Focus Trek #5 - Looking for a Heartbeat in Telluride Part 2

October 10, 2015  •  2 Comments

The search continues...

<< Back to Part 1  | The photos for this blog can be viewed here


The most beautiful music in the world is your own heartbeat, it assures you that you will survive even when the whole world leaves you alone.


The Comfort Zone

There was a six hour break between sessions. The bouldering session was not going to start until 4pm and I didn't even know where that was meeting yet.  After breakfast, I said goodbye to Tom and his companion and went out to Airport Rd, where Last Dollar Rd starts on the south end, to see if I could grab a shot of three barns I was told about by my cousin. I was staying at her in-laws beautiful home downtown and was told they might like to have a good shot of them against Mt. Wilson. The clouds were starting to build now so It was a good a time as any. Plus, I wanted to drive the entire length of Last Dollar Rd and these barns were on the way. I had five hours.

"This is plenty of time to take pictures and drive the 20 mile route" my heart told my brain.

And my brain looked at my heart and said, "Idiot, we've been through this before, you know."

"Yeah, I know, we can do it this time", my heart said quietly, knowing it was a lie.

I wasn't disappointed in the three barns. I had some clouds and everything was lit up nicely. But I wasn't completely sure I got what i was looking for. 


The Three Red BarnsThe Three Red Barns1/20s @ f16 44mm ISO125

These barns are a favorite spot for photographers. It's a spectacular vista as you come off of Last Dollar Road. There are probably hundreds of thousands of photos out there. Probably very much like this one, but then again, all different. But I don't think this had the heartbeat I was looking for.

I decided to continue up Last Dollar Rd and I found I was stopping at least 8 times in every mile to take photos. I felt I needed to at least start my way back to town by 3pm in order to find out where we were meeting and get my gear all ready to go. Now, I really only had 3 hours.

Then, my heart says, "Oh, a grove of Aspens lining the road, STOP!"

Last Dollar Road Aspen groveLast Dollar Road Aspen grove1/30s @ f11 18mm ISO100

And my brain goes, "If you keep doing this, you will be late and you have no idea where you are supposed to going yet to even be late to it."

And my heart responds: "Ooooh, mountains! Get out your polarizing filter"

Oh yeah, crap, I have a polarizing filter, and it's not on.

Cloud over MountainCloud over Mountain1/30s @ f11 52mm ISO160

And so the dance continued up the mountain


In Colorado
A voice as pure like sunlight on the snow
Like a thorn, she's buried in my soul
Just two days is not enough to show
Everything I wanted her to know
Just one hour and then I'll have to go



Sun in the Aspen groveSun in the Aspen grove1/50s @ f22 12mm ISO200

Posted Keep OutPosted Keep Out1/50s @ f11 18mm ISO100


In Colorado
A voice as pure as sunlight in the rain
Like a drug, she courses through my veins
Just two days is not enough to tell
If I just gave my heart for her to sell
So she can buy my ticket out of hell



Aspen Grove on Last Dollar RoadAspen Grove on Last Dollar Road1/80s @ f11 18mm ISO100


The effect the polarizer had on some of the photos was dramatic.

Here is a comparison between one and the other.

Not polarizedNot polarized1/125s @ f10 90mm ISO200 Polarized. Oh yeahPolarized. Oh yeah1/80s @ f10 75mm ISO200

Polarizing makes clouds and the colors pop, but you lose a stop of light. But there was plenty of light. But it works the best 90 degrees to the sunshine and not as well with wide angle. Use one judiciously.

Eventually, I had to give up and get back to Telluride. I was near 58P again, like the night before, so I took that again through the switchbacks into Sawpit. This time in the light.

And my heart goes, "Cattle farm, mountains, aspens, oooooh!"

Ok, then. My brain has given up at this point. Logic does not exist. Time is only gravity in space. (that was for you, Steve B.)

Cattle Ranch on Last Dollar MountainCattle Ranch on Last Dollar Mountain1/125s @ f11 38mm ISO100


Bouldering with Michael Clark



Red Bull in hand as expected, Michael Clark met us all in front of the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride at 4pm. Two members of my morning excursion were with us. Our goal was to journey out to some large boulders West of town to learn some techniques on shooting climbers, using fill light and accent lights, etc. Our subjects were Nick Niebuhr and Chris Brooks, two local climbers who were very patient dealing with the group of us as we clicked and circled them like hungry paparazzi.


