The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Better Pictures

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 in Colorado
Better Pictures

I’ve been trying to get in shape in preparation for the summer hiking season. I feel like I have a lot of work to do just to restore my fitness to what it was last fall. My legs are stiff and weak after a long winter. In November, I caught a nasty virus that took me the better part of two months to fight off and which left me exhausted and drained. On top of that, I travelled a lot during the holidays. I spent most of December and January jet-lagged and groggy. When I wasn’t sick or insomniatic, I was hunched over my computer trying to finish several urgent writing projects. Fortunately, by February my schedule had relaxed and I was able to start hiking regularly again.

A view along the Eagle Wind Trail at Rabbit Mountain.

I’ve been staying close to home during this time, hiking in the Lyons-Longmont area. Most weekends I try to hike at Rabbit Mountain or Hall Ranch. They are both beautiful places with many miles of trails to choose from, trails that wind their way through stunning terrain and that offer vast views. The hikes are challenging enough to hone my hiking muscles but not too strenuous as to knock me out.

I’ve posted few pictures of these hikes on my website because the pictures I’ve been taking have been simply underwhelming. The colors have been flat and dull, the lighting harsh. At first, I thought the culprit was the strong Colorado sunshine—it was just too much for my little point-and-shoot picture box to deal with (these days I’m too lazy to lug around my heavy SLR camera). But then I looked closer at the images and realized that it wasn’t merely difficult light conditions, the pictures were noisy and the colors simplistic. The images were really awful. I thought at first maybe my camera is just a dud. But I’ve never been disappointed with Canon in the past and perhaps the problem is not my camera but my inability to operate it properly. I decided there must be something wrong with the settings I’ve been using.

Another view along the Eagle Wind Trail at Rabbit Mountain.

Back at home, I broke out the user manual to my camera—if ever there was a last resort of a technical writer, it’s to actually read some documentation. To my surprise, I discovered my camera is capable of taking RAW images. Why did I not know that? Possibly because I had not read the documentation. Hmph. Although I had been taking pictures at the highest resolution possible, they were all being saved as JPEGS and for that reason they were all being compressed and mangled. All those wasted shots. Anyway, I promptly switched to RAW format and haven’t looked back. The images I now get off my point-and-shoot are wonderful (any remaining shortcomings in my pictures are solely the fault of the operator: me). I’m so pleased to have sorted this out, just by adjusting one little ‘ole setting. (To clarify, the images you see on my blog are of course JPEGS but they are JPEGS created from RAW originals. That makes all the difference: the compression is the final step of my workflow, not the first. The original is captured at the top quality the camera can achieve.)

Still on the Eagle Wind Trail at Rabbit Mountain, past the half-way point of the loop.

Anyway, to end this rambling, nonsensical, tangle of a post, I want to share just one more picture. The image below is certainly not the clearest picture I’ve ever snapped, but what it does show is the first wild prairie rattlesnake I’ve encountered since moving to Colorado. This lovely creature was warming itself not twenty yards from the Rabbit Mountain trailhead and parking lot. What a wonderful thing to see. From a distance, of course.

Crotalus viridian, better known as the prairie (or western) rattlesnake! Treat with great respect, from a healthy distance. And by healthy I mean at whatever distance is necessary so as to not disturb the snake. For the record, this picture was taken at maximum zoom.
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Square Top Lake
The colors are magnificent in Guanella Pass and the hike to Square Top Lake does not disappoint. The trail winds through alpine shrubs and rolling terrain with lovely wide-open views all around.
Around Appledore Island
Around Appledore Island
Despite the stressful, negative aspects of my recent visit to Appledore Island, which I described in detail in my previous post, I also found the island to possess a great and unique beauty. That’s what I’d like to focus on in this post.
The Big Lake Loop
Bierstadt Lake Loop