Fort Morgan Power Plant

Fort Morgan Power Plant

The power plant, a concrete post-and-beam industrial structure clad in red brick, was constructed in 1923 under the supervision of its designer, George Cox, Fort Morgan city superintendent. The building housed the highest pressure steam plant in the state at the time of its construction. The construction of the plant reflects the maturity of the city, as it provided critical infrastructure for the growing community. Source: History Colorado

6 Questions You Must Ask Your Wedding Photographer

6 Questions You Must Ask Your Wedding Photographer

Choosing the right wedding photographer is important.  After your wedding the only thing you’ll have other than memories will be the photos.  With all the expenses of the day, this one is arguably the most important.

For my wedding, one of my tasks was to choose the photographer.  I mostly decided based on photos I found online and really liked.  There were several great photographers that had actually done weddings at our venue, so it was easy to see how ours might come out. After finding a few photographers that were available and within budget, I came up with the following list of questions:

1.  Can I see a full wedding’s photos?

Photographers post only their best work online.  A full set of wedding photos will not look exactly like the small set that were hand selected for a website or social sharing.  Asking to see the whole wedding will show the total quality of the photos for an event.  It may be that only two or three photos turned out well from the wedding.  This is also a great time to see their technique in different scenarios.  Will your wedding be at night?  Ask to see a night wedding.  Can this photographer handle low light situations?  Mastering off camera flash isn’t easy for someone that normally shoots in natural light.  Would you be happy if this set of wedding photos is what was delivered to you?

2.  Are you insured?

You are going to want to make sure you are dealing with a professional, and that the professional is insured.  Insurance covers a wide variety of scenarios that rarely occur, but do happen.  Ask them about their contingency plans.  What happens if they get sick, have car trouble, or get hit by a bus the day of the wedding?  Pick someone that has an answer to these what-if scenarios.

3.  How many weddings have you shot as the primary photographer?

Experience is important.  A photographer may claim to have shot over 20 weddings, but this could have been done as a second shooter.  This experience is good, but you want to make sure your photographer has a good sense of timing, knows the shots to take, has experienced some challenges, and can manage their own second shooter.  The primary photographer is also generally in charge of the editing and handling the business/contract side.  A person with greater experience will also likely be more expensive.  If you’re looking to save money, choosing someone with less experience may be the way to go.  I would make sure that they have done at least 15 weddings as the primary.

4.  What are your deliverables?

You want to know what you are paying for.  Are you going to receive physical prints or digital images or both?  Can you make your own prints or do you need to buy them from the photographer?  Will the package include an engagement session?  These deliverables generally drive the price.

5.  What is the turnaround time on a final product?

You want to know when you’re going to receive your wedding photos.  A busy photographer can take a long time to go through and edit photos.  Don’t be shocked if a busy photographer says it will take 30 days.  You may prefer someone that can deliver them sooner, and will commit to two weeks instead of 4-6 for example.  If you do not ask, the photographer may take their time, and deliver the photos months after the event.

6.  Do you have backup equipment?

Backup equipment is required.  Equipment fails all the time, you want to make sure your photographer and their secondary shooters are covered in these cases.  Make sure they are going to bring multiple cameras, batteries, flashes, and memory cards.  Are they prepared for bad weather if it occurs?

 

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Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

We hiked around Castlewood Canyon State Park this year on my birthday. This is one of my favorite State parks in Colorado. There are nice mountain views, canyons, and a creek. This park has been called the best for accessibility in Colorado, since there is pretty extensive paved trail which goes through a good bit of the park.

Castlewood Canyon Dam

The park has two separate entrances, on this day we arrived at the East entrance, and hiked from the farthest parking lot. We started on the Lake Gulch trail, which is a nice mostly declining walk that takes you from the top of the park down to the creek that goes through the entirety of the park. There are some cool views along the way of the Rocky Mountains. At the end of the trail you reach the creek, which as far as I can tell is only passible in the Winter time. I haven’t hiked this area any time other than winter because of my fear of rattlesnakes, which this place has a ton of.

The Lake Gulch trail eventually leads to the creek, which was one of the icier parts of the trip. Tommy and I both fell, and went sliding just short of the water. After crossing, there is an overlook on the other side of the creek, which has a nice view to watch others do the same fall you just did. It seems like every 4/5 people lost their footing in that area. Stacey and Lucy somehow managed to navigate the icy areas without falling all day.

