence), and began to do the following:

Supplementation with calcium, vitamin D, 500mg vitamin C and curcumin (a natural anti-inflammatory).

Rest - as difficult as it is for an active person, the body needs complete rest for at least a day or two.

Finger mobility exercises - after a traumatic injury, it's important to get the tendons moving as soon as possible.

Exercise - after a few days, I started taking walks and doing easy leg and core exercises.

Diet - I usually eat quite healthily, but I cut out junk and doubled down on good sources of protein and fresh fruit and vegetables.

My plan was to give my body everything it needs in order to heal effectively and rapidly. Calcium and protein are the main building materials for new bone. Good blood flow to the injury site is critical for healing, and exercise may not be an obvious choice, but I believe it has been an essential part of my recovery. Put simply, the body needs both efficient infrastructure and fuel. I was determined to give myself every chance for a complete recovery (how many people do you know who would tell you that 'x' injury site has never been the same since?).

With one fully functional arm and one very delicate injury, I wasn't able to hike, cycle or even lift a pair of dumbbells, so it was time to get creative. I borrowed a friend's bike trainer (turns a regular bicycle into a stationary bike). I walked the roads that I would usually run. I bought a set of resistance bands and used the ankle straps just above my elbows. I added weights to my winter hiking pack and wore it for leg exercises.

It's generally accepted that the body begins to lose muscle mass after a couple of weeks without training. I think that cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max) begins to deteriorate even sooner. There are some basic facts that just have to be accepted, but the most important goal is bone healing. No activity should endanger this, no matter how tempting it is. It is easier to regain strength and fitness than it was to build it in the first place, so it makes no sense to take unnecessary risks.

Some studies suggest that muscle loss in an injured arm can be minimized by exercising the other arm. The reasons aren't clear, but I had nothing to loose by testing it for myself. In addition to resistance band workouts, I used dumbbells in my right hand and made the same motions (without weight) with my injured arm. Did it work? I can't be sure, but I haven't noticed a substantial loss of muscle in the affected arm.

Exactly six weeks after the injury, my doctor took new x-rays. The bone was healing well and I was in the "90th percentile" for progress at that point. Which of the above measures contributed to my rapid healing? It's impossible for me to know, but I strongly believe that every one of them helped. At that point, I was given wrist exercises by my physical therapist, which I did exactly as prescribed.

Two weeks later - today - my range of motion is "above average for a distal radius fracture". Again, I believe the infrastructure and fuel that I mentioned earlier played substantial roles, as did simple determination. I was told that I wouldn't be doing push-ups for three months after my injury and I took that as a challenge. When I finish typing I'll do my first set of push-ups in eight weeks.

Last week, I ran my first 10k in seven weeks. My time suffered, as did my lung capacity, but both were better than expected. I freed my bike from the trainer and rode 20 miles yesterday. It is easy to give up when a serious injury occurs, but in many cases it is possible to work around it and even speed the recovery process. Ask questions and follow medical directions. I literally hit the ground running when I was cleared for 'real' exercise because I followed the rules and didn't just give up.

The riding accident could have killed me if I hadn't landed on my left palm, but it didn't. I missed a lot of work and a few good hikes, but now I am almost healed (the bone is probably still 'remodeling' - the final stage of healing) and ready to embrace the next challenges of life.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert, and certainly not a medical professional. I chose to do what I believed would work for me. Every injury and every body is different, and your doctor should dictate your recovery plan, not some photographer on the internet.


Further reading:

How fractures heal

Exercising the opposite arm

Basic wrist/arm exercises and stretches

[email protected] (From The High Country) bone healing broken wrist broken wrist exercise distal radius distal radius fracture fromthehighcountry Tue, 10 Sep 2019 20:57:58 GMT
Finding a 350" Elk in the San Juans of Colorado At the end of January, during a relatively dry winter, I went wandering into a particularly dense patch of mixed forest in some very uneven terrain. I had first explored that area the previous September while hunting for fall color photo opportunities, so I was reasonably certain that I would be able to navigate once I descended into the ravine. As I followed a stream at the bottom of the ravine, I noticed two bony protrusions in the snow. A few minutes of digging revealed the largest elk antler I've seen in the forests - with the skull still attached! I tried to move it, but earlier temperature fluctuations had caused snow to thaw and freeze. With daylight beginning to fade, I decided to make my way to easier ground and head home for the day.

I have seen and heard elk in that area several times, so it wasn't entirely surprising to find a skull and antler, but I was curious as to how the big guy ended up there in the three months between my visits, and I resolved to find that same spot when the spring came.

Life happens, but it was always in the back of my mind when I hiked within a few miles of that spot. As a photographer, fall is my busiest time of the year, but as the last leaves fell and the possibility of snow increased I knew I had to make the trip again within the next couple of weeks.

On a cool morning, I headed back into that remote and unforgiving terrain to find the elk's resting place once more. After passing through bare aspens and long grass, the forest slowly became an even yet densely packed mix of tree species that sunlight often struggled to penetrate. I made a slow descent into the ravine, using glimpses of nearby rocky outcrops and hills for navigational markers and relying on my memories of features within the forest to direct me as I got closer.

One last fall photo opportunity necessitated a detour, and then it took longer than I'd like to admit to find my objective from the opposite direction, but sure enough a full elk skeleton had remained untouched by human hand. Only the antler and skull were visible in the snow back in January, but now the scattered bones showed that it was indeed the spot where he fell.

The skull and antler weighed around 15lbs and made climbing out of a forested ravine quite challenging, but I was determined to show it to one of the local experts. I attached the lower jaw to my pack and carried the rest over my shoulder.

As you can see in the photo below, his right antler had not grown properly. It was much smaller and was situated slightly forward of the usual position. The amount of teeth wear suggested that he had probably died of old age, and if that's the case he picked a picturesque stream-side spot.

I was told that he would have been a 350" buck if he still had his other full-sized antler (we think perhaps he had an accident of some kind). I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I do know he was above average in size.

At the time of writing, elk hunting season has just begun. I spotted this guy very recently; I hope he's better at hiding from people with rifles instead of cameras!

Despite living near wildlife, we usually only get short glimpses into their lives. We see them grazing or wandering across the landscape and we see their tracks in mud and snow. Bones are reminders of the transitory nature of life - for all living creatures.

[email protected] (From The High Country) antlers colorado elk fromthehighcountry photography rocky mountains wildlife Mon, 15 Oct 2018 22:30:58 GMT
The Abandoned Cabin Over the years, I've found several old cabins away from the roads and ghost towns around Lake City. Most had some connection with mining, while a few may have been hunting cabins. I thought the chances of finding a new one were slim, but I recently noticed a dot on a very old map (1905) and decided to try hiking through some new terrain to find it. I checked aerial imagery in the area, and discovered a possible ruin.

It's blurry and low quality, but it sure looks like a cabin-sized rectangle!

With enough evidence to act upon, I plotted a route in. The cabin lies within a steep sided valley, and the route taken by prospectors is now a tangled (and at times nearly impassable) mess of fallen trees, dense vegetation and steep, loose ground. I decided to head up to the high ground, follow that until I hit a ridge running behind the cabin site, and then drop back into the valley (using terrain features to navigate throughout).

Shelter from the sun ahead, but still a long ascent.

It started well, and after a few minutes of trail, I ventured into wilderness and picked up deer trails whenever they headed in a convenient direction. Given the hot weather, I was carrying extra water (over a gallon) in addition to my camera and first aid/survival gear, and the shade offered by aspen forests was a welcome relief even in the early morning.

Evidence of prospecting on the ridge.

There were no signs of human activity on the 2500' climb to the ridge, but as I followed it I soon noticed what looked like a prospect pit (a small hole dug by prospectors looking for signs of valuable ore). Was this the work of the cabin's builders? Quite soon I would follow my plan and descend 1200' in 30 minutes, hopefully reaching a creek with my objective on the opposite bank. I took a last look at my landmarks and dropped into mixed forest.

An unexpected find - collapsed portal in the background.

Knowing that I was heading into an area with a history of mining that is rarely visited by humans, I paid extra attention to my surroundings. I've found unlisted mines in the past, and did not want to step into one! As I began to doubt my navigation skills, or at least my chances of finding a log cabin in the middle of a forest, I spotted a feature and a small cabin on my immediate right. The feature turned out to be a collapsed portal, or tunnel entrance, and the cabin was quite small, with few clues to its exact purpose (since my objective - a larger cabin - was a quarter mile away). Having peered into the darkness of the adit and found nothing around the cabin, I continued toward the objective.

The main cabin.

I ran into a surprisingly healthy-looking stream that ran perpendicular to my route, as expected. It was small enough to jump across, and I was scanning the forest for signs of a man-made feature as soon as my feet hit the far bank. After 10 minutes of searching, I noticed a surprisingly solid and robust wall. It was time to drop my pack and investigate further!

An overview of the cabin.

The structure was larger than most I've found. Those far away from ghost towns are usually quite small and less thoughtfully built. It was clearly intended to last for many years, and if not for 100 years of Colorado winters (most with no maintenance), the roof may have been intact. Without it, the cabin was doomed.

The main entrance.

While it was in an advanced state of decay, it was still obvious that the builders knew their craft. One of the doors was still mostly intact, and framing for all openings was still attached to the log walls, which had been carefully reduced in width in those areas. At each corner, the logs had been cut into dovetail joints to create a durable structure. The builders clearly took pride in their work. Inside, I found an old metal tray, but decades of leaf litter probably hid any other artefacts.

Dovetail construction - impressive!

As I broadened my inspection to the surroundings, I found the usual can dump (thankfully we didn't have plastic back then), a few shards of ceramics and glass, and part of the soles of some very old boots. Who wore them and quite what they did out there, we'll never know.

Remains of a boot belonging to the previous occupants.

Again, the leaf litter and cabin debris may have hidden any other fragments of interest, but I looked in wider arcs to be sure. I did stumble on two cans (Coke and Shasta) dating back to the early 1970's, when perhaps the original trail wasn't completely overgrown. I wonder if the roof was intact 45 years ago....

Trash from the last visitor?

I still had a long journey ahead, so I took a long drink and then followed what little remained of the original trail until it was fully reclaimed by the wilderness. Fresh bear scat illustrated the fact that this secluded patch of forest was once again a refuge for wildlife. Perhaps the bear had watched this wanderer cross through his or her territory. I soon ran into fallen trees and steep creek banks once again (the reason I had taken the scenic route in), so I decided to climb out to another ridge, where a relatively easy journey home could be found.

Wilderness returns where a trail once existed.

The forests and mountains are filled with surprises, both natural and man-made, and while the old cabin was my stated reason for such an arduous day, the sights, sounds and scents always make the journey worthwhile, even without uncovering a piece of Colorado's history.


If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out some of my other posts from the menu below (or to the right, depending on the format).


[email protected] (From The High Country) abandoned cabin colorado fromthehighcountry history photography rocky mountains Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:52:49 GMT
New in Lake City, Colorado for 2018 As many of you know, I had an unexpectedly busy start to the summer season in Lake City. Bookings for photo shoots flooded in after a quiet spring, and then requests for a 2019 calendar built to a point where it just made sense to print my sixth in as many years.

The 2019 calendar almost didn't happen. Working in a town as tiny as Lake City is unpredictable by nature. Businesses change hands all the time. Sometimes the rent is too high, landlords too difficult, trade too low, or sometimes people just want to move on to something new. That's all fine, but for me it's just about impossible to plan ahead or really invest in anything more than my personal photography equipment. With last year's closures (including a couple of my retail partners and one community-minded art collective), I was ready to shut down my retail product development and sales entirely, but that changed when fans of my Facebook page placed orders for my 2019 calendar before I even shared the new cover design!

#3 Calendar 2015#3 Calendar 2015

After impressive sales wiped out my supplies before I could get significant numbers into stores, I have decided to reorder one more time. Calendars (and my book, Lake City Landscapes) will be available at the Lake City Trading Company, Bluebird Boutique and Silver Spur Gifts in downtown Lake City.

Lake City Landscapes is entering its second year of sales, having outsold both of my previous books combined. Since it's a limited edition, self published book, I will not print more - once they're gone, that's it!

To celebrate the book's sales and the many compliments I've received, I created a new video. Enjoy some behind-the-scenes footage here:

You can buy the book and calendar online simply by visiting my store (click here), where you'll find exclusive offers such as the combo deal (save $10 when buying both) and some other items. As always, I'll be glad to sign the book for you - just ask!

[email protected] (From The High Country) 2019 calendar colorado craig palmer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city calendar lake city landscapes photography Mon, 16 Jul 2018 18:21:43 GMT
Wildfire Safety Fire has been a part of life in the wilderness long before humans discovered how to make it. Some trees and plants actually require fire to disperse seeds. Without getting into a history of land management, there are two important changes to the landscape to consider now - people and an increasingly hot and dry climate. Fires are becoming bigger and more catastrophic, burning through towns and virtually anything in the path of a creeping inferno.

At the time of writing, Lake City has seen two fires within 10 miles of the town in the last month. Both were spotted and attacked very quickly, and there is no active threat in the area at the moment, but the 416 fire near Durango still rages, and smoke can blanket the area if winds carry it in this direction. A large fire can bring devastation; obviously the forests are turned to ash, but infrastructure is wiped out and the economic impact (both fire-fighting operations and the aftermath) is immense.


A small fire near Hill 71 after being contained.


Fire prevention

Fires are often caused by lightning, but there are many accidental or intentional ways that humans can start a disastrous wildfire. Rather than devote an entire post to this subject, I'm going to strongly suggest that you avoid bringing any ignition source into forests and grasslands when there is even a remote chance of starting a fire. That includes obvious things such as open fires and cigarettes, but also chainsaws and vehicles (hot engines can easily ignite grass). Always check for and read the fire restrictions for the areas you plan to visit. I've never seen the local forests in a more worryingly dry state. Where there would have been lush vegetation, now dead leaves and grass crunch under my feet. San Juan National Forest is currently closed. That's 18 million acres that are in such extreme danger that Stage 3 restrictions have been imposed for the first time ever. Do not take chances with fire.


Heavy smoke from the 416 Fire - 06/10/18

The same mountains in early fall.


Fire Safety

If you live in an area that could be threatened by a fire (you may be surprised), there are things you can do to give yourself and your property a better chance. Think about what you may have to take with you if you evacuate. Think about the routes you can take. Look at your property, and learn about defensible space. In short, this means clearing away particularly flammable materials from around your home, such as brush piles, dead trees or plants, long grass etc.


Summit of Slumgullion Pass in 2014.

The same summit after beetle kill, logging and now smoke from distant wildfires.


If you are hiking during fire season, you need to be well prepared. Always check news outlets for local fires. Always have an escape route. This is one of the first lessons I learned about hiking. You must always have a plan involving an alternative route to safety, whether it's due to fire or severe weather. Be prepared to abandon your hike if you see smoke from an unexpected location (and report it). Since I spend so much time in wilderness, I have studied wildfire behavior and even read official reports where wildfires have caused firefighter fatalities. It makes grim reading, but you will never take a risk around wildfires (did you know that a fire can outpace a human at full sprint?).


Heavy smoke over Lake San Cristobal - 06/10/18

The same lake on a clear day.


Finally, don't be tempted to go out and watch a wildfire. Drones pose hazards to aircraft and firefighting drones, and onlookers can block traffic and generally make a tough job more difficult.

Fires are not going to go away. They are a part of life in remote areas, and are getting larger, hotter and more destructive. Winters are becoming more mild (with less snow), and summers are becoming hotter and drier. In many cases, it just isn't safe to burn certain areas, because the landscape is too fire-prone to be able to fully control. The public must be vigilant by firstly doing all that they can to prevent fire, and secondly by reporting possible fires (smoke plumes in a forest, for example) immediately to emergency services. A small fire can usually be stopped in its tracks if there is time.


[email protected] (From The High Country) 416 fire fromthehighcountry lake city lake city fire rocky mountains wildfires Tue, 12 Jun 2018 21:36:21 GMT
In Praise of the Buffalo Mountain Shirt Since my work as a wilderness photographer takes me into the unforgiving forest and mountain environments of the Rocky Mountains, I often find myself having to replace my equipment. Boots, gloves, backpacks - you name it and I've probably had to find a more durable version over the last few years. As a result, I don't typically write reviews. Photography equipment is a matter of personal choice, and there are so many factors to consider when choosing outdoor gear that I tend to avoid making recommendations. However, there is one brand that has never let me down, and there is one product that has either been worn or carried on hundreds of solo hikes involving thousands of hours in extremely rugged and unforgiving terrain.

Snowshoeing off-trail in winter, wearing the mountain shirt.

Snowshoeing off-trail in winter, wearing the mountain shirt.

Buffalo Systems, based in the UK, has been producing a range of clothing that uses a combination of Pertex fabric and pile insulation for over 30 years. The range is popular with outdoor professionals for good reason. While conventional outdoor wisdom calls for the use of multiple clothing layers, the mountain shirt can be worn alone, saving weight and space in your pack (especially important if your pack is already filled with heavy cameras).

I've hiked and snowshoed through dense forests and mountains at around 2.5 miles above sea level, fought against 40mph+ winds, and struggled through blizzard conditions as cold as 0°F (-18°C), all while wearing the same mountain shirt. I have additional Buffalo layers (the Belay hooded jacket, the unlined windshirt, and lightweight Teclite trousers) that add flexibility and allow me to operate in any weather conditions at any time of the year.

Unit stills photographer on the set of Hoax, wearing the belay jacket.

My Buffalo gear isn't just for exploring the back country. I've spent mid-winter days photographing ice climbers, and autumn nights in a remote forest filming location, dressed head-to-toe in Buffalo.

San Juan Solstice 50 mile race start line, wearing the windshirt.

My windshirt has seen action on mountain biking adventures and even a 50 mile ultra-marathon. Even on a hot summer afternoon, it offers protection from the sun while keeping me cool.

Photographing moose, wearing the windshirt.

If I could change one thing, it would be the lack of pockets in the Buffalo trousers. There are two, but I've used the six pocket configuration for so long that I'll wear them over the top. Other than that, it's difficult to find anything to complain about with Buffalo. If fashion is a concern, perhaps you'll want to look elsewhere, but the bears and mountain lions don't seem to mind my understated look!

In the quest for a quick profit, many manufacturers have ruined their once-great reputation for high standards. I can think of several examples from tools, appliances and outdoor clothing. Buffalo has only improved their products as the years have passed, and they've kept me comfortable enough to concentrate on my work (or my navigation) outdoors, where second chances are rare.

Read more about Buffalo here, and be sure to tell them Craig sent you!


[email protected] (From The High Country) buffalo mountain shirt buffalo systems craig palmer photographer fromthehighcountry rocky mountains Tue, 03 Apr 2018 19:56:38 GMT
Death in the San Juans In the natural world, the circle of life is evident everywhere. The four seasons, new plants, old trees, calves and cubs, and of course the occasional carcass or skeletal remains all help us to celebrate life and remind of of our own mortality. I covered that subject in more detail in Wilderness Wisdom. Today's subject is a little different.

Earlier this week, I hiked up to a mountain lake. Even in summer, it isn't one of the most popular hikes (the longer trail is probably one reason). I needed my snowshoes for most of the journey, as you may expect for this time of year. Usually, I'm struggling in knee or thigh-deep snow, but this time the calf-deep snow stuck to my snowshoes like thick, clay-rich mud on boots. I half-expected that, given the conditions in the valley, but I was struck by a scene as I searched for the lake (I always lose the trail for the last half-mile). I climbed to a clearing to look for the frozen lake (and catch my breath), and as I stood motionless I heard a chorus of woodpeckers. They're a common sight, but there must have been at least a dozen, and the bark that they chipped away fell like rain through the lower branches.

Over the years that I've lived in Colorado, the landscape has changed noticeably. Bark beetle infestations have devastated huge swathes of forest. Some studies report that an area of forest the size of Colorado has been ravaged by the beetles in the Western US. These insect parasites have always been around, but in the past they have been checked by typical Rocky Mountain winters. Several consecutive days of intense cold can stop an infestation. The current assault is the result of warm weather and drought-stricken trees. Without their natural defenses and help from Old Man Winter, the trees have nothing to fight back with.

This photo shows me training for the San Juan Solstice race back in 2014. Those dead and dying trees have now been cleared for several reasons (not least public safety), but away from the roads, forests are still filled with dead trees, and the woodpeckers can almost always be heard, looking for a beetle snack. Many trees survived, and you may be surprised to find that a patch of forest that looks completely dead from afar is in fact still very much alive. Many of the oldest trees were killed, but younger, healthier trees can be found in abundance. They have dodged the beetles; let's hope they can withstand the coming droughts.

Perhaps more worryingly, I've noticed an increase in the amount of dead and fallen aspens over the last year or so. There is an aspen beetle, but I don't have any information that leads me to believe it's here. Once again, however, drought is playing a part. There is evidence to suggest that aspens on south-facing slopes are more susceptible to sudden aspen decline, the theory being that heat stress is the killer.

From my personal perspective, I already know that there are photos I will never be able to repeat, including some of my favorites in Lake City Landscapes. The trees in this view of Crystal Lake are now brown and dead, as are those above Lake San Cristobal in the second shot.

The death of so many trees is the elephant in the room. I've had to be increasingly careful with the views I select for my photographs. Nobody wants to see dead trees in a photo, and yet at the same time I feel the urge to document those changes as a kind of natural historian. More importantly, the loss of different tree species will surely have a negative impact on wildlife. Their habitat will change, along with some food sources, and if a small animal species dwindles, their predators will also suffer from a lack of food.

Earlier today, I rode my mountain bike (standard mud tires) from Lake City to make a full circuit of Lake San Cristobal. In a normal winter, the road would be covered in packed snow, and the eastern side of the lake would be excellent back-country skiing terrain. This is not a normal winter. With the melting of an already pitiful snow pack, humans will see a poor wildflower year and few white water rafting opportunities, and more serious problems for those using water from the Colorado River. Already stressed forests could endure their worst year yet, where snow pack acts as a seasonal reservoir in an already arid climate.

Projections based on current weather trends suggest that the Rockies are going to be dramatically changed as the decades pass. The range for many coniferous tree species will shrink and retreat further north. Aspens will suffer a similar fate. The places we know and love are going to look quite different by the middle of the century.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote, “'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

[email protected] (From The High Country) aspens bark bark beetle beetle climate colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake san cristobal photography rocky mountains sad san juan mountains Thu, 01 Feb 2018 23:22:32 GMT
Wilderness Wisdom Being a freelance photographer in a tiny mountain without a large network of contacts, I have to make my own luck. I work hard to create photographs and related products that I would buy (while not compromising my principles). As most of you know, this year I released my greatest book yet, Lake City Landscapes. It represents some of my best work over five years in the mountains, and shows the reader some of the hidden gems I've found while exploring the wilderness.

I like to let the photographs speak for themselves in my work, but I've noticed a great deal of interest in my choice of words when introducing images on social media and in my books. In the drab days following another display of fall colors, I decided to commit some of my thoughts to a new project. Over the weeks that followed, this became Wilderness Wisdom - 25 Life Lessons from the Landscape, a compact and concise ebook.

Wilderness Wisdom

As the title suggests, Wilderness Wisdom is a collection of my reminders and realizations that crossed my mind while wandering through unspoiled forests and mountain ridges. Each subject features an account of one of my adventures and a thought-provoking image to illustrate the lesson. You will find no over-used inspirational quotes - every phrase and photo is my own.

Wilderness Wisdom is available in all e-reader formats (including PDF), so anyone reading this can enjoy the book. I hope it will become a handy guide to happier living in our modern lives. At the time of writing, it has been submitted to all major ebook retailers (but may not appear for a few days).

Readers of this blog entry can get a 20% discount on the $5 purchase price by using this code - ww20 - during checkout here.

Edit - now available here:

Amazon   Barnes & Noble


[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado ebook fromthehighcountry lake city philosophy photography wilderness wisdom Wed, 20 Dec 2017 18:34:22 GMT
Colorful Colorado - Fall Colors in a Western Slope Mountain Town Fall enters with a whisper. It's almost something you can sense in the breeze. The first leaves to fall do so seemingly in secret. They drop from the tips of branches onto a green forest floor, often out of sight for most visitors.

Soon enough, the first patches of color appear on mountainside aspen stands. Those who make the effort to reach them can be rewarded with a rich tapestry of gold and green against an increasingly turbulent sky.

Under the canopy, forests in full sunlight take on a golden glow. To stand alone among the aspens is an experience that will stay with you.

The timing of fall varies from year to year, slope to slope, and even tree to tree. A keen eye and a patient mind is required to photograph each area at its best.

