Tag Archives: photography

Kevin Lee & Andy Sydow @ Dazzle

Kevin Lee & Andy Sydow

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Kevin Lee is the music director at Dazzle – the main Denver jazz club – and has been responsible for bringing some amazing acts to town as well as providing opportunities to local musicians.  Like the part couple of music directors at Dazzle, Steven Denny and Tyler Gilmore, Kevin is also a musician himself.  I had never had the chance to hear him before, so I was excited to be there at Dazzle last night for his UCD senior recital.  Interesting choices of tunes, nice arrangements, well played – it was a great night.  Andy Sydow’s recital followed on the same program.  I was not familiar with him, but it was nice to hear another new player.  And having Steven Glenn on tuba was an unusual and welcome touch.

Corbus Plays Zappa

Corbus Plays Zappa

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I was not very familiar with Frank Zappa’s music before this concert by Dave Corbus.  Or more specifically, before hearing my wife Wendy Fopeano practicing for the concert, as she was the lead singer.  Definitely a creative cat, and Corbus’ band – Dave, Wendy, Peter Sommer, Andre Mallinger, Jeff Jenkins, Bijoux Barbosa, and Paul Romaine – did a fantastic job on some very challenging music.

Uri Caine Trio @ Dazzle, 1/11/2013

Uri Caine 1/11/2013

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Uri Caine has been on my radar a long time, but I’ve never had the opportunity to hear him live.  So I was very glad that Creative Music Works brought him to Dazzle in Denver, and that I had the opportunity to shoot this show.  Uri is my favorite kind of jazz pianist – melodic, rhythmic, energetic, percussive, endlessly inventive.  I also appreciate the fact that he displays a deep understanding of classical music as well.

Danny Meyer Going Away Party @ Dazzle

Danny Meyer

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Danny Meyer is one of my favorite musicians in Colorado. He’s the saxophonist in what I guess counts as the current incarnation of my quartet, although we have done only one gig and that was over a year ago. I am very sorry not to have the opportunity to work with him much more as he is moving to New York soon. These images are from a going away party / concert and benefit for CCJA held at Dazzle. I wish Danny all the success in the world!

David Torn & Sun of Goldfinger @ Walnut Room

David Torn & Sun of Goldfinger

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This show at the Walnut Room was sponsored by Creative Music Works, an organization I have been working with in some fashion for around 20 years now. The group featured David Torn on guitar, Tim Berne on saxophone, and Ches Smith on drums, performing mostly ambient free improvisations. Tim Berne is a musician I have long admired, so I was especially appreciative of the opportunity to see him in person.

Concert Photography Workshop in November!

Next month my wife Wendy Fopeano and I will be teaching a concert photography workshop at Denver’s premiere jazz club, Dazzle! The workshop is sponsored by The Gift of Jazz. For more information and to register, see:

Jazz Concert Photography Workshop

The workshop will take place on two consecutive Saturday mornings – November 13 and 20 – with an evening session on Tuesday, November 16 photographing a live band in performance.

Some of the topics Wendy and I expect to cover include selection of equipment, technique and the unique demands of concert photography, composition, etiquette, capturing the spirit of the performance, processing, and organization. We are extremely excited by this, and hope to see the class fill up quickly!

Concert Photography – Post-Processing

In previous articles, I covered equipment and techniques for photographing concerts. But even if you followed all the advice I gave, you probably came home, looked at your images, and didn’t quite see what you hoped for based on the examples you have seen in my articles or elsewhere. There are a few fundamental things I always do my concert photographs in post-processing (PP) that make all the difference in the world with relatively little effort. In this article, I will explain some of these techniques.

First, I should mention that the software I use for PP is ACDSee Pro. This application provides integrated image management and non-destructive editing much like Lightroom or Aperture or a few other programs. The techniques I describe are mostly things that can be done in any of these or similar programs, as well as other popular editing programs like Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, or even Picasa. Since I expect people reading this will be using all sorts of different programs, I will try to be as general as I can rather than deal with the specifics of ACDSee Pro.

To give you an idea of the extent of the difference PP can make, I find it useful to look at a whole screenful of thumbnails first before focusing on what might be done to images individually. Here is what I might typically see when I first download my images:

As with the other examples in this article, you can click on it to see it larger.

There are a couple of things that usually end up being disappointing when we first look at our images. One is that we typically have a lot of very similar-looking shots. Part of this is the fact that concert lighting is usually fairly strongly colored. Even plain “white” spotlights are usually pretty orange. The color of the lighting usually dominates any other color in the scene. But another reason we often have a bunch of similar-looking images at first is because of how we typically shoot. We often take a bunch of pictures of the same musician or scene in hopes of one turning out well before moving on to the next.

One of the most important but often overlooked principles of PP is that editing is as much a matter of selecting images as it is of actually adjusting the images themselves. Anyone can look like a much better photographer if we only look at their best images. So as soon as possible, I start the process of rating my images in ACDSee. My scheme is fairly simple: 1-star for images that are out of focus blurry or are otherwise not worth keeping; 2-star for images that are competent and not worthy of deletion but which I don’t particularly need to keep looking at; 3-star for the images I intend to keep copies of after the originals have been should been archived to an external archive, 4-star for images that I think are worth sharing with others. Just by grouping my 4-star images together, already I look like a better photographer.

If I’m going to try to look like a good photographer, however, I am better off doing my PP first. And the other benefit of doing my rating first is that I can focus my efforts on the 4-star images. While I might process those individually, I often just copy the settings I used on my 4-star images to any similar 3-star images.

The following screen shot shows just my 4-star images from the same shoot as the previous example, so there is more variety in the shots themselves. And since I have done my PP – including white balance – there is more variety in color as well. Instead of the screen shot I showed previously, I’d much rather see this:

White balance isn’t the only thing I changed in PP, of course, but it’s the thing that made the most noticeable difference in this screen shot. The other changes I made would be more noticeable in larger views.

So now let’s turn to the specific PP techniques I use. There’s actually not a lot to it, but as the above examples demonstrate, they really make a difference.

The first thing I usually do with a concert shot is to apply a preset I created some time ago that sets the white balance to something that works for basic tungsten lighting, sets noise reduction to levels that often work well with my camera at ISO 1600 (my usual setting for concerts), and adds what I think of as a typically appropriate level of sharpening. With ACDSee Pro, I can apply this preset as a batch to all my 3-star and 4-star images if I like, giving me a good starting place for further processing in just seconds. Many other RAW processing program provide a similar sort of capability, but there are some older applications using an older paradigm that don’t work this way: you can’t apply a preset other than while converting to JPEG, which means no further RAW processing would be possible. I would not like to use such a program, but if that’s what you have, then you’ll have to do all your work on files one at a time.

Here is an image from a recent shoot loaded into ACDSee Pro as it came from my camera (before applying the preset):

After applying my preset, the colors look more natural:

The orange color cast is lessened, but now it is too magenta. The lights on the stage at moment probably used a colored gel. So I further adjust the WB by hand (using an eyedropper on the hair then fine tuning from there) to yield something I liked:

It is common for WB changes like this to affect our perception of exposure. The original image was mostly red light. By removing much of the red light from the image, I’m left with better color balance, but less light overall. So even though the original image actually showed clipping on the histogram – all in the red channel, which is almost inevitable when shooting under red lighting – the result is now underexposed. On the positive side, most of the clipping is gone. Also, I should mention that because my camera is limited to ISO 1600 and sometimes that is not enough to avoid blur, I will often deliberately shoot underexposed and expect to push exposure in PP. Beyond that, I would also say that metering in concert photography is tricky, and there is no shame in needing exposure adjustments in PP.

