El Chalten continued to deliver our last few days. On day 3, we did a short hike to the lagos azures y verdes (blue and green lakes), and enjoyed a wonderful picnic courtesy of our guides. Due to the road being washed out higher up, we then biked back to town. It was bumpy but just so beautiful! I do always love seeing the scenery via bike, and the ride wasn’t as scary as I was imagining based on the condition of the road. We managed to beat the school kids to the shop for ice cream, and then had an early dinner to rest up for our last day.
The first three days in El Chalten, Fitz Roy played coy with us as it hid behind the clouds. The last hike was a “friendly” up to this beautifully windy/cold peak that overlooked a glacial lake at the base of Fitz Roy. I felt pretty terrible on the way up, as we had all started to catch a cold. The clouds/lake/mountains made for some interesting pictures and was a great last major view, and I finally got enough energy to join in on the jumping pictures that were all the rage amongst our group. (This was a big deal since I have opted out of any jumping scenarios since I jumped off a shed when I was younger and bruised my feet terribly.)
As we headed back down, I had given up hope of getting a clear view of Fitz Roy. Then of course, the clouds parted and all of a sudden there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky. It was a major highlight of the trip, and we freaked out with photos. My favorite shot was of a random guy taking a photo. It’s not be, but it’s spiritually me. That last hike was long, and my feet were killing me by the end, but it was my favorite of the trip and I can’t imagine a better one to end it with. I really would like to go back to El Chalten for another week sometime and just hang out/redo these hikes with my camera, a picnic basket, and my tripod.
We ended the trip by heading back to El Calafate for one last meal, an Asada home cooked for us at the Patagonia Queen. Alvaro got us my favorite flavor of ice cream (but pretended not to in an effort to get me back from all of my teasing of him for not being Rafael’s favorite guide Cynthia). While I felt pretty miserable, it was a wonderful way to spend the last evening with my new friends. The next day began our long journey home, and I enjoyed my time bonding with Steve and Penny in the airport as we flew together to Houston. I then enjoyed the quiet time the rest of the way to reflect on the trip/watch Friends. All in all, it was a wonderful adventure and I’m grateful for this life I get to lead.
Well, I might be a bit late, but after seeing all of the top lists going around, I was inspired to create my own. I did the top 9 on Instagram, but to be perfectly honest the results were too heavily weighted on the wildlife to really feel like a true reflection of the year. That was an incredible experience, but 2019 included trips to Kenya, Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Seattle, Vancouver, Chile, and Argentina in addition to really trying my hand at family photography. This year was very trying at times for me (primarily work and health related), but when I look back at all I have accomplished I am really proud of the year. I am quite certain 2019 will end up being a pivotal turning point for my life as I started to pursue photography professionally, met some real interesting people with “off the beaten path” careers, and really just allowed myself to dream bigger about what life could be like in spite of my risk averse nature. So without further ado, here are my top photos from the year as well as a little bit about why I chose each photo. And since I took over 10,000 photos of such a wide variety in a pivotal year you will have to forgive me for it being 2x more than 10 🙂
Our final stop on the trip was El Chalten. This is a famous climbing town, with Fitz Roy in the backdrop. It was really small (they just got wifi 4 years ago and the one ATM in town rarely had cash). I absolutely loved it and it was hands down my favorite place on the trip. We had another local guide, Amie, with us for 4 days. The first day, we just did a short hike to a lookout that started in the rain. On the way down, however, the sun broke out and we walked through this amazing meadow. “The hills are alive with the sound of muuuuuuuusic” broke out in my head, and I just felt so happy. The second day, I wasn’t feeling 100% and after the first stretch, we had the opportunity to go up another super steep climb or to continue on the path we were on to head back to town. Given the windy conditions/lack of a good view of Fitz Roy, the guide insisted that if we weren’t feeling 100% we shouldn’t go up. Thankfully, despite concerns about my pride, I listened. Our group split into 2, and I took my time on the way down, taking about 20394238 pictures and just letting myself feel in awe of the views. I had fun trying another time lapse as the clouds were moving so fast while waiting for Sam and the others to get back.