Mountain weather can be changeable (to put it mildly) at the best of times, but as the cool breeze becomes a cold wind and snow lingers on high ground, the forest canopy changes from day to day. The transitory nature of the natural world (and indeed life) is inescapable to the onlooker at this point. By the time peak colors arrive, some areas are already bare, and the leaves form a golden carpet over trails and undergrowth alike. Long after the 'peak', there are still gems to be found in the high country, such as this patch of fiery color in an otherwise barren canopy.

The last of the colors and the first snowfall often coincide. The next morning, leaves fall like rain onto a pure white reminder of the season that will surely follow.

I shot segments of video as I wandered the forest throughout this latest fall season, so you can experience the sights and sounds as I did:


Finally, to illustrate the rapid change of seasons in the high country, use the slider on the image below to compare two photos of Lake San Cristobal from the same shooting position.





With this talk of changing seasons, don't forget that you can find some of my favorite photographs in my latest book and calendar. Contact me or visit Etsy to place an order!



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fall colors fromthehighcountry lake city lake city fall landscape photographer rocky mountains Wed, 18 Oct 2017 18:33:08 GMT
New in 2017 - Lake City Landscapes! Unless you're one of the lucky few, it's difficult to make a living as a professional photographer. While my current location is perfect for wilderness photography, I'd be the first to admit that an average-sized city would be a far better marketplace. Still, I'm fortunate to be a little busier each year as my reputation grows and more opportunities arise. In addition to the various professional services I now offer, this summer sees the release of a new book - Lake City Landscapes.




Lake City Landscapes is my third book, but its release marks a departure from the design (and printing partner) of the first two. With a larger format to work with, I hand selected dozens of images without technical or artistic flaws to represent the perfect wilderness that I experience on my adventures into the largely unexplored back country that surrounds us.
I can remember the story behind every single shot that made the cut for Lake City Landscapes. Sometimes I hiked all day to reach a certain unnamed ridge, and other shots were the result of waiting for wildlife and lighting to co-operate, or simply watching the shadows of clouds pass over a distant mountain. Customers will find new perspectives of familiar scenes alongside equally beautiful landscapes (or night sky, macro and of course wildlife) that are far from the roads.
Instead of the seasonal/chronological approach of previous books, I decided to use a less linear layout. Each pair of facing images is loosely linked with either a complimentary or contrasting scene. I hope that the reader has a more immersive experience with this approach. I try to avoid photographic cliches and filters in my work, not least because it feels dishonest to misrepresent an already perfect scene. I'm never afraid of the hard work that goes into a wilderness shot, and I firmly believe that any artist should be obsessed by the search for perfection in his or her work. That all-or-nothing approach carried me across the San Juan Solstice finish line, and drove me to create a book with no compromises - something I would want to buy, and something I could be proud of years after the release.
The book is available at several Lake City locations. Lake City Trading Company, San Juan Delights, Sage and Timber and (new for 2017) Sportsman Outdoors (see map here). It can also be purchased directly from me online (I'll be glad to sign a copy - just ask). Read more here.
An accompanying calendar is also available! The 2018 edition of Scenes from the San Juans was designed at the same time as the book, and features an even better range of photographs than the previous edition.
These new items are joined by a growing range of other From The High Country products now available in Lake City and online. You can read more about those here. These are in addition to my regular print offerings, but you already know about those!
[email protected] (From The High Country) book colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado lake city landscapes photographer photography book wilderness photographer Sun, 04 Jun 2017 02:58:17 GMT
Greetings From Lake City - A Late Spring Photo Essay Mountain weather can be difficult to predict, and at no time is that more apparent than in spring, when winter and summer seem to fight for ground. As April drew to a close (and after several weeks of warm, calm days), several inches of snow fell over Lake City, Colorado. As a professional should, I suited up and grabbed my camera as most people enjoyed their warm homes and offices.

The local grocery store (subject of a number of From The High Country photographs over the years), a familiar sight to generations of visitors.

The main highway accommodates sporadic traffic flow. Each vehicle leaves a track as identifiable as those found in the forest.

This building lies empty, but holds memories for many. I can also see the lights and hear the voices of nights long passed.

A meeting point for many in winter, the post office is a vital service to small towns.

Many businesses close, especially those catering mainly to tourists, as if hibernating like our bears.

Stark contrasts can be found along waterways when snow-laden trees clash with shadowy, fast-flowing rivers.

Alleyways lie deserted. Only photographers avoiding the public eye use them to get around.

Mountain towns require practicality over aesthetics, although it's hard to deny that a lived-in Jeep has character.

Spring run-off has begun, and the Lake Fork flows with power and grace through a changeable landscape.


Today's photo essay coincided with the unveiling of a new design for 2017. I'm sharing it here because the title fits quite well. Photography is my full-time occupation, and I can't produce blogs like this without your help, so please keep commenting and sharing  - here on and over at my FB page. I hope you'll think of me when looking for wall art, souvenirs, or need to hire a professional. Without your business, I can't do this.

If you enjoyed this, why not take a look at A Lake City Winter or some other recent updates.


[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photo essay photography rocky mountains snow Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:47:30 GMT
Wilderness Survival Essentials Late last year, I was asked by fans of my Facebook page what I typically carry in my pack. I'm going to answer that question in today's blog update!

Ultralight hiking is very popular these days, but it's still important to carry enough to keep you safe. I feel that if I get into trouble in the mountains, I should make every effort to get myself out.

Two stories spring to mind when I think of this subject - both of them featuring a senior citizen. In the first, a grandmother's car becomes stuck in a snowdrift, and she survives for multiple days by using the items she had in the car. In the other, a woman's dog runs out of her isolated house one fall evening. She runs after the dog into the fields beyond, until she turns around in the darkness and can't see her house. Hypothermia claims her that night.

There are no second chances in wild places, and they can be closer than you may think. Preparedness and presence of mind can make a vast difference.

My last update showed how to assemble a simple survival kit - something you wouldn't ordinarily touch, but that could save your life one day. You could arguably add to that list a first aid kit and 50 feet of paracord. I've used both in a non-survival situation, so they don't quite fit my definition of survival equipment, but they are certainly essential items. A small flashlight and a sharp knife also have a permanent place in my pack.

High calorie, non perishable food should be a part of any daypack. It's an easy way to supplement your supplies with spare calories - just in case. Water is a tough one. It's heavy and it's often a target for weight saving, but it's extremely important and will have a powerful impact on your performance long before it becomes a matter of life and death. Conditions and individual needs vary, so I will strongly suggest that you carry as much as you need to stay hydrated all day.

Clothing is more simple. I carry everything I need for the expected weather conditions - and one extra layer. if I'm stranded overnight or run into a storm, I'll be glad to have that layer!

If you're in unfamiliar terrain, be sure to carry a map and compass, and know how to use them. GPS devices are a useful alternative, but require a finite power source to function.

Many modern backpacks include a whistle, which is a clever addition. Throw one in your pack if you don't already have one. In a survival situation, signalling by whistle, reflective blankets and flashlights could lead rescuers to you.

It's important to tailor your wilderness equipment to your environment. In winter, the need for heat and shelter becomes more urgent, and I carry a spare pair of gloves. Why? If you lose a glove in a winter storm, your hands can rapidly become too cold to perform some important tasks. Similarly, if you use snowshoes or skis, be prepared to fix problems that arise with them.

It would take a whole book to explain every aspect of wilderness survival, and better qualified people have already done that, so I'll let my contribution end here. I've never been in a real survival situation, although I have learned to build shelters and fires, and to find safe water. I'm mentally and physically prepared for whatever the wilderness will throw at me, which allows me to concentrate on the photography and the outdoor adventure!



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry hiking hiking colorado preparedness rocky mountains survival wilderness survival Sun, 23 Apr 2017 15:37:39 GMT
The Homemade Survival Kit The Rocky Mountains of Colorado are my adopted home, but as far back as I can remember I've always enjoyed wild places. I picked up some lessons along the way (especially in the early years) that I take for granted now, and yet some are essential, potentially life saving tips.

The majority of my hikes last 6-10 hours, but I always, without fail, carry enough equipment with me to spend the night outside. This doesn't mean that I always have, for example, a tent, but that I'm prepared to survive that night.

A survival kit is a collection of items that would enable an individual to endure unexpected conditions - usually a longer stay in the wilderness! Ready-made kits are widely available these days, but I've always felt that it's better to assemble your own. It's convenient to just buy one, but if you make your own I think you have a better chance of knowing how to use the items you've selected. This is an important point; simply owning something does not make you an expert. A rifle doesn't make a sniper any more than a camera makes a pro photographer.

If you haven't done so already, learn (and practice) to make a functional shelter, start a fire and to perform basic first aid. An emergency is not the time to do this!

A homemade survival kit begins with something like this old Altoids tin. A tobacco tin or even a film canister can be used as an alternative. It should be big enough to have useful items, and small enough to leave in your backpack (and hope you never need it).

Food and water may be your first thoughts when thinking of survival, but an average human can last 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Hypothermia, on the other hand, can kill in a few hours and can happen in the Rockies at any time of the year. Therefore, fire and shelter are usually your immediate priorities in the absence of a serious injury.

My kits (I have one in each pack - summer and winter) include three methods of starting a fire: matches, a small lighter and a spark generator. It also includes dry tinder (cotton wool, for example), a blade from a utility knife, safety pins, a needle and thread, water purifying tablets and other items.

In addition to the tin of small items and fire-starting tools, I always have at least one reflective blanket (they're so light and cheap that there's not excuse not to) and a disposable water filter.

These items are not all that you would need for an extended stay in a harsh environment, but they can be left in a pack and used alongside your regular equipment to save your life. A good packing list for other wilderness essentials will be the subject of the next update.



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry rocky mountains survival survival kit wilderness survival Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:36:32 GMT
Bears in Colorado Colorado is home to Ursus americanus - the American black bear. The last verified grizzly bear was shot 40 years ago, and they are widely believed to be extirpated from the state. Adult black bears average 200-250lbs in weight, and despite their name they can be brown or even blonde. Bears have a fearsome reputation with a lot of people, but in reality black bears in their natural habitat are usually quite weary of people. As most of you know, I solo hike through the back country all the time. I've seen countless paw prints and claw marks in trees, but I've seen bears up close a handful of times. In most cases, they either didn't know or care that I was there (because they didn't react), and the rest of the time they moved on. Here's some old footage of mine showing a black bear on the other side of a stream.

Black bears are omnivores, but much of their typical diet consists of grasses, roots, insects and berries. While they have been known to hunt, they tend to eat carrion if the opportunity arises. If you're lucky enough to see one in the wild, enjoy the experience! My most popular video shows the moment a black bear is released into the wild. Note how reluctant it is to be around humans!

What to do in bear country

The rules for bears are much the same as for other wildlife:

Keep dogs leashed and children close.

Keep a respectful distance. Many large mammals can act aggressively as a fear response.

If you bump into a bear on the trail, make conversation-level noise to alert him or her to your presence and slowly leave.

Never feed (intentionally or accidentally) a bear. Wild bears can lose their natural fear around humans if an association with food is made.

If you're still uncomfortable, or are camping, consider carrying bear spray. It's very effective in the unlikely event that a confrontation occurs.

Living in bear country

Colorado is bear country. Bears like their natural food sources, but can be attracted to human foods. Once again, never feed (intentionally or accidentally) a bear. In towns, this means securing/bear-proofing trash, pet food, bird feeders, garage freezers, and of course house doors and windows.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife can offer more advice on these topics. In Lake City, I help to run Friends of the Bears - a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human/wildlife conflict. In most cases, it's just a question of education. Most people are more than willing to do the right thing to keep wildlife and their neighbors safe.

Some have assumed that bear/human conflict is the result of bear population growth (rather than uneducated or lazy humans), but a recent study has shown that "...researchers concluded that increasing bear-human conflicts do not mean the bear population is growing but that bears are adapting to take advantage of urban expansion. This will compel a rethinking of Colorado’s current approach of boosting bear hunting based on the number of conflicts reported in an area. If bears aren’t multiplying, heavy hunting could hurt the species."

The creators of a new documentary on this subject are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. According to their page, "Bears of Durango is a short documentary film project that dives headfirst into bear dens with a team of wildlife researchers studying the effects of human development on bear behavior and bear population trends." Lake City Friends of the Bears will contribute to this worthwhile project and hopes to use the film for educational presentations.

Bears, like mountain lions, coyotes and moose, are part of what makes wilderness wild. If we respect (rather than fear) them, it's quite possible to coexist.


[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bears colorado colorado parks and wildlife fromthehighcountry lake city Sat, 08 Apr 2017 03:36:28 GMT
A Lake City Winter As I type, the sun is shining in between snow flurries on a late March morning, and I've already tidied my yard after several very warm (for the time of year) weeks. Fresh snow could fall and settle at any time between now and May, but the coldest days have almost certainly passed.

Lake City is a small town, and in winter the population drops to around 400 people. Tourist-oriented businesses close, and the residents are especially appreciative of businesses such as the Packer Saloon and the Mountaineer Theatre through the quiet months.

In town, the streets are deserted, but there are many signs of life in the wilderness nearby. Freshly fallen snow is useful for tracking our furry residents. From mice to mountain lions, each species leaves distinctive tracks. This year I've been surprised at the high mountain locations that I've encountered moose prints, but each set of tracks always tells an interesting story.

Winter activities here include skiing (both downhill and cross-country), ice climbing and (my favorite) snowshoeing. On snowshoes, I can go everywhere I would usually go in summer, even though it may take twice as long!

The wilderness takes on a very different look when snow blankets everything. While the mountain summits are still easily recognizable, narrow forest trails can be difficult to find, and the backcountry adventurer must have a good sense of direction! Wilderness rewards those who make the extra effort with some stunning views.

During the quiet days of winter, and when I'm not shoveling snow or exploring, I work on design projects for the coming year. The beginning of 2017 has been no exception, and my biggest From The High Country project ever has just been sent away for production! Lake City Landscapes is my most ambitious book yet, and features a hand-picked selection of my personal favorites. It's now available for pre-order. I'll tell you more about this and other new products in a separate update later this spring.

Earlier this week, I hiked up to 11,000 ft in the forest and was pleased to find the snowpack is still quite deep, even though my yard in the valley is turning green already. Snow lies in patches at 9,000 ft, and the familiar scents of juniper and coniferous trees drift through the forests up to nearly 10,000 ft. Most terrain above that is still firmly in the grip of winter, but that will change over the next few weeks.




[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado mountains photography rocky mountains winter Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:01:48 GMT
2016 - A Colorado Photographer's Year At the end of each year I get a chance to review my output for the previous 12 months. I ensure I've archived everything correctly, and I take some time to plan for new projects involving the best of my images. As the end of 2016 rapidly approaches, I thought I'd look back at some of my recent work and share some back stories.

Taken 11 months ago, this shot happened as I stood on a partially frozen Lake Fork of the Gunnison River as snow fell on a silent mountain town. The leaves and the visitors are missing, but in winter the local scenes take on an entirely different appearance.

Bighorn sheep are a symbol of wilderness here in Colorado. While they can be spotted at any time of the year, I find that the snow puts us on more even terms when I'm trying to get a good view of them. In addition to regular wildlife shots, I like to treat their portraits as I would those of any human. This ewe was quite curious about the crouched figure and clicking noises.

Although spring may have officially arrived, the big thaw of lakes and rivers is a slow process. Eventually, temperatures begin to rise and snowfall becomes less frequent. The mountain summits are the last to clear, and as they do so, the streams come back to life. After a long winter, spring is eagerly anticipated by everyone.

Summer weather makes all of the high country more accessible, and a colorful landscape not only makes for a great photograph but a fun spot for lunch and relaxation after long days of snowshoeing just a few weeks earlier.

As many of you know, moose-watching is one of my favorite things to do. My first spring-time sighting is always a highlight for me, and I always take far too many exposures. This time, I spotted a bull at the edge of a creek as he walked into a clearing.

Summer and fall are busy times, even in small towns. The forests offer limitless hikes, and visitors come looking for a chance to relax with friends and family. Many families like to capture memories of their visits, so they hire me to help out. I enjoy hearing about family traditions and stories of Lake City long before I arrived.

There aren't many people around where I spend much of my time, so it is fun to return to the valleys and spend a few hours with new friends sometimes. A change of style keeps me sharp as a photographer, and I have a chance to control aspects of the shot that aren't possible in wilderness.

When shooting outdoor portraits, I'm at the mercy of weather and seasonal changes. Sometimes I make the best of things, but occasionally I have nature's best backgrounds to work with.

This year was particularly unusual in that I spent a month as the set photographer for a movie production (read more here). It offered many challenges  along the way, and I'm certainly a better photographer because of it.

Night photography involving people requires split second timing with both settings and shots, but getting that shot is a satisfying feeling!

As the movie making came to an end, the fall colors began to appear. I headed back into the mountains to experience every possible minute of the displays.

The wildlife were my companions as I returned to solitude. This is one of my favorite moose shots, taken just before sunset on a warm and peaceful afternoon.

After weddings, family portraits, real estate photos and movie stills, I rounded off the year with an evening as photographer and videographer for the headline act at the local wine and music festival - Wylie CrazyHorse Jones. Once again, I was able to turn to my ever-expanding skill set to get the shots.

Live music photography shares many similarities with movie sets. Once you're familiar with how things work and where the good shooting positions are, it's all about anticipating the shot. I'm very pleased to have had such a broad range of opportunities in my time as a photographer, but this year has been particularly memorable.

When the music's over, turn out the lights. The Winefest brought an end to the tourist season, and I was left to wander the mountains once more.

If you put in the effort, the mountains often reward the explorer with magnificent views. Those times when fall and winter meet are brief and infrequent, but always unforgettable.

Weather and lighting can turn a good scene into an amazing one, albeit one that only lasts for a few minutes.

In the time between fall and the heavy snows of winter, the forests can seem ghostly after the aspen leaves have fallen, but there is always beauty in the wilderness. I hiked for a few hours to get this view and enjoyed every second of it.

When winter arrived, there was one last display of color on offer. Three consecutive days of fiery sunsets (once again, only lasting a few minutes) were a fine distraction while the snow was thin and temperatures fluctuated.

Rocky Mountain winters are not for everyone, but for those who make the effort there is still much to see. Even a snowstorm at 11,000ft is a beautiful sight.

That brings us to the end of another year. If you'd like to see more, you can view my galleries here. You can pick your favorite seasonal gallery, subject specific gallery, or search for your favorites. Until Jan 31st, 2017, I'm offering two introductory coupon codes - 5202017 for $5 off a purchase of $20 or more, or 10502017 for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more!

I have a few projects planned for the next year, so look out for details as they become available. Your opinions are highly valued, and you can help me by spending just a couple of minutes answering a few questions here.

Have a safe and happy 2017. Thanks for reading!



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado colorado still photographer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city photographer photography rocky mountains wedding photographer Fri, 30 Dec 2016 23:37:11 GMT
Making Movies - A Still Photographer's View I've said many times that if the day comes when I feel I have nothing left to learn, I'll quit. I think that's the same for any art form. When I get a chance to do something different, it helps to keep me in a constant state of learning and growth.

A couple of years ago, I was approached by two filmmakers from the Front Range. They sent me a script and asked me to provide location scouting services, so I  put together a list of potential filming locations and we met to inspect each one on several occasions. They began as great clients and we ended as friends.

We kept in touch sporadically, but it still came as a surprise when I was contacted by a production coordinator and asked to act as still photographer for the movie. When a movie is shot, a still photographer's job is usually to capture images of both cast and crew while principal photography is underway. Cast shots should include in-character and relaxed views. It's also the still photographer's job to be nearly invisible. He or she should be able to get the shots without impeding anyone else on the set. I applied my wildlife experience and telephoto lenses to create literally thousands of photographs, and at the end of each day (or night), I would send the best to the production company.

I've chosen a small set of images that contain no spoilers (meaning no cast and no important locations or events) to create a short photo essay about film making in the high country of Western Colorado.

An efficient production crew is a well-oiled machine. Each part works with the others to create the finished product.

Down-time is unpredictable and brief, so candid portrait opportunities only last a second or two.

From the periphery, it was easier to spot those personal, deep in thought moments (director of photography pictured).

The number of smiles I captured really speaks to the camaraderie found on that set.

Crew members unflinchingly did whatever was necessary to get the right shot.

Sara later turned the tables and got a candid portrait of me one night (kudos).

While years of planning led to this point, each scene still has to work with the forest environment and ever-changing lighting conditions.

Just because you're in the woods, it doesn't mean you can't look good.

When working on a horror movie, the additional challenge of night shoots is to be expected.

Weeks of night shoots were accompanied by unseasonably cold and damp weather, which only brought the crew closer.


Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

I usually work alone, so it was particularly interesting to watch a camera crew at work.

Shooting stills at night with dense forests, harsh lights, smoke and moving people is challenging to say the least, but I could sometimes turn those conditions to my advantage.


Those same challenging conditions made for some atmospheric scenes.

During breaks, the empty forest had a peaceful (or eerie, depending on your perspective) appearance.


Is this a horror movie, or European art-house cinema?

Improvise, adapt and overcome.


A surrealist scene on set.


Every crew member carried their own responsibilities.

I don't think I've ever worked in a group where so many became friends in a few short weeks.

I didn't have a chance to get to know some people, but I was glad to work alongside so many professionals.


Busted. As hard as I tried to stay out of sight, sometimes there was nowhere to hide.

Deep in conversation (director, producer/AD and director of photography). One of my favorite shots.


Being a still photographer on a forest movie set at night was some of the most challenging work I've ever done. A thorough knowledge of camera settings, an eye for the shot, the foresight to be in the right places and of course the stamina to keep going for 10 hours are all essential skills. I'm certainly a better photographer than I was when I began on a warm August morning.

I'd like to thank Matt and Scott for having such faith in me and my work to hire me as both a location scout two years ago and as still photographer during principal photography. It was fascinating to see the locations come to life as set locations, and I was honored to document the production with my cameras. I'd also like to thank the crew for being accepting and welcoming towards this stranger on set. I'm glad I had the opportunity to work with so many good people.








[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado still photographer fromthehighcountry hoax movie hoax the movie photography still photographer Sun, 20 Nov 2016 18:59:56 GMT
This One's For Darren It's been a while since I last shared something in this blog. I have plenty to catch up on, but I wanted to begin with a personal story. There is a connection to my work, but it might not be obvious until the end.

Many, many moons ago, when I was in primary/grade school, I had a friend called Darren. I didn't hang out with him as much as some over friends, but that was partially because Darren had a condition that made a lot of playground games difficult and dangerous for him. One of the few memories of him that I can recall clearly is having a great time at one of his birthday parties. Darren was a lively, funny, mischievous little kid. That aspect of him always stood out, especially since he had a very severe, painful form of psoriasis that must have been an incredible burden. He would often miss days or weeks of school from time in hospital, and yet I remember him being one of those people who is fun to be around. I'm sure he had a lot of sadness in him. Some kids must have teased him (that's what some kids do) about his condition, and it must have got to him sometimes, but I don't really remember that.

One day, Darren went into hospital and he didn't come back. He was ten years old.

His passing was not the first I'd experienced, but it was the first young person. I remember the church where his funeral was. I remember helping to plant a tree in his memory in the school playing field. I could comprehend what had happened, but it seemed incredibly unfair and that was probably the first time I felt mortal.

Children adapt well and we moved on with our lives, but I've thought of him now and then over the years. As I remember him now, that cheerfulness, even joie de vivre, in the face of adversity that he shared still stays with me. I don't have his personality (and perhaps adults can never recapture the joy of being a child), but I try to live up to the lesson that he inadvertently taught me. Bad things will happen in your life, and your attitude may not change those things, but it can make them pass more easily. The other lesson he taught me is perhaps more profound. There is no order and no system of fairness in matters of life and death. Only today is guaranteed.

He is one of the reasons I left a safe and secure desk job behind to be a 'starving artist' in the mountains. Spending time on a nameless mountain summit or sharing a patch of wilderness with an elusive wild animal is what makes me happy, and I feel I owe it to people like Darren to enjoy my time. The fact that I've become a decent photographer is the icing on the cake.

As I thought of Darren earlier this year, I searched for his name online and found nothing. Our primary school years came and went long before the internet was around. I like to be anonymous when I'm not working, but for some reason it seemed wrong that Darren didn't exist on the internet. I felt compelled to right that wrong. Darren Paul Mansfield, this one is for you.




