The day started out cloudy. Not raining, but it didn’t look like it was going to be a good day for climbing high. We were camped at Lower Blue Lake, in the Uncompaghre Wilderness near Ridgway, Colorado. 

We left camp and started hiking. The climb was steep right from the start, but there were good views down to Lower Lake, and we eventually crested the hill and caught glimpses of Middle Lake far below us. According to the fishermen we met, the lake was filled with hungry trout.

We had lunch in a sheltered area, before continuing on to Upper Lake. At this point, Dorinna left us to relax for the afternoon while Nate and I continued climbing. I was under no illusions that we would make it far.

The trail was steep, with lots of switchbacks. No drop-offs per say, but lots of places where the slope was steep and gravelly, and it was a long tumble down. One section where the trail was eroded made both of us nervous. I did a re-telling of the Lord of the Rings to keep Nate going, and we kept climbing, slow and steady. Before we knew it, and before we could believe it, we were on the top of Blue Lakes Pass.

13,000′. The highest Nate has ever climbed. I gave him hugs and high-fives, and the small crowd at the top was wowed at his achievement. It was a super-proud Daddy moment and my favorite point of the entire vacation.

It was pretty overcast, but we still lingered to take pictures and relish the triumph. Soon enough it was time to go down. The trip down took a lot longer. Nate was pretty unnerved by the slope beneath him, especially now that we was looking straight down it. We crept down pretty slowly. It didn’t help that the weather turned cold and windy, and then it starting raining. And then snowing. Nate was pretty excited about the snow but it definitely had me concerned. One switchback after another brought us closer to the Upper Lake and gentler slopes. It was relief when we made it there, and the rest of the trip went by quickly.

When we made it back to camp just after 6:00pm, Dorinna was putting her boots on and was going to look for us. Thankfully she didn’t have to, because she had spent part of the afternoon drinking a box of wine with the women in the campsite next to us. Not the best vintage, but when you’re backpacking it all tastes good. We had a third group join us for a community dinner, which was a wonderful way to end a great day.

The photo below was taken on the final ascent up to Blue Lakes Pass, and shows the Upper and Middle Blue Lakes. It was my favorite image of the week.

Blue Lakes

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 R LM OIS at 18mm, f/8 at 1/500; ISO 400.

The image above was my most “photographic” image of the day. But my favorites would have to be the shots below of my son.

Digital Darkroom. As bad as the weather was for hiking, it was worse for photography. Storm clouds are great, but overcast weather yields white, featureless skies. I intentionally underexposed all day, trying to get some cloud detail in my images. The result, shown below, was flat and bland. It took some work to make this photo look like I remembered it.

First, I cranked up a number of the dials. Clarity +14, contrast +31 (!), vibrance +40 (!!) and exposure +1.65 (!!!). To bring back the spectacular greens, I slammed the green saturation to +37 and the yellow saturation to +25. 

All of this washed up the sky again, of course. To fix that, I dragged down a graduated filter and lowered the exposure -1.4, or almost what I shot it at. I maxed out the clarity +100 and increased the contrast +20 to try to bring out more cloud detail. The graduated filter was straight, the mountain profiles were not, and the adjustments were not subtle. To finish the image, I had to painstakingly use a brush to adjust the edge of the filter to match the ridge line.

Here’s the original image, straight out of the camera:

WIRR stands for Weekly Image Rich Ruh. This regular feature on Das Has von Ruh will show and describe my favorite photo created during this weekly period. My weeks start on Mondays, as does the WIRR. I’m hoping to include commentary on the story, the setting, the specs, or the sentiments, depending on the circumstances.


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