The Crystal Mill Photography Adventure

The Crystal Mill Photography Adventure


I’m all about the road trip I just love
driving through cities and towns especially small towns in the USA you
get to meet all kinds of colorful characters you get to see all kinds of
shops cafes vehicles that the stuff that you see is just unbelievable and I’m on
my way through Utah and Moab a place that I know quite well I’ve been coming
there for years but this this part of Colorado is completely new to me so
tonight I’m spending the night in Grand Junction so that in the morning I can
drive to the crystal mill and get that beautiful fall color shot that I’ve been
after for years as you can see I’ve been sleeping in the
blunderbuss for the last two nights but I’m absolutely sick to death of it last
night when I got up for a peer banged my head on the roof there’s just no
Headroom so I’m done with it tonight I’m gonna spy all myself I’m
checking into a hotel I gonna have a nice long soak in a tub and get lovely
and clean or a nice comfy bed but tomorrow I’ll get up super early head
out to that shoe the life of a landscape photographer is more miserable than most
people realize lots of sleep deprivation hemorrhoid inducing drives and
three-star hotels and yet even with all that misery and suffering that can’t get
enough of it well it’s 4:30 in the morning I’m in
Grand Junction Colorado and I’m gonna head out to the crystal mill now I’ve
got two and a half hour drive I’ve got my coffee and fully loaded up with fuel shut up
right ready to go let’s get cracking don’t leave you can see me I hope you
can but I’ve just hit the highway and I can see lightning just peppering the
landscape of the distance is absolutely brilliant super dramatic I really hope I
can get those conditions when I get to the Crystal Bill after the fireworks in the sky the Sun
was just starting to rise and it was time to get off this Highway
the next 30 minutes of the drive were a landscape photographers wet dream with
lush autumn colors steep cliffs and early morning mist just look at this
business so I’m driving through a place called Pitkin County in Colorado and I
just cannot comprehend how spectacular these autumn colors are it’s absolutely
gorgeous it’s like a a carpet of bright yellow
colors and that’s even before the Sun has risen and it’s a cloudy overcast day
imagine when the Sun hits these they’ll just set on fire and just glow so I’m
really excited and I expect I’m gonna get some good shots okay I do realize
that this is a lot of dashcam footage but come on just look at these colors
with scenery like this all you’ve got to do is just show up and switch on your
camera in fact it almost feels like cheating it’s that easy well minus the
thousands of miles of driving of course and the hemorrhoids
I don’t mind admitting that this has got to be one of the most beautiful drives
I’ve ever have ever done I just can’t get my head around these police autumn
colors it’s story spectacular I’d heard reports that the road to the
Crystal mill was pretty brutal but even though I was equipped with all-wheel
drive and winter tires there were a few sections that were testing the limits of
my suspension and it didn’t fancy the idea of breaking down in the middle of
nowhere with the thunder and lightning storm rolling in at this point the roads
so sketchy I think I’m gonna bail and just hike the rest of the way it’s about
four miles so I took me an hour and a half to get there but I’m not bailing
now after thousands of miles of driving so I just hope this thunder and
lightning doesn’t get me if not it’s just over there there’s an entrance to a
cave which is kind of weird this area used to have active silver
mining in fact the ghost town of Crystal is a former silver mining camp now
despite the doom lid and atmosphere of the day and the challenges of the road
and I was too close to quit so off I ventured into the elk mountains like a
bowlegged lightning rod so it’s occurred to me that I’m walking through a thunder
and lightning storm in the forest there’s lightning everywhere and it’s
probably not a wise idea to be walking around with three tripods and being like
a walking lightning conductor so I’ve put my tripod over there by that rock we
sat under this overhang hopefully it gives me a bit of protection but yeah
it’s probably wise just to stay off the trail and stay stay hidden for a bit
still be sketchy so I waited out the worst of the storm and after an hour of
hiking I was rewarded with this majestic Vista orgasm so after a very soggy hi
and a bit of dodging thunder and lightning finally here at the crystal
mill and is absolutely gorgeous these are
the perfect conditions this is everything that I wanted it to be I love
this soft light and I love wispy rain clouds that come in and out at the scene
it’s a beautiful mood what I also love is when you get this lovely contrast of
gloomy gray clouds that have no color against these gorgeous aspen trees that
