Monthly Archives: August 2012

Knowing My Limits and Learning A Lesson Along Petroglyph Trail

C2C7465_Park Point Sunrise

My last full day inside Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, began with a spectacular sunrise and continued with a lesson learned.

Because vacations for people like me (a technical support person who has managed to work at the same place long enough to earn 4 weeks of vacation….out of 52 weeks of the year)  usually aren’t more than maybe 10-11 days at a stretch (the company would have heart failure if I wanted to take a full two weeks or more off at one time), I generally cram as much activity into each day as I possibly can.  Now, I have learned through the years not to push myself – I’m a little overweight, a lot out of shape, and currently reside in a part of Texas with an elevation of 30 feet.  Mesa Verde NP has  a general elevation of 7000 feet.  On one of the cliff dwelling tours I took, the ranger mentioned that it takes about 3 weeks for a body to acclimate itself to a much higher elevation.  I’d been there what?  Three days?

So, I planned a single tour every day I was in the park (4 full days plus the half day upon my arrival).  Ok, one day I had two tours, but who’s counting?  It worked well.  I’d be pleasantly tired, with the good feeling of having gotten my exercise and accomplishing what I wanted to do and see for that day.

On this last day, my goal was to take the Petroglyph Rock hike. I really wanted to see those ancient Puebloan rock carvings.   It’s just 2.8-miles round trip…..2.8 miles of narrow, primitive, rocky, STEEP, rocky (did I mention that already?) trail.  Had I not pulled a calf muscle a couple of days prior, and had I not been a dumb ass and brought along my backpack with extra camera, and extra water (in addition to the heavy camera around my neck, and the water bottle in one of my camera vest pockets), I might have made it through the hike.  Maybe…..

B5A6310_Photographers Shadow

When I started out, I met a worker who was thinning the brush alongside the trail.  He warned me of a black bear sighting between markers 20-22 (there are 34 trail markers along that particular hike).

Ok folks, pretty much every single photographer I have ever met would sell their soul to photograph a  bear in the wild.

Not I.

I have seen first hand just what a bear’s claws can do to human flesh; one of my bosses in a previous life had been attacked by a grizzly and I not only heard his story, but also read the news clippings (and saw the photos) of his injuries.  Bears make me verrrry nervous.  Especially if I am hiking alone.  I know several photographers who hike solo who have no problems with bears, and maybe they won’t ever have any problems.  All I know is that I don’t want to meet up with one by myself.

There I was,  talking loudly to myself, huffing and puffing and slowly taking all those steep areas and squeezing through those tight passages (you know the kind: sheer cliff face on one side and volkswagon-sized  boulder on the other).  Then, my calf muscle twinged and I felt a short, sharp stab of pain.  Uh oh.  I was already nervous about the bear, and now this.

After negotiating a particularly steep, narrow climb, at marker 17, I decided enough was enough.  I still have Arches National Park to visit during this vacation, and more than anything, I want to see Delicate Arch for myself.  Hmmm.  Such a choice.  Continue on that effing trail to see rock carvings, or rest up in order to manage the hike to see Delicate Arch?

I turned back.

During my initial hike up there, my gut feeling was not good  – I have learned to trust my gut feeling more as I get older, and the more I hiked toward the carvings, the worse I began to feel – and this was not just a physical issue , but a psychic issue as well .  The moment I turned back, I felt a great relief wash over me.  No, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed that I hadn’t made it through the hike, and no, I didn’t feel like I’d failed at anything.  It was just one of those days.  They happen.

This feeling was reinforced when I met who I can only describe as an angel sent to help me understand the lesson at hand, in the form of a little German lady about my age or so,  wearing shorts, hiking boots, hat, and carrying walking poles.

“Did you manage to crawl over the boulder?”  she cheerfully asked.  Hmmm.  Which one?  I’d seen, hiked past, and squeezed between a lot of large boulders, but I had not yet needed to climb over one.

