July 16, 2012 § 11 Comments
We decided the night before, that we’d wake up early on Sunday and take the jeep to check out The Crystal Mill. From Aspen, it takes about an hour to get to Marble and the mill is 5 miles outside of town, only accessible by way of the Crystal River Jeep Trail. I’ve seen it books in the past and have always wanted to see it in person. After it was built in 1893, it used a water turbine to power an air compressor, for use in silver ore processing at two nearby mines. The drive in was gorgeous, but was no comparison to what was in store. Once we reached it, we were stunned!
I ran around like a nut snapping pictures with the SX-70, Leica and the Polaroid 100 (for an emulsion-transfer collage). We stayed there for the better part of an hour and when we were about to leave, two jacked-up jeeps came roaring around a bend in the road and parked by us. One of the drivers hopped out and started walking towards us and Kat asked him if there were other roads to take besides the one we drove in on. He smiled. “It depends on where you want to go. You can go all the way to Crested Butte if you like. But if you’re trying to get back to Marble, if you take this road just past the town of Crystal, the Lead King Basin trail will loop around and take you back into town. If you’ve never done it before, it is totally worth it. A little sketchy at times, with some challenging switchbacks and steps (he motioned his hands to represent about a foot’s height), but if you take it slow you’ll be fine.”
As soon as Kat confirmed some of the more important turns on the route, we hopped back in the jeep and drove up the road into the quasi-ghost town of Crystal, CO. The town (10 or so homes & structures) is only occupied in the summer, as it’s completely uninhabitable in the winter. When we drove into Crystal, it was a sight that I had always imagined but had never seen. Nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, was this little slice of heaven .. an outdoor-lover’s paradise. We pulled up a bit but then we all decided, for the sake of time, we’d backtrack our way in. We busted a U and I snagged a quick frame of one of the homes on some PX-70 NIGO film.
When we drove back towards the Crystal Mill, the gent we had talked to earlier was standing near the middle of the road. He raised his arms in the air, put his hands on his hips and had a look of total disbelief. Kat chuckled and said “Oh lord, the Sheriff of Crystal …” He started shaking his head .. “I’m telling you guys, it’ll only tack on 30 minutes to your route. We’ll be right behind you if you come into a problem. We’re headed up the Schofield Pass, but we’ll be taking Lead King Basin on our way out.”
You just have to go with the flow sometimes. We busted another U and went back up the road into Crystal. As we were driving through the town, we passed a couple of kids who were playing with their dog, aptly named Crystal. The last home was deep inside a giant grove of Aspens before a fork in the road. As soon as we passed through the town, we all knew the man was correct; this was the way to go.
To the right was the trail to Crested Butte and to the left was our trail. In between the fork, was a giant sign that read “Extremely Rough Road Ahead – Vehicle Traffic Discouraged – 4×4 with Experienced Drivers and Narrow Wheel Base Only”. Kristina asked Kat “Uhh .. Kat? Are you an experienced driver?” “Yes, Kristina.”
It took us about 2 hours to drive 8 miles in some of the prettiest parts of Colorado I have ever seen …
When we went through Marble earlier on our way to the Crystal Mill, we passed a barbecue joint; Slow Groovin’ BBQ. We all were starving by this point, so we stopped in for some grub & beer.
When the first round of brews arrived, we saluted Kat’s driving abilities and then sat back and enjoyed the Colorado summer day. After some pretty tasty BBQ topped off with a root-beer float, we started to make our way to the Yule Marble Quarry. It only took about 10 minutes to get there, but when we arrived, it was yet another spectacular view.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We headed back to the house, to enjoy one last evening of hanging out before we had to leave in the AM. Due to a little bit of car trouble we had during the week (no road trip is complete without right?), we left a little later than we wanted to. As we were driving through the mountains on the way back, we both had that “why don’t we live here?” feeling. It’s just so nice in Colorado …
The drive out of the mountains was beautiful. Even though it was a little chilly, I rolled down the windows so I could breathe in the crisp mountain air one more time. I stopped a few times to take some snapshots …
When we passed through Westcliffe, about 30 miles outside, everyone was being stopped. Construction workers were telling everyone to turn around because the road had been washed out by a storm. The lady directing traffic told us that we’d have to go back into Westcliffe, and then make our way back up to Colorado City (about 60 miles away) to get towards I-25. She said from there, it would take about 20-30 minutes to get to the highway. Boo.