In this case, I added 0.75EV compensation to bring the overall brightness where I wanted it. This actually blew a few more highlights in the hair and the reflection in the bell of the trumpet, so I used a little highlight recovery to lessen that. While I was at it, I made small changes to two other controls on this same panel. I added a small amount of fill light to lighten shadows further, and I slightly reduced vibrance (similar to saturation, but “smarter”) to make the skin tones a little more neutral still.

Here is the result of those changes. The green dots in the background show where I have deliberately allowed the background to clip to black, and the red dots show where I have intentionally allowed highlights to clip to white:

The next step for me is usually to use the Lighting tool in ACDSee to further balance the highlights, midtones, and shadows, while also increasing local contrast and bringing out detail appropriate. This is a tool that may have have an exact analogue in your software, but similar effects might be achieved using curves, local contrast enhancement, or shadow/highlight tools that you may have access to. It is kind of hard to explain exactly how ACDSee’s Lighting tool works, but the effect is to allow me to lighten the shadow side of face without reducing contrast in that area, and similarly increasing contrast and bringing out detail on the light side of the face. I am not sure if this will come across well here, but here the effect of the tool on this image:

At this size, the image now looks pretty much the way I want it to. But I realize than in larger views, noise will be more apparent. The amount of NR I applied in my preset is pretty conservative, and after exposure adjustments, I often need to apply more. taking an exposure made at ISO 1600 and pushing it by 0.75EV is like shooting at the equivalent of about ISO 2600. Now, I should say that I am not as noise-averse as some are – some amount of noise is pretty much expected in concert photography. Too much NR can smooth away detail, and I prefer a somewhat “grainy” look over a “plastic” one. I should also say that while NR is best done while looking at a 100% view, this is not very representative of how most people will ever see your images. Viewed on the web, they will be much smaller than 100%, and even an 11×14″ print won’t show noise to the same degree as a 100% view on screen. So don’t get too discouraged by how your images may look at 100%. Chances are they will be fine on the web and in smaller prints.

The camera I used here is the Pentax K200D, which is fairly average in terms of noise. It is sometimes characterized as having more chroma (color) noise than some cameras but less luminance noise, with an overall blotchiness due to a small amount of in-camera NR that is performed at ISO 1600 even for RAW files. Here is a 100% view of my images with my other changes intact, but the NR I originally applied in my preset turned off:

Here is the NR applied by my preset (50% chroma, 5% luminance):

While it might not look fantastic at 100% I know from experience it should look good enough at “normal” sizes. But since if I look closely I do see some larger purple splotches that I know I can control with a bit more NR, I turned the chroma NR up to 75% and luminance to 10%:

That’s as far as I’d want to take this. Folks who are really allergic to noise might want to investigate dedicated NR programs like Neat Image, but when I have tried them, I find I do not usually prefer the results I get. I could also try turning up ACDSee’s controls all the way, leading to the sort of “plastic” look I referred to earlier:

Actually, while this is noticeably softer if you click on the image to see it full size, I admit that at typical viewing sizes, the softness is no more likely to be noticed than the noise is. Still, I prefer the image the way I had it before.

The final thing I would consider doing here is a slight crop. I don’t crop very often, and when I do, it is usually because of something really distracting like another musicians’ elbow in the picture or a stray microphone stand. But sometimes it is for purely aesthetic reasons, to achieve what I think of as a better balance in the composition by moving a face a little off center or trying to get the right proportion of body to instrument to background in the shot.

Some have an almost religious belief in not cropping, insisting on getting it right in camera. While I respect this, I feel I don’t have that luxury. Concert photography is too fast paced for me to feel comfortable limiting myself in that way, and when shooting with primes as I usually do, it’s often the case that the lens I have is not exactly the focal length I would choose if using a zoom. I do, however, maintain an equally irrational desire to preserve my camera’s 2:3 aspect ratio when I do crop.

Anyhow, here is the image as it stands before the crop:

All I would want to do here is remove some of the empty space above the head, thus making the face more dominant element in the composition, and paying attention to where I place it. this is what I came up with:

Had I performed a more significant crop that might have affected my perception of the color or exposure, I would have done this much earlier in the process – perhaps right after applying the preset. To be honest, I went out of my way to find an example of an image I had cropped for artistic reasons as opposed to simply cutting out something I didn’t wanted, but I don’t feel very strongly about the need for the crop here.

This leads to a related topic. I virtually never resort to cloning out stands or other distracting items that cannot be cropped away. I suppose this is like some people never cropping. Actually, though, in my case it’s more because cloning is a rather more complex operation, and ACDSee cannot do it within the scope of its non-destructive Develop mode. Instead I need to switch to its traditional Edit mode, which in turn requires me to convert to another format in order to preserve my changes, and a separate copy of my file is created as a result. This just seldom seems worth the effort to me as it might be if I using were a program that aloowed cloning in the non-destructive RAW processing, but even then, I still have reluctance to want to mess with brushes and selections and so forth.

Instead, I mostly just try to be conscious of my backgrounds when I shoot. I try to position myself so there are no distracting elements that would require cloning. In the case of this image, I suppose some might try to remove the bright line to the left of the trumpet (a reflection off the raised piano lid behind him), but I kind of like it.

There are more operations I could employ, and occasional do when necessary, but the steps I have outlined here are pretty much my usual routine. Preset to get WB and NR in the right ballpark, fine tune WB if necessary, correct exposure, play with lighting, further adjust NR if I had to correct exposure by much, and perhaps crop.

Here then, is the finished image:

Because I shoot in manual mode, it is pretty much guaranteed that all other shots I took of the same musician from the same vantage point will have the same issues in terms of color, exposure, and noise. So I can simply copy these settings (everything but the crop, which will rarely match from shot to shot) to all my other similar images in one operation, thus giving me a very useful starting point for further processing should I wish to do more. Often, though, I find no further processing is necessary at all after copying settings. But if the color of the lights changed, I can adjust WB while leaving everything set. Or if I had changed my shutter speed while shooting, I can adjust the brightness to compensate, again while leaving my other settings intact. This allows me to process a large number of pictures relatively quickly.

A Birthday Present from Tom Harrell

This week I got to see trumpeter Tom Harrell play with his quintet at Dazzle here in Denver, and it was fantastic. The group featured Wayne Escoffery on saxophone, Danny Grissett on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Donald Edwards on drums. The pictures that illustrate this story are from that show, and there are more pictures here. However, the story I am about to tell you is about seeing him in a different context a few years back. It’s kind of a long story, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

For my 40th birthday, I treated myself to dinner and a concert by Tom Harrell at the Mount Vernon Country Club. The show was billed as the Tom Harrell Piano Trio, and the promo made specific mention of the fact that Tom would be playing piano as well as the trumpet/flugelhorn he is famous for. Now, Tom is known as one the best trumpeter players in the world, but no one really knew anything about his piano playing. And as some folks reading this are probably also aware, he has some well-publicized mental health issues (diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic), and between that and the effects of the medication he takes to control his condition, there is always some element of mystery where Tom is concerned. So between that and the fact that no one in attendance had ever heard him play piano, and no one really had no idea what to expect that night.

I arrived early as I had made reservations for dinner before the show. I came alone, as my wife had a gig, and I was seated at a small table directly in front of the piano. I wondered for a moment if Peter – the general manager of the place and a huge jazz fan whom I had met but did not know well – had somehow made sure I would have a good view because he knew I was a pianist (he almost certainly would not have known it was my birthday). I decided this was pretty unlikely – why would the general manager be looking over seating arrangements personally? – and attributed my prime seating to nothing but coincidence and good fortune. During the buffet dinner, though, I happened to walk past where Peter was sitting, and he stopped me and asked if I liked my table. Apparently, he had deliberately sat me there after all; I was originally supposed to off in a corner somewhere.

But that’s not all. Peter then asked me if I would like to sit in and give Tom a chance to just concentrate on trumpet for a tune or two. Not that he had checked with Tom yet, but Peter wanted to gauge my interest. I was kind of stunned – I’m a reasonably well known pianist in the area, but people aren’t normally asked to sit on concerts of this sort, and frankly, as far as I knew, Peter had barely heard me play before. I told him I would certainly love to play with Tom, and that I even knew one of his tunes – Sail Away. Peter told me he’d check with Tom and get back to me. I went back to my table and finished my dinner.

So then the concert started. Tom has written a whole bunch of new material lately, so he and the rest of the band were all reading it. I liked the moods they created. Tom mostly played the piano. I suspect that Peter, like most people there, probably wanted to hear Tom play a little more trumpet, as that’s what he is famous for resides, and that’s probably why he was so keen on having me sit in.

They finished up by playing a bebop tune and Tom introduced the bassist and drummer (the first words out of his mouth all evening). Then they left to a round of applause. At that point, Peter (the general manager) lept up to the stage and encouraged us to keep clapping, and maybe Tom would come back for an encore – and Marc Sabatella (that’s me) might even join them.

Sure enough, Tom and the band came back out, and Peter motioned me on stage. He had told Tom I knew Sail Away, but the bassist looked at me and said he didn’t really know the tune, so Tom and I should just do it as a duo. It shocked me at first that Tom’s bassist wouldn’t know what was undoubtedly his most famous composition, but apparently they had been playing Tom’s new music exclusively in this group. I tried suggesting we just do a standard we all knew, but I don’t think Tom heard any of this exchange, and he started counting off Sail Away in his usual manner (“uh, uh, uh, uh”). Tom started playing the melody, I started accompanying him, and the bassist and drummed slipped out the back.

Now, what happens next is best appreciated if I give you a little bit of backstory. Back when I was in college at FSU in the 80’s, another famous trumpeter – Red Rodney – did a concert as a featured soloist with our school big band. I was new enough to jazz that I didn’t know who he was, although someone probably told me he had once played with Charlie Parker. What I did know was that I had this big unaccompanied solo right in the middle of an arrangement of My Romance – a whole chorus of nothing but me. But no one told Red this. On the concert, when it came time for my solo, and the rest of the band dropped out, Red just kept playing, so it was me and him. Now, had I been a mature adult with any respect for jazz history, I would have been in heaven, thinking to myself, “how cool is this – I’m playing a duo with Red Rodney”! But alas, I was young, cocky, and ignorant, and my actual thoughts ran more along the lines of, “you m*****f***er, get off the stage – this is my solo”! I’ve been paying for this in bad karma ever since, with the price usually involving someone stepping on one of my solos on that same tune (which has happened on several other occasions strangely enough).

So, now, back to Mount Vernon. Tom Harrell counted off Sail Away, and it’s just me and him. I’m thinking to myself, “how cool is this – I’m playing a duo with Tom Harrell”! I even managed to flash back to my experience with Red Rodney and laugh a little at myself for having wished Red Rodney would leave the stage and let me have my solo. So there I am up on stage with Tom, finally able to appreciate the opportunity I was being blessed with. I was playing accompaniment as he started playing the melody: “da da daah; da da dah da dah da daah; da da dah da dah da daah, daah, daaah…”. And then – I swear I could not possibly make this up – before we got ten seconds into the piece, Tom walked off the stage and left me to finish it for myself, thus ending our duo and giving me the solo performance I had stupidly wished for 20 years earlier.

I knew enough about Tom’s condition not to take this personally. There could have been any number of reasons for him to have left in the middle of the tune like that, and there was no point in worrying about what they were. More pressing was the question of what to actually do about it. I considered simply stopping right where I was, walking off the stage myself, and forgetting the whole thing. I considered just finishing up the melody and cutting it off there. But what I decided was this: people are there listening, so I might as well give them some music. So I played the rest of the melody myself, took a rather perfunctory but serviceable solo chorus, and as I was getting ready to play the head out, Tom rejoined me, so we did finish the tune together. The bassist and drummer came back with him, and Tom asked if I would join them for a tune everyone knew, so we played Like Someone In Love.” The bassist informed me they did this in Ab, which is not one of the three keys this tune is most commonly played in. But I had spent the better part of two years learning to handle just that sort of situation – basically teaching myself to transpose by ear. So while it might not have been a great performance on my part, I acquitted myself well enough. And that was that.

After the show, we speculated on what happened. Someone suggested to me that perhaps Tom had left because he felt bad about doing an encore without the rest of his band. Someone else told me the piano was turned up fairly high in the monitors because Tom had a relatively light touch, and when I played with my heavier touch, it may have been too loud for him. Just this week when my wife interviewed him for her radio show on KUVO, we learned that Sail Away has major personal significance for Tom, and it is possible that whatever he was thinking, he may have been overcome with emotion as well. But I cannot discount karma as an explanation, either.

I did get to talk to Tom myself a little right after playing with him, but of course I didn’t come out and directly ask about that, and I think I’m just as happy not having a definitive answer. Oh well. I got to hear a nice concert, had a great time on Like Someone In Love, had that surreal ten second experience on Sail Away, and most of all, came away with a story to tell. Not a bad way to spend one’s 40th birthday. Tom, if you’re reading this, thank you!

More Faces of Fall

Last year, I posted about a trip to the mountains to see the aspen turning. It’s an annual tradition for most Coloradans, and this year my wife and I set aside the one fall day we both had off together for a drive. I tried to do my research first to find out where the leaves would be peaking that day, but perhaps due to the freeze the night before, it turned out most of the leaves had already fallen where we chose to go – toward Guanella Pass from the south side. So we missed the typical “fields of gold” scenes I photo. However, we were able to revisit a spot we had stumbled on a few years ago – an unmarked and otherwise unremarkable pull-off on the side of the road where a short trail leads to a river – that we can only describe as magical. It’s hard to say what makes this particular spot along this particular river so special, but we both felt it strongly. Something about the color of the water and the rocks, the way the river is just far enough into the woods for its banks to be completely natural despite being only a few dozen yards from the road, the fact that it seems so non-descript and thus leads most people to simply pass it by. So no, I’m not going to tell you where it is, exactly. But I can show you some pictures!

After spending some time at “our” spot, we continued further along the road, and while there were little or no turning aspen to be seen, autumn in Colorado can have other charms as well:

Last year, I got to see the aspens on the hillside, but missed the opportunity to walk among and be surrounded by them, which is actually my favorite way to experience the aspen. This year, even though most of the leaves had already fallen, I was at least able experience walking through an aspen grove. In some ways, doing this after the leaves have fallen is even more wonderful (although the “quaking” of the leaves on the trees is not to be missed), as there is something about the tightly spaced vertical trunks I find mesmerizing in itself. And the leaves on the ground still teased with their color:

I still entertained notions of making another trip the next weekend in hopes of finding a place where the leaves hadn’t fallen yet. But as it turned out, we got snow, and while I did make it up to the mountains, I got an entirely different kind of picture – one that served as a reminder that I had missed my chance but would be welcome to come back next year to try again:

Road Trip – The Western Slope

Although I’ve lived in Colorado for over 20 years now, I have spent very little time on the Western slope of the Rockies. So when my friend (and fellow Pentaxian) Ed called with an idea for a quick weekend road trip to Arches National Park and Colorado National Monument, I was game.

On the surface, it seemed like a questionable proposition. After getting in late Friday night after a gig, I’d be getting up early (for me) on Saturday morning, and we’d spend most of the day driving west to Moab, Utah. We’d have only about 4-5 hours of daylight to explore and shoot in Arches. Then we’d be driving back east to Grand Junction, where we’d spend the night and get up the next morning for only another 4-5 hours at Colorado National Monument (and a brief side trip to the Palisade wine country) before we’d need to head back to Denver, where I had a gig that evening. But Ed had already rented the car and was planning on doing the driving anyhow; all I had to do was come along. So I did!

I’ve driven west as far as Grand Junction a few times before, and there is beautiful country along the way (Glenwood Canyon in particular), but I had never explored the Grand Junction area itself, or driven any further west. The Utah state line is only a few miles from Grand Junction, and Arches only an hour or so from there. The terrain rapidly appears to get less interesting to me after passing through Glenwood, once the novelty of the mesas wears off. Crossing into Utah, I almost wondered if Arches could possibly be as spectacular as what we had already passed through to get there. But of course, its reputation suggested it would be.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Within a few miles of the entrance to Arches, things suddenly did get a lot more interesting. Here is a shot from the first stop we made:

Because time was so limited, we explored mostly by car. Arches is very conducive to this, as many of the major formations are close to parking areas, with little or no hiking required to see them. In fact, the view from the car is just as amazing, which is surely what these folks were thinking:

Sometimes, what is most interesting about a place is not the majestic panoramas, but the small details:

In some areas, there isn’t that much to look at nearby, but what there is makes you look that much harder, as Ed demonstrates:

One of the more famous rock formations in Arches is the Balanced Rock. It’s an impressive structure, although from some angles it looks more impossibly situated than others. Some viewpoints also make the scale of the thing more clear. And from any given position, the light is more dramatic at some times of day than others. Since we didn’t have the luxury of planning our visit there to coincide with the optimum time of day for the optimum viewing angle, we settled for making the shots we could, and I do rather like this one:

Scale is everything in trying to photograph scenes like this. Without a person in the shot, it can be difficult to appreciate just how big the formation is, but one also has a tendency to want to see “pure” landscapes. And with limited time and no familiarity with these particular formations and limited experience with this type of photography in general, it was very difficult to capture images that reflect the true feeling of the place. That is especially true when viewing pictures on a small computer screen. I like shots like this one because the people in it are not distracting to the shot, but once you see them, they do help give a sense of scale:

We did time our sojourn through the park so that we would be be near the most famous landmark, Delicate Arch, around sundown. The trial to take you right to the foot of the arch was far too long given the limited time we had, so we instead chose a vantage point from which you can see the arch across a canyon, around half a mile away. Luckily, I had my 500mm mirror lens with me to bring it closer:

After having dinner in Moab and spending the night back in Grand Junction, doubt again surfaced: could Colorado National Monument – located just minuted from town – possibly hold a candle to Arches? While I at least had some idea of what Arches would offer, I really had no clue with Colorado National Monument; it was only a name to me. But as before, there turned out to be no cause for concern. The terrain here is very different from Arches, but no less amazing. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, and most canyons in Colorado are typically experienced from the bottom looking up. Colorado National Monument is home to a system of canyons – Ute, Red, Monument, Echo, and several others – and the road through the park travels along the rim of most of these.

Shortly after the gates to the park, one is greeted with a sense of leaving one world and entering a different one:

The first canyons one sees are relatively small ones. I was completely unprepared for the size of the large canyons one encounters soon enough:

Once again, capturing a sense of scale is difficult. Here’s one only partially successful attempt, sitting on the rim with my feet dangling over the precipice, with an absolutely enormous drop below that doesn’t quite look as dramatic as it felt:

Some of the rock formations here look almost like ruins from something man-made, the the Coliseum:

On the way home, we stopped briefly in Palisade to take a few quick shots of the vineyards:

I hope to be able to visit the Western slope again soon and spend a bit more time!