I was working from home on Monday, which is trash day in our neighborhood. As I was on a conference call, I looked at the window and saw something I had never seen before. There was a gang (apparently called a committee or a murder depending on your region) of black vultures that flew in to check out the trash offerings! I jumped up, found my telephoto lens, and headed outside while still staying on the call. According to the neighbors I ran into (“hello weirdo!” is what I am sure they were thinking), it was not that unusual. But it was to me! (Also, I know crows are typical, but I felt a little better when my bird watching coworker said it was unusual to see black vultures in our region but Dorian might have pushed them north.)
I ended up spending 40 minutes outside, and I tried to apply all my learnings in Kenya. I took my time, looked for the story, thought about how it made me feel. It definitely took awhile to settle into the shoot once I realized they were in it for awhile and I had time to play. For me, I wanted to get pictures that captured the trash/neighborhood aspect of the story. I also really wanted to capture the large gang/eery feeling the birds evoked in me. They really creeped me out!
Thankfully, I think I succeeded. For editing, I found I was drawn to the black and white images (which goes against how I’ve been feeling this year), as it really helped with evoking the mood. I have been obsessed with these photos today! I just love the impromptu nature of the shoot, and how nature and home collided even more than they usually do. My neighbor liked the pictures as well!
We were exhausted after our hike on Saturday, but we rallied to get back to Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday to see all the lakes. Well really Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald, and Haiyaha. We almost didn’t do Haiyaha (since it’s off the beaten path of the typical lakes hike), but thankfully we did. There was a GORGEOUS overlook halfway to it and the lake itself had a ton of fun bouldering opportunities. I have gotten a lot less wimpy since New Zealand! (But am still a bit of one.) This was a great way to end my long road trip 🙂
I finally made it to my friend Sam’s on Saturday! (Which was the goal of the whole trip.) I got to her place around 7 in the morning, and we headed up 45 minutes to Rocky Mountain National Park along with her brother, sister-in-law, and local friend. We did the Twin Peaks hike, which did not disappoint. I was so happy to be back in the cool mountains after a week of canyons and desert sand! My heart felt really happy.
As we got above the tree lines, storms began threatening the rest of the hike. It was really cool to be above the clouds for a bit and to watch them roll in. Thankfully, the storms stayed away from us and we made it back to the car dry. Then we stumbled upon my highlight, a duck just chilling in a nest on the side of the lake!! I LOVED IT!!! I have never seen anything like that.
On the Fourth of July, I decided to do a full day whitewater rafting trip in Moab before finally making my way to Grand Junction, Colorado that afternoon. What a great way to spend Independence Day! It was so nice to be somewhat cold after over week in the desert heat!
I also love Colorado, so I was ecstatic to finally get there. So much so I decided to get up for a sunrise photo shoot at the Colorado National Monument. Once again, the sky didn’t have a single cloud, but I ended up with some good stuff.
To finish off my full day photography tour, we headed to Arches National Park in the late afternoon after stopping to view some petroglyphs by the river. IT WAS SO COOL! I understand now why that park is so popular. After driving all up and down the park, we headed to an isolated spot overlooking Balanced Rock. It looked like we might not have the sunset we were hoping for, but at the last minute the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and bathed Balanced Rock with a gorgeous red. We were like kids in a candy store! The scene behind us was equally beautiful.
I got to Moab late on Tuesday night and was just plum tuckered out. I had been battling some headaches/dizziness since before I left for Vegas so I was not in the mood for more heavy hiking in the desert heat. Thankfully, I had reached out to Tom Till photography tours on Monday and booked a full day private photography tour on Wednesday. Honestly, it was worth it for not having to think about where to go, not having to drive, and to have someone to chat with after several days on my own.
Dan picked me up around five in the morning, and we spent the morning in Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands. The sunrise was a bit disappointing since there was not a single cloud in the sky, so we lost the good light pretty quickly and by 8:30am it felt like noon. However, some of the pics I got of the trees in the morning light and Mesa Arch still turned out awesome. We almost skipped Mesa Arch because it is usually packed, but we lucked out as there were only a couple of cars when we passed.