Saturday, March 26, 2016

Travel Photography - The A to Z Challenge

Courthouse and Jail Rocks, Nebraska

Looks like it’s going to be an active April as I’m participating in the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge. Each spring, this unique event unites fellow creatives who are grinding towards a common goal. We’re all hoping to successfully finish the ultimate blogger’s marathon.

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet.

On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

My theme for the month is going to be Travel Photography. Although I’m not an international tourist, I’ve spent a lifetime exploring the Rocky Mountain region. I’ve covered countless miles driving on dirt roads, hiking to lakes and climbing mountains.

My plan is to write short posts about some of the more remarkable locations I’ve visited and describe why those places are so special to me. I’ll also upload a favorite image which I believe best expresses the essence of the destination.

It’ll be fun to rummage through the archives resurrecting photos, recalling faded memories and offering some information about the Great American West. I’ve been down this road before so I know how bumpy it is. Fasten your seat belt and hang on tight because it’s going to be a wild ride.

Lower Falls, Bells Canyon, Utah

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Buffalo Park - A Spirit of the Old West

Mount Evans Wilderness

Buffalo Park is a wide meadow settled beneath the magnificent Mount Evans massif. Today, there are no bison to be seen so this area is best known for its bountiful wildlife, uninterrupted alpine views and dramatic sunsets.

Forged out of an expansive pine forest, the open grassland is an important oasis for horses, deer and elk. All three species are often seen peacefully grazing together below the gleaming white peaks looming in the background.

Forming a nice foreground for the lovely, fall landscape, a row of silvery aspen is a precise seasonal indicator. Whiteout conditions like howling wind and frigid cold are a common occurrence as winter weather in this vast valley can be wild.

Generating thunderstorms almost every afternoon, unusual cloud formations swirl across a deep-blue sky in the summer. During the spring, a pretty, little pond is concealed by willows and it’s the undisputed domain for a family of red-winged blackbirds.

The park is a place with working ranches where the barns are weathered and horses are a viable mode of transport. To get there you must travel to Evergreen, then head out past Elephant Butte and once the road turns to dirt, you’ll discover a land that still exhibits a spirit of the Old West.

Magnificent Mount Evans

Alpine views

Dramatic sunsets

The open grassland is an oasis

Elk and horses graze together

A row of silvery aspen

Howling wind and frigid cold

Winter weather is wild

Unusual cloud formations

A pretty, little pond

Red-winged blackbird

There are working ranches

Horses are a viable mode of transport

A spirit of the Old West

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Indian Peaks Wilderness - Watercolor

"Indian Peaks Wilderness" Watercolor

Drenched in golden light, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is renowned for it pristine lakes and spectacular mountain range. During summer, the kaleidoscope of subalpine colors becomes even more intense.

Confined by a jagged shoreline of fiery willows, Long Lake reflects a deep, blue sky. The forested hillside of patchwork greens juts into the picture and offers some relief from the blazing sun.

Looming over a narrow valley, the ochre peaks are monolithic in appearance while timeless snowfields continue the sculpting process. The ancient crags are recorded with broken brushstrokes of analogous hues.

Accessible as a sanctuary from civilization, primitive countryside is coveted with special reverence but I’ve never been able to do this place justice through photography. Hopefully, the painting above expresses my admiration for the Indian Peaks because my photographs do not.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Mountains at Collioure - Watercolor

"Mountains at Collioure after Derain" Watercolor

This watercolor was painted as a study after the French artist, Andre Derain. The original was made in 1905 while he was working with Henri Matisse at the seaside village of Collioure, France.

They had developed a startling new style that emphasized painterly qualities and vibrant color over representational depictions. It was a radical shift from the polished salon art that was currently in vogue at that time.

Conservative art critics were outraged and labeled the loose group of Modern artists les Fauves (French for “wild beasts”). Fauvists believed the arbitrary use of pure color offered a more expressive way of depicting the subjects they loved to paint.

Contemplating the picture above, we can sense Derain’s exuberant reaction to visiting beautiful Collioure. The picturesque fishing port is tucked away between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountains.

The blades of grass are like sticks of dynamite that explode into long brushstrokes, radiating across the paper’s surface. The impressive peaks are simplified into planes of flat color where turquoise and vermillion clash.

Beneath their blue canopy, twisted, red trees are writhing towards a jade-green sky. The southern, summer sun saturates the landscape with lemon yellow but in this picture shadows don’t dare exist.

Color theory is a complicated but fascinating subject. When it is applied masterfully, there is no doubt deliberate color can elicit an emotional response from the receptive viewer.

I’m a great admirer of the Photo-realists and the amazing technical skills they possess. Even so, there’s something to be said for those artists willing to break from convention and take a risk.

Distorting reality in such a way that results in a more powerful expression is often more difficult than it appears. That’s why of all the art movements I’ve ever studied, one of my favorites has to be those creative colorists known as les Fauves.