Neffs Canyon, Featuring Hilde

I made a lot more photographs this evening than I meant to. I was just supposed to take the adorable poodle on a walk—not go location scouting. Have I mentioned I am—slowly but surely—starting my very own portrait photography business? So now, I see everything through that lens (pun not intended). Walking through the woods this evening, I accidentally subjected Hilde to a portrait session of sorts. Couldn’t help but share the results.

Sometimes I wonder if I am my own biggest fan because, man, I like these quite a bit. I shot a lot of them with scouting in mind, and I can almost see the people who might populate these scenes later on.

I am so excited for this new adventure, y’all don’t even know.

P.S. If you want to help me build my portfolio by starring in some lovely (if I may say so myself) portraits, get in touch!!


Hildebutt butt butt

We have this little sweetheart for the weekend. Yay!

She has been a fine little model for my new (well, used, but new to me!) D700. Some time I will write up something about how much more AWESOME a full frame dSLR is compared to DX/crop frame. For now, I will just say that I feel like I’m back to using my lenses like I did with my film SLRs, and that is truly wonderful for me.

Cascade Creek in Durango, CO

Over Labor Day, Jon and I went back to Durango. It was such a wonderful trip; we got to hang out with James, Colleen, and their adorable boys, and we went places that I hadn’t been last time around.

One of those places was Cascade Creek. Last time we were in Durango, we took a short hike down to the last of the falls. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I could have spent all day had the rain held off a little longer. I know I posted a shot of this in my last blog post, but here it is again as a reminder:

Idyllic, right? Can you imagine just sitting there for an afternoon as that gorgeous emerald water gushes through the narrow canyon? I loved it.

So when Jon told me that he, his family, and his friends used to “run Cascade,” I thought, ah, that must be fun, if not a little intimidating. See, I don’t even enjoy the high-dive at the local pool. I still have to work up the nerve to jump off something higher than a few feet from the water. It’s not that I’m afraid of heights necessarily—I just know when something is high enough that I could become fatally injured launching myself off of it. I try to avoid those situations I guess.

He showed me a video on youtube of people jumping off narrow sides of (what I assume is) the granitic slot canyon, and while the video terrified me a bit, I was seduced by the thought of those beautiful falls seen from a different perspective. I agreed we could try it, but in July the water was still too high. However, this time around Jon assessed the water and thought we would be ok.

I didn’t realize how frightening it would be for me until it was too late to go back. Once you’re in it, you really can’t change your mind and walk back out. The current is too fast, the falls too high to climb back over, and the rock walls too steep and too slippery with water to scramble up or over.

So the only way out is down down down.

(Here’s someone else’s journey down, for the curious.)

And down we went. Jon, his brother James, James’ son Jimmy, and I trekked over slick, smooth river rocks and through swift current to jump off several of the falls. The first one didn’t look so bad, I thought. I slid down the rock and into the water, expecting to touch bottom almost immediately, kind of like a kiddie pool. WRONG. I unexpectedly submerged completely, and when I came up for air, the water was so cold and shockingly deep that I had a hard time breathing from the surprise of it all. I could see a rocky refuge ahead, so as I still tried to take a full breath, I swam over and tried to get a grip on myself. I was shaking and couldn’t stop wondering what the hell had I gotten myself into.

I thought the next jump would be better—I knew what to expect now, right? NOPE. On each jump, my body fought me. First, I had to build up the nerve to actually fling myself into the water, not knowing what kind of hard, unforgiving rocks might await me as the current obscured each pool. There were moments when I thought my body would not be able to withstand the rushing current, and that at some point, I would just be carried from pool to pool, knocking against the rock canyon walls, trying to remember the survival skills my white-water obsessed mother had mentioned countless times since I was a young teenager. I thought about the possibility of search and rescue several times, and I even, melodramatically, wondered if I would make it out of there alive at all.

(I know. I know. I’m fine. Don’t worry.)

I don’t remember how many falls we jumped before we made it to (nearly) the end. We could see Colleen and their two youngest boys waiting for us on the rocky shores of the last pool. We were standing high on a ledge overlooking the rest of the falls. They seemed impossibly high, and the current was bound to sweep us over the edge if we attempted those jumps—at least that is what I thought. We stood there for a minute, and I smiled and quietly said to Jon, for the umpteenth time I am sure, that I was going to kill him for this later.

Luckily, even though climbing out is not an option on most parts of the canyon, our little ledge was just right for lifting ourselves up and out. James and Jon did the heavy lifting and helped us two inexperienced, terrified ones up the ledge and through the surrounding brush. We hiked back up to the highway and tried to let our limbs and toes thaw out again on the way home.

Despite quitting midway through, and despite the bruises and the still-very-tender ankle, I think it was a success! In those few jumps, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that even if I am downright terrified inside, I can still hold it together long enough to make it out of a bad spot. I even managed to give Jimmy (James’ and Colleen’s incredibly brave little seven year-old) pep talks and words of encouragement when all we could do was jump even though neither of us wanted to. I managed to stop shaking long enough to give him a hug and tell him it would be ok. I whooped and hollered in celebration when he would take his plunges, all the while wondering what fresh terrors awaited me down the next cascade.

Who knew I had that in me? I sure didn’t. I might be cautious, but it’s good to know I am not a complete coward.

That time we went to Durango.

Have I ever mentioned that Jon is from Durango, Colorado? Well, he is, and I don’t think any place in the world will ever be as meaningful to him as his home. Being from Salt Lake City, I can appreciate a longing for mountains and quiet places outside, but not to the extent Jon feels it. In each short narration of some aspect of his hometown, I get the sense that the words he utters cannot possibly fully express how deeply he loves Durango.

