I’m one of those strange people who gets a lot of enjoyment from recording information. I’m not sure why that is, my wife is certain that it is a very unhelpful obsession and often laughs with delight whenever she remembers the time my months of carefully recorded mileage records blew out the car door while filling up with fuel in central Serbia.
These days I don’t seem to record quite as much as I used to but I still find that I love to record every hike I make. I suppose that is because I enjoy looking back to relive my adventures as well as to better plan for the year ahead. People, especially those who have a similar love of lists, seem to be quite interested in how I go about recording my information. So for those of your who are interested, here you go:
Several years ago I tested out a large number of apps to see which one would work best for my needs. I fell in love with the simple little iPhone app called “Trails“. It is beautifully designed and can record a variety of activities, though I use it primarily in the hiking or the x-country skiing modes. The app is so simple to use. You simply need to push the large “Start” button, select your activity and then let it go. It records your route on a map and tracks your elevation, speed and direction changes at each point in the journey. Afterwards I can look back and identify where I slowed down, where the trail became steep, how long it took me to the summit, etc. I find that I mostly refer back to my distance, pace, overall elevation gain and total time. One of the features that I really appreciate is that I can set the app to stop my trip when I return to my departure point. This means that I don’t have to worry about remembering to turn it off when I’m done. This app then can tell me how many miles I’ve hiked or skied during a given period and how many hours I’ve spent out there during that period. Overall the app seems fairly accurate. Lately I’ve been using a quality GPS unit to make other recordings and I find that the recordings are fairly similar to each other.
After collecting data in my Trails app, I then manually transfer some of that information into an Excel sheet that I keep. The reason for this is that I can pull more information out of it that I want to track. It also serves as a good backup for my Trails data. In Excel I can then quickly see how many miles I’m skiing and hiking each month, how much elevation gain I’ve done, as well as how many miles I’ve put in in RMNP as opposed to other locations. I can even see how many miles I’ve hiked with family as opposed to alone. There really is all sorts of information you can pull out using an Excel sheet.
You would think that this would be enough, but I also then keep a few different maps. Each January I stop by the entrance station to Rocky Mountain National Park and pick up a new map. These are the simple maps they give to everyone who enters the park. I write the year on the front of it and then mark every trail I hike or ski during that year. I use black for hikes and blue for skiing. I can then look back at previous years and see where I’ve been. I then also have another large topographical map that I record every place I’ve ever hiked. This one is pretty well marked up. I only take it out and add to it when I’ve gone to a new area that I’ve not been to before.
So with this approach I can keep track of what I do each year and where I go. It serves as a great record which I know I will look back on and enjoy for years to come. It also works to help me plan for the future. I can look at the last couple of years of maps and instantly see that there is an area I haven’t visited in a while and so that becomes a priority for the new year. I can also see that I didn’t get the mileage in that I had planned. I see that in 2017 I did nearly 400 miles less than the previous year, and so I am then able to make plans to improve upon that this year.
Yes it is a bit much, but I really enjoy tracking all of this. Later I’ll fill you in on a bunch of other tracking that I’ve been doing as part of a new project that I began in September.
As a married man and father who also runs a business I often can’t get away for long photography trips and so I have to do most of my photo trips in something of a hurry. At this time in my life, there is no getting away for 2, 4 or 8 weeks at a time, as some photographers are able to do. Most of my photo trips have to fit into just a handful of days. This means that on these trips there isn’t time to sit and ponder the light, get a feel for the changing weather patterns or spend days exploring the backcountry. Instead, I need to get to work from the minute I arrive.
Often the first visit to somewhere new ends up being a scouting trip with little to show for it. Fortunately, there are now some great tools available to help make that first visit more fruitful. One of the tools that I often turn to is SnappGuides which is based out of Europe. They have an app with dozens of photo guides covering locations across the world from Namibia to the Yorkshire Dales. You can download the guide that you need and instantly know where to find some of the best photographic locations in the area. These photo guides are written by local photographers who know what they are talking about. It is almost like having a local photographer show you around.
The guides show you which areas are particularly photogenic. They let you know when you should be there as well as things to consider when you get there. The guides include driving directions, parking advice and guidance on hiking to the right spot to get the best views. The guides also include maps and GPS assistance as well as a number of sample photos which will give you a sense of the terrain and what you might expect at each location.
I typically use the guides as a starting point and then try to branch out and be creative from there, finding other interesting things in the area. Oftentimes, just getting into a beautiful area at the right time of day can open up a wealth of possibilities. I find that these guides are a good way to get an introduction to a new area while giving you the best chance of coming home with a few images that you are happy with. No doubt you’ll learn a lot on your trip and come away with new ideas which will make your next visit to the area even more productive.
This past December I used the guide for the Glencoe area of Scotland to help me get an introduction to shooting the area. I don’t think I took many photos from the exact locations they mentioned, but I did find that the guide helped me to orient and discover new locations that I otherwise might not have found.
I recently created a SnappGuide to Rocky Mountain National Park to help visiting photographers make the most of their visit here. So far people have found it very helpful. It actually contains most of the same information that is found in my book, Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you are a photographer who’s planning to visit a new location and not sure where to start, give SnappGuides a try. I think you’ll be impressed. www.SnappGuides.co.
The sun rises and we quietly slip into a new day. We sip our coffee as our minds wander the imagined path of the day ahead flitting from tasks to be checked off of our lists and activities to be attended. In our slowly awakening minds it all seems so mundane, much like the days and months that preceded it. Yet this new morning is pregnant with unexplored possibilities. It is one of the handful of days we’ve been given. We can mindlessly bumble through it as if still asleep or we can awaken our hearts and greet the day with expectancy.