Synthia and I rode quietly in the car together for about an hour until we crested over a one of the mountains in the San Isabel National Forest. To my right, was something I hadn’t seen in years; The Bishop Castle. About 25 years ago, my family used to occasionally come to Colorado in the summer, to stay near Wescliffe. We had taken this route at one point, and I vaguely remembered visiting this castle as a kid. One man, Jim Bishop, has built this castle by himself over the past 40+ years …
As a scale reference, there is a man on top of the right tower in the image above …
Once the initial excitement of seeing this structure wore off, we hopped back in the car and made our way towards I-25 ..
We merged onto the highway and cruised down to Raton, NM. When we started heading east towards Dumas, we drove right into a rainstorm ..
After a while the storms gave way, and we drove the 400-ish miles we had left on our journey through the clear of the night …
It was a trip that I will remember for a lifetime. Synthia and I can’t thank Kristina and Kat enough for showing us such an incredible time, yet again, in Colorado. We love you guys so much!
BTW, Impossible Project – A big thank you to the chemistry of your product; from the way the film “sees” a scene, to the soft colors, to the painterly quality of the images, to the rich analog life it has .. all make me crave its photographic substance a little more. Diving deeper into instant photography is something I do not regret. Thank you for making such a quality product and for the inspiration.
July 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
The following day, we decided to drive up Aspen Mountain to play some frisbee golf. When we got to the top, the signs read “highest disc golf course in the world!”. At 11,200 feet, it was an awesome place to play some disc. The course had 18 holes which zig-zagged their way down & up the side of the mountain.
We ended up playing about 1/2 of the course and then decided to walk over to The Sundeck to take a break.
When we were finished, we took the jeep down the backside of the mountain towards Hunter Creek Rd. to get back into town.
We eventually parted ways and Synthia and I decided to go up Independence Pass to check out the Lost Man Lake trail. The trail goes up to two lakes, Independence and Lost Man, which are near the top of the continental divide. We started at the Roaring Fork Trailhead and once we walked in about 1000 feet, it was like we had stepped into another part of the world. Dense, lush, spongy landscape rich with wildflowers and moss covered rocks. Just beautiful …
This was one of many moments on this trip, in which I was really glad we brought our boxer with us. Seeing her run up and down the trail, prancing around was a sight to see. She was so happy!
While we were en route, we could see a few people alongside a ridge about another mile up the trail. That was our goal. I knew that over that distant ridge was either Lost Man Lake or at the very least, an amazing view. Once we got to Independence Lake, we knew that Lost Man was just over the ridge. We passed a hiker on the way up, and mentioned something about it being our first time on the trail. A broad smile appeared, and he assured us that the view the first time, was something we’d never forget … he was SO right. When we reached the top, I was completely wowed. All I could do was stumble around in awe, as I gawked at the wondrous display of nature that was before me. We stayed up there for a good 30-45 minutes, just soaking it in …
It was nearing 7 o’clock and some storms started rolling in. We put on some parkas and made our way back down the trail. We were supposed to have dinner at Steakhouse 316 with Kristina and Kat at 9, so it was a good thing the impending storm nudged us along.
Dinner was scrumdiddlyumptious! If you’re ever in the Aspen area, you have got to go check this place out. Kat is the ridiculously talented executive chef at Steakhouse 316, and everything, I mean EVERYTHING she makes is fantastic. Hands down .. the things she has cooked has been some of the best food I’ve had in my life. The four of us enjoyed a delicious spread at the restaurant which included jumbo lump crab cakes and savory steaks, along with many highly delectable sides. By the time we finished our food, they were closing down so we walked back home to relax the rest of the evening …
Synthia: Relaxed? We actually went home to enjoy our 4th bottle of wine …
To be continued …
July 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
The next morning, Kristina & Synthia went to breakfast while Kat went to do some prep-work at the restaurant. I took the jeep out and cruised up to The Grottos to check out the ice cave. When we visited last year in June, the entrance was blocked with ice and there wasn’t a path. I was anxious to see if there was a clear route through the ice this time around. Luckily, there was and I made my way down and crawled inside …
Later on that day, I found some info on this cave in Hiking Colorado’s Geology ebook online. “The Grottos formed when the Roaring Fork River was swollen with meltwater from receding Ice Age glaciers about 15,000 years ago. The meltwater coursed over the granitic bedrock carrying rocks and other debris that sculpted the cavern’s walls through abrasive action. Today, the river has abandoned the channel through the Grottos, leaving behind a slot canyon with windows open to the sky. Unlike most caverns, which are created where limestone is dissolved by water, the Grottos are carved in solid Precambrian granitic rock (1.4 billion-year-old quartz monzonite).”
Once I was done chillin’ in the ice cave, I walked around for a bit and eventually sat down at this bench to watch the cascades …
I made my way back down the mountain and met up with Kristina & Synthia at Victoria’s coffee shop. By the time I downed the best Cafe Mocha I’ve had in my life .. literally, Kat had cruised up on her bike. Maybe it was the coffee, but I was antsy to get back out there and ‘do something’ but Kristina & Synthia were content just hanging out sippin’ on their wine (I can’t particularly blame them now can I?). Something about hiking the Ute Trail was mentioned, and both Kat and I decided that was a good idea.
We brought the dogs with us, Diego & Maybelle, and made our way to the trailhead. Kristina & Kat had both warned me that this hike was BRUTAL … I had no idea. It was literally like being on a stair-master for almost an hour .. intense. The hike is about a mile up and you gain 1,300 feet of elevation during the hike.
The whole way up, we were both huffin’ and puffin’, but as we passed people who were hiking down, they all said the view was completely worth it. Kat mentioned, that there are people that have lived their whole life in Aspen and have never made it to the top. A shame, considering the stunning view that awaits its victors …
Unfortunately, it started to rain and Kat had to make it back into work. We hauled booty back down the ever-increasing slippery trail, but by the time we got back to the jeep, the rain was letting up.
Once we got back to the casa, Synthia had made a picnic dinner for the two of us and wanted to go lay out somewhere to enjoy the scenery .. uhh Ya! 🙂
I wanted to show her the ice cave, so we drove back to The Grottos and made our way up to this great little nook at the top of the cascades. It was away from the traffic of most of the visitors and to be honest, we saw maybe 10 people in the 3 hours that we were there.
When we got back, I ‘pulled the old man card’ and relaxed the rest of the evening. I had to get a jump start on writing about our trip 🙂 Synthia eventually met up with K&K when they got off work, and the ladies came giggling back after the bars closed.
To be continued …
July 11, 2012 § 6 Comments
A road trip to Aspen. Two of my favorite people, Kristina & Kat, are fortunate enough to live there and my wife and I have visited them a couple of times since they moved. We have vowed to make the trip every year at least once. If you drive to Aspen it’s about ~ 16 hours from Dallas, but totally worth it. Granted, it takes 10 hours to get out of Texas, but who cares .. the last 6 are filled with an inspiring landscape worthy of any road trip. Colorado just makes you feel so good. Being there replenishes my soul ..
The plan was to leave on Tuesday night, July 3rd. We’d drive through the evening, take a nap for a few hours in Raton, NM and then hit the road again. Luckily, the adrenaline of being on a road trip usually just keeps me going. We decided to take Maybelle, one of our dogs, with us. She’s a 2 1/2 year old boxer and we knew that she would have the time of her life up there.
I brought a variety of cameras with me; a Leica M2, a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a Polaroid 100 Land Camera and a Mamiya C330. For film, I brought some PX-70 COOL & NIGO, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Acros 100 & Adox CMS 20. 🙂 Synthia brought her Spectra SE and her grab bag of Spectra film. She’s been shooting a lot with it and is loving the black frame PZ600. It has this really cool vintage look and it ended being a perfect fit for the images she shot on this trip.
We packed all of the other essentials and ended up leaving at 7 o’clock. After we drove 6 hours and made it into Amarillo, we chose to just make the push to Aspen without stopping, and took turns driving and sleeping through the night. I can’t believe we had it in us to drive straight to Aspen from Dallas.
Once we got over Independence Pass and were making our way into town, we stopped at a grove of trees and Synthia snapped this killer B&W shot with some black frame PZ600 …
Our little Scion arrived in Aspen at 11am, just enough time to take a quick shower and find a spot to relax before the July 4th parade started. The four of us sat down at Hunters Bar and enjoyed some good ol’ fashioned ‘merican food (beer, burgers & dogs) while watching the parade from a distance. We both snuck up for a couple of frames of the festivities …
After the parade was over, Kristina and Kat had to head into work so Synthia and I went back to their place and passed out. When we woke up from our much needed nap, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat.