[email protected] (From The High Country) darren mansfield fromthehighcountry philosophy Wed, 09 Nov 2016 20:22:25 GMT
New in Lake City for 2016 Photography as a profession is a struggle between making art and making money. The two seem to have little connection at times! Many photographers find themselves performing work that they don't enjoy, but so far I've managed to avoid that. In late winter and early spring (the 'slow' time of year) I like to design new projects and make plans for the year ahead. Last year, I worked on my second self-published book! The design work began with an idea I had while hiking toward the end of the previous fall, and ended in spring as I sent the finished file for printing.

There are less than 100 copies of Fall Colors left, so be sure to get your copy before they're gone!

Next on this list is my range of postcards! Instead of some generic images from a faceless corporation, you can now make your friends envious or keep a reminder by your desk with a selection of my images in classic postcard format. Send them or keep them!

After postcards, the next step was note cards. My original set was so popular that I sold everything I had well before the end of 2015! This year, I expanded the range to 10 all-new designs. Each card comes with an envelope and is blank inside, so you can use them for just about any occasion - from a thank you to Christmas greetings.

2016 note cards2016 note cards An old favorite, and probably my first design effort, is my Lake City bumper sticker! Show off your favorite destination in style with this colorful design.

Lake City Bumper StickerLake City Bumper StickerAn exclusive From The High Country bumper sticker for fans of Lake City, Colorado. The sticker is available directly from me or from my Cafepress store. Brand new for 2016 (and a limited edition), my Lake City mug is a colorful and useful to your From The High Country collection. As with all of my products, I use the best supplier in the US that I can find, and always endeavor to give good value to my customers.

2016 Lake City mugs2016 Lake City mugs Finally, I'd like to share the latest in a line of successful calendars! Featuring a range of my images from around Lake City, Gunnison and Creede, this is a year-round reminder of the high country. This calendar sells out each year, so don't wait until December to get your copy.

2017 Calendar cover2017 Calendar cover Learn more here. Ready to buy? Send me an email or look for them at either Sage and Timber or San Juan Delights in Lake City. Looking for a print instead? Contact me and I'll be happy to help you find the perfect view and print format.

[email protected] (From The High Country) 2017 calendar colorado colorado calendar fromthehighcountry lake city lake city calendar lake city mug lake city postcard photography rocky mountains Sun, 29 May 2016 19:55:41 GMT
The Ute Ulay Mine and Henson Ghost Town This story begins with the discovery of the Ute and Ulay veins containing gold, silver, lead, copper and zinc back in 1871. By 1874, the Ute-Ulay mine was in operation, and surface structures were built as the mine became more productive over the next few decades. Mining at this and several other local sites is a principal reason for the location of the town of Lake City, which was home to 2000 people around the turn of the last century (by contrast, the current year-round population is just above 400).

The mine changed hands many times over the years, and the last ore extraction probably took place in the 1960's, while ore processing in the mill sporadically continued into the 1980's. Today the buildings stand empty and silent.

Back in 2012, I was able to document the site with permission and a guide. As I will note in more detail later, abandoned buildings (especially industrial) are very dangerous and I strongly recommend that you do not enter them. The signs and padlocks are not for decoration.

With the introduction and safety talk over, grab your hard hat and boots and I'll take you on a virtual tour.

The mine's head frame stands above the road and most of the buildings. It has since been repaired.

The water tank is in remarkably good condition.

Unintentionally colorful exterior walls of workshops.

All that remains of one of the largest buildings at the site.

The mill building, where ore processing took place.

A well constructed portal (opening) to an adit (mine tunnel).

Power to the site was provided by a battleship engine after the flume for the adjacent dam failed in the 1950's. The dam itself failed in 1973, resulting in the loss of all fish for 14 miles downstream (probably due to the suspended sediment).

Dormant machinery will probably never run again, but it's easy to imagine the noise and dust that they would generate.

The mill is maze-like and there are many levels.

Without power, the buildings can seem dark and foreboding.

Some of the oldest buildings have been disused for many decades and are open to the elements.

This building has gradually collapsed over several years, and it no longer exists. Despite ideas for preservation and some cleanup of mine tailings, the site has continued to decay, and last year it made the list of Colorado's most endangered places.

Once again, abandoned buildings can be extremely dangerous places. Hazards include asbestos, Hantavirus, dangerous chemicals, sharp objects, unstable walls or floors, hidden drops, and in some cases drowning, electrical or asphyxiation hazards. People die in these places.

To see the full gallery, click here or click on an individual image to see a larger version.

To see my other galleries, click here.

To see more blog entries from the Lake City area, click here.

The ghost town of Henson and the remains of the Ute Ulay mine can be seen in this fall shot.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado colorado ghost town fromthehighcountry ghost henson lake city photography town ute ulay ute ulay mine Sun, 15 May 2016 19:30:10 GMT
Relaunching a Photography Website As with any other art form, a photographer must continually strive to improve. Over the last few years, I've learned a vast amount from field experience and from processing hundreds of images. I don't follow the work of other photographers closely; instead I prefer to concentrate on my own style, but that doesn't mean that there isn't always room for improvement. The day I think I have nothing left to learn will be the day I quit.

As I was selecting images for a recent exhibition, I began to realize that my website had not kept pace with my standards. A good photography website is a advertisement for the photographer, but as I looked at my earlier work I knew I had to change a few things.

After biting the bullet, I set to work reviewing every single image on my website (excluding recent work for clients). The review ended one of two ways - removal or reprocessing. It's part of my job to be my own worst critic, so no matter how long I hiked or how interesting the backstory, if the image didn't meet my current standards, it had to go.

With a final pool of over 500 images, the next task was to reorganize the galleries. I decided on four main seasonal galleries that will be continually updated:

Spring in the Rockies - Melting snow, thawing ice, new life.

Rocky Mountain Summer - Sunny days, mountain hikes, abundant wildlife.

Fall Colors of Colorado - Golden aspens, snow dusted peaks.

A Lake City Winter - Rugged landscapes covered in snow, frozen waterfalls.

With a home for everything, I made selections from those four to create a further eight galleries covering certain subjects:

Colorado Wildlife - From a bald eagle to a bull moose.

Lakes, Rivers and Waterfalls - Vast lakes, high mountain streams and hidden waterfalls.

Mountain Landscapes - Colorado scenes through the seasons.

High Country Flora - Wildflowers, fungi and trees.

Lake City Landmarks - Natural and man-made icons for Lake City residents and visitors.

Macro Photography - Close studies of Colorado wildflowers

Abandoned Colorado - Remnants of the past, including mines and pioneer cabins.

Portfolio - A small selection for potential clients and customers, or a way to see some of my personal favorites.

With a new home page to mark the occasion, the changes to From The High Country are now live! I invite you and your friends, family and colleagues to take a look around, pick your favorite gallery and let me know what you think! You can add images to your own favorites collection on the website, which you can then share with friends or view it as a slideshow.


[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photography photography website professional photographer Tue, 03 May 2016 01:23:37 GMT
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Colorado I feel fortunate to share the forests and mountains with several large mammal species in my little corner of Colorado. There are black bears, moose, mountain lions, elk and bighorn sheep. While there is some habitat cross-over, each species has different preferences and needs. Bighorn sheep spend much of their summers at high elevations. One of their defenses from predators is their ability to negotiate seemingly impossible terrain with ease. In winter, they move to lower elevations where the snow is not as deep and food can still be found.

Bighorn sheep have roamed the landscape for tens of thousands of years. Native American tribes told of herds numbering in the hundreds and thousands, but today's herds are much smaller.

Bighorn rams grow horns that can weight as much as 30lbs, which are put to use during the mating season when fights occur to establish dominance.

Bighorn ewes seem to be photographed less frequently than rams, but are no less fascinating. They have a six-month gestation period and, after moving to higher ground, their lambs are born in the spring.

Often weighing less than 10lbs at birth, bighorn lambs can usually walk within a few hours. They are weaned within six months.

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is Colorado's state animal (moose are not indigenous to Colorado, if you were wondering). The bighorn ram is also the symbol of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state agency given the task of protecting them. The ram is also, if you're interested in that kind of thing, the symbol of my star sign - Aries.

Despite all their fame and rugged appearance, they are at risk. Hunting is now far more carefully managed than 100 years ago, so now their biggest threat is from a seemingly unlikely source. Domesticated sheep can carry pathogens that the bighorn herds have no defense against. If, for example, a bighorn ram comes into contact with an infected domestic herd and then returned to his herd, infectious pneumonia can spread and kill most (or all) of the herd. If the bighorn is to survive, domesticated sheep grazing must take place many miles from a bighorn herd's range (many herd are being monitored with GPS collars).

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep belongs in Colorado's wilderness. After all, what is wilderness without wildlife?

[email protected] (From The High Country) bighorn bighorn sheep colorado fromthehighcountry rocky mountain bighorn sheep wildlife wildlife photography Fri, 29 Apr 2016 02:48:30 GMT
Waterfalls in Winter Western Colorado is known for warm summers and bitterly cold winters. In the mountains, the temperature range can be more than 100º F, with lows around -30º in the depths of winter. Nowhere is the change more evident than in the magnificent waterfalls that can be found where high country rivers encounter cliffs and canyons. I've chosen four examples - some well-known and some not - to demonstrate the transformation that takes place each year.

In the first example, a huge waterfall that amazes onlookers with both its beauty and accompanying roar falls almost silent as ice encases all but the vertical walls of rock.

Smaller falls are more easily silenced, but if you listen closely you can hear the river flowing under ice and snow.

Some waterfalls are very hard to reach in winter, and as a result very few people get to see them. In this case, it involved an 8 hour round trip on skis.

Other falls lie hidden in the forest, away from trails and roads, but are no less spectacular at any time of the year.

Rocky Mountain winters are particularly harsh. Aside from the cold temperatures, deep snow calls for skis and snowshoes when exploring wilderness. Even so, the need for any additional effort and equipment is made worthwhile by stunning views like these.

Click on any of the images to see purchase options.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry landscape mountains north clear creek falls photography rocky mountains waterfall winter Sun, 06 Mar 2016 20:25:48 GMT
Snow in Western Colorado The first snow of winter to fall in the valleys of the Western Slope can arrive without much warning. Even though it is expected as soon as the fall colors end, there is always an element of surprise when a town wakes up to several inches of snow that silently fell overnight. The latest occurrence in Lake City, one of Colorado's small mountain towns, was in mid-November 2015.

A CDoT snowplow clears Highway 149, also known as the Silver Thread Scenic Byway.


For those who must travel, the plow is a regular and welcome sight.


The town's churches are among some of the oldest structures, and have weathered many winters.


Downtown Lake City becomes a peaceful winter scene.


Despite appearances, there is year-round life in the town. While some business owners leave with the

summer visitors, others are full-time residents and serve locals with the same enthusiasm as tourists.


The town park, scene of many summer events, falls quiet. Where hundreds gathered weeks earlier,

now a single set of footprints crosses the grass.


The understated colors of Silver Street now stand out against a white landscape.


The dusty roads of the Alpine Loop now present additional challenges. High sections are already impassable.


Essential services extend to more than road clearance and emergency services. The availability of gas

and groceries makes a 50 mile trip to the nearest city avoidable when fresh snow falls.


Despite the apparent hardships experienced, people who choose to live in these places are of a hardy disposition. The ice and snow that winter brings present opportunities for a range of sports such as snowshoeing and skiing, and familiar summer landscapes are transformed into stunning, silent monochrome vistas.


Did you enjoy this post? Share it with a friend! You can view many more blog updates from the Lake City area here, and of course my winter image gallery here. Finally, I hope you'll consider supporting a small Lake City business when thinking of gifts (or treat yourself). You can view a selection of my offerings here. Questions? Contact me anytime!





[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photo essay photography rocky mountains small town western slope winter Thu, 26 Nov 2015 04:17:17 GMT
Winter Hiking in Colorado As fall becomes little more than a memory and the visitors leave for warmer, flatter places, the first taste of winter often arrives as morning frost and then snow on high ground. At this time of year, the hiker seemingly has the forest all to his or her self. Only wildlife tracks can be found in the snow, and only wind and distant elk calls break the silence. When the valley floor is dry and the peaks are covered in snow, a steep hike feels much like visiting another world.

With good equipment and timing, it's possible to experience sights that very few people ever see. Depending on the snow depth, a typical hike takes 50-100% longer than it would in summer. A simple jaunt that might take 2 hours in July now takes 3-4 hours in snow, so it's important to stay in shape if you want to reach the more rugged destinations.

Hiking the same trail in two different seasons results in two very different experiences. The scents of the forest are not as strong, the colors of flowers and leaves are replaced with a monotone palette, but the ground tells a story of the last few hours. Tracks from every forest inhabitant, from squirrel to moose, show that the wilderness is still full of life, and the quiet hiker has a chance to catch a glimpse.

Want to experience the fun of a winter hike today? Here's a recent video from my Colorado Wilderness Walks series:




[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado elk fromthehighcountry hiking lake city mountains photography rocky mountains snow uncompahgre wilderness winter winter hiking Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:26:36 GMT
Winter Above Lake City Colorado As the last aspen leaves fall and the evening temperatures begin to drop, it's only a matter of time before the first snow falls over the mountains of Colorado.

At first, it might just be a dusting on distant peaks which melts in the heat of the next afternoon. Eventually, a storm will bring the first snow that will last all winter, and will be the last to melt in May or even June. As the temperatures continue to drop, so does the elevation of the snow line.

Small lakes and ponds begin to freeze over quite quickly, while larger bodies of water and wide, fast flowing creeks will not freeze for a few more days or weeks. A dark lake provides a striking contrast against the surrounding snow.

For wildlife and humans alike, the snow is a visual reminder that another Rocky Mountain winter will be here very soon. Migrating birds and tourists head south, and year-round resident species prepare themselves for a less hospitable (but stunningly beautiful) environment. It will be several months before the landscape is free of snow again, but each season brings new sights and experiences. Some are just less forgiving than others.

Unique Lake City gifts and souvenirs here. Get them before they're gone!


[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado crystal fall fromthehighcountry lake city lake san cristobal mountains photography rocky mountains winter Fri, 13 Nov 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Fall Colors of Colorado Life in the Rocky Mountains can be hard. The winters are long and cold, spring can be muddy as the snow melts, the warmth of summer is brief (the frost-free growing season is ridiculously short). The big event, to me at least, is the annual display of color that the aspens forests offer. In August, residents and visitors watch for the first sign of fall. Aspen stands prepare for winter at their own individual pace, so while the valleys are green, some isolated high-altitude trees are already glowing as sunlight passes through translucent yellow leaves.

As the change gathers pace, whole landscapes are transformed. In this next shot, Uncompahgre Peak towers above aspen-covered slopes that are rapidly revealing magnificent fall colors.

In celebration of this spectacle, I devoted the whole of my latest book to some of my favorite fall photographs. It follows a typical season - from the first leaf to fall to the last (and the first snowfall) over 96 pages. Every part, from cover to cover, was fully designed by me. Let me know and I'll be happy to sign a copy for you.

As fall comes to an end after a few short weeks, a carpet of leaves are all that remains of the colors. A bare forest canopy is a sure sign that winter will soon be here, and the cycle of seasons continues.

For more fall color images, click here, or take a look at my other seasonal galleries here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) autumn colorado fall fall colors fromthehighcountry gift lake city mountains photography rocky mountains Sun, 08 Nov 2015 20:26:59 GMT
Bears Revisited Back in February, I was fortunate enough to participate in the final stages of an attempt to return two young black bears to the wild. We traveled far into an isolated patch of Colorado to what would be a good den site and left the bears in an insulated box where they could spend the last couple of months of winter before emerging to a new home range. For more info on this operation (and the beginning of the story), read A Second Chance for Two Bears.

Normally, the story would end here, but this time we decided to install two game cameras at the den site in order to get a glimpse at the bears when they decide to leave their temporary home. The cameras were retrieved on a summer afternoon, and we were able to see the bears' first moments of freedom!

One bear has typically dark brown fur, while the other is almost blond. These are still black bears (Ursus americanus). Their larger cousin, the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis - a subspecies of the brown bear) has not been seen in Colorado since 1979.

The bears emerged earlier than expected due to the mild weather conditions. This serves as a reminder for us to be 'bear aware' in our habits throughout the year in bear country.

While the bears have to be tagged, they don't wear a tracking device, so we can only hope that they live long and healthy lives in the forest. When working with wildlife, the greatest triumphs are when the animal is never seen again.



[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bear colorado colorado parks and wildlife fromthehighcountry rocky mountains spring wildlife Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:55:15 GMT
The Elevation Exhibition

Earlier this year, I was invited to exhibit a selection of my work at Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs, near Salida (central Colorado). On August 2nd, the show began after a busy morning of hanging pieces.

Elevation consists of one of Colorado's best brewing operations and a tap room where beer fans from all walks of life can gather to sample the latest creations or old favorites. This well-lit and popular venue makes an excellent gallery.

I chose a mix of traditional framed prints and canvas prints, and had planned the arrangement in advance.

The canvas prints formed a themed wall. Named the American Basin Series, the four prints show very different views of the popular Colorado destination - from a macro view of a blue columbine to a mountain landscape taken on Handies Peak.

The selected prints showcase some of the best scenery of the San Juan Mountains in Western Colorado throughout the seasons, along with a few wildlife favorites.

The Elevation exhibition runs throughout August, and all prints are available for sale - both from the walls and at

I'd like to thank Elevation for being such great hosts, and everyone who drops by to enjoy some photography!

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado elevation elevation beer company exhibition fromthehighcountry photography poncha springs salida Sun, 16 Aug 2015 01:00:18 GMT
Night Hiking For Independence Day Fireworks My adventures are usually dreamed up when I notice an interesting feature on a map, or I spot an unfamiliar peak or valley while exploring. This time I only thought of the idea a couple of days before July 4th. I would watch the annual firework display from a nearby mountain. Since the show doesn't start until after 9:00pm, I'd have to descend through a forested area at night, but I'd have a unique view that would make it all worthwhile.

The attempt started at a time when most people prefer to be ending their day in the wilderness. Sunlight pierced the forest canopy at an unusual angle as daylight began to fade, but the bold colors of summer wildflowers gave the illusion of more light.

Leaving the popular trails behind, the forest became more dense, but there was still enough light to navigate without assistance. I checked through my gear list in my mind, even though it was already too late to go back in time to see the show. In addition to my usual hiking essentials, I carried a full-sized tripod, a powerful flashlight, and a few camera accessories that I'd probably need once I was in position.

It was obvious that my intended location was nearby when the forest canopy became thin and the darkening sky was clearly visible. With a clear view of the firework launching area, I began to set up for shooting. Tripods are designed for flat ground, so the side of a mountain is far from ideal. I had checked on the moon phase before leaving, and anticipated good lighting for the return journey, but that all began to change as I looked around me and saw clouds gathering.

As the beginning of the display drew near, a lightning strike in the far distance caught my eye. It was too far away to hear any thunder, but I would have to keep it in mind while sitting in my exposed high-altitude position, and be prepared to abandon the shoot. Light but steady rain and strong gusts began a few minutes before the display, but it was a small price to pay.

I saw no more lightning, but the rain and wind became more stormy as the last fireworks detonated, and I was glad to descend into the relative safety of the forest. However, the light of the moon was now mostly blocked by dense clouds. Without a flashlight, there wasn't enough light to literally see the hand in front of my face, let alone retrace steps. I don't recommend night hiking to anyone. Navigation is more difficult than you might imagine, and encounters with wild animals are far more likely. Had I stuck to my original plan, I would be alone at this point, but my wife had decided to tag along and we used a buddy system to illuminate both the trail and the surrounding forest. As I led the way, I was surprised to find not a single pair of eyes watching us. Perhaps the fireworks had caused the wildlife to find a quiet slope elsewhere, or maybe we were making too much noise.

This trip wasn't the longest or highest I've traveled for a few photos, but it was certainly one of the most memorable.


View and buy 2015 firework photos here: one, two, three, four, five

For more FTHC goodies, click here.



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fireworks fireworks photography fromthehighcountry independence day july 4th lake city photographer mountains photography rocky mountains Mon, 06 Jul 2015 04:44:55 GMT
A Colorado Wilderness Photographer  These days I go by several titles: wilderness photographer, landscape photographer, portrait photographer, wedding photographer, location scout, commercial photographer, explorer, author, ultra-marathoner, wanderer and probably one or two others. We all have bills to pay, but to be honest I thoroughly enjoy all of my current roles. I never enter into any venture that I'm not willing to dedicate myself to. Since I've reached a lot of new people in the last few months, I thought I'd use today's post to tell you a little about me.


From Little Acorns...

A few years ago, I was working in a different state, mostly in an air conditioned office. A number of life lessons had led me to question what I was doing with my life. To cut a long story short, my wife and I formulated an escape plan and we eventually started a new life in the mountains.

Photography had often been a small part of my job, and like most people I had owned cameras since I was a kid, but I hadn't taken it seriously until my fascination and passion for wilderness coincided with a new camera and an idyllic vacation in the Rockies. A little honest encouragement is a powerful thing, and  with a lot of dedication, hard work, sacrifice and experience I crafted a new career in photography.


A Day in the Life

With my mix of skills and interests, there is no typical day. My favorite days are always spent in the forest with a camera, a few miles from the nearest trail. I still spend a lot of time at a computer, only now I process my images, maintain my website and send emails to potential clients. On other days, I'll ditch the olive drab for something a little more presentable and meet clients for portrait or even wedding work. These can range from an hour to 8 or even 10 for an extravagant wedding. Two other vital ways to spend my days up here are training and relaxing (even photographers need a day off). It's important to not neglect the body and mind, especially when I work mostly alone and need to be able to hike in terrain that most people wouldn't attempt. A photographer needs to have his or her head in the game when shooting, whether the subject is a bear or a wedding party.


Why Buy From Me

I always dislike this kind of question, because ego is the last reason I got into this, so I'll just be honest with you. When you do business with me (whether it's a calendar sale or a wedding shoot), you're supporting the arts, a small business, and a small town economy. I live and work in Lake City and I volunteer my spare time to good causes (especially those related to wilderness). From The High Country is my livelihood, and there's a little piece of me in every book or private gallery. I shoot for the love of the art form, not fame and fortune (but there are always bills to pay).

Every image of mine undergoes rigorous inspection. If I'm not happy to attach my name to an image, it goes in the trash. Similarly, every page of a book or calendar has been hand-selected. I design all of my products available for sale, because I want the customer to have something unique that was fully designed (and of course shot) here in the mountains. I want you to know that I personally did everything except print it myself!

When I work directly with a client, whether I'm location scouting or have the privilege of documenting a Lake City wedding, I'm careful to fully understand your needs. I work by the same demanding standards that I would expect as a client. I like to get paid, but the satisfaction of my clients is even more important to me.

Do I work on special projects? Most definitely. Some of my regular services began as special projects. If you're looking for a certain scene, size or format, let me know. I work with trusted suppliers to deliver virtually any type of print, and I can shoot certain scenes by special arrangement if I don't already have the perfect shot.

Want to learn more? Read about my latest product range here (or try my new Etsy store here) and my range of services here. You can contact me directly here.



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city calendar lake city photographer lake city wedding photographer landscape photographer mountains photography portrait photographer rocky mountains wedding photographer Sun, 28 Jun 2015 03:06:22 GMT
Spring in the Mountains I may be biased, but I don't think that there is a bad time to be in the Rockies. It's easy to look at a photo and be impatient for summer, but each season has its own charm. After a long winter, the first signs of new life are an uplifting sight. Whether it's the young leaves of aspens (that will offer a spectacular display of color in a few short months), or seedlings in bare earth, there is much to see if you're prepared to look closely. The Rockies never cease to fascinate, and as I watch the constant change I can't help but feel a part of it. Of all the seasons in the Rocky Mountains, spring is the least predictable. Early morning snow can quickly melt to reveal green grass as the skies clear on a warm and sunny afternoon. This transition from extreme cold and deep snow to a fresh forest canopy and lush wildflower meadows is an essential part of both flora and fauna life cycles. Every drop of precipitation that falls before another arid summer fuels plant growth, which in turn feeds our wildlife. Some animals are easier to view during the harsh mountain winters, but others have spent the last few months in a state of hibernation, and are once again roaming the forests. Other inhabitants, such as the squirrels, are as lively as ever.

When a whole season of snow melts, dirt road and trails can turn to thick mud. This is the one time of year that I spend time away from wilderness. Hiking and driving can be frustrating at this time, and trail erosion can be greatly accelerated. Since my style of photography requires a certain level of physical fitness, this is no excuse to be lazy. As a result, I dedicate a few weeks of self-imposed exile each spring to working on new products and working out! This year, I made especially good use of my time and produced my second photography book in addition to several other new items. As the slopes dry out, I find myself in excellent shape and eager to return to the far off areas of secluded wilderness that I first reached last autumn. I ride my mountain bike on dry dirt roads and survey the peaks above me. Soon they will be accessible to me once more, and I'll be back on the same ground as the deer, moose and bear again.


