Saturday, April 25, 2015

What NOT to Wear When Hiking

When we went to Santa Fe, one of the things we wanted to do was go on a hike.  We usually go to Tent Rocks, but we wanted to try someplace new, so we asked my friend Catherine for some advice.

Catherine and I at her library at Santa Fe Prep.
Now, you might notice that Catherine is very fit and athletic.  When I asked Catherine for some advice on trails, I figured she would look at me and take notice of my general shape and remember my eating habits (we did just eat lunch and I did just have a milk shake and split fries with her). But no, she looked at Fred and saw his slender hiking frame and super hiker fitness level and remembered that he had ordered the super skinny yogurt man meal or whatever something that isn't fried and isn't greasy and is good for you is called these days.

"Why don't you try the Chamisa trail? It is a nice hike and has some elevations and some great views," she said.  Did you notice how she snuck those elevations in there? I didn't.  I really didn't.

"Sounds lovely," I said.  I was thinking about my green chile cheeseburger and how good the fries were and if Fred would want to go back and get some more.  Probably not.

Fred on the Chamisa Trail.
So, the next day, we got ready for a nice hike.  I put together my outfit and Fred put on his hiking clothes.

After about 10 minutes in the car, I asked, "How far up do you think this trail is?"

We had been driving up a road to the ski trail and the road just kept going up and up and up.  We hadn't seen our trail yet.

"Keep going," Fred said.  We kept going.

At 7800 ft, we found the sign for Chamisa Trail.  Remember, we live at sea level.  We don't have mountains we were are.  Fifty feet above sea level is considered a big deal. Really. Don't laugh. I live on a mountain.  It's 50 ft above sea level.  I get winded walking up to it.

"Ah.  7800 feet. This will be interesting."

I pull over and we get out of the car.  There are several cars parked on both sides of the road indicating what a popular trail this is.

Chamisa Trail, a ravine on the left and mountain on the right.  Trees all around.
We begin to walk up the trail. And I do mean walk UP the trail.  It is all uphill.  I'm wheezing and panting and sounding like a wounded bear and we haven't even rounded the first bend.  As we turn the corner, we see this young family approaching.  The dad is carrying his two daughters, one is in his arms and the other is on his back.  As they get closer, it appears that these girls are IN MIDDLE SCHOOL.

What is wrong with this trail that even young children can't handle it?!!

I look at the dad and say, "Tough hike."

"Don't I know it."  He plods forward.  His wife comes after with a baby in a baby sack in front of her.  She is smiling.  How far did you walk, I want to ask, but they are past us and it is too late.

I turn to Fred.  "We don't have water!"


"The water is in the car."

"I'll go get it," he says and jogs easily back to the car.  I spend my time trying to breathe normally and not think about what lies ahead.
Fred looking very handsome on the Chamisa Trail.
 Fred returns with nary a huff or a puff and hands me a large bottle of water, which I put into my hiking purse, which also carries my long lens, and my sweater and a few other things I might need. I'm beginning to think perhaps I haven't gotten the outfit right for this outing.  For one thing, I don't even have real tennis shoes on.  I have skechers on.  Who wears skechers to a hike?  What was I thinking?  Where were my tennis shoes?  And why does Fred always look like he belongs on a ranch? And I always look like that sidekick character who falls off the horse or down the ravine.

My hiking purse.  It's lovely isn't it? A big burlap bag
with an Indian design.  It is about 2.5 ft by 2.5 ft big.
We start hiking in earnest.  It is a lovely day and there is a nice breeze.  The trail is only about 3 feet wide, but that's ok.  I can handle that.  I'm looking for views and ask Fred if he sees any as he is out in front.

View of the narrow trail.

View of Fred way out front.
Just when we are getting going, along comes this group of really old lady hikers.  And they are hiking really fast.  Like, get out of my way fast.  And they all have matching hiking outfits.  AND they all have hiking sticks!

Sticks!  We need sticks for this trail?!

Seriously, is there a dress code for this hike? These old ladies are wearing hiker couture: REI, Columbia.  Not to mention, they are walking really FAST.  Also, they didn't pant or wheeze or gasp.  Nor did they grab onto a tree and yell out, "Hey, slow down, I'm dying here!"  I don't know anyone who did that....

Old lady hikers with sticks.
I snapped a secret photo.


He turned and looked at me.

