Saturday, July 2, 2011

Roadside Cliff Shadows - plein air, San Juan panoramas

My other painting done on the trip - the not-best for last, I guess you could say:

Roadside Cliff Shadows
12x12 inches - black Strathmore

This piece was done in the late afternoon on day one of our trip, a couple of hours after we got back from the first trip to the Lizard Head area.  It's from the campground, from a small meadow near some sites where those huge motorhomes can fit, complete with plenty of space for their satellite dishes...  

My intent was to make it more abstract in terms of colors and shape.   The small stands of aspen on both the top of the cliff and along its slopes were just so appealing (see photo from previous post of the basic view).  Watching the light and shadows change throughout the day on these cliffs and the dividing ravine was so interesting to me.  That, and the presence of both warm and cool shadows on the exposed sedimentary rock, which I believe is Cretaceous period Dakota sandstone.  

I didn't finish the bottom 1/4 of the painting on site, so yesterday, I sat down and tried to resolve it a bit.  I decided to add the road to perhaps help explain the abrupt cut into the cliff.  The roadcut area looks just as unpleasing and out of place in my painting as it does in life, so I guess maybe I shouldn't harsh on it too much.  

At any rate, it was just pleasant to sit in the shade of some large trees and paint it.  Wayne brought out his chair, book and a beer and joined me.  The mosquitos brought their A-game, but are no match against loose, full length sleeves and pants.  

Now, that that the token artwork is out of the way, I can share some of my not-so-secret photography obsessions:  panoramas, or "panos" for short.   Shooting panos can be addictive, and with the advent of high-tech stitching software like the Double Take program I use, it's pretty easy and fun.  Use of manual settings on the camera and a tripod is ideal for panos, but that is really impractical for me 90% of the time since I never carry a tripod on hikes.  Hand-held shots can work fine with practice.

I actually have two Picasa albums devoted to panoramas:  one for Grand Canyon shots, and the other for everything else; some I've posted to the blog in the past, but most have never been shared.   Have a look.  

First up - a view from the East Fork trail on Monday afternoon [click on the photos to see a larger size]:

San Miguels from East Fork trail
3-part landscape-oriented, hand-held

During our hike, I mused to Wayne about how stunning this would be as a sunrise shot to catch the alpenglow on the snow on the east face of the mountain.  What originally seemed like something only a hard-core photographer would do gradually came to be more doable as I considered it.  The main issue is that, despite my desires to be so, I'm not a morning person.

Nonetheless, we discussed it, and decided to give it a go if we got up early enough and could get motivated to drag out of the warm sleeping bag.  Wayne, bless his heart, is always accommodating to my silly artistic whims, as inconvenient as they may be.  We made it happen...sort of:

San Miguels in Morning Light - 5:50 a.m.
3-part landscape-oriented, tripod-mount

I impressed myself by hiking 3/4 of a mile at 5:40 in the morning just to get some photos, and with my tripod.  Perhaps there is hope for me to be one of those "hard core" photographic types after all.

Here's the alpenglow shot from the trailhead, shot at 5:35 a.m.:

Here is a shot a few minutes later, showing the light hitting the hillside:

Hillside Morning and the San Miguels
2-part tripod-mount

After we packed up our camp and headed out up Hwy 145 to spend the next few hours taking in the scenic beauty of the rest of the San Juan Skyway drive, a stop at Trout Lake was in order:

Morning at Trout Lake
4-part landscape-oriented, hand-held

Notice the golden shimmer across the water?  It's pollen, although I'm not sure of its source.  While these  west-facing mountains generally look better in late afternoon light, this photo isn't so bad.

After a quick stop in Telluride for some coffee (and noting several plein air painters already out painting for the Telluride Plein Air Festival that started the same day), we headed along Hwy 62 towards the Dallas Divide.  This geographic and geological divide separates the volcanic San Juan mountains from the Uncompahgre uplift and plateau to the north and east.  

San Juans along the Dallas Divide
2-part landscape-oriented, hand-held
Mt. Sneffels is the highest peak to the left, at 14,150'.  Telluride is on the other side of the range

Here's another single shot of the Mt. Sneffels range, as seen from famous designer and preppy clothing mogul Ralph Lauren's ranch (Double RL Ranch):

This could have been your view...if you'd come up with the idea to embroidery a polo player logo onto clothing

No more panos, but here are a couple of shots from the remainder of the trip:

Close-up of the Uncompahgre Gorge with the river of the same name located in Ouray.  In the winter, this is used as an ice park by climbers.  Crazy, you say?  I agree.

A view of the valley overlooking the town of Ouray.  Some monsoon-type clouds add to the view.

After leaving Ouray, the road climbs up over Red Mountain Pass, then drops down into the old mining town of Silverton, following Mineral Creek part of the way.  From there, it's back to Durango, heading over Molas Pass, Coal Bank Hill, and through the scenic Animas River valley.  

A truly glorious drive, and sort of the obligatory "must do" trip for visitors to Durango that Disneyworld is to Orlando.  Only this is a far, far better way to spend the day.


  1. Wonderful photographs Sonya - so glad I clicked through to the albums.

  2. Beautiful scenery captured with wonderful photographs. Hi, I just found you from Wm Cook.

  3. Hi Carol - I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Susan - thanks much for your visit and comment, and nice to have you as a new follower!


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