are just bursting with yellow and yellow and gray gray for me are a beautiful
combination so I could not have asked for anything more so what I’m gonna do
get down to the river try some composition and then go down the
opposite direction and shoot back towards the mill and try some
compositions there but when I found the composition that I like I’ll show you
how I got there and what I did well Mother Nature had different plans for me
it started raining so hard that I just gave up on the GoPro and then tried
using my phone to film the tutorial but even that got so soggy it could not
focus so I finally found my shot books I can’t give you a tutorial yet because
I’ve had to take my camera off the tripod because it’s getting drowned it
will not stop raining it is pouring and even though I’ve got water proofs on
I’m still pretty soggy so if it clears up and I get a little bit of a quiet
spot with no rain then I’ll do a tutorial and you can see how I got this
lovely composition I got it’s pretty sweet in terms of video tutorial that
was a bit of a disaster and I got some really nice shots and I spent a while
trying different compositions got some good shots and then thought right well
I’ll I’ll shoot the video tutorial for you and then as soon as I started
filming it the heavens opened up and it was monsoon time so I tried and
everything was getting drowned my camera was getting drowned the GoPro was
getting drowned even cried with my phone and that was getting drowned and then
all of these tourists started arriving and I was getting cold and shivery and
this this just was completely drenched so I thought sorry I’ll just bail
luckily I got a ride out with some Vietnamese tourists that was really nice
of them and so now I’ve just got back to the car gonna crank this blower get warm
and they’ll show you what I got so this is the shot that I was trying to
shoot the tutorial for but with no look I just love those blue layers in the
valley way off in the distance and you can really tell how wet everything was
so the circular polarizer came in very handy for this shot I moved further downriver
and got really low to the ground to balance out the building with those
delicious textures in the white water I went for a cooler tonality because I
remember shivering my nips off at the time on this one I had to shoot three
vertical shots and then stitch them together as a panorama and my goal with
this shot was to capture the entire River as it carves relentlessly through
the valley of all of the shots from that day this
one is my absolute favorite the slate gray sky really sets the tone for this
shot and I love that lens distortion that comes as a result of getting lower
to the ground so let me take you through how I got this shot of what I did so
looking at this the screen recording that I’m doing if you look to the left
there you’ll see the Sun poked through just for this little moment in time and
it lit these rocks beautifully now usually I’ll polarize that I’ll turn it
pulverize it and it’ll kill all of that glare but in this case I really liked
how that looks so I left it in now this is a square crop but in order to get
that shot I had to do a two horizontal shot stitch and I’ll show you the raw
files now so this is the top frame and even with 18 millimeters on a full frame
Sony a7r – it’s just not wide enough so I took that shot and then I moved the
camera down a little bit and this is the next shot so you can see I’ve got G
Austin off material there to stitch everything together if I go back to the
top shot and I had a little bit of extra space there in the sky because I knew
when I stitched them together I would lose some of that so stitch those two
together and I ended up with this and I’ll go back to the raw files again you
can see those are just a raw file so they’re very dull they’re very flat
looking it’s almost like a hitch D our image I basically pulled up all of the
shadows and pulled down the highlights and especially in the water there and
then once I stitch them together I then cropped it and then I got to work
with contrast and a few color adjustments and I really liked the end
result I just love this this motion of the water coming in it kind of frames
the shot it comes in and then it goes out and of course the mill just looks
fantastic because I’m lower down so you’ve got this lens distortion we’re
just kind of making it look a bit more imposing as it juts up into the sky all
in all that’s my favorite shot from that day couldn’t have asked for more
this road is of the worst roads I’ve been on it sir
it’s not the easiest route to get on you definitely need 4×4 the guys that pulled
me out of here were in an SUV so I could have made it but I just didn’t fancy
trashing my tires and scraping my paintwork so I’m ready to get out of here we’re
really desperate for a coffee and their next stop Moab. Ugh….. me grapes.

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