We ended up going to New York Pizza. Last year, I had met a local photographer by the name of Michael Brands there when I was in town. He had mentioned that his friend had just opened up a photography gallery in Aspen called The Nugget that was worth checking out. I made a point to stop in again this year to show Synthia and to introduce myself to the owner, Ross. When we walked inside, there were some fantastic photo-realistic paintings that a friend of his was showing. We started talking photography and about 1/2 way through our conversation, I asked him if he still shot instant film and if he had heard of The Impossible Project. He had not 🙂 I filled him in on the details and his interest seemed to pique when I mentioned that Impossible was now making 8×0 film as well. Later in the evening, when Synthia and I were walking around, she chuckled and said that TIP needs to hire me as a spokesman for their product. I’m practically an evangelist for them! But you know what? They deserve all of the positive press they can get.
The next morning, we all woke up and hiked part of Lost Man Loop. We probably hiked about an hour or so before turning around. It was a great warm up for us and I’m glad we ended up taking it a little easy. I think Synthia and I were still a little beat from the drive and adjusting to the altitude.
After we got back, we were starving so we all ordered some grub from The Big Wrap. Kat recommended I have the Babs-E-Que and I’m so glad I did .. it was CRAZY good! Apparently this joint is packed all the time and rightfully so.
When the ladies went off to work, Synthia and I took their jeep out and drove up Hunter Creek Rd. to the ghost town of Ashcroft.
We had snowshoed right by this place in Feburary of 2011. To see it again in the summer was really cool. The town sprung up in in the early 1880’s when there was a silver boom in the area. At its peak, there were about 2,000 people living and working there. The mines initially produced 14,000 ounces of silver to the ton, but unfortunately for Ashcroft, it turned out to just be shallow deposits. As quickly as it boomed, Ashcroft went a bust.
After a little while, a family met up with us and asked Synthia to snap a photo with their camera. When she was handing it back, she asked them if they wanted an instant photo. At first they said no because they didn’t want us to waste our film, but after showing them a photo that Synthia took of me on the hotel steps, their attitudes changed.
“Did you use some sort of filter for that?” “No. It’s just the way this particular film looks …” Synthia replied. After she shot their family photo and tucked it away in a brochure, we explained to them that they had to wait a little while before taking a peek. They were grateful and went on their way.
We moseyed our way back through the ghost town and then stopped at a nearby picnic table so we could just soak in the surroundings …
To be continued …
June 4, 2012 § 8 Comments
The Leica M2. This is by far my favorite 35mm film camera to shoot with. It’s fully mechanical and void of any electronics. The beauty & challenge of that is there is NO light meter within the camera. It forces you to either use a hand-held meter or “do it old-school” and rely on the Sunny 16 rule. I use two lenses; an older rigid type Leica 50mm f/2 and a Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5. Eventually I would like to find a 35mm f/2.8 or a 35mm f/2, but for now, those are working wonders for me. The 15mm especially. Some Leica-snobs might scoff at the fact that I’m not using a Leica lens on a Leica body, but I could care less. The results I get with it are wonderful.
Because the 15mm is such a wide lens (100 degree horizontal viewpoint), you can capture the world in a very unique way. Along with this however are some characteristics to the lens you might want to be aware of. Because of the ultra-wide perspective, there is distortion around all edges of the frame. I’ve found it’s typically best to keep people out of the very edge otherwise parts of their body will be distorted. Also, with any ultra-wide angle lens, there is some natural optical vignetting that will occur when you’re shooting wide open.
One of the cool things about this lens, is that anything beyond ~ 5 feet is in focus when you’re shooting wide open at f/4.5. It turns the camera into a 35mm point & shoot. There’s little need for focusing unless you are shooting something within the 5 foot range. For me, that’s maybe 5-10% of the time. I’m usually shooting landscapes & architecture with this lens and that is where this thing excels.
My experience with the 15mm is mainly film-based. I’ve shot slides, color neg and b+w with it for about a year now. I did sneak it onto a Leica M9 digital one day in my friend’s shop but I can’t really call that “experience”.
The first time I had my hands on this lens was when I was visiting my Dad in Washington, D.C a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with it. I was able to get everything I was seeing on the frame and then some. I captured some really cool images of Washington when I was there on a Leica M7 & the 15mm; one of which was selected to be in the New Texas Talent competition, back in 2009, at the Craighead-Green Gallery.
Over Christmas of 2010, my wife surprised me and she gave me a Leica M2 with a 50mm lens. She’s always been supportive of my drive & passion for photography and I can’t thank her enough for that. A handful of months later, I saved up and finally picked up a 15mm of my own. Ever since then, using this lens has helped me capture unique images that are only possible with an ultra-wide angle lens.
If you have the time, enjoy some of my favorite images I have taken with the 15mm & the Leica M2.
ALL of these photos are available as prints. If you’d like more information on purchasing, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time!