I will start with the fact that I had every intention of keeping up with blog posts on the road, but the reason I didn’t is actually a good thing. Traveling and working has been a great experience and I am increasingly happy that I get this opportunity. That being said, I did stay very busy and by the time I started writing, late in the evenings, I could not stay awake. But it all gave me great content and I am excited to share our adventures in upcoming posts.
I started our latest trip with something I have been wanting to do for a while to improve the quality of my blog posts. Before Covid, I had actually signed up for a landscape photography course with Mandy Lea at Grand Teton National Park. If you don’t know Mandy I highly recommend following her on social media and following her blog. https://mandyleaphoto.com She is an accomplished photographer and is most know for the fact that she lives with her partner, Kendrick, full time, in a teardrop trailer. She started in a T@G, like mine, and they have moved up to a NuCamp T@B 320 and now to a T@B 400. She is actually the inspiration for a lot of my travel, so I figured there was no better person to learn about landscape photography from. But alas, thanks to Covid that workshop was canceled, but I was able to reschedule it for one in Colorado the week before I rally I was going to. So the first week of this trip will hopefully help me improve the quality of my posts, or at least the pictures in them.
Because I am working now, I am limited to when I can travel between sites. Meaning I have to do all my driving on weekends and be set up and ready to work on Monday. For the most part I don’t think that will be an issue, but it made a rough start to this trip. GPS told me it was 18-1/2 hours from home to the location of the photography workshop and while that was technically possible in 2 days, I knew it would be a rough 2 days. I decided to leave on a Friday evening to get a few hours behind me. Luckily it was a somewhat uneventful trip, other than passing someone I know, pulling their trailer, in the middle of nowhere west Texas. It really is funny how small of a world it can be. He provided me a lovely picture of the back of my trailer on the road. Bella was not thrilled about the long days of driving but she was happy to be going somewhere again. I also had a new experience I had never tried, pulling the teardrop through the drive thru. It came out if necessity since the restaurants in West Texas closed their dining rooms again for Covid. It was a little stressful the first time, but it goes through with no issues.
We did add a new sticker to the T@G for New Mexico, but the state line picture was not great. It was too hot for Bella to get out and as you can see, their sign needs maintenance. But I still kept the tradition alive! We stayed at a Cracker Barrel in Albuquerque (of course) the second night, before heading into the mountains, where I made the mistake of not checking the roads the “shortest” route by GPS would take me. I ended up on the Colorado Hwy 550. If you are not familiar with this road, like I was not, it is called The Million Dollar Highway, which is appropriate for the amazing views you see on the route. However, it goes right through the mountains and has steep inclines, sharp switchback turns and narrow lanes with little to no shoulder. While it is an amazing road to drive, I would not do it again pulling a trailer.
I arrived on a Sunday but the workshop didn’t start till Wednesday so I had some time to work out any issues with working remotely. Once the workshop started, it was non-stop, and I do not mean that in a bad way at all. This workshop was not only one of the best trips I have taken, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I can’t say enough about the work Mandy and Kendrick put into planning these events, scouting out locations and then the hours in a day they give to them. The best part is that you can tell that they love it and it is as much fun for them as everyone else. I am in a place in my life where I appreciate happy people and being able to learn from people who get to do what they love was amazing. Because of the types of workshops they do, and the environment they create, they attract a great group of people as well, which is a big part of what made the experience amazing. The desire to roam freely and travel is not something everyone understands, so it is great when you get a group of people together with the same passions and goals.