[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fall colors fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photography rocky mountains seasons spring Sun, 10 May 2015 16:30:00 GMT
New For 2015 Last year was a very good one for me. I've grown both personally and professionally. I've learned more about myself and the Colorado wilderness, and I've invested profits in new camera gear and new projects. Aside from those famous few, working as a photographer is not an easy career choice, and making a living is always a challenge. Still, it is the path I chose and I will not falter.

This year, I'll introduce some new products to the FTHC range, and some new retailers! News on retailers will follow later this spring, but I can share details of the 2015 range now:

2016 Calendar

The new From The High Country calendar is easily the best yet. This sells out every year, so don't wait until late December to get yours!


A new idea, this range of 16 different designs can either be sent to friends and family or stay at your desk as a reminder of another great vacation.

Greetings Cards

Another new idea, these cards are blank inside and can be used as note cards or customized to suit any occasion.

Fall Colors Book

I think I saved the best for last. This is my second book, and I'm really proud of it. It features over 80 full-color, full-page images showing my favorite shots from dozens of back country adventures through that most spectacular season.

This book will be available in softcover format (just like my first book, San Juan Inspirations).

If I can raise the funding, I'd like to produce a hardcover version. For that reason, I've created a Kickstarter campaign! If I reach the funding goal, I'll be able to print this special edition. Read all about it and learn about pledge levels here:


More details on pricing and availability of all of these products (along with my photographic prints) will follow as soon as everything is confirmed. As always, I'll be happy to answer any questions.

May 2015 edit: Everything (except for a hardcover version of the book) is now available!

[email protected] (From The High Country) book colorado fromthehighcountry kickstarter lake city photo book photography Tue, 17 Mar 2015 03:05:45 GMT
A Second Chance for Two Bears In the middle of a Rocky Mountain winter, most bears are hibernating - waiting for warmer temperatures, longer days and fresh plant growth to eat. Unfortunately, this story has an unhappy beginning. Last year, two young black bear cubs were orphaned when their mother was illegally shot and killed near the town of Crawford. The two cubs still had much to learn and would probably have died without the intervention of Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers, who rounded them up and took them to a Western Slope rehab facility. Human contact is kept to an absolute minimum while injured or orphaned wildlife stay at the facility in order to give them a fighting chance when they are released into the wild once more.

With a carefully planned diet, the two orphaned cubs gained weight, and were ready to go back to the forest on a February morning. Returning animals to the wild is a surprisingly complicated business. The release site must be in excellent habitat for the animal, and it must be far from populated areas. Once a suitable location has been found, a plan to get people and animals to a remote, snow-covered patch of forest must be devised.

The release day began at an improvised assembly point. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers (and a couple of seasoned volunteers) gathered on an isolated dirt road and waited for one more truck to appear on the distant highway. This truck carried a snowcat, on which two healthy bear cubs (and the materials to construct an artificial den) would be carried into the wilderness. Personnel would travel by snowmobile in order to avoid a very long hike.

With the team assembled, the journey began. The human participants carefully negotiated the trail ahead and enjoyed the unfamiliar scenery, while we can only guess at what the two young bears were thinking as they sat in their dark temporary home - a robust steel box lined with hay.

Events moved quickly after a long journey by internal combustion engine. The bears were quickly and quietly moved from the back of a snowcat to a heavily treed area situated close to excellent spring food sources. The steel den box was covered in a tarp to keep excess moisture out, and then insulated with bales of hay. Those bales were then partially covered in snow and dead tree limbs to deter elk and deer, which also helped to conceal the den site. Access to the den box is made possible by a sliding door at one end. This is secured during transportation, and then released after final placement. One wildlife officer will return after the bears have settled to remove the door, leaving hay bales as the only barrier to their exit. When spring arrives, the bears will chew and claw their way through the bales and begin to explore their new home.

The operation ended without fanfare as all personnel left the den site and rode back to the dirt road. We won't be there to watch the bears' emergence from hibernation. In fact, as with all releases, a successful return to the wild means that we'll probably never see them again. Two bears have a second chance at long, healthy lives somewhere on Colorado's Western Slope.


Read about an earlier den operation here, and a springtime bear release here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bears colorado parks and wildlife fromthehighcountry rocky mountains wildlife winter Wed, 25 Feb 2015 23:46:16 GMT
5 Reasons To Visit Lake City, Colorado The small Colorado mountain town of Lake City lies in a secluded valley on the Western Slope. Surrounded by towering peaks and forests, the town and the neighboring wilderness has a lot to offer vacationers from all over the US and beyond! Here are just five reasons to visit Lake City:

1. The great outdoors

There is a seemingly endless supply of forests, meadows, lakes, rivers and peaks! Five 14ers (mountains over 14,000' high) can be reached while using Lake City as a base, while there are dozens of lower (but no less challenging) peaks. Immerse yourself in the wilderness with anything from a 30 minute stroll to a multi-day backpacking trip. Runners can find plenty of trails, and there is even an annual ultra-marathon (which I ran).

2. Peace and relaxation

Enjoy a walk in Lake City's downtown historic district, wander along nature trails, or spend a lazy afternoon at (or on) Lake San Cristobal. Escape the pace of the modern world and recharge your batteries in a place where you can do as much or as little as you want. Browse in a variety of local stores (such as San Juan Delights), or take your family to the park and watch the clouds drift by.

3. Scenic drives

Highway 149, which is the only highway that runs through Lake City, is also known as the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. Beginning at South Fork, the Silver Thread winds through outstanding scenery to Creede and Lake City. It ends just short of Gunnison at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. At just less than 120 miles, a one-way trip will take up to three hours, but I recommend that you take time to stop and enjoy the views along the way. For the more adventurous, the Alpine Loop is a dirt road trip across old mining roads where the remains of old mines and ghost towns are mingled with amazing views. Parts of the Alpine Loop require a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle and a head for heights.

4. Events

Ice climbing, 10K races, a music festival and an old fashioned July 4th parade are just some of the events held each year in this small but lively town. Enjoy all the fun without the huge crowds and vast parking lots, and support some good causes while you're there (many community organizations are run by volunteers). Round off your day with a movie at the charming Mountaineer Theatre.

5. Wildlife

Pause for a moment and you'll be surprised at what you might see. From the tiny shrew and hummingbird moth to the mighty moose, our wildlife are a fascinating and important part of the wilderness. As deer wander through the streets, they remind us that Lake City is home to a number of species other than ours. Look up and you might spot a bald eagle, while bighorn sheep and the occasional black bear can be seen if you look closely enough.  A pair of binoculars would be a great investment for animal lovers.


As with my 5 Reasons to Visit Colorado post, it isn't possible to fully describe all of the attractions in a few sentences. Lake City is a charming place (it even has its own song), and you'll find your own favorite aspects when you make your first trip! Check out the official Lake City website (it's partially funded by chamber members like me) - tell them Craig sent you!


Don't forget, Lake City fans; I offer prints, books, calendars and more, and I'm sometimes available for hire (on a limited basis). My work can be found in the homes of Lake City visitors and Colorado fans across the US and overseas. Take a look at my galleries, or contact me.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photography scenic drives small town travel vacation wilderness wildlife Tue, 03 Feb 2015 22:52:09 GMT
5 Reasons To Visit Colorado The Centennial State is 104,000 square miles of adventure, whatever your tastes may be! From the rugged mountain environment of the Western Slope to the cities of the Front Range, Colorado is filled with variety. I could write about my adopted home all day, but I'm going to tempt you with just five reasons to visit Colorful Colorado:

1. Arts and culture

From big city galleries and museums to undiscovered artists (and photographers!) in small town galleries, Colorado seems to inspire a large number of creative people. You can also catch some of your favorite bands at some of the country's best live venues (like the Red Rocks Amphitheater), or perhaps a play or classical performance at a historic theater (such as the Creede Repertory Theatre).

2. National Parks and Recreation Areas

Colorado is an amazing place for nature fans. From lush forests to deserts to high mountain peaks, every taste and ability level is catered for. Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible snapshot of Colorado's mountain wilderness, while the lesser known Colorado National Monument offers arid canyons and equally stunning views from trails or the comfort of your vehicle. Other places, such as the Curecanti National Recreation Area, provide excellent fishing and boating opportunities.

3. Craft brewing

The rising popularity of craft beer is probably most evident in the bars and liquor stores of Colorado, where some of the best (in my opinion) new breweries in the US are based. There are nearly 200 in Colorado, but you don't have to be in Denver to try them; one of my favorite breweries is only 150 miles away from me on the Western Slope. If you've always been a wine lover, ask your bartender for a saison ale. If you find a new favorite, ask your local liquor store for it by name, or maybe take a 64oz growler from a brewer's taproom back to your hotel or cabin to enjoy.

4. History

The state of Colorado came into existence on August 1, 1876, making it the 38th to join the Union. However, the land that encompasses Colorado includes historic places that are much older. Mesa Verde was first settled around 400 AD, while the features of Dinosaur National Monument date back millions of years. Since its inception, Colorado's main industry was mining. Depending on the area, coal, lead, silver, gold and other valuable resources were extracted in vast quantities, and while many mines have since closed, old mining structures and ghost towns remain, along with numerous small museums that tell the story of Colorado's settlement from the East.

5. Seasons

From the long, warm days of summer to the pristine landscapes of winter, Colorado has it all. World-class skiing opportunities can be found at the famous resorts and at lesser-known, more affordable slopes. Colorado's state flower, the blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) can be found alongside many other colorful wild flowers in bloom during late spring and summer. Fall offers a spectacular display of golden aspen leaves that has to be experienced.


With these five reasons to visit Colorado, I'm barely scratching the surface. Colorado has just about everything except a coastline!

If you're looking for a small town to visit on the Western Slope, take a look at Lake City.


If you enjoyed the images in this article, take a look at my galleries to see more.

[email protected] (From The High Country) arts colorado craft beer fall fromthehighcountry history mountains photography rocky mountains seasons visit colorado Tue, 03 Feb 2015 22:51:59 GMT
Meeting Moose Weighing in at up to 1000 lbs, the Shiras moose is Colorado's largest mammal. Often spotted in or near riparian areas, moose are now a much-loved feature of Colorado's wilderness, although a breeding population was only established (from Wyoming and Utah) in 1978.

I volunteer for wildlife-related work, and in early 2014 I was invited to take part on field work as part of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife moose study (read more about it here). On the last day of 2014, I was invited to assist with additional field work. As before, cow moose would be spotted from the air and tranquilized. When team members reached each moose, it was made comfortable and given supplemental oxygen. Two people arrived via helicopter, while others hiked in from nearby roads. Dense forests and deep snow made this work physically demanding. Basic checks and measurements were taken, along with blood samples and ultrasound analysis of fat layers. Once the procedure was completed, a drug was given to counteract the tranquilizer and the moose was monitored from a distance until it was able to stand and walk away. As part of the original study, moose were given collars that allowed for close-range tracking. Some of those moose were re-captured using the collars, and all moose were given improved collars that will allow them to be tracked more easily and more regularly.

Moose populations in Colorado are thought to be more healthy than those in their native Wyoming and Utah, and it is important to determine the reasons for this in addition to monitoring the health and growth of Colorado moose populations. The measurement data will provide valuable information on the overall health of our moose, while the blood samples will give researchers an idea of the number of pregnancies. The tracking data will eventually build a picture of moose movements and preferred habitats.

I spoke to CPW wildlife researcher Eric Bergman, who told me that "...the goal of this research project is to link moose herd productivity to habitat conditions."

As the lead researcher for the project, he gave a characteristically articulate summary of the project goals: "Many large mammals are sensitive with their reproductive strategies.  When nutritionally stressed, individuals may not breed, or if they do breed, the number of offspring they produce may be lower.  With moose in Alaska and Canada, a common metric that biologists measure is the twinning rate (i.e., the proportion of adult females in a population that are producing twins).  In Colorado, where we have the Shiras subspecies, it appears that twinning rates are consistently low, and overall pregnancy rates may be more informative.  So while we're capturing animals to monitor survival and movements, we're also measuring body condition and pregnancy.  We will also be using moose locations and movements to show us which key pieces of habitat should be monitored." I'd like to thank each member of the team who was present on that cold winter day for allowing my wife and me to observe and assist. I can't think of a better way to end a year. To view more images from this day, click here. Finally, I feel I should mention that moose, while fun to watch, should be treated with respect if you see them. Moose can react violently if provoked, so always keep a safe distance away. Consider buying binoculars to observe wildlife without endangering them or you.



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado colorado parks and wildlife cpw moose photography study wildlife winter Thu, 15 Jan 2015 01:28:22 GMT
How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon Almost half a year ago, I spent the longest day of my life on the mountains of the San Juans around Lake City, Colorado. Six months of training had transformed me from a hiker and 10K runner into an endurance athlete who crossed the finish line of one of ultra-running's most mountainous courses.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll remember my online training diaries. It's not too late to catch up! To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. Part three is here.

I still remember the icy roads (and occasional snow storm) as I ran countless miles on the only snow-free surface I could find during the first few months of 2014. Every other part of my life, including work, had to fit in with my training. I would study the race map at the breakfast table, run for a few hours, and then stretch and refuel (even meals had to change to suit the goal). It was a huge undertaking that affected almost every part of my life, but I'm glad I did it.

People run endurance events for a variety of reasons. I think that a lot of people really enjoy running. I wasn't one of those. For me, it was all about the challenge. I wanted to know if I could do it, or at least if my body could be as strong as my mind.

I don't think that I'm the same person that I was a year ago. Something about this kind of event changes a person. I like to think it's for the better, but you'd have to ask people who know me well for an objective answer. I'm certainly stronger - in every sense of the word.

My output in terms of photography suffered throughout the training period. If I had the choice between running or hiking with my camera gear, I had to pick running. Still, as I look through my work from August onwards, I can see a marked improvement. Was it due to the break, the race, or was it purely coincidental? I'm just happy to be continually improving.



To mark this milestone in my life, I decided to write a short book about training for the San Juan Solstice 50 mile race, and about my experience as a first-time entrant. Titled How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon, it is available at most ebook sellers (including Amazon and iTunes) and I describe it online as follows:

How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon is based on one man's experience of training for a 50 mile mountain race in the Rocky Mountains, despite being much more used to hiking rather than running. Read a full personal account of a first-time ultra marathoner's race, and learn how he changed from a 10K runner to an endurance athlete in just six-months - perhaps the ultimate fitness challenge.

If you're a runner or an athlete of any kind, or if you're simply curious as to what goes through a competitor's mind before, during and after the race, I think you'll find How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon an interesting read.




To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.

My attempt at the SJS50 was partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.

[email protected] (From The High Country) How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon fromthehighcountry lake city rocky mountains running san juan solstice sjs50 ultramarathon ultrarunning Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:30:29 GMT
Walking in Wilderness The natural world has always been a source of fascination for me. Some of my earliest memories are of trees and rivers, and as a child I think I enjoyed country meadows more than theme parks. Part of me is constantly drawn to the world that begins where our towns and roads end.

In the few years since I made the Western Slope of Colorado my home, I've had countless opportunities to explore this great wilderness. The easier trails served as an introduction to the Rocky Mountains. Pretty soon, I was standing on fourteeners (mountains over 14,000' high), and late last year I began to make my own trails.

This year, I'm in the best shape of my life, and that high level of fitness allows me to reach locations that I would never have attempted even last year. When physical abilities are no longer a limiting factor I can concentrate on enjoying the journey.

Once you're able to let go of all distractions, being in the wilderness is an immersive experience. I've you've followed this blog or my photography for a while, you'll know about the amazing sights to be found. Other treats for the senses are harder to describe.

Imagine standing on an isolated summit and hearing nothing but your heartbeat, or walking through the forest and hearing the sound of leaves crunching under your feet while birds call in the distance. Aspen leaves rustling in the wind, moose calls - the list goes on.

One vivid memory from this summer is the heady perfume from a carpet of flowering lupines on a previously unexplored (by me, at least) aspen forest. The strong aroma of juniper is familiar feature of the forest, while the tell-tale smells of elk or other wildlife can take some time to recognize but is perhaps more exciting.

In the summers, the wilderness offers up its bounty for tasting. This year was a particularly good one for edible berries such as raspberries and currants. I'm often tempted to try a few, but always leave some for the critters. Just like home-grown vegetables, wild berries can taste far better than those found at the grocery store.

As I negotiate steep slopes, I can't help but notice the seemingly infinite variety of textures in rocks and trees that provide good handholds to help me on my way. Next time you're in the forest, allow yourself time to relax and actually feel the plant life around you, from the chalky aspen trunks to silky petals to stringy lichens that hang from trees. It's one more way to connect with the world around you.

That's the five senses, but there's one more. Occasionally I've had the feeling that I'm not alone, even when I'm certain that I'm miles from the nearest trail or road. Years ago, that might have been cause for concern, but now that I know this place so intimately I am merely curious as to what (if anything) is out there. I hold my breath and stand still in order to listen for the slightest sound that will give away the location of elk, or perhaps a black bear.

It is often the unknown that can result in the most memorable experiences. I regularly study maps before trying a new route, but they seldom show enough to predict which amazing views I'll find from a new summit, or even the scenery that lies over the next hill. I will always remember the time I almost literally ran into a herd of elk during a snowstorm on a winter hike. I'm not sure which of us got the biggest shock!

When I'm in the wilderness, all I have to consciously think of is where I'm going and how I'll get back. Other than that, I'm free to take in the sensory experience that this amazing place I call home has to offer.




[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photography rocky mountains senses wilderness Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:06:24 GMT
Photography and Facebook As with many other art forms, photography involves a learning process that doesn't end. If you think that you know all there is to know, it's probably time to quit. After the technical basics, there is a never ending list of lessons to be learned. Some use books and others take classes, while I prefer field experience (though each has its place).

Facebook seems like an obvious choice for a photographer wishing to reach a wide audience. It's free to use, and is a form of social media that is based around image sharing. It sounds perfect, but is it?

The typical image display size on a Facebook feed is quite small. Image quality comes a poor second to bright colors. It's very difficult to be able to appreciate the fine detail or composition of a well-planned shot when the image is perhaps 3" long. This is great for the hobbyist with an iPhone, but the professional is only able to show a few of the qualities of an image, much like a racehorse in a training ring.

Perhaps Facebook is not the best place to reach potential buyers of quality images. That's hard to believe, simply because of the number of users. Those buyers are out there, but they are becoming harder to reach. On a good day I can probably reach half of my page fans, and maybe 20% of those will actually click the 'like' button. Facebook offers me the opportunity to pay them in order to boost my chances of reaching my own fans, but I'm not wealthy enough to pay $20+ for every post I make.

I have to rely on fans to reach other fans. For each like and share I get, the more likely it is that I'll reach other fans. That's just the way that Facebook is run. I would never ask fans to 'like' a post that they don't actually like, but that one little click from impressed fans is quite powerful, especially when multiplied by 200 or more. Without those likes, I have no idea if a post worked, and no reason to believe a similar one will work in the future.

Perhaps there are better photographers out there. Undoubtedly there are. I'm better than I was last year, but not as good as I will be next year. That's not to say that being a good photographer is all about age, but there is always room for improvement. Over time, each photographer should develop his or her own style. That style will appeal to certain people in a way that no other photographer's work will. An artist should never try to be someone else.

On the flip side, anyone with a smartphone and internet access can call themselves a photographer these days. That's only a source of frustration in that news feeds everywhere are cluttered to the point where it becomes increasingly difficult to grab a reader's attention. It's the equivalent of being a market trader on a crowded city street. Your stand may have shots that would make Ansel Adams envious, but if you don't reach potential buyers you'll never make that sale.

Since Facebook is free to use, maybe there is an expectation of something for nothing from readers. A Facebook page is a marketing effort. I'm trying to reach potential buyers. I recognize that a small percentage are actually interested in buying any work that I produce, and that many others either can't afford my work (although it is intended to be affordable) or genuinely have no space or use for it. That's fine, but if I can't reach enough buyers to justify the hours spent on Facebook each week then I should review the way I spend my office time. I don't want to be rich; I would still be in a city office somewhere if I did. However, I do need to make enough to live on and keep my camera gear up to date.

Unfortunately, this culminates in a simple business decision. Is Facebook worth my time? The only metrics I have to analyze are sales and likes. If I have enough of one, I can get the other. If not, then I need to invest my time elsewhere.




[email protected] (From The High Country) facebook fromthehighcountry marketing photography sales Sun, 09 Nov 2014 00:29:23 GMT
The Forest and the Spruce Beetle As some of you know, I spend a lot of time in the wilderness around Lake City - probably more than most. One fact is now obvious; the forests are changing.

Once a rarity, the sound of the American three-toed woodpecker can be commonly heard (but not always seen) in southwestern Colorado's forests. Dead trees can be found surrounded by piles of brown needles and pieces of bark, and bare branches, like skeletons, hint at the life that once was. Early this summer I sat in my truck at the side of the road on a high mountain pass and watched the invader crawl across my windshield. The spruce beetle has a particular fondness for Engelmann spruce, and can cause death rates as high as 100% in some areas.

North American coniferous forests have been under sustained assault for around twenty years. Pine and spruce beetles have been thriving due to warmer average temperatures and droughts. Long, extremely cold winters usually keep the beetle population in check, and trees weakened by a lack of water are more susceptible to insect attack. 

Little can be done to stop the spread of the spruce beetle in a meaningful way. Insecticides are non-selective and could kill natural predators (while being ineffective against spruce beetles in trees) if used on a large scale. Pheromone traps can be used to suppress beetles in specific areas, but is not a practical option in wilderness areas. Once a parasitic beetle population reaches epidemic proportions there is little that can be done to halt the damage to forests.

Parasitic beetles bore tunnels in their chosen tree species, which slowly kills by cutting off a tree's water and nutrient supplies. It can take over a year from infestation to death, meaning that only the destruction from the previous summer is evident at a glance.

Anyone who spends time in the forests should remember this: Standing dead trees are no longer securely anchored by a healthy root system, and can fall at any time. You must stay alert. Logging will take place in some areas where this presents a public safety issue, but dead trees will remain in the wilderness for some time to come.

The West Fork Fire Complex consumed vast areas of forest last year. Fire surely kills beetles, but the contribution of dead trees to a fire is surprisingly unclear. A dead tree is obviously dry, but the needles of a living tree contain volatile oils that allow fast moving, deadly crown fires to develop. If the needles of a dead tree have fallen, does it present less of a fire hazard? The experts are still trying to determine the answer, but it is known that weather is a much bigger factor in forest fire propagation. Once started, a fire will readily consume any kind of fuel - dead or alive.

One thing is certain; fire, like the tree-killing spruce beetle, is part of a natural cycle in forests. Some say that decades of over-zealous fire suppression created perfect conditions for the beetle plague. If there is any good news, it would be that the forests will recover. Dead trees are not a pretty sight. I find myself cropping them out or even discarding photos these days. However, there is life in the beetle-ravaged forests. Small, healthy trees can be found in abundance, and neighboring aspen stands will expand into new territory with surprising speed. Just weeks after the West Fork Fire, I observed many young aspens poking through a layer of ash.

Our forests may never be quite the same (at least not in the lifetime of anyone reading this), but they will return to life. It is easy for us to think of the natural world as a constant part of our lives, but it is in a state of constant change. Just like the seasons, we have to appreciate the present and look forward to what the future will bring.

Further reading (USFS): Spruce Beetle Management (PDF)

[email protected] (From The High Country) beetles colorado fire lake city rocky mountains spruce beetle west fork Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:39 GMT
Why Aspen Leaves Change Color During Fall  

Have you ever wondered why aspens and other deciduous (seasonal leaf dropping) trees put on such an amazing display of color each autumn? Here is a simplified explanation!

As the days get shorter and nights begin to get colder, deciduous trees (such as aspens) suspend production of chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis (energy production using sunlight), as an energy saving measure in anticipation of the coming winter. As the chlorophyll left in leaves breaks down (and with it the green coloring), other colors become visible.


Why aspen leaves change color during fall.


Yellow and orange colors are produced by carotenoids, which are always present in the leaves. Carotenoids protect chlorophyll from too much light exposure and help with the photosynthesis process.



Anthocyanins are responsible for the red color often found in leaves and are produced by the tree to filter out UV light while valuable nutrients are extracted.



