Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Monday mountains 3

with 34 comments

On the many Mondays in January you’re seeing mountains.

I rarely use a polarizer, but I did to convey the drama of clouds over the Rocky Mountains viewed from Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado on June 8, 2017.

P.S. As Tom noted in a comment below, this sub-range of the Rocky Mountains is known as the Sangre de Cristo.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2018 at 4:55 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Magnificent photography, Steve!!


    January 15, 2018 at 5:44 AM

    • North America has the Rocky Mountains. Asia has done us one better with the Hamalayas. I recently learned that the Himalayas are ultimately the source of drinking water for a huge region with some 3 billion people living in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2018 at 8:21 AM

  2. Steve, you’ve captured the beauty in an almost abstract image.


    January 15, 2018 at 7:16 AM

  3. Very nice, Steve. Beautiful shot of the Sangre de Cristos. And the clouds! Great Sand Dunes is a wonderful place to visit, not just for the dunes themselves but also the trails in the surrounding area. I am curious about your vantage point…did you hike up to the top of a dune?

    Tom Lebsack

    January 15, 2018 at 8:14 AM

    • Sometimes I think I’m psychic, Tom. When I woke up this morning I was thinking about you, and now here’s a comment from you.

      To answer your question: I took this picture from down at the base level, perhaps behind the visitor center (I don’t remember). That was already at an altitude of at least 7500 ft. Gaining another 700 ft. in elevation by hiking uphill through sand to reach the top of the dunes in such thin air was something that definitely didn’t appeal to us. I don’t do well at high altitudes, so prudence won out. There was still plenty to photograph from the base, including various places I stopped along the road as we approached the park. Last year I did two posts about Great Sand Dunes, which you can see at:


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2018 at 8:43 AM

  4. It’s a wonderful shot, striking and full of depth. And it really brings out the contrast between two alien domains – – sharp, angular rock vs a sky full of rounded clouds.

    Robert Parker

    January 15, 2018 at 8:16 AM

    • Fortunately the menacing clouds were only that, menacing, and we got no rain that would have interfered with taking pictures. The clouds provided the contrast in shapes you mentioned, along with tonal drama that couldn’t help but please a nature photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2018 at 8:54 AM

  5. Stunning image, Steve. I love that foreboding darkness in the clouds. I’m really surprised you didn’t see a drop of moisture!


    January 15, 2018 at 8:59 AM

    • Yes, I was relieved that the boding stayed fore, and the only thing aft was the threat of a storm. At times the moving clouds cast dramatic shadows on the dunes, and that created more opportunities for pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2018 at 9:16 AM

  6. Ah, a polarizer to capture the clouds this way. It is stunning.


    January 15, 2018 at 10:17 AM

    • One effect of a polarizer is to make the cloud/sky contrast more dramatic, and that’s what I used it for here. That said, I carry the polarizer around for months or occasionally even years at a time without using it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2018 at 11:29 AM

      • I have tools like that too, reserved for special effects. It is good not to rely on things like that too much, isn’t it?


        January 16, 2018 at 8:45 AM

        • Right. And unlike some other specialized equipment, at least a polarizer doesn’t weigh much.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 16, 2018 at 9:11 AM

          • That’s good. I bought myself what the camera guy assured me was a solid upgrade from all my previous cameras, but I’m already worried I didn’t go big enough. Isn’t that the way? Anyway, I can foresee a future where I am also carrying a (heavy) bag of equipment.


            January 18, 2018 at 8:09 AM

            • When you say “big enough,” do you mean in terms of megapixels, or features, or build quality, or perhaps all of those things?

              When I went out questing for ice yesterday I left my long lens home to lighten my camera bag by 3.5 lbs. There was one thing for which I could’ve used it. Those are the tradeoffs.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 18, 2018 at 9:23 AM

              • So, I chickened out and got basically a point and shoot, just a much better one than I’d had before. I’ve had it out in the field a few times and I confess I don’t love it. My mind truly doesn’t want to wrap itself around f-stops and so on, but I am frustrated at the limitations. Particularly in detail work. I want to be able to zoom in on a distant bird or butterfly and get a nice crisp shot. I think that in addition to the cost of a really good camera, there is also the time it would take to both get better with the camera but also to be able to get the kinds of shots I’m thinking of. I’ve noticed that when I’m looking through even a limited zoom, I have a lot of trouble finding the subject. By the time I do it flits off. Maybe it would be more to the point to hire a photographer to capture some things for me with the understanding that they will be used in a painting.


                January 19, 2018 at 9:21 AM

                • Whatever camera you use, learning to get the best out of it does take some time. That’s unavoidable. Rather than hiring a photographer to take pictures for you, what about hiring a photographer to go out shooting with you to show you how to use your camera to get the sorts of pictures you want? Some point-and-shoots have gotten quite good, from what I’ve read, and yours may have features you’re not aware of.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 19, 2018 at 9:37 AM

  7. Dramatic. I like 😀


    January 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM

  8. It’s not often a photo increases my pulse rate a bit, but this one did; it’s a thrilling photograph. The level of abstraction reminds me of a Lawren Harris painting. I suspect if he’d been able to see this, he would have wanted to paint it.


    January 15, 2018 at 9:56 PM

    • Then here’s to a happy pulse rate increase, and with no untoward medical effects. And as always, here’s to abstraction.

      I was surprised to find in The Group of Seven, including Lawren Harris, of course, that they painted the Rocky Mountains less often than I’d have expected, especially after my recent visit confirmed the grandeur of the region. Too bad we can’t bring those painters back to life and give them an all-expenses-paid vacation in the Rockies. Actually Harris was wealthy, so at least for him the cost of getting to and staying in the Rockies wouldn’t have been an obstacle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2018 at 7:47 AM

  9. Scott and I honeymooned in the Sangre de Cristo range. That is a most surreal mountain and cloud image, a mirror reflection to the sky it seems. Two mountain ranges in one!


    January 16, 2018 at 7:19 PM

    • Did you honeymoon in the Colorado part of the range or the New Mexico part, or both? We hit both parts on our trip last year.

      Yes, it was a strange combination of clouds and mountains, one that didn’t last a long time, but long enough for some pictures.

      Your “two mountain ranges in one!” reminds me of the old commercials that promoted Certs as “two mints in one!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2018 at 10:47 PM

      • Colorado side. Either side of the range is gorgeous, I’ve found, and worthy of many photos.


        January 18, 2018 at 8:49 AM

        • Agreed. I discovered the New Mexico side in 1970 when I visited Peace Corps friends in Chimayó. Not till a couple of decades later did I see the Colorado side. On our summer trip last year we drove through both.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 18, 2018 at 9:55 AM

  10. Fantastic image!!


    January 17, 2018 at 7:50 PM

  11. Wow!!!


    January 20, 2018 at 2:57 AM

  12. Stunning and so dramatic!


    January 21, 2018 at 11:40 AM

  13. Gorgeous shot!


    January 24, 2018 at 2:06 PM

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