"I want a stick!" I pointed at the old ladies who were disappearing around the bend at a fast clip.  "We need to find me a stick."

Fred shook his head and continued to walk.  I looked for a stick.

The Ravine is great.
 I just couldn't find a good stick.  So, I sat down. I needed to reevaluate this hike.  This hike, where we were going. Whether I wanted to continue.  I was not enamored with Chamisa.

It was at that moment when a running woman appeared.  She quickly approaching Fred.  I had my bottle of water out and was watching her well dressed self.  She slowed a little as she caught sight of me.  As she came near, she said,

"My, what a lovely purse you have."

My eyes narrowed.  "Thank you."  I tracked her as she ran past and around the corner.  Then I turned to Fred.

"Did you hear that?"

Fred wrinkled his brow.  "What?  She said it was lovely."

"That was hiker speak for 'what kind of moron are you?'" I started gesticulating wildly in the direction she had disappeared. "She meant, "Did you think there was a TJ Maxx out here in the mountains? Were you planning on going shopping out here?"

"I don't think so."

 I gazed back in her direction.  I whispered, "I do."

"Fred, I think it is time for us to go back," I said.  "My purse just got really heavy."
Me with my totally wrong hiking outfit.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Photography Tour of Taos with Steven Bundy

On our vacations I usually try to find something unusual to do.  Last year I did bike tours of Paris, the year before it was horseback riding in Madras, NM.  So, this year, I thought since I have been trying to up my game in photography, that we would try to do something related to that.  So, I booked us a day with a photographer: Steven Bundy (Website, ).  I did the usual research and was very pleased with the reviews I found on  tripadvisor and with the awards that he has won and the museums that have purchased his work.

But mostly, it seemed like he knew what he was doing AND he would be a fun guy to spend some time with.  So, we chose the high road to Taos tour.

It was a delightful day!

So, what can you expect from a day with Steven?

Photo by Fred McLean. Cheryl on rock with camera.
Steven is watching from a distance behind.
Let me start first by telling you about us.  I am an experienced beginner.  I have a Canon Rebel T3 with several nice lenses that I have been using for several years.  However, I rarely get off the several different programming buttons.  My goal for the day was to learn how to do that and develop the confidence to do that.

My husband shoots photos with his phone exclusively.  I had borrowed a Canon for him to use on this trip. He just wanted to learn how to use a nice digital camera and decide if that was something he wanted to do.

My worry was he wouldn't like the day at all and we were scheduled to be gone from 9 am until 7:30 pm. Oh, and all of these photos are taken by Cheryl McLean, unless otherwise stated.
Photo 1.  Wood Cross with a wood fence trailing off into distance.
 We met at Steven's house and we got into his very clean and very nice and comfortable extended cab truck.  There were back roads were going to be traversing and having an SUV or truck was going to be necessary.  But his vehicle was super comfortable.  Our first stop was in the city and that was where got our first lesson on aperture priority and how to use this setting of our camera.  
Photo 2.  Wood Cross with a wood fence trailing off into distance, narrow version.
 I also learned about white balance.  My friend Gabriele had tried to teach me all of this as well, but I had never had the confidence to go it alone on this setting.  Today I had 8 hours to shoot this way. I was determined to try.
Photo 3.  Old adobe building with wood cross and snow capped peak in distance.
Crumbling adobe fence to the right.
Steven also told us to use the histogram setting for our photo display.  That lets you see if you are too over or under exposed.  For each photo I would try the white balance option of + or - and see what the difference made in the histogram.
Photo 4.  Old adobe building with blue door.
He also talked to us about placement, what to look for, and what made a good composition.
Photo 5.  Adobe church side view with shadows.
Sometimes he would set the shot up for us, like with the above photo of the church.

Photo 6.  Beautiful NM valley.
 Other times, he would let us decide what to take and then either make suggestions or corrections.

Photo 9. Crazy colorful road memorial.
 Now on some shots, like the above, I had a hard time finding the right angle.  This memorial had a lot going on. Fred's shot is probably better than mine.

Photo 10. Metal bridge.
The bridge and the bridge corner were interesting to shoot.  I don't think I am very good at architectural photos.  I think that is a specialty that takes a particular eye.

Photo 11. Bridge corner.
 Frankly, I wouldn't have even seen the corners as a likely shot if Steven hadn't pointed them out. They are pretty.
Photo 12. Dirt road.
 I really like roads and streams and churches.

