Sunday, September 30, 2018

Leadville, Colorado

Colorado Trip, Part 3 of 3.

Our last full day in Colorado was spent on a day trip to Leadville, the highest city in the United States.  It was a bright sunny day (like most of our days on the trip), a bit cool, and we took Rt. 6 E to Rt. 24 S, which would eventually take us to Leadville.  Our first stop was the small picturesque town of Minturn, which the Eagle River runs alongside.  There are lots of antique shops there, and I suspect a good number of people live there that work in Vail and other  nearby resort areas. Incorporated in 1904, Minturn was named for Robert Bowne Minturn, Jr, the Vice President of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad that founded the town. It's a much quieter place (at least in the summer) than Vail and Beaver Creek, for sure.

Continuing past Minturn, Route 24 climbs, twists, and turns as we ascended along what's known as the "Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway." Indeed, it is. Our highest part may have been through Tennessee Gap at 10,424 feet.  We stopped at a few places along the way to look and take some quick snaps.  The aspens were turning gold in some places, making for some amazing contrasts on the mountainsides.   I wasn't prepared for the broad high-altitude flat areas - some of which are rangelands.  One other point of interest was the place where Camp Hale was located. Now, a broad expanse of grasses and sagebrush, the former US Army base was where the 10th Mountain Division was formed, with the aim of training troops in mountain (9200 feet elevation) and winter warfare.  It was decommissioned after the war, but the CIA used it in the 1960s to secretly train Tibetan Guerillas.  Finally, in 1965 the camp was dismantled, and pretty much everything removed.  You can get a better idea of the area from Google Earth, and it's hard to imagine 14,000 soldiers there.  Leadville must have had a lot of business, as there were few nearby places to go for a drink.  Anyway, it was a nice little stop to look and ponder it all.

Finally, we arrived in Leadville, and I was immediately struck by three things -- the colorful buildings, the clear dark blue sky, and that I wished I had an oxygen tank. Leadville is 10,152 feet above sea level, and to this Great Lakes flat-lander I might as well have been in Nepal.  I was slowly getting acclimated to Avon, but going up a flight of stairs at a Leadville antique store left me panting. People were attracted to the area of present-day Leadville by the lure of placer gold in 1859.  Later, the town was founded in 1877 by  mine owners Horace Tabor and August Meyer at the start of the Colorado Silver Boom. The town was built on the desolate flat land below the tree line. Over the years, it has been tied to mining silver and molybdenum, with the ups and down in the economy as a result.  Tourism is a big business now, but nearby mines also contribute to the economy. At its altitude, you get a good feel for alpine and subarctic environments.

Walking around town was a Kodachrome (if there was still Kodachrome) experience.  Many brightly painted buildings along the main street, and the side streets featured small houses that were gaily painted, some with bric-a-brac, like Victorian mansions. However, most of the houses were less than 800 square feet!  I was unprepared for the visual feast, and I would love to return there for a couple of days to do the place justice with my Mamiya C330 and color film.
The entrance doorway to the Saloon. How many feet have
trod through here?

antique store window

We ate a great lunch at the Silver Dollar Saloon, which dates from 1879, and is one of the oldest bars in continued operation in the US.  There are lots of memorabilia in the bar, and if you are going to be in Leadville, you'll be missing a lot if you don't stop in.  We had planned on going to the Mining Museum, but by the time we were done poking around, it was only 30 minutes until closing time, so we instead went over to the train depot, where the Colorado and Southern Railroad Station still stands.  Not only that, they have a daily tourist run on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad. That will have to wait for another time, as our day was getting late.   We left Leadville, and took a much shorter and faster Route 91 back to I-70 and Vail, and got to see the mining operations near Climax.  Some difference from Route 24!  Leadville certainly bears a return trip for a few days another time.

The next day, we drove Bev to the Denver Airport so she could return to Michigan, and Adrienne and I continued S into New Mexico.  We had a fantastic week in Colorado.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Getting Comfortable with the Leica M2

Colorado Trip, Part 2 of 3
I acquired my Leica M2 in 2014, and over the span of 4 years, I never took it along as my only 35 mm film camera. That changed on my trip to Colorado earlier this month.  Yes, I packed the Nikon D300 as my main camera, but as it turned out, the M2 was often my walk-around camera as the trip went on.   Mostly, I shot b&w film with it, and the more I used it, the more I felt at ease with it.  One could say that we "bonded" on the trip.  After finally going through 1000 images in Lightroom from the D300, and then developing and scanning the 7 rolls of film from the M2, the film was a more relaxing and I think, more rewarding process.  First of all, nearly all of my M2 shots were what I would call "dead on" in terms of exposure.  Yeah, b&w film has enough latitude to cover minor exposure errors, but the thing is, being in an all-manual, no built-in meter situation made me think more about the image and proper settings before I pressed the shutter button.  In outdoor situations in the SW, it's almost always sunny-16 during the day, and my years of experience, intuition, and sometimes my pocket light meter, got me through the rest.
Our condo, Avon, CO. Ilford HP-5+

Avon, CO. Ilford HP-5+

Bev and Adrienne, Bob's Place tavern.  Ilford HP-5+

I wanted to test myself this time -- what could I expect if I went somewhere and ONLY shot with a rangefinder?  As I grew more relaxed with the Leica, it became all the easier to shoot anything with it.  At heart, I have always been an SLR user, and of course, there are many situations when an SLR's capabilities will favor its use.  Long lenses and rangefinder cameras just are not a good combo.  My M2 has the Canadian-made 35mm f/1.4 Summilux, and is that lens sharp.  In the process, I found that the 35mm point of view was a really great choice for the landscape and skies of the West.  The more I shot, the better I felt about my choice.  As I am going through the negatives now, I am very pleased with my results.
Vail, CO  Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Somewhere, I saw a line that basically said that B&W is an interpretation of the scene, not as how it really looks.  And of course, that is true.  There are many instances when I see something colorful and knowing that it's the colors that make the image, I don't take a b&w photo.  In the West, however, the  landscape and skies are contrasty, the landscape structured, and oooh the shadows!    The Saguaro cacti in Tuscon were tremendous, and even more so  when I shot them with the M2.  My films were Ilford HP-5+,  Kodak Tmax 400, Ultrafine Xtreme 400, and Agfa APX 100.  All look great.   I didn't use any filters over the 35mm lens, as I don't have an adapter for filters.  Still, the shots look fine.

With a camera such as the M2, I wasn't fiddling with the camera.  I was more connected to my final images than I was with the D300, for sure.  The M2 is simple, easy to use, and has a great lens. The viewfinder is wonderful, and of course, the camera is lighter around the neck than the D300 or any other film SLR.

I think now, that I could be fully confident of coming back with great photos from a long trip with nothing but the M2, a bunch of  film, and a simple light meter. Thanks to this latest trip, I also opened my eyes to what I can do when I am not thinking about the equipment.

Gore Creek, Vail, CO  Ilford HP-5+

Saguaro National Park, Agfa APX100

outside Mission San Xavier. Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Avenue, Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Ave., Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

Tucson, AZ. Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Ave., Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Center for Creative Photography

