Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Breathtaking!

Breathtaking!

You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size… all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe. – Helen Hunt Jackson

My first full day in Colorado, we packed ourselves into the car and headed south on the I-25 from Denver to Colorado Springs. Our destination: The Garden of the Gods. I’d seen red rock formations peppered around Denver in the few hours I’d been in town, and was anxious to get up close and see them in person so was thrilled to discover that where we were headed was a US Natural National Landmark precisely because of these rocks.

You should go to there.

You should go to there.

The park is absolutely free and open to hikers, technical rock climbers, horseback riding, mountain biking — you name it, and it seems to be done here. We saw young kids clamouring over specially designated rocks, climbing fearlessly feet above the ground without a harness (I was convinced one little girl was part mountain goat, and would have kept climbing had her dad not called her back to the ground), families with dogs of all shapes and sizes (including a lovely Corgi named Tank!), women in flip-flops and maxi-dresses out for a stroll, two guys climbing one of the higher peaks then sitting at the summit watching us all go by like ants, and park rangers who were there to answer any question you had about the rocks and their history. It’s an amazing public space, and fantastic to photograph!

I could have sat and looked at these rocks all day

I could have sat and looked at these rocks all day

The one thing that is forbidden, and you would think this to be a no-brainer, is to NOT carve on the soft sandstone rocks. There are signs everywhere, yet we hadn’t even been in the park five minutes when we came across a woman leaning over a wooden fence to carve a her initials onto a boulder formation. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be doing that?” I asked, ever the polite Canadian. “There are signs everywhere telling you not to do this!”, my friend snapped at her; we were all appalled and pretty pissed off. As for the woman, she seemed stunned that anyone would have spoken to her, preventing her from doing whatever she wanted. As my other friend said, what a great lesson she was teaching her children. While I would have liked to have hoped that other folks would have said something to her had we not come along, there were other adults milling around her to wait their turn to deface a rock that had been there for millions of years, or passing her by without saying a word.

Despite the gorgeous day, the park was surprisingly uncrowded

Despite the gorgeous day, the park was surprisingly uncrowded

I’m not certain if we lucked out, or if this was the norm, but we were able to enjoy the park without feeling as though we were being suffocated by thousands of people. The park receives over 2 million visitors annually, but it sure didn’t seem to be busy when we were there. Sure, there were small pockets of people around the more accessible formations such as the one we climbed a top of and sat until the altitude started to make me dizzy (or my altitude-paranoia did anyway; after Peru I’ve been understandably twitchy about going anywhere higher than sea-level!), or near cluster points at corners or near the washrooms. Other than that though, I feel blessed to have been able to take so many fantastic photographs of the landscape.

Doesn't this make you want to go down that path?

Doesn’t this make you want to go down that path?

Notes on shooting with my Fuji X-E2

This day trip was my first bonafide travel photography session with my new Fuji X-E2. I’m glad I’d taken the time while at home in Toronto to get accustomed to using the wee beastie, because while in Colorado I was able to set things up without a lot of trial and error and simply enjoy being out in the gorgeous scenery. After all of the years travelling with my Canon DSLR, this was the first time I’d not felt bogged down by my camera gear (which makes sense, as the X-E2 is a fraction of the size and heft of my old XTi). For the most part, I simply tossed the camera in my daypack or my purse and off we went!

My gorgeous new 18mm lens, lens cap, and hood cap

My gorgeous new 18mm lens, lens cap, and hood cap

While I had brought both the 18mm prime lens and the 18-55mm kit lens with me to Denver, I shot exclusively with the 18mm over the course of the trip. I love that lens so much, it hasn’t been off the camera since the day it arrived! I still enjoy the zoom that the 18-55 gives me, but I feel that I’d rather have a longer lens to complement the 18mm and to leave the 18-55 at home. I’ve my eye on either the 50-230mm or the 55-200 OIS lens next, but need to do a bit of research to see if it’s worth spending the few extra hundred dollars that OIS lens calls for.

Any Fujinistas out there? Which lens would you recommend I get next, and why?

Inside Denver’s Union Station

Gorgeously restored

Gorgeously restored

I’ve been back from my whirlwhind trip to Denver for a few days now, and I’m finally beginning to go through the hundreds of photos that I took with my X-E2. Denver’s recently invested quite heavily in restoring its Union Station (and environs), and it shows. The building is gobsmackingly gorgeous! I can only hope that when Toronto’s Union Station restoration is complete in the next year or so that it looks even half as swank as Denver’s.