The length of the grand display of color is closely tied to the amount of moisture around. If the environment is too dry, the leaves will quickly turn brown and fall. Similarly, a cool autumn will help to maximize the colors, but freezing temperatures can cause leaves to drop suddenly.

The process by which trees drop their leaves is called abscission.

Now you know a little more about the complicated processes that produce our amazing fall colors! Check out some of my fall color shots here.

2015 edit: You can now buy my new book, Fall Colors! Read more here or watch the video here.


[email protected] (From The High Country) aspen trees aspens autumn fall fall colors fromthehighcountry lake city photography rocky mountains Wed, 03 Sep 2014 03:04:02 GMT
Changing Seasons As you probably know by now, I spend a lot of time in the forests of Colorado, and I can't help noticing the minute and constant changes that occur. There is a continual cycle of life and death in the natural world. Streams cascade and then dry out. Flowers bloom and fall. Even so, the wilderness is ever-present, like an old friend.

The first golden aspen leaves already litter isolated parts of the forest floor, but summer hasn't yet ended. Even something as big as fall is a gradual process.

We are subject to change, just like the natural world. Sometimes it takes a series of life experiences to make a physical change, so the process can appear more abrupt than it actually is. I've had a very eventful summer. From my first 50 mile race through the mountains to new opportunities in my work, I've embraced both physical and mental challenges and have learned a great deal from them.

On the subject of change, I'd like to announce several new services at From The High Country! This summer, I've relented to requests to offer family portrait and wedding photography services, and I intend to offer both services in the future. I've also been involved in a forthcoming movie production as a location scout, which has also been a fun experience. You can read more about these services here:

I hope you'll join me as I continue this long and winding journey. Speaking of journeys, let's end with a look at Ursus americanus as he or she wanders across the landscape:



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado family portraits fromthehighcountry lake city location scouting mountains rocky mountains wedding photography Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:43:16 GMT
Lightning Safety Two people were recently killed by lightning strikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, and around 100 people are killed in the US each year by lightning strikes. Anyone who spends time in the wilderness should learn a few lightning related tips.


Be Alert

Check the weather forecast before leaving. Try to time activities to avoid storms.

Watch for approaching or forming storm clouds, and consider cutting short your activity.

If you see lightning and hear thunder less than 30 seconds (6 miles) later, get to a safe place immediately.

If your hair stands up, you are in imminent danger (see below for immediate action drill).


Stay Safe

If you're caught in a storm, do the following:

Get away from peaks, ridges, any tall objects and lakes or rivers.

Spread out if you're in a group.

Discard any metal objects (pack frames, hiking poles).

Adopt the lightning position - crouch low, ideally on an insulating material. Touch your heels together to protect against nearby strikes.


If Someone Is Struck

Everyone should have some degree of basic first aid training.

If someone in your party has been struck, first check for breathing and a pulse.

Administer artificial respiration and CPR if needed, and closely monitor your casualty while assessing for other injuries (burns, fall related injuries) and shock.

Evacuate your casualty as fast as is safe to do so.


None of the advice offered above will provide any guarantees. Lightning can strike up to 30 minutes after a storm. It is unpredictable and deadly.



[email protected] (From The High Country) lightning lightning position psa safety wilderness Sun, 13 Jul 2014 19:46:50 GMT
SJS50 Training Part 3

As April came to an end, the snow finally began to melt. By May, some local trails were passable without snowshoes, and I jumped at the chance to get away from the roads.

I hiked a nearby trail as a test, and found that I could at least cover the first (and steepest) part without punching through thigh-deep snow with each step. The trail was wet and icy, but it beat asphalt.

Through early May I became very familiar with that particular trail, eventually cutting 30 minutes off my best time. Unfortunately, Rocky Mountain weather brought that to a halt with a late winter storm that dumped several inches of snow on the high country.

The fresh snow lingered for perhaps three or four days, during which I hiked at a much slower pace but for longer periods. Moving slowly allowed me to enjoy the forest much more, and I became easily distracted by bear and mountain lion tracks, and the occasional elk herd.

With my pacer, I picked out the last 10 miles of the course through patches of deep snow. It was comforting to know that I had covered one more section, and that my pacer knew that trail very well. At a time when I would be exhausted and possibly not thinking clearly, I would meet up with someone who would be able to guide me through those last three hours.

By this time it was obvious that my knees were hurting more than usual. A week later, I finally decided to see a doctor. I needed to know if I could still run the Solstice.



With only a few short weeks to go, I had an overuse injury. The treatment was rest, but the race preparation demanded training. I pumped up my bike tires and took to the roads on two wheels. With less stress on my knees, I could still get a good workout by riding over nearby hills. Rest days were once again exercise and stretching days, and I did the best I could.

I walked instead of running at a local race, and used it as an opportunity to test my fast walking pace. It went very well, and was a good confidence booster after a string of injuries.

As weeks became days, I began to study the course again. The Solstice was going to happen, and I would be at the start line, so there was little point in wondering if I would finish. I had to plan my race and hope that everything would hold up to 50 miles of wilderness.


This is the last of my training diary entries. At the time of writing, the race is less than a week away. There's no turning back now.


To read part one of my training diary, click here. To read part two, click here.

To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.

My attempt at the SJS50 is partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry running san juan solstice sjs50 ultramarathon ultrarunning Mon, 16 Jun 2014 02:31:44 GMT
Safe Wildlife Watching in Colorado Spend enough time in Colorado and you'll eventually spot some of our spectacular wildlife. Venture into the high country (especially on foot) and your chances of seeing the inhabitants of our forests and mountains increase drastically. Seeing some Rocky Mountain wildlife can be an unforgettable experience, but a few tips can ensure it is a safe one.

If you're lucky enough to see something special, remember - distance. The general rule is that if you're close enough to affect a wild animal's behavior you're too close. A basic pair of binoculars will allow you to learn about our wildlife and their lives up close, without endangering either party.

Never feed a wild animal - to get a photo or for any other reason. Most animals are naturally cautious around humans. When animals learn to associate humans with food they become less fearful, which can lead to an unpleasant encounter. Even deer can become aggressive under certain circumstances.

If an animal injures a person because someone wandered too close or even provided food, that animal could be killed by a wildlife officer under state law. This is a tragedy that we can prevent with a little common sense. Similarly, innocent people could be injured. I know I wouldn't want to have either on my conscience.

Don't forget that wild animals are just that - wild. Moose are actually far more likely to attack a person than a bear or a mountain lion. If you don't invade their comfort zone or try to feed them, it's extremely unlikely that you'll have a problem. Just be quiet, keep your distance and enjoy the moment. Try not to be preoccupied with getting a photo, and never block a potential exit route.

If you find yourself unexpectedly in the company of a large animal, it's important to know what to do. In most cases, the typical advice is to slowly back away. Give them plenty of room. Talk quietly to ensure they are aware of (but not surprised by) your presence.

Patience is your friend when wildlife watching. If you want to see a particular animal, learn a little about their ideal habitat, and then look for them when you're exploring. You might be surprised at what you see just by sitting for a while.


[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bears colorado deer fromthehighcountry lions mountains photography rocky mountains wilderness safety wildlife Wed, 04 Jun 2014 01:18:04 GMT
SJS50 Training Part 2

Two months had passed since I signed up for the San Juan Solstice 50 mile race. I had switched from winter sports to road running and had already endured one major setback. As March progressed, I began to run greater distances. I ran my first half marathon along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway with snow covering all but the road itself.

Long distance running is hard on the human body. If a run takes more than an hour it's a good idea to consider hydration and nutrition during the run, which means carrying it with you. I bought my extra kit as soon as possible in order to get used to the weight and to learn to make the best use of it.

Towards the end of March, I made an attempt at 17 miles (around a third of the race length). After being dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere, I began the run. Everything felt wrong. I was tired. My kit felt too tight. I took too many breaks and fell far behind my regular pace. The miles passed slowly. Sometimes it takes a few miles to fall into a good groove, but it never came. By the 13 mile mark each step was painful, and I had to quit. That lingering muscle problem was back.

With more than a little doubt in my mind, I spend the next week doing what I called 'rehab runs'. More of a walk/run, each was designed to allow me to cover enough miles for the week without making anything worse. The following week, I ran that 17 miles.



It was time to move up - literally. Having mastered the basics, I decided to begin training at a higher elevation. The highest part of the race is 2.5 miles above sea level, where oxygen levels are around 60% of coastal areas and many states. I needed to begin to work on longer hill climbs and running at high altitudes, but the high country snow pack was still far too deep to even consider running on real trails.

After finding problems with my road shoes, I switched to the shoes I plan to race with. In fact, I began to run with almost all of my race kit. As the temperature hovered a few degrees above freezing, I ran through everything from light sleet to brief blizzards. Still, I began to see the deserted highway in a different way. As you drive along a road, you get a glimpse of the world outside. Run that same stretch of asphalt and you begin to see the world around it, from spring growth to the wildlife inhabitants of the forest beyond.

As the month drew to an end, I was able to cover over 50 miles each week, and my individual runs continued to grow longer. Days between runs became stretching and strength training days. I was getting stronger all the time.

To read part one of my training diary, click here. Part three is here. To learn about my ebook, How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon, click here.

To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.

My attempt at the SJS50 is partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry running san juan solstice sjs50 ultramarathon ultrarunning Mon, 28 Apr 2014 15:03:44 GMT
Spring At Last Spring officially arrived on March 20th, but in the high country of Colorado there have been several days that seemed anything but spring-like since then. There will be more of those days as the season progresses.

Despite new (but light) snowfall in late March and early April, winter is losing its grip. Melting snow left behind a familiar but almost forgotten landscape. Rising daytime temperatures and plentiful moisture create lush green meadows and forests. Just within the space of my own yard, I can see that the native irises (blue flag) and rhubarb are emerging from the freshly thawed ground. The seeds of other plants will soon germinate and perennials will soon thrive again. It is easy for us to forget that a late, snow-filled spring is a good thing. Moisture from the melting snow pack allows healthy plant growth, which in turn provides adequate food for wildlife and reduces the ever-present wildfire threat.

In some areas, the landscape appears just as it was before a blanket of snow covered everything. In others, a reminder of the destructive force of an avalanche is visible in the form of broken and splintered tree trunks.

Even so, this rugged environment is teeming with new life once again. Look closely and you'll see green shoots all around. Rabbits sit and enjoy the afternoon sunshine, and even the local deer seem to develop a more casual walk now that the snow has gone and the days are warmer.

I keep an eye on the distant slopes. At higher elevations, the snow pack is still deep. Underneath all that is where my next adventures lie. Those mountains and forests are calling me louder than ever.

[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry photography seasons snow spring Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:38:03 GMT
SJS50 Training Part 1

It started (to me, at least) as a joke, or perhaps a compliment on the part of those who encouraged me to sign up. The idea of running a course that would make four very good day hikes in less than 16 hours seemed mildly absurd.

I know that ultra-running is an established sport that is steadily growing in popularity, but surely it is something best left to seasoned marathoners. Friends (many of whom had already run the SJS50 at least once) allayed some of my fears, and a sensible-looking training schedule sealed the deal. I signed up online and committed to months of hard work with the click of a mouse.

December 2013 had already been a period of intense bursts of activity. I'd ventured deep into the wilderness on snowshoes on several occasions, but that wasn't going to be enough - not even close. I blew the dust from some old fitness books, studied online forums and websites dedicated to running, and tried to recall my old training methods. Within days, I was on a cycle of snowshoeing, skiing and running (with a day off in-between).



My 'official' training schedule didn't begin until February, but I wanted to hit the ground running - literally. Unfortunately, I didn't see the signs of over-training creeping up on me. They hit as January drew to a close, and suddenly my participation was in doubt.


A muscular injury  was a poor way to begin the month. Not only could I not run, but hiking (my raison d'être) was painful. After a very long week of inactivity, I finally sought the help of a physical therapist (Trent at Heights). Half-expecting to be told to drop out, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my back-country snowshoeing coupled with general over-training was the most likely cause of the problem (snowshoeing in deep snow involves unusual and stressful leg movements). There is no quick fix to this type of condition, but the healing and re-training of muscles is essential.


An ultra-marathon requires a great deal of planning on the runner's part. Unlike the 10K that I'm more familiar with, every piece of equipment must be a perfect fit. A simple blister might be annoying for anything up to a half marathon (13.1 miles), but it could be a race ending problem over 50 miles. With a carefully researched shoe choice, I could finally begin a sensible training schedule. There would be time to learn about hydration, nutrition and everything else as the days and weeks passed.

To read part two, click here. Part three is here. To learn about my ebook, How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon, click here.

My attempt at the SJS50 is partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.

To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry running san juan solstice sjs50 ultramarathon ultrarunning Tue, 11 Mar 2014 23:41:08 GMT
2014 Lake City Ice Climbing Festival If you live in the mountains during winter, it can be a much more enjoyable time if you participate in a winter sport or two. Heavy snow can represent a chance to ski rather than a nuisance. If downhill or cross-country isn't your thing, snowshoeing is another great option.  A few years ago, a more specialized sport came to Lake City - ice climbing.

Lake City Ice Climbs was formed to create an ice wall on cliffs next to Henson Creek and to operate the wall as a free resource. Each year, a contest is held in February, and climbers from Colorado and beyond travel to Lake City to compete.

There are two events that climbers can enter (in addition to climbing for fun on other sections of the wall). The top rope course (left) allows the climber to concentrate on climbing technique, while the more challenging lead climb (right) requires the climber to clip on to anchors as he or she ascends.

The 2014 contest was held on Saturday, February 8th, and was the best attended yet!

To see more images from the the 2014 event, click here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) climbing colorado fromthehighcountry ice climbing lake city lake city ice festival photography Mon, 10 Feb 2014 01:05:48 GMT
Moose Study While most people were enjoying a quiet Sunday morning, several trucks were parked at the side of a dirt road in Hinsdale County, Colorado. As with most operations of this nature, it began with waiting. As greetings were exchanged and the sun rose over a nearby ridge, a fixed-wing aircraft flew over the valley. This would be the Colorado Parks and Wildlife spotter plane.

Radio chatter increased. Soon after, a small and agile helicopter could be heard and then seen above the trees. It landed on the dirt road, next to a carefully positioned refueling truck.

Moose were first introduced to North Park, Colorado in 1978. Since then, they have found ideal habitat in other areas, and there are thought to be well over 2000 in the state. Clearly they are thriving in Colorado, but the situation is very different in other states, where moose are actually in decline.

Biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife want to study the health of Colorado's moose population, and by examining (and then tracking) a representative sample they hope to better understand what is happening. The results of the study will allow CPW to make the best use of a shrinking budget and to protect this majestic animal.

The plan for the day seems simple. The spotter plane will relay sightings to the helicopter crew, who will then tranquilize a suitable moose and land nearby. The ground crew will travel by truck, and then on foot, to meet the veterinarian and biologist from the helicopter crew at the tranquilized moose. This is actually a quite effective strategy, although the rough terrain and deep snow can make a single moose difficult to find.

On reaching a moose, oxygen is administered immediately. The moose is not unconscious, but is very drowsy for a while. Her (only cows are examined) eyes are covered to keep her calm. Then the real work begins. Basic body measurements are taken, along with a blood sample, visual teeth check and an ultrasound (to measure fat layers). Finally, the moose is given ear tags and a GPS tracking collar, and given a drug to counteract the tranquilizer.

The procedure is repeated several times during the morning. Moose blend very well with forested areas, and it is surprising how many can be found using the spotter plane and helicopter technique.

Fieldwork such as this represents a small but essential part of the moose study project. Countless hours of planning and analysis (and yet more fieldwork in other areas) are required if we are to learn more about Colorado's moose population.

To see more images from the set, click here. To see a selection of general wildlife shots, click here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado cpw fromthehighcountry moose rocky mountains wildlife Fri, 31 Jan 2014 15:00:00 GMT
The San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Race As I was passing, I took this shot of the 2012 San Juan Solstice 50 mile race. At the time, the thought of entering the race never entered my mind.

In late December 2013, several friends (who knew of my hiking adventures) somehow convinced me to enter the 2014 race. I've been training in various forms ever since, determined not to fail. I'm more comfortable with middle distance runs and long day hikes, but I'm ready for a challenge!

Entrants from all over the US and beyond travel to Lake City to run the event each year. The race must be run in under 16 hours, but the record is under 8 hours. Much of each entry fee helps to boost the funds of the Hinsdale County volunteer EMTs, a well-trained (but unpaid) group of people who look after residents and visitors alike.

I've been fortunate enough to have Alpine Animal Art cover some of my expenses. A race of this type requires very specific types of kit, but one item I can't buy is time on the trail. I've hiked most of the route at various points, but this race will be a very different experience.

You can find a good route map on the SJS50 website, but you can view scenery from various parts here. I'll expand the selection as I train on the sections over the next few months.

Over the next few months I'll draw on all of my training to get into the best shape of my life. I hope that I can get to that finish line!

Edit: To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. Part three is here.

To learn about my ebook, How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon, click here.






[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry running san juan solstice sjs50 ultrarunning Thu, 23 Jan 2014 17:00:00 GMT
Life In A Small Mountain Town - Revisited Almost exactly two years ago, my plans became reality. I left a comfortable office job behind and threw everything into a simple life in the mountains of Colorado with my ever supportive wife.

Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing, but I certainly wouldn't say that it's for everyone. To live simply in the Rockies, you must have a love for wilderness. I have two National Forests for a backyard, and it costs me nothing but the tread on my boots to spend a day in either one. Since I have the chance to do something I love, I don't have the urge to buy many things that I don't need anymore.

Simple living does have its drawbacks. Even with no desire to 'keep up with the Jones', there inevitably comes a time when having more would make it easier to spend time with (or show support for) friends. This is, however, a small price to pay.

Running a business is much less fun than photography, and I'm still learning the ropes. Still, last summer saw the release of my first book, San Juan Inspirations. I still have much to learn, but each year shows an improvement in sales.

My work has dramatically improved over the time I've lived here. There are some images that I might have been proud of in the beginning that I would now reject without a second thought. I have to be my own critic in this job, and I want my clients to be able to choose from the best.

I've finally found a group of Lake City retailers that are a good fit for my work. The Back Country Navigator, Timberline Craftsman and San Juan Delights are all excellent, and all have their own unique charm. I'm very happy that I can confidently recommend any of these stores to visitors.

I freely admit that I came here for the wilderness. On reflection, I've been very surprised to find that I have met many nice people, made some good friends and a couple of really good ones. It is here that I've found my community.

To view From The High Country photos, click here. To learn more about San Juan Inspirations, click here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photography simple living Thu, 23 Jan 2014 15:00:00 GMT
2013 - A Year In Review One of the perks of being a photographer is that, when the time comes to look back on a year, I can view thousands of images to remind me of some of the photographic highlights. Unfortunately, it is difficult to select just a few for this review of 2013.

After a long wait for snow in the early weeks of 2013 it finally came, as you can see in this shot of the Nellie Creek trail head for Uncompahgre Peak. As the snow continued to fall, I spent as much time recording it as possible. This shot was taken as a winter storm engulfed part of the San Juan Mountains.

Fun though it is, winter cannot last forever. Green shoots push through lingering snow, and fresh growth on trees and shrubs make tasty snacks for local residents.

With the snow almost gone, I was lucky enough to help with the release of a black bear into the wild - my second operation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in just a few months. It was a great opportunity to give something back to the wild places I treasure, and of course to get close to an elusive but magnificent creature. Late spring is a time to explore the high country again. The trails are passable once more, but traces of winter still linger. Here is a memorable shot of Sloan Lake. While this was taken in June, snow fell on two occasions on that day.

As summer arrived and I visited another of my favorite peaks I caught this scene. Wildfires were raging in SW Colorado, and the huge plume of smoke in the distance contrasted sharply with the last signs of the previous winter.

It was around this time that my first book was launched. This was a real labor of love for me, and I hope every owner of San Juan Inspirations is still enjoying it. The second calendar (sold out in mid-December) was also released, and with book signings it was a busy time for me. I took a rare break afterwards, but managed to squeeze in a hike in a remote spot. That day I spotted two black bears in the wild, and even managed to shoot video of the one pictured below.

Sometimes wildlife photography takes a little more work and less luck. I finally got a close view of one of our aquatic mammals! As the summer progressed, I had several more wildlife viewing opportunities, and probably learned to be more patient along the way. A few weeks after the fires, I returned to view the devastation for myself. When I walked into the charred forests, I was pleased to see young aspens, lupines and other plant life breaking through the ashes. Fire is unfortunately part of life in the wilderness. As if to demonstrate that the forests are still full of life, I watched a group of moose grazing one afternoon. This mother and child running through a creek made a memorable image. Mushroom season signals the end of summer, and the first golden aspen leaves confirm that autumn is almost here. My favorite terrain begins a transformation that is fascinating to watch. The forests are spectacular, especially from within!

Even on the valley floor, there was autumnal beauty all around.

 Plunging temperatures and early snow brought the autumn display to an abrupt end. Still, this is one of my favorite shots of 2013, and shows the outcrop known as Sugar Loaf with Crystal Peak in the background. The remaining aspen leaves were highlighted by the snow, offering a display of a different kind. A frozen Lake San Cristobal is a clear sign that winter is here. At the end of another hard year for businesses, I used the quiet time to begin to reflect on the year and to consider ideas for next year. I was also glad to strap on my snowshoes and follow tracks in the snow. To live in the mountains year-round, it helps to enjoy winter sports.

This next photo was the subject of my last blog entry, and is another of my favorites from this year. I've pushed myself further than before, both physically and artistically, and I feel that my work has benefited from it. Perhaps my choice of black and white signifies a slight change in direction. What will 2014 bring?

Thanks for your support and your business in 2013. Have a great 2014!

[email protected] (From The High Country) 2013 black bears colorado fromthehighcountry lake city mountains photography rocky mountains san juan mountains seasons uncompahgre wildfire year in review Mon, 30 Dec 2013 14:45:00 GMT
The Story Behind The Shot

The clock reads 6:00am. Just days from the winter solstice, it's dark outside. My day starts with an equipment check - lens selection, freshly charged batteries, spares. The camera gear is the last to be packed, and sits comfortably on food, extra clothing and emergency gear (always carried, never used).

At the trail head the parking area is empty. While daylight has reached the monotone landscape, the valley is not yet bathed in direct sunlight. Snowshoe adjustment is a race against time for bare hands.

The trail is familiar, or at least it should be. I've hiked this area many times, and I'd like to think that I know the area quite well. Deep snow changed everything. In the early stages, the route was signified by dips in the snow or obvious gaps in the forest. Where the path is not well-worn, I must concentrate if I don't want to waste time or energy on errors.

During the short days of winter, a hike of this nature is a race against time and a battle of wills. It takes a good level of fitness to complete this hike in summer, but now each step is like walking up a sand dune.

It's important to stay hydrated and fueled, and I time breaks to coincide with photo opportunities. I watch the sky for both good lighting and incoming storms, and watch the snow for animal tracks and safe routes. As I stand in mid-morning sunlight to rest for a few seconds, I watch powdery snow melt and run down the olive green fabric of my gaiters. With no wind, I can hear the sound of my own heartbeat.

A surprise lies in the snow. The tracks of a lone moose are clear where the trail cuts across a steep, exposed slope. The snow is over two feet deep in places, and I follow the moose tracks closely. After all, who else knows the back country better?

The trail becomes increasingly more difficult to find, and yet navigation is made easier by the sight of familiar peaks. On an open stretch of ground, I hear an unusual sound. Water is flowing below the snow pack, and the sound is getting louder. Not wanting to break through with a snowshoe, I change direction slightly.

The final approach is covered in at least three feet of loose snow. With each step I sink well over half of that depth, even with good snowshoes. After hours of travel I'm tired and hungry, but my destination is only minutes away if I can just keep moving.

I'm surprised to see the lake not only frozen but indistinguishable from the shore. Snow covers everything but the trees and the vertical rock faces nearby. I walk to the tree line and flatten a small patch of snow in which to rest and try to capture this inhospitable yet beautiful place. Snow beings to fall and a cold wind blows across the frozen lake.

Minutes into my return journey, I revisit to a good vantage point that I'd paused at earlier. A storm is coming, but the mountainous foreground is well lit. Is this the shot I've been looking for? I press the shutter release, adjust my settings slightly, and repeat.  As I follow my tracks downhill, I wonder which of the day's shots will make it past my inspection session the next day, but I have a feeling I already have a favorite.



[email protected] (From The High Country) behind the scenes colorado crystal crystal lake fromthehighcountry lake mountains photography snow winter Thu, 26 Dec 2013 17:37:22 GMT
Winter Survival A high country winter is a time to explore. Once covered in snow, familiar landscapes are transformed into a new monotone world. That world can look as if no other human has ever visited.