And so, we went there in July, and I better understood the beauty at which photographs and stories can only hint. As we drove through the small, winding streets of the little mountain town one day, Jon said he always dreamed of getting out of Durango when he was younger. Now, he dreams of getting back.

Jon’s brother and sister-in-law, James and Colleen, let us stay with them for a full ten days. We’re going back again, soon, so I figured it was high time to post my photos from our first trip to make room for the next round. I know photos won’t do Durango justice, but I hope I can offer some small glimpse of the fun we had.

(I feel so bad that Kemper was just barely out of focus on this one!)

My Weekend Love Affair with an 85mm Lens

Ah, to be young, free, and have so much disposable income that you can’t get rid of it quickly enough! The halcyon days of getting bonuses that doubled my monthly income! Man, those were the days. I just wish I had done something more worthwhile with that money. (Well, ok, it did pay tuition. That is worthwhile, I guess.)

Now, my eyes are too big for my wallet. Behold, the most wonderful lens I have ever used! (Note: please take this with a grain of salt as I have used only a handful of lenses over the decade or so I have been toying with photography.)

I rented it for the weekend from Pictureline, and man, I can’t wait to make one my own one day. One day far far into the future, that is. Here are some of the results.

A Walk Around Town

A few mornings ago, I was strolling along through downtown, camera in tow, trying to find nice little spots to get accustomed to a new-to-me lens that I had rented for the weekend. It was a little warm, but beautiful outside as I strolled through the downtown farmers market and roamed the surrounding streets.

At one point I rounded a corner, passed through a few groups of people, and one of the men huddled in these groups broke off from the rest and began to follow me.

I noticed this immediately. I mean, of course I did. I can’t remember a time when I was not wary of strangers, particularly strange men. I tried not to let it bother me, but I also noticed this man was incredibly muscular, and my mind began racing through scenarios of what might happen if I was cornered and unable to defend myself against such a seemingly strong person.

Still, I trekked onward, making a decision that I would not change my behavior just because of someone else’s disconcerting behavior. Shortly after the man began to follow me, I noticed a wide, brightly lit alleyway that I had never really seen before. The light streaming in was lovely, and I couldn’t help but climb the couple of steps and take a peak at it, noting to myself that it would not be wise to get cornered in there given my hanger-on a few paces behind (and thereby breaking my own rule not to change my behavior— damn).

The man ambled up the stairs just as I was turning around to head back to the sidewalk, and we made eye contact. I smiled and said, “Hello!” thinking that this might be disarming, and make me more human in the eyes of someone who might have seen me as less than in the moments he stalked me down the street. He smiled back, and I casually continued toward the sidewalk, his eyes following me.

I can’t remember all of what was exchanged next, but I remember he said something, so I turned around. He was mumbling. I said, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. So he came closer, much closer, which perhaps was the point of the mumbling (or perhaps I was just incredibly suspicious of every movement at that point). He began telling me I was very beautiful, and did I live around here? Yes, I said. Born and raised, in a way that meant it could be, well, anywhere around here.

He began asking more and more incredibly personal questions, but I said something—although I can’t remember what—that stopped him at some point. He repeated that I was beautiful, and I thanked him for the compliment, told him firmly that I was going to be on my way, and that I hoped he had a good day. He said Ok gorgeous, see you around.

Luckily, that did the trick. He stayed where he was, and I dared not turn back in case it gave him hope that our interaction was the start of something that he ought to find a way to continue. The entire walk home, I tried to put it out of my mind, thinking it was a relatively minor thing compared to the street harassment some people endure. His words were gentle, I told myself, but the tone and intent of the questioning were quietly desperate.* And he followed me. Following a person is an incredibly inappropriate way to court someone’s attention. It leaves a person feeling unsafe and a little shaken, even if it is in broad daylight when you think no harm could possibly befall you.

*I would love to write at length about why it is not always welcome to compliment a random woman on her looks, but others have done it so well for me that I will just link to them.

Erin’s Getting Married! Plus Some Shop Talk.

Although Jon and I are not married, I still refer to his parents, six siblings, their spouses, and all of their children as my in-laws. We’ve been together for something like two years now, living together for eight months, and Jon’s family has welcomed me with open arms from the very start. So, it seems appropriate to refer to them as my in-laws at this point, right?

That long-winded introduction was just to say that Erin, my sister-in-law, is getting married! She so sweetly asked if I could take her engagement photos. I consider myself strictly an amateur, but I couldn’t resist the chance to use my cameras for some interesting portraits—with the often stated caveat that the photos might be terrible and I hoped she had a back-up plan, of course.

So last Saturday, I dragged her and her fiance, Bradley, all around downtown Salt Lake City to see if we could make some photo magic. And I think we did! You can see the set here—photos that range from just ok to my favorites. Each time I look at these, I see aspects of my techniques that demand improvement if I am to continue with this type of photography.

I see that I need to back away from my subjects a little more and allow each frame to have room to breathe. (I blame the crop factor on my Nikon D90 for this penchant of mine. I am so used to 35mm “full frame” cameras that my D90 feels claustrophobic with my trusty non-DX lenses.)

I need to shoot at something other than the highest, most open aperture possible for my lenses. Poor Bradley is a bit blurry in a few of these because I was close to my subjects and my lens was wide open.

I need to learn how to post-process much better than I am now. I rely WAY too much on vignetting to make my subjects pop. Upgrading from Lightroom 2 – Student Edition is probably a good idea.

I fall in and out of love with this hobby sometimes, and lately I am on a high with it again. Even though only a handful of the photos are ones I would consider worthy of someday going into a portfolio, I thought I might as well show ’em off: