From The High Country: Blog https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog en-us (C) From The High Country craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:53:00 GMT Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:53:00 GMT https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/img/s/v-5/u835402581-o540606845-50.jpg From The High Country: Blog https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog 120 120 The Abandoned Cabin https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/7/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).

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) abandoned cabin colorado fromthehighcountry history photography rocky mountains https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/7/the-abandoned-cabin Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:52:49 GMT
New in Lake City, Colorado for 2018 https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/7/new-in-lake-city-colorado-for-2019 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!

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) 2019 calendar colorado craig palmer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city calendar lake city landscapes photography https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/7/new-in-lake-city-colorado-for-2019 Mon, 16 Jul 2018 18:21:43 GMT
Wildfire Safety https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/6/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.

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) 416 fire fromthehighcountry lake city lake city fire rocky mountains wildfires https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/6/wildfire-safety Tue, 12 Jun 2018 21:36:21 GMT
In Praise of the Buffalo Mountain Shirt https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/4/in-praise-of-the-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!

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) buffalo mountain shirt buffalo systems craig palmer photographer fromthehighcountry rocky mountains https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/4/in-praise-of-the-mountain-shirt Tue, 03 Apr 2018 19:56:38 GMT
Death in the San Juans https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/2/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.”

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) aspens bark bark beetle beetle climate colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake san cristobal photography rocky mountains sad san juan mountains https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2018/2/death-in-the-san-juans Thu, 01 Feb 2018 23:22:32 GMT
Wilderness Wisdom https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/12/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

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado ebook fromthehighcountry lake city philosophy photography wilderness wisdom https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/12/wilderness-wisdom Wed, 20 Dec 2017 18:34:22 GMT
Colorful Colorado - Fall Colors in a Western Slope Mountain Town https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/10/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!

 

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado fall colors fromthehighcountry lake city lake city fall landscape photographer rocky mountains https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/10/Colorful-Colorado---Fall-Colors-in-a-Western-Slope-Mountain-Town Wed, 18 Oct 2017 18:33:08 GMT
New in 2017 - Lake City Landscapes! https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/6/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.

 

 

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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!
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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) book colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado lake city landscapes photographer photography book wilderness photographer https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/6/new-in-2017---lake-city-landscapes Sun, 04 Jun 2017 02:58:17 GMT
Greetings From Lake City - A Late Spring Photo Essay https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/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 FromTheHighCountry.com 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.

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photo essay photography rocky mountains snow https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/greetings-from-lake-city---a-late-spring-photo-essay Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:47:30 GMT
Wilderness Survival Essentials https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/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!

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry hiking hiking colorado preparedness rocky mountains survival wilderness survival https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/wilderness-survival-essentials Sun, 23 Apr 2017 15:37:39 GMT
The Homemade Survival Kit https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/make-your-own-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.

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry rocky mountains survival survival kit wilderness survival https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/make-your-own-survival-kit Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:36:32 GMT
Bears in Colorado https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/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.

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) bears black bears colorado colorado parks and wildlife fromthehighcountry lake city https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/4/bears-in-colorado Sat, 08 Apr 2017 03:36:28 GMT
A Lake City Winter https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/3/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.

 

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado mountains photography rocky mountains winter https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2017/3/a-lake-city-winter Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:01:48 GMT
2016 - A Colorado Photographer's Year https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/12/2016---a-colorado-photographers-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!

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado colorado still photographer fromthehighcountry lake city lake city photographer photography rocky mountains wedding photographer https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/12/2016---a-colorado-photographers-year Fri, 30 Dec 2016 23:37:11 GMT
Making Movies - A Still Photographer's View https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/11/a-movie-still-photographer-in-colorado 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.

 

 

 

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado still photographer fromthehighcountry hoax movie hoax the movie photography still photographer https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/11/a-movie-still-photographer-in-colorado Sun, 20 Nov 2016 18:59:56 GMT
This One's For Darren https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/11/this-ones-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.

 

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) darren mansfield fromthehighcountry philosophy https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/11/this-ones-for-darren Wed, 09 Nov 2016 20:22:25 GMT
New in Lake City for 2016 https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/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.

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) 2017 calendar colorado colorado calendar fromthehighcountry lake city lake city calendar lake city mug lake city postcard photography rocky mountains https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/new-in-lake-city-for-2016 Sun, 29 May 2016 19:55:41 GMT
The Ute Ulay Mine and Henson Ghost Town https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/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.

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado colorado ghost town fromthehighcountry ghost henson lake city photography town ute ulay ute ulay mine https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/the-ute-ulay-mine-and-henson-ghost-town Sun, 15 May 2016 19:30:10 GMT
Relaunching a Photography Website https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/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.

 

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) colorado fromthehighcountry lake city lake city colorado photography photography website professional photographer https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/5/relaunching-a-photography-website Tue, 03 May 2016 01:23:37 GMT
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Colorado https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/4/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?

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craig@fromthehighcountry.com (From The High Country) bighorn bighorn sheep colorado fromthehighcountry rocky mountain bighorn sheep wildlife wildlife photography https://www.fromthehighcountry.com/blog/2016/4/the-rocky-mountain-bighorn-sheep-in-colorado Fri, 29 Apr 2016 02:48:30 GMT