While some (like me) enjoy exploring on foot, others see the sights by car or perhaps by snowmobile. Imagine that your car runs into a snowdrift, or you twist an ankle on hidden rocks, or your snowmobile dies (15 mins of snowmobile travels can mean 24 hours of walking without skis or snowshoes). Would you reach for your cellphone? Are you willing to bet your life that you'll get a signal?

Wilderness survival is one of those skill sets that you hope to never need. Still, if you spend time away from the cities, a few fragments of knowledge could save your life. That which makes winter beautiful can also make it unforgiving.

In the wrong circumstances, cold is a killer. Hypothermia begins when the core temperature of a human body drops from 98.6° to 95°, so keeping warm is essential. Hypothermia can creep up on you, so be sure to check on any other members of your party.

If you're forced to spend a night away from shelter, something as simple as a hole dug in snow could save you from lethal winds, which can rob you of precious heat.

Wind chill on exposed skin can rapidly lead to frostbite, a condition that can cause extremities to freeze in extreme cold. Movement and insulation can help to prevent frostbite, so it's a good idea to carry additional clothing whenever there is the slightest chance that you'll need them (a spare coat and gloves, for example).

Even in winter, travel on foot can lead to perspiration. During periods of rest, that perspiration can lead to rapid cooling. Layering of clothing is key here. Only wear what you need to be comfortable - carry the rest.

Snow blindness is another stealthy hazard. Without some form of eye protection, reflected UV radiation on a snow covered mountain landscape can cause a delayed and painful eye condition, which can make a survival situation even worse.

Water crossings can be dangerous at the best of times, but frozen rivers and lakes can be deadly. If you break through, you'll be immersed in near-freezing water, which conducts heat from your body at least 25 times faster than air. Even experts, when crossing ice of unknown thickness, will often prepare a fire in advance. If you can avoid ice, do so.

Aside from warm clothing, probably the most important advice is to stay where you are if you become stuck or lost. Your vehicle is usually easier to spot than you are. Additionally, be sure to let someone know where you plan to go and when you expect to be back.

Some of this might sound discouraging, to say the least. Most people never experience a wilderness emergency, but a little preparation and knowledge could save your life one day.

I couldn't hope to give meaningful advice within the confines of this page, but I do hope that I've provided a little food for thought. Contact me for further reading recommendations.

I'm going to leave you with a short video showing a winter self-rescue drill by the experts. Have a safe, fun winter!

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry mountains safety survival winter Wed, 18 Dec 2013 17:11:45 GMT
Pristine Wilderness Snow blanketed roads, rooftops, the mountains and even the sky. Despite a bitterly cold evening, the morning was quite pleasant once the sun's warmth reached the valley floor. The scene was set for a a great day in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

Snowshoes and poles in hand, I reached the deserted trail head. The layer of snow thickened as the trail rapidly became steep, and no sign of human activity was evident in the white powder. Eager to explore this new landscape, I attached my snowshoes and began an arduous yet enthralling journey into the apparent emptiness.

Simply following a trail in winter requires concentration. Familiar grooves are filled in by drifting snow, and sometimes subtle clues (with a good sense of direction) must be used. Soon the trail opens up and an avenue of trees makes navigation far easier.

As I stop from time to time, I try to regulate my labored breathing while listening to the sounds of the forest. I know this trail, and I've often seen birds, deer, elk and many more inhabitants. I've also seen evidence of more elusive Rocky Mountain wildlife, and they should be easier to spot in heavy snow. This time I can only see the tracks of rabbits and deer. Since the aspens have shed their leaves, even the wind makes little sound.

Eventually I deviate from the main trail and head deeper into the forest. I hope to catch a glimpse of wildlife, and at the same time find a sheltered spot for a lunch break. From the snow-covered forest floor I can rest and take in the beauty of the wilderness and enjoy the peace that solitude brings.

As a new storm approaches and daylight begins to fade, I begin to descend the mountainside (traveling downhill on snowshoes is fun!). I pass long shadows in the forest, and the continual but light snow has already partially filled my tracks.


For more winter images, go here.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry mountains photography snow snowshoes winter Sun, 08 Dec 2013 02:46:23 GMT
A Rocky Mountain Winter The first big winter storm of December is supposedly less than 24 hours away. Many people don't enjoy snow and ice (especially when the expected accumulation is measured in feet), but I find being in a storm an invigorating experience. A blanket of snow is a beautiful sight, but to actually be outside as snow falls all around is magical. The world is silent.

When I experience extreme weather first-hand, I often think of a story I read in a John Muir biography. While in a California forest, John once climbed a tall tree during a wind storm. From the tree-top he experienced the swaying of the tree and the full fury of Nature. He sat in the tree for hours! John was a fellow wanderer and I'm sure we would have been friends.

When the storm comes, I'll head for the hills!



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry john muir nature photography rocky mountains snow winter Tue, 03 Dec 2013 02:43:15 GMT
Season's End As September ends and autumn begins, life in many of Colorado's mountain towns begins to slow down. Most of the summer visitors have left, many local businesses have closed for the season, and the festivals are now just fond memories.

An aerial view of Lake City's Uncorked Wine and Music Festival

An aerial view of Lake City's Uncorked Wine and Music Festival

Although the streets are quiet, the natural world is undergoing dramatic change. Just a few weeks ago, the forests were still filled with wildflowers and mushrooms. Those same forests are now home to carpets of fallen aspen leaves and patches of fresh snow. The seasonal change is particularly abrupt this year.

A golden aspen leaf lies next to fresh snow.

Summer already begins to seem distant as the mountains take on a new character. Peaks are suddenly more challenging environments, with high winds and snow fields. At lower elevations, aspen canopies turn from green to gold to bare in a matter of days, and familiar trails can seem like a completely new experience.

I can't take you to my favorite trails and forests, but I can leave you with this short video experience. Relax and watch the falling leaves.

View more autumn images here, or enjoy four seasons in the high country with my new book (available here).

[email protected] (From The High Country) aspens autumn change city colorado fall fromthehighcountry juans lake mountains photography san seasons Sun, 29 Sep 2013 17:31:56 GMT
Fall Colors As September begins, the signs of autumn are not widespread, but they are apparent in the forests. Mushroom season has peaked, and the first leaves have fallen to the forest floor. Leaves in the canopy are beginning to loose their chlorophyll and will soon turn the characteristic golden color.

Leaves change at different times, which means that one area might be a glorious display of color while the appearance of summer is just a couple of miles away. This means that a photographer must time visits to nature's fireworks quite precisely.

Fall colors are impressive from a distance, but I think they are best viewed from within the forests. When sunlight passes through the translucent leaves, the forest floor is bathed in an orange glow.

Autumn transforms the landscape in a more colorful but less drastic change than winter, but we can be sure that the first snow is not far behind.

To see many more fall photographs from the high country, watch the video below or visit my autumn gallery.


[email protected] (From The High Country) aspen autumn colorado colors fall fromthehighcountry leaves photography Thu, 05 Sep 2013 04:01:55 GMT
Aftermath of a Wildfire In late June and early July of 2013, a number of fires raged in drought-stricken SW Colorado. Three fires came to be know as the West Fork Fire Complex, which covered 110,000 acres by the time it was contained. The town of South Fork was threatened by the fire, but very few structures were lost. The San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests suffered the worst of the destruction.

Since the fire, monsoon rains came to the tinder-dry forests. I visited the scene of the Papoose Fire less than a month after the inferno raged.

Upon entering the charred woodland, a strong smell of smoke lingered in the damp air. The blackened landscape seemed quite foreign. Pine needles and ash mixed to form a soft carpet on the scorched forest floor. Rain and harsh sunlight now penetrated what was once the tree canopy with ease. Trees were now little more than dark trunks. However, there were signs of life in the midst of devastation.

New life blooms in the aftermath of a wildfire. Small plants and even young aspens pushed through the layer of ash as green dots in the monochrome landscape. Fire is a part of a natural process of renewal, and the environment will quickly become more recognizable.

While some scenes give cause for optimism, others still show the horrors of wildfire. Looking skyward, I was reminded of the barren terrain of Ypres and other apocalyptic battlefields.

The fire's perimeter was readily apparent, even from a distance. Green, lush vegetation abruptly turned to black, dead stumps. Fuels, wind and humidity determined which areas would burn and which would be spared.

The edge of the Papoose Fire After closer inspection, the locations of spot fires could be determined. Small 'advance' fires were all-too-easily sparked by flying embers. Now they are strange patches of darkness in an otherwise colorful wilderness.

Scene of a spot fire ahead of a raging wildfire near Creede. Rivers, too, bear the marks of wildfire. From a distance, they seemed to run black with the ash that settled on them or has been washed from bare slopes. Now they are swollen with summer rains that have brought peace to the forests once more.



[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado creede fire fromthehighcountry papoose fire photography south fork west fork fire wildfire Mon, 05 Aug 2013 22:27:09 GMT
An Afternoon With Ursus Americanus It began as a typical summer afternoon. The planned hike was quite short compared to my usual adventures, but the harsh sunlight made me relish the protection of intermittent tree canopies. My destination was a waterfall, but the highlights were to be found off-trail.

The trail followed a creek upstream through a winding valley. Below the trail on the south-facing slope, vegetation was dense and berry-bearing bushes were plentiful. This is excellent bear habitat, but it is easy to become complacent after many hikes without bear sightings. The only signs of wildlife, other than insects, were various tracks across the damp sections of trail.

Little more than 15 minutes from my destination, I looked across the valley as I rounded a corner and noticed an unusual object around 500 ft away. At that distance, it was difficult to identify the golden object under intense sunlight. Suddenly, the round object moved! A blond black bear ambled through steep ground and shrubs, seemingly unaware of my presence.

Immediately, I raised my camera and started to shoot, using the medium telephoto lens to get a better view of the magnificent creature. Within around 20 seconds, the bear had disappeared into dense foliage.

After reaching my destination and relaxing by a high country waterfall, I made my way back down the trail. My thoughts were of the bear, and I wondered if I would catch another glimpse (perhaps a little closer). I looked intently at the opposite side of the valley as I passed the location of the sighting, but the bear was either still hidden or had moved to a new spot in the time that I had been away.

I made my way along the undulating trail, checking my surroundings for movement from time to time. Occasionally, the ripe northern gooseberries were too tempting to resist, and they made a sweet distraction from the still-intense sunlight.

Around an hour passed until I saw a large, dark object to my left. Much close than last time, a different black bear was foraging. Darker than the last one, but seemingly unaware of my presence again, the bear wandered through grass and shrubs in the lush vegetation near the stream. Perhaps 100 ft uphill, a nearby mule deer seemed to sense the bear's presence and changed direction. The bear moved quite slowly, and so I had the chance to observe from a safe distance.

The noise of the stream helped to hide any sounds that I made, so I could experience this rare treat without interruption. Despite his or her size and bulky shape, the bear moved with ease though rough terrain and vegetation, using a very sensitive nose and dextrous paws to search for food.

As I prepared to leave, I exchanged glances with a Native American symbol of strength and courage. After just a few seconds, the bear returned to foraging, and I continued along the trail.

Black bears are facing ever-increasing human encroachment on their habitats. These great animals are worthy of our respect. They are not the killers shown in movies, but they are wild animals that play an important part in the ecosystems of the North American wilderness.

[email protected] (From The High Country) bear black bear colorado fromthehighcountry photography rocky mountains ursus americanus wildlife Wed, 24 Jul 2013 16:00:00 GMT
From The High Country - An Introduction Many new people have discovered From The High Country this year, and so I thought I'd try to gather some interesting information together in one place.

From The High Country is the result of one man's love for both photography and the wilderness. It came to be when I made the decision to leave a career in the city to live a more simple life in the mountains (take a look at my early blog posts to read about this in more detail). I now spend as much time as possible exploring the wilderness of Colorado, and sharing the best scenery through my photography.

If 2012 was about establishing From The High Country, 2013 is about consolidation and development. I created and self-published my first book, San Juan Inspirations, and currently have a selection of my work on display in a prestigious art gallery.

Almost every image you'll see (whether it's on my website, Facebook or elsewhere), is available as a high quality print that can be ordered directly from my website. Just click on an image to get started. Selected images are available on products that are available from me, such as my annual calendar.

You can follow my work by viewing my seasonal galleries from time to time, following me on Facebook, or by checking on some of my other outlets.

From The High Country is not a tourism page, nor is it the work of a large corporation. Everything you see under the FTHC brand is the work of the same person, with the intention of sharing unique perspectives of mountains, streams, forests, and the flora and fauna within. From time to time, you'll see information on new products that feature my favorite pieces (even simple-living photographers have to make a living!).

In order to continue to develop From The High Country, I have created a very brief survey, so please consider spending a couple of minutes here.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me.

[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado from fromthehighcountry inspirations juan juans nature photography san scenes the Thu, 11 Jul 2013 17:43:55 GMT
The Longest Day June and early July are my favorite times to explore the largest mountains that the Southern Rocky Mountains have to offer. While snow can still be found in the high country, trails are passable without winter gear, and the mid-summer afternoon storm season has not yet arrived. The day of the summer solstice, with around 14 hours of daylight, is the perfect time to take a long mountain hike.

The early morning sunlight penetrated the aspens, bathing the trail in a green glow. As the forest canopy thickened, it provided shelter from the heat of the sun.

As the elevation increased, the trees became more widely spaced. The transition into a different life zone was quite readily apparent as the trees were replaced by hardy wildflowers and exposed rocky slopes.

At this time of year, mountain streams swell with runoff from the high peaks. Wildflowers often line the banks of the streams in stable areas. Rushing water and pika or marmot calls are usually the only sounds in these isolated areas.

The first glimpse of the summit ahead and the surrounding peaks is an unexpected pleasure after a long trek to this point. The faint, rocky path ahead beckons.

While the journey and the experiences are really the purpose of a hike like this, reaching the summit is an exhilarating moment - even on familiar peaks. Being able to see for many miles in mountainous country is a rare treat.

Of course, the journey is only half over at this point, and the wilderness has many more experiences in store....
[email protected] (From The High Country) 14er colorado from the high country fromthehighcountry hiking mountains photography redcloud peak rocky mountains san juans solstice summer summit Wed, 26 Jun 2013 16:57:00 GMT
Into The Wild During a harsh Rocky Mountain winter, a patrolling Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer spotted a young, starving black bear. Weighing only 25 lbs, the bear was taken to a CPW rehabilitation facility. Not only did she survive the winter, but she gained over 100 lbs during the next few months, thanks to the dedication of the staff.

On a warm May afternoon, several CPW officers and volunteers met at the Gunnison field office. Minutes later, a small convoy of vehicles headed north to an undisclosed location. At the edge of a forest, far from the nearest town, the vehicles were parked in a small clearing. The group focused on the polished metal container in the back of one of the CPW trucks.

A black bear is released into the wild.

After being moved from the truck bed to a patch of flat ground, the small crowd closed in. A sliding metal panel was removed, and a healthy black bear poked her head out of the box that had been her home for the last few hours.

A black bear emerges from a metal crate

With a brief word of encouragement, the bear bolted for the tree line, stopping only to negotiate a deep snow bank separating her from the safety of the woodland.

Black bear running through snow

Within seconds, only a furry outline could be seen through the trees, and the bear had a new home and a second chance at life in the mountains.

Black bear in the trees

Months of hard work by a dedicated team of CPW staff resulted in a few seconds of action as the well fed bear sprinted for the freedom of the forest. Not every wildlife encounter ends this way, so with this in mind it is perhaps even more meaningful to watch successes such as this one.


Lake City Friends of the Bears would like to thank the team at Colorado Parks and Wildlife for allowing us to be a part of the release, and for the work they to do protect Colorado's wildlife.
[email protected] (From The High Country) Black bear bear bear release bears colorado colorado parks and wildlife from the high country fromthehighcountry gunnison lake city friends of the bears Sun, 19 May 2013 14:08:00 GMT
New for 2013 2013 has already been a busy year for me. I have many exciting things to share with you!

First of all, let me show you some new From The High Country products.

San Juan Inspirations

For the first time ever, I'm able to offer a photography book. I've done everything except print them myself! I painstakingly selected some of my favorite images, including some never seen before, to give an inspiring portrait of the San Juan Mountains (part of the Colorado Rockies). Read more about the book (and how to get a copy) here.

Scenes From The San Juans 2014

My second From The High Country calendar follows the same high standards of design as my new book. As a result it is even better that the highly successful 2013 edition! Read more about the calendar here.

Limited Edition Poster

Due to the popularity of one of my winter images, I have decided to print a small number of posters. Limited to 25 copies, they're sure to sell out soon, so don't hesitate! Read more about the poster here.

Don't forget that every From The High Country image is available as a print (from an 8x10 to 24x36) or on metal, glass or canvas. Just select your favorite images and make your choices. Get a $5 discount on a purchase of $30 or more when you use this coupon code: 5OFF30

Now, I'd like to let you know about some 2013 events and places where you can find me and my work.

Book Signing - Saturday, June 8th (to be confirmed).

To celebrate the launch of San Juan Inspirations, I'll be available to sign copies of the book at the Silver Lynx gift gallery in Lake City during the afternoon.

Anthony Gallery Exhibition - July 8th to 29th.

I'm proud to have been invited to display a selection of my work at Lake City's Moseley Arts Center during the month of July. The exhibit begins with a reception at 5pm on July 8th.

If you find yourself in Lake City this year, you can always find a selection of From The High Country products at the Silver Lynx gift gallery. A small selection of canvas wraps can be found at the new High Country Market store.

Need a Lake City map? Download one here!



[email protected] (From The High Country) 2013 book calendar fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photography photojournal rocky mountains san juan inspirations san juan mountains scenes from the san juans self-published book Sun, 05 May 2013 14:51:00 GMT
Rocky Mountain High Today marks the 44th Earth Day. It's a time to think about our connection with the planet. I feel fortunate to be able to constantly follow the changing seasons in the Rocky Mountains, although the average backyard is full of wondrous sights for those who look closely. Close to home, wildflower seeds are beginning to sprout. Meanwhile on the distant slopes, the snow is receding and shrubs are becoming green again. The aspens are budding, and soon the leaves will be quaking in the wind.

Spring in the Rockies requires flexibility and patience. After an unusually mild winter, over twelve inches of snow fell in one early April day.

Some days are reminders of the amazing high country summers, while others are marked by morning snowfall that melts and evaporates by late afternoon. The prehistoric rock of the highest peaks is very slowly being uncovered.

I chose Rocky Mountain High as the title of this post because it seemed highly appropriate. As both the second state song of Colorado and the most famous song by John Denver (who was extremely passionate about the Rocky Mountains), it's a good choice for Earth Day. The second line, "...coming home to a place he'd never been before", resonates with me. I'll always remember how it felt to arrive in Colorado.
[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado earth day from the high country fromthehighcountry john denver rocky mountain high rocky mountains snow spring Mon, 22 Apr 2013 15:00:00 GMT
As the Snow Melts On this first day of spring, I can look around and see that, while the snow around my house can only be found in grimy-looking piles, the mountains are still blanketed. My favorite trails are still buried under several feet of snow. Still, the big thaw is happening, even if it isn't always readily apparent.

The first green shoots and, even better, the first flowers are just weeks or maybe days away. For me, watching the wilderness change is like a gardener and his or her prize tomatoes, or even an animal lover and a young pet. So many people look for a meadow or an aspen stand, but there is also incredible beauty in a fresh leaf or an intricate flower.

With many dirt roads and worn trails, the springtime melting leads to a 'mud season', which is not much fun. Even so, it is an essential part of the yearly cycle of life. Melting snow and ice in the mountains fills streams and rivers, and allows plant life to flourish, which in turn provides food for wildlife.

In some ways, spring is a very dramatic time of the year. In a matter of weeks, the natural world transitions from night (winter) to a new dawn (spring).

This spring will mark a new beginning for From The High Country, too. My new book, San Juan Inspirations will be released this summer, as will a new-look 2014 calendar. To learn more about the book, click here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) changing seasons colorado fromthehighcountry melt meltwater photojournal rocky mountains san juan inspirations self-published book spring wilderness wildlife Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:23:00 GMT
Wildlife Conflict It is an unfortunate fact of life that where people choose to live, there are often problems with wildlife. Perhaps the local deer take a liking to flower beds or cross the road just as people drive by, or maybe a bear tears open a bag of trash. When people and wildlife meet, it is up to us to adapt. After all, it's a small price to pay for living away from the cities and suburbs, and we can hardly negotiate with nature! We have to keep attractants away from the bears, and either sacrifice a few flowers or protect them with wire.

Last year, at least five bears were killed in the small town of Lake City, Colorado. Each case was different, but many would agree that fear and ignorance were common factors. With a year-round population of around 400, that would mean that roughly one bear died for every 80 residents. I wonder if the many wildlife lovers who visit would feel comfortable with those figures.















While there are strong feelings on both sides, it is not something that is discussed very often (although there are a few passionate people working to change this). Some people think nothing of exploiting pictures of distressed bears in order to attract business, but do nothing to prevent more unnecessary bear fatalities.

Chris Parmeter, a wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, wrote a painfully honest account of his dealings with so-called problem bears, and the harrowing, tragic final encounter he had with one bear. I encourage you all to read it, especially if you live in or visit bear country - click here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bears chris parmeter colorado colorado parks and wildlife lake city lake city colorado visit lake city wildlife Wed, 20 Mar 2013 16:14:00 GMT
Life in a Small Mountain Town These days, most of us live in cities. Usually, the biggest problem is deciding which restaurant or mall to visit. Many people live, work and play in the same city, and would never have to leave if they didn't want to. Of course, there is a downside. Congestion, crime and pollution are all problems that many cities are faced with.

Imagine leaving it all behind. No more chain stores, malls, overpasses, toll roads or multiplexes. It isn't for everyone. My nearest large grocery store is 50 miles away. I don't even know where the nearest mall is. If you're looking for a quiet place to live and don't count shopping as a pastime, perhaps a small town is right for you.

That's not to say that there are no stores in my small town. There are many hard working people who do their best to provide services to residents and visitors, but when the summer visitors leave there is a limit to what a small town can support, and many businesses close during Colorado's harsh winters. If you decide to live year-round in a small town, it's important to plan ahead. For example, if you're going to have a dinner party in a week or so, be sure to get those unusual spices and drinks when you're in the city. Incidentally, learning to cook well is a good idea when most restaurants are closed for part of the year.

Why live in a small town if it's so much work? For me, it was an easy choice because I'm surrounded by mountains and forests! An unexpected bonus was the sense of community that is readily apparent. I've made many great friends in this town - far more than I did when I lived in a city. Perhaps it takes a certain type of person to live here.

I'd be lying if I didn't mention the dark side of small towns (at least from my experience). While the local bar might be reminiscent of Cheers, there are times when First Blood has been more appropriate in some aspects of town life. There are a small number of truly unpleasant, churlish people who desperately want to feel important. These people are present in every town, but are more noticeable in a population of 400 people. Don't join the right group, upset the wrong person, or raise a point that they didn't think of and you and your business risk being ostracized by their clique.

It's important to ignore such petty disputes, but as a result it is not possible for town residents to work together and reach their collective potential. Still, no town is perfect. After all, I came here for what lies beyond the town limits....

Still interested in small town life? Here's a list of 25 great Colorado towns to visit:
25 small Colorado towns to visit under $100
[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado colorado vacation lake city lake city, colorado mountain town small town small town life Thu, 28 Feb 2013 11:42:00 GMT
Ice Festivals Sometimes, you wait for weeks for a winter event and then two come along at once!

At this time of year in the San Juan mountains, one thing you can rely on is ice. Temperatures reach as low as -25°F, and the ice of Lake San Cristobal slowly thickens over the winter months. Meanwhile, an ice wall is carefully farmed by Lake City Ice Climbs next to Henson Creek (water is sprayed over a rock face and allowed to freeze).













In early February each year, The Lake City Balloon Festival (also known as the Snowmobile and Hot Air Balloon Festival), is held on Lake San Cristobal, which provides a perfectly flat site for launching hot air balloons. The balloon colors brighten up the winter mountain landscape.

Lake City Hot Air Balloon Festival

Depending on the weather conditions, hot air balloon rides are sometimes available, but you don't have to ride to enjoy the views!

Riding in a hot air balloon over Lake San Cristobal

You can see a slideshow of From The High Country images from the 2012 Balloon Festival here:
2012 Lake City Hot Air Balloon Festival 

For a slightly more active winter pastime, there's the Lake City Ice Climbing Festival. While some climb for fun, others compete for the best times.