I explained to her my decision to turn back because of my calf muscle.  She smiled and nodded. “Yah, I do this hike every year, and every year, I begin to have more and more problems.  I may not be able to do this hike next year.”  She went on to explain to me that she comes out to the park and does a number of hikes during which she measures how she is feeling this time compared to the previous years.  I told her I was recognizing my own limits and she nodded vigorously.  We both laughed about at least getting some exercise on this day, and then went on our separate ways.  I just can’t imagine our meeting to have been a mere coincidence.

I do understand now that I have limits and I am learning what they are.  No matter how much I would like to be able to hike and scramble hither and yonder over multitudes of primitive trails like others my age can do, I simply cannot achieve that without some measure of pain, and at what cost?  It’s a Petroglyph Trail vs. Delicate Arch choice.

So, this vacation of mine is not only a photographic paradise, but now also a good learning lesson.  As a photographer, I find I am actually able to live within these limits and still capture awesome images without having to hike to the hinterlands if I cannot physically do so.  For those of you photographers out there who may have the same issues as I do, well, there ya go. Know your limits, abide by them, and have fun taking pictures within those limits.  It can be done. Smile

B5A6333_Tight Squeeze Up

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Filed under Attitude, Lessons, Life, Mesa Verde National Park, Pain, Travel

A Taste of Things To Come–Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

C2C5560_Becky At Mesa Verde NP

I once wrote that I would try to post every weekend (or closely thereafter); I’d read that to keep and increase readership, one needs to blog and blog (relatively) often.

I’m on vacation right now (Aug 24 – Sep 2, 2012).  I packed up one of my Canon 5D Mk II bodies, two rented Canon 5D Mark III bodies, my 70-200mm + 1.4x teleconverter, my 16-35mm lens, 40mm pancake lens, and 24-105mm lens (in addition to the circular polarizers and Lee 4×6 .9  soft  graduated ND filters) for this trip.  I arrived in Denver, then flew to Durango, Colorado and am now staying at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park.  Now you know which cameras and lenses I used to take all of the photos you will see in my future posts.  FYI, I’ve used my 16-35mm more than any of the other lenses so far, with the 24-105mm coming in second.

Since I’m saving my photos (so far I’ve taken over 2000 which I need to cull through and edit) and commentary for the numerous travelogues I will post upon my return to Texas, I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, except to talk about a few things.

As a fellow blogger put it, water is the most important thing to mankind.  It’s one of those required staples, without which one cannot live for maybe more than 3 days.  Water creates the landscape, nourishes plant- and animal-life, and in many cultures living in arid lands, is worshipped.  The longer I stay in Mesa Verde NP, and the more cliff dwelling tours I take in the hot sun and dry air, the more I understand the importance of water. Yes, I’ve heard others go on about the importance of water, but when I get my water from a faucet with a few twists of the tap, I guess I’ve just taken it’s availability for granted.  Out here, I don’t.

Something else that I am trying to accomplish is to become more observant during my hikes.  Oh, I look around a lot in search of a grand photo op, but there are times when I’m just putting one foot in front of the other to get from Point A to Point B.  With this trip, I’m actually looking, observing, listening, and smelling.  I’m taking my eye away from the viewfinder to just soak in the atmosphere around me.

I can smell the Utah  juniper and pinyon pine.  I can smell (and see) the brilliant yellow rabbitbrush that covers the land here.  I can hear the songbirds hidden in the Utah serviceberry, I can hear the night wind whipping around my lodge room balcony.  I stand on said balcony (with a Buffalo Gold Ale in my hand) and watch the clouds rolling across the mesas, casting blobby shadows hither and yonder.

I did not observe the little grass snake crossing my path as I tiredly trudged back to my car, until I looked down, saw it, and jumped sky high, scaring myself and the poor little snake.  I did observe the black widow spider crawling up my lodge room’s bathroom wall (no, I did not take a photo of it – I hate those things – snakes and tarantulas I can deal with, but not black widow spiders).