Though the tasks and events are still there waiting for us, they are not all that awaits us. At every turn we encounter, though usually unrecognized in our sleepy state, a world of wonder and possibility where the invisible peeks through at us. From the glistening snow on the naked branch to the twinkle in the eye of the store clerk we get glimpses of the deeper reality in which we live. In each moment we are moving towards or away from wholeness, a wholeness that unites us with the unseen substance of our world. We are either joining the song of creation or missing it all together. There is a joyful dance taking place behind the visible façade and each morning we are invited to join in that dance bringing goodness to the surface of our world.
In November while hiking in Zion National Park I received an unusual phone call. It was someone I’d never met asking me if I would be one of Casio’s outdoor adventurers as part of a Backpacker Magazine and Casio project for their ProTrek watches. I initially wondered if this was a prank, scam or a wrong number. Sure, I spent a lot of time out in the mountains but I’ve never climbed Everest or wrestled a grizzly. I’m simply a landscape photographer. After they sent me a link to one of their previous adventurers, I started to realize that they were serious. Apparently, Casio was given a list of outdoor people in the Boulder, Colorado area. They went through it and for some reason felt like I was the person they wanted.
As soon as I returned from Arizona plans began to come together. Like many such projects there was a real rush to do this as quickly as possible in order to meet a print deadline for an advertorial with Backpacker Magazine. They wanted to do a full page article about me while advertising Casio’s ProTrek watch at the same time. They first had me come down to Boulder where they purchased a couple of outfits for me from the Eddie Bauer store. It was clear that my ragged outdoor gear wouldn’t fit the bill for a glossy ad.
Then a couple of days later the first big snow storm of the year moved in. It was decided that we should do the shoot in the storm. We originally wanted to film in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is difficult/time consuming to get filming permits and we needed them right away. I joined photographer David Camera and his assistant at 7am near Berthod Pass. The roads were terrible and it was pretty chilly, but the setting with the heavy snow was fantastic. Dave knew just what he was doing, having done of lot of winter sports photography such as the X-Games. We took a lot of photos in different outfits and poses, but this what came out of it. It was printed as a full page ad in the March 2016 edition of Backpacker Magazine.
Then, just after the start of the year, I was told that it was time to do a video to accompany the ad. They wanted it to blend in with the first shoot, so as soon as it started snowing I met videographer Alton Richardson. We again had the same issue of not having permits to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park, so we did our first shoot in the trees on the side of Lily Mountain as it gently snowed. As we hiked up the trail, I found myself getting very winded and feeling very old and out of shape as Alton turned out to be a real mountain goat. He’s in his early 20s and fit as can be. He primarily makes climbing videos, but it was clear that he knew what he was doing even in this situation.
We both felt we needed a scene with me photographing sunrise as I so often do and that it would be nice to include as much of Rocky Mountain National Park as possible without photographing on park property. I found a spot near Lily Mountain where we were not in the national park, but which gave us great views of the park. I also put together a little script that expressed my thoughts about photography. On the morning we met to film this segment it was dark and very windy. The winds must have been gusting up to 35 or 40mph. When we climbed to the top of the ridge, we were nearly swept off of our feet several times. Alton was a pro and got the footage he needed despite the challenging conditions. The end result of our labor was this video which I hope gives a little glimpse into who I am and what I do.
In March of 2007 I signed an agreement to rent our current gallery space. It had previously been a candle shop and you could smell it half a block away. It’s true! I had almost no money to work with but with the help of a couple of friends, using lots of nails, paint and elbow grease I did my best to take this ugly room and turn it into a gallery, albeit a temporary one: I had been told the building would be torn down at the end of the summer.
I added a few walls and put a fresh coat of paint on everything. I also then painted the outside, changing it from white and green to red and white.
When the gallery opened on April 14th, 2007 it was quite the celebration. I couldn’t believe that I had my own gallery, even if it was only for a few months. Lots of photographers and friends came to the opening event. It wasn’t the fanciest looking place, but it worked.
The first summer was quite an adventure. I didn’t know how it would go and if I would be able to even pay the rent. In the end it went a lot better than I anticipated. Later that summer the big project was put on hold and I was told that I could remain in the gallery. The following year my building was sold to someone else. The new landlord wanted to upgrade the building. After a couple of years he did some renovations moving the front door, fixing the siding and replacing the green carpet. I also did a few things to improve the quality of the gallery on the inside. It then stayed like this for quite a few years.
In 2014 our great landlord took the lead and repainted the outside, giving the gallery a completely new look. Then this year, after celebrating 8 years in the gallery I decided that it was finally time to make it the way I wanted it. I shut the gallery for the entire month of April and made several changes to the interior. I took out the carpet and replaced it with a fabulous tile that actually looks like wood. I also added some additional wall space, brought in a fire place, had a barn-wood desk made, replaced all the trim and then gave it an updated paint job. The changes also made it possible to bring in some new and much larger artwork. I am very happy with the changes and think it captures the feel that I was aiming for.
It really has been a fun journey to see things develop over these years. Thank you to all of you who’ve helped me along the way! I can’t even imagine where things will be in another 8 years.
As many of you know I flew to Austin, Texas on Friday April 10th, 2015 for an award ceremony where I was a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award with the Independent Book Publishers Association. My book Wild Light received the gold prize for best book in the Nature and Environment category and a silver prize in the Coffee Table Book category. There were 1,400 books in competition this year so I felt very honored to win these awards.
I also just learned that my book is a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards which will be held in Aspen in late June. It feels great to know that my hard work paid off and I was able to create a book that appropriately honors this amazing park during its 100th anniversary.