FujiTuesday: Stranded on The Island

Toronto Harbour

Toronto Harbour

Last week I joined the FujiTuesday meetup group for a photowalk on Toronto Island. Sponsored by Aden Camera and FujiFilm Canada (they paid for everyone’s ferry tickets), they not only gave our prize packs of Fuji sling bags (of which I won one!), but also a shiny new X100S (of which I didn’t). The ferry was an hour delayed in taking us over, so the walk itself was a bit rushed. I would have enjoyed more time to stop and smell the roses as it were, but it was still a great evening out and I liked the opportunity to get a few pointers from other Fujinistas :)

I had recently bought a circular polarizer, which had been left on for most of the walk, so most of my photos came out underwhelming. This was the first time I’d shot with it and was something of an experiment, so I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve definitely learned that unless shooting into very bright light to remove the filter unless I want everything dull and kind of meh.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

Alternate ways to get to the island

Alternate ways to get to the island

On the ferry

On the ferry

The clocktower

The clocktower

Hydrangeas and day lilies

Hydrangeas and day lilies

Literally the bird's eye view

Literally the bird’s eye view

The fountain

The fountain

The pier

The pier

Old-time buoys

Old-time buoys

The lighthouse

The lighthouse

The lighthouse at sunset

The lighthouse at sunset

Dusk on Lake Ontario

Dusk on Lake Ontario

Sunset on Lake Ontario

Sunset on Lake Ontario

These here are some of my favourite pictures from the day, but you can view the complete collection on my Flickr page.

After the storm

Gorgeous clouds after a day of crazy weather

Gorgeous clouds after a day of crazy weather

Info from Flickr

Info from Flickr

There was a certain poetic irony that one year to the date after intense flooding that put Toronto on its heels, Mother Nature walloped us yet again with torrential downpours. These fluffy beauties just drifted past my window and I had to try and photograph them.

Now that I’m taking photos on a nearly daily basis, I’m looking at a number of solutions for sharing my images online. There’s this blog, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, Facebook, Google+ — so many possible communities! I’ve resurrected my Flickr account for now, as I’m really keen to see what other X-E2 photographers are coming up with and I really like the little EXIF data graphic it generates for each photo, but I’ve always preferred the artistic community on 500px a little more (plus it’s made here in Toronto!).

Any photographers out there? What are you using for your online photographic community needs?

Shots from a moving streetcar

Alone on the 501

Alone on the 501

In which I attempt candid street photography with my X-E2.

I’ve never been very good at street photography. I love other people’s photographs, but I’ve always feel so timid and conspicuous with my Canon DSLR that I never really got the hang of it. With my Wee Beastie, as the X-E2 has been ceremoniously dubbed, I found it a lot easier to take photos of strangers out in public. Being on a moving streetcar also helped up my confidence level, although I still half expected people to come running up to my window and yell at me for taking their photograph.

Yesterday I crossed town on the 501 Queen streetcar, and thought it would be fun to take a quick and dirty shot of a building, person, or event at each stop along the way. Some of my photos turned out better than expected, others not so much. Overall the photos are a touch blurry, so the biggest struggle I had was getting the shutter fast enough to take photos of moving subjects. I did my best, and think I’m beginning to get the hang of it. Even though I’m coming off of seven years with the DSLR, I rarely if ever shot full manual; I was more of an aperture priority kind of girl. The Wee Beastie is making me want to become a more technical photographer, and I’m thrilled about it!

Downward Dog Yoga Centre

Downward Dog Yoga Centre

Checking out VHS tapes outside of an antique shop

Checking out VHS tapes outside of an antique shop

Loft

Loft

I didnt realize it when I took this photo, but I know this guy! I love how surprising this was.

I didnt realize it when I took this photo, but I know this guy! I love how surprising this was.

I've always wanted to try these places but somehow never have

I’ve always wanted to try these places but somehow never have

Roman Holidaying it outside of American Apparel

Roman Holidaying it outside of American Apparel

A family dressed in sailor outfits cross University Ave.

A family dressed in sailor outfits cross University Ave.

The shot that made me want to master shutter control

The shot that made me want to master shutter control

While there is definitely room to grow with the quality of these photos, I’m really in love with this camera. It’s so light and quick, and fun to use, and I can see street photography becoming a new passion as my confidence increases. I’m looking forward to expanding my arsenal of lenses to include the super low-profile 14mm pancake lens for even more quick and dirty street shots in a few weeks’ time!