Against the Blue

May 27, 2008

The other day I saw a photojournalist entry that centered on shooting against the blue sky - notable because it was written and shot by someone from Michigan which is the 3rd cloudiest state in the entire U.S.

But the idea lay in the back of my mind and came to the surface on Friday afternoon when a front came through and it rained here and got a whole lot cold, really quickly. I thought to myself, I'll bet the mountain is getting snow, but couldn't confirm it till much later in the day when the clouds parted for a bit and sure enough, the very summit of the mountain was covered again, the second time for last week.

Mrs was off to a conference for the entire weekend and since I had a court date in Colorado Tuesday at 11:00 am (for my speeding ticket) I was working on a plan to head into Colorado for the Memorial Day weekend. However, since I had missed most of the snow events this last year due to school and study for the bar, I decided that if the weather was cooperative, I would drive up to the summit to take some photos. I was convinced that the snow against the blue sky would be dramatic.

Saturday dawned with a complete overcast on the mountain while the rest of the area had occasional breaks in the overcast. The forecast called for afternoon clearing so I headed up early, knowing that as soon as the sun hit the mountain, the snow would not last.

Late May Snow on the summit of the Sandias, May 24, 2008

Just as I got to the parking lot, I noticed a break headed my way and I quickly set up my tripod to fire off the first round of shots. It is tough however, to get the right exposure in all of the contrast, especially when the light was changing so quickly. The clouds were racing across the mountain at about 30-40 miles per hour.

Late season snow in the Sandias, May 24, 2008

From the observation point I looked south and decided that the better shots would be found along the ridge.

Late season snow in the Sandias, May 24, 2008

Early on, I was not disappointed.

As you walk down the ridge there is a descriptive sign that describes the trees as "flagging" along the summit. Since the wind is so strong, they acquire permanent bends, and look like flag, blowing out in the wind.

Late season snow in the Sandias, May 24, 2008The only problem with getting the shots up there in the edge of the cliff is that the wind was howling and although I had on 4 layers of clothes, including a ski parka, hat and gloves, it was still cold. Even though I had on a ski hat, I covered it with the hood of my parka as I stood and waited for the right light to hit the tree I was trying to shoot.

After waiting for about 20 minutes for the "flagging" shot, I turned around to shoot the mountain to the north...

And then to the south....

Late May snow on the Sandia summit, May 24, 2008 Actually, this was a bit farther south from where I took the previous photo, but I was waiting for the sun to hit a section of fence. While waiting I did try a couple of angles without the light that I was hoping for.

The longer I waited, the more snow and ice fell off of the fence, and at one point, a couple of guys came up, leaned on the fence and started kicking it so that the snow would fall.

I politely asked them to stop...

All in all, I waited for an hour for a break in the sun and finally decided to walk back to the summit for a burger.

Sure enough, as soon as I got back and sat down to eat, out popped the sun and the snow and ice started to rain off of everything that it had previously clung to.

I gobbled down the rest of my burger and headed out to try and get some final images before the snow was history.

Flagging, of the snow

This tree lost about 50 percent of it's snow cover in about 20 minutes.

By the time I got to the fence, almost all of the snow was gone.

As I took this last shot, the sky was almost completely clear. I headed back for the car and thought that I'd grab another shot or two from my garden, against the blue...

Although it's early in the season for these, I had one solitary bloom for the three plants that I potted less than two weeks ago.

Roses do really well in New Mexico

With those shots in hand, I headed out for a final meeting with the blue, chilly as it was, this first day that the pool was open.

All in all, it was a memorable day, shooting against the blue.