Ice climbing at Henson Creek, Lake City
Reaching the finish can be exciting!

The event is well-attended by competitors and spectators alike!
The Lake City Ice Climbing Festival
You can see a slideshow of From The High Country images from the 2012 Ice Climbing here:
If you're going to be at either event this year, download my free Lake City Map!
When the events are over, you'll find photos in my 2013 event galleries: Balloons and Climbing
02/13/13: Unfortunately, the 2013 Balloon Festival was cancelled at the last minute due to unsuitable weather conditions. However, the ice climbing went ahead and was the best-attended year so far!
[email protected] (From The High Country) from the high country fromthehighcountry hot air balloons lake city lake city balloon festival lake city colorado lake city ice climbing festival lake city ice climbs lake city map Sat, 02 Feb 2013 12:25:00 GMT
A Helping Hand The outside thermometer read -24°F as the sun rose in Lake City. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife truck pulled into the driveway as one last gear check was performed. We greeted Lucas Martin (Lake City's local CPW officer) and drove to our rendezvous point, where we met with staff and volunteers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the US Forest Service. We had all gathered to work with the precious cargo in one of the truck beds; two 90lb bear cubs.

In the summer of 2012, a sow was shot and killed when it entered an open window at a house near Powderhorn. Two young cubs were later discovered with the sow, and they were both transported by CPW to Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near Del Norte.  Lucas considered both cubs to be good candidates for rehabilitation, and were cared for by staff and volunteers for the rest of 2012. Weighing only 20lbs each upon their arrival, the cubs were fed a natural diet (while minimizing human contact) until they were considered ready for release.

After introductions between the group of ten, we drove to a staging area where it was necessary to switch to snowmobiles. While the bears were comfortable in a straw-lined box (which would form the heart of the artificial den), the team worked to load hay bales and associated equipment on sleds before setting off into the wilderness in convoy.

Rescued black bears being transported to a release site.
Hay bales and bears!

Sunlight penetrated the tree canopy on the clear, cold January morning. We could travel no further on snowmobiles due to the terrain, and prepared our equipment again, as we would be traveling on foot from this point.

Moving hay bales to an artificial bear den.
Hauling hay through dense forest.

We verified the location of the previously-scouted den site, and then quickly organized into teams to carry and drag hay bales through knee-deep snow to an isolated yet sheltered spot. Finally, the two cubs (still comfortable in their temporary home) were hauled on a steel sled through the snow and brush by a team of six.

Moving bears through the wilderness by hand is a team effort.

An artificial den must provide insulation and protection for the inhabitants. Their container home is sited in a location that a wild bear might choose, and is then surrounded by hay bales for insulation and extra nesting material. The hay is, in turn, covered with snow and nearby fallen branches. This provides yet more insulation, camouflage and protection. The bears are able to leave their new home via a  hay-covered entrance.

Using natural materials to finish the den structure.



 The finished den receives a final covering of snow.

After a last look at our achievement (the bears will not be visited again), we re-traced our steps to our waiting snowmobiles where we rode off into the wilderness. We left behind two warm, well-fed bear cubs who have every chance of living a normal life in the San Juans.

Left to right:  Christa Beiriger, Craig Palmer, Kevin Suellentrop, Eric Flickinger, Michael Sirochman, Patrice Palmer, Danny Zadra, Lucas Martin, Mike Fuller, Nick Gallowich, and Brooke Vasquez.
Not pictured, but vital to the operation, is Chris Parmeter who took the group photo.

We'd like to thank Lucas Martin for inviting us to help with the relocation, and the whole team for their hard work and dedication. All too often, bears become habituated to humans and cannot be saved. Lake City Friends of the Bears is very grateful to have played a small part in this rare success story.
[email protected] (From The High Country) bears black bears from the high country lake city friends of the bears Wed, 16 Jan 2013 02:45:14 GMT
Another Door Opens 2012 has been an important year for me. This was the first year that I've spent in the mountains that that I've chosen to live in, and the first that I've been able to concentrate on building a body of work that I can be proud of.

I feel privileged to have been able to study the wilderness through the seasons. With every experience, I've learned a little more about the rich world that lies in the forests and mountains.  Each season brings new sights and smells to familiar trails, and sometimes the changes are so dramatic that the views are barely recognizable. The change from autumn to winter is particularly abrupt.


"Why do you flee so soon, sir, to the theaters, lecture-rooms, and museums of the city? If you will stay here awhile I will promise you strange sights. You shall walk on water; all these brooks and rivers and ponds shall be your highway. You shall see the whole earth covered a foot or more deep with purest white crystals . . . and all the trees and stubble glittering in icy armor."

The end of a year is traditionally a time for new beginnings, and possibly reflection on the time that has passed. I hope to be able to share From The High Country images with many more people in 2013, and I'm grateful to clients and supporters who have followed me through 2012.

From The High Country Photography wishes you a Happy New Year!

If you'd like to help by providing some feedback, you can do so via my new questionnaire.

I'm excited to see what 2013 will bring, and I hope you'll join me. Have a Happy New Year!
[email protected] (From The High Country) 2013 autumn fromthehighcountry happy new year henry david thoreau lake city new year photography survey thoreau winter Sat, 29 Dec 2012 13:11:00 GMT
On Self Reliance

“Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.”  Thoreau

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”  Emerson

'Self reliance' is a term that means different things to different people. To some it might mean chopping firewood, while to others it might mean financial independence. In rural areas especially, self-reliance has come to mean the ability to grow and store your own food, or perhaps advanced wilderness skills.

All of the aforementioned really are forms of self-reliance. The learning of new skills result in an increased level of independence. During these stressful modern times, this skill set provides security. However, the most important form of self-reliance is not a physical skill.

Critical thinking and the ability to hold on to your unique thoughts in the face of opposition are skills that are essential to to the self-reliant mind, which is in turn essential to a truly self-reliant person. Think of Henry Thoreau and John Muir. Both lived alone in the wilderness according to their own philosophies, and both had many other options. They often serve as inspiration in my own life.

Mental self-reliance  is an incredibly broad subject, so I won't attempt to cover it all here. Simply taking responsibility for your actions and your well-being is an important start.

I highly recommend the works of Muir, Thoreau and Emerson if you'd like to learn more, especially during this time of new beginnings.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”  John Muir

To view From The High Country images, click here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) emerson fromthehighcountry individualism muir philosophy self reliance self-reliance thoreau Sat, 29 Dec 2012 13:08:00 GMT
Waiting For Winter

The summer visitors and festivals are long gone, but they've left behind a sense of peace. The roads and trails are especially quiet during this period.

In the time between autumn and winter, it would be easy to think that there is little to see in the high country. Still, if you can appreciate the simple things, there is always a new discovery to be made.

On this Black Friday I'm enjoying the silence outside, and the views of the mountains that I'm getting to know like good friends. Living a simple life means that it isn't always possible to take part in the big sales and shopping trends, but a walk in the wilderness is worth more to me than any gift or gadget that I can think of.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”  John Muir

To catch up with my latest work at From The High Country, you can go here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography mountains wildness san juans winter colorado john muir snow wilderness simple living fromthehighcountry autumn Fri, 23 Nov 2012 13:23:00 GMT
Behind the Mask After the unexpected level of interest in a recent self portrait, I thought I'd give some insight into the man behind the images.

When I formed From The High Country, I wanted to convey something in the name. Firstly, I wanted it to be memorable. Secondly, I wanted to be very clear that FTHC is purely about the images rather than a photographer's ego. When clients buy my work, I hope that it is because of the quality of the images instead of who shot them.

Over the last year, I've discovered that there is still some interest in the man behind the camera, so I hope you'll find this post interesting and perhaps enlightening.

I grew up in a flat part of the world, but I was always drawn to nature. One of my earliest memories is of spotting deer in a forest clearing during an unusually harsh winter. Since then, forests and mountains have always brought an intense feeling of relaxation.

It was always a dream of mine to live in the wilderness. Life has a habit of getting in the way and distracting a person, but eventually it became a possibility by living simply and sacrificing a few modern comforts in exchange for my current surroundings. These days, photography is a difficult way to make a living. Show me five wealthy photographers and I'll show you four liars!

I want my work to remain affordable. While some price their product to give the idea that expensive means good, I want everyone to be able to hang my work in their homes. Since times are especially tough, I regularly post images online to give those who may be struggling the chance to at least view some uplifting imagery.

When my clients buy a From The High Country print, they should have a reasonable expectation that each shot is of the highest quality. You won't see many of the classic tourism shots on my website, and you won't see many easy roadside shots either. I must find my own inspiration, so I pack up my camera and lenses and hike into the wilderness to show you the places that few people go. I don't over-process images simply because the Rocky Mountains don't require enhancement.

I believe it's important for a photographer to have his or her own style, and that is something that develops organically over time. When I look back even a couple of years I can see significant improvements and a recognizable style due to practice, dedication and passion for both my craft and my subjects.

I hope you found the above interesting and that you have a new understanding of my motivations and goals.  Thank you to all of my clients (past, present and future) and to my followers. I hope you'll consider buying my work and giving it a place in your home, knowing that I gave it my all to bring it to you.

To view and buy From The High Country images, click here.
To buy the 2013 calendar, click here.

If you ever have any questions or comments, you can leave a comment here or on my website guestbook, send a message via Facebook or send me an email.
[email protected] (From The High Country) art from the high country fromthehighcountry photographer photography simple living wilderness Mon, 05 Nov 2012 10:04:00 GMT
Winter Approaches As winter approaches and I prepare the cabin for the coming snow, I sometimes pause to reflect on the year that has passed by so quickly. While it was the same length as any other year, I feel that I've always been here, and that this is where I belong.


People have asked me if I still enjoy the wilderness, or if I still find interesting subjects for my work. The truth is that as I spend more and more time in the high country forests and mountains, my fascination only grows.


Each time I venture into the wilderness I learn a little more about my surroundings simply by being present and receptive to the lessons of the natural world.

Light snow has fallen in my small town for two consecutive nights. Although the afternoon sunlight causes the snow to melt, each morning brings opportunities to view wildlife tracks and picturesque glimpses of the winter to come.

Please visit From The High Country for more of my recent images, or take a look at the new "Scenes From The San Juans" 2013 calendar.
[email protected] (From The High Country) autumn calendar fall fromthehighcountry photography snow winter Fri, 26 Oct 2012 13:41:00 GMT
Season's End Change seems to be constant in the forests and mountains of the San Juans. Familiar trails often yield fresh surprises to the keen observer.


Mushroom season was spectacular but seemingly brief. Individual mushrooms grow to maturity within a few days, and the various species bring additional color to the forest floor at a time when most wildflowers have already peaked.

For the last three weeks, I've been fortunate enough to follow the changing aspen leaves. As I write, I can see golden patches on the surrounding hills, while some aspen stands nearby are already bare.

Though the days are still warm, the first sightings of light snow on nearby peaks have been made. Less than a week ago, I was caught mid-shoot in heavy snow! Just 45 minutes later the sun was shining, and only in shaded areas could evidence of snow be found.

Today is the first official day of fall, which is marked by the autumnal equinox. Due to the early display of fall colors this year I decided to switch from the summer to autumn gallery at FTHC.  Since many of you probably haven't had the chance to see the golden aspens, I also put together this slideshow:

I hope you enjoy the show! Please visit From The High Country for more beautiful images of Colorado.
[email protected] (From The High Country) aspen aspens colorado fall fall colors fall foliage foliage fromthehighcountry leaves photography Fri, 21 Sep 2012 23:01:00 GMT
Fortune Telling We all make plans at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes those plans are little more than a wish and little comes of those ideas. Even when carefully thought-out, we cannot control the future to the extent that each plan will become reality. Often we focus on certain aspects and subconsciously block problems, but perhaps that allows us to reach for the unlikely goals.

During my travels and exploration of the San Juan mountains, I often think of those who built the enduring structures that I find. Those people risked everything to reach their goals, and many lost their money or even their lives, while some prospered.

At the beginning of this year, I left a life in the city behind (seemingly abruptly, but it was the result of careful planning) and moved to the mountains that I now call home. I knew that I would inevitably make mistakes, but it is our ability to adapt and overcome that makes real success possible.

Through a series of coincidences I was recently able to secure space in a local downtown gift gallery, and I now have nearly 20 pieces on display. I'm fortunate to have such a great opportunity to reach people with my work offline, but I could not have taken so many variables into account and planned for this.

I believe that the only real failure is to do nothing. By taking no chances, you can almost guarantee that nothing will change.  With calculated risks and the resilience to adapt to changing circumstances, we can achieve much.

As I look outside I can see the leaves on my aspens beginning to change. Fall is coming...

To view new summer images, click here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) autumn change fall fromthehighcountry risk summer Mon, 27 Aug 2012 14:10:00 GMT
Pathfinders My small town has two cemeteries. There is an 'old' one and a 'new' one, although both contain the graves of those who died many decades ago. The town was incorporated before Colorado became a state, so there is a great deal of history within the boundaries of the cemeteries.

Life in the mountains was hard at the turn of the last century. Infant mortality rates were evidently very high, and many adults only lived into their 40's. While headstones did not list a cause of death, those that did described accidents, which is of little surprise in this environment, especially when mining was the main industry during the early years.

Despite being next to the busiest road, the cemeteries were very peaceful. Tall trees provided cover from the midday sun, and the slopes were covered with leaf litter rather than the usual grass. Playful squirrels provide light relief from contemplation and introspection.

The various inscriptions would give anyone cause for reflection. Many of the people who died here were pioneers who gave life to my town. The headstones ranged from simple wooden markers to hand carved marble, giving an indication of each person's wealth at the time of their death.

Some inscriptions listed achievements such as government positions or military ranks. At least four people undertook the same long journey as I did to get here (albeit by an entirely different mode of transportation). Other stones left no clues as to the lives that the deceased lived. All we can tell is that someone cared enough to leave a lasting record.

I don't have great aspirations to become a politician or to amass a fortune, but if the visit has taught me anything, it is that I should continue to follow my dreams, and that the bonds we make are far more important than a bank balance. Plan for tomorrow but live for today.
[email protected] (From The High Country) cemeteries fromthehighcountry life philosophy photography wildlife Thu, 09 Aug 2012 15:58:00 GMT
Wilderness Safety I spend so much time (on here, through my photography and in person) advocating for the great outdoors that I thought that describing a few safety tips would be the responsible thing to do.  My audience covers a wide range of abilities, and I'll do my best to keep it interesting for everyone.

Getting lost is probably the most common reason that people get into trouble, whether they are hiking or driving along forest roads. One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone is to bring a map and know know to use it. A compass is almost as important. GPS units are fun gadgets but I still wouldn't leave home without a map as a back-up. Check your position from time to time and you'll have a last known position to return to if you do take the wrong trail.

Injuries are probably the second most common reason for rescue situations. Sometimes they can't be avoided, but some simple preparations can stop you from being a statistic. Wear appropriate footwear for the terrain. Don't be afraid to explore, but know your limitations. Don't try a class 3 mountain trail if you're new to hiking. Be aware of your surroundings and the weather. Lightning can and does kill on exposed peaks.

Extremes of heat and cold can be dangerous if you don't have the right clothing and protection. Heatstroke is just as debilitating as hypothermia. Conditions in many wilderness areas can change rapidly, so bring spare clothing.

Sightings of elusive or beautiful creatures are often a highlight of a long hike in the wilderness. Many can be dangerous, but none should scare you away from enjoying the outdoors. I've spent time in snake and scorpion country, and the best advice is to be alert. Know where they can be found and be very cautious in those areas. This is true for most other dangerous animals. Learn about them and respect them, but don't fear them. Don't antagonize an animal and be surprised when it defends itself.

Food and Water
Hiking at high altitudes requires more food and water than usual. Bring more water than you think you'll need until you're used to your body's needs. Don't drink untreated water.

A cellphone might just save your life if you're in real trouble, but don't assume that you will be able to get a signal. It isn't an alternative to carrying the essentials and being prepared. A good quality whistle is a cheap signalling device that will always work.

Other Kit
Whenever I hike I have all I need in my pack to be able to survive overnight. That doesn't mean enough to be comfortable. I carry a back country first aid kit,  survival blanket and homemade survival kit (no bigger than an Altoids tin) in addition to the things I've mentioned. They don't weigh much and I often forget I have them, but they may allow me to self-rescue one day.

Knowledge is the most useful thing you can bring with you, whatever your chosen activity. Take a first aid course, spend a day with a experienced friend, and don't forget to check the weather forecast before you go!

I hope this has been helpful. There is only so much that I can cover in one post. If you've especially enjoyed this, or any of the previous topics, let me know.

If you enjoyed the images, you can find more here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry hiking photography safety survival wilderness Tue, 24 Jul 2012 20:06:00 GMT
Technique I've avoided this topic until now because it seems almost arrogant to preach to others about technique when every photographer has something to learn. Still, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the subject today.

As I might have mentioned previously, I believe that the two most important qualities that a photographer should possess are the ability to effectively compose a shot and a passion for the chosen subject matter. Without both of these, expensive equipment and technical knowledge is largely wasted. I've taken several photos with a good quality point-and-shoot camera that are worthy of inclusion alongside my best dSLR shots. Once a photographer masters the basics, he / she can begin to invest in better equipment, but simply owning a new dSLR does not make a person a photographer.

Digital photography makes traditional developing obsolete. Processing is now done with photo editing software. This does not mean that a digital photo is always 'doctored', but a digital darkroom should almost always be used.

Occasionally, there is a need to perform more serious editing to an image, but this should not be done as a result of poor composition.. In this case, a client requested the following change, from this:

to this:

Digital editing should be used to enhance a photo, not to rescue a poor shot. If in doubt, take it again. Poor editing is just as bad as poor photography.

Software has allowed the use of several new techniques in addition to new versions of trusted methods such as filters. One new tool, which is quite divisive among photographers, is High Dynamic Range imaging. This technique results in more intense, more saturated and often surrealist images. It takes skill to do properly, but you will not see examples on my website. I freely admit that I am not a fan. It can make a mediocre image much more impressive, but the final image is no longer a representation of reality. I prefer to seek out the outstanding scenes and capture the natural beauty in the high country. I suppose that makes me a traditionalist in some way, but I don't believe that a great photo requires this kind of enhancement. Every photographer has his or her style, and I'd like to think that my love for the outdoors (and willingness to go much further than a roadside spot to bring those images to my audience) is evident in my work.

Just for fun, here are a couple of highly edited versions of my work. They are interesting, but I wouldn't hang them on my wall!

Did you know that there is now a From The High Country email list? Sign up at the Facebook page or click 'subscribe' on the FTHC website. You can also subscribe to this blog!
[email protected] (From The High Country) composition editing fromthehighcountry photographer photography photoshop technique Sun, 15 Jul 2012 12:53:00 GMT
Transitions For the last few weeks, the threat of wildfire has loomed over my adopted home. Smoke drifted in the air from time to time, and we all wished for rain to come. At the time of writing, several of Colorado's fires are contained, and heavy rain has been very helpful in reducing the chances of new fires. Daily showers have boosted the growth rate of my fledgling wildflower garden, and an occasional morning walk to check on the seedlings is always an uplifting experience.

Meanwhile, in the high country the flowers fill some of the nearby valleys and gulches with color. Streams and summer showers provide perfect conditions for growth. Dozens of different species can be found once a visitor begins to notice the subtle differences.

I moved from a city with a population of 800,000 to a town of 400 people. The differences didn't end with the surroundings, building types, highways or accents. A small town is a community, and this particular one is home to a lot of friends. I think that the town is really at its best on Independence Day.

You can see the July 4th gallery here, and the new wildflower collection here.

Finally, I've been working on a couple of new projects. I've designed a free desktop calendar for July, and there is a new FTHC email sign up option. The first edition will be released over the next day or two. Thanks for reading!
[email protected] (From The High Country) 4th of july calendar colorado flowers from the high country fromthehighcountry independence day lake city paintbrush photography wildfire wildflowers Sat, 07 Jul 2012 11:08:00 GMT
A Solstice Celebration It seemed appropriate to celebrate the first day of summer by spending most of it outside. The weather was perfect for a long hike and one of Colorado's highest peaks was the goal.

The trail ascends sharply immediately after crossing a large stream, but shelter from the morning sun is provided by dense woodland. In the many small clearings, wildflowers are abundant. The beautiful death camas is in full bloom, and native columbines are irresistible to honey bees.

The clearings become larger until the treeline is reached and the mountains ahead become readily visible, while distant peaks can be seen when looking back toward the trailhead.


Mountain streams and carpets of wildflowers greet visitors and give evidence of last winter's snowpack. Marmots thrive in the nearby boulder fields and scree slopes and, aside from a few dry seasonal tributaries, there is little evidence of drought. Marsh marigolds line the upper streams until one final crossing leads the hiker away from the lush vegetation and into an arid, alpine environment.

Direction changes in the rocky trail lead to rapid elevation gains, allowing ever more impressive views of the valleys and mountains all around. The trail then becomes very steep, and the final ascent is an exhilarating 10 minutes of scrambling before a surprisingly simple walk along a windy ridge to the summit (marked by a USGS benchmark).

With no sign of adverse weather, the solstice afternoon was a perfect time to be at 14,000 ft.

"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." Henry Thoreau

All images shown in this post can be found in my summer gallery.
[email protected] (From The High Country) colorado columbines fromthehighcountry fthc handies handies peak landscape mountains nature photography rocky mountains snow solstice wilderness wildflowers Tue, 26 Jun 2012 15:44:00 GMT
Back In Time I recently had the opportunity to visit a place that I hadn't been to in 10 years. It holds a special significance because the first visit played a big part in the decision to live in the mountains.

When I first arrived here, I initially thought that I'd never want to leave, and I suppose that is still true, but I haven't lost the urge to explore. In fact, that urge has only intensified since I've been in Colorado.

Forgotten memories flooded back in that town. Little had changed, except ownership of a few businesses (an all-too-often occurrence in mountain towns). Most significantly, I remembered how I felt when I realized that I wanted to call the Rockies home, and I remembered the struggle to make it happen in the years that followed.

Life is not always easy. Everyone has their own unique set of problems. I believe it is how you manage them and maintain or even cultivate your sense of curiosity and playfulness that really matters.

Henry Thoreau once wrote "However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts."
[email protected] (From The High Country) change fromthehighcountry fthc mountains ouray philosophy photography thoreau Tue, 26 Jun 2012 14:24:00 GMT
Over The Divide 12 miles and 3200ft. While accurate, these figures are completely inadequate when describing a late spring hike in the Gunnison National Forest. Wager Gulch offers a variety of terrain and is accessible by both hikers and motorized vehicles since the trail is actually County Road 36, a high-clearance dirt road. The beginning of the trail is lined with blackberries and currant bushes, while forest on either side offers protection from the sun. Bluffs seem to offer good growing conditions for western red columbines.

The trail soon meets with the roaring Wager Gulch creek and crosses it as lupines replace columbines and aspens dominate the forest. Alert hikers might find Chief Snarling Bear in the western rock face.

chief snarling bear

As the trail continues to climb towards the Continental Divide, a reminder of the season and the altitude can be seen in the form of ice where the west fork of the creek flows across the roadway.

The road exists because of the town of Carson, which in turn existed because of silver deposits in the nearby mountains.  Solitary roadside cabin remains mark the final approach to the townsite, which is a welcome sight after a couple of hours of hiking.

The ghost town of Carson

The ruins of Carson lie on private land but are accessible by one more water crossing. The buildings have been protected with modern profiled steel roofing, but upon close inspection it is clear that they have suffered at the hands of casual visitors. The town site's accessibilty by jeep have left it vulnerable to vandalism and the interior of several structures is a depressing sight.

Still, all is not lost. In fact, I like to think of Carson as a decoy in some ways. The real treasure lies on the other side of the Continental Divide and is only found by the curious since, like all true treasures, Old Carson is hidden from view.

Old Carson fell into disuse when the price of silver dropped in 1893, and the Carson that most people know was built when gold was found in the mines adjacent to the 'new' site. Now moose and marmots occupy the area.

A friendly marmot.

There are at least two collapsed / backfilled vertical shafts in the area, and all the usual hazards associated with abandoned buildings, so be extremely cautious if you do decide to explore.

A backfilled abandoned mine shaft.

Careful study of the area reveals remains of shoes, many cans and a few fragments of stoneware, all providing clues to the lifestyles of the inhabitants. Mining equipment still remaining includes an intact boiler and winding drum.

The area is littered with prospect holes and tailings, yet there are magnificent views in every direction that offer their own rewards.