Photo 13. Back of adobe church.
Sometimes the backs of churches are more interesting. Odd, isn't it.
Photo 14. Old wooden church with a wire fence.
All along the way, Steven had a cooler packed with snacks and cold water and sodas. Everything was thought of and taken care of.
Photo 15. Rusty roof with dormer.

Photo 16. Crazy house with two dormers.

Photo 17. Dormer with wide view of roof.

Photo 18. Las Trampa church using my 24-105 lens.
Now this is where you can see the difference a lens makes.  Here is my average lens (24-105 mm, which is my walking around lens).
Photo 19. Las Trampas church using the wide angle lens.
Much better view of stairs leading up to church.
 But to get a super nice shot, Steven suggested that I use the wide angle lens.

Photo by Steven Bundy: Fred and Cheryl at Las Trampas.
I still cut off the stairway a bit.  I need to look more carefully into the viewfinder and take several shots.
Photo 20. View of Truchas. Snow capped peaks in background.

Photo 21. Falling down shed.  Fred's favorite kind!

Photo 22. Truchas church.
This was a hard church to shoot.  It was in the middle of everything.
Photo 23.  Another view of the Truchas church.

Photo 24.  This is a puzzle photo.  There is something unusual hanging from the cross.
Photos 24, 25, and 26 get you closer and closer.  Photo of the exterior of a building with a white cross in the corner where a fence meets the edge of the building.  A wire birdcage hangs from the cross.

Photo 25.  This is a puzzle photo.  There is something unusual hanging from the cross.
Photos 24, 25, and 26 get you closer and closer.  Photo of the exterior of a building with a white cross in the corner where a fence meets the edge of the building.  A wire birdcage hangs from the cross.

Photo 26.  This is a puzzle photo.  It is a skull inside the birdcage.  So weird.
 I just like the fact that someone stuck a skull in a birdcage and hung it from a cross.  That is so weird.
Photo 27. Photo of Steve and Fred talking about their photos.

Photo 28.  Before my wide angle lens. The Chimayo Sanctuary.

Photo 29. Chimayo gates.

Photo 30 After the wide angle lens. Chimayo Sanctuary.

 Again, I should have looked more closely at my shot and gotten the doors fully, but I do like the shot.

Photo 31. Rushing water.

 We learned about how to catch the effect of rushing water, which was such a cool effect.  That was using our tripods with a long exposure.
Photo 32. The earthships.
 I love the sky on these next shots as the sun was getting ready to set.  These houses are called earthships because they are a special type of bioengineering houses.
Photo 33. The earthships, view of the front of one.

Photo 34. The earthships, view of the second strange one that is grey with sparkles.

Photo 35.  My one coyote photo.
 Our trip to find big horned sheep was a bust.  They were all hiding.  But we were successful in finding a coyote.  I didn't change my ISO setting up high enough to catch the swiftly moving coyote, but I did get one nice shot of him.
Photo 36. Night photography: so cool! The Taos church at night with statue in foreground.
 What I enjoyed the best, though, was our instruction on night photography and using the tripod with the St. Francis church.  It is one of the church's that Ansel Adams really loved.
Photo 37. Taos church side view with side lights.  Full dark.
 Using a long exposure to capture all the available light and varying the white balance created these amazing blue skies from skies that appeared to be night black to my eyes.

Photo 38. The back of the St. Francis church: this shot just stunned me by how cool it turned out to be.
Not that I am amazing, just that the shot turned out really interesting and unexpected.
If you want to see the photograph that Ansel Adams took of the St. Francis church, you have to use the link.  They are very finicky with his photos.  8-)

Here is what he said about the church
What impressed Adams about this structure?When he first saw the church, Adams was impressed by it's "magnificent form" and its "rigorous and simple design and structure." The photograph of this church was shot from the rear, which was the angle that Adams thought made it "one of the great architectural monuments of America." He wrote in Elements, "it is not really large, but it appears immense. The forms are fully functional; the massive rear buttress and the secondary buttress to the left are organically related to the basic masses of adobe, and all together seem an outcropping of the earth rather than merely an object constructed upon it." (Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams, pp 90-93)

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our day and think of Steven as a friend of ours.  He is a lovely person, very easy to talk to, to learn from and to be with.  Not only that, but we learned a lot that we can use for our next trip.