Overlooking the creek

Across the creek, the trail forks and you can choose to go visit the dam, or take the Inner Canyon trail. We opted for the dam trail, to go see the old Castlewood Canyon Dam. I wrote up some history behind the dam here. After the dam trail, we headed back towards the Inner Canyon trail. This trail goes up and down the canyon following the creek. There are a few nice cave-like rocks to explore along the way. This trail also conveniently brings you back to where we had parked. Overall it was great hike, icy at times, muddy at other times, but a very enjoyable way to start the year.

Tommy standing in front of a small cave

The trail info for what we hiked, from the Castlewood Canyon State Park website:

Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch Trail

  • Overall:1.16 miles, moderate
  • Lake Gulch trail: 0.80 miles, moderate
  • Inner Canyon/Lake Gulch Loop
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved:  0
  • Miles non-paved: 1.96
  • Total distance: 1.96
  • Usage: High
  • Degree of difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors into the canyon by the creek and back out for nice views
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

​​The Dam Trail

  • Overall: 0.35 mile, moderate
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved: 0
  • Miles non-paved: 0.35
  • Total distance: 0.35
  • Usage: Medium
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors around the Castlewood Dam ruins.
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park

As part of my time away from work, I’ve been able to do some exploring around the local state parks… here are a few pictures from Roxborough State Park. I’m starting to have a large collection of these, so I might create a new gallery.

These photos are from the Fountain Valley Trail — its a pretty easy trail, worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Here is some information on the Fountain Valley Trail from the Roxborough State Park website:

Fountain Valley Trail

The Fountain Valley Trail begins at the main trail head next to the Visitor Center. It is considered easy to moderate for hiking difficulty and consists of approximately 2.5 mile loop that winds through the Fountain and Lyons rock formations with a moderate change in elevation.  ADA accessibility is minimal, though most wheelchairs can maneuver the Fountain Valley Trail with little or no difficulty during good weather conditions. The average hiking time is 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

The Trail includes 2 overlooks (Fountain Valley Overlook and Lyons Overlook), and a Historic Site (The Persse Place).

  • Fountain Valley Overlook
    • The Fountain Valley Overlook is only 100 yards from the Visitor Center and provides spectacular views of several beautiful rock formations, including the Fountain Formation, Lyons Formation, and the Dakota Hogback. The Fountain Valley Overlook features a viewing platform approximately 10’x8′,and includes 2 benches. 
  • Lyons Overlook
    • ​The Lyons Overlook in approximately 1 mile from the trail head and sits on top of the Lyons Formation, providing a view of the Fountain Formation. Both Overlooks can be reserved for special events and are often reserved on weekends throughout the summer.

Chatfield Dam

Chatfield Dam

Tommy and I took a hike along the Chatfield Dam Trail at Chatfield State Park. Here is some trail info from the Chatfield State Park website:

  • Permitted uses: Foot and bike
  • Miles paved:  2.4
  • Miles non-paved: .3 
  • Total distance: 2.7
  • Usage: Low
  • Degree of difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 5,500
  • ADA accessible: Yes – Asphalt
  • Comments:  Access trailhead at Dam Overlook parking lot. Connecting trail links include the Highline Canal Trail, Columbine Trail, and Centennial Trail.
  • Pets: Yes, on leash

The trail overlooks the Chatfield Reservoir which is located just south of the town of Littleton, CO. The reservoir was built in 1967 as a way to provide water to the Denver area, and prevent large floods. The intake structure is one of the highlights of the trail, as it is massive, and seems to be high security. The Dam and surrounding area is a great place to get pictures of the Southwest metro area and concertina wire.

The Great Conjunction

The Great Conjunction

In an earlier post, I provided some tips on taking photos of a pretty rare celestial event, as viewed by the Earth. Perhaps one of the tips should have been to double check you’re taking the right gear out to record the event. I forgot my longer lens setup in my other car — and what I was left with was my X100F which has a built in 23mm.

The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter and an Owl

This photo shows the conjunction, without a ton of detail, but it does have some other items of interest. On the right side of the photo, there is an owl — which I only noticed when I got home.

On the bottom left, there is a bright “star” which sits on Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon campus. The star was first lit in the late 1950s to mark the holiday season. It turns on the day after Thanksgiving through to the New Year. The star sits at 6,687 feet on Warren Peak. It is about 148 feet wide, and 173 feet tall.

The two planets ought to still be close tomorrow night — I might try going back with the correct gear.

Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

Today is the day for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They will appear to be close together in the sky, the closest they’ve been in 397 years. Here are some tips to photograph it tonight (source: NASA):

General tips

  • Jupiter and Saturn will appear brighter than nearly every star. They can be seen easily from large cities, and dark sites.
  • Dark skies will allow you to see fainter stars, but Jupiter and Saturn are bright enough that you don’t necessarily need to go to a dark site to take compelling photos of them. If you have a clear view toward the southwest, you have the chance to take some great photos.
  • Think about composition. Jupiter and Saturn will just appear as points of light. To make your photo more interesting, try to frame the planets with something – the silhouette of a tree, an outdoor landscape, the arch of a building, or even a neon sign.
  • Experiment with both wide-angle and telephoto shots. In early December, the two planets will be about 2 degrees apart, and will get progressively close toward December 21. In order to show them clearly in your photos, you might use a wide-angle composition early in December, and zoom in later in the month as they get closer.
  • Be sure to go outside on a few different nights, and see how their separation changes.
  • Using a tripod will help you hold your camera steady while taking longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, brace your camera against something – a tree, a fence, or a car can all serve as a tripod for a several-second exposure.
  • These planets are visible in early evening, and you’ll have about 1-2 hours from when they are visible, to when they set. The color and intensity of the sky changes during that time. Stay out for an hour or more, and try to capture shots with both the bright colors of sunset, and the darkness of the oncoming night. A photo from the same location can look completely different just an hour later!
  • The crescent moon will pass near Jupiter and Saturn a few days before the conjunction. Take advantage of it in your composition!

Tips if using a cell phone camera

  • Jupiter and Saturn will be bright enough to detect in many cell phone cameras. You won’t see additional detail by zooming in, but you can frame Jupiter and Saturn creatively.
  • Some recent cell phones have a ‘night mode,’ which will automatically stabilize a long-exposure, even without using a tripod. This can be great for capturing the dark foreground of your photo. Some phones will let you use ‘night mode’ on exposures up to 30 seconds, if you also use a tripod.
  • Many cell phones have a wide-angle lens. Try using this to place a subject in the foreground, with Jupiter and Saturn above them.
  • At the time of conjunction on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn may be too close to separate clearly in your photos. Images taken a few days before or after the conjunction may show them more clearly.

Tips if using a DSLR camera

  • Set your focus to Infinity (Manual Focus mode), so the planets will be sharp. Set your aperture wide open, to let in the maximum amount of light.
  • If you have a tripod, it will help you take long exposures. If not, you can still take some great pictures with a short shutter speed (< 1/4 second). If your camera or lens has an image stabilizer, be sure it is turned on.
  • If your photos show that the camera is not steady, shorten your shutter speed. You can also use a photographers’ trick to get a sharp photo when hand-holding: set up your camera to take multiple exposures, then hold the shutter button to take a series of photos. While some will be blurry due to camera shake, you may find a few that are sharp.
  • If you use a 200 mm telephoto lens, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four bright moons in a short exposure. Saturn’s rings will usually need a longer lens or a telescope in order to resolve clearly.
  • To capture Jupiter and Saturn as sharp ‘points’ while using a tripod, use a shutter speed of up to a few seconds. More than this and the Earth’s rotation will smear out the planets and stars. If you are using a wide-angle lens, you can use a longer exposure.

The weather locally looks great, so I’m hoping to get out for some pictures or to at least see the event.

Adobe Creative Cloud vs Capture One

Adobe Creative Cloud vs Capture One

There is some debate over the right choice in photo editing software. For years, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop as part of Adobe Creative Cloud have been the standard go-to for this sort of thing. These products have been around for years, and outside of their new pricing model, which is a monthly subscription, there has never been a need to switch. After using Capture One for the last 30 days as part of a trial — I’ll give my thoughts.

Everyone hates the subscription model for software we use daily. At $9.99/mo, that seems to be right in the area of being annoyingly expensive, and small enough to get lost in the “Subscriptions” category of your monthly budget. When Microsoft’s office products moved to the subscription model, I found alternatives. Apple’s tools are useable, and Google’s free web-based tools are even better. The nice thing about word processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows are that there are viable options to switch.

The price for Capture One varies, but there are some options where you can purchase a license to the software without subscription. This can get as low as $129 for specific camera platforms, such as Fuji. Adobe doesn’t have this option, so you’re looking at $120/yr but you have access to a constantly updating product. This can be both good and bad, since you’ll get the latest features faster, but there have been some quality issues which may not work for people that depend on a stable version.

When it comes down to features, Adobe wins in every category. The combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop do everything that Capture One does, but better. Everything from sorting photos, to editing, the user interface, mobile support…. Adobe does it the same or better. Capture One allows for layers in editing, which seems to be its largest feature over Lightroom, but this feature is standard for Photoshop. It seems that the division between the two products for Adobe are gradually converging a bit. For these reasons, I can’t switch over to Capture One without losing functionality. In short, we’re still going to continue to be held hostage by Adobe and their subscription model.