I am also reflecting more on each thing I learn from the rangers guiding the tours I have taken (Ranger Pete, Ranger Pamela, “Willa Cather” – aka Ranger Paula, Ranger Denice.  My backcountry tour to Mug House was lead by a ranger who is an adopted daughter of the Hopi Bear Clan.  Of the many interesting and thoughtful things she said, the one that really stands out is that people must respect the land, and respect all life, for everything has a spirit.  To disrespect life is akin to a mental illness.

An interesting thing to reflect upon, since I don’t much care for people, although I notice that I am much  more loquacious during this trip, because I am happy.  When I am in my element, then I am happy and I actually like people more (most of the time, anyway, until some moron tries to tailgate me because he wants to drive faster than the posted speed limit within the park).

So, stay tuned for more thoughts, travel tidbits, and of course, lots of photos.  I’ve got 2 more days here in Mesa Verde NP before heading up to Arches NP in Utah.

C2C5747_The Road To Cliff Palace

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Filed under Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography

Changing Colors, Part II

My previous post showed a couple of close-ups of an anole lizard I photographed  while watching it change colors.  These next three photos show the same thing, but in a little more detail.

Taken with a Canon 5D Mk II camera with a 70-200mmL f2.8 II lens.

Green on Green:

1545_Green On Green

Beginning the Gradual Color Change:

1565_Changing Colors

Color Change Complete:

1601_Changing Colors

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Filed under lizard, Photography, reptile

Changing Colors

From this:

1539-2_Green Lizard

To this:

1591-2_RedLizard

I was walking downstairs from my apartment to go get the mail.  I saw a brilliant neon-green anole lizard skittering along the wrought-iron hand railing.  I thought to myself what a neat photo that would make, the bright green lizard lined up on the black iron railing.  For a split second, I thought of running back to get my camera, but figured the lizard would be gone upon my return.  So I went ahead and got my mail, noticing the anole had hopped onto a spikey leaf of the squat tree next to the stairs.  I figured, what the heck, I’d get my camera and if the lizard was gone, no big deal.

The pretty little guy was still there, so I happily took a bunch of photos.  As I was doing so, golden-rust-red spots appeared on its skin, gradually changing from its original bright green coloration to the saturated olive green-gold-rust red you see in the photo above.

I used my Canon 5D Mk II camera with the 70-200L f2.8 II telephoto lens.  These two photos are approximately 100% crops of the originals.

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Filed under lizard, Photography, reptile

Lizard Head…

….Peak and Pass.

I’ve been uploading more Colorado photos to my Rebecca Latson Photography website (which I’ve re-vamped, by the way), and I realized it’s been a week since I last posted a photo to my blog site.  Been too busy working on the website, I guess.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos taken during my 2011 trip to Colorado.

This is the vista seen along Lizard Head Pass.  After seeing these red-tinged mountains on various Flickr images, I decided I wanted to see and photograph these mountains myself.  If you are traveling the area, you too can see this exact spot by taking Hwy 145 south from Telluride.  You’ll pass Trout Lake on your left.   Further up is a turnout to a historical placard/sign on your right.  Across the highway is another, much larger gravel turnout where I parked to set up the tripod for this image.

0749_Lizard Head Pass Vista

Lizard Head Peak (I don’t see any semblance of a lizard in this mountain at all, I’m afraid).

0774-2_Lizard Head Peak

My mind fails me (no big news there), and I can’t remember if the stop for Lizard Head Peak is before or after the Lizard Head Pass turnout described above.  To get to this particular view, you must turn to the right and drive a very short gravel road to a gravel parking lot which is the starting point for a number of trail heads.

I’ll be returning to Colorado in about 3 weeks for a 5-day stay in Mesa Verde National Park, then driving on to Utah to spend a few days in Arches National Park.  These 2011 photos are whetting my photographic appetite!

Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under Colorado, Landscape, Photography, Travel