A Visit to the Center for Creative Photography

My trip to CO, NM, and AZ resulted in the crossing off of some "bucket list" items.   I have long wanted to visit the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) in Tucson, AZ.  Founded in 1975, the Center for Creative Photography houses the archives and images of many of the premier photographers of our time.  Starting with Ansel Adams, it has become one of the world's finest photography museums and research centers.  From the CCP's materials:
"Beginning with the archives of five living master photographers—Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer—the collection has grown to include 270 archival collections. Among these are some of the most recognizable names in 20th century North American photography: W. Eugene Smith, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, and Garry Winogrand. Altogether there are over eight million archival objects in the Center's collection including negatives, work prints, contact sheets, albums, scrapbooks, correspondence, writings, audiovisual materials and memorabilia. In addition to whole archival collections the Center also actively acquired individual photographs by modern and contemporary photographers. There are currently more than 90,000 works by over 2,200 photographers. A library of books, journals, and exhibition and auction catalogs including many rare publications plus an extensive oral history collection complements the archival and fine print collections. The combined art, archival, and research collections at the Center provide an unparalleled resource for research, exhibitions, loans, and traveling exhibitions."   Please pinch me.  So many amazing photographers have their work at the Center for Creative Photography!    Wow.  In contrast to museums where photography is but a minor part, the CCP's ONLY mission is photography.

We were in Tucson for several days, and we visited the CCP after a visit to the San Xavier del Bac Mission, itself a photographic subject of Ansel Adams and others.  The CCP is located on the campus of the University of Arizona, and once we found a parking spot in a UA parking garage, we trekked across campus to the museum.  Tucson was about 105F that day, and yes, it was a dry heat. I get that.  Once inside the CCP, we saw that it was free, and there were several exhibits.  The first one --  Longer Ways to Go: Photography of the American Road, is excellent.  Much of the exhibit  contains photos  of  places along Route 66 by Kozo Miyoshi, a Japanese photographer and former artist in residence at the Center for Creative Photography. Taken in the 1990s, the large photographs are documentary in nature, exploring the sometimes drab and yet surviving places of the old highway.   Photographs by others that encompass the theme of the American Road are arranged by thematic aspects -- such as view from the car window, and our love affair with the automobile and the scenes from the highway.  Many favorite photographers are represented here, such as Gary Winogrand (and all this time I thought he was only a NYC photographer!), Ansel Adams, Ed Ruscha, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, and many others.  In addition, the show also has small Google Streetview images to show the spots as they look now.  In some cases, little change, in others... ugh.  I found  Miyoshi's work to be excellent, and he's now someone I am looking to see more of.  I ended up buying a copy of Miyoshi's monograph "Far East and Southwest" at the CCP gift shop.

After seeing that exhibit, we went to the next one, The Heritage Gallery.  Again, so many favorite photographers and some new and interesting ones, too (at least to me). From the Center for Creative Photography materials: "Inspired by the Center’s legacy, the Heritage Gallery features iconic treasures from the collection alongside more recent acquisitions. The story of the Center is told through pairings and groupings of images that explore the relationships between contemporary practice and the photographic foundations that inspired them. The gallery will be rotated twice a year, offering visitors a chance to make new discoveries, sparking inquiry and dialogue." This show  featured work by Ansel Adams, David Maisel, Patrick Nagatani, Lynn Stern, Giorgia Valli, Edward Weston and Garry Winogrand.    It was such a wonderful exhibit, with lots to images to mull over and think about. 

In between the exhibits was a large flat file case with pull-out drawers, with selections inside from the CCP archives!  Wonderful stuff. Open up a drawer or two and see examples from the archives of Ansel Adams!

Overall, this was a most impressive visit, and if I lived anywhere near Tucson, I would be there often.

An Ansel Adams drawer...

A page from Weston's Day Books!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Images... and more images from Colorado

(Part 1 of 3)
I'm back from a vacation in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.  We spent a week in the Avon, Colorado area, and did day trips to nearby places that looked interesting. We had no planned places to visit, except for the Denver Botanical Garden after we arrived in Denver.  It was great to stay at a friend's condo for free, and not to have to stay in a motel for a week.  We were able to have breakfast and dinner "at home."  After we settled in, I went to look up nearby points of interest, and got out the maps.  The first thing I noticed after we arrived was that my body was not used to being above 5000 feet above sea level.  Chalk part of that up to age (61), and living in Michigan for the past 37 years.  I try and walk at a fast pace at least 2 miles most days of the week, and I have to wonder how much worse I would have felt had I not.  Avon is about 7400 feet, and as the week wore on, I felt more acclimated.  However, some of the days we were over 10,000 feet, and in Leadville, going up some stairs was pretty breath-taking.  The second thing I noticed was the sky.  The West has LOTS OF SKY.  Whether you are in the mountains of Colorado, or the deserts of Arizona, the sky is something. I'll talk more about that later.