Nick and ChrisNick and Chris1/50s @ f8 62mm ISO800


I got to carry a suitcase full of lighting equipment up the hill to where we were shooting. As a manly man, I trudged full speed up the slope. Then I slowed a little, oxygen levels getting low, my feet wrote a check that my lungs couldn't cash. But I had to make it. It was only 30 more feet. I made it eventually, panting and wheezing like a asthmatic runner in a sawdust factory. Kim came up to me and patted me on the back and asked if I was ok. (She's from Durango, btw so this must be kid's stuff for her)

"I'm a low lander", I replied. "But I'll be ok".

Thank you for caring, Kim.

As for the photo shoot, the rules were pretty simple:

  1. Get them and the environment (including the ground) in the shot
  2. Get both hands and both feet in the shot
  3. Get them in a transitional stage (not hanging or posing)
  4. Get them in good light
  5. Get their face


I was doing ok, I guess.

Chris ClimbsChris Climbs1/125s @ f8 26mm ISO1250

Nick ClimbsNick Climbs1/60s @ f4.2 38mm ISO2000

Then I start taking off-time shots

Chris and Nick WaitChris and Nick Wait1/60s @ f4 50mm ISO125

then I start getting more creative.

GrabGrab1/160s @ f6.3 250mm ISO800


then, I just threw the rules out the window completely

Chris on AngleChris on Angle1/60s @ f8 18mm ISO800



Maybe I didn't learn anything.

ChalkChalk1/100s @ f5.6 105mm ISO800

Or, maybe I didn't go there to learn anything.

I went there to experience it.

I'll probably never be an action photographer,

but it's fun to pretend it's possible.


But no, I did learn something important

Rule #6: When shooting, don't stand behind Michael

Give me a HandGive me a Hand1/60s @ f5.6 38mm ISO2000


It started getting dark

Michael persuaded Nick to climb with his shirt off.

Then I felt really, really fat all of a sudden.


Nick Climbs 2Nick Climbs 21/60s @ f4.8 52mm ISO2000

I guess there's your heartbeat, ladies.


We all traded information afterwards and disappeared into our own lives again. I finally was able to get some sleep that night. My heartbeat was not noticeable at all that night and I slept. My flight out was at 1:30pm so I had plenty of time to walk around Telluride and take one more stab at the Three Barns shot on the way back.


Blackbird on RoofBlackbird on Roof1/320s @ f6.3 250mm ISO100 Painting TelluridePainting Telluride1/320s @ f6.3 250mm ISO100


This one I like because I used to drive this as a kid. Without the flowers. This is a real man's 4x4. In order to lock the hubs in front, you have to get out and turn the dimpled dials on the front axle. With your bare hands.



With clouds rolling in, I eventually got my "Three Barns" shot.

Three Barns RevisitedThree Barns Revisited1/30s @ f11 18mm ISO100 with split ND filter to add drama to the clouds

And on the way back to Montrose, I ran into another "young" older person who made the mistake of taking his Lamborghini out of first gear.


My last photo put the period at the end of the trip. My heart yells one last time as I pull over to the side, take this photo,

Dallas DivideDallas Divide1/50s @ f11 52mm ISO100

 and then watch the guy in the Lamborghini lumber past in first gear with 5 cars impatiently trailing behind him.


In love with the sky
I feel with my eyes

And the solid ground
And to my surprise
I melt with the ice
But I never die



Thanks for reading, please comment and share if you liked it.


Benjamin Hall(non-registered)
The photos took me on a magical memory trip back to the two years I spent in Steamboat in '74-'76. There's just something indescribable about the mountains of Colorado and the excitement they possess and their willingly pass it on to those that venture into them!
Kim Furry(non-registered)
Jim, glad you slept better on the 2nd night, and you are welcome for checking on you. I still have a truck that you have to get out and lock in the hubs.

You have some great shots. I really like the chalk and hand image you got. I missed getting the red shirt in the background-much better with that. Like I said before, if you come this way again, give me a call.
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