The theme of the workshop was waterfalls and wildflowers and the first evening’s shooting location did not disappoint. I am going to post some of my best pictures from each day so that you can hopefully see how much I learned and improved over the 5 days. The first night was a big leap for me though because I had always had a fear of using the completely manual mode on my camera. I understood how the Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO worked on a camera so if I wanted to change my focus depth, I would choose Aperture priority and make the selection I wanted or if it was a moving object or there was low light, I would choose Shutter Speed priority. I was just not comfortable going fully manual. My reasons for that were actually not valid and causing me more issues. I didn’t think I could pick the right settings and make them all balance and get the right exposure, but by letting the camera choose, I wasn’t always getting the exposure I wanted. Mandy showed me some tricks and things to look for and I was able to make the transition with much better results than I had gotten in the past. These are my shots from our first 2 locations, on the same mountain, the first evening.
While I will try to relay the location information as much as I can in this post, I will admit that I probably could not make it back to some of these places on my own. We joked that they should market this workshop as adventure photography, but it really is a great description. Many locations were remote and accessed by gravel roads, many steep, on the side of a cliff, without any type of guard rail. For this reason, I did not drive, but we did have some great people who volunteered to get us all there. Having said that, I can’t tell you exactly where the pictures above, and the two sunrise pictures below were taken, other than at a mountain overlook close to the State Park in Ridgeway Colorado.
The first real adventurous location was on our first full day, at Bridal Veil Falls. It is a location Southeast of Telluride, Colorado, with a 365 foot waterfall at an elevation around 10,000 feet. The road getting there is unpaved, steep and narrow, so I definitely don’t recommend going if you don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The main falls, in the first picture are a beautiful site but there is an addition fall a little further up the road, that you see in the right. The view of the mountain and valley from the location was spectacular as well.
One of the great things about Colorado at that time was that they have amazing wildflowers almost everywhere, that were really at their peak. Because Bridal Veil Falls wasn’t an easily accessible location, we spent a lot of time there and I started doing some work on flowers. I had time to spend with other people who were more experienced who gave me some tips. Not all of these pictures were taken at Bridal Veil Falls, but these are good sample of how much I was able to improve my shots.
The last location on day one gave us a familiar mountain group to shoot. We traveled to a viewing point of the Wilson Peak, also known as the Coors Light mountains. There are many great viewing spots along the road and places to shoot, including a well developed Aspen forest. I was not familiar with Aspens much before this trip but learned a lot from people on the trip that has led me to do more research on my own. It has been determined that Aspens are actually one single organism not individual trees, like in most forests. Which means damage or disease to one can eventually take out an entire forest. Knowing this made it even sadder to see the number of people who thought it was cute to carve their initials and unnecessary messages into the trees.
Our second full day we visited one of the most amazing places I have ever seen in real life, the American Basin, which is at the top of a back trail, outside of Lake City, Colorado. The route there was as much of an adventure as the photography. We made a stop at Cinnamon pass for a group shot and I was also able to get a picture of our off-road caravan. The van was not part of our group and we were all amazed they took it up to that location.
The basin is one of those spots that doesn’t look real in pictures, but I assure you, it is. It is a lush basin surrounded by cliffs, with a great waterfall and stream flowing through it. There were amazing views of the mountains as well as a large variety of wildflowers and of course bees. We spent around 4 hours there and took a picnic lunch, but it still did not seem long enough to explore and see it all. For size perspective, there is a trail that goes around it that is 2.1 miles.
I actually can’t tell you the location we shot our last day, but it was again, a wealth of beautiful landscape, waterfalls and flowers. Before this last morning we had an afternoon and evening of help editing and photo reviews. This was one of the most valuable parts of the workshop. Not only was I able to get help using editing software, it was great to see the final products of what other people were working on. During the review we also talked about how they were composed and edited, which helped me understand why I wasn’t getting some of the shots I wanted in the past. Using that knowledge, I really think I was able to make improvements in my shots on the last day for. I can see a progression of improvement over the week.
Overall I couldn’t be happier with this experience and could not recommend taking a workshop with them enough. I plan to do more in the future because there is always room for improvement and a huge part of the value they provide is knowing and getting you to the best locations safely and being with like-minded people, who share your passion. I can already see the value and hope you do too soon, in my subsequent posts about the places I visited after leaving Ridgeway.