As I noted in my previous post, I brought my D300 SLR and a bag of lenses, my Leica M2, Yashica A TLR, and a Debonair plastic camera.   I shot about 1000 images on the D300 over the span of almost two weeks, and I have yet to develop the film that I shot with the film cameras.  My M2 got lots of use, and the more I shot with it, the more it became almost second-nature to use. At times, I left the D300 in the car and just brought along the Leica and the Yashica.  My plan was to bring along my Chromebook laptop and backup my digital shots to my Google Drive every night.  That worked great, and was pretty much automatic.  I enjoyed the Chromebook's instant-on, ease of use, and light weight.  The only thing I also had to bring was a CF card reader to get the files from the D300. It also allowed me to post some photos online during the trip. While my Instagram feed from my phone was also used for Instagram and Facebook, the images I take with my DSLR are going to be different, so it was nice to be able to post those for a change. In the past, I have brought along my iPad, but a real laptop offers me more flexibility. The Chromebook fills the niche quite well.

After we returned to Ann Arbor, I uploaded my images from the CF card into Lightroom, and started the still-ongoing image selection and editing process.   I'll start developing the film this week, and will scan the negatives ASAP.   I have been shooting film so much, and digital so much less, that I don't think I was prepared for the number of images to go through in Lightroom.  I'm still at it, and of course it's great to look at them and think about where I was and what we were doing when I shot the image.

The Denver Botanic Gardens was a good way to start the trip, and see a bit of Denver in the process.  It always has amused me to think that Denver is in a flat plain, yet is a mile high.  Flying there is an instant intro to the higher elevation, whereas driving west, you get the sense of change gradually.   We had rented a 2018 Ford Edge at the airport for our driving around for 2 weeks, and I appreciated the mapping and directions on the console. It was a new experience for me, and it really made a difference in getting to destinations without any hassle.

Giant Spreadwing damselfly in the Gardens

Who knew that a shot of the waterlilies would get over 55,000
view on Flickr's Explore?

The gardens are extensive, and our 2 hour visit was all the
time we had, as we wanted to be in Avon before sundown.

So much to see! 

We had only a short visit at the Denver Botanic Gardens, as we needed to be in Avon before sundown. We arrived at the condo just before sunset, and it was a great scenic drive.  Avon is not far from Vail, and the area is mainly geared for skiing. I am not a skier, and of course, everything was green. There is still lots to see and do if you are not there in the winter.  Of course, that means we did some day trips, and I'll post some images from a few of them.  Colorado IS stunning.  I have visited other parts of it in the past, but all those trips were long-drive days, without the benefit of having a home base to start from.  I really enjoyed our stay in Avon.

View from our patio

Morning in Avon

Our first day there was spent getting groceries and checking out the Avon area.  The next day, we headed to Glenwood Springs. We drove along highway 6 until we got to Gypsum, then it was I-70. What a tremendous experience it was driving through Glenwood Canyon along the the highway! We crossed the Colorado River numerous times, and the view was just amazing.

You see a lot of weathered buttes like this.  Along Eagle Creek.

Along the Colorado River off I-70. The stretch of 12 miles through
Glenwood Canyon is jaw-dropping awesome.

A street in Glenwood Springs

I didn't dine there, but it sure has a great sign.

an old preserved barber pole 

As frequently happens, we got a rain shower in the afternoon

On the trail to Pioneer Cemetery

Wish ribbons for cancer survivors along the trail

The grave marker for "Doc"  Holliday.  It is presumed that he is
buried elsewhere in an unmarked grave at Pioneer Cemetery in
Glenwood Springs.

That's it for now.  I'll post some more image from Colorado in an upcoming post.