Did you enjoy this post? I enjoy hearing from you!
Most of these photos (and many more like them) are available at, where you can buy prints, view slideshows and create your own favorite list that you can share with friends.
[email protected] (From The High Country) carson colorado columbines fromthehighcountry ghost town marmots mining photography wildflowers Tue, 12 Jun 2012 22:01:00 GMT
Once In A Lifetime

I think of the large herd of bighorn sheep that were enjoying the early spring weather when I happened to have my longest (and heaviest) lens with me. My once in a lifetime events happen much closer to home, or at least much closer to me.

An unexpected discovery can make a life-long memory (for me, at least) far more meaningful than a long-planned event. Once again, it is the little things that matter, and I can think of no better way to spend my days than photographing them.

Images in this post can be found here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography nature philosophy fthc colorado once in a lifetime deer bighorn fromthehighcountry Thu, 07 Jun 2012 21:19:00 GMT
Hidden Depths

Hiking allows the backcountry to be viewed at a slower place, which means that the rich details of a landscape are not missed. Instead of an alpine meadow, the intricate composition of an individual bloom can be seen. Instead of a ghost town, the axe marks of the original builder can be studied.

Such 'little things' are the fabric of our world.
[email protected] (From The High Country) ghost town detail aspen fthc wildflowers fromthehighcountry Mon, 28 May 2012 11:44:00 GMT
In The Wilderness
One nearby trail begins with a steep ascent through relatively heavy tree cover, which follows an old jeep trail. Moist ground and protection from intense sunlight allows some plants to thrive.

Oregon grape is quite distinctive and can often be found alongside wild strawberries in the leaf litter. Its purple berries are sometimes used in jams, and the crushed plant has been used for healing of wounds, although some sources suggest it can be poisonous in large doses.

The tree cover fades to give views of the valley floor below. Lupines and gooseberry bushes flourish on the exposed hillside, but the view is soon left behind as the trail follows a bend into a huge aspen stand, where fungi can be found in abundance later in the summer.

The trail is unrelentingly steep, but the natural world has a way of providing incredible sights an smells at every turn. Creeping junipers add fragrance to the forest, while translucent young aspen leaves shimmer in the sunlight.

Barren, rocky slopes are a sure sign that the end of the trail is nearby. After a final ascent, a collapsing cabin marks draws the visitor to an idyllic lake. Sheltered by tall trees and a nearby peak, the 12,000ft high lake is still partially covered in ice, while patches of snow are scattered between nearby trees.

Videos of the lake can be found here and here.

It is a perfect place to spend an afternoon in the Uncompaghre Wilderness. You can view several more images of the lake and the trail in my gallery.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography lake ice spring colorado wilderness hiking fromthehighcountry Thu, 17 May 2012 20:11:00 GMT
Old Habits
Small town life required some changes for me. I'm analytical by nature and am quite happy in my own company. In a city, we can be just faces in a crowd, but in a small town there are no strangers. I like the change, but I have to admit that it does require some adjustment!

Photography seems to come naturally for me. I never tire of it, and will never run out of subjects here in the Rockies. Running a business, however, involves a learning curve. Marketing is a somewhat foreign, almost distasteful topic, but I have to master it if I am going to be able to continue to work in photography for many years to come. On that subject, I'm pleased to announce that I'll have gallery space for the first time this year! I feel like I'm fumbling in the dark but this year will bring useful learning experiences.

Everything is flourishing in the mountains, and if the high elevation snow has melted enough I'll be spending a lot of time hiking over the next few weeks. I hope to be able to bring you some great new images. If you've been considering making a purchase from FTHC you'll be pleased to know that you can use the 20FOR200 coupon code to get a 20% discount until next Sunday evening. This sale is to celebrate 200 likes on the FTHC Facebook page.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography mountains colorado cattle rural fromthehighcountry Sat, 12 May 2012 14:18:00 GMT
Spring Cleaning

 If I can learn anything from the natural world, it is patience. As I continue to be busier than I could have imagined, I have to remember to prioritize and remember that, like the seeds I've sown this week, building a new life takes much longer than three months.

Since there are so many things to do, and time is a fixed commodity, it is good to review the ways in which I spend precious time. If I find that something (whether it be a business strategy or a part of a daily routine) no longer works or is not worth the cost, then I have to be objective enough to recognize it and jettison it. At the moment, the FTHC presence on a certain social networking site seems to fall into that category. I'll be sure to let you know of any long-term changes in the next post.

In our lives, we must not be afraid to try something new, even if (or especially because) it is a little out of character. Similarly, we must be bold enough to discard those things that do not work for us, even if it means breaking a long-held habit. Wasting time and creative energy is one of the worst things we can do for ourselves.
[email protected] (From The High Country) nature spring philosophy simple living fromthehighcountry Thu, 03 May 2012 20:13:00 GMT
Dawn To Dusk

At 9500ft there is evidence of very recent snowfall, while at 10000ft and above last season's snow still lies at depths up to 2ft, which makes travel difficult and obscures the trail ahead. Even so, wild buttercups and strawberries, oregon grape and more are all coming to life once more. Chipmunks and small birds inhabit the coniferous trees, and grouse can be found among the aspen.

At 11000ft the trees become sparse and those that remain are prime targets for lightning and avalanches  from nearby peaks (still laden with snow). Above the trees the whole valley below can be seen, and a boulder makes a great place to sit and appreciate the surroundings. Everything else fades away up here. This is why I came to the mountains.
[email protected] (From The High Country) spring fthc hiking fromthehighcountry Sun, 22 Apr 2012 19:51:00 GMT
Spring is a great time to be in the mountains. Just a few days ago, I was lucky enough to see many bighorn sheep. I've already seen my first wildflower of the year, and I'm eager to see some outstanding displays of color on my travels in the wilderness.

For more bighorn shots, see the spring gallery.
Still on the theme of creativity, I'd like you to be the first to see my new project - a new range of gifts and shirts! In addition to FTHC images available on cards and gifts, I've designed a small range of shirts that are in keeping with the values expressed in this blog. I hope you like them!
[email protected] (From The High Country) creativity spring fthc bighorn fromthehighcountry Sat, 14 Apr 2012 17:22:00 GMT
Age This time of year is associated with new beginnings and growth. It's a time of change in the natural world, and nowhere is this more evident than here in the mountains. For me, it's a time of reflection as another birthday comes around. In our culture we seem to fear the passing of each year, but we can achieve a great deal in twelve months and we should feel able to celebrate both the achievements and the precious time that we've experienced. I recently read an article about the most common regrets of people who've reached the end of their lives. Not surprisingly, those regrets were as follows:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Even here in the mountains it is easy to become preoccupied with work, but time in the wilderness reminds me of my priorities and goals, and with breathtaking beauty all around trivial problems slip away.

By living purposefully and being truly present, you might be surprised at what you'll experience.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

You can view more spring images here. Enjoy your week!
[email protected] (From The High Country) bighorn fromthehighcountry mountains spring Sun, 08 Apr 2012 13:00:00 GMT

As I reached the end of my 4th mountain run yesterday and checked my watch, it occurred to me that the human body is often much more adaptable than we think. A little over a week ago, running at altitude was a real struggle, but now I'm close to a respectable pace. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to change can be our minds, or more specifically our lack of confidence in ourselves. The human mind is a very powerful thing, but it can also limit us if we allow it.

Spring is here, and the local wildlife already seem to be more abundant as the snow and ice melt away. Deer have new sources of food, while geese and ducks now inhabit the thawing lakes.

Lake City deer.

Soon, the wildflowers will begin to bloom.  The natural world is constantly adapting to the seasons, and this is especially evident during spring.

I haven't been able to get up into the mountains as much as I would have liked this week, but I've still been busy. In just a few hours, I was able to build this classic bench (based on the design by the naturalist Aldo Leopold).


The From The High Country version of an Aldo Leopold bench.

I was impressed with the simple yet rugged design. There is no reason why simple living should be uncomfortable!
[email protected] (From The High Country) aldo leopold fromthehighcountry spring Sat, 31 Mar 2012 10:23:00 GMT
Onwards and Upwards Spring is (officially, at least) here to stay. Traces of snow remain in sheltered areas and high peaks, but the ground is dry and green shoots are no longer hidden. As the snow melted, I lost my excuse for not running since my relocation. Health and fitness are both important when living a simple life (an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!), and I believe that a healthy body is very helpful in maintaining a healthy mind. At a mile and a half higher than my last running environment, I have much work to do if I'm going to regain my old times.

It seems quite appropriate that the indoor mushroom growing and vermiculture (worm composting) experiments began as spring arrived. Both are going well, and I have another source of fertilizer that I'd like to show you:

The first major construction project has been completed, and more images will be added to the new spring gallery soon. I'm also working on a new FTHC project, which I hope to be able to announce in the next week or two - check back soon!

Finally, I wanted to share a link to a free resource for those of you who are interested in permaculture. I think that this is a great site. Have a great week, and don't forget that the FTHC spring sale is now on. To get a 10% discount on any item in an event gallery, simply use the "springsale2012" coupon code. There is no minimum purchase, and the sale runs until April 1st, 2012.
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry permaculture simple living spring vermiculture winter Sun, 25 Mar 2012 16:24:00 GMT
As you know, I came to the mountains to live a simpler, more purposeful life. A few short months into the adventure, this new life is meeting all of my expectations.  I've written about my decisions before, so today I thought I'd write about why I'm a photographer.

I've always been an explorer of sorts. My inquisitive mind often leads me down the road less travelled (both real and philosophical), and I love to share the world's scenery from my point of view.  Sometimes I'll show views that few people have the chance to see, while other times I show more familiar subjects from different viewpoints.

I hope that by sharing my images I can reach out to people who appreciate the natural world, and maybe encourage that appreciation in other people.  My work may provoke fond memories or provide people with an opportunity to see parts of the world that they may not be able to see in real life.

Documenting the past is just as important as capturing the seasons. Just last week I was fortunate enough to tour an area of great historical significance.

I hope that my images (and those of my colleague) assist in some small way with the preservation of the structures.

Spring is almost here. A whole new season of photography awaits, and I hope that a part of our heritage can be regenerated like so many new shoots and flowers.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography philosophy urbex fromthehighcountry Mon, 19 Mar 2012 10:32:00 GMT
Permanence a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than premature and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single project system."

My permaculture garden will consist of no-dig raised beds filled with rich organic compost (home produced) and irrigated with collected rainwater. The garden will be pesticide free, and will make use of companion planting to attract pollinators and pest predators.

While the ground is frozen and covered in snow, there is little I can do outside. Instead I will begin to practice vermiculture (composting with worms). The bin will soon be ready and the worms are on their way. If what I've read is true, they can handle 8oz of kitchen waste each day!

In addition, I'll grow shiitake mushrooms indoors. When they no longer fruit, the remains of the kit will be used to inoculate the new soil, adding beneficial fungi.

With these and a few other ideas, I hope to build a sustainable garden that will produce organic crops and attract beneficial insects, while requiring no chemical pest control or fertilizers.

Permaculture in the Rockies will be challenging (short season, late frosts, strong sun, deer, bears, etc), but I've been planning for a while and know that it can be done.

Some of my earliest memories are of harvesting home-grown crops, and I found one particular TV comedy show on the subject of self-sufficiency / simple living highly influential at an early age. Since relocating here to follow my dreams, every decision feels right. I know I'll make a few mistakes, but I expect my permaculture experiment to be richly rewarding!

View the images used in this post here.
[email protected] (From The High Country) vermiculture permaculture fromthehighcountry Thu, 08 Mar 2012 17:49:00 GMT
Living simply involves undertaking most tasks yourself where possible, so while I am working on my photography and building new maps, I'm also heavily involved in some construction work, and I find it all incredibly satisfying. I own the product of my labor, I have no supervisor, and my work has a legitimate purpose that is in keeping with my values.

Warren Zevon once famously said "Enjoy every sandwich". That phrase has stayed with me since I first heard it. All too often, we realize too late that life is short. In my case, it was too short to spend the greater part of each day doing a job I could see no point in. While life is fragile, this is no reason to be afraid to experiment. You have to go out and make the sandwich before you can enjoy it!

Enjoy your week, and thanks for reading.
[email protected] (From The High Country) philosophy warren zevon fromthehighcountry Mon, 05 Mar 2012 18:20:00 GMT
Awakenings °F). Still, with the right will and equipment the mountains are a snow-covered playground, and busy summer destinations are places of solitude during the winter.


I've realized that I've felt restricted over the last few weeks. I've tried to juggle too many things and have been left frustrated when I can't make enough progress. Having learned this, I can devote more time to what I consider to be most important. Relocation was meant to be a learning experience, and I felt that it would be useful to stretch myself. I still do, but I now know that some things are not going to make me happy, and those must be cut (in keeping with the psychological side of the simple living ethic).

Much lies ahead in the summer. I have plans for a permaculture garden (if my current construction project is complete!), and there is a whole mountain range to explore on my doorstep. Of course, it will all be a photographic journey!
[email protected] (From The High Country) winter philosophy fromthehighcountry Fri, 24 Feb 2012 10:18:00 GMT
Adjustment Patience is a virtue that I haven't had to make much use of in recent years. An office job in the city can be fast-paced, while all conveniences are within easy reach. Building a new life requires time and a new approach. It is only now that I am learning to slow down. Here's a recent shot that was taken around the time that I really began to adjust:

By slowing down it is easier to notice the small things, like the red leaves of the oregon grape, or the dried rose hips, or the rest of the winter flora and fauna that the casual observer might miss. It makes me a better photographer, and it makes life in the mountains more rewarding.
[email protected] (From The High Country) rocky mountains balloons simple living fromthehighcountry Sun, 19 Feb 2012 15:24:00 GMT
Mountain Time

For the first time in years, work is fun. Take a look at the ice climbing event that I covered last weekend!

At this point in my life, I'm very happy to have swapped a good salary for fun-filled days and nights. Living costs can be reduced by making meals and furniture from basic materials, which is in itself a pleasurable experience. Walking instead of driving reduces stress and saves money, if not time (but it is time well spent). 
Life is here and now. It doesn't just happen at the weekend or on holiday / vacation. We have a duty to ourselves to find the things that make us happy.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography life fromthehighcountry Fri, 10 Feb 2012 11:54:00 GMT
Strange Dream
Despite the great simplifying effort, I feel that I have everything I need. In fact, I probably have more than I really need in order to be happy, even now. There are no cell phones in this house, and no cable TV. 'Conveniences' such as those have always been more of a source of annoyance.

Winter is becoming my favorite season. The greens of summer are replaced with an almost dream-like black and white version of the landscape that is equally beautiful.

As always, you can see more of the expanding winter gallery here. I have a new lens and expect to have several new images to share very soon. If I can keep track of the days, I'll post weekly. I hope you'll continue to join me.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography weather simple living fromthehighcountry Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:11:00 GMT
A New Dawn Almost a week ago I left behind my old life and headed for the mountains to live a simpler, happier existence with my wife. We packed as few things as possible and made a one-way trip into the wilderness, passing through dust storms and then snow storms as if they were a kind of final test of our determination.

The rewards became apparent before I'd even finished unloading. A herd of deer came to greet me, and we studied eachother for a while. I was lucky enough to have a camera within reach, so you can view the video here.

A small house makes simple living a near-necessity. There is no room for clutter. Purging is always a liberating experience, though. Mountain life is agreeing with me and I already wake before sunrise in anticipation of the sights and sounds that lie ahead. I haven't worn a watch in two days.

The mountains called, and I finally answered.

[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry simple living winter Fri, 27 Jan 2012 11:59:00 GMT
Hello, Goodbye The apartment is empty and the truck is fueled. This is my last day at the office, and my last in this state. My resignation was just one of the last actions that led me to this point. Many experiences over my life have contributed to my choice of career and surroundings. It's time to say goodbye to the hill country

and hello to the high country that I'll call home.

It's also time to say goodbye to my southern friends and colleagues, and hello to my fellow mountain folk!
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry goodbye Fri, 20 Jan 2012 06:59:00 GMT
Independence As I type, all around me is in disarray. Moving preparations are underway. I haven't held my camera in over a week. Feelings of nostalgia are mixed with anticipation for life in the mountains. Still, there is time to give some thought to MLK day.  Of course, Martin Luther King Jr taught tolerance and peace, but he also inspired people to stand up for their own beliefs.

When a person makes a conscious choice to chart a course that differs from his or her peers, there will always be a certain amount of resistance, or at least a lack of understanding. The civil rights movement is an extreme example, but every person experiences this challenge, and he or she will either assimilate, or continue to stand alone (if necessary) for what is believed to be right.

By leaving a relatively easy life for the challenges of a new career and environment, I am making my own choices, but I should go further and be more ready to do what I believe is right. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Though I am leaving on very good terms, I can't help but think of the following scene from the critically acclaimed (and influential) series, The Prisoner:
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry mlk moving simple living the prisoner Mon, 16 Jan 2012 10:50:00 GMT
Close Encounters  
During a rare break from making final arrangements in preparation for the big move, I realized that one special photo was missing from the website. I’ll remember the day it was taken for a long time. I had spotted four or five deer in a wooded area nearby. I readied my camera and hurried over. Once in range, I slowly moved closer and began to take photos. The herd didn’t seem to mind my presence, and as they allowed me to get amongst them I found myself sat in a snow bank just observing them. To be accepted as a guest was quite an honor. At a distance of no more than six feet, I raised my camera again and captured the moment:

Experiences such as this are the reason I am a photographer.
[email protected] (From The High Country) deer fromthehighcountry photography snow Mon, 09 Jan 2012 11:11:00 GMT
To The High Country  Confucius once said the “only the wisest and stupidest of men never change”. I’m about to make a very significant change to my life. The time has come for me to leave the city behind and head to my adopted home in the mountains. I can no longer be separated from the wilderness, where I belong. I’ll leave the security of an office job for the adventure of a photographer high in the Rocky Mountains. I have no idea how this story will end, but I know that it will be an exciting journey. I will live deliberately and simply, and I will not give up on my dreams.
In the coming posts, I’ll tell you about my travels, my efforts to live simply, and of course my photography. I hope you’ll join me.
The following clip seems quite fitting. Both Jeremiah Johnson and Rocky Mountain High were released in 1972 (40 years ago), and both have left their indelible mark.
The mountains are calling...
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry jeremiah johnson john denver mountains rocky mountains Wed, 04 Jan 2012 09:32:00 GMT
Merry Christmas!

I'm adding to my winter gallery on an almost daily basis. You can view it here:

Winter in the mountains is very different to summer. The landscape changes drastically. Lightning storms are replaced by still, sunny (but very cold) afternoons. There is a whole new environment to be discovered!
[email protected] (From The High Country) mountains winter landscape snow christmas fromthehighcountry Sat, 24 Dec 2011 16:24:00 GMT
Immersion December seems to be slipping by! I have a winter trip planned, and some new lenses to work with, so you can expect to see a new batch of images very soon. Once more, the mountains are calling!

Winter snow brings a new set of challenges. In the mountains, travel can be difficult, whether on foot or by car. Cold weather photography requires concentration and endurance - and snow shoes!
[email protected] (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry winter Mon, 12 Dec 2011 17:26:00 GMT
Unfortunately I don't have a digital version of the photo that captured that moment. While searching online I was surprised that I was unable to find a similar shot. Instead, I'll leave you with this work by an artist local to the area:

I think it captures the experience of walking in a pristine, silent winter forest. I'm anxious to do it again, and this time, I'll be sure to capture a few of my own moments!
[email protected] (From The High Country) winter snow deer fromthehighcountry Mon, 28 Nov 2011 11:10:00 GMT
This shows some of the first trees to begin their autumnal display of color, while everything around them still looks and feels like summer.  The natural world moves on, whether we are ready or not! In a few days Thanksgiving will be over, so let's make the most of it, be good to each other and enjoy the ride....
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography thanksgiving change fromthehighcountry autumn Tue, 22 Nov 2011 12:21:00 GMT
Time It is hard for me to believe, but it has been almost a year since I bought my current camera. I 've already made a promise to myself to use it much more frequently next year. Here are a couple from the end of last year:

What started out as a camera test turned into a fun afternoon of exploration on the backroads of Texas.

This time next year, I'll have much more to share. What will you do next year? How can you make it something you love?
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography time texas philosophy fromthehighcountry Fri, 18 Nov 2011 10:57:00 GMT

The image above shows part of an archway to a cathedral entrance. The one below shows Nature's patterns in the form of a monkey puzzle tree.

Just as in life, it seems that it is the little things that really matter.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography detail england fromthehighcountry Wed, 09 Nov 2011 10:20:00 GMT
Passing The Test

The event was a success, and I'm pleased with my shots (send me a message if you'd like to see more). Have a safe, fun Halloween out there!
[email protected] (From The High Country) cattle dog photography horse show horses fromthehighcountry equestrian Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:36:00 GMT

Nature is full of surprises. Sometimes they are easy to find (or they find you!), but by being present and clearing your mind, you might be surprised at the treasures on display.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography nature migration monarch monarch butterflies fromthehighcountry Mon, 24 Oct 2011 18:01:00 GMT
Daydreams As the air starts to cool, I'm reminded of early morning ascents in the wilderness, where leaves are dew-covered and woodland creatures are surprised to find humans in the early light of dawn. A rushed breakfast is easily justified by lunch near the summit. A name and an altitude are not required - just a view like this:

As a part-time photographer, I can't always wait for the perfect shot. The weather and lighting can make or break a good shot, but when travelling it is very difficult to justify a long wait. I have to shoot and move on, and sometimes discard otherwise good images. On this occasion, the weather was perfect. The last cornice (as I sometimes call this shot) provides a reminder of the harsh winter while the rest of the foreground is bathed in summer sunlight. The clouds suggest the peaks are almost pushing against the roof of the world, and at 2.65 miles above sea-level, it sometimes feels like it!
[email protected] (From The High Country) photography mountains 14er cornice weather fall snow fromthehighcountry autumn Tue, 18 Oct 2011 10:03:00 GMT
Little Acorns

I look at my DSLR and, although it is capable of excellent image quality and has many settings that I haven't yet used, it doesn't evoke the same feelings based on aesthetics. Perhaps that isn't such a bad thing. My current camera is a tool that allows me to share my perspective of the natural world, rather than a revered artifact. The old AGFA provided that spark, which was reignited with the advent of digital photography and allowed to grow into a passion with the encouragement of a certain someone. It was there all the time, and I just had to realise it.
[email protected] (From The High Country) dslr photography camera agfa beginning Fri, 14 Oct 2011 08:40:00 GMT
Consolidation I've been busy working on my galleries and making a few additional offerings on Facebook, including some new e-cards. I think you'll enjoy the latest improvements, so please take a look around and let me know what you think.
A new winter project is planned for later this year (expect lots of snow scenes!), but for now, I still have work to do with my existing portfolio. Here is one that I almost missed:

Some of the best images are completely unexpected. In this case, a side street was hiding two privately owned iconic London buses, which are a rare sight these days. The mounted police officer only added to the shot.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photo zenfolio photography photographer london bus facebook Mon, 10 Oct 2011 10:33:00 GMT
Gainfully Employed
I am temporarily exiled from my 'high country' for a few more weeks, but there is much to do as I refine the website and finance some carefully chosen lens acquisitions.

I've chosen an image to share today that reminds me of the places I'd rather be. I think this one is from a couple of years ago, but it's still one of my favorites:

This is a real hiker's point-of-view shot, near the summit of a fourteener on a glorious summer morning. I think a new camera is a good excuse for another visit next year, don't you?!
[email protected] (From The High Country) photo zenfolio photography photographer fourteener philosophy colorado Tue, 04 Oct 2011 11:04:00 GMT
The End Is The Beginning Summer is over (although I have yet to feel a cool autumn / fall breeze), the long-planned vacation is over, and the year is beginning to draw to an end.Still, just as time can never be frozen, change is an integral part of life. I felt that I should at least try to steer that change, and so From The High Country was born. It's time for me to take my work more seriously, and to begin those projects that I've toyed with for so long! You get to follow me on this journey, and I'll do my best to share some interesting things along the way. This was taken in a quiet woodland area a few weeks ago:

As I prepared images for the website I could see the progress I've made, and I hope you'll be able to do the same in a year or so. Life is a learning experience!
Please take a minute or two to look at some of my galleries. I'd like to hear from you.
[email protected] (From The High Country) photo zenfolio first photography photographer from the high country philosophy countryside fromthehighcountry Wed, 28 Sep 2011 14:59:00 GMT
Testing...]]> [email protected] (From The High Country) first photography photographer test Fri, 23 Sep